Bishop Thomas Paprocki preaches the opening Mass of the Corpus Christi Priory in Springfield. / Photo credit: Diocese of Springfield

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 29, 2024 / 12:40 pm (CNA).

A little-known story in the annals of the Church is that God gave St. Angelo d’Acri (1669–1739), born in a small town in southern Italy, advice on what homilies should be like during the liturgical season of Lent. Acting on that advice, the saint packed churches with the faithful and obtained many conversions.

The book “Lives of the Saints” by Father Alban Butler recounts how St. Angelo wanted to be a Capuchin Franciscan, but he left the community on two occasions because he couldn’t bear the rigorous way of life. The third time he tried, he stayed and was ordained a priest. It is said that at his first Mass he was transported in ecstasy.

His superiors gave him the assignment to give the sermons during Lent. The saint prepared himself with great care, but when he stepped in the pulpit his memory failed him and he didn’t know what to say. He was greatly discouraged and returned very depressed to his convent before Lent ended.

One day, while reflecting on his failure, he asked God to help him. He then heard a divine voice that told him: “Do not be afraid. I will give you the gift of preaching.” The saint, surprised, asked the voice who he was and the voice answered: “I am who am.”

Something similar happened to Moses when God asked him to free his people from the slavery of Egypt. The Old Testament passage relates: “God said to Moses, ‘I am who am.’ Then the Lord added: ‘This is how you will speak to the Israelites: “I am” sent me to you’” (Ex 3:14).

As St. Angelo’s mystical experiences continued, the story goes, the divine voice gave him the following key for his homilies: “From now on, preach simply, as if you were conversing, so that everyone can understand you.” So the priest stopped consulting his books on oratory and rhetoric and began to prepare his sermons with the Bible and before a crucifix.

Little by little he gained a lot of success in the town, but he didn’t achieve the same results with the nobility and the wealthy. A cardinal asked him to preach during Lent in Naples, Italy, and the priest’s simple homily was ridiculed and dismissed by the wealthy people. For two days the church was almost empty.

The local priest didn’t want the saint to continue preaching, but the cardinal paid no attention. This created a scandal and made the nobility — who were also very gossipy — go to the church to see the outcome. But they were unexpectedly surprised.

In a church packed with the faithful, the saint asked at the end of his sermon that they pray for a person who was present there and who was going to die. The Mass ended and as the people left murmuring about that request, a lawyer who used to mock the priest fell dead to the floor. Everyone was astonished and the priest’s reputation for holiness spread.

The churches where St. Angelo went to preach were always full, and he obtained many conversions. He performed miraculous healings, had the gift of bilocation, could read thoughts, and predicted the future. His feast day is Oct. 30.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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