Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Venal and greedy priest makes good

Today is the memorial of Sylvester of Assisi.

Sylvester was of noble birth, and a priest, but he had neither nobility nor holiness, no credit to either noblesse oblige or the holy priesthood. He was money-hungry and totally attached to the comfortable life.

In the earliest days of Francis' conversion, before he learned to renounce money, he bought some stone from Sylvester for his church restoration projects, at the going market price.

Some time later, after Francis' contretemps with his father, his old partying buddy Bernard of Quintavalle was called to join Francis in following the Gospel, the first of the Lesser Brothers. Francis and Bernard proceeded to give away all of Bernard's possessions. Sylvester, seeing this, was exceedingly wroth, and came to them, claiming that he had been cheated in the sale of the stone and he wanted compensation, whereupon Francis and Bernard gave him several large handfuls of cash.

Back at his residence, the money was filling Sylvester with guilt, and contrition, and conversion. Sylvester renounced his venal greedy ways, gave everything he had away, and joined Francis and Bernard, the first priest to be a Lesser Brother. For many years he was Francis' travelling companion, then he became a hermit, dedicating his whole life to contemplation and intercession.

When Francis had his vocational crisis, about whether he should continue as a wandering preacher or himself become a recluse, it was to Clare and Sylvester that he went for counsel.

So Sylvester, an unworthy priest, came to his senses and became an exemplar of holiness.


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