40. Innocenzo da Caltagirone (1589 – 1655)

Born in a wealthy family, one of nine children, Innocenzo was initiated to religious life and educated by the Jesuits. in 1607 he entered the novices of the Capuchin monastery of St. Philip Agora and continued his studies in Vizzini, Syracuse and Malta, where in 1613 he was ordained priest. In 1615 he went to Rome to study theology and study Arabic and Hebrew.

Returned to Sicily from 1617 to 1629, he taught Hebrew (his Hebrew grammar manuscript is preserved between the acts of the process of beatification), moral theology, logic and philosophy in public high school and convents Capuchins of Syracuse, Caltagirone, Piazza Armerina, Lentini, where he was also director of novices and guardian. From 1635 to 1638 he was Minister of the Capuchin Province of Syracuse, in 1638 he was appointed to the visitor Capuchin Province of Messina, and in 1642 he was elected provincial of Otranto.

Meanwhile, he preached in various places in Sicily attracting the attention of the faithful with the effectiveness of his sermons and the rite of Eucharistic adoration which lasted for forty hours -during which never left the altar- and impressed listeners to the point of setting his record as a man of miracles and saint. In 1643 he was elected General of the Capuchin and, gathered feedback from all members, decided to start immediately the canonical visit to the provinces of the Order. The visit consisted in a long and painful journey across Europe, on foot or by donkey. Innocenzo, prepared a detailed itinerary across Europe dividing the journey into three to eight meetings per county. During the meetings, the brothers of local monasteries would be gathered in “general congregations”. This system (which was followed by his successors) allowed him to reach 45 of the 47 provinces and most of the 21,171 religious. Doing so, however, he spent only nine months in Rome during the seven years of his generalship.

The journey, documented by Innocenzo in the last years of his life, increased his reputation as a “healer of the earth.” Everywhere he went, Innocenzo received great honor by the civil and religious authorities and was surrounded by crowds. He was always escorted by soldiers to keep out those who tried to steal parts of her dress as relics or would infiltrate convents where he was staying in search of blessings and graces. He dedicated time to admonish the Capuchins to observe poverty and focus on spirituality, to preach to the people, to visit the sick (gathered in churches in its wake), and execute government functions. In terms of preaching, he was a firm believer in oratory evangelically simple and clear. He also ordered preachers to alternate missions to prayer retreats, to restore the spirit and better prepare sermons, and to practice mercy and forgiveness instead of torture. Innocenzo encouraged the study of languages, nursing techniques and all that was useful to the apostolate or to serve his brothers. He also granted permission to the publication of books as long as screened by expert censors and not printed at the expense of the Order.

At the end of his assignment, in 1650, he returned to the convent of Caltagirone carrying 150 relics of saints collected during the canonical visitation, mostly laid in an artistic reliquary in a chapel he built. He spent his last years dictating his memoirs. Innocenzo died on November 16th, 1655 and was buried in the church of the Capuchin. The remains were transferred twice in new graves to facilitate the pilgrimage of the faithful. The process of his beatification is still ongoing.

Read More
1. Treccani, http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/innocenzo-da-caltagirone_(Dizionario_Biografico)/
2. Wikipedia, https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Innocenzo_Marcinn%C3%B2

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