Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Feast of St. Sylvester, Abbot
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The Statue of Sylvester Gozzolini at St. Sylvester's College Kandy Sri Lanka (Source)

Double (1954 Calendar): November 26

November 26th is the Feast of St. Sylvester, the saint who founded the Sylvestrine Order, a reform congregation of the Order of St. Benedict, in 1231.  He is not to be confused with Pope St. Sylvester.

Sylvester, of the noble Gozzolini family, was born in Italy in 1177. After making a distinguished record at the universities of Bologna and Padua, he was made a canon at Osimo, his native city. His inclination toward the contemplative life was strengthened by the sight of the dead body of a once handsome relative. "I am what he was," said Sylvester to himself, "and I will also be what he is."

After the funeral services, the words of our Lord kept ringing in his ears, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me" (Matt. 16:24). At the age of 50 he resigned his post and became a hermit. Many disciples came to him, and these he organized under the rule of St. Benedict. After his death the order became known as the Sylvestrines, especially noted for their spirit of poverty. Their founder died at the age of 90.

The members of his Order wear a Benedictine habit, Turkish blue in color. Today there remain seven Sylvestrine monasteries in Italy and several mission houses in Ceylon and in the United States. Dom Gueranger writes on the significance of St. Sylvester: "God often brings the world to those who flee from it, as Sylvester Gozzolini among others experienced. In the thirteenth century, the world, all in admiration at the sanctity and the eloquence of the new Orders, seemed to have forgotten the monks and the desert. God, who never forgets, led his elect silently into solitude, and the wilderness began again to rejoice and flourish like the lily; strength was restored to the weak hands and feeble knees of the sons of the cloister. The austerities of olden days and the fervor of prolonged prayer were revived at Monte Fano, and extended into sixty other monasteries; the new religious family of the Sylvestrians was approved by Innocent IV in 1247. Though originated seven centuries after St. Benedict, and distinguished from the elder families by its blue habit, it claims the Patriarch of Cassino for its legislator and father."

Adapted from The Church's Year of Grace by Fr. Pius Parsch.

Traditional Matins Reading:

Sylvester was born of a noble family at Osimo in the Marches of Ancona, and in his boyhood was remarkable for his love of study and his good conduct. As a youth he was sent by his father to Bologna to study jurisprudence, but was admonished by God to devote himself to sacred learning. This incited his father to anger, which Sylvester patiently endured for ten years. On account of his remarkable virtue, the Canons of Osimo elected him an honorary mem­ber of their chapter, in which position he benefited the people by his prayers, his example, and his sermons.

While assisting at the funeral of a nobleman, his relative, who had been remarkably handsome, he looked into the open coffin, and seeing the corpse all deformed, said to himself: What this man was, I am now; what he is now, I shall be hereafter. As soon as the funeral was over, reading these words of our Lord: If any one will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me, he retired into solitude in order to attain greater perfection; there he gave himself up to watching, prayer and fasting, often eating nothing but raw herbs. The better to conceal himself from men he frequently changed his place of abode ; and at length settled at Monte Fano, which, though near to Fabriano, was at that time a desert. There he built a church in honour of the most holy father Benedict, and founded the Congregation of Sylvestrians, under the rule and habit shown him by St. Benedict in vision.

Satan, roused to envy, strove in many ways to terrify his monks, making assaults by night at the monastery gates. But the man of God repressed the enemy's attack with such vigour, that the monks, recognizing their father's sanctity, were more and more confirmed in their holy purpose. Sylvester was remarkable for the spirit of prophecy and other gifts, which he guarded by deep humility. This so stirred up the devil's envy that he cast the saint headlong down the oratory stairs and well nigh killed him, but the blessed Virgin at once graciously restored him to health. In gratitude for this benefit, Sylvester showed her the tenderest unfailing piety to the end of his life. He died at the age of about ninety years, renowned for sanctity and miracles, on the sixth of the Kalends of December, in the year of salvation 1267. The Sovereign Pontiff Leo XIII. extended his Office and Mass to the universal Church.

Collect:

O Most merciful God, You gave the holy abbot Sylvester his vocation to be a hermit as he stood before an open grave, contemplating the vanity of this world; and then later made his hidden life brilliant with merit. May we imitate him in despising the pleasures of this life, so that we may enjoy Your presence for all eternity. Through our Lord . . .

Source: 1962 Roman Catholic Daily Missal

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