Born Felice de Nicola at Montegranaro of a poor, pious family, the future saint was forced to take a job as a shepherd early in his youth to help support the family. In the fields with his sheep, he spent long hours in prayer and contemplation of the Lord, having been inspired by his mother from an early age to remain pure and innocent, and work toward sainthood. However, his early employment prevented him from gaining any formal education.
Early in life, he developed a special devotion to Our Blessed Mother, and would travel as pilgrim to the shrine devoted to her at Loreto (which was not too far from his home). On one occasion, when he reached the Potenza River, which we had to cross, he found the water so high that no boatman would assist him. In his eagerness to reach the shrine, he stepped into the river, which became as solid ground beneath his feet, allowing him to cross without danger or becoming wet!
While still a teenager, both of Felice’s parents died, and he was from that point to be looked after by his elder brother. A bricklayer, and man of extremely violent temper, his brother employed him, but provided him no warmth or family connection. Rather, he delivered harsh words and blows, and significant abuse, regardless of how hard Felice worked to please him. The future saint, however, for his part, accepted all the trials given to him with great penance, recognizing his suffering as the path to holiness.
"I have nothing-- just a crucifix and a rosary--but with these I hope to benefit the friars and become a saint." He took the name Serafino, giving up his former identity and life.
At first, Serafino was mocked by his brothers due to his illiteracy. He turned to prayer as comfort, later recalling, "When I entered religious life I was a poor, unskilled laborer, lacking both talent and potential. I remained as I was, and this caused so many humiliations and rebukes which the devil used as opportunities to tempt me to leave religious life and retreat to some desert, withdrawing into myself. I entrusted myself to the Lord, and one night I heard a voice coming from the tabernacle say, ‘To serve God you must die to yourself and accept adversity, of whatever type.’ So I accepted them and resolved to recite a rosary for anyone who caused me trouble. Then I heard the voice from the tabernacle say, 'Your prayers for those who mortify you are very pleasing to me. In exchange, I am ready to grant you many graces.’” Eventually, despite his lack of education and young age, the brothers at the convent recognized his piety and holiness, as well as his unaffected simplicity, and soon he was respected and admired by his community. He encouraged them in the ways of humility, obedience, limitless charity to those in need, mortification, and self-sacrifice, and worked tirelessly at the most menial chores in service to his brothers. He was graced with considerable spiritual gifts and wisdom, as well as devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady.
Serafino was further endowed by the Lord with the gift of reading the secrets of hearts, and with that of miracles (restoring the sick to health via his intercession and the Sign of the Cross) and prophecy. Although uneducated, his advice was sought by secular and ecclesiastical dignitaries, and was a fruitful source of virtue to souls.
Saint Serafino ate very little, frequently taking only one fourth of his meager rations, and distributing the rest to the poor. As porter for the community, he was responsible for feeding those in need, and he would frequently empty the larders and vegetable garden, distributing all the community had to the poor. On one such occasion, his superior reprimanded him for endangering the welfare of his brothers, giving away all their food. Ever obedient, Serafino assured the superior that it would not happen again, and that the community would in no way suffer. Sure enough, the following morning, the vegetable garden was again full of new vegetables, having miraculously grown overnight!
Serafino found his solace in quiet prayer and contemplation before the Blessed Sacrament, contemplating the suffering of Christ. He devoted each night to prayer, and would remain in front of the Sacrament for hours at a time, absorbed in the Light of Christ. He would then take a short rest, rising again to attend the Midnight Office, and after another short rest, rise in prayer and service to his brothers. The Lord preserved his bodily strength, allowing him to continue his rigorous routine on little sleep for the majority of his life.
Saint Serafino prayed each day:
Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Savior Crucified.
Saint Serafino died peacefully on October 12, 1604, at the age of 64. Many miracles were reported at his tomb, which lies in the Capuchin friary at Ascoli.
"eloquent witness of the universal vocation to holiness." The Holy Father went on to say:
"With the passage of time, holiness does not lose its force of attraction; more than that, it shines with greater luminosity. This is evident in the person of Brother Serafino, a simple and illiterate man whom all, both the humble and powerful, regarded as a real 'brother.' Precisely because of this," the "humble son of St. Francis" is "an eloquent witness of that universal vocation to holiness.”
Pope John Paul II also had the following to say about Saint Serafino, holding him up as a holy example of prayer, penance, and mortification:
Saint Serafino"had assimilated so profoundly the evangelical exhortation 'pray without ceasing' that his mind was habitually immersed in things of the spirit.” He contemplated "the divine presence in creation and in people" and "his prayer was prolonged for hours … before the tabernacle.” Moved also "by an intense love for the passion of Christ, he would pause to meditate on the Lord's sorrows and those of the Blessed Virgin." His spirit in the course of the years "made transparent the real greatness of his soul.”
Saint Serafino "had well understood the evangelical page that proclaims: 'Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.'" In the posts he held as caretaker and alms-giver, he came in contact with the most varied people. This saint "loved to frequent the more underprivileged and marginalized sectors of the population to discover their hidden needs and to alleviate their physical and spiritual sufferings.” Moreover, "he was a great peacemaker in families, wisely tempering, according to the circumstances, strong reprimands, gestures of loving solidarity, and words of encouraging consolation.”
We are reminded by the life of Saint Serafino of Montegranaro that simplicity in devotion and spirit are what the Lord calls each of us to. We all to frequently get caught up in the need to dramatically or philosophically proclaim our faith—or even support our faith with study and discourse, attempting to make a logical or rational argument for our beliefs. Saint Serafino could do none of this, having never learned to read. Rather, he proclaimed the simple Christian faith by imitating the life of Christ in service, obedience, and charity towards those in need. The humility and simplicity of his actions are far more dramatic and inspiring than the most learned scholarly arguments. We are reminded today that our witness is also through our actions!
God, our Father, You endowed Saint Serafino with the manifold gifts of the Holy Spirit, and made him an admirable witness of the riches of Christ. Through his intercession make us grow in knowledge of You that we may walk faithfully before You according to the truth of the gospel. Amen.
Year 2: Day 285 of 365
Prayer Intentions: Simple Faith; Obedience; Humility; Charity.
Requested Intentions: Successful work placement, continued health (A); Grace and healing for a family (P); Healing of a father (M); Academic success for son, employment for husband and brother (B); Freedom from anxiety and panic attacks (R); Health and healing in preparation for surgery (C); Healing of a chronic illness (P); Safety of a family during storms (A); Successful home ownership (P); Healing of a marriage (M); Employment for a husband, blessings for a marriage (E); Successful examinations for a daughter, healing of a relationships (V); Blessing for a family (V); Healing of baby girl M and all children suffering (M); Special intentions (R); Business success, peace, health (E); Conversion and deliverance of those who suffer, increase in vocations (M); Financial security and safe housing (M); For a daughter (K); Conversion of a family, deliverance of the souls in Purgatory (S); Successful marriage (A); Health, safety, grace, success of a building project (A); Successful treatment and recovery from cancer (D); Clear speech for a child (C); Conversion of a family (A); Successful employment (S); For the healing of impaired vision (F); For a couple experiencing difficulties (L); Successful employment after finishing college (M); Mother’s health (A); Financial security, freedom from anxiety (S).