“I’ll take care of myself and my flock I’ll take care of” (Ez 34, 11). Tommaso da Cori, a priest of the Order of Friars Minor, was the living image of the Good Shepherd. As a guide full of love, he has led the brothers entrusted to his care to the pastures of faith, always animated by the Franciscan ideal. In his monastery, he revealed his spirit of charity, showing available to all requirements even the most humble. He lived in the kingdom of love and service, according to the logic of Christ, as sung today’s Liturgy, “sacrificed himself, immaculate victim of peace on the altar of the cross, completing the mystery of human redemption” (Preface of Christ the King). Authentic disciple in the Poverello of Assisi, Saint Thomas of Cori was obedient to Christ, King of the Universe. He meditated and embodied in his life requirement evangelical poverty and the gift of self to God and neighbor. All his life appears as a sign of the Gospel, a testament to the love of the heavenly Father revealed in Christ and acting in the Holy Spirit, for the salvation of man.” From the Canonization Homily of Saint Tommaso da Cori, delivered by Pope John Paul II.
Today, we celebrate the feast day of Saint Tommaso da Cori (1655-1729), Franciscan priest of the Order of Friars Minor, remembered for his preaching, confessions, and spiritual retreats—the total gift of himself to his brothers and sisters, as a reflection of the Lord.
Born Francesco Antonio Placidi in Cori, Italy, Tommaso was a serious child who endured his share of loss early on in life. Both his mother and his father were killed, leaving him orphaned at age 14. Shepherding sheep to pay the bills and provide for his younger sister, young Francesco learned to find the Lord in the simplest of activities. Caring for his sister until she married, Francesco longed to devote himself fully to God. Upon his sisters’ marriages, he presented himself at the Franciscan convent in his village, and was at once accepted. Sent to Orvieto to fulfill his novitiate year, he professed his vows (taking the name Tommaso), completed his course of theological studies, and was ordained a parish priest in 1683. Recognizing his holiness and devotion to the Lord, he was immediately promoted to vice master of novices at the Holy Trinity convent.
Wishing to serve his brothers, Tommaso requested a transfer to a new and poor convent in Civitella. His request was granted, and he arrived on the doorstep, proclaiming, “I am Father Thomas of Cori, and I come here to become holy.” From that day, he inspired his brothers with his radical living of the faith, and was compared by many to Saint Francis.
Saint Tommaso lived at Civitella until his death (with a brief exception during which he reformed a nearby monastery). During those years, he wrote the Rules for both monasteries, observing and enforcing them scrupulously. He devoted himself to prayer, so much so that his daily life and physical being became prayer. According to the Vatican biography, “The most evident aspect of his spiritual life was undoubtedly the centrality of the Eucharist, as attested by St. Thomas in his celebration of the Eucharist, which was intense and attentive, and in the silent prayer of adoration during the long nights at the Hermitage after the Divine Office, celebrated at midnight. His life of prayer was marked by a persistent aridity of spirit. The total absence of sensible consolation in prayer and in his life of union with God was protracted for a good 40 years, finding him always serene and total in living the primacy of God. Truly, his prayer was configured as a remembrance of God that made concretely possible a unity of life, notwithstanding his manifold activities.”
Further embodying the apostolic nature of the Franciscan vocation, Father Tommaso traveled the countryside, visiting villages, preaching, proclaiming the Gospel, administering the sacraments, and bolstering the faithful. It is said that miracles followed in his wake. Plainspoken and simple, he ministered to the poorest, least educated, and marginalized of the time, giving all he had to those in need. Patient and filled with humility, he embodied the spirit of reform, forgiveness, and conversion, and won many to Christ through his example.
Saint Tommaso died peacefully in 1729, and is enshrined in the Franciscan Chapel of Bellagra.
O God, who hast inspired by St. Thomas of Cori to find Him in solitude, and to nurture an exquisite love of his neighbor, grant that we, following his example, may grow closer to the contemplation of heaven, remaining ever attentive to the needs of our earthly brothers and sisters. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.