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26 November 2017

How A Caveman Became A Saint – The Amazing Story of Saint Sylvester Gozzolini, Abbot

Mandeville, LA – St. Sylvester Guzzolini, Abbot, was born of a noble family at Osimo Italy in 1177. His father sent him to study law at Balogna then Padua but he became inflamed with a zeal for the faith and quit law to become a priest. When he returned to Osimo has father was so angry with his decision he refused to speak to him for 10 years.

On [Saint Sylvester’s] solid foundations, Your Congregation has lived through more than seven centuries of history

Sylvester’s ardor for the Church was so profound that he railed against any iniquity against the Faith, even if it came from his bishop. Sylvester respectfully admonished this bishop for neglecting the duties of his office and causing scandal and, in retaliation, the bishop became hostile and threatened to relieve him of his faculties.

Saint Sylvester statue at the university of St Sylvester in Kanda, Sri Lanka.

At this time Sylvester was asked to preside over the funeral of one of Osimo’s most handsome and accomplished men. Upon seeing the man in his coffin, soul-less, Sylvester recoiled in horror for he did not recognize him. This inspired the Saint to become a hermit and devote himself entirely to prayer and fasting; he quit the material world. But the world would not quit Sylvester. A small following of imitators turned into an enormous community of disciples; one of these disciples donated his land for the building of a monastery in Montefano, Italy. Sylvester’s complete biography and the history of the Sylvestrine Order can be read here, it is a fascinating study, here is an excerpt.

About 1277 Sylvester left Osimo and retired to a life of solitude among the crags of the Gola della Rossa near Serra S. Quirico (province of Ancona, Italy), in the territory of Count Corrado, Lord of the castle of Rovellone. The Count, among other things, had already known Sylvester in the Curia of the Legate for the Marche, where the latter had been involved in the defence of the rights of the church of Osimo. Sylvester lived in three different caves, the third of which can be definitely identified as Grottafucile, where subsequently a monastery was built, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The oldest title attributed to the Guzzolini is that of “Prior of Grottafucile Hermitage”. At Grottafucile Sylvester led a life of severe penance and constant prayer, having only raw-herbs for his food, as he later revealed to his disciples. Sylvester, however, did not remain unknown for very long in this solitude. He was visited by members of various religious communities, who admiring him for his virtues, tried to persuade him to join their order. The hermit began then to think about the form of religious life he should embrace. After mature reflection he chose the Rule of St. Benedict of Norcia…

Sylvester applied to Pope Innocent IV to adopt the rule of St Benedict and make his order official and in 1247 his application was approved and the Sylvestrine Congregation of the Benedictine Order was born. He lived to found twenty-five monasteries in Italy, and leaving his disciples heirs of his double spirit of penance and prayer, departed to the Lord on the 26th of November in 1267, being ninety years old.

Pope John Paul II gave the Sylvetsrine order an Apostolic blessing on the 8th of September, 2001.

You have therefore fittingly chosen to spend these days of prayer and intense work at Fabriano, in the Hermitage of Montefano called after your founder, St Sylvester Abbot, who in this very site grafted a new congregation onto the fruitful tree of the Benedictine Order in 1231. A contemplative and anxious to be consistent with the Gospel, Sylvester became a hermit, practising a strict ascetical life and growing in a deep and vigorous spirituality. For his disciples he chose St Benedict’s Rule, wishing to build a community that would be dedicated to contemplation but would not ignore the surrounding social reality. In fact, he himself united a life of recollection, with the ministry of an esteemed spiritual fatherhood and the proclamation of the Gospel to the people of the region. On these solid foundations, Your Congregation has lived through more than seven centuries of history.

Many miracles were worked at Sylvester’s tomb and a university has recently been founded in kandy, Sri Lanka, in his honor. Modern man is in need of the asceticism of Saint Sylvetster with his simplicity, quietude and willingness to entirely reject the charms of the material world, even vain “good looks” in favor of contemplation, fasting and works.

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… from the 1962 Roman Missal.

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