ST. IGNATIUS of Laconi:
A Sainted Begging Brother
St. Francis’ Views on Working and Begging
From the Testament of St. Francis of Assisi we get his views on working and begging:
“With all my heart I want all the other friars to be busy with some kind of work that can be carried on without scandal. Those who do not know how to work should learn, not because they want to get something for their efforts, but to give good example and to avoid idleness.
When we receive no recompense for our work, we can turn to God’s table and beg alms from door to door.”
Since the followers of Francis at Cagliari, Italy worked hard but rarely at jobs which paid enough for them to live on St. Francis allowed them to beg under these conditions.
The Story of a Sainted Begging Brother
The path that St. Ignatius of Laconi took to the Franciscans was unusual. Born the second of nine (some say seven) children of Matthew Cadello Peis and Anna Maria Sannu Casu Peis on 10 (some say 17) December 1701 in Laconi on the island of Sardinia, Italy, he was baptized Francis Ignatius Vincent and known at home by his last name. He had 2 brothers and 7 sisters. While his family was very respectable and very pious they were also very very poor.
So Ignatius had to work hard on his father’s land. Because he was a frail delicate boy this work put a severe strain on his health. He also unfortunately grew up to be illiterate.
It was precisely due to his poor health that led Ignatius to “enter religion.” Evidently when he was born his mother is said to have promised him to St. Francis of Assisi. This is why she would always tell him as he was growing up of one day wearing the habit of Il Poverello.
So when he was about seventeen or eighteen years of age and he got very seriously ill when this happened he offered himself to St. Francis of Assisi to become a Capuchin if he recovered. He did. Unfortunately his father could not spare him from the farm. He kept telling him, “Today or tomorrow, this year or next, it’s all the same. There’s no need to keep your promise at once.” So in spite of his recovery Ignatius had in the meantime to ignore his promise.
However when he had an alarming experience with a runaway horse during which he suffered a severe riding accident, Ignatius once again renewed his pledge as he saw the finger of God. Since he was now 20 years of age he promptly acted on his vow.
Becomes a Capuchin Lay Brother
This time notwithstanding his father’s pleas and arguments Ignatius was firmly resolved to keep his promise. So he made his way to St. Benedict’s friary near Cagliari, Italy. On 10 November 1721 Ignatius was accepted as a Capuchin lay brother and was finally clothed in the habit of St. Francis.
Ignatius underwent the usual trials of the novice. However when it was time for his Profession some serious doubts about his capabilities were raised which made his case seem doubtful.
But because Ignatius doubled his efforts working at fulfilling his tasks to perfection by the end of 1772 he was finally allowed to take his vows. Afterwards he worked as a lay brother in the monastery weaving room.
Appointed Official Beggar
It was when Ignatius was sent to the bigger friary at Iglesias that they noticed that when he was sent out to collect alms people not only gave more but gave graciously and even asked him to come again.
But from Iglesias he was sent to the other neighboring house at Cagliari where for fifteen years he worked again in their weaving shed.
It was in 1741 while at another Franciscan house at Buoncammino that set the pattern for the remaining 40 years of his life.
His reputation for self-denial and charity led to his being appointed as the official beggar for the friars in St. Antony’s. While it was no easy task having doors sometimes slammed in your face, be at the mercy of the weather as well as the moods and whims of the people, it was his acceptance of God’s will for him that enabled him to spend the last forty years of his life fulfilling that task even when he became blind the last two years of his life. This “begging son of St. Francis” made of his humbling task a real apostolate.
But Ignatius’ life was not entirely spent in the menial task of begging. As he made his rounds he would instruct the street children whom he attracted and who loved him. He would teach them how to pray and to know more about God.
Ignatius would also find the time and opportunity to visit the sick who not only looked forward to his visits but even seemed to regain their health after Ignatius spoke to them. He even reproved sinners, reconciled enemies and taught the ignorant. He was consulted by those in difficulties.
Everyone loved Brother Ignatius especially the children whom he loved and was “gentle and caressing” with them. He was described as being “of medium height, white hair and beard, upright in his gait and carrying a forked stick. His simplicity was truly Franciscan and the assuredness of his speech reflected the serene calm of his mind.”
However begging from door to door on top of all these other jobs didn’t leave him much time for praying. So he cut down on his sleeping time (sleeping barely an hour or two on his shake-down bed with a log for a pillow) so he could spend his nights in prayer.
Ignatius lived such an exemplary life of great humility and holiness that he caused many sinners to repent. Many people too were inspired by his kindness and his faithfulness to his work.
His Many Graces
In the process of his beatification there were many accounts given of the many graces Ignatius received from the Lord. An onlooker testified to his being lifted from the ground while at prayer. So many cures of his healing of ill-health were documented that many said that he seemed to be the general practitioner of the whole neighborhood although he kept telling them that he was not a doctor. All he could do he said was to pray. “If it be God’s will, may you be healed.”
Death and Canonization
Ironically Ignatius who was frail and delicate of health in his early youth remained healthy up to his 80th year. However in the early spring of 1781, he visited his beloved sister Mary Agnes, a Poor Clare, and told her that it was the last time they would meet on earth. It was in 1781 that he was confined to his bed. On 11 May of that year at the hour of our Lord’s agony on the cross he finally breathed his last after putting his hands together and murmuring, “It is the Agony!”
He was canonized on 21 October 1951 by Pope Pius XII. His canonization teaches us that even if we are simple but are pure of heart accepting totally the will of God, we too may become saints. The life of Ignatius reminds us that “everything God considers worthwhile does not have a high-paying salary attached to it.”
SOURCES of REFERENCE
Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Vol. 3 – pp 281 – 284
A Year with the Saints – May 11
Illustrated Lives of Saints – Vol. 2 – pp 229 – 230; Saint Companions – p 170