A Model Priest: St. Fr. Francis A. Fasani

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Background

Born and raised in southern Italy, Francis Anthony was a pious and reserved youth who joined the Order at age 14. During the novitiate year he befriended a gregarious novice, Blessed Antonio Lucci. Bl. Antonio Lucci told him that "the fastest way to become a saint was through laughter." These two young friars remained friends and witnessed the importance of close fraternal bonds in the sanctification of self and the world.

Spirituality

St. Francis Fasini was loving, devout and penitential. He was a sought-after confessor and preacher. One witness at the canonical hearings regarding Francesco’s holiness testified, "In his preaching he spoke in a familiar way, filled as he was with the love of God and neighbor; fired by the Spirit, he made use of the words and deed of Holy Scripture, stirring his listeners and moving them to do penance." It is no doubt then, that he is one of the most famous preachers in the Franciscan world.

It was said in Lucera: "Whoever wants to see how St. Francis looked while he was alive should come to see Padre Maestro." In imitation of St. Francis he built his religious life on the basis of a generous participation in the mysteries of Christ through the most faithful practice of the evangelical counsels, which he considered to be a radical expression of perfect charity. In his constant prayers, inflamed with seraphic love, he called out to God, saying to Him: "O Highest Love, Immense Love, Eternal Love, Infinite Love."

Shepherd

The priestly life of Father Anthony Fasani is a splendid testimony to fidelity and dedication to the mission given to all priests in the Church. It is their duty-as Vatican Council II so vigorously confirms-to promote "the glory of God the Father in Christ by their ministry and their life" (PO, 2).

The duty which falls to all priests "to invite all people to conversion and holiness" (PO, 4) was carried out by Fr. Fasani through a type of preaching based on the scriptures that was well prepared, persuasive, and had the particular purpose, as one witness recalled, "of rooting out vices and sins and planting in their place goodness and the exercise of virtue."

As a worthy ministry of "the one who uninterruptedly exercises his priestly mission for us in the Liturgy through the Spirit" (PO, 5), Fr. Fasani dedicated himself with zeal-especially the administration of the sacrament of Penance and the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. "He heard the confession of every type of person," asserted a witness, "with the greatest patience and kindness on his face". He was charitable and welcoming to all, giving as his reason the hope of being able one day to say to the Lord: "I was indulgent, I don't deny it; but it was You who taught me to be so."

He visited and comforted the sick, exhorting them to seek reasons for hope and resignation in the goodness of God. The spiritual care of the imprisoned, an apostolate given him by the bishop of Lucera, permitted him to visit them daily and to exhort them to trust in the merciful love of God. He was given the responsibility of assisting those condemned to death in their last moments.

Eucharistic Priest

The most holy Eucharist was the summit of his religious life and wholly represented the goal toward which be ordered his entire priestly ministry. In fact, he always considered the Eucharist "the source and summit of evangelization," and that the faithful were "fully incorporated into the Body of Christ through the Eucharist" (PO, 5). A fervent minister of the Eucharist, Fr. Fasani celebrated the sacrifice of the Mass with an intense ardor that lifted and nourished his spirit while at the same time it edified all who were present. In his preaching he inculcated in the faithful the love of the Eucharist, promoting even daily communion.

This Is My Paradise

When Fr. Fasani was taken by his final illness in 1742, he wanted to offer it to the Lord in a spirit of perfect joy, with that same expression with which he had always offered God all the actions of his life: "The Will of God: that is my Paradise." On November 2 of the same year, comforted by the holy sacraments and the protection of the Immaculate Virgin Mary for which he prayed, Fr. Francis Anthony Fasani returned his soul to God in the friary of the city where he was born and where, for thirty-five years, he showed himself a faithful witness to Christ.

At his death in Lucera, children ran through the streets and cried out, "The saint is dead! The saint is dead!"

Conclusion

The values of the sacred ministry of the Roman Catholic Priesthood were totally fulfilled in the priestly life of Fr. Francis Anthony Fasani. Vatican Council II expresses this the following terms: "Priests, whether they devote themselves to prayer and adoration, to the preaching of the Word, to offering the Eucharistic Sacrifice and administering the other sacraments, or to carrying out other ministries in the service of mankind, always contribute to the increase of the glory of God and at the same time to enriching mankind with divine life" (PO, 2).

Eventually we become what we choose. If we choose stinginess, we become stingy. If we choose compassion, we become compassionate. The holiness of Francesco Antonio Fasani resulted from his many small decisions to cooperate with God’s grace.

References
  • Vatican News Service
  • American Catholic Online

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