On November 27, Franciscans remember Saint Francis Anthony Fasani (1681–1742), a Conventual friar who dedicated his life to the ministry of education and pastoral service.
Giovanniello Fasani was born in the city of Lucera in Apulia, Italy, of working-class parents. His father, a farm laborer, died when Giovanniello was ten, but his stepfather assured that the boy received a good education with the Conventual Friars Minor in Lucera. Giovanniello soon felt drawn to join the Order and, at age 15, in 1695, was received into the novitiate with the name Francesco Antonio.
This street scene of Lucera shows the Church of San Francesco in the background.
Francesco went on for studies in various places, especially Assisi, where he was ordained a priest in 1705. When he completed his studies in 1707, he was assigned to his hometown of Lucera, where he spent the rest of his life. He received a doctorate of theology in 1709 and was known thereafter locally as “Padre Maestro.”
Francesco’s primary ministry was teaching Scholastic philosophy to friars in formation, but he also gradually fulfilled other duties in the community: guardian of the friary, provincial minister, master of novices, and pastor.
Francesco also reached out to the people in the region through preaching tours. 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 word and deed of holy Scripture, stirring his listeners and moving them to do penance.”
Francesco was always reaching out to meet the needs of the poor, assiduously soliciting donations on their behalf. He especially tried to relieve the situation of prisoners, who were held in appalling conditions. And he was always available as a compassionate confessor.
He was buried in the church adjacent to the friary in Lucera. Popular devotion sprang up to him almost immediately after his death, but there was not much progress on his cause until the twentieth century. He was beatified in 1951 and then canonized in 1986.
The remains of Saint Francesco Fasani rest under the main altar of the Church of San Francesco.
Francis Anthony’s life may not have been marked by dramatic events, but by day-to-day compassionate service as a friar and priest.
Main image: Saint Francesco Antonio Fasani
Dominic V. Monti, OFM, is a Franciscan Friar of Holy Name Province (USA) and currently professor of Franciscan Research in the Franciscan Institute of St. Bonaventure University. He devoted the greater part of his ministry to teaching the History of Christianity, in particular the history of the Franciscan movement. He has contributed two volumes to the Works of St. Bonaventure series and is author of Francis & His Brothers, a popular history of the Friars Minor.