Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/St. Francis Caracciolo

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 6
St. Francis Caracciolo

by Francesco Paoli


Co-founder with John Augustine Adorno of the Conregation of the Minor Clerks Regular; b. in Villa Santa Maria in the Abrusso (Italy), 13 October, 1563; d. at Agnone, 4 June, 1608. He belonged to the Pisquizio branch of the Caracciolo and received in baptism the name of Ascanio. From his infancy he was remarkable for his gentleness and uprightness. Having been cured of leprosy at the age of twenty-two he vowed himself to an ecclesiastical life, and distributing his goods to the poor, went to Naples in 1585 to study theology. In 1587 he was ordained priest and joined the contraternity of the Bianchi della Giustizia (The white robes of Justice), whose object was to assist condemned criminals to die holy deaths. A letter frorn Giovanni Agostino Adorno to another Ascanio Caracciolo, begging him to take part in founding a new religious institute, having been delivered by mistake to our saint, he saw in this circumstance an confidence of the Divine Will towards him (1588). He assisted in drawing up rules for the new congregation, which was approved by Sixtus V, 1 July, 1588, and confirmed by Gregory XIV, 18 February 1591, and by Clement VIII, 1 June, 1592.

The congregation is both contemplative and active, and to the three usual vows a fourth is added, namely, that its members must not aspire to ecclesiastical dignities outside the order nor seek them within it. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is kept up by rotation, and mortification is continually practised. The motto of the order "Ad majorem Dei Resurgentis gloriam" was chosen from the fact that Francis and Adorno made their profession at Naples on Low Sunday, 9 April, 1589. In spite of his refusal he was chosen general, 9 March, 1593, in the first house of the congregation in Naples, called St. Mary Major's or Pietrasanta, given to them by Sixtus V. He made three journeys into Spain to establish foundations under the protection of Philip II and Philip III. He opened the house of the Holy Ghost at Madrid on 20 January, 1599, that of Our Lady of the Annunciation at Valladolid on 9 September, 1601, and that of St. Joseph at Alcala sometime in 1601, for teaching science. In Rome he obtained possession of St. Leonard's church, which he afterwards exchanged for that of St. Agnes in the Piazza Navona (18 September, 1598), and later he secured for the institute the church of San Lorenso in Lucina (11 June, 1606) which was made over to him by a bull of Pope Paul X, and which was, however, annulled by the Bull "Susceptum" of Pope Pius X (9 November, 1906).

St. Francis Caracciolo was the author of a valuable work, "Le sette stazioni sopra la Passione di N.S. Gesù Christo", which was printed in Rome in 1710. He loved the poor. Like St. Thomas Aquinas, a relative on his mother's side, his purity was angelic. Pope Paul V desired to confer an important bishopric on him, but he steadfastly refused it. His frequent motto was "Zelus domus tuae comedit me". Invited by the Oratorians at Agnone in the Abruzzo to convert their house into a college for his congregation, he fell ill during the negotiations and died there on the vigil of Corpus Christi. He was beatified by Pope Clement XIV on 4 June, 1769, and canonized by Pope Pius VII on 24 May, 1807. In 1838 he was chosen as patron of the city of Naples, where his body lies. At first he was buried in St. Mary Major's, but his remains were afterwards translated to the church of Monteverginella, which was given in exchange to the Minor Clerks Regular (1823) after their suppression at the time of the French Revolution. St. Francis is no longer venerated there with old fervour and devotion.

Francesco Paoli.