Blessed Francis Anthony of Lucera
Feast Day: November 29
Born: 1681 :: Died: 1742
Francis was born at Lucera in Italy and was nicknamed Johnny as a child. He was the son of an Italian farmer. His father died before he was ten. His mother's second husband (step-father) was good to him. He sent Francis to be educated by the Franciscans.
When he was fifteen, Johnny asked to be admitted to the order and became Brother Francis Anthony. He did very well in all his studies and became a priest. But as a youth, he was reserved, timid and pious.
It was his lifelong friendship with Blessed Antonio Lucci (Bishop of Bovino) that helped transform him into "the star of Lucera." Antonio teased him saying that the fastest way to become a saint was through laughter.
Father Francis Anthony soon became famous as a preacher and teacher. He also was chosen as superior. He tried his best to be of loving service to all the friars.
Francis was especially interested in prisoners. The prisons of his day were terrible places. He did his best to help the poor prisoners in every way. His love went out to everyone in need.
It was he who began the custom of collecting gifts at Christmas time for poor families. In Lucera, the city in which he spent his life, it was said: "If you want to see St. Francis of Assisi, just look at Father Francis Anthony!"
Blessed Francis Anthony had a great devotion to Mary. He loved to pay special honor to her Immaculate Conception. It was at the beginning of the solemn novena for this feast that he died.
A short while before, when he was in good health, he had said he would die soon. He suggested to a priest-friend that he too come along. This good priest was upset and said, "Listen, Father, if you want to die, that is your affair, but I'm in no hurry!"
And Francis replied, "We must both make this journey, I first and you afterward." And that is just what happened. The other priest lived only two months after Blessed Francis Anthony passed away.
When Father Francis Anthony died in 1742 the children of the village ran into the streets crying, "The saint is dead! The saint is dead!"
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