Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Servant of God Sylvester of Assisi

There are four stages in becoming a saint. During each stage the person that is being considered is given a title. The titles follow the order: Servant of God, Venerable, Blessed, and, finally Saint. During the first stage, the bishop where the candidate died will open an investigation into the life of the individual, who is called a Servant of God. Today, instead of focusing on a saint, we look into the life of a man that is currently on the road to canonization, specifically in this first stage. Sylvester of Assisi was one of the first 12 followers of St. Francis of Assisi and he was the first priest of the Franciscan order.

Sylvester was the descendant of a noble family, and had sold Francis, who had previously renounced his family, some bricks. Francis was to use these to build local churches that had fallen into disarray. While Francis was with Bernard of Quintavalle, a local nobleman who had decided to follow Francis and give up all of his wealth and possessions, Sylvester complained that he had been paid too little for the bricks that he had sold Francis. Sylvester had fallen prey to greed, much like we all have. For example, has there ever been a time where you claimed more than you actually deserved?

Sylvester received his compensation, but felt guilty. Therefore, he change his mind, gave up all of his possessions, and decided to follow Francis. He ended up becoming one of the first priests in the young Franciscan order. He prayed very often and lived a life of poverty, even becoming a favorite companion of Francis, someone that Francis would come to for advice on all different matters.

It was said that there was a civil war raging in Arezzo, a city that Francis and Sylvester had traveled to, and Francis had instructed Sylvester to drive out the demons from the city. Sylvester proclaimed, "In the name of almighty God and by virtue of the command of his servant Francis, depart from here, all you evil spirit." Afterwards, the demons left and peace returned to the city.  

Sylvester was one of Francis's original companions and he is buried in the Basilica of St. Francis. The cause for his canonization has been brought up by the Friars minor. 

Do we sometimes put too much emphasis on material goods, power, or prestige. It is difficult, but we must realize that these things do not fulfill us, it is God that brings true happiness. This is the epiphany that Sylvester, and even Francis, had, and helped them to decid to devote their lives to prayer and evangelization. We can learn much from these holy men.

Pope John Paul II, 1983, Divinus Perfectionis Magister, Art I, Sec 1
"Servant of God Sylvester of Assisi". American

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