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SAINT ANDREW CORSINI BISHOP AND CONFESSOR.
From his two original lives, written, the one by a disciple, the other by Peter Andrew Castagna, a friar of his Order, one hundred years after his death. See the same compiled in Latin by Francis Venturius bishop of San-Severo, printed at Rome in 1620, in quarto, and abridged by the elegant Jesuit Maffel.
A. D. 1373.
THIS saint at his baptism was called Andrew, from the apostle of that name, on whose festival he was born in Florence, in 1302. The family of the Corsini was then one of the most illustrious of that commonwealth. This child was the fruit of the prayers of his pious parents, who consecrated him by vow to God before his birth. But notwithstanding the care his parents took to instil good principles into him, he spent the first part of his youth in vice and extravagance, in the company of such as were as wicked as himself. His devout mother Peregrina never ceased weeping and praying for his conversion, and one day said to him, with many sighs, in the bitterness of her grief: “I see you are the wolf I saw in my sleep;” giving him to understand, that when with child of him she had dreamed she was brought to bed of a won, which running into a church, was turned into a lamb. She added, that she and her husband had in a particular manner devoted him, while in the womb, to the service of God, under the protection of the blessed Virgin; and that in consequence of his being born not for them, nor for the world, but for God, a very different kind of life from what he led was expected from him. This discourse made so strong an impression on his heart, that he went immediately to the church of the Carmelite friars, and having prayed there for some time with great fervor before the altar of our Lady, he was so touched by God, that he took a resolution upon the spot to return no more to his father’s house, but to embrace the religious state of life professed in that convent. He was readily admitted, in the year 1318, and after a novitiate of a year and some months, during which he eluded the artifices of his worldly companions, and resolutely rejected the solicitations of an uncle who sought to draw him back into the world, he made his solemn profession. He never departed from the first fervor of his conversion. He strenuously labored to subdue his passions by extreme humiliations, obedience even to the last person in the house, by silence and prayer; and his superiors employed him in the meanest offices, often in washing the dishes in the scullery. The progress he made in learning, particularly in the holy scriptures and in divinity, was very great. In the year 1328 he was ordained priest; but to prevent the music and feast which his family had prepared, according to custom, for the day on which he was to say his first mass, he privately withdrew to a little convent seven miles out of town, where he offered, unknown, his first-fruits to God, with wonderful recollection and devotion. After some time employed in preaching at Florence, he was sent to Paris, where he studied three years, and took some degrees. He prosecuted his studies some time at Avignon, with his uncle, cardinal Corsini; and in 1332, returning to Florence, was chosen prior of that convent by a provincial chapter. God honored his extraordinary virtue with the gifts of prophecy and miracles; and the astonishing fruits of his example and zealous preaching made him be looked upon as a second apostle of his country. Among other miracles and conquests of hardened souls, was the conversion of his cousin John Corsini, an infamous gamester; and the miraculous cure of an ulcer in his neck.
The bishop of Fiesoli, a town three miles from Florence, being dead, the chapter unanimously chose our saint to fill up the vacant see. Being informed of their proceedings, he hid himself, and remained so long concealed that the canons, despairing to find him, were going to proceed to a second election; when, by a particular direction of divine providence, he was discovered by a child. Being consecrated bishop in the beginning of the year 1360, he redoubled his former austerities. To his hair-shirt he added an iron girdle. He daily said the seven penitential psalms and the litany of the saints, and gave himself a severe discipline while he recited the litany. His bed was of vine-branches strewed on the floor. All his time was taken up in prayer or in his functions. Holy meditation and reading the scriptures he called his recreation from his labors. He avoided discourse with women as much as possible, and would never listen to flatterers or informers. His tenderness and care of the poor were incredible, and he had a particular regard for the bashful among them, that is, such as were ashamed to make known their distress: these he was diligent in seeking out, and assisted them with all possible secrecy. By an excellent talent for composing differences and dissensions, he never failed to reconcile persons at variance, and to appease all seditions that happened in his time, either at Fiesoli, or at Florence. Urban V., on this account, sent him vested with legatine power to Bologna, where the nobility and people were miserably divided. He happily pacified them, and their union continued during the remainder of his life. He was accustomed every Thursday to wash, with singular charity and humility, the feet of the poor: one excused himself, alleging that his feet were full of ulcers and corruption; the saint insisted upon washing them notwithstanding, and they were immediately healed. In imitation of St. Gregory the Great, he kept a list of the names of all the poor, and furnished them all with allowances. He never dismissed any without an alms, for which purpose he once miraculously multiplied bread. He was taken ill while he was singing high mass on Christmas-night, in the year 1372. His fever increasing, he gave up his happy soul to God with a surprising joy and tranquillity, on the 6th of January, 1373, being seventy-one years and five weeks old, having been twelve years bishop. He was honored with many miracles, and immediately canonized by the voice of the people. The state of Florence has often sensibly experienced his powerful intercession. Pope Eugenius IV. allowed his relics to be exposed to public veneration. He was canonized by Urban VIII. in 1629. His festival was transferred to the 4th of February. Clement XII. being of this family, in conjunction with his nephew, the marquis of Corsini, sumptuously adorned the chapel of the Carmelite friars’ church in Florence, in which the saint’s body is kept. He also built and endowed I magnificent independent chapel in the great church of St. John Lateran, under the name of this his patron, in which the corpse of that pope is interred.
The example of all the saints confirms the fundamental maxim of our divine Redeemer, that the foundation of all solid virtue and of true sanctity, is to be laid by subduing the passions and dying to ourselves. Pride, sensuality, covetousness, and every vice must be rooted out of the heart, the senses must be mortified, the inconstancy of the mind must be settled, and its inclination to roving and dissipation fixed by recollection, and all depraved affections curbed. Both in cloisters and in the world, many Christians take pains to become virtuous by multiplying religious practices, yet lose in a great measure the fruit of their labors, because they never study with their whole hearts to die to themselves. So long as self-love reigns in their souls, almost without control, this will often blind and deceive them, and will easily infect even their good works, and their devotion will be liable to a thousand illusions, and always very imperfect. Hence religious persons, after many years spent in the rigorous observance of their rule, still fail upon the least trial or contradiction which thwarts their favorite inclination, and are stopped in their spiritual progress as it were by every grain of sand in their way: their whole life they crawl like base insects in the mire of their imperfections, whereas if they studied once in good earnest to curb sensuality and to renounce their own lights, their own will, and the inordinate love of themselves, difficulties would disappear before them, and they would in a short time arrive at the perfection of true virtue, and enjoy the liberty of the children of God, and his interior peace, the true road to which is only humility, meekness, and perfect self-denial. Did we know the treasure and happiness which this would procure us, we should, in imitation of the ancient holy monks, desire to meet with superiors who would exercise us by the severest trials, and think ourselves most obliged to those who apply the strongest remedies to purge and cure our sick souls.