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Saint Of The Day For November 26: Saint Sylvester, Abbot

Saint Sylvester Story: Silvestro Guzzolini was born in Osimo, near Ancona, in 1177 to a wealthy family that sent him to Bologna to study law: his father, in fact, wanted him to be a lawyer.

The latter, without a word, moved to Padua to study theology and when he returned home with a degree in that subject, his father flew into a rage and segregated him at home.

Sylvester: A vocation opposed in the family

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The call to religious life grew stronger and stronger, thanks to the Word contained in the Holy Scripture he had long studied and loved.

Destitute, alone, he eventually managed to join the Community of Canons in the Church of Osimo, helped by the local bishop who appreciated his Christian zeal.

Here Sylvester leads an exemplary existence, dedicated to prayer, meditation and the radical observance of the Gospel.

But this is not enough and he soon discovers this.

‘Deny yourself: take up your cross and follow me’

One day Sylvester attends the funeral of a nobleman and at the cemetery has the unfortunate idea of looking inside a mass grave.

There is no hope in there, only the ruin of death.

For him, however, it is an illumination: ‘What he was I am; what he is I will be’.

Jesus’ words also come back to him: ‘Whoever wants to come after me should deny himself, take up his cross and follow me’.

So Sylvester chooses the hermit life.

He wanders for a while in the mountains of the Marches until the Lord shows him a cave, called Grottafucile, and he settles there.

For three years he did not see a soul: his life was all prayer, fasting and penance, like Moses on the Holy Mountain.

Then something happens.

The beginnings of the community of Sylvester

The men of the Lord of Castelletta discover that there is a man living on the estate.

Soon the curious arrive and go to him to ask for prayer or spiritual advice.

Sylvester then understands that the hermitage experience is over: God wants him to found a new community, but he does not know where to start.

Providence will take care of it.

In 1228 Gregory IX sends a delegation of Dominicans, composed of Brother Richard and Brother Bonaparte, to meet this strange hermit and invite Sylvester to join an already existing monastic order or at least to adopt a very precise rule of life, as the Fourth Lateran Council had ordered.

The two brothers would be Sylvester’s first in the new community that would be called the Order of St Benedict of Monte Fano.

Sylvester and The choice of the rule

As always when he does not know what to do, Silvester prays.

He prays in particular to Our Lady, who comes to visit him one night in an ecstatic experience to give him the Eucharist directly from her holy hands.

But Sylvester also prays to many Saints: many appear to him in dreams, but when St Benedict appears to him, he understands that it is precisely that Rule that he must follow.

He will therefore be the first to wear the Benedictine habit and in 1248 he will receive the approval of Pope Innocent IV.

Meanwhile the community grows and like the good seed sown in fertile soil bears fruit.

New communities are born.

Sylvester is now tired, he is almost 90 years old, and the Lord finally allows him to return home: it is 26 November 1267.

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