Monday, May 18, 2009
CRISPIN OF VITERBO
One doesn't get to heaven in a carriage!
Let us love God who deserves it!
Crispin was born and baptised Peter Fioretti in 1668, at Viterbo, Italy. His twice-widowed mother dedicated him to the Blessed Virgin, an act he never forgot. Throughout his life he referred to the Mother of God as his "Momma". His paternal uncle, Francis, educated him and trained him as a cobbler.
At twenty-five he asked to join the Capuchins wanting to imitate Felix of Cantalice. Despite family opposition he joined the Order. The Novice Master was also concerned that Peter was too frail and advised that he leave but the Provincial intervened (only Provincials can accept men into the Order even over the objections of formators!). In 1693 Peter was received into the Roman Province and was given the name 'Crispin' after the patron saint of cobblers. After profession he served as cook for three years at Tolfa, then infirmarian at Rome, cook again, orchardkeeper, and lastly, for the next thirty-eight years, questor at Orvieto.
Like his role-model he was a friend to all and somehow managed to integrate his busy workday with a deep interior life. He begged not only for the friars (necessities only) but for all the poor and he would nurse the sick during plagues, visit prisoners, and go to the aid of anyone he thought was in need (foundlings especially). He once arranged for a preacher to hold his sermons under the window of a notoriously sinful woman bringing about her conversion.
Crispin's whole ministry was marked with joy and compassion. His insight and wisdom drew people to seek his counsel. Following Capuchin (and Franciscan) tradition he opposed injustice and upheld the rights of workers and opposed the injustices of the merchants. Among the crosses he had to carry was the opposition of his fellow Capuchins.
In the winter of 1747-48 he fell ill and was sent to Rome. He recovered temporarily but died on May 19th, 1750 at the age of eighty-two and is buried in the same church, the Immaculate Conception, as Felix of Cantalice. He was canonized in 1982.
Crispin's life can teach us that no life is so busy that there can be no room for God or our neighbour - if we think it is then we need to reconsider before its too late; joy rooted in God's love for us should season all we do; practical compassion for those in need is a prayer too (perhaps the best).