St. Conrad of Piacenza
Born of a noble family in northern Italy, Conrad as a young man married Euphrosyne, daughter of a nobleman.
One day while hunting he ordered attendants to set fire to some brush in order to flush out the game. The fire spread to nearby fields and to a large forest. Conrad fled. An innocent peasant was imprisoned, tortured to confess and condemned to death. Conrad confessed his guilt, saved the man’s life and paid for the damaged property.
Soon after this event, Conrad and his wife agreed to separate: she to a Poor Clare monastery and he to a group of hermits following the Third Order Rule. His reputation for holiness, however, spread quickly. Since his many visitors destroyed his solitude, Conrad went to a more remote spot in Sicily where he lived 36 years as a hermit, praying for himself and for the rest of the world.
Prayer and penance were his answer to the temptations that beset him. Conrad died kneeling before a crucifix. He was canonized in 1625.
Francis of Assisi was drawn both to contemplation and to a life of preaching; periods of intense prayer nourished his preaching. Some of his early followers, however, felt called to a life of greater contemplation, and he accepted that. Though Conrad of Piacenza is not the norm in the Church, he and other contemplatives remind us of the greatness of God and of the joys of heaven.
Pope Paul VI’s 1969 Instruction on the Contemplative Life includes this passage: "To withdraw into the desert is for Christians tantamount to associating themselves more intimately with Christ’s passion, and it enables them, in a very special way, to share in the paschal mystery and in the passage of Our Lord from this world to the heavenly homeland" (#1).
Born to the nobility. Married Euphrosyne, the daughter of a nobleman. One day while hunting he ordered attendants to set fire to some brush in order to flush out the game. A strong wind carried the flames to nearby fields, forests, towns and villages, and Conrad fled in panic. An innocent peasant was imprisoned, tortured into a confession and condemned to death for the fire. Remorseful, Conrad stepped forth to confess, saving the man. He then paid for the damaged property.
Conrad and his wife saw the hand of God in the dramatic events, and chose to give the poor everything they owned. They then separated: she to a Poor Clare monastery, he to a group of Franciscan tertiary hermits. Conrad lived such a life of piety that his reputation for holiness spread quickly; had the gift of healing. Visitors destroyed his solitude, so he fled to a the valley of Noto in Sicily where he lived 36 years in prayer as a hermit.
Legend says that when the Bishop of Syracuse visited him, the bishop asked if Conrad had anything to offers guests. Conrad said he would check in his cell. He returned carrying newly made cakes, which the bishop accepted as a miracle. Conrad returned the bishop's visit, and made a general confession to him. As he arrived, he was surrounded by fluttering birds, who escorted him back to Noto.
Conrad died kneeling before a crucifix.
1350 of natural causes
Franciscan hermit with a cross upon which birds perch; bearded, old man with a tau staff, bare feet, Franciscan cincture, and small birds fluttering around him; old man with stags and other animals around him