Blessed Andrew of Montreale

Blessed Andrew is a personage still very much alive among the people of the Abruzzi because of his holy life and his reputation for miracles which God has worked through his intercessions.

The birthplace of Blessed Andrew is certain: Mascioni, on the shores of Lake Campotosto; no less certain is the place of his death: the blessed andrew of montereale Augustinian monastery in Montereale, a short distance from Mascioni, to which the Blessed retired a few years before his death. He lived to the age of eighty-three, and his earthly sojourn ended on 17 April 1480.

The sad events of the Avignon Schism had negative effects on the Church and the Augustinian Order well beyond 1417, the year in which Martin V was elected to the supreme pontificate. The quest for unity n the Order, which had been split by the schism, and the path of reform were the most urgent concerns of the general chapters and the priors general of the time. Those same events were inevitably echoed in the first part of Blessed Andrew’s life. According to tradition, he had from childhood worked as a shepherd. A meeting with Augustinian Father Augustine Terni, prior of the monastery in Montercale, decided Andrew’s entrance into that same monastery and the beginning of his novitiate. He was ordained a priest at the age of twenty-five, and then, in light of his bent for studies, was destined for teaching. To that end he acquired the various academic degrees of bachelor, reader, and master of theology while attending the general house of studies of the Order in Rimini and in Siena; he appears as director of studies in the latter place in 1459.

During these same years, enjoying as he did the trust of his superiors and his fellow religious, he held offices in government. He was vicar general and visitor of some monasteries; he was elected prior general of the Province of the Valley of Spoleto and in that capacity took part in the general chapters of Avignon in 1455 and Pamiers (France) in 1465.

In 1459, for reasons we do not know, he resigned from the priorate and his position as director of studies in Siena, and in 1461 by order of the Prior General, Father William Beechi, a Florentine, he was sent was sent away from the monastery of Norcia, along with the local prior, Father Jerome of Cittaducale. This was “at the request of various religious of the province, in order to avoid scandal and begin the reform of that monastery.”

In 1468, when William Beechi was still the prior general, he appointed Blessed Andrew as his vicar general for visiting the monastery of Attrice. In 1471, Andrew was again elected prior provincial of the Province of the Valley of Spoleto.

Thus far we have told the cold facts of this “external” life as a religious. Other sources help us to know more about his interior life. A few months after the Blessed’s death, his contemporary, Ambrose of Cori, who had been provincial of the Roman Province and was now prior general of the Order (1476-1482) listed thirty-six Blessed of the Order, in the Chronicle of the Order which he published in 1481. At the time when Blessed Andrew had been expelled from the monastery of Norcia, Ambrose was director of studies in Perugia and therefore knew Andrew personally. In the 36thplace in his list he put Blessed Andrew of Montercalc, “who lived in our time and is made glorious by many signs and miracles. He was very learned in canon law, philosophy, and theology, and showed the greatest example of holiness in preaching, helping the poor, and enduring abuse, and in every kind of patience.”

In a few words Ambrose exalts Blessed Andrew well above even fervent religious, tells us of his reputation for miracles and of his teaching, and calls himBlessed, thereby, in all likelihood, expressing the sentiments of the people.

In the epitaph engraved beneath the image of the Blessed on the wall of the choir in the Church of Saint Augustine in Montereale — an epitaph that is now gone but was cited by Riccitelli in 1581, and went back to the end of the fourteenth or the beginning of the fifteenth century — people could read the following:

Here lies the body of Blessed Andrew of the Order of Hermits of Saint Augustine, who worked countless great miracles. Due to his holiness of life, the austerity of his ways, and his Catholic teaching, due also to his honeyed preaching and great miracles, he was famous throughout Italy and France.

He is dear to God and humanity and is an honor to the Order, an adornment of his native land, and of great advantage to his neighbor. He was and is a great benefit to the world, having preached the Word of God for fifty years. He was born in1480 and died at the age of eighty-three.

His works have not come down to us. At that time an inventory of goods had to be made by the Master of Theology. A copy of the one, which the Blessed compiled on the day of his death, has survived, and in it there is a list of books he had loaned out. Among these was the Decretals, a gloss on the subject, and a “little book,” a term suggesting a work of his own. The other objects listed give a glimpse of the simplicity of his life, for among them are a “little brass jar, four table forks, a little bell, and some other little things.”
Among the many writers who have spoken of him, mention may be made of Blessed Alonso de Orozco, who, in his Chronicles of the Glorious Saint Augustine, Father and Doctor of the Church (1551), lists Andrew among the blessed and describes him as “a very gifted man and a great preacher; very patient and charitable; he performed many miracles.”

Although Andrew had the reputation of being a saint, it was only in the years 1756-1757, and during the pontificate of Benedict XIV, that the cause of his beatification was taken up by the diocese of Rieti, of which Montereale was a part. During the process witnesses bore unanimous testimony to Andrew’s commitment to the struggle against schism and heresy, his exercise of the preaching office over several decades, his journeys to France, and the role he played at the court of the King of France, where he was the queen’s confessor and spiritual director. They also attested that his name was Antonio Artesi.

The Augustinian Family celebrates his memory on 18 April.

Rotelle, John, Book of Augustinian Saints, Augustinian Press 2000
Blessed Andrew of Montereale by Armando Marrocco (1986), Bascilica of Saint Rita, Cascia, Italy.

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