Born : 1187 at Vizella, diocese of Braga, Portugal
Died : January 10, 1259 of natural causes
Beatified : By Pius IV in 1560
Memorial Day: January 16th
Gonsalvo de Amarante was a true son of the Middle Ages, a man right out of the pages of the 'Golden Legend.' His whole life reads like a mural from the wall of a church--full of marvelous things and done up in brilliant colors.
In his boyhood Gonsalvo Pereira was gave wonderful indications of his holiness. While still small, he was consecrated to study for the Church, and received his training in the household of the archbishop of Braga. After his ordination he was given charge of a wealthy parish, an assignment that should have made him very happy. Gonsalvo was not as interested in choice parishes as some of his companions; he went to his favorite Madonna shrine and begged Our Lady to help him administer this office fairly.
There was no complaint with Gonsalvo's governance of the parish of Saint Pelagius. He was penitential himself, but indulgent with everyone else. Revenues that he might have used for himself were used for the poor and the sick. The parish, in fact, was doing very well when he turned it over to his nephew, whom he had carefully trained as a priest, before making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
Gonsalvo would have remained his entire life in the Holy Land, but after 14 years his archbishop commanded him to return to Portugal. Upon his arrival, he was horrified to see that his nephew had not been the good shepherd that he had promised to be, the money left for the poor had gone to purchase a fine stable of thoroughbred horses and a pack of fine hounds. The nephew had told everyone that his old uncle was dead, and he had been appointed pastor in his place by an unsuspecting archbishop. When the uncle appeared on the scene, ragged and old, but very much alive, the nephew was not happy to see him. Gonsalvo seems to have been surprised as well as pained.
The ungrateful nephew settled the matter by turning the dogs on his inconvenient uncle. They would have torn him to pieces, but the servants called them off and allowed the ragged pilgrim to escape. Gonsalvo decided then that he had withstood enough parish life, and went out into the hills to a place called Amarante. Here he found a cave and other necessities for an eremitical life and lived in peace for several years, spending his time building a little chapel to the Blessed Virgin. He preached to those who came to him, and soon there was a steady stream of pilgrims seeking out his retreat.
Happy as he was, Gonsalvo felt that this was not his sole mission in life, and he prayed to Our Lady to help him to discern his real vocation. She appeared to him one night as he prayed and told him to enter the order that had the custom of beginning the office with "Ave Maria gratia plena." She told him that this order was very dear to her and under her special protection. Gonsalvo set out to learn what order she meant, and eventually came to the convent of the Dominicans. Here was the end of the quest, and he asked for the habit.
Blessed Peter Gonzales was the prior, and he gave the habit to the new aspirant. After Gonsalvo had gone through his novitiate, he was sent back to Amarante, with a companion, to begin a regular house of the order. The people of the neighborhood quickly spread the news that the hermit was back. They flocked to hear him preach, and begged him to heal their sick.
One of the miracles of Blessed Gonsalvo concerns the building of a bridge across a swift river that barred many people from reaching the hermitage in wintertime. It was not a good place to build a bridge, but Gonsalvo set about it and followed the heavenly directions he had received. Once, during the building of the bridge, he went out collecting, and a man who wanted to brush him off painlessly sent him away with a note for his wife.
Gonsalvo took the note to the man's wife, and she laughed when she read it. "Give him as much gold as will balance with the note I send you," said the message. Gonsalvo told her he thought she ought to obey her husband, so she got out the scales and put the paper in one balance. Then she put a tiny coin in the other balance, and another, and another--the paper still outweighed her gold--and she kept adding. There was a sizeable pile of coins before the balance with the paper in it swung upwards.
Gonsalvo died about 1259, after prophesying the day of his death and promising his friends that he would still be able to help them after death. Pilgrimages began soon, and a series of miracles indicated that something should be done about his beatification. Forty years after his death he appeared to several people who were apprehensively watching a flood on the river. The water had arisen to a dangerous level, just below the bridge, when they saw a tree floating towards the bridge, and Gonsalvo was balancing capably on its rolling balk. The friar carefully guided the tree under the bridge, preserving the bridge from damage, and then disappeared (Benedictines, Dorcy).
As he was being carried to the baptismal font as an infant, he fixed his eyes on the church's crucifix with a look of extraordinary love.
He was directed to the Dominicans by a supernatural directive that he should join the Order in which the Office began and ended with the Ave Maria.
When workers who helped briefly with his bridge building ran out of wine, Gonzalo prayed, smacked a rock with a stick, it split open, and wine poured out.
When the workers ran out of food, Gonzalo went to the water, called out, and fish jumped onto the river bank to feed them.
During a homily, in which he wanted to show the horror of exclusion from the Church, he 'excommunicated' a basket of bread; the loaves immediately became black, rotted and inedible. When he removed the 'excommunication' a few minutes later, the bread became fresh and wholesome again.
Let us Pray: O God, who didst wonderfully inflame the mind of Blessed Gonsalvo, Thy confessor with the love of Thy holy name, grant, we beseech Thee, that, treading in his footsteps, we may ever think of Thee, and with fervent zeal do those things that are agreeable to Thee. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God of mercy and compassion, in your grace Blessed Gonsalvo came to love your holy name and served you in the solitary life. By the help of his prayer and the grace of the Spirit may we keep you in our thoughts and with burning zeal do what is pleasing to you. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Ghost, one God, for ever and ever. - General Calendar of the Order of Preachers