Saint Francis Caracciolo

Feast Day : 4 June

Francis Caracciolo (October 13, 1563 – June 4, 1608), born Ascanio Pisquizio, was an Italian Catholic priest who co-founded the Congregation of the Clerics Regular Minor with John Augustine Adorno. He decided to adopt a religious life at the age of 22.

St Francis Caracciolo was born in Villa Santa Maria in the Abruzzo region, in the Kingdom of Naples. He belonged to the Pisquizio branch of the Caracciolo family and received in baptism the name of Ascanio. From a young age, he had a reputation for gentleness and uprightness. While still a youth, he was attacked by one of the several skin complaints collectively described as "leprosy" in those days. He was cured in consequence, it is said, of a vow to devote his life to the service of God, and with this end in view he went, at the age of about twenty-two, to study for the priesthood at Naples. In 1587 he was ordained priest and joined the confraternity of the Bianchi della Giustizia (The White Robes of Justice), whose object was to assist condemned criminals to die holy deaths.

Congregation of Minor Clerks Regular (Adorno Fathers)

Five years after he went to Naples, a letter from Venerable Fr. Giovanni Agostino Adorno of Genoa to another Caracciolo, Fabrizio, begging him to take part in founding a new religious institute, was delivered by mistake to the newly ordained priest, and he saw in this circumstance an assurance of the Divine Will towards him (1588). He assisted in drawing up rules for the new congregation, which was approved by Pope Sixtus V, July 1, 1588, and confirmed by Pope Gregory XIV on February 18, 1591, and reconfirmed by Pope Clement VIII on June 1, 1592.

The institute founded thereby, named the Congregation of the Minor Clerks Regular (the "Adorno Fathers"), is both contemplative and active. Perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is one of the pillars of their life. To the three usual vows a fourth is added, namely, that its members must not aspire to ecclesiastical dignities outside the order nor seek them within it. Perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is kept up by rotation, and self-mortification is practised. The motto of the order "Ad majorem Resurgentis gloriam" ("to the greater glory of the Risen One") was chosen because Francis and Augustine Adorno made their profession at Naples on Low Sunday, April 9, 1589. Upon making his profession, Caracciolo took the name Francis in honor of the saint of Assisi.

The new Congregation of the Minor Clerks Regular thus established was one of considerable severity. The Clerks bound themselves to various practices of daily penance. In spite of his refusal Francis Caracciolo was chosen general on March 9, 1593, in the first house of the congregation in Naples, called St. Mary Major or Pietrasanta, given to the congregation by Sixtus V. Even in his capacity as superior of the Order, he insisted on sharing simple tasks: sweeping rooms, making beds, washing dishes. As a priest Francis spent many hours in the confessional. He also begged in the streets for the poor and gave away most of his possessions to the needy. 

He made three journeys to Spain to establish foundations under the protection of kings Philip II and Philip III. He opened the house of the Holy Ghost at Madrid on January 20, 1599, that of Our Lady of the Annunciation at Valladolid on September 9, 1601, and that of St. Joseph at Alcalá sometime in 1601, for teaching science. In Rome he obtained possession of St. Leonard's Church, which he afterwards exchanged for that of Sant'Agnese in Agone, September 18, 1598, and later he secured for the institute the church of San Lorenzo in Lucina (June 11, 1606) which was made over to him by a papal bull of Pope Paul V, (which was, however, annulled by the bull "Susceptum" of Pope Pius X, November 9, 1906).

St Francis Caracciolo was the author of "Le sette stazioni sopra la Passione di N.S. Gesù Christo" (The Seven Stations of the Passion of Our Lord, Rome, 1710). He loved the poor. Like Saint Thomas Aquinas, a relative on his mother's side, his purity was angelic, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia. Pope Paul V desired to confer an important bishopric on him, but he steadfastly refused it. His frequent motto was "Zelus domus tuae comedit me" (Zeal for thy House has consumed me). Invited by the Oratorians at Agnone, in the Molise region, to convert their house into a college for his congregation, he fell ill during the negotiations and died there on the Vigil of Corpus Christi, Wednesday, June 4, 1608.


St Francis Caracciolo was beatified by Pope Clement XIV on June 4, 1769 and canonized by Pope Pius VII on May 24, 1807. His liturgical feast day is June 4. In 1838 he was chosen as a patron saint of Naples, where his body lies. At first he was buried in Basilica of St. Mary Major, but his remains were afterwards translated to the church of Santa Maria di Monteverginella, which was given in exchange to the Clerics Regular Minor (1823) after their suppression at the time of the French Revolution.

St Francis is also the patron of Italian cooks.

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