Miracles around the tomb of Augustine of Biella led to his beatification in 1878, after he had long been forgotten by everyone, except the residents of the little town at the foot of the Alps where he lived. His is another example of a life noted for piety and regularity, but quite unremarkable for unusual events or venturesome projects.
Augustine’s father was a member of the Fangi family, who were wealthy and noble, and, because of this, he had planned a secular career for his son. But when the Dominicans came to Biella, his plans were changed, for Augustine was completely charmed by their way of life and begged to be admitted. He entered, while quite young, the new convent that the Dominicans had built at Biella.
Augustine’s had a reputation for penance, even at a time when people were not as squeamish as they are today. Not only did he inflict harsh penances upon himself, he also bore with patience whatever pain and annoyance life granted him gratuitously. At one time he was required to undergo a surgical operation without, of course, any anesthetic. He did so without making the slightest outcry. In fact, he said afterwards that his mind was so intensely focused on something else that he hardly noticed what was being done to him. His mind was on that “something else” most of the time, for he prayed continually.
In 1464, Augustine was made prior at Soncino. Several of his best known miracles were performed there. At one time, a deformed child, who had died without baptism, was restored to life, by Augustine’s prayer, long enough to be baptized. At another time, when he was passing down the street, he met a little boy who was crying bitterly, because he had broken a jug of wine. Augustine gathered up the shards and put them back together again. Then, with a prayer, he refilled the jug and handed it back to the startled child. Still another time, through his intercession, a woman was delivered from possession of five devils.
Augustine spent his last ten years in the convent in Venice, and he died there on the Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene. He was buried in a damp place. Forty years later, on the occasion of some repairs to the church, his coffin, found floating on water, was opened. His body and habit were still intact. This did much to promote interest in his cause. Nevertheless, it was more than three centuries before he was finally beatified.
Born: at Biella, Italy, 1430
Died: feast of Saint Mary Magdalen 1493 at Venice, Italy; in the 1530s, workmen found his coffin floating in the water that had seeped into the burial chamber – when opened, Augustine’s body and clothing were found to be incorrupt
Cultus Confirmed: in 1872 by Pope Pius IX
Beatified: in 1878 by Pope Leo XIII