Blessed John Licci, born to a poor farmer, his mother died in childbirth. His life from then on, all 111 years, was a tale of miracles. His father, who fed the baby on crushed pomegranates, had to work the fields, and was forced to leave the infant alone. The baby began crying, and a neighbor woman took him to her home to feed him. She laid the infant on the bed next to her paralyzed husband – and the man was instantly cured. The woman told John’s father of the miracle, but he was more concerned that she was meddling, and had taken his son without his permission. He took the child home to feed him more pomegranate pulp. As soon as the child was removed from the house, the neighbor’s paralysis returned; when John was brought back in, the man was healed. Even John’s father took this as a sign, and allowed the neighbors to care for John.
A precocious and emotional child, John began reciting the Daily Offices before age 10. While on a trip to Palermo, Italy at age 15, John went to Confession in the church of Saint Zita of Lucca where his confession was heard by Blessed Peter Geremia who suggested John consider a religious life. John considered himself unworthy, but Peter pressed the matter, John joined the Dominicans in 1415, and wore the habit for 96 years, the longest period known for anyone.
He founded the convent of Saint Zita in Caccamo, Italy. Lacking money for the construction, John prayed for guidance. During his prayer he had a vision of an angel who told him to “build on the foundations that were already built.” The next day in the nearby woods he found the foundation for a church called “Saint Mary of the Angels,” a church that had been started many years before, but had never been finished. John assumed this was the place indicated, and took over the site.
During the construction, workmen ran out of materials; the next day at dawn a large ox-drawn wagon arrived at the site. The driver unloaded a large quantity of stone, lime and sand – then promptly disappeared, leaving the oxen and wagon behind for the use of the convent. At another point a well got in the way of construction; John blessed it, and it immediately dried up; when construction was finished, he blessed it again, and the water began to flow. When roof beams were cut too short, John would pray over them, and they would stretch. There were days when John had to miraculously multiply bread and wine to feed the workers. Once a young boy came to the construction site to watch his uncle set stones; the boy fell from a wall, and was killed; John prayed over him, and restored him to life and health.
John and two brother Dominicans who were working on the convent were on the road near Caccamo when they were set upon by bandits. One of the thieves tried to stab John with a dagger; the man’s hand withered and became paralyzed. The gang let the brothers go, then decided to ask for their forgiveness. John made the Sign of the Cross at them, and the thief‘s hand was made whole.
One Christmas a nearby farmer offered to pasture the oxen that had come with the disappearing wagon-driver. John declined, saying the oxen had come far to be there, and there they should stay. Thinking he was doing good, the layman took them anyway. When he put them in the field with his own oxen, they promptly disappeared; he later found them at the construction site, contentedly munching dry grass near Father John.
While he did plenty of preaching in his 90+ years in the habit, usually on Christ’s Passion, he was not known as a great homilist. He was known, however, for his miracles and good works. His blessing caused the breadbox of a nearby widow to stay miraculously full, feeding her and her six children. His blessing prevented disease from coming to the cattle of his parishioners. A noted healer, curing at least three people whose heads had been crushed in accidents, he was Provincial of Sicily, and Prior of the abbey on several occasions.