Constantius Bernocchi is as close to a ‘sad saint’ as it’s possible for a Dominican to get; he is said to have had the gift of tears. However, that is not his only claim to fame. Constantius had a remarkable childhood, not only for the usual signs of precocious piety, but also for a miracle that he worked when he was a little boy. Constantius had a sister who had been bedridden most of her nine years of life. One day, the little boy brought his parents in to her bedside and made them pray with him. The little girl rose up, cured, and she remained well for a long and happy life. Naturally, the parents were amazed, and they were quite sure it had not been their prayers that effected the cure, but those of their little son.
Constantius entered the Dominicans at age 15, and had as his masters Blessed Conradin and Saint Antoninus. He did well in his studies and wrote a commentary on Aristotle. His special forte was Scripture, and he studied it avidly. After his ordination, he was sent to teach in various schools in Italy, arriving eventually at the convent of San Marco in Florence, which had been erected as a house of strict observance. Constantius was eventually appointed prior of this friary that was a leading light in the reform movement. This was a work dear to his heart, and he himself became closely identified with the movement.
Several miracles and prophecies are related about Constantius during his stay in Florence. He one day told a student not to go swimming, because he would surely drown if he did. The student, of course, dismissed the warning and drowned. One day, Constantius came upon a man lying in the middle of the road. The man had been thrown by his horse and was badly injured; he had a broken leg and a broken arm. All he asked was to be taken to some place where care could be given him, but Constantius did better than that–he cured the man and left him, healed and astonished.
Constantius was made prior of Perugia, where he lived a strictly penitential life. Perhaps the things that he saw in visions were responsible for his perpetual sadness, for he foresaw many of the terrible things that would befall Italy in the next few years. He predicted the sack of Fabriano, which occurred in 1517. At the death of Saint Antoninus, he saw the saint going up to heaven, a vision which was recounted in the canonization process.
Blessed Constantius is said to have recited the Office of the Dead every day, and often the whole 150 Psalms, which he knew by heart, and used for examples on every occasion. He also said that he had never been refused any favor for which he had recited the whole psalter. He wrote a number of books; these, for the most part, were sermon material, and some were the lives of the blesseds of the order.
On the day of Constantius’s death, little children of the town ran through the streets crying out, “The holy prior is dead! The holy prior is dead!” On hearing of his death, the city council met and stated that it was a public calamity.
The relics of Blessed Constantius have suffered from war and invasion. After the Dominicans were driven from the convent where he was buried, his tomb was all but forgotten for a long time. Then one of the fathers put the relics in the keeping of Camaldolese monks in a nearby monastery, where they still remain (Benedictines, Dorcy, Encyclopedia).
Born: Born in the early part of the 15th century in Fabriano, Marches of Ancona, Italy
Died: 1481 of natural causes; the local senate and council assembled at the news of his death, proclaimed it a “public calamity”, and voted to pay for the funeral
Beatified: 1821 (cultus confirmed) by Pope Pius VII
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