Charles of Sezze, St.
CHARLES OF SEZZE, ST.
Franciscan lay brother and ascetical writer; b. Sezze, Italy, Oct. 19, 1613; d. Rome, Italy, Jan. 6, 1670. Raised by devout parents, Gian Carlo Marchionne had only a few years' schooling, followed by farmwork, before joining the Reformed Franciscan province in Rome in 1635. In ten years of extreme asceticism and intense interior life at small friaries in Latium, he advanced through acquired and infused contemplation into the prayer of ecstatic union. During a Mass in 1648 he received the mystical grace of the Wound of Love: a dart of light from the consecrated Host pierced his heart. From 1646 until his death, he resided at San Francesco a Ripa or San Pietro in Montorio, Rome. Under obedience he wrote five long treatises on the spiritual life in a relatively simple and clear style. His major published works were Trattato delle tre vie della meditazione (Rome 1654, 1664, 1742); Camino interno dell'anima (Rome 1664); and Settenari sacri (Rome 1666). From 1661 to 1665, when his soul had attained the transforming union, he wrote an autobiography, Le grandezze delle misericordie di Dio, which has been compared favorably with that of St.Teresa of Avila for its masterful analyses of the successive phases of mystical union. His eminently Franciscan ascetical and mystical theology have been judged sound, substantial, and practical. Innocent X, Alexander VII, and Clement IX valued his company and counsel. A hard nail-shaped growth of flesh was observed under his left breast after his death and was eventually accepted as one of the two miracles required for his beatification (1882). He was canonized by John XXIII on April 12, 1959.
Feast: Jan. 19.
Bibliography: Opere complete, ed. r. sbardella, v. 1–2 Le grandezze delle misericordie di Dio (Rome 1963–65), with important introd., biog., and extensive bibliog; Autobiography (abr.), tr. l. perotti (Chicago 1963). v. venditti, S. Carlo da Sezze (Turin 1959). r. brown, The Wounded Heart: St. Charles of Sezze (Chicago 1960).