Palmentieri, Ludovico da Casoria, Bl.

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PALMENTIERI, LUDOVICO DA CASORIA, BL.

Baptized Arcángelo; Franciscan priest; founder of the Brothers of Charity (Grey Franciscan Friars of Charity or Frati Bigi ) and Sisters of St. Elizabeth (Suore Bigie ); b. Mar. 11, 1814, Casoria (near Naples), Campania, Italy; d. Mar. 30, 1885, Pausilippo near Naples, Italy.

Arcángelo was a cabinetmaker in his youth. Attracted by the Franciscans at the nearby friary in Naples, Arcángelo entered the order at Avellino (June 17, 1832) and took the name Ludovico (Louis). Shortly after the completion of the year's novitiate, he was appointed to study and teach philosophy, chemistry, and mathematics in San Pietro Convent, Naples. His affinity for science led him later to found a meteorological observatory, an academy of religion and science, and five magazines. Other literary accomplishments included an Italian translation of the works of Saint bonaventure and a pocket edition of the Bible.

Following the advice of his superiors, he instituted a branch of the Third Order at San Pietro from which he formed (1859) a religious institute, commonly known as the Frati Bigi because of their grayish-colored habits. In 1862, Ludovico instituted a congregation of religious women, known as the Suore Bigie, whom he placed under the protection of Saint elizabeth of hungary. These congregations made his many charitable works possible.

Ludovico was ordained to the priesthood on June 4,1837. In 1847, during a mystical experience in prayer, he discerned a vocation to serve the poor actively. He opened a pharmacy in the friary and, later, infirmaries for the elderly and sick friars of the province. Additionally, he founded care centers for children; institutes for the blind, and deaf and dumb; hospices for travelers; agricultural colonies; and savings and loan societies for the poor. About 1852, he opened the first of two schools for the children of emancipated African slaves with the intention that they would return home to evangelize Africa. He later entrusted the continuance of this work to Anna Maria Fiorelli Lapini and her Stigmatine Sisters.

Ten years before his death, he was attacked with a serious and painful illness, from which he never completely recovered. He died in the Marine Hospital he had established for elderly sailors. The numerous charitable institutions in Naples, Rome, Assisi, and Florence that owe their origin to Ludovico of Casoria, as well as his fame for sanctity even during his lifetime, account for the veneration in which he was held by all classes. His mortal remains were entrusted to his spiritual daughters, the Suore Bigie, in 1887. The cause for Ludovico's beatification was introduced in Rome in 1907. He was declared venerable on Feb. 13, 1964, and beatified by John Paul II on April 18, 1993.

Feast: March 30.

Bibliography: Epistolario, ed. g. d'andrea (Naples 1989). a. capecelatro, La vita del p. Lodovico da Casoria (Naples 1887).

[k. i. rabenstein]