Francis Anthony Fasani (1681-1742)
A study of the life of Fr. Francis Anthony Fasani shows clearly that his life was directed toward God in a singular manner from his very infancy, thanks to the Christian education received from his parents and to the workings of the grace of a religious and priestly vocation upon his soul. He was born in Lucera on August 6, 1681, the son of Giuseppe Fasani and Isabella Della Monaca. His parents had the joy of seeing their "Giovanniello" (this was the name they gave him at Baptism) grow up endowed with promising moral and intellectual gifts. He began his studies at the Franciscan friary of the Friars Minor Conventual at Lucera; there Giovanniello's understanding of his vocation became clearer-a vocation to which he gave himself with generous enthusiasm. He entered the Order of Friars Minor Conventual and took the names of Saints Francis and Anthony, thus expressing his fervent desire to follow their example by consecrating himself to an evangelical and apostolic life. Professing his vows in 1696, the young Friar Francis Anthony completed his liberal arts studies and followed with his philosophical studies in the seminaries of his religious province. Thereafter, he began theological studies in Agnone and continued them in the General Study Centre at Assisi near the tomb of St. Francis. It was there that Francis Anthony was ordained to the priesthood in 1705 and there, too, that he completed his theological studies in 1707.
His application to his studies, carried out with diligence and with a lively desire to assimilate the salvific value of the mysteries of faith, made him "profound in philosophy and learned in theology." The Venerable Antonio Lucci, bishop of Bovino, attests to this in the canonical hearings investigating Fasani's holiness. Bishop Lucci was a fellow student of his and imitated him in the exercise of religious virtue. At the same time, by means of an intense spiritual formation aided by enlightened spiritual masters, Francis Anthony progressed in a life of union with God, patterning himself on the Lord through religious consecration and the priestly charism.
From 1707 until his death he continued to live at Lucera for thirty-five years, always giving splendid witness to the gospel life and zealous pastoral ministry. For this reason he was admired by the faithful of Lucera and all of Daunia and Molise. Within his Franciscan Order he fulfilled offices of special responsibility. He was a respected teacher of scholastic philosophy and a revered master of novices and the professed, making notable contributions to the spiritual and doctrinal formation of his confreres. In 1709 he received a graduate degree in theology and from that time on Fr. Fasani was known to all as "Padre Maestro" ("Father Master"), a title which is still attributed to him today in Lucera. He exercised the offices of local superior and minister provincial with charity and wisdom, demonstrating that he was and effective animator of the religious life of the brethren.
The spiritual life of Fr. Fasani was characterized by those virtues that made him like his Seraphic Father St. Francis. In fact, it was said in Lucera: "Whoever wants to see how St. Francis looked while he was alive should come to see Padre Maestro." In imitation of St. Francis he built his religious life on the basis of a generous participation in the mysteries of Christ through the most faithful practice of the evangelical counsels, which he considered to be a radical expression of perfect charity. In his constant prayers, inflamed with seraphic love, he called out to God, saying to Him: "O Highest Love, Immense Love, Eternal Love, Infinite Love."
His fervent devotion to the Immaculate Mother of the Lord was nourished by his intense dedication to knowing ever better "who Mary is" and making her known to others, while at the same time knowing and making known the maternal role entrusted to her in the history of salvation with faith and love.
The priestly life of Father Anthony Fasani is a splendid testimony to fidelity and dedication to the mission given to all priests in the Church. It is their duty-as Vatican Council II so vigorously confirms-to promote "the glory of God the Father in Christ by their ministry and their life" (PO, 2).
In exercising this evangelical mission Fr. Fasani gave himself devotedly from the very moment of his priestly ordination, to such an extent that a witness could assert: "He allowed himself no rest in the salvation of souls." His pastoral ministry shows that he was involved zealously in many fields and forms of the apostolate according to the needs of the particular Churches in which he ministered.
As a worthy ministry of "the one who uninterruptedly exercises his priestly mission for us in the Liturgy through the Spirit" (PO, 5), Fr. Fasani dedicated himself with zeal-especially the administration of the sacrament of Penance and the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. "He heard the confession of every type of person," asserted a witness, "with the greatest patience and kindness on his face". He was charitable and welcoming to all, giving as his reason the hope of being able one day to say to the Lord: "I was indulgent, I don't deny it; but it was You who taught me to be so."
The most holy Eucharist was the summit of his religious life and wholly represented the goal toward which be ordered his entire priestly ministry. In fact, he always considered the Eucharist "the source and summit of evangelization," and that the faithful were "fully incorporated into the Body of Christ through the Eucharist" (PO, 5). A fervent minister of the Eucharist, Fr. Fasani celebrated the sacrifice of the Mass with an intense ardor that lifted and nourished his spirit while at the same time it edified all who were present. In his preaching he inculcated in the faithful the love of the Eucharist, promoting even daily communion.
The poor, the sick, and the imprisoned held a privileged place in his pastoral activities. Motivated by his ideal of gospel charity ("We must be charitable."), he loved to pray with the poor and for them. Every day he personally distributed to the poor the alms of his religious community and very often he gave them as well gifts and special goods gathered from benefactors. Oftentimes his prayers obtained extraordinary interventions of divine Providence for the poor. He visited and comforted the sick, exhorting them to seek reasons for hope and resignation in the goodness of God. The spiritual care of the imprisoned, an apostolate given him by the bishop of Lucera, permitted him to visit them daily and to exhort them to trust in the merciful love of God. He was given the responsibility of assisting those condemned to death in their last moments.
The witnesses at the canonical proceedings for his holiness assure us that God rewarded the apostolic zeal of Fr. Fasani with abundant fruits of conversion and a renewed Christian life among the faithful. In this way those values of the sacred ministry were totally fulfilled in the priestly life of Fr. Francis Anthony Fasani which Vatican Council II expresses in the following terms: "Priests, whether they devote themselves to prayer and adoration, to the preaching of the Word, to offering the Eucharistic Sacrifice and administering the other sacraments, or to carrying out other ministries in the service of mankind, always contribute to the increase of the glory of God and at the same time to enriching mankind with divine life" (PO, 2).
When Fr. Fasani was taken by his final illness in 1742, he wanted to offer it to the Lord in a spirit of perfect joy, with that same expression with which he had always offered God all the actions of his life: "The Will of God: that is my Paradise." On November 2 of the same year, comforted by the holy sacraments and the protection of the Immaculate Virgin Mary for which he prayed, Fr. Francis Anthony Fasani returned his soul to God in the friary of the city where he was born and where, for thirty-five years, he showed himself a faithful witness to Christ. His body was interred in the adjoining church of St. Francis, after funeral rites in which all of Lucera participated with the cry: "Our holy Padre Maestro has died!"
The fame of the sanctity that surrounded Fr. Fasani in life witnessed an extraordinary increase after his death. Thus, already in 1746 the bishop of Lucera decided to institute proceedings to investigate the holiness of life, the virtues and the miracles of this Servant of God. There followed the Apostolic Cause of particular virtues and the decree on the heroicity of his virtues promulgated by His Holiness Pope Leo XIII on June 21, 1891. His Holiness, Pope Pius XII, having approved two miracles attributed to the intercession of Venerable Fasani, raised him to the honor of the altars on April 15, 1951.
A new miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Francis Anthony was approved with the decree of March 21, 1985, by the Holy Father, John Paul II.