19 Feb Saint Conrad of Piacenza, Hermit
Today is the feast day of Saint Conrad of Piacenza. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Conrad date of birth uncertain. He died at Noto in Sicily, 19 February, 1351. He belonged to one of the noblest families of Piacenza, and having married when he was quite young, led a virtuous and God-fearing life.
On one occasion, when he was engaged in his usual pastime of hunting, he ordered his attendants to fire some brushwood in which game had taken refuge. The prevailing wind caused the flames to spread rapidly, and the surrounding fields and forest were soon in a state of conflagration. A mendicant, who happened to be found near the place where the fire had originated, was accused of being the author. He was imprisoned, tried, and condemned to death. As the poor man was being led to execution, Conrad, stricken with remorse, made open confession of his guilt. (3,4)
In order to repair the damage of which he had been the cause, as he then volunteered to do, he was obliged to sell all his possessions. He repaid his neighbors for all the losses they had suffered, then retired to a distant region. (2)
The incident taught Conrad the vanity of the goods of this world, and he resolved to give his attention only to eternal goods. He communicated his sentiments to his wife, and found that she entertained the same ideas. She went to the convent of Poor Clares and received the veil there, while Conrad, who was only 25 years old, left his native town and joined a group of hermits of the Third Order.
In a very short time he made such progress in virtue that the fame of his sanctity attracted many of his former friends and acquaintances to his hermitage. But it was Conrad’s wish to forsake the world completely; so he slipped away to Rome, and from there went to Sicily, to the Noto valley, near Syracuse, where he hoped he could remain unknown and in utter seclusion. He lived there for 36 years, the last of which he spent in a lonely cave on a height since named Mount Conrad.
There St Conrad de Plaisance lived an extremely penitential life, sleeping on the bare earth and taking only bread and water with some wild herbs for nourishment. Nevertheless, he was subjected to some of the most terrible assaults of the devil. But by means of prayer so pleasing to God that he was granted the gifts of prophesy and miracles. (1)
When Conrad perceived that his end was drawing near, he went to Syracuse to make a general confession of his life to the bishop. On the way flocks of birds flew about him and perched on his shoulders as they used to do to St Francis, and on the way back to his solitude they accompanied him again, to the astonishment of all whom he met. On the very same day St Conrad de Plaisance was seized with a fever, which resulted in his death a few days later.
St Conrad de Plaisance was kneeling before an image of the Crucified when he peacefully passed away on February 19, 1351. In accordance with his wishes he was buried in the church of St. Nicholas at Noto, where his remains still repose in a silver shrine. Many miracles have taken place there. (1)
In 1515 Leo X permitted the town of Noto to celebrate his feast, which permission was later extended by Urban VIII to the whole Order of St. Francis. Though bearing the title of saint, Conrad was never formally canonized. His feast is kept in the Franciscan Order on 19 February. (4)
Image: Sicilianu: Tila di San Currau Eremu di San Currau fora di mura –Notu (SR ) (5)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff