Blessed Guy of Cortona

Blessed Guy of Cortona
(Beata Guy di Cortona)

Feast Day – June 18

In the year 1211, when our holy Father St Francis of Assisi was preaching in Cortona on his first missionary journey through Italy, a certain young man was so touched by his words that, after the sermon, he entreated St Francis to dine at his house. The saint accepted the invitation. When the young man learned further details about the newly founded order, and witnessed the edifying conduct of the founder, he fell at his feet and begged for the habit of the order.

The young man was Guy, or Giles, first-born son of a distinguished family in Cortona. He had been reared in piety and virtue, and was quite accomplished in the sciences.

Francis directed Blessed Guy of Cortona to distribute his wealth among the poor, and gave him the holy habit in the parish church of Cortona in the presence of a great concourse of people. Then Francis chose a spot in a secluded valley near Cortona, where, with the assistance of some devout persons, he built a poor convent. For a few months the saint himself instructed Guy and several other novices there. At his departure he entrusted to Gather Sylvester, his companion, the direction of the novices, especially of young Guy, whose eminent holiness he foresaw.

In fasting, prayer, and all the religious exercises, Guy evinced such perfection that he could be held up to the other novices as a model. He would have preferred to spend all his life in the holy seclusion of the convent, but when he was ordained to the priesthood, St Francis commissioned him to go out and preach, for in accordance with the vocation of the order, he was to sanctify not only himself but others as well.

Filled with zeal for souls, Blessed Guy of Cortona left his seclusion. His words had great influence over the hearts of sinners, his holy life edified everybody, and almighty God confirmed his activities with extraordinary miracles. One time Guy was quite ill with exhaustion and nothing but water was at hand by way of medicine. Guy made the Sign of the Cross over it, and it became the most choice wine, which restored his health and what was left over later healed the infirmities of others.

After a most blessed and successful career, almighty God announced to Guy, in the sixtieth year of his life, that his death was near at hand. St Francis, who had long ago entered into heavenly bliss, appeared to him and said:

“My son, after three days, at nine o’clock, I shall return and escort your soul to the eternal dwellings.”

His already decreasing strength then began to ebb rapidly. On the third day he received the last sacraments with great devotion, and when the appointed our arrived, he called out:

“Behold our holy Father Francis! Arise, let us go to meet him!” With these words he jubilantly surrendered his pure soul into the hands of his Maker. It was May 12, 1250.

Upon receiving the news of his death, the people of Cortona came to get the precious remains of their fellow citizen in order to bury them in the parish church. Amid the festive pealing of bells, with palm branches in their hands, and singing spiritual hymns, they transported the holy body in a long procession to the town. There the remains were entombed in the principal church. Many miracles were wrought through his intercession.

After some time enemies invaded the city, the church was pillaged, and the precious coffin containing the body of Blessed Guy of Cortona was carried away, though the sacristan hastily wrapped the head in linen cloths and hid it in a well near the church. At the end of three years, when the church was being restored, mysterious light radiated from the well. Upon investigation, the head was found, not even moistened by the water. Amid the jubilation of the entire town it was again placed in the church.

Pope Benedict XIII approved a proper Mass and Office in honor of Blessed Guy of Cortona for the diocese of Cortona. Pope Innocent XII extended it to the entire Franciscan Order.

From: The Franciscan Book of Saints, Marion A. Habig, OFM

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