Blessed James of Bitecto

Blessed James of Bitecto

Confessor, First Order

The annals of the Franciscan Order contain records of many servants of God who arrived at a high degree of holiness in seclusion and marked simplicity. They are the loveliest blossoms in the Franciscan garden, and attractive examples for simple souls who seek nothing but God alone. Such a model is Blessed James of Bitecto. Born in Illria, which was later called Dalmatia, he entered the Franciscan convent in his native place as a lay brother.

Soon he distinguished himself in all virtues as a model religious. This prompted the Father Provincial to choose him as his companion when he traveled to Italy for the general chapter of the order. Separated from his native place, his relatives and acquaintances, James felt more closely united to God, for which reason, with the consent of his superiors, he remained in Italy from that time on.

He was sent in turn to different convents, so that his example might animate the brothers to seek perfection. Nothing, however, was further removed from the mind of James than to consider himself an example to others. He was filled with humility and contempt for himself, loved silence, was punctual in obedience, and performed his duties with care. But while his hands were busy at work, his mind was occupied with God.

In the convent at Conversano, where he was cook, he would fall into rapture at the sight of the fire. He thought at such times of the fire of hell, and adored the strict justice of God, while he found himself mightily urged on to acts of penance and to the love of God, who sent His own Son into this world to save us from hell.

The Divine Spirit who filled his soul at such times did not permit his work to suffer on that account. In the convent garden at Cassano there was a grotto with an image of the Mother of God. To it James at times withdrew in the evening, and there he scourged himself until he bled, and remained all night absorbed in devotion to the Mother of Mercy. God almighty favored him with the gifts of miracles and of prophecy.

The closing years of his life Blessed James of Bitecto spent in the convent of Bitecto, from which he received his surname. There he died a holy death on April 27, 1490. His grave is held in great veneration. A hundred years after his death his body was found still incorrupt. Pope Innocent XII approved the uninterrupted devotion paid to him.

*from The Franciscan Book of Saints, Fr. Marion Habig, OFM

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