St. Andrew Corsini, Bishop and Confessor
February 4 — (A.D. 1373)

This saint was baptized Andrew in Florence, in 1302. At that time, the Corsini family was one of the most illustrious of that territory. Andrew was the fruit of the prayers of his pious parents, who consecrated him by vow to God before his birth. Notwithstanding the care his parents took to instil good principles into him, he spent his youth in extravagance, in the company of those who were as wicked as he himself was. His devout mother, Peregrina, never ceased praying for his conversion, and said to him, “I see you are the wolf I saw in my sleep,” leading him to understand that when she was carrying him, she had dreamed she was brought to the bed of a wolf, which, running into a church, was turned into a lamb.

St. Andrew Corsini

She added that she and her husband had consecrated him, while in her womb, to the service of God, under the protection of the Blessed Virgin, and that, in consequence of his being born not for them, nor for the world, but for God, a very different kind of life from what he was leading was expected from him. This made such a strong impression on his heart that he went immediately to the church of the Carmelite friars, and prayed there for some time before the altar of Our Lady. He was so touched by God that he resolved to never return to his father’s house, but to embrace the religious state of life professed in that friary. He was admitted in 1318, and after a novitiate, during which he eluded his worldly companions, and firmly rejected the solicitations of an uncle, who tried to draw him back into the world, he made his solemn profession.

He never departed from the first fervor of his conversion. He strenuously labored to subdue his passions by extreme humiliations, and obedience, by silence and prayer; and his superiors employed him in the meanest duties, often in washing the dishes in the scullery. The progress he made in learning, particularly in the Holy Scriptures and in theology, was very great. In the year 1328 he was ordained a priest; but to prevent the music and feast which his family had prepared for the day on which he was to say his first Mass, he privately withdrew to a little convent out of town, where he offered his first-fruits to God with wonderful recollection and devotion.

After some time employed in preaching at Florence, he was sent to Paris, where he studied for three years. In 1332 he returned to Florence and was chosen prior of that friary by a provincial chapter. God honored his extraordinary virtue with the gifts of prophecy and miracles; and the astonishing fruits of his example and zealous preaching made him be looked upon as a second apostle of his region. Amongst other miracles and conquests of hardened souls was the conversion of his cousin, John Corsini, an infamous gamester; and the miraculous cure of an ulcer in his neck.

In the town of Fiesoli, three miles from Florence, the bishop died and the chapter unanimously chose our saint to fill the vacancy. Being informed of their proceedings, he hid himself, and remained concealed so long that the canons were going to proceed with a second election, when, by Divine Providence, he was discovered by a child.

Being consecrated bishop in the beginning of 1360, he redoubled his former austerities. To his hair shirt he added an iron girdle. Daily, he said the seven penitential psalms and the litany of the saints, and gave himself a severe discipline while he recited the litany. His bed was of vine-branches strewn on the floor. All his time was taken up in prayer or in his official functions. Holy meditation and reading the Scriptures he called his recreation from his labors.

He avoided discourse with women as much as possible, and would never listen to flatterers or informers. His tenderness and care of the poor were incredible, and he had a particular regard for the bashful, that is, those that were ashamed to make known their distress; these he was diligent in seeking out, and assisted them with all possible secrecy. With an excellent talent for resolving differences and dissensions, he never failed to reconcile persons at odds. Urban V, on this account, sent him to Bologna, where the nobility and people were miserably divided. He happily pacified them, and their union continued during the remainder of his life.

Every Thursday night, with charity and humility, he washed the feet of the poor. One excused himself, alleging that his feet were full of ulcers and corruption; the saint insisted upon washing them, and they were immediately healed. In imitation of Saint Gregory the Great, he kept a list of the names of all the poor, and furnished them all with allowances. He never dismissed any without an alms, for which purpose he once miraculously multiplied bread.

He became ill while he was singing high Mass on Christmas night in 1372. His fever increasing, he gave up his happy soul to God, with a surprising joy and tranquility, on January 6, 1373, at seventy-one years old, having been a bishop for twelve years. He was honored with many miracles, and immediately canonized by the voice of the people. The state of Florence has often experienced his powerful intercession. Pope Eugenius IV allowed his relics to be exposed to public veneration. He was canonized by Urban VIII in 1629. His festival was transferred to February 4. Clement XII being of this family, in conjunction with his nephew, the Marquis of Corsini, sumptuously adorned the chapel of the Carmelite friars’ church in Florence, in which the saint’s body is kept. He also built and endowed a magnificent independent chapel in the great church of Saint John Lateran, under the name of this his patron, in which the corpse of that Pope is interred.

The example of all the saints confirms the fundamental maxim of our divine Redeemer — that the foundation of all solid virtue and of true sanctity is to be laid by subduing the passions and dying to ourselves. Pride, sensuality, covetousness, and every vice, must be rooted out of the heart, the senses must be mortified, the inconstancy of the mind must be settled, and its inclination to roving and dissipation fixed by recollection, and all depraved affections curbed. Both in cloisters and in the world, many Christians take pains to become virtuous by multiplying religious practices, yet lose in a great measure the fruit of their labors because they never study with their whole hearts. So long as self-love reigns in their souls, almost without control, this will often blind and deceive them, and will easily infect even their good works, and their devotion will be liable to a thousand illusions, and always very imperfect. Hence religious persons, after many years spent in the rigorous observance of their rule, still fail upon the least trial or contradiction which thwarts their favorite inclination, and are stopped in their spiritual progress, as it were, by every grain of sand in their way.