mecatti.gif (8360 bytes)
The Blessed Gerard Mecatti of Villamagna

Religious of the Order of Malta

Memorial: 18 May

BGM.jpg (52989 bytes)Born at Villamagna near Florence about 1174, he followed his feudal lord to Palestine and there became a 'serving brother' of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. After returning home he lived as a hermit in penance and prayer. He died about 1245: the date is uncertain. His body is still at Villamagna, where his Memorial is kept every year on 18 May.

Prayer:

O God, who called blessed Gerard, like your own Son, to intense striving in the wilderness, strengthen us by penance and prayer and make us fitter for our Christian duties. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(From: The Missal with readings of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes, & of Malta, London 1997)


p_mecatt.gif (44857 bytes)Next to St. Hugh and St. Ubaldesca - whom we shall have the joy to meet a little later - the Blessed Gerard Mecatti is the most famous of the saints venerated in our Order of Chivalry.

He was born in 1174, at Villamagna not far from Florence. As soon as he reached his adolescence, he led an existence worthy of admiration for his humility, piety and compassion for the poor. At an early age, he requested and obtained admission as a "servant d'armes" in the Order of Saint John, in which he set an example of disinterested charity, giving all he owned to the unfortunate.

As his virtue increased through his perfect correspondence with grace, he felt the need of banishing from his life every thing which might distract him from communion with God alone or prevent his total solitude. Having met St. Francis of Assisi, he received from his stigmatized hands the habit of the Friars Minor. But, in spite of this, he did not leave the Order of Saint John; all his life he wore on his garments the white cross of the Religion. He was content with putting the habits of both religions one over the other, and he added the observances of vows and promises of one order to those of the other.

From then on, he withdrew into a wretched hovel not far from the place of his birth. There he led the most strict life as an hermit, entirely occupied with contemplation and penance. He wore a hair shirt, scourged himself, fasted, and humiliated himself incessantly. These practices caused his reputation for sanctity to spread; he alas called by no other name than the Antony or Hilarion of his age! Each night, so as not to be seen, he was accustomed to cover on his knees a distance of three miles. In the 17th century, the Confraternity of Saint Donino of Villamagna still covered in procession that same distance in memory of the holy penitent, but not on their knees.

Finally, the saint fell ill, and nuns were sent to take care of him. one night in January, as the sister asked him whether he wanted anything, he answered with a smile: "Yes, I should like to eat some cherries". She thought he was delirious. He insisted, however, and she went out partly convinced that she would find cherries. There, in a small enclosure, she saw a cherry tree full of very red and very ripe fruit "as fine and fresh as in June".

mecattis.gif (16432 bytes)

It was for that reason that in the picture that Frà Francis dell'Antella, Commander of Saint James in Campo Corbellini, in Florence, Majordomo of H. S. H. the Grand Duke of Tuscany, sent to Frà James Bosio, historian of the Order, one can see the Blessed Gerard Mecatti dressed in grey but wearing the cross of Saint John on his breast and carrying a branch loaded with red cherries.

On May 13, 1254, he died in his hermitage, full of meritorious years and virtues. His body was placed not far from there in the branches of an oak tree, so that he might be out of reach of the fanatic piety of the villagers who would not have hesitated to dig him up in order to divide his relics. But the precaution did not suffice; the Republic of Florence had to send soldiers to protect the saint in that elevated position. Then, it was decided to build a church in his honour in Villamagna. He now rests there, under the main altar, in a reliquary of stone. As late as the 17th century, his body was still well preserved and intact; it emitted a  pleasing fragrance, as could be corroborated every year on the day of his feast - the second day of Pentecost - when it was shown to the people.

91.gif (70571 bytes)

This was a new aspect of sanctity in an Order strong enough to adapt itself to all the needs of the souls entrusted to it. A solitary Knight, the Blessed Mecatti was able to overcome the greatest enemy of God he had met: himself; and that, through silence and humiliation.

Let us ask him, we who are so invaded by the tumult of the world, to help us know, for a few moments each day, how to be hermits of God, the contemplative and praying individuals who make possible on earth the supernatural fruit of good works: the reign of grace and the triumph of the Cross.

(From: Ducaud-Bourget, Msgr. François: The Spiritual Heritage of The Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Vatican 1958)

d_mecatt.gif (74499 bytes)
[Blessed Gerard Mecatti, Canvas, Collegio, Malta]


Beato Gherardo da Villamagna

Confessore del XIII secolo

Molti conoscono, direttamente o per sentito di­re, la tradizionale festa fiorentina dello « scoppio del carro », derivante dal costume di accendere il fuoco sacro, dopo i giorni del lutto e della cenere, usando come pietra focaia due schegge del Santo, Sepolcro.

Quelle schegge di pietra sarebbero state por­tate a Firenze dal nobile Pazzino de' Pazzi, reduce dalla prima Crociata e dalla conquista di Gerusalemme. Gli sarebbero state date dal­lo stesso Goffredo di Buglione, comandante in capo della Crociata, perché il nobile fioren­tino, si racconta, fu il primo a scalare le mu­ra di Gerusalemme assediata.

Ma Pazzino de' Pazzi non fu il solo fioren­tino che partecipò, nel 1195, alla liberazione della città santa. C'era anche un giovane scudiero, al seguito del suo padrone, cavaliere dell'Ordine di San Giovanni.

Gherardo era nato a Villamagna, lungo l'Arno, a monte di Firenze, figlio di contadini e restato orfano a dodici anni. Più modesto, e soprattutto meno fortunato di Pazzino de' Pazzi, cadde prigioniero dei Turchi, subendo a lungo i più duri trattamenti.

Tornato libero, visitò devotamente i Luoghi Santi, dopodiché tornò a Firenze, anzi a Villamagna, fermandosi presso una chiesetta non lontana dall'abitato. La chiesa esiste ancora, ed è intitolata al Beato Gherardo. Nel suo in­terno si conserva l'arca con le reliquie dell'antico e sfortunato crociato.

Ma le peripezie del giovane non erano finite. Qualche anno dopo, riprese il mare, in mez­zo a un gruppo di venti cavalieri, diretti in Siria. E quella volta furono i pirati, che resero difficile il loro viaggio e precaria la loro vita.

Tornato una seconda volta in Palestina, il Beato di Villamagna si consacrò totalmente alla preghiera e all'esercizio della carità, specialmente verso malati e pellegrini. Vi restò sette anni, fino a quando, cioè, non si accor­se di esser fatto segno a manifestazioni di ve­nerazione, alle quali, il Beato volle sfuggire, per umiltà, e chiedendone il permesso ai superiori.

Tornò in Italia, ma non ancora a Firenze. Prima volle conoscere San Francesco dalle cui mani prese l'abito di Terziario. E come Terziario ritornò al suo oratorio presso Villamagna, questa volta per non muoversi più.

0 meglio per muoversi, e spesso, fino alla sommità della collina fiorentina dell'Incontro, in mezzo a folti boschi, dove il Beato Gherardo costruì con le proprie mani un altro oratorio, dedicato alla Madonna.

Fu quella la primitiva costruzione della chiesa che ancor oggi esiste, compresa, come abbiamo detto, entro un semplice e suggestivo convento. Ma il convento francescano dell'Incontro non venne costruito dal Beato Gherardo, morto nel 1245. Lo fondò un altro Santo, Leonardo da Porto Maurizio, quasi cinque secoli dopo, nel '700, continuando e completando l'opera del suo collega di santità, e sfortunato crociato.

(Piero Bargellini, Mille Santi del giorno, Vallecchi editore, 1977)



[Blessed Gerard Mecatti, SMOM Grand Magistry, Rome]

Mayo 25: Beato Gerardo de Villamagna. Ermitaño de la Tercera Orden (1174‑1270). Gregorio XVI el 18 de marzo de 1833 aprobó su culto.

Gerardo Mecatti, nacido en Villamagna, a orillas del río Arno, hijo de campesinos, quedó huérfano a los doce años. Repartió todos sus bienes entre los pobres, y así quedó libre para viajar dos veces a Palestina para venerar los Santos Lugares de la Redención. Pasó por diversas aventuras que por fortuna terminaron con final feliz. Durante una peregrinación a Palestina, cayó prisionero de los turcos, sufriendo los más duros maltratos. Regresó a Villamagna, y se instaló junto a una iglesita no lejos de la vivienda. Esta iglesia existe todavía y lleva el título del Beato Gerardo. En su interior se conserva el arca con las reliquias del antiguo e infortunado cruzado.

Las peripecias del joven no habían terminado. Un año después se hizo a la mar nuevamente con un grupo de veinte caballeros, dirigiéndose a Siria, y aquella vez fueron los piratas quienes les hicieron difícil el viaje y precaria la vida.

Vuelto por segunda vez a Palestina, se consagró totalmente a la oración y al ejercicio de la caridad, especialmente para con los enfermos y los peregrinos. Allí permaneció siete años, hasta cuando se dio cuenta de que era objeto de manifestaciones de veneración, a las cuales él quiso huir por humildad.

De regreso en Italia, quiso conocer a San Francisco de cuyas manos recibió el hábito de terciario. Y como terciario regresó a su oratorio junto a Villamagna, esta vez para no moverse más. Mejor, para moverse todavía más a menudo, hasta la altura mayor de la colina florentina del Encuentro, en medio de espesos bosques, donde Gerardo construyó con sus propias manos otro oratorio dedicado a la Virgen.

Fue esa la primitiva construcción de la iglesia que todavía hoy existe, encerrada dentro de un sencillo y sugestivo convento. Pero el convento franciscano del Encuentro no fue construido por el Beato Gerardo. Lo fundó otro Santo, Leonardo de Puerto Mauricio, casi cinco siglos después, continuando y completando la obra de su colega en santidad.

Obró algunos milagros: una vez hizo encontrar ciruelas maduras en el árbol para satisfacer los deseos de un enfermo; otra vez debiendo transportar material para la construcción del propio eremitorio, y rehusando prestarle los bueyes un campesino, encontró súbitamente dos pares de becerros, que, dóciles, lo transportaron a donde él indicó. Cada semana visitaba en piadosa peregrinación tres santuarios, en sufragio de las almas del purgatorio, para obtener la remisión de los pecados y por la conversión de los infieles. Murió el 25 de mayo de 1270 a la edad de 96 años.

[Quoted from www.sicoar.com.uy/teologos/santoral/ Gerardo%20de%20Villamagna.htm]


Blessed Gerard of Villamagna: BICCI DI LORENZO
Tempera on panel, 20 x 12 cm


SS. Leonardo & Cristoforo, Blessed Gerard Mecatti of Villamagna, detail, Monticchiello, Italy 2009


SS. Leonardo & Cristoforo, Blessed Gerard Mecatti of Villamagna heals the sick, Monticchiello, Italy 2009


Page last modified on Friday, 25 September 2015 21:41:52

Back to the SMOM Page of the
x963114.gif (1941 bytes)

Blessed Gérard Sovereign Military Order of Malta The Maltese Cross Relief Organisations of the Order of Malta The Order of Malta in Africa Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard