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A story for every day...

The Holy Family in Prayer

Fruits of reading a good book

In Siena, a chief magistrate of the city, who was also a banker, came home one day for dinner: it was not yet time, but he was hungry. As the dinner was not ready, the magistrate became angry with his wife. To calm him down and get him to be patient, she offered him a book to read. The magistrate became even angrier, threw the book on the floor, and became furious with everyone in the house. However, a few moments later, ashamed of himself, he picks up the book: it was the Life of the Saints. He opened it, and fell upon the life of St. Mary of Egypt; he took such pleasure in this reading, that his wife having warned him that dinner was ready, he replied, “Wait, in your turn, until I have finished my story.” The woman, all joyful, went into a nearby study, and, falling on her knees, prayed to God to complete the good work He had begun. Her prayer was not in vain. John Colombini, that was the name of her husband, was from that moment on another man. He was used to being greedy and quarrelsome for a penny, but he became generous and charitable. When he bought something, he always added to the price he was asked; when he sold himself, he reduced the current price. His fellow citizens did not know how to explain this change of conduct. Far from doing anymore harm, he repaired threefold and fourfold those he thought he had done; he distributed abundant alms to the poor, visited hospitals, attended churches and dedicated much time to prayer. His wife, Blasie, begged God to confirm him in these good sentiments: she was granted much more than she expected.

First he proposed to her to live together from now on as brother and sister; she was astounded, but consented. He immediately took a vow of perpetual continence. In order to observe it faithfully, he imposed on himself ever more austere fasts, laid down on boards, slept little, devoted the greater part of the night to prayer and contemplation, heard mass in the morning, spent the rest of the day serving the sick in hospitals, reconciling enemies, supporting the cause of the orphan and the widow, consoling the afflicted, offering words of edification everywhere, and doing good to everyone, both by his advice and by his generosity.

Then came to his mind the words of the Savior to the young man: If you want to be perfect, go, sell everything you have, give it to the poor, and then come and follow Me. So John Colombini began to think that he would not have done enough until he gave up everything to follow, poor, Jesus Christ in His poverty. He had a close friend, Francis Vincent, one of the first of Siena in wealth and birth. After having consulted God in prayer, he communicated to him his intention to give up everything to live in the manner of the apostles. Vincent found it difficult to follow this plan, but in the long run he accepted it, and the two friends decided to carry it out. Colombini left his elegant clothes, took on the costume of the poor, distributed his treasures more widely to the unfortunate, collected the sick in the streets and took them to the hopital to be treated.Colombini left his elegant clothes, took on the costume of the poor, distributed his treasures more widely to the unfortunate, collected the sick in the streets and took them to the hospital to be treated. His friends pointed out to him that it was necessary to be prudent and not to reduce himself to begging. Colombini answered freely: “Too much caution is a kind of infidelity. What I have most at heart is to distribute all my goods to the poor, to be reduced myself to the last indigence and to beg for my bread: and I defer the execution of it only by motives of charity and justice, which require that one has some regard for the people of one’s house. My great happiness will be to have the Master of the world as my only wealth, and to sing with the Prophet, My portion is the Lord.” When the two friends were seen to be so firm in their holy resolution, people stopped admonishing them; they soon ended up recommending themselves to their prayers, which was a way of approval.

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