The month of November is devoted to remembrance of the dead. Or in a larger view, to remembering those saints and people who have completed life on earth. This makes sense because November also completes the liturgical year.
This year, it is on November 30 that we start anew with Advent leading to the birth of Jesus.
I use the book Benedictine Daily Prayer (BDP) to pray the divine office and on November 26 the book has its last saint of the liturgical year to be honored. He is St. Silvester Gozzolini (“Born at Osimo, Italy, 1177; died at Monte Fano, 1267").
St. Silvester Gozzolini founded “the Silvestrine Benedictines, known as the Blue Benedictines from the color of their habit.” They followed a stricter interpretation of the Rule of St. Benedict. The small Silvestrine congregation still exists today after over 750 years and they have monasteries located on several continents, including at least two Silvestrine monasteries in the USA.
I was particularly drawn to the story of St. Silvester Gozzolini because, like St. Gregory, he was another active contemplative.
Early in St. Silvester’s adult life he became a “canon of the Cathedral (canons were the priests who assisted the bishop in running his diocese; their parish was the Cathedral church).” But he also longed to fulfill another dream — that of a contemplative.
Although it was St. Silvester’s desire to enter the solitary contemplative life, he continued in his duties at the diocese until his objection to the immoral life of the bishop caused the bishop to threaten Silvester’s removal. At about the same time, St. Silvester saw “firsthand the decaying corpse of a local nobleman who had been renowned for his physical beauty.”
St. Silvester left the diocese and went to live near the ocean in seclusion. However, disciples began to seek his guidance. That led to the formation of a group which later became a monastery and the Silvestrine congregation of Benedictine monks. Over his long life (he entered the heavenly realms at age 90) he founded 11 monasteries.
St. Silvester Gozzolini is another example of how the contemplative and active life are not in conflict.
BDP has this fitting final prayer to honor St. Silvester Gozzolini as the last saint in November, as we honor all who have gone on, and as we near the end of the liturgical year:
“Lord our God, you inspired blessed Silvester, your abbot, with the desire for monastic solitude and zeal for the active ministry. May we seek you always with true sincerity of heart and through our service in humility hasten toward our eternal home. This we ask of you.”
St. Silvester at St. Patrick Catholic Church
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