Saints of the Day – Blessed Simon Ballachi

Blessed Simon BallachiArticle

Born at Sant’Arcangelo near Rimini, Italy, 1250; died November 3, 1319; declared blessed in 1817 (cultus confirmed in 1821?).

The son of Count Ballachi, nephew of two archbishops of Rimini, and brother of a priest, Simon Ballachi became a Dominican lay-brother at age 27. His family was none too happy about this decision because he was supposed to administer the family property and had been trained as a soldier. They couldn’t understand why he would abandon the many opportunities life had provided for him. Not only was he throwing away a prestigious position in society, he was not even becoming a priest, which would provide him with a chance for ecclesiastical preferences.

Oblivious to the criticism of his family, Simon readily undertook the life of a lay brother. His principal work, to his great delight, was tending the garden. Having been preoccupied with military training, Simon may never have seen a garden prior to entering the Dominicans. He probably had to learn all the details of the art by trial and error.

But while he tended the friary garden, he continued to plant prayers for his soul. He was adept at seeing God in everything. It is written that he meditated on every act, “so that, while his hands cultivated the herbs and flowers of the earth, his heart might be a paradise of sweet-smelling flowers in the sight of God.” He tried to find in everything he handled in the garden some lesson it could teach him about the spiritual life. When the weather was too bad for him to work outside, he swept and cleaned the monastery. Wherever his work took him, he tried to do it well and to efface himself completely, so that no one would even notice that he was there.

Under the placid exterior of a gardener, Simon concealed a spiritual life of extraordinary austerity and prayer. He worked hard during the day yet he never excused himself from rising for the night office, nor from severe penance. For 20 years he wore an iron chain around his waist. In Lent, he lived on bread and water. He found extra time for prayer by foregoing sleep. Like Saint Dominic, he scourged himself every night. Of course, all this growth in holiness attracted the devil, who would attempt to distract Simon.

Other visitors came to him in the silence of the night: Saint Catherine of Alexandria, to whom he had a special devotion, Saint Dominic and Saint Peter Martyr, and sometimes the Blessed Virgin herself. His little cell was radiant with heavenly lights, and sometimes angelic voices could be heard within.

Simon was blinded at age 57 and became helpless for the last years of his life, yet he never despaired (Benedictines, Dorcy).

MLA Citation

  • Katherine I Rabenstein. Saints of the Day, 1998. CatholicSaints.Info. 10 August 2020. Web. 27 November 2020. <>