The Holiness of the Church in the Nineteenth Century – Louis of Casoria

Saint Ludovico of CasoriaAn amiable character that must win all hearts shines forth in the Servant of God Louis of Casoria, a true son of Saint Francis. He was born on 11 March 1814, the son of a vine-dresser. His family name was Palmentieri, but in religion he was called Louis of Casoria, from his birthplace, Casoria, near Naples. To use all his powers in relieving the corporal and spiritual misery of mankind was the guiding motive of his life. Those that place their hopes in God, who bestows His grace according to the measure of our confidence in Him, are made ingenious and enterprising by their love. Louis at once inspired the members of the third Order with efficient love of the neighbor. With their assistance he bought, near Naples, a fine house suited to the sick poor.

Two negro boys were given him to educate. The good results he had with them suggested to him the plan of civilizing Africa through the Africans. In a few years he had gathered together sixty negro boys, who received the benefit of a Christian training. But there were also in Naples very many abandoned children. For these he founded two asylums. In the “Deserto” near Sorrento, he built a hospital for old people, sailors, and fishermen, and also a hospice where penniless strangers might be admitted. Florence is indebted to him for an asylum for poor children and a church of the Sacred Heart, for which he obtained 70,000 lire by begging. In Assisi his ardent zeal obtained means for a home of the deaf, the dumb, and the blind. As long as there was misery on earth there was no rest for him. His confidence in God grew only the greater. Although he had only fifty centimes at the time, he bought an orphanage at Naples in 1872 for 110,000 lire. Finally he bought a ruined palace in Posilipo, near the sea, to serve as a house for sea-folk and as a sanitarium for priests and students. The money for this enterprise and for his other remarkable charities he obtained often in miraculous ways. He also did much for the promotion of knowledge, was a great patron of music, and founded the periodical “La Carita.” Besides, he established many religious societies – “The Gray Brothers” (Zigi), the “Elizabethines” (“The Servants of the Heart of Jesus”), who, under the rules of the third Order of Saint Francis, devoted themselves to works of charity.

There has been seldom a death so mourned as that of Louis of Casoria. He died on 30 March 1884. In his beautiful last testament he says: “Divine love was my poverty, my obedience, my chastity. The holy vows did not compel me to serve God, but the love of Jesus moved my heart and made my soul, my hands and feet His servants. To enkindle my love I asked God, not for raptures and visions, but for labor, worka of charity, and for souls. In my prayers I implored zeal for labor, divine love in labor and distress, in cares and contradictions and I often cried, ‘Oh Charity, oh, to die for Charity!’ My dear brethren, I commend to you the Holy Catholic Church. Strive for her by word and writing and by deeds, and if need be even with your blood. Stand firm, humble, and lowly at the feet of the Holy See. Harken to the Church as you would to the voice of God Himself. Observe her commands, her very thoughts. The Church of Christ is the authority of all authorities. She alone has peace and happiness in her train. All other authority which does not work in union with her and does not listen to her is without life, since it does not labor toward the last end of our creation and for the saving of souls redeemed by Jesus. Live in peace and pray for me. Your poor brother, Louis of Casoria.”

– this text is taken from The Holiness of the Church in the Nineteenth Century: Saintly Men and Women of Our Own Times, by Father Constantine Kempf, SJ; translated from the German by Father Francis Breymann, SJ; Impimatur by + Cardinal John Farley, Archbishop of New York, 25 September 1916