Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June 1 - Fortunatus of Spoleto, Priest, Charitable, Friend of the Poor

Fortunatus was a priest of the Christian faith in Italy. Specifically, he was in the town of Montefalco in the region of Umbria. Of course, he was born and died after the famous Edict of Milan declared by Constantine in 313 so the persecution and suppression that he experienced was of a far different sort than that of the early martyrs, fathers, and mothers of the Church. Since it was no longer the State that sought his life, Fortunatus had the challenge of finding someone else to spend his life on and another way to lose himself in service to the God who taught the only way to find life was to die. He was a caretaker for the many valuables of the Church--that is to say, he cared deeply for the poor and brought them the deepest and most profound mysteries of the Church alongside the charity that he was keen to offer them in Jesus' name. He visited the members of his parish and lived into the role in which God had called him to live, serve, and die. In other words, Fortunatus was like so many other priests in the late fourth century and he was eager to serve God by serving those the world was eager to cast aside.

Though he was a priest he received only a very meager compensation for this service. So, he also kept his own farm and lived off of what the land produced for him. One day Fortunatus wasplowing one of the fields that God had placed under his care when he heard an odd sound coming from where the blade of his plow met the soil he prepared for God's will. He was accustomed to the sound of the plow blade striking a stone and knew instantly that this wasn't what he had heard. Instead, it had a faint metallic quality to it and so he leaned over to draw up two dirty coins from the ground. They were dull and uninteresting in appearance and so Fortunatus thanked God and put them in his pocket. He didn't know what he was going to do with them but he figured that since God had put them in his path,then God would find a use for them. With this faithful confidence in mind, Fortunatus continued plowing his field and saying his regular prayers for the people under his care.

After his work in the field, Fortunatus gathered the materials that he used to deliver the sacraments to his humble flock and set out to tend to the people under his care. He brought with him some of the money that his congregation had collected to aid the poor so that he might give it away as an act of benevolence and on behalf of the Church.However, he forgot entirely about the two dirty coins at the bottom of his pocket. As he traveled, he encountered beggars and the beggars encountered an generous giver in Fortunatus. He offered the Body and Blood of Christ to his brothers and sisters he met along the way and gave over the mysteries of God into the dirty hands of a desperate people. As he returned home a beggar asked him for money and he reached quickly into his pocket. The money he had brought along to give away was gone but his hand touched on the two dirty coins. He pulled the two coins to see what they were worth and was surprised to see the sun glint off the once dirty coins. It seems that rubbing against all the other contents of his pockets had cleaned the coins somewhat and they were discovered to be very valuable. For a brief moment he was tempted to keep them so that he might live a more comfortable life by their use. But as the sun glinted across the money he was reminded of his calling and he gave the valuable coins over into the hands of a man with nothing to offer except a pleading request. Grace abounded and Fortunatus was further redeemed by his calling.

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