Great Dominicans: Bl. John Liccio
Bl John Liccio was born in Sicily in about 1430. We are told that he was a great preacher and a fervent propagator of the Rosary. He built a priory in his birthplace, Caccamo, and carried out the duty of prior for many years. He had a great influence on his fellow citizens and died on November 14th 1511 of natural causes.
We are told in the Short Lives of Dominican Saints that “his mother died in giving him birth, and his father, either taking a dislike to the infant from this cause, or impelled by extreme poverty, cruelly ordered him to be reared on scanty and unwholesome food. The child was nearly killed by this treatment. But one day, when his father was absent, a charitable woman of the neighbourhood begged his aunt, who had charge of him, to allow her to take him to her house and give him proper nourishment, offering to do so without remuneration. Her charity brought its own reward. Her husband, who had lost the use of his limbs for a long time, was suddenly and completely cured as soon as the infant was laid upon his bed”.
He joined the Dominican Order aged 15 in Palermo where he had his training as preacher and theologian. Later, with the permission of his superiors, he set out for Caccamo, his birthplace, with two companions, in order to found a new priory. We are told also that “an angel appeared to him and bade him begin to erect his Convent on the spot where he should find the foundations already dug. Whilst he was musing with some perplexity on the meaning of these words, the news was brought him that in a neighbouring wood some peasants had just discovered a begun foundation, which, having never been seen there before, they judged to be the work of the Angels. Blessed John immediately recognized the Divine token, and the Convent subsequently built on the spot received the name of Saint Mary of the Angels”.
He showed himself a true consoler of the afflicted, and had a great zeal in performing corporal or spiritual works of mercy. He cured three people whose heads had been crushed in accidents. Consequently, he is the patron saint of head injuries.
There is no doubt that Bl. John Liccio was a great preacher. But we have no trace of his preaching. However, his life and devotion had a huge impact on those around him. This reminds us that word and deeds should always get along with one another. Some great Dominicans are remembered because of their writings, other by their doings. But preaching always involves charity and work of mercy, just like showing charity is a powerful speech. Bl. John Liccio is a case in point. And we can ask his intercessions for being granted the same charity and living it out, nevertheless without losing our heads!