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Agostino Novello

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The Blessed Agostino Novello, originally Matteo Di Termini, was an Italian religious figure. He was born in the first half of the 13th century, at Termini Imerese, the village in Sicily from which he derived his surname. As that village was near Palermo, he is sometimes called Panormitano. On entering religion he changed his name to Agostino, and later was given the additional name of Novello.

Matteo's parents, of a noble family originally from Catalonia in Spain, educated him most carefully and had him instructed in all the then known sciences, first at home and afterwards in the University of Bologna, where he studied civil and canon law. Returning to his native land, he held many positions of honor in the magistracy, fulfilling all the duties of those posts with such prudence and exactitude that King Manfred of Sicily made him one of his counselors. In this capacity Matteo accompanied the King in the war against Charles I of Anjou, who disputed Manfred's right to the crown of Sicily; in the battle, in which Manfred was killed and his army routed, Matteo was thought to be dead, and so was left on the battlefield among the corpses of other soldiers.

Regaining consciousness, Matteo was able to reach his home; however, disillusioned with the world and with the evanescence of all earthly glory, he determined thenceforth to serve Jesus Christ, and to forsake all worldly honors and dignities. Following this decision, which some Catholics attribute to special inspiration from Heaven, Matteo asked for admission as a lay brother into the Order of St. Augustine, and was received in a convent in Tuscany. There he took the name Agostino; and there he would live unknown to the world, far from his home and his people; devoted to exercises of piety, he lived there tranquilly until an unforeseen incident brought him once more before the world.

The title to some property belonging to the convent was claimed by a rich and learned lawyer of Siena, Giacomo Pallares. Agostino, in a written document, defended the rights of his brethren. Pallares, who at once perceived that the humble habit of a lay-brother concealed a most learned jurist, asked to see him, and to his astonishment recognized his former fellow-student of the University of Bologna, Matteo di Termini. He lost no time in informing the ecclesiastical authorities of Agostino's identity, begging them to keep no longer in obscurity such a wealth of learning.

When Clement of Osimo, General of the Order, heard of this, he compelled Agostino, under obedience, to receive Holy Orders, and, moreover, appointed him one of his associates. Agostino reformed the Constitutions and brought much honour on his Order, of which he ultimately became General, a position which he ultimately resigned to live in retirement, giving all his time to study, prayer, and penance, whereby he is considered by followers to have reached a high degree of perfection. Before Agostino became General, Nicholas IV appointed Agostino his confessor and Grand Penitentiary, a position which he accepted only under obedience, and with such manifest reluctance and so many protestations of his unworthiness that the Pope and the cardinals were visibly affected.

In his retreat in the Convent of San Leonardo, near Siena, Agostino not only dedicated himself to the practice of the virtues proper to the religious state, which he carried to an heroic degree, but, impelled by an ardent and almost consuming charity, he began collecting alms and was able to enlarge and practically rebuild an excellent orphanage and hospital for the sick and aged who had neither means to care for themselves during sickness, nor a place in which to pass their last days. Many of the miracles wrought through the intercession of Blessed Agostino were verified and authenticated. Clement XIII solemnly beatified him, and Clement XIV authorized his cult on 23 July 1770.

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This article incorporates text from the entry Bl. Agostino Novello in Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913, a publication now in the public domain.

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