Blessed Gentle was born at Matelica, a little town in the March of Ancona, of the noble and ancient Finaguerra family. As a young man he entered the Franciscan Order. After he completed his studies and was ordained a priest, he went to Mt. La Verna, where he experienced the sweetness of intimate union with God in prayer and devout contemplation. He also preached the word of God in the neighboring towns and brought about many conversions. His own brethren were so edified by his holy example that he was twice chosen as guardian of the convent.
In time, his love for Christ and for the souls of men impelled him, like our holy Father St. Francis, to preach the Gospel to the infidels. With the consent of his superiors he went first to Egypt. In spite of all his efforts, however, Gentle could not learn the languages of this country. Discouraged by the lack of success, the humble friar had already decided to return to Europe when he was met by a charming young man who encouraged him to preach the Gospel of Christ to these people. Gentle obeyed and found that he was well able to discourse in their languages.
He then went to Persia and preached in the Persian language. The unbelieving Mohammedans flocked to him in great numbers and listened attentively to his words. Frequently it happened that when he was preaching to the people, flocks of birds would fly towards him as if inviting the people to come to his sermons. More than ten thousand infidels were baptized by him. God favored him, moreover, with the gift of prophecy. The Venetian envoy to Persia, Marco Cornaro, fell seriously ill. Gentle foretold that he would recover from the illness, that he would have many vicissitudes and trials to endure after that, but in the end he would be elected Doge of the Venetian republic. Everything happened as Gentle had predicted.
The remarkable success which this apostolic man achieved through his sermons embittered the obdurate followers of Mohammed. They attacked him in the city of Toring, and clubbed him to death on September 5, 1340. The body of the martyr was taken to Venice. During this solemn procession that wound its way through the streets of the city one of the spectators grumbled that such honors were tendered to a person of whose sanctity nothing was known. Amid terrible shrieks, the mouth of the blasphemer was immediately torn wide open so that it extended from ear to ear. But he was healed again as he knelt repentant at the tomb of the holy martyr.
Pope Pius VI confirmed the veneration of Blessed Gentle and his feast is observed by the three branches of the First Order on September fifth. (Cf. Forum, 1945, pp. 229-231; In Journeyings Often, pp. 172-177.)
1. “God is not mocked” (Gal. 6,7). These words of the Apostle apply also to the insults and blasphemies uttered against God’s saints. For the honor we render the saints reverts to God, according to the words of Holy Writ: “Praise the Lord in His saints” (Ps. 150,1). So the blasphemies which are spoken against the saints, also are an insult to God; and God will not let such things go unpunished, as we see in the example of the man who spoke deprecatingly of Blessed Gentle’s sanctity. — Have you ever taken pleasure in poking fun and mockery at the veneration accorded the saints? Beware of ever doing so.
2. Consider that we likewise displease God if we make fun of the piety of our confreres. Unfortunately, it is quite a common thing among the people of the world to scoff at and to deride the holy simplicity of God-fearing people and the devout practices of religious persons. Holy Job says: “The just man is laughed to scorn” (Job 12,4). His own friends and even his wife laughed at Job. But the Lord said to Job’s friends: “My wrath is enkindled against you because you have not spoken the thing that is right before Me” (Job 42,7). When the great day of wrath comes, the Lord will speak in that manner to all those who have derided devout persons. The just will in that day stand opposite those who ridiculed them, and the latter will be forced to say within themselves, repenting and groaning for anguish of spirit: “These are they whom we had sometime in derision and for a parable of reproach. We fools esteemed their life madness. Behold how they are numbered among the children of God” (Wisd. 5,3-5). —Will we not in that day wish to have imitated their piety rather than to have mocked them?
3. Consider how those persons should act who are ridiculed by others. Above all, see that you do not give occasion for ridicule. Avoid conspicuous singularities, and beware of that false piety which engages in all kinds of pious practices but possesses little virtue and neglects duty. But if you are ridiculed through no fault of your own, then manifest your virtue by patient endurance of the derision. Accept it, as David did when Semei mocked him, as a dispensation of Providence whereby God wishes to establish you firmly in virtue and to cleanse you of the many sins you have committed. Look up also to your Saviour, who has said by His Prophet: “I am become a reproach to them; they saw Me and they shook their heads” (Ps. 108,25). — Follow His example and pray for those deluded souls; and perhaps you will thus obtain their conversion. On your part praise God that He is giving you an opportunity to increase your merits.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who didst grant to Blessed Gentle the gift of tongues for the purpose of converting the infidels, grant us, we beseech Thee, that Thy praises be ever in our mouths. Through our Lord. Amen.