Blessed Simon of Cascia, whom we commemorate today, was an Italian Augustinian particularly attracted to a life of contemplation and prayer but who, out of obedience, became well known as a gifted preacher, writer, and spiritual director. He died in the middle of the 14th Century, but his influence remained very strong long after, and is notable, among other ways, in the life and spirituality of Saint Rita of Cascia. We are often influenced by those whom we have never known personally and, similarly, our own choices and decisions may have lasting effects on those who will follow us.
Simon was born in Cascia, Italy, toward the end of the 13th Century, a member of the distinguished Fidati family. Initially, he dedicated his energies to the study of the natural sciences, but with a change of heart decided to embrace religious life and to pursue the science of holiness. He entered the Augustinian Order at about the age of 20, and following his formation and studies, became an outstanding preacher and a master of the spiritual life in Italy. His book, The Works of Our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, gained a wide readership during the Middle Ages, and his letters reveal his gift as an expert spiritual director. Combined with his acute insights and persuasive style as a preacher, was his love of simplicity and humility in religious life. He refused all honors and titles offered to him, and preferred nothing more than to live a life of contemplation in solitude. Equally persuaded of the importance of obedience, however, he continued to use his gifts in the direct service of others. Simon died in Florence on February 2, 1348, a victim of the pestilence which was devastating Europe at the time. Gregory XVI confirmed his cult in 1833. His remains are now venerated in Basilica of Saint Rita in Cascia.
Simon illustrates the classic principle that one can only give what he has. Attentiveness to his own spiritual growth, expressed through devotion to prayer and contemplation, and combined with a generous willingness to use his talents for others, made Simon a fervent disciple and a zealous apostle.