BLESSED MARCO D’AVIANO
Marco was born in Aviano on 17 November 1631, third of eleven children. His parents were Pasquale Cristofori and Rosa Zanoni. On the day he was born he was christened Carlo Domenico. He was confirmed in 1643.
He attends high school at the Jesuit College in Gorizia from where, four years later, he runs away in his desire to assist the Venetians engaged in defending the island of Candia under siege by the Turks. At Capodistria he gives up on his intent and is taken back to the Capuchin’s home where he had sought help. In 1648 aged 17 he starts the novitiate at Conegliano and on taking the habit he assumes the name of Marco d’Aviano. He completes his theological studies and on 18 September 1655 is ordained priest at Chioggia. In 1664 he receives the ‘licence’ to preach to the people, a task that he quickly performs with great efficacy. He’s also the caretaker of two convents, Belluno and Oderzo.
His preaching, together with an exemplary life, achieves continental fame as from 1676 when a series of conversions and prodigious healings suddenly take place, earning him the title of ‘the century’s healer’. His popularity reaches France, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Tyrol, Bavaria, Austria, the German states, Bohemia and Slovenia which Padre Marco visits on missionary journeys requested by the bishops for the spiritual renewal of those nations. Huge crowds gather to hear him and receive his blessing and following these gatherings extraordinary events always take place. His main priority is to exhort and obtain repentance from sins, and for this he asks the crowds to recite the Act of perfect contrition. He shows great respect towards Protestants, considered as brothers, and advocates a union with them.
But his date with history is set for 1683 during the Ottoman army’s invasion of Europe when about 150,000 armed men set a siege around Vienna, the seat of Austria’s emperor Leopold I. This emperor had befriended Marco d’Aviano and enjoyed his valuable counsel in governing the empire which had been characterised by indecision and wavering. Facing an immediate danger posed by the siege (the plan was to make Vienna the capital of a second Turkish empire in the heart of Europe), which also worried Pope Innocent XI, Padre Marco is sent as papal envoy to the defence coalition made up of no more than 70,000 men. His mediation achieves agreement among the different allies – at that time rivals – and places king Giovanni Sobieski of Poland as nominal head. Then Marco d’Aviano gives new heart to the army during a day of prayer. At dawn on the fateful day (12 September 1683) he celebrates mass, assisted by the Polish king and instils enthusiasm and the certainty of victory, while offering his own life to God for the salvation of the Christian faith and civilisation. A glorious victory is achieved, marking a military phase in the history of the continent which was able to save its identifying faith and civilisation.
Marco d’Aviano’s mission continues in the following years, promoting an alliance among European states for the liberation of the Balkans from Turkish oppression. Buda, Hungary’s capital, was liberated in 1686 after nearly one-and-a-half centuries of Turkish domination; in 1688 the stronghold of Belgrade, where Padre Marco obtains the sparing of 800 Turkish soldiers’ lives, is also liberated. In the meantime, he continues to devote himself to preaching in a fiery and persuasive manner, especially in the Veneto area. His Lenten sermons remain famous. He maintains epistolary contact with influential people of the day, especially as spiritual adviser to emperor Leopold I who often invites Padre Marco to Vienna.
Marco d’Aviano dies during his last journey to Austria’s capital. Worn out by his strenuous life, he dies at 11 pm on 13 August 1699 in the presence of the emperor and his wife Eleonora. He dies gripping the crucifix he had always carried with him. He’s buried in the Capuchins’ church in Vienna.
The cause and the beatification
The cause of Marco d’Aviano (that Leopold I himself would have liked to launch soon after the Capuchin’s death and in favour of which Padre Cosimo da Castelfranco had written ‘Life’, ready in 1709 but which remained unpublished at the time) was launched only in 1891 with a regular trial that took place in Vienna and which provided the opportunity to make public the correspondence between Marco d’Aviano and the emperor. A second trial aimed at demonstrating the holiness of Padre Marco was held in Venice in 1901.
The apostolic cause was started on 11 December 1912 under Pope Pius X after the pope was approached by bishops, heads of religious families, Cathedral chapters and even members of the imperial Hapsburg family. Subject to the new regulations in place from 1930 on ‘historic’ causes, it was only in 1966 that the Holy Congregation approved the publication of the collection of documents Positio super virtutibus.
The bureaucratic process stopped once again until the nomination in 1977 of padre Venanzio Renier from Chioggia as the vice-postulator of the cause. Renier set to work immediately to ensure that Padre Marco’s historic figure and Christian virtues were better known and appreciated and the cause could proceed once again. In the following years, among other things, he promoted the publication of Padre Marco d’Aviano’s body of correspondence held in the Capuchins’ archive in Venice. Finally on 6 July 1991 the decree of the Congregation of the Cause of Saints on the heroic virtues of the candidate to sainthood was issued. This was a necessary step that clarified in a definite way the sainthood of Marco d’Aviano.
Still missing was the acknowledgment of the truth of a miracle attributed to him and which took place in Padua on 28 May 1941 when a child struck by meningitis, Antonino Geremia, was healed as a result of prayers to God through the intercession of Padre Marco, prayers that had been suggested by the future saint Leopoldo Mandic. This miraculous event was ascertained as authentic by the Congregation for the Virtue of Saints with a decree on 23 April 2002 thanks to the action and unshakeable conviction of Padre Venanzio who in the meantime, assisted by the Committee P. Marco d’Aviano founded in 1998 at Pordenone, undertook a broad capillary diuturnal pastoral and cultural activity of awareness-raising of the sainthood and current relevance of Aviano’s top citizen. The cause, so keenly followed and cherished, was sealed by the beautification in St Peter’s Square in Rome on 27 April 2003 by Pope Saint John Paul II. The cause will be complete when Blessed Marco d’Aviano’s sainthood is declared.
“Exceptional personality of priest, religious person, preacher of the gospel, witness of Christ in all adversities, Padre Marco warrants universal attention with the richness of his inner life, made ardent and apostolic by the most genuine Franciscan spirit.
Apostle of the ‘Act of Perfect Contrition’, faithful administrator of compassion and forgiveness, was spiritual healer of the Europe of the time, admirable and patient weaver of its freedom and unity. His intervention was decisive: by saving Christendom he saved Europe.
His glorification represents an honour for the Church and for civil society, not only of his time. The impact of his daring actions continues to be felt even today.
Congregation for the Cause of Saints”.
Prayer of intercession
Most Holy Trinity,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
we worship you and give you glory
because you are the Good,
the greatest Good,
from whom all good springs forth.
You made Blessed Marco of Aviano
an Apostle of Peace, a Promoter of Unity
among the people of Europe,
a Father for the weakest and most vulnerable,
a powerful Worker of spiritual
and physical miracles.
Grant us also, through his intercession,
the same Spirit of Faith, Brotherly Love,
Harmony and Peace and the grace we implore…
Glory be to the Father…
Imprimatur: + Cardinal Christoph Schonborn
archbishop of Vienna
Blessed Marco of Aviano was born on November 17, 1631.
He donned the Capuchin habit in Conegliano in 1648 and
observed the vows in an heroic manner.
Ordained a priest in Chioggia in 1655, he dedicated
himself to preaching. In 1676 he worked the first of many miracles:
the Pope, Blessed Innocent XI called him “the miracle worker of the
century.” As requested by bishops, he undertook two long missionary
voyages in North and Central Europe, insisting upon an act of perfect
contrition for sins and obtaining numerous conversions among the
crowds that flocked to him. He also entered into relations with
Leopoldo the First, emperor of Austria, to whom he became a “guardian
angel”. In 1683, as papal legate he played a key role in liberating
Vienna from the Turks: he offered himself as a victim to the Lord
and obtained victory through the power of prayer.
He then continued his work as miracle worker and benefactor
to the poor, as preacher of Lenten homilies and sought-after consellor.
of Bishops, Governors and Nobles. He was present at the liberation of
Buda (1686) and of Belgrade (1688). He died in Vienna on the 13th of
August 1699 and is buried in the church of the Capuchins.
Already called a saint while he was alive, he was declared
Blessed by John Paul II (who is himself now Blessed) on the 27 of April
2003 because of the untiring work of promulgation undertaken by the
Capuchin Father Venanzio Renier (1909-2008)