The Doubting Capuchin: St. Angelus of Acri
“Knock Three Times,” is the title of a lively American pop song from the 1970’s, but it also sums up well the crisis that 20 year-old Luke Anthony Falcone experienced in the early years of his Capuchin vocation. Attracted to the Capuchins by a charismatic preacher and unshaken by his mother’s pleas to reconsider, this country boy from the Italian town of Acri made up his mind to join the Capuchins. So on the 8th of November, 1689, Luke Anthony knocked on the door of the novitiate for the first time, was clothed in the Capuchin habit, and received the new name of Angelus.
For a time, Angelus found joy and peace with the Capuchins. However, it was not long before the enemy began to sow doubts in his mind. Tempted severely, Angelus threw off his habit and returned home. But life at home did not resolve his feeling of emptiness. Courageously, Angelus returned to the novitiate and was accepted for a second time. However, an old proverb states: “The habit does not make the monk.” Putting on the Capuchin habit again did little to smother Br. Angelus’s old temptations. Soon he was on his way home once more. However, hardly had he left this second time when he began to regret his hasty decision. Amazingly, he returned to the novitiate for a third time By now some of the older friars had begun referring to Angelus as “the commuting novice.”
They were astonished when he was granted permission to begin the novitiate yet again. This time Angelus was resolved to remain a Capuchin until death, and that he did. But his struggle to persevere and live a holy life was not an easy one. He himself confessed that, even after returning to the novitiate, it was only through fervent prayer and harsh penance that he was able to endure. What were the temptations that so plagued him? We cannot be certain – disappointment, perhaps, that the brothers’ life of poverty fell far short of the ideal, or frustration at his own vain attempts to overcome temptations against chastity. The latter seems more likely. He himself confessed that for over twelve years he had to strive to obtain the grace of chastity and overcome his lustful desires. Perhaps it was his own early struggles with temptation that enabled Brother Angelus later in life to be a very empathetic spiritual guide for younger Brothers going through similar vocational crises. Angelus was canonized on October 15 in St. Peter’s Square. May he intercede for all of those struggling with doubts regarding their vocations!