Blessed Giles of Assisi (1190 – 1262) was a farmer, contemporaneous of Saint Francis of Assisi. After two of his friends had given away their possessions and joined St Francis to live a life of poverty and prayer under his direction, Bd Giles felt called to do the same. He then gave what he had to the poor and joined the three men.
Blessed Giles was very humble in demeanour and in heart, having always God and eternal matters in mind. He would often encourage those with whom he spoke to do penance and to love God. Wherever he went, he earned his livelihood through manual labour. At Ancona he made reed baskets; at Brindisi he carried water and helped to bury the dead; at Rome he cut wood, trod the wine-press, and gathered nuts; while the guest of a cardinal at Rieti, he insisted on sweeping the house and cleaning the knives.
In 1219, St Francis commissioned Bd Giles, along with a few more friars, to go to Africa to preach to the Moslems. The local Christians, fearing an outbreak of persecutions due to the presence of the friars, forcefully placed them in a ship bound back to Italy as soon as they had disembarked.
Brother Giles was then sent to a convent in Perugia where he remained till the end of his days, leading a life of quiet prayer and contemplation.
Blessed Giles before the Pope
Pope Gregory IX once brought Bd Giles to Viterbo in order to experience his holiness first hand. They began speaking of Heaven, and Bd Giles twice went into ecstasy. The image above is a picture of Murillo’s painting of Bd Giles of Assisi levitating in ecstasy before Pope Gregory IX.
Blessed Giles’ love of silence
It is said that Bd Giles had a profound love of silence. A beautiful story relates that St Louis, King of France, on his way to the Holy Land secretly disembarked in Italy to visit its shrines. At Perugia, he sought out Brother Giles, of whom he had heard much. Having clasped each other in loving embrace, they knelt side by side in prayer and then parted, without having outwardly exchanged a single word.