Way before the Canon 603 type arrived...
He was a real hermit too. Poor, penitential, solitary, rugged, prayerful, desert-father-ish... so different from what we see today. (No offense intended.) His name is Giovanni Maria de Agostini, and he was known as Fr. Francesco. He seems to have been a penitent, initially living a life similar to St. Benedict Joseph Labre. I find it interesting how frequently such ascetics are dismissed in our day as being misfits, mentally ill, and so forth.
To my very pleasant surprise, I discovered today that he died on the 17 of April, 1869, making this day the eve of the anniversary of his death. How providential is that?
Fr. Francesco was born in Italy in 1801 to nobility, studied for the priesthood, but was 'exiled' after an amorous affair with a young woman. His pilgrimage finally led him to Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Everywhere he went, he preached and catechized when permission was given by local bishops but steadfastly refused to accept holy orders “because my vocation called me to solitude, not to the exalted ministry of the priesthood.”
Eventually he traveled (always by foot) through Central America and southern Mexico where he was expelled by the anti-clerical government of Benito Juarez. He went briefly to Cuba; sailed north to Quebec Province and then traveled through the U.S. By then he was a venerable old man in his 60′s with a long white beard, a pilgrim’s staff and bell, and still wearing his black capa and hood. Once in New Mexico, he wandered the small villages, giving advice and counsel, helping children with their catechism, and healing the ill and infirm with potions and herbs. Some legends even ascribe miracles to him. But the continuous press of people pushed him to seek greater solitude on Cerro del Tecolote. Friends built him a small cabin over a spring on the crest. However people continued to seek him out and he moved once more, 300 miles south to the Organ Mountains outside Las Cruces. There, too, he made friends and agreed to light a signal fire every 3rd night so they would know he was all right.
On the appointed night in mid-April, 1869 no fire was seen. A posse was formed which found Giovanni Maria, now 69, lying prostrate on the ground with a dagger in his back. They surmised he was killed while kneeling at prayer by someone who knew his habits. To this day, his memory is revered and the places made holy by his presence are reverently cared for. Twice yearly formal pilgrimages are made to the crest of Hermit’s Peak (renamed in his honor,) near Las Vegas, NM. - Source
Hermit's cave. Reminds me of the Carceri in Italy.
How cool is that? I wonder how he was able to get along without the Internet? How did he publish the minutiae of his holy life? How did he get donations? Okay - I'll stop. ;)
More information here.