The Catholic Defender: Saint Conrad of Piacenza “Miracle of the Bread”
1290 – February 19, 1351) Born of a noble family in northern Italy, Conrad as a young man married Euphrosyne, daughter of a nobleman.
One day while hunting he ordered attendants to set fire to some brush in order to flush out the game. The fire spread to nearby fields and to a large forest.
He married an aristocratic young woman named Ephrosyne when he was quite young.
Though pious, he led the normal way of life for a man of his station.
One day, as he was engaged in his usual pastime of hunting within his family's domain, he ordered his attendants to set fire to some brushwood in which game had taken refuge.
The prevailing wind caused the flames to spread rapidly to the surrounding fields and forest.
A peasant who happened to be found near where the fire began was accused of starting the blaze and was imprisoned, tortured to confess, and condemned to death.
Because he ran, an innocent man was convicted for spreading the fire and was condemned to death as punishment.
Upon hearing of this, Conrad stepped forth to accept the blame, saving the innocent man's life. He paid for the damaged property and he and his wife gave everything they owned to the poor in recompense.
Conrad then left to join a group of Franciscan hermits, and his wife joined the Poor Clares.
As the man was being led to execution, a remorseful Conrad publicly admitted his guilt to the Signoria of the city. As punishment and reparation for the damages he had caused, the city seized all his assets, only sparing his life due to his noble status.
After many years of an itinerant life, he settled there in a grotto now named for him and for the rest of his life spent a most austere and penitential life of solitude, working numerous miracles, and gifted with prophecy.
In 1343 Conrad felt called by God to serve the local people more directly and in 1343 went to the city of Netum, where he cared for the sick at the Hospital of St. Martin there for the next two years.
Soon after this event, Conrad and his wife agreed to separate: she to a Poor Clare monastery and he to a group of hermits following the Third Order Rule. His reputation for holiness, however, spread quickly. Since his many visitors destroyed his solitude, Conrad went to a more remote spot in Sicily where he lived 36 years as a hermit, praying for himself and for the rest of the world.
He enthusiastically promoted the Seraphic Work of Charity, which aided neglected children. Conrad spent hours in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. He regularly asked the Blessed Mother to intercede for him and for the many people he included in his prayers. The ever-patient Conrad was canonized in 1934.
Word eventually spread of Conrad's holiness, piety and gift of healing.
When many visitors began to destroy his life of silence and solitude, he moved to Sicily where he lived and prayed as a hermit for 36 years.
Conrad visited the bishop later to make a general confession to him. As he arrived, Conrad was surrounded by fluttering birds.
Around 1340, he settled in Sicily, where he became a solitary hermit in the valley of Noto. Here too his reputation spread and people flocked to his cell to be cured through his prayers.
St. Conrad is invoked for the cure of hernia. This comes from miracles attributed to him. Legend has it that he was visited at his hermitage by an old friend, Antonio de Stessa, who was suffering from the pain of a hernia he had developed. Seeing the pain he was in, Conrad was moved to pity and prayed for him. Stessa was immediately cured of the hernia.
He also prayed for a local tailor, who suffered severely from several hernias and the man was instantly cured.
The miracle for which Conrad is best known is the "Miracle of the Bread". This occured during the great famine in Sicily (1348-49). During that catastrophe, anyone who came to St. Conrad for help was given a loaf of bread, still warm, which, it was said, he had received from the angels.
Prayer and penance were his answer to the temptations that beset him. Conrad died kneeling before a crucifix. He was canonized in 1625.
Conrad died while in prayer, kneeling before a crucifix, on 19 February 1351, the day he had predicted.
The saint invoked as patron of hernia sufferers
The miracle for which Conrad is best known is the "Miracle of the Bread". This developed during the aforementioned famine which afflicted Sicily as a result of a severe outbreak of the bubonic plague on the island during 1348–49. During that catastrophe, anyone who came to St. Conrad for help was given a loaf of bread, still warm, which, it was said, he had received from the angels.
Conrad was beatified in 1515 and canonized in Piacenza in 1645. He is invoked as a patron of hernia sufferers, due to several healings that were attributed to him.