FRIAR GIACOMO BULGARO
The Servant of God
1879 - 1967
Giacomo Bulgaro was born on 29th January
1879 in Corticelle Pieve, in the province
of Brescia, which is located in the Northern
part of Italy. He was one of five children.
His home was humble and filled with an overwhelming
amount of love and faith for God. When Friar
Giacomo was young his father had rented
out a small farmhouse, where the farm production
provided enough income to support his family.
As soon as Giacomo was old enough he became
an altar boy. Every morning he would go
to serve mass at 5:30 a.m.
He was a very studious in Elementary school,
which at that time lasted only for three
years. He proved to himself and everyone
else to be a bright and diligent pupil.
As a reward for his good work, his parents
decided to let him continue his studies
with the village schoolmaster who privately
gave him some educational instruction. The
tutoring was paid for by the income generated
by their home grown farm products.
Giacomo grew up in a happy family environment
which had taught him many good virtues such
as; diligence, serenity, complete devotion
and which left him with an undying faith
in Our Lord.
When he was eleven years old his family
left Corticelle and moved to Brescia. The
city offered many job opportunities in the
new iron ore foundries that were rapidly
In the city
Just as the family was beginning to settle
into city life in Brescia their father suddenly
died, leaving their mother alone with five
teenage children. The elder children were
all able to find jobs. Giacomo himself started
working in a cobbler's shop as an apprentice.
He used to go to mass every day at the parish
church of St. John's where he was an active
member of the church oratory. His faith
was reverent and profound as he practised
his religion fervently.
Sadly enough his mother also died in 1898.
Shortly after this tragic event, his youngest
brother Giovanni was sent to an orphanage;
the two older sisters were soon married
and Giacomo, who was nineteen and his sister
Maria sixteen at the time, were left at
home by themselves. Giacomo found a new
job as a cobbler. This is when he began
to feel very lonely and aimless in life.
In his spiritual diaries Giacomo writes
that his new master "was a wolf dressed
in sheep's clothing". He was a happy-go-lucky
twenty year old boy, always in the company
of young people and surrounded by lewd conversation.
At first he tried to avoid mixing with them
but in the end their influence won the day.
Their daily presence drew him to surrender
to worldly temptations. He began to lead
an impure life which led him away from his
christian values that he had learnt during
his earlier years at home.
He no longer followed the Sacraments, nor
went to mass on Sundays. Praying was no
longer a part of his daily routine. Instead
he would spend his Sundays going from one
tavern to next drinking and womanising.
He became rude, careless in his work, unhappy
with himself and ill tempered with everybody
around him. At the same time he also stopped
taking care of his sister and his little
Despite all of this after his 25th birthday
he began to feel a strong desire for the
christian values that he had once mastered
as a youngster. He tried more than once
to return to the ways of Our Lord but his
bad habits always managed to gain the upper
hand. Once he met a proper young lady who
he had thought about marrying but then unexpectedly
he changed his mind. He began to drift from
one girl to another without forming any
lasting or meaningful relationships. As
time went on he became more and more dissatisfied
with himself and his life, which apparently
in his opinion had no aim or purpose.
In 1913 on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception
he went back to Corticelle to visit his
elderly Aunt Caterina who was his mother's
sister of whom he was very fond. She was
the only person that he was able to confided
That morning after he had arrived at her
home he broke out in tears as he recounted
his inner most moral turmoil to her . To
comfort him his Aunt talked about Our Lady
and explained that he should trust in her.
Upon leaving she put her hands on his head
in prayer giving him her blessing.
At that instant Giacomo had a vision of
Our Lady as he tells us in his Spiritual
Diaries "The Virgin Mary was looking
at me with affection even though my sins
oppressed me. I wept with all my heart:
I was the greatest sinner amongst all sinners!
But, from the depth of my heart I felt the
greatest desire to raise my eyes and my
arms to her who was Our Mother, despite
the fact I had been an ungrateful son. I
knelt at her feet and confessed to her the
painfulness of all my sins. She the Mother
of all hugged me. That act of kindness I
did not deserve, I know."
The vision continued with the coming of
Jesus: "I saw that Jesus was trying
to find me. When he found me he said not
one word. No words of reproach, nor disapproval.
He came closer to me, he held me, at once
I felt his tears upon my face. I called
him by his divine name. He then took my
hand and covered me with his cloak as he
held me tightly against his heart".
That same afternoon he went back to Brescia.
As he was walking along the 18 kilometre
path back home he made his first resolution
as a converted man. "I will serve thee
dear Lord with all my heart, soul and body."
When this blessed event took place he was
34 years old.
A new man
The next morning he spent nearly three hours
praying in church before going to work.
From that day on he would go to mass every
morning at 5.30 a.m. immersing himself in
deep meditation for three hours. He imposed
upon himself a strict penitential regime.
He started going to catechism in the parish
and would help those in need. The people
in the area soon noticed the cobbler's changed
lifestyle and the poor began to ask him
for his help and alms. During the First
World War he was called up to fight but
as he was not considered fit enough to serve
they sent him to work for the Red Cross
Military hospital in Brescia. He treated
all of the patients with utmost devotion
and care and often stayed during the night
to comfort dying patients. When the war
ended he went back to being a cobbler and
helping out in the parish. He visited families
in need and served in the soup kitchens
set up for the poor.
He would also invite young people into his
home especially those who were not churchgoers
in order to discuss the Bible, the life
of Jesus Christ and the Saints.
During this time he became acquainted with
some of the most notable Catholics of Brescia
of that period such as, Father Giovanni
Battista Zuaboni, whom he would then meet
with on a daily basis. Another noted figure
with who he came in contact was Giovanni
Battista Montini, who subsequently would
become Pope Paul VI. Amongst his acquaintances
at that time was Giorgio Montini, the future
Pope's. Their reverent religious faith and
devotion only helped to further and strengthen
Giacomo's decision in adhering to a religious
way of living.
Becoming a franciscan
On 28th October 1928 Brescia celebrated
the return of the Franciscan order of the
old Monastery of St. Francis. In 1797 they
had been forced to leave Brescia due to
the Napoleonic invasion and subsequent suppression
of the order. That same Sunday evening Giacomo's
confessor Msgr. Angelo Nazzari introduced
him to the Minister General of the Franciscans
saying "Very Reverend Father, this
man would like to become a monk. I will
personally vouch for his character and assume
all responsibility for him." though
Giacomo was now fifty years old the Minister
General had no objection and concurred with
Giacomo entered the Monastery. He kept himself
very busy with all the church duties both
in the refectory and at the porter's quarters.
He would spend more than thirty years of
his life in the small inconspicuous room
which was dedicated for the porter situated
at the entrance of the monastery. He welcomed
everybody with a warm friendly smile and
a kind greeting and was always willing to
help those in need. He also continued his
work as a cobbler repairing the shoes of
his fellow friars, the young altar boys
and the needy parishioners. He prayed continually
and wrote the major part of his Spiritial
Diaries under the auspices of his confessor.
He received his religious instruction from
Father Dionisio Vincente, who was martyred
for his faith during the Spanish Civil War
and who would later be beatified in 2001.
In the monastery Friar Giacomo was soon
noted for his reverent humanistic qualities
and spirituality and his great gift of unremitting
humble prayer. He lived his vows of obedience
to their fullest, always obeying his superiors.
He treated everyone with kindness and sincerity,
happy to serve others without receiving
any special praise, as many times these
deeds went unnoticed.
He considered himself a humble servant of
the poor people who came to the his quarters
every day to receive a hot meal.
The spirituality of Friar Giacomo testified
by his life and writings were undoubtedly
From the day of his conversion he held steadfastly
within his heart his love for the Good Shepherd
who died on the cross for all mankind. This
love for Jesus who suffered on the cross
helped him to fulfil his everyday duties
with serenity and humility.
In order to follow the example of the humble
life led by Jesus and Mary of Nazareth he
carried out all of his daily menial tasks
as a symbol of his undying love for Our
Lord. He had the gift of contemplative prayer
which was nourished by an incessant bond
with heaven and meditation.
He refused to be caught up in all of the
modern conveniences that surrounded him
and was all consuming for the lives of many.
He lived in absolute poverty and with permission
from his superiors he gave part of his daily
food ration to those poorer than himself.
Despite his reserved nature he was always
ready to greet others with a warm friendly
smile and encouraging words.
In the first few years after his conversion,
Our Lady had said to him that "the
shortest route" to sainthood would
be through unquestionable obedience and
this he did by living his vows of obedience
to their fullest obeying his confessor and
Our Lady played a very important part in
his life. She brought about his conversion
and his return to the church and there after
followed him day by day by inspiring and
encouraging him in the ways of Our Lord.
Giacomo was profoundly devoted to her and
wanted to follow her example in every way
as she had done by glorifying the Almighty
and loving our neighbours.
In the latter years of his life he was confined
to his cell, due to his inability to walk
and the infirmities of a ninety year old
man. He died peacefully on the evening of
27th January 1967 and was buried in the
In 1989 the Diocese of Brescia began proceedings
in order to collect all of his writings
and memoirs. When they had finished their
research all it was sent off to Rome for
further investigation by a papal approbation.
On the 28th April 1994 Friar Giacomo's body
was transferred to the church of St. Francis.
His remains lies in a plain and simple chapel
located on the church grounds. It's a quiet
place of prayer and meditation for the many
faithful followers of Friar Giacomo. From
that day on there has been an ever increasing
interest in the quiet gentle figure of Friar
Giacomo, "Poverello di Brescia"
who like St. Francis passed on his experience
of conversion and undying and magnificent
love of Our Lord to those who would follow
in his footsteps.
FROM THE DIARY
"If you only knew how sweet
it is to be by the Cross,
you would beg me to give it to you,
so that you could be like me!"
(from the dairy 20.04.1950)
"Holy Father here I am all yours,
do with me as you wish,
according to Jesus' will.
In me fulfil what
you established since the beginning
may thy will be accomplished fully. So be
(from the dairy 11.11.1953)
"How happy I would be
if I could say to you my God:
- My Lord, how I love you!
my Lord would reply thus:
- My son I love you more than you could
ever love me.
Because you are my creation,
you are almost the master of your God,
who loves you more than a father
could love his own son."
(from the dairy 05.12.1953)
LET US PRAY
O God, your humble servant Friar Giacomo
worshipped and prayed unrelentingly to you
with a pure and simple heart ; through his
intercession, help us to seek always your
image and to listen to the truth of your
word. Glory be to the Father...
O God, your humble servant Friar Giacomo
always served you with humility and in a
steadfast way; through his intercession,
grant that our work becomes our daily offering
and praise. Glory be to the Father...
O God, your humble servant Friar Giacomo
saw in the faces of the poor your beloved
son Jesus and thus he served them with your
love; through his intercession, help us
to see with his eyes the suffering of others.
Glory be to the Father...
O God, your humble servant Friar Giacomo
had tender devotion for the Mother of your
Son; help us to live as he did so that the
Virgin Mary pours down on us the treasures
of her Motherhood. Hail Holy Queen...
With the Ecclesiastical Approval of
+ Virgilio Mario Olmi, Auxiliary Bishop