Founder of the Congregation of Christian Doctrine of Florence; b. at Florence of obscure parentage, 12 October. 1565; d. 20 March, 1619. While still a child a wonderful cure turned his thoughts towards the service of God, and he devoted himself to teaching the truths of the Christian religion in the Jesuit church of Florence. He was only twelve years old when he attracted the attention of the Archbishop Alexander de' Medici (afterwards Leo XI ), who gave him the church of Sta Lucia al Prato in which to carry on his work. He divided his time between his trade of silk-weaving and the religious instruction of poor children and adults, and at sixteen felt impelled to found a society for this purpose. The opposition aroused by his solicitude for the poor he overcame by the exercise of wonderful patience. Generous benefactors made it possible for him to erect an oratory, which Clement VIII dedicated in honour of St. Francis, in 1602, and in which the work begun at Sta Lucia was continued. The foundation was called the Congregation of Christian Doctrine under the invocation of Sts. Francis and Lucy. It was divided into fifteen classes, according to the age and religious knowledge of the pupils, each class being governed by special rules and assisting in the instruction of the class below. The members of the first class were admitted to the congregation after a good confession.
Ippolito was indefatigable in his work, collecting alms from the wealthy Florentines, which he distributed among the poor, founding and reorganizing branches of his congregation, which spread to Volterra, Lucca, Pistoia, Modena, etc. He introduced the practice of nocturnal adoration to draw the people from the theatre and sinful amusements. In Florence, the members of his congregation, by reason of their modesty, were called Van Chetoni. Ippolito was the object of violent persecution, envy and malice accusing him of sharing the errors of Luther, of introducing new rules and reforms. One of his spiritual sons accused him before the pope and Grand Duke Cosimo of excessive severity, but the charge was not sustained, and Ippolito's congregation was declared to be for God's glory and the public good. Shortly before the holy man's death the grand duke founded a perpetual chaplaincy for the order. Ippolito made a pilgrimage to Loreto to place his foundation under the protection of the Blessed Virgin. The statutes of the congregation were approved by the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars, and confirmed by Leo XII in a decree of 17 September, 1824. The founder was beatified by the same pontiff, 13 May, 1825. His ascetical works, written for the government and direction of his congregation, had been approved by Benedict XIV in 1747, and were published at Rome in 1831, together with a brief life of the saint by Canon Antonio Santelli.
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