Sylvester was born into a noble family in Osimo. As a young man he was sent to study jurisprudence at Bologna and Padua but felt more drawn to theology. Changing his concentration of studies, he dedicated long hours to prayer and when his father became aware of his change of heart refused to speak to him for ten years.

Sylvester accepted a canonry at Osimo and became so zealous in his pastoral work that he earned the hostility of his bishop whom Sylvester had criticized for his irreverent lifestyle. That, and a disconcerting funeral induced in him a change of focus. Sylvester presided over a funeral of a man in the community who had always been revered for his beauty and accomplishments. Coming face to face with the rotting corpse must have underscored the ephemeral quality of vanity and riches.

In 1227 Sylvester withdrew to the wilderness 30 miles from Osimo to live in poverty. A local landowner recognized him and offered the hermit a better dwelling, which eventually proved too damp. He then moved to Grotta Fucile where he established a monastery and lived a subsistent life, eating herbs and sleeping on the bare ground.

Even so, Sylvester drew several followers. He chose to follow a spartan version of the Benedictine rule and built a monastery on Mount Fano where he, like Benedict at Monte Cassino, built upon the ruins of a pagan temple. In 1247 Pope Innocent IV issued a papal bull recognizing the Sylvestrine order. Thereafter, Sylvester founded a number of other monasteries. He at the remarkable, for the times, age of 90.

Many miracles were ascribed to Sylvester’s intercession. In 1598 Pope Clement VIII placed Sylvester among the saints in the Roman Martyrology.

Adapted by A.J. Valentini