Thought for the Day – 27 August – The Memorial of Blessed Dominic Barberi of the Mother of God C.P. (1792-1849) Apostle of England
Blessed Dominic Barberi, as described by the great English convert, Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890).
“On the Apennines, near Viterbo, there dwelt a shepherd-boy, in the first years of this century, whose mind had early been drawn heavenward and, one day, as he prayed before an image of the Madonna, he felt a vivid intimation that he was destined to preach the Gospel under the northern sky.
“There appeared no means by which a Roman peasant should be turned into a missionary; nor did the prospect open, when this youth found himself, first a lay brother, then a Father, in the Congregation of the Passion.
“Yet, though no external means appeared, the inward impression did not fade, on the contrary it became more definite and, in process of time, instead of the dim north, England was engraved on his heart.
“And, strange to say, as years went on, without his seeking, for he was simply under obedience, our peasant found himself at length upon the very shore of the stormy northern sea, whence Caesar of old looked out for a new world to conquer; yet that he should cross the strait was still as little likely as before.
“However, it was as likely as that he should ever have got so near it and he used to eye the restless, godless waves and wonder with himself whether the day would ever come when he should be carried over them.
“And come it did, not however by any determination of his own, but by the same Providence which thirty years before had given him the anticipation of it…The thought of England came into his ordinary prayers and in his last years, after a vision during Mass, as if he had been Augustine or Mellitus, he talked of his ‘sons’ in England.”
Fr Dominic of the Mother of God was a spiritual son of St Paul of the Cross (1694-1775), the founder of the Passionists.
John Henry Newman, Loss and Gain: The Story of a Convert, Oxford: Oxford University Press 1986, pp.291-292.
The work of Dominic with Newman and the new converts of Littlemore was not limited to receiving them into the Church. The esteem that Dominic had, even before the conversion of Newman, for the little group of Littlemore was impressive. He touchingly and lovingly wrote to Dalgairns in September 1845:
“Dear Littlemore, I love Thee! A little more still and we shall see happy results from Littlemore. When the learned and holy Superior of Littlemore will come, then I hope we shall see again the happy days of Augustine, of Lanfranc and Thomas. England will be once more the Isle of Saints and the nurse of new Christian nations, destined to carry the light of the Gospels coram gentibus et regibus et filiis Israel”.
His compassion, kindness and love are our lessons today!