Saint of the Day – 13 November – St Agostina Livia Pietrantoni S.D.C. (1864-1894)

Saint of the Day – 13 November – St Agostina Livia Pietrantoni S.D.C. (1864-1894) – virgin, of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Jeanne Antide Thouret, medical nursing sister – Born Livia Pietrantoni on 27 March 1864 at Pozzaglia Sabina, Rieti, Italy as Livia Petrantoni and died by being stabbed to death on 13 November 1894 in Rome, Italy by Giuseppe Romanelli.   Patronages – abuse victims, against impoverishment and poverty, martyrs, people ridiculed for their
“Once there was and there still is but with a new face now, a village named Pozzaglia.   In the Sabina hills… and there was a blessed house, a cosy little nest filled with childrens’ voices, amongst which that of Olivia who was later called Livia and was to take the name of Agostina in the religious life.”

Birthplace of St Agostina

The very short life of Sister Agostina, which inspired St Paul VI, the Pope who beatified her, to relate it in extraordinarily poetical terms, began and unfolded itself:  “simple, transparent, pure, loving…but ended sorrowfully and tragically… or rather symbolically.”ST_agostina_livia_pietrantoni

27th March 1864:   Livia was born and baptised in the little village of Pozzaglia Sabina, at an altitude of 800 meters in the beautiful area which is bordered geographically by Rieti, Orvinio, Tivoli.   She was the second of 11 children!   Her parents, Francesco Pietrantoni and Caterina Costantini, were farmers and worked their small plot of land along with a few added plots which they leased.   Livia’s childhood and youth were imbued with the values of an honest, hard-working and religious family, in the blessed house in which “all were careful to do good and where they often prayed”.    This period was marked especially by the wisdom of Uncle Domenico who was a real patriarch.

At the age of 4 Livia received the Sacrament of Confirmation and around 1876 she received her first Holy Communion, certainly with an extraordinary awareness, judging by the life of prayer, generosity and sacrifice which followed it.   Very early on, in the large family in which everyone seemed to be a beneficiary to her time and help, she learned from her mother Caterina the thoughtfulness and maternal gestures which she showed with such gentleness towards her many younger brothers and sisters.   She worked in the fields and looked after the animals… Therefore, she barely experienced childrens’ games… or school which she attended very irregularly but from which she drew great benefit to the point of earning the title of “teacher” from her classmates.

At the age of 7, along with other children, she began “to work”, transporting by the thousand, sacks of stones and sand for constructing the road from Orvinio to Poggio Moiano.   At the age of 12 she left with other young “seasonal workers” who were going to Tivoli during the winter months for the olive harvest.   Precociously wise, Livia took on the moral and religious responsibility for her young companions.   She supported them in this tough work far from their families and proudly and courageously stood up to the arrogant and unscrupulous “bosses.”

Through her wisdom, her respect for others, her generosity, her beauty, Livia was a young attractive woman… and several young men in the village had their eyes on her. Their admiring looks did not escape mother Caterina’s notice and she dreamed of marrying her daughter well.   Yet what did Livia think?   What was the secret of her heart?   Why did she not make a choice?   Why did she not make up her mind?   “Make daring by the voice which spoke to her inwardly, the voice of her vocation, she surrendered;  it was Christ who would be her Beloved, Christ, her Spouse.”   To these in her family or in the village who attempted to dissuade her by saying she was running away from hard work, Livia replied:  “I wish to choose a Congregation in which there is work both day and night.”   Everyone was certain that these words were genuine.   A first trip to Rome in the company of her Uncle Fra Matteo ended in bitter disillusionment; they refused to accept her.   However, a few months later, the Mother General of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Jeanne-Antide Thouret, let her know that she was expecting her at the Generalate.   Livia understood that this time she was saying farewell for ever.   With emotion she took leave of the village people, all the loved corners of her land, her favourite prayer places, the parish and the Virgin of Rifolta;  she kissed her parents goodbye, received on her knees the blessing of Uncle Domenico, “kissed the door of her house, traced the sign of the cross on it and left hurriedly…”st-agostina-facebook-846x444

23rd March 1886:   Livia was 22 when she arrived in Rome at Via S. Maria in Cosmedin.   A few months as a postulant and novice were enough to prove that the young girl had the makings of a Sister of Charity, that is of a “servant of the poor”, in the tradition of Saint Vincent de Paul and Saint Jeanne-Antide.   Indeed, Livia brought to the Convent a particularly solid human potential inherited from her family which guaranteed its success.   When she received the religious habit and was given the name of Sister Agostina, she had the premonition that it fell to her to become the saint bearing this name.   For Indeed she had not heard of any Saint Agostina!ST AGOSTINA

Sister Agostina was sent to the Hospital of Santo Spirito where 700 years of glorious history had led it to be called “the school of Christian charity.”   In the wake of the saints who had preceded her, amongst whom were Charles Borromeo, Joseph Casalanz, John Bosco, Camillus de Lellis, Sister Agostina made her personal contribution and in this place of suffering gave expression to charity to the point of heroism.ST AGOSTINA SNIP

The atmosphere in the hospital was hostile to religion.   The Roman question poisoned peoples’ minds.   The Capuchin fathers were driven out, the Crucifix and all other religious signs were forbidden.   The hospital even wanted to send the sisters away but was afraid of becoming unpopular.   Instead their lives were made “impossible” and they were forbidden to speak of God.

But Sister Agostina did not need her mouth in order to “cry out for God” and no gag was able to prevent her life from proclaiming the Gospel!   First in the childrens’ ward and later in the tuberculosis ward, a place of despair and death, where she caught the mortal contagion of which she was miraculously healed, she showed a total dedication and an extraordinary concern for each sick person, above all for the most difficult, violent and obscene ones like “Romanelli.”

In secret, in a small hidden corner she had found for herself to reside, in the hospital, Sister Agostina commended them all to the Virgin and promised her many more vigils and greater sacrifices in order to obtain the grace of the conversion of the most stubborn ones.   How many times she offered Giuseppe Romanelli to Our Lady!   He was the worst of them all, the most vulgar and insolent, especially towards Sister Agostina, who was more and more attentive towards him and welcomed his blind mother with great kindness when she came to visit him.   He was capable of anything and everyone had had enough of him.   When, after the umpteenth provocation at the expense of the women working in the laundry, the Director expelled him, from the hospital, he sought a target for his fury and poor Agostina was the victim he picked.   ‘I will kill you with my own hands.” “Sister Agostina, you only have a month to live!,” were the threats which he had sent to her several times in little notes.  The male patient Giuseppe Romanelli began to harass her at this point – he even sent her death threats and on the evening of 12 November 1894 her religious asked her to take time off since the sisters worried for her; she refused.   Romanelli attacked and stabbed her to death in the morning on 13 November 1894.   Pietrantoni forgave her killer moments before she died;  Romanelli stabbed her in a dark corridor with three stabs at the shoulder and left arm and the jugular before a final stab in the chest.   Her final words were, “Mother of mine, help me“.   Professor Achille Ballori (d. 1914) – who had once warned her about Romanelli – inspected her remains and observed that “Sister Agostina has allowed herself to be slaughtered like a lamb” and noted there were no contractions of either her nerves or heart.

When Romanelli caught her unawares and struck her before she could escape, that 13th November 1894, her lips uttered nothing but invocations to the Virgin Mary and words of forgiveness.ST AGOSTINA SNIP 2

The late nun’s funeral blocked the streets of Rome (thousands lined the streets and knelt before the casket as it passed them) and a “Messaggero” report on 16 November stated that “never a more impressive spectacle was seen in Rome”.   Her remains were moved to the generalate on 3 February 1941 and then to her hometown on 14 November 2004.

The beatification process opened under Pope Pius XII on 14 December 1945 and Pietrantoni was titled as a Servant of God.   The confirmation of her life of heroic virtue on 19 September 1968 allowed for St Pope Paul VI to title her as Venerable that same pope presided over her Beatification on 12 November 1972 in Saint Peter’s Square upon the confirmation of two miracles attributed to her intercession.

The final miracle required for sainthood was investigated and then received validation from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on 19 March 1996.   St Pope John Paul II approved this miracle on 6 April 1998 and later Canonised Pietrantoni as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church on 18 April 1999.

Pietrantoni was named as the patron saint for nurses on 20 May 2003 after the Italian Episcopal Conference named her as such.

St Agostina’s Shrine and Tomb


Posted in SAINT of the DAY, VATICAN Resources

Saint of the Day – 17 August – St Jeanne Delanoue (1666-1736)

Saint of the Day – 17 August – St Jeanne Delanoue (1666-1736) – Foundress of the Congregation of St Anne de la Providence, Apostle of Charity – born on 18 June 1666 at Samur, Anjou, France as Jeanne Delanoue and died on 17 August 1736 at Fencet, France of natural causes.

JEANNE DELANOUE was born in Saumur, in the valley of the Loire River, on 18 June 1666.   She was the youngest in a family of twelve.   Her parents owned a business near the sanctuary of Notre-Dame-des-Ardilliers.   Although but six years of age when her father died, she helped her mother run the store in order to maintain the family.   Her qualities were remarkable:  she was skillful, energetic and indefatigable, even to the point of keeping the store open on Sundays and holy days.

Orginal Family Shop– “the little Providence House”

The future was hers.   Her “business” was growing and prospering.   It was precisely within this context of success that, at the age of 27, shortly after the death of her mother, an elderly woman, a faithful pilgrim to the shrine of NotreDame-des-Ardilliers, invited Jeanne to consecrate herself to the many poor people of her jeanne delanoue

Despite the responsibilities she had accrued, in response to this call which she believed to have come from God, Jeanne turned toward the poor.   They assumed more of her time each day than did her clients until finally they became her full-time occupation. Within a short time no longer did the poor await her visits to them but they came to her. In 1700, she warmly welcomed a child into her home and soon after she took in the sick, the aged and the destitute.

With so many needing lodging, the only place for the poor were the grottos hollowed out in the tuff.   She made them as comfortable as she could, however it was necessary for her to seek help.   Within four years, in 1704, some young girls were interested in helping Jeanne and were even willing to wear a religious habit if she wished them to do so.   It was thus that the congregation of Sainte-Anne de la Providence was born.   Under this name the constitutions were approved in 1709.

Jeanne Delanoue’s tenacity, supported by the dedicated women who worked with her, brought about the foundation of Saumur’s first home for the poor (in 1715) – a home which King Louis XIV visted in 1672.

Very quickly her charity spread beyond the limits of Saumur and of her diocese.   More than that, already there were forty helpers who were under her direction and who had made the decision to follow her example of self-sacrifice, of prayer and of mortification.

At her death, August 17, 1736, Jeanne Delanoue left a dozen communities, as well as homes for the poor and schools.   “The saint is dead”, they said in Saumur.

Everyone could admire her zeal and the work she accomplished in the numerous visits she received and made, but only her closest friends knew about her mortification, her life of prayer and of union with God.   It is from this that her untiring charity proceeded. She was attracted toward all those who suffer but especially those who are poor and God knows they were many during those sad years of want, of cold, of famine and of war.

The Sisters of Jeanne Delanoue, as they simply call themselves today, number about 400 sisters in France, in Madagascar and in Sumatra, where they began in 1979.

On 5 November 1947 Venerable Pope Pius XII beatified Jeanne Delanoue. On 31  October 1982 St Pope John Paul 11 singled out for the people of God, yet another saint, Saint Jeanne Delanoue…

st jeanne delanoue statue

Posted in SAINT of the DAY, VATICAN Resources

Saint of the Day – 13 July – Saint Clelia Barbieri (1847-1870) – Foundress of the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Mother of Sorrows

Saint of the Day – 13 July – Saint Clelia Barbieri (1847-1870) – Foundress of the Congregation of the “Suore Minime dell’Addolorata”  Little Sisters of the Mother of Sorrows, Catechist, Mystic – Born on 13 February 1847 in Le Budrie di Persiceto, Bologna, Papal States and died on 13 July 1870 (aged 23) in Le Budrie di Persiceto, Bologna, Kingdom of Italy.   Patronages – Little Sisters of the Mother of Sorrows, Catechists, People ridiculed for their piety.

Clelia Barbieri (1847-1870)

Clelia Barbieri was born to Giacinta Nannetti and Giuseppe Barbieri, on 13 February 1847 in a village called “Budrie” of St Giovanni in Persiceto in the outskirts of Bologna, Italy and in the Archdiocese of Bologna.

Her parents were of different origins:  Giuseppe Barbieri came from perhaps the poorest family of “Budrie” while Giacinta from the most important family in town: he worked as servant for Giacinta’s uncle, the district’s medical doctor, while she was the daughter of the well-to-do Pietro Nannetti.   After her much-contested wedding, the wealthy Giacinta accepted the poverty of a labourer’s life and moved from a comfortable home to the humble cottage of her father-in-law, Sante Barbieri;  nevertheless forming a family built on the rock of faith and a totally Christian life.

In line with her mother’s expressed wish, she was baptised Clelia Rachele Maria on the very day of her birth.   Her mother taught Clelia to love God early in her life placing in her heart the desire for sanctity.   One day Clelia asked her, “Mother, how can I become a saint?”   In the meantime Clelia also learned the art of sewing, spinning and weaving kemp which was the most important work of the district.

In 1855, during a cholera epidemic the then eight-year-old Clelia lost her father and through the generosity of her uncle, the doctor, she, her mother and younger sister Ernestina moved into a more comfortable house near the parish church.   For Clelia the days became more saintly and dedicated.   Anyone who wanted to see her could always find her either at home weaving and sewing or in church praying.   Although it was usual at that time to receive First Communion almost at adulthood, Clelia due to her unusual catechistic preparation and spirituality, made hers on 17 June 1858, at only eleven years of age.   This was a decisive day for Clelia’s future since it was then that she had her first mystic experience:  exceptional contrition and repentance for her own sins and those of the world.   She underwent anguish and suffering for the sins that crucified Christ and for the sorrows of Our Lady.   From the day of her First Communion, the crucifix and Our Lady of Sorrows inspired her saintly soul.

At the same time she had a first inspiration as to her future which she perceived as based on prayer and good works.

In adoration before the Holy Tabernacle she was motionless, rapt in prayer, while at home she was the companion and model for the other working girls.   Far more mature than her years, she found in her work the first contact with the girls of “Budrie” where working hemp fibers was the main occupation and where all were engaged in this hard work.      Clelia brought something particularly personal to her little world, she worked with joy and love, praying and thinking of God at all times and even speaking of Him to her companions.

While Clelia was not Martha, (completely devoted to the cares of the world), yet she dedicated herself lovingly to the service of those most loved by Our Lord, the very poor, to the extent that her delicate hands were marked early in her short life with the hard labours she undertook.     While Clelia was not Mary who abandoned, excluded and neglected everything to prostrate herself in love and devotion, yet Clelia had no other thought, no other love than that for Our Lord whom she carried in her heart and soul as she walked with Him through life as if already in His world.    She lived in charity, completely dedicated to loving her fellowmen without restraint.   She forgot and even ignored her body.   She was happy to belong to the Lord and her happiness rested, in fact, in thinking only of Him.   Something, however, compelled her to turn towards her fellowmen, the poorest and most tried, who often waited in vain for some small sign of love and brotherhood.    A fervent faith burned inside her and she felt that she “must go” to give herself to all of God’s poor.   She loved that solitude which would permit her to reach God more fully but she left the protection of her home and went forth inspired by her all-consuming love for mankind.clelia - liturgy

At this time in history, there existed in the Church a group called “The Christian Catechism Workers” who were mainly men whose aim it was to combat the prevalent religious negligence of the times.   At “Budrie” the group was led by an elderly schoolteacher.  Clelia became one of the Christian Catechism Workers.    Then, at “Budrie” with her acceptance, the catechism group was reborn and attracted others with her very same dedication and faith.   At first, Clelia was admitted as an assistant teacher and was the least important member but soon her surprising talents and preparation evidenced themselves, so that the senior members placed themselves under her leadership.

Having rejected several flattering marriage proposals, the group of young ladies which had sprung up from the Catechism group, elected Clelia as their leader and conceived the idea of a community devoted to an apostolic and contemplative way of life.   This was to be a life of service which would spring from the Eucharist with daily Holy Communion and would ennoble itself with the teaching of catechism to the farmers and labourers of the area.     The idea could not become a reality immediately due to the political situation at the time of Italy’s unification (1866-67).   However, it was finally realised on 1 May 1868 when with the bureaucratic and local problems solved, Clelia and her young friends moved into the so-called “teacher’s house” where the Workers for Christian Catechism had formerly met.   This was the humble beginning of Clelia Barbieri’s religious family which later was to be named the religious community of the “Suore Minime dell’Addolorata”, Little Sisters of the Mother of Sorrows.   “Minime” because of Clelia’s devotion to the saint, Minimo Romito di Paola, St Francesco, patron and provident protector of the young community;   “dell’Addolorata” because this title of Our Lady of Sorrows was the most loved of all of Our Lady’s titles by Clelia Barbieri.

After moving into “the teacher’s house”, a series of extraordinary events in the form of assistance to the young community occurred which were undoubtedly the work of Divine Providence and without which the group could never have survived.   The small group was inspired by Clelia’s physical and moral sufferings in her darkest hours and in the absurd humiliations she endured at the hands of those who should have been more understanding.    However, her faith and devotion in prayer were always extraordinary.  In the small “Budrie” community there was faith, a desire for God and a missionary zeal full of creativity and imagination by no means based on any external support which was virtually nonexistent.     Clelia was the moving spirit.     The small initial group grew as well as the number of poor, sick and young boys and girls needing catechism and religious instruction.

Slowly, the people began to see Clelia as a leader and teacher of the faith.   They started calling her “Mother” although she was only twenty-two years old.   They called her with this title until her death which came about very shortly.     The dormant tuberculosis she had always carried, suddenly flared up only two years after she had founded the order.

Clelia died prophesying to the sister at her bedside, “I’m leaving but I’ll never abandon you.   When in that alfalfa field next to the church there will be a new community house, I will no longer be with you … You will grow in number and you will expand over plains and mountains to work in the vineyard of the Lord.   The day will come when here at ‘Budrie’ many will arrive with carriages and horses …”    And she added, “I’m going to Heaven and all those who will die in our community will enjoy eternal life”.Santa Clélia Barbieri8

She died on 13 July 1870 with the happiness of one going to meet her Spouse and beloved Lord.   Clelia’s death prophecy has been fulfilled.

Her religious order has expanded and continues to grow.   It extends throughout Italy, in India and in Tanzania.   Today, the sisters following in Clelia’s footsteps, humbly continue their useful work of assistance to all in need and now number hundreds spread over thirty-five community houses.

Being only twenty three at the time of her death, Clelia Barbieri is the youngest founder of a religious community in the history of the Church.

She was Canonised at Rome on 9 April 1989 by St Pope John Paul II...vatican.vaSanta Clélia Barbieri6

Barbieri’s death soon resulted in an unusual and unexplained occurrence that has often been reported in the various parishes that she visited and in the houses in which her order is located at.   Her voice is often heard during scriptural readings and songs and this voice never speaks alone but is heard as part of a group.   People from various backgrounds have reported hearing the voice which is described to be unlike any they have ever heard.   The first reported occurrence happened in 1871 when the sisters of her congregation were in their usual evening meditation.











Posted in FATHERS of the Church, MARTYRS, PAPAL HOMILIES, SAINT of the DAY, VATICAN Resources

Saint of the Day – 28 June – St Irenaeus of Lyons (c 135 – c 202) Father of the Church

Saint of the Day – 28 June – St Irenaeus of Lyons (c 135 – c 202) Father of the Church, Bishop, Theologian, Writer, Confessor, Defender of the Faith, Apologist.  St Irenaeus was born in c130 in Smyrna, Asia Minor (modern Izmir, Turkey) and is presumed to have been martyred in c 202 in Lyons, France.

Catechesis of Pope Benedict XVI on St Irenaeus of Lyon

General Audience, Wednesday, 28 March 2007

In the Catechesis on the prominent figures of the early Church, today we come to the eminent personality of St Irenaeus of Lyons.   The biographical information on him comes from his own testimony, handed down to us by Eusebius in his fifth book on Church History.a crash course on st irenaeus mem 28 june

Irenaeus was, in all probability, born in Smyrna (today, Izmir in Turkey) in about 135-140, where in his youth, he attended the school of Bishop Polycarp, a disciple in his turn of the Apostle John.   We do not know when he moved from Asia Minor to Gaul but his move must have coincided with the first development of the Christian community in Lyons, here, in 177, we find Irenaeus listed in the college of presbyters.   In that very year, he was sent to Rome, bearing a letter from the community in Lyons, to Pope Eleutherius.   His mission to Rome saved Irenaeus from the persecution of Marcus Aurelius which took a toll of at least 48 martyrs, including the 90-year old Bishop Pontinus of Lyons, who died from ill-treatment in prison.   Thus, on his return, Irenaeus was appointed Bishop of the city.   The new Pastor devoted himself without reserve to his episcopal ministry which ended in about 202-203, perhaps with martyrdom.snip - st irenaeus

Irenaeus was first and foremost a man of faith and a Pastor.   Like a good Pastor, he had a good sense of proportion, a wealth of doctrine and missionary enthusiasm.   As a writer, he pursued a twofold aim, to defend true doctrine from the attacks of heretics and to explain the truth of the faith clearly.   His two extant works – the five books of The Detection and Overthrow of the False Gnosis and Demonstration of the Apostolic Teaching (which can also be called the oldest “catechism of Christian doctrine”) – exactly corresponded with these aims.   In short, Irenaeus can be defined as the champion in the fight against heresies.

The second-century Church was threatened by the so-called Gnosis, a doctrine which affirmed that the faith taught in the Church was merely a symbolism for the simple who were unable to grasp difficult concepts, instead, the initiates, the intellectuals – Gnostics, they were called – claimed to understand what was behind these symbols and thus formed an elitist and intellectualist Christianity. Obviously, this intellectual Christianity became increasingly fragmented, splitting into different currents with ideas that were often bizarre and extravagant, yet attractive to many.   One element these different currents had in common was “dualism” – they denied faith in the one God and Father of all, Creator and Saviour of man and of the world.   To explain evil in the world, they affirmed the existence, besides the Good God, of a negative principle.   This negative principle was supposed to have produced material things, matter.

Firmly rooted in the biblical doctrine of creation, Irenaeus refuted the Gnostic dualism and pessimism which debased corporeal realities.   He decisively claimed the original holiness of matter, of the body, of the flesh no less than of the spirit.   But his work went far beyond the confutation of heresy, in fact, one can say, that he emerges as the first great Church theologian who created systematic theology, he himself speaks of the system of theology, that is, of the internal coherence of all faith.   At the heart of his doctrine is the question of the “rule of faith” and its transmission.   For Irenaeus, the “rule of faith” coincided in practice with the Apostles’ Creed, which gives us the key for interpreting the Gospel, for interpreting the Creed in light of the Gospel.   The Creed, which is a sort of Gospel synthesis, helps us understand what it means and how we should read the Gospel irenaeus glass detail snip face

In fact, the Gospel preached by Irenaeus is the one he was taught by Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, and Polycarp’s Gospel dates back to the Apostle John, whose disciple Polycarp was.
The true teaching, therefore, is not that invented by intellectuals which goes beyond the Church’s simple faith.   The true Gospel is the one imparted by the Bishops who received it in an uninterrupted line from the Apostles.   They taught nothing except this simple faith, which is also the true depth of God’s revelation.   Thus, Irenaeus tells us, there is no secret doctrine concealed in the Church’s common Creed.   There is no superior Christianity for intellectuals.   The faith publicly confessed by the Church is the common faith of all.   This faith alone is apostolic, it is handed down from the Apostles, that is, from Jesus and from God.   In adhering to this faith, publicly transmitted by the Apostles to their successors, Christians must observe what their Bishops say and must give special consideration to the teaching of the Church of Rome, pre-eminent and very ancient.   It is because of her antiquity that this Church has the greatest apostolicity; in fact, she originated in Peter and Paul, pillars of the Apostolic College.   All Churches must agree with the Church of Rome, recognising in her the measure of the true Apostolic Tradition, the Church’s one common

With these arguments, summed up very briefly here, Irenaeus refuted the claims of these Gnostics, these intellectuals, from the start.   First of all, they possessed no truth superior to that of the ordinary faith, because what they said was not of apostolic origin, it was invented by them.   Secondly, truth and salvation are not the privilege or monopoly of the few but are available to all through the preaching of the Successors of the Apostles, especially of the Bishop of Rome.   In particular – once again disputing the “secret” character of the Gnostic tradition and noting its multiple and contradictory results – Irenaeus was concerned to describe the genuine concept of the Apostolic Tradition which we can sum up here in three points.

a) Apostolic Tradition is “public”, not private or secret.   Irenaeus did not doubt that the content of the faith transmitted by the Church is that received from the Apostles and from Jesus, the Son of God.   There is no other teaching than this.   Therefore, for anyone who wishes to know true doctrine, it suffices to know “the Tradition passed down by the Apostles and the faith proclaimed to men” –  a tradition and faith that “have come down to us through the succession of Bishops” (Adversus Haereses, 3, 3, 3-4).   Hence, the succession of Bishops, the personal principle and Apostolic Tradition, the doctrinal principle, coincide.

b) Apostolic Tradition is “one”.   Indeed, whereas Gnosticism was divided into multiple sects, Church Tradition is one in its fundamental content, which – as we have seen – Irenaeus calls precisely regula fidei or veritatis –  and thus, because it is one, it creates unity through the peoples, through the different cultures, through the different peoples; it is a common content like the truth, despite the diversity of languages and cultures.   A very precious saying of St Irenaeus is found in his book Adversus Haereses:  “The Church, though dispersed throughout the world… having received [this faith from the Apostles]… as if occupying but one house, carefully preserves it.   She also believes these points [of doctrine] just as if she had but one soul and one and the same heart and she proclaims them and teaches them and hands them down with perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one mouth.   For, although the languages of the world are dissimilar, yet the import of the tradition is one and the same.   For the Churches which have been planted in Germany do not believe or hand down anything different, nor do those in Spain, nor those in Gaul, nor those in the East, nor those in Egypt, nor those in Libya, nor those which have been established in the central regions of the world” (1, 10, 1-2).   Already at that time – we are in the year 200 – it was possible to perceive the Church’s universality, her catholicity and the unifying power of the truth that unites these very different realities, from Germany, to Spain, to Italy, to Egypt, to Libya, in the common truth revealed to us by Christ.

c) Lastly, the Apostolic Tradition, as he says in the Greek language in which he wrote his book, is “pneumatic”, in other words, spiritual, guided by the Holy Spirit, in Greek, the word for “spirit” is “pneuma”.   Indeed, it is not a question of a transmission entrusted to the ability of more or less learned people but to God’s Spirit, who guarantees fidelity to the transmission of the faith.
This is the “life” of the Church, what makes the Church ever young and fresh, fruitful with multiple charisms.

For Irenaeus, Church and Spirit were inseparable:  “This faith”, we read again in the third book of Adversus Haereses, “which, having been received from the Church, we do preserve and which always, by the Spirit of God, renewing its youth as if it were some precious deposit in an excellent vessel, causes the vessel itself containing it, to renew its youth also…. For where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church and every kind of grace” (3, 24, 1).st irenaeus beautiful glass detail snip

As can be seen, Irenaeus did not stop at defining the concept of Tradition.   His tradition, uninterrupted Tradition, is not traditionalism, because this Tradition is always enlivened from within by the Holy Spirit, who makes it live anew, causes it to be interpreted and understood in the vitality of the Church.   Adhering to her teaching, the Church should transmit the faith in such a way that it must be what it appears, that is, “public”, “one”, “pneumatic”, “spiritual”.   Starting with each one of these characteristics, a fruitful discernment can be made of the authentic transmission of the faith in the today of the Church.

More generally, in Irenaeus’ teaching, the dignity of man, body and soul, is firmly anchored in divine creation, in the image of Christ and in the Spirit’s permanent work of sanctification.   This doctrine is like a “high road” in order to discern together with all people of good will, the object and boundaries of the dialogue of values and to give an ever new impetus to the Church’s missionary action, to the force of the truth, which is the source of all true values in the world.Irenæus_af_Lyon_Frederikskirken

Posted in SAINT of the DAY, VATICAN Resources

Saint of the Day – 26 June – St Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer y Albás (1902-1975) – “The Saint of Ordinary Life”

Saint of the Day – 26 June – St Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer y Albás (1902-1975) commonly known as Josemaria Escrivá- “The Saint of Ordinary Life” – Priest, Founder of Opus Dei, an organisation of laypeople and priests dedicated to the teaching that everyone is called to holiness by God and that ordinary life can result in sanctity.   St Josemaria was born on 9 January 1902 in Barbastro, Spain and died on 26 June 1975 of natural causes in his office in Rome, Italy.   His remains are interred at the Prelatic Church of Our Lady of Peace at Viale Bruno Buozzi 75, Rome, Italy.   Patronage – Opus Dei.HUGE - ST JOSEMARIA

From the Apostolic Brief regarding the Beatification of the Venerable Servant of God Josemaría Escrivá, Priest, Founder of Opus Dei:

“The Founder of Opus Dei has recalled that the universality of the call to full union with Christ implies also that any human activity can become a place for meeting God. (…)   He was a real master of Christian living and reached the heights of contemplation with continuous prayer, constant mortification, a daily effort to work carried out with exemplary docility to the motions of the Holy Spirit, with the aim of serving the Church as the Church wishes to be served.

A bright and cheerful home:   Josemaría Escrivá was born in Barbastro, Spain, on 9 January 1902, the second of six children born to José Escrivá and María Dolores Albás. His parents were devout Catholics and he was baptised on 13 January that year and received from them – first through the example of their life – a firm grounding in the faith and the Christian virtues:  love for frequent Confession and Holy Communion, a trusting recourse to prayer, devotion to Our Lady, helping those in greatest need.

Blessed Josemaría grew up as a cheerful, lively and straightforward child, fun-loving, good at study, intelligent and with an observing eye.   He had a great affection for his mother and a trusting friendship with his father, who encouraged him to feel free to open his heart and tell him his worries and was always ready to answer his questions with affection and prudence.   It was not long before Our Lord began to temper his soul in the forge of sorrow.   Between 1910 and 1913 his three younger sisters died and in 1914 his family suffered financial ruin.   In 1915 the Escrivás moved to Logroño, a nearby town, where their father found a job with which to keep his family.

In the winter of 1917-18 something happened which was to have a decisive influence on Josemaría Escrivá’s future.   The snow fell very heavily that Christmas in Logroño, and one day he saw some frozen footprints in the snow.   They had been left by a discalced Carmelite.   Josemaría found himself wondering If others sacrifice so much for God and their neighbour, couldn’t I do something too?   This was how God started to speak to his heart:  “I began to have an inkling of what Love is, to realise that my heart was yearning for something great, for love.”  He did not yet know what precisely God wanted of him, but he decided to become a priest, thinking that it would make him more available to fulfil God’s will.

Priestly ordination:  Having completed his secondary education, he started his priestly studies at the Seminary of Logroño, passing on, in 1920, to the Seminary of Saragossa, at whose Pontifical University he completed his formation prior to ordination.   At his father’s suggestion and with the permission of his ecclesiastical superiors, he also studied Law at the University of Saragossa.   His generous and cheerful character and his straightforwardness and calm approach to things won him many friends.   His life of piety, respect for discipline and endeavour in study were an example to his fellow seminarians and in 1922, when he was but twenty years of age, he was appointed an inspector or prefect in the Seminary by the Archbishop of Saragossa.

During that time he spent many hours praying before the Blessed Sacrament.   His spiritual life became deeply rooted in the Eucharist.   Each day he would also visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Pilar, asking Mary to request God to show him what He wanted him to do.   As he recalled on 2 October 1968:  “Since I felt those inklings of God’s love, I sought to carry out, within the limits of my smallness, what He expected from this poor instrument. (…) And, with those yearnings, I prayed and prayed and prayed, in constant prayer.   I kept on repeating:  Domine, ut sit!, Domine, ut videam! like the poor fellow in the Gospel, who shouted out because God can do everything. Lord, that I may see!   Lord, that it may come to be!   And I also repeated (…) filled with confidence in my heavenly Mother:  Domina, ut sit!,  Domina, ut videam!   The Blessed Virgin has always helped me to discover her Son’s desires.”

On 27 November 1924 his father, José Escrivá, died suddenly and unexpectedly.   On 28 March 1925, Josemaría was ordained a priest by Bishop Díaz Gómara in the church of the Seminary of St Charles in Saragossa.   Two days later he celebrated his first Solemn Mass in the Holy Chapel of the Basilica of Our Lady of Pilar and on 31 March he moved to Perdiguera, a small country village, where he had been appointed assistant regent to the parish.

In April 1927, with the consent of his Archbishop, he took up residence in Madrid to study for his doctorate in Civil Law, a degree which at that time was only granted by the Central University in the Spanish capital. In Madrid, his apostolic zeal soon brought him into contact with a wide variety of people:  students, artists, workers, academics, priests. He spent many hours caring for children and for sick and poverty-stricken people in the outer suburbs of the city.   At the same time he taught law to earn a living for himself and his mother and sister and young brother.   For a good many years the family were in serious financial difficulties, which they bore with dignity and courage.   Our Lord blessed Fr Josemaría with abundant graces, both ordinary and extraordinary.   They found a fertile reception in his generous soul and produced much fruit in the service of the Church and souls.

The foundation of Opus Dei (Work of God):  Opus Dei was born on 2 October 1928.   Blessed Josemaría was spending some days on retreat and, while doing his meditation on some notes regarding the inner motions he had received from God in the previous years, he suddenly saw – to see was the term he always used to describe the foundational experience – the mission the Lord wanted to entrust to him:  to open up in the Church a new vocational path, aimed at spreading the quest for holiness and the practice of apostolate through the sanctification of ordinary work in the middle of the world, without changing one’s place.   A few months later, on 14 February 1930, God made him understand that Opus Dei was to spread among women also.

From that moment onward, Blessed Josemaría devoted all his energies to the fulfilment of his foundational mission, fostering among men and women from all areas of society a personal commitment to follow Christ, to love their neighbour and seek holiness in daily life.   He did not see himself as an innovator or reformer, for he was convinced that Jesus Christ is eternally new and that the Holy Spirit is constantly rejuvenating the Church, for whose service God has brought Opus Dei into existence.   Fully aware that the task entrusted to him was supernatural by nature, he proceeded to dig deep foundations for his work, based on prayer and penance, on a joyous awareness of his being a son of God and on tireless work.   People of all sorts began to follow him and, in particular, university students and teachers, among whom he awakened a genuine determination to serve everyone, firing in them a desire to place Christ at the heart of all human activities by means of work that is sanctified and sanctifies both the doer and those for whom it is done.   This was the goal he set for the initiatives of the faithful of Opus Dei:  to lift up to God, with the help of grace, each and every created reality, so that Christ may reign in everyone and in everything; to get to know Christ Jesus;  to get Him known by others; to take Him everywhere.   One can understood why he was able to declare that The divine paths of the earth have been opened up.

Apostolic expansion:  In 1933, he started a university Centre, the DYA Academy, because he grasped that the world of human knowledge and culture is a key to the evangelisation of society as a whole.   In 1934 he published Spiritual Considerations, the first version of The Way.   Since then there have been 372 printings of the book in 44 languages and its circulation has passed the four and a half million mark (in 1992 – the figures are much higher now).

While Opus Dei was thus taking its first steps, the Spanish Civil War broke out.   It was 1936.   There were serious outbreaks of religious violence in Madrid.   To these Fr Josemaría responded heroically with prayer, penance and apostolic endeavour.   It was a time of suffering for the whole Church but also a time of spiritual and apostolic growth and for strengthening hope.   By 1939, with the war over, the Founder of Opus Dei was able to give new vigour to his apostolic work all over the Spanish peninsula.   In particular he mobilised many young university students to take Christ to every area of society and discover the greatness of the Christian calling.   At the same time, with his reputation for holiness growing, many Bishops invited him to preach to their clergy and to lay people involved in Catholic organisations.   Similar petitions came to him from the superiors of religious orders – he always said yes.

In 1941, while he was preaching a retreat to priests in Lerida, in the North of Spain, his mother who had been a great help to him in the apostolates of Opus Dei, died.   God also let him become the butt of harsh misunderstandings.   The Bishop of Madrid, Bishop Eijo y Garay gave him his fullest backing and granted the first canonical approval to Opus Dei.   Blessed Josemaría accepted these difficulties with a prayerful and cheerful attitude, aware that “all those desiring to live piously in Christ Jesus will meet persecution” (2 Tim 3:12) and he recommended his spiritual children, in the face of these attacks, to forgive ungrudgingly:  “don’t answer back, but pray, work and smile.”

In 1943, through a new foundational grace he received while celebrating Holy Mass, there came to birth – within Opus Dei – the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, in which priests proceeding from the faithful of Opus Dei could be incardinated.   The fact of all the faithful of Opus Dei, both laity and priests, belonging fully to Opus Dei, with both laity and priests cooperating organically in its apostolates, is a feature of the foundational charism, which the Church confirmed in 1982, when giving Opus Dei its definitive status in Church Law as a Personal Prelature.   On 25 June 1944 three engineers were ordained to the priesthood. One of them was Alvaro del Portillo, who would eventually succeed the Founder as the head of Opus Dei.   In the years that followed, close on a thousand laymen of Opus Dei reached the priesthood at the encouragement of Blessed Josemaría.

The Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, which is intrinsically united to the Prelature of Opus Dei, also carries out, in close harmony with the Pastors of the local Churches, activities of spiritual formation for diocesan priests and candidates to the priesthood.   Diocesan priests too may belong to the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, while maintaining unchanged their status as clergy of their respective dioceses.

29 April 2017, 31 Opus Dei Priests about to be Ordained


A Roman and universal spirit:   As soon as the end of the world war was in sight, Blessed Josemaría began to prepare apostolic work in other countries, because, as he pointed out, Jesus wants his Work from the outset to have a universal, Catholic heart.   In 1946 he moved to Rome, in order to obtain papal recognition for Opus Dei.   On 24 February 1947, Pius XII granted Opus Dei the decretum laudis, or decree of praise; and three years later, on 16 June 1950, the Church’s definitive approval.   Since then it has been possible to admit as Cooperators of Opus Dei men and women who are not Catholic and not even Christian but who wish to help its apostolic works, with their work, alms and prayer.

The headquarters of Opus Dei were fixed in Rome, to emphasise even more clearly the aspiration which is the guiding force of all its work, to serve the Church as the Church wishes to be served, in close union with the see of Peter and the hierarchy of the Church.   On several occasions, Pope Pius XII and St Pope John XXIII sent Blessed Josemaría expressions of their affection and esteem;  Paul VI wrote to him in 1964 describing Opus Dei as “a living expression of the perennial youthfulness of the Church”.

This stage too of the life of the Founder of Opus Dei, was characterised by all kinds of trials.   Not only was his health affected by many sufferings (for more than ten years he had a serious form of diabetes, from which he was miraculously cured in 1954) but also there were financial hardships and the difficulties arising from the expansion of the apostolic works worldwide.   Nevertheless, he kept smiling throughout, because “True virtue is not sad or disagreeable but pleasantly cheerful.”   His permanent good humour was a constant witness to his unconditional love for God’s will.


“The world is little, when Love is great”:  his desire to flood the earth with the light of Christ led him to follow up the calls that many Bishops made to him from all over the world, asking Opus Dei to help them in the work of evangelisation with its apostolates. Many varied projects were undertaken:  colleges to impart professional training, schools for agricultural workers, universities, primary and secondary schools, hospitals and medical centres, etc.   These activities, which he often compared to a shoreless sea, originate at the initiative of ordinary Christians who seek to meet specific local needs with a lay mentality and a professional approach.   They are open to people of all races, religions and social backgrounds, because their unmistakably Christian outlook is always matched by a deep respect for the freedom of consciences.

When John XXIII announced his decision to call an Ecumenical Council, Blessed Josemaría began to pray and get others to pray for the happy outcome of this great initiative of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, as he wrote in a letter in 1962.   As a result of the deliberations of the Council, the Church’s solemn Magisterium was to confirm fundamental aspects of the spirit of Opus Dei, such as the universal call to holiness;  professional work as a means to holiness and apostolate;  the value and lawful limits of Christian freedom in temporal affairs;  and the Holy Mass as the centre and root of the interior life.   Blessed Josemaría met numerous Council Fathers and experts, who saw him as a forerunner of many of the master lines of the Second Vatican Council. Profoundly identified with the Council’s teaching, he diligently fostered its implementation through the formative activities of Opus Dei all over the world.

Holiness in the midst of the world:  “Heaven and earth seem to merge, far away, on the horizon.   But don’t forget that where they really meet is in your heart as a son of God.”  Blessed Josemaría preached constantly that interior life is more important than organising activities.   In The Way he wrote that “These world crises are crises of saints.”   He insisted that holiness always requires prayer, work and apostolate to be intertwined in what he called a unity of life and practised this himself, with cheerful perseverance.

He was utterly convinced that in order to attain sanctity through daily work, one needs to struggle to be a soul of prayer, of deep inner life.   When a person lives this way, “everything becomes prayer, everything can and ought to lead us to God, feeding our constant contact with Him, from morning till night.   Every kind of work can become prayer and every kind of work, become prayer, turns into apostolate.”

The root of the astonishing fruitfulness of his ministry lies precisely in his ardent interior life which made Blessed Josemaría a contemplative in the midst of the world.   His interior life fed on prayer and the sacraments and expressed itself in a passionate love for the Eucharist, in the depth with which he lived the Mass as the centre and root of his own life, in his tender devotion to the Virgin Mary, to St Joseph and the Guardian Angels, and in his faithfulness to the Church and the Pope.

sanjosemaria- Vatican statue
Founder Statue at the Vatican

The definitive encounter with the Most Holy Trinity:  During the last years of his life, the Founder of Opus Dei undertook a number of catechetical journeys to countries in Europe and Latin America.   Wherever he went, there were meetings, which were always simple and familiar in tone, even though often those listening to him were to be counted in thousands.   He would speak about God, the sacraments, Christian devotions, the sanctification of work and his love for the Church and the Pope.   On 28 March 1975 he celebrated his priestly Golden Jubilee.   His prayer that day was like a summing up of his whole life:   “Fifty years have gone by and I am still like a faltering child.   I am just beginning, beginning again, as I do each day in my interior life.   And it will be so to the end of my days: always beginning anew.”Retablo_de_Escrivá_en_Roma

On 26 June 1975, at midday, Blessed Josemaría died in his workroom, of a cardiac arrest, before a picture of Our Lady which received his last glance.   At the time, Opus Dei was present in all five continents, with over 60,000 members from 80 nationalities.   His books of spirituality (The Way, Holy Rosary, Conversations with Mgr Escrivá, Christ is Passing By, Friends of God, Love for the Church, The Way of the Cross, Furrow, The Forge) have reached multi-millions of josemaria statue

After his death, many people asked the Holy Father for his canonisation.   On 17 May 1992, in Rome, His Holiness St Pope John Paul II raised Josemaría Escrivá to the altars, in a beatification ceremony before hundreds of thousands of pilgrims.   On 21 September 2001, the Ordinary Congregation of Cardinal and Bishop members of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, unanimously confirmed the miraculous character of a cure attributed to Blessed Josemaría.  The decree regarding this miracle was read before the Holy Father on 20 December.   On 26 February 2002, John Paul II presided over an Ordinary Public Consistory of Cardinals and, having heard the Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops present, he established that the ceremony for the Canonisation of Blessed Josemaría Escrivá should take place on 6 October 2002.   And so it did!…


St Josemaria, Pray for us!

more images and information here :

Detail from a Shrine to St Josemaria at the Basilica of St Peter in Vienna, Austria


Posted in SAINT of the DAY, VATICAN Resources

Saint of the Day – 12 June – St Gaspar Bertoni C.S.S. (1777-1853)

Saint of the Day – 12 June – St Gaspar Bertoni C.S.S. (1777-1853) – Priest and Founder of the Congregation of the Sacred Stigmata of Our Lord Jesus Christ C.S.S., commonly known as the Stigmatines, Teacher,  Apostolic missionary, Spiritual advisor.   Born Gaspare Luigi Bertoni on 9 October 1777 in Verona, Italy and he died on Sunday 12 June 1853 in Verona, Italy of natural causes.   Patronage – The Stigmatines. st Gaspare Bertoni (1777-1853)

GASPAR BERTONI was born in Verona, in the Republic of Venice, on 9 October 1777, of Francis Bertoni and Brunora Ravelli of Sirmione.   He was baptised the following day by his uncle, Fr James Bertoni, in the parish church of St Paul, in the Campo Marzo section of Verona.   On both sides of the family, the profession of “Notary” was exercised and from an old legal document, it can be seen that the family was fairly well off.   Even more outstanding, however, was the practice of the faith.

Following the death of his baby sister, young Gaspar remained the only child.   He had the benefit of an excellent education both at home and at St Sebastian’s school, that was conducted by the municipality after the suppression of the Jesuits.   They, however, continued teaching and also in the direction of the Marian Congregation.   Young Bertoni here came under the influence of Fr Louis Fortis, who would in the future be the first Jesuit General after the reinstatement of the Company of Jesus.

From the grace of his first Holy Communion at age 11, Gaspar Bertoni was called to a life of mystical union.   His vocation to the priesthood matured and at 18, he entered the seminary.   In frequenting the theological course as an external student, he found in his professor of moral theology, Fr Nicholas Galvani, an excellent spiritual director.

During his first year of theology, he witnessed the invasion of the French armies (1 June 1796).   This was the beginning of a 20 year period of great upheaval for his native city. Inspired by deep charity, he dedicated himself to the assistance of the sick and wounded, as a member of a Gospel Fraternity for the Hospitals, that had just then been instituted by the Servant of God, Fr Peter Leonardi.

At his priestly ordination (20 September 1800), at the dawn of a new century, he found himself in a world in need of much assistance for the resolution of the serious problems that disturbed it.

His pastor assigned the youth of parish to his pastoral care.   He dedicated himself with all his energies and great organisational ability to the new mission.   He established an Oratory in the form of a “Marian Cohort”, that had as its goal the Christian and social formation of the youth.   All such organisations were suppressed by a decree from Napoleon (1807) and Fr Bertoni reserved the carrying out of his plans for better times.Gaspar-48

Meanwhile, he took over the spiritual direction of a community founded then by St. Magdalena of Canossa at St. Joseph’s Convent (May 1808). It was here that he met the Servant of God, Leopoldina Naudet, whom he would then spiritually guide to the heights of the mysticism of holy abandonment and to the foundation of the Sisters of the Holy Family. He extended this aspect of his ministry to another Servant of God, Teodora Campostrini, of a noble family, both in the discernment of her vocation, as in the foundation of her Community, of the “Sorelle Minime” of the Charity of the Sorrowful Mother.

By September of 1810, he had already moved from his family home after the death of his mother and was transferred from St Paul’s Parish, to St Firmus Major.   Here, the bishop also entrusted him with the spiritual direction of the seminarians in the diocesan seminary.   A solid spiritual and theological formation of the young was always the clear objective of the frequent gatherings that he held in his own home.   At this time, he began to organise this endeavour in a more orderly fashion.   His overall idea was the renewal of the clergy based on an unconditional adherence to the Supreme Pontiff, Pius VII, at that time, Napoleon’s prisoner.   For Fr Bertoni, the Pontiff, was always “the first and irremovable stone” of the Church.   The reform of the Church had to begin from the sanctuary itself, with the return of its ministers to the integral following of the Gospel. The diocesan seminary was going through a very bad crisis.   However, in a short time it regained its proper form with his assistance and even assumed a monastic aspect as a contemporary witness stated.gaspare-bertoni-5d93dd14-c710-41b8-8d5a-a499289558c-resize-750

With the fall of Napoleon, the need for restoration was widely felt.   Fr Bertoni clearly understood that to gather the flock once again, it would be necessary to awaken them by the presentation of the fundamental truths of the faith through the preaching of missions to the people.   On 20 December 1817, Pope Pius VII conferred on him a precise mandate, by conferring on him the faculty of “apostolic missionary“.   While the suspicious government of Austria forbade this specific ministry, Fr Bertoni dedicated himself to other preaching and catechetical instruction.header - Gaspare_Bertoni2

While becoming all things to gain all for Christ, Fr Bertoni cultivated a very intense interior life.   From the reading of his Spiritual Diary, it appears that he was also grace by mystical gifts.   Among these, was the call, made evident to him by grace, to the foundation of a religious family.

On 4 November 1816, with two companions, he moved into a small house, adjacent to a suppressed Church, that bore the title of “the Sacred Stigmata of St Francis (from this, the name of his community was eventually adapted;   in this small church, he also worked to spread the devotion to the Passion and the wounds of Christ).   In a very unostentatious manner, the new community opened a tuition-free school, offering this and other gratuitous services to the Church and society.   The men lived together a common life of strict observance and penance.   An intense life of contemplation was joined to a broad apostolate, including the Christian education of the youth, the formation of the clergy and missionary preaching, in perfect availability to the requests of the bishop.gasparebertoni3

Right after an ecstasy that he experienced praying before a Crucifix (on 30 May 1812), he suffered a first attack of “miliary fever” that brought him to the very threshold of death. Almost miraculously, he did recover but for the rest of his 41 years of life he remained in poor health, all this while giving a wonderful example of patience and heroic confident abandonment to God.   Even from his sick-bed, suffering indescribable discomfort, he became the “angel of counsel” for countless persons who sought him out.   A number among these were gifted human beings, who were founding charitable works, such as Blessed Charles Steeb, the Servants of God, Fr Nicholas Mazza and Fr Anthony Provolo – and others from outside the city, who came to Verona to meet with gaspar bertoni

St Gaspar was an authentic image of Christ Crucified, with nearly 300 surgical procedures on his right leg that he endured, he could not suffer enough for the good of the Church and the salvation of souls.   Once doctor asked him if he needed anything – and among his last words were: “I need to suffer”.
In a vision of vivid hope in the Risen Christ, bearing the signs of His Triumph, and supported by the Holy Spouses and Patrons, Mary and Joseph, he died a holy death, at 3:30 on a Sunday afternoon, 12 June 1853.

His Congregation of the Sacred Stigmata of Our Lord Jesus Christ, enriched by so many sufferings, gradually spread beyond Verona, to other cities in Italy and then to the United States, to Brazil (where it presently has 6 Bishops), to Chile, to the Philippines and to mission territories:  South Africa, the Ivory Coast, Tanzania, Thailand.   In 2012 they had 94 houses spread around the world….( 

St Gaspar was Beatified on 1 November 1975, Saint Peter’s Square, Vatican City by Blessed Pope Paul VI and Canonised 1 November 1989, Saint Peter’s Square, Vatican City by St Pope John Paul II.Saint Gaspar Bertoni, in the Church of Stigmates in Verona



Thought for the Day and it’s Marian too – 29 May “Mary’s Month!” – The Memorial of Blessed Joseph Gerard O.M.I. (1831-1914)

Thought for the Day and it’s Marian too – 29 May “Mary’s Month!” – The Memorial of Blessed Joseph Gerard O.M.I. (1831-1914)



Maseru Race Course (Lesotho)
Thursday, 15 September 1988

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord” (Luc. 1, 46).

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

1. On the day after the feast of the Triumph of the Cross of Christ, the liturgy of the Church, directs our attention towards her, who is found at the foot of the Cross, to the Mother of Christ, Mary.

She stood at the foot of the Cross, together with three other women and with John, the disciple whom Christ loved.   The Second Vatican Council, teaches us that Mary is found there, at the foot of the Cross, “in keeping with the divine plan” (Lumen Gentium, 58).

Indeed in a certain sense this was the climax in her life’s pilgrimage, the moment for which the Holy Spirit had been preparing her throughout her entire existence and especially from the time of the Annunciation.   It was the culmination of her pilgrimage of faith, of hope and of that special union with Jesus, her Son, the Redeemer of the world.

At the beginning of this pilgrimage, we hear Mary say in the house of her kinswoman Elizabeth, when she speaks of the great things the Almighty has done for her:  “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord”.   At the foot of the Cross, “a sword pierces Mary’s soul”, fulfilling the words of Simeon (Cfr. Luc. 2, 35).

And yet, Mary does not cease to believe.   The great works of God are accomplished precisely through this Cross, through the Sacrifice of the life of her Son.   And united to the redemptive Sacrifice of her Son is the maternal sacrifice of her heart.

2. The Church leads us today into the very centre of the Heart of Mary, into the intimate mystery of her union with her Son, a union which here, at the foot of the Cross, reaches its particular fullness.

In the Letter to the Hebrews we read that Christ, while being Son of God, one in being with the Father, “learned to obey through suffering” (Hebr 5, 8).   And precisely through this obedience, even to death on the Cross “he became for all who obey him the source of eternal salvation” (Ibid 5, 9).

At the moment of the Annunciation Mary first spoke her “fiat”.

She said:  “Let what you have said be done to me”.   And, with new strength of faith and trust in God, she repeated this “fiat” at the foot of the Cross!   This was her maternal sharing in the redemptive obedience of her Son as he offered his life on the Cross for the sins of the world.

At the foot of the Cross, Mary never ceased to praise the wondrous mercy of God, the mercy which endures “from generation to generation”.     And she did not cease to proclaim the saving “power of his arm”, which puts down the proud and raises the lowly. Like no other person on earth, Mary was able to penetrate the Paschal Mystery of Christ; she understood it with her heart.

3. And therefore the Church sees the Mother of God, as the one who “preceded in the pilgrimage of faith” all the People of God on earth.  In this faith, she became a true daughter of Abraham; indeed she even surpassed him whom Saint Paul calls “the Father of all believers” (Rom. 4, 11).   Her pilgrimage of faith, has done something even greater:  it has enabled us to enter, ever more profoundly, into the inscrutable mysteries of God.

The Church in your country, in Lesotho, here in Maseru, as does the Church throughout the earth, goes forward on this same pilgrimage of faith, the pilgrimage on which the Mother of God has gone before us.   Today the Bishop of Rome meets you on this pilgrimage.   He stands in your midst and celebrates with you the Eucharistic Sacrifice on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.

4. It is with great joy, that I join you in prayer today, my brothers and sisters of the Church in Lesotho.   I know that many of you have had to make many sacrifices in order to be here and I assure you of my happiness and gratitude that you have come.   Your presence at this Liturgy is a sign of your love for the Church and an expression of your willingness to bear witness to the Kingdom of Christ.

I am also aware that many people would have liked to be with us but have been unable to do so:  the sick and suffering, those who live too far away, those who are too young or too old.   To all of them, I say with deep affection, the Pope embraces you and loves you in the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ our Redeemer.

My fraternal greetings go to Archbishop Morapeli of Maseru and to the bishops of the other dioceses of Lesotho.   With them, I greet all your dedicated priests and religious, your catechists and all the members of your Christian families.

I greet our non-Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ and all people of good will and I thank you for joining us on this historic occasion.   I offer very cordial greetings, to those who have come from beyond the borders of this country.

In a very special way, I greet the people of South Africa where Blessed Joseph Gérard laboured in Natal and the eastern Free State.

As members of one family, united in the love of Jesus, we rejoice today in the everlasting mercy of God who has granted us the gift of faith and made us a people of hope, a people on pilgrimage to the eternal Kingdom of God.

5. This day has a particular significance for the journey of faith which the Church in Lesotho is making.   For today we celebrate the Beatification of the Servant of God, Joseph Gérard.

In the First Reading of the Liturgy, taken from the book of Genesis, we hear God calling Abraham to set out on a journey of faith, to set out on a road that will take him away from all that he has ever known and loved, to put all his trust in the promise of the Lord.

Father Gérard heard God addressing to him a similar call of faith.   As in the case of Abraham, the Lord said to the young Frenchman named Joseph, “Leave your country, your family and your father’s house, for the land I will show you” (Gen. 12, 1).   And he went promptly, as the Lord told him.   He followed God’s call.   He placed all his trust in the promise he had heard from on high.

The land that God showed Blessed Joseph was Africa, more precisely the land of South Africa and then some years laser the land of the Basotho people.   To this land, this Kingdom of Lesotho, he came as a man of faith.   He came because he had been called and sent to proclaim the Kingdom of God.

6. From an early age, Joseph Gérard had been convinced that God was calling him to be a missionary.   His heart overflowed with gratitude for the gift of the Christian life and he longed to share with others this treasure, this priceless pearl, the infinite riches of knowing Jesus Christ.   And it was this constant zeal for evangelisation that shaped every stage of his long life.

Upon his arrival in Lesotho, together with Bishop Allard and Brother Bernard, he at once set about learning the language and customs of the Basotho people.   He tried to understand their way of thinking, their sensitivities, their hopes and desires.   He was eager to understand their very souls, so that he could decide on the best methods to use in preaching to them the Good News of salvation.

Father Gérard and his companions began their apostolic work at the mission called Roma.   They gave themselves wholeheartedly and sacrificially to the task, relying completely on the grace of the Holy Spirit.   And the Spirit of God soon brought forth fruit.   Only a few years later, in 1866, a second mission at Korokoro was established.   And in 1868 yet a third mission dedicated to Saint Michael was begun.

In obedience to his superior, Father Gérard went to the northern part of the country in 1876, where he founded the mission of Saint Monica.   For the next twenty years and more, he laboured there untiringly, establishing a convent and school and building other missions in the surrounding area.   In all his pastoral endeavours and plans, he placed all his hope in God, remembering the words spoken at his priestly ordination, namely that God who began the good work in him would bring it to completion.

Wherever Blessed Joseph Gérard went, he lived his missionary vocation with extraordinary apostolic fervour.   His love for God, which burned ever more ardently in his heart, showed itself in practical love of neighbour.   Above all he is remembered for his special care for the sick and suffering.   Through frequent visits and his gentle manner, he always seemed to bring them fresh courage and hope.   For those near the hour of death he found the right words to prepare them to meet God peacefully, face to face.

The secret of his holiness, the key to his joy and zeal, was the simple fact that he lived continually in the presence of God.   Blessed Joseph’s whole life was caught up in the love of the Holy Trinity.   People wanted to be near to Father Gérard because he always seemed near to God.   He was filled with a spirit of prayer, nourished daily by the Liturgy of the Hours and by frequent visits to the Blessed Sacrament.   He had a fervent devotion to the Mother of God and the Saints.   During his long and difficult journeys to outlying missions and the homes of the sick, he conversed continually with his beloved Lord.   It is undoubtedly, this vivid sense of being always in the presence of God, that explains his lifelong fidelity to his religious vows of chastity, poverty and obedience and to his obligations as a priest.

God blessed Father Gérard with a long life of apostolic service.   He granted him the grace to see over half a century of the unfolding evangelisation of Lesotho.   Father Gérard is certainly rejoicing today at the vitality of the Church in this country which was so dear to his heart:  its bishops are native sons, there is an increasing number of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, the active laity numbers more than six hundred thousand people, including a hundred and forty thousand studying in Catholic schools.   But with his missionary spirit, would he not still encourage us today to carry on with fresh enthusiasm the many-sided task of proclaiming the Gospel of Christ?

7. Here in Lesotho you have a traditional greeting:  Khotso, Pula, Nala, – peace, rain and abundance.   Blessed Joseph Gérard must have often prayed for these same blessings, he must have often uttered this same greeting in this land.   Above all, he always tried to be a servant of reconciliation and peace, for this is an essential part of evangelisation.

To evangelise means to proclaim the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the whole world, to tell the story of how “God wanted all perfection to be found in him and all things to be reconciled through him and for him, everything in heaven and everything on earth, by his death on the Cross” (Col. 1, 19-20).   The first step of evangelisation is to accept the grace of conversion into our own minds and hearts, to let ourselves be reconciled to God.   We must first experience God’s gracious mercy, the love of Christ which has “reconciled us to himself” and given us “the work of handing on this reconciliation” (2Cor. 5-18).

As the twentieth century draws to a close and as your country looks to the future, this is the special gift and the greatest responsibility which the members of the Church offer to their fellow citizens, to be servants of reconciliation and peace, after the example of Blessed Joseph Gérard.

Always believe in the power of love and truth, the love of neighbour which is rooted in the love of God and the truth which sets people free.    Reject violence as a solution to any situation, no matter how unjust it may be.   Put your trust in the methods that respect the rights of all and that are fully in accordance with the Gospel.   Above all, trust in the God of justice, who created all things, who sees all human events, who holds in his hands the destiny of every person and of every nation.

8. Dear brothers and sisters:  I rejoice with you on this solemn day of celebration.   It is a day of great importance in your pilgrimage of faith and hope, a day of jubilation on the journey to union with Christ which the People of God in this land are making.   Let us give thanks to the most holy God for this day.   Let us sing, together with Mary:  “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my Saviour” (Luc. 1, 46-47).

Together with Mary and with Blessed Joseph Gérard, let all the people of Lesotho exult in God our Saviour.   Yes, all of you: young and old, children and parents, workers and teachers, priests and religious, the handicapped and the sick.   Let us all praise the Lord with grateful voices, for the Almighty has done great things for us.   Holy is his name!

9. Yet, at the same time, let the eyes of our faith never wander from the Cross of Calvary.

We read in the Gospel: “Seeing his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, ‘Woman, this is your son’. Then to the disciple he said, ‘This is your mother’. And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in his home” (Io. 19, 26-27).

My fervent wish for all of you, dear brothers and sisters, is that the word of John’s Gospel may be fulfilled in you.

May each of you discover Mary as your Mother.

May each of you seek to be a son, a daughter, of Mary, who at the foot of the Cross becomes in a particular way for us the “Mother of Divine Grace”.

May each of you “make a place for her in your home”, and even more so in your heart, every day and throughout your life, especially at those times of trial and suffering.

May the memory of this blessed day be inscribed for ever in the history of this city and this country, in the history of the whole continent of Africa.

Blessed Joseph Gérard, pray for us, lead us to Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, our Mother in faith. Amenbl joseph gerard - pray for us - 29 may 2018

Act of entrustment to Mary

O Mary, Mother of our Redeemer, Mother of the Church, at the end of this celebration of the Eucharist, we turn to you with confidence and love.   On this feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, we remember your own sharing in the suffering and death of Christ your Son.

O Mother of Sorrows, it was precisely at the hour of your Son’s death that you became by a new title our Mother, Mother of all the faithful.   For your loving Son said to you, as you stood at the foot of the Cross, “Woman, this is your son!”.

From that moment onwards and throughout the course of human history, you are the Mother not only of the beloved disciple but of every member of the Church.   You are our gentle Mother.   You care for us all as your dear children.   In fact, you see in each of us the face of your beloved Jesus and you intercede with Him on our behalf, for our good and the Redemption of the world.

Today, dearest Mother, I entrust to you all those present at this Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and all the people living in this mountain Kingdom.   I entrust them to you with complete confidence and love.

O Mother of Sorrows, I bring before you the sick and the elderly and all who are burdened by sin.   I know they will find in you a safe harbour and a consoling help.   You will bring them tenderly but surely, to the foot of the Triumphant Cross.

O Immaculate Heart of Mary, so filled with love for your Son, I entrust to you the youth of Lesotho in whose eyes the future shines.   Protect them from the evil one.   Enable them to see that only your Son is “the Way and the Truth and the Life”, only in Him is there a future full of hope and a life truly founded on love.

O Blessed Virgin of Nazareth, I place before you the families of the Basotho people, all married couples who with their children are called to form a lifelong communion of love.   Keep them pure and chaste, ever faithful to one another, always faithful, as you were, to the life-giving word of God.

O Mary, Model of holiness and first disciple of your Son, I entrust to your gentle care the Church in Lesotho.   As it rejoices in a century and a quarter of evangelisation and in the beatification of Father Joseph Gérard, lead your sons and daughters in the way of constant conversion, along the path of spiritual renewal.   Pray for this local Church, so dear to the Successor of Peter, so dear to your own Immaculate Heart.   Help our brothers and sisters to come to believe with conviction what you believed at the foot of the Cross. that human death is not the final word, for the final word belongs to God, the God of love and mercy, the God who has saved the world through the victorious Cross of your Son.   Amen.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, Pray for us!

O Mother of Sorrows, Pray for us!