THOUGHT FOR TODAY BY
ST. ANTHONY ZACCARIA

If through perfect humility you will be able to know objec tively yourself, only then will you be.

4301 Hecktown Rd
Bethlehem, PA 18020

Menologion - December

The peace enjoyed by the true Religious surpasses any feelings we are filled with it, but we do not know to whom to describe it. Look then for this peace in the most sweet Heart of Jesus. What I mean is to find it in an ardent love, in a constant adoration of this most sweet Heart. How happy you will be in making progress in this most excellent practice! How thankful you will be toward God for having given yourself to it! You will find joy in it during your life and at the hour of death.
Let us keep ourselves united with this adorable Heart: if we are faithful in the little things, this most generous Master will lead us to where we had never dare to hope to reach.
Hail to the Sacred Heart of Jesus! I embrace you and I leave you in this amiable Heart.

(Fr. John Percoto, Letter to Dom Costante Madrisio, 1751)

 

 

DECEMBER  

 

1   December
- 1543    Pope Paul III, with a Bull declares the congregation exempt from the local Ordinary’s jurisdiction, and therefore puts it under the jurisdiction of the Holy See.
 
 2   December
- 1625    Cardinal Federico Borromeo presents the Constitutions to the Angelics.
- 1726    Father Francis  Louis  Barelli  (1654-1726), First Historian of the Congregation.
 
 3   December
- 1936    Father JOSEPH TRINCHERO (1875-1936), a great mind and a great heart dedicated to the education of the young especially in Genoa at the Vittorino da Feltre Institute.
 
 4   December
- 1531    With a new will and testament, Anthony Mary designates his mother as universal heir of his properties, which then Antonia Pescaroli will leave to the Angelics of St. Marta Monastery in Cremona. With the same document, Anthony Mary establishes to have an altar dedicated to St. Paul the Converted in the parish church of St. Donato, and assigns as its first chaplain the Rev. Giovanni M. Gaffuri, who on January 8, 1532, will become also his universal procurator.
- 1963    Father Rocco Barisano  (1932-1963), Assistant parish priest of St. James Parish in Oakville, Ontario, Canada. He was 32 years old. The first Barnabite to be ordained in the USA. He was a graduate of Niagara University and of Loyola Univesity, LA. He died in a car accident.
 
5   December
- 1711    Bishop  ENRICO  VIALARDI  (1633-1711), Bishop of Mantua.
 
 8   December
- 1555    Giulia, then Paola as a religious, Sfondrati Picenardi, sister of Cardinal Francis Sfondrati, bishop of Cremona, receives the habit of the Angelics. She had entered the Monastery in 1538.
- 1958    Groundbreaking ceremony for the building of the Barnabite Motherhouse in North America in Lewiston, N. Y.
- 1982    Pontifical approval of the new Constitutions of the Angelic Sisters promulgated according to the decree of the Vatican Council II.
 
 9   December
- 1831    Bishop  CHARLES  MASCARDI (1662-17313), Bishop of Ventimiglia.
 
11  December
- 1625    Father LUDOVIC MERLINI (1511-1625), he preached virtues in a heroic way.
- 1904    Pius X canonizes St. Alexander Sauli.
 
12  December
- 1439    FERRANTE GONZAGA becomes the new owner of Guastalla, sold by the Countess Torelli.
- 1776    Bishop  JOHN  PERCOTO (1729-1776), Missionary in Asia.
- 1972    Father EMILE SCHOT (1894-1972), 70th Superior General (1952-64). An upright religious who energetically governed the Congregation during difficult times. At the same time he was a man of interior life who directed with wisdom so many souls.
 
13  December
- 1962    Father ALFONSO DI GIORGIO (1875-1962), he brought to its conclusion the building of the Basilica of Our Lady of Nazaré in Belém, Parà, Brazil.
 
- 1894    Father  FRANCIS DENZA (1834-1894), Famous astronomer, builder of the Vatican Observatory.
 
14  December
- 1887    Father  LOUIS  TRENKLER  (1808-1887), Man of great generosity during the Prussian invasion of Austria, and during a cholera epidemic.
 
15  December
- 1554    The Countess Torelli leaves the Monastery of the Angelic Sisters.
 
17  December
- 1794    Father  PETER  CORTENOVIS  (1731-1794), the second of six Barnabite Cortenovis. He served as preacher, teacher, and parish priest in Cremona and Asti. Most of the letters by his brother Fr. Angelo are addressed to him, and are published by Fr. Gobio.
- 1920    Father GAETANO M. SERGIO (1845-1920), Theologian and Biblical scholar.
- 1928    Father  PAUL  GREDER (1850-1894), Defender of Religious freedom in France.
 
18  Decemmber
- 1651    Father BATTISTA CRIVELLI (1582-1651), 18th Superior General (1632-38; 1544-50).
- 1987    Bishop PLACIDO CAMBIAGHI (1900 – 1987), Bishop of Crema and Novara, and member of the Vatican Council II.
 
19  December
- 1528    ST ANTHONY MARY ZACCARIA'S ordination to the Deaconate.
- 1832    Father  IGNATIUS AUGUSINE SCANDELLARI  (1759-1832), 50th  Superior General (1823-26).
- 1889    Fr. JOACHIM M. BARBETTA (1821-1889), Founder of the “Artigianelli” institute in Monza.
 
21  December
- 1894    Ven. ELENA BETTINI, foundress of the Daughters of Divine Providence; heroicity of her virtues: 1994.
- 1727     Bishop AMBROGIO SPINOLA (1645-1727), Bishop of Ventimiglia and Sarzana.
- 1962     Father EGIDIO CASPANI  (1891-1962), Pioneer of our foundation in the US. Fr. Caspani’s personal holiness and scholarly knowledge are still remembered by all those who knew him. He had also been assistant General of the Order, previous to his assignment by Pius XI to Kabul, Afganistan.
 
22  December
- 1622    Father JOHN ANTHONY REDENTO BARANZANO (1590-1622), A scholar in all fields of knowledge
 
23  December
- 1635    Father JOHN AMBROSE MAZENTA (1565-1635), 14th  Superior General (1612-17). His name is well known in the world of architecture. Among his most famous buildings: St. Alexander in Milan and the Basilica of St. Paul in Bologna.
 
24  December
- 1655    Father GIOVANNI BATTISTA TARTAGLIA (1581-1655), Great preacher, instrument for the merger of the Annunciation Congregation with the Barnabites.
- 1919     The Holy See dispenses the Angelic Sisters of Milan from the cloister (following the dispensation for the Monastery in Arienzo, April 26).
 
25  December
- 1535    ST Anthony Mary ZACCARIA celebrates Mass in the chapel of St. Paul the Converted Monastery while still in construction.
- 1932    Fr. Caspani and Mr. Cagnacci arrive in Kabul, Afghanistan.
 
26   December
- 1876    Father JOSEPH ALBINI (1808-1876), 59th Superior General (1871-77).
 
28    December
- 1662    Bishop  SEBASTIAN DOSSENA  (1605-1662), He worked very hard to save our foundation in Prague.
- 1720    Father Cesati and Fr. Ferraris, missionaries, are set free after two months in Jail in Beijing.
  
29   December
 - 1998    Mother ARMANDA PONSIGLIONE, Superior general of the Angelic Sisters (1970-1988; 1994-1998).
 
30   December
 -  1738 BISHOP ALEXANDER DE ALESSANDRI (1688-1738)Bishop of Nabucco and Apostolic Vicar in Cochin-China. 
  
31   December
 - 1906    Father LOUIS FERRARI (1831-1906), 61st Superior General (1889-95).

                  

 December 2

FATHER FRANCIS LOUIS BARELLI
First historian of the Congregation
(1654-1726)

 

Every Barnabite is well aware of the name of Fr. Barelli. He is famous among us because of his powerful two volumes on the history of our congregation, the first written history of the order. It is criticized because of its overflowing style and its lack of exactness in chronology. Nonetheless, as Cardinal Fontana says, those imperfections are of no account considering “the piety, the doctrine and the diligence used by Father Barelli in gathering and accurately verifying the memories of the Congregation.” His work received the commendations of the Bullantists, of Tiraboschi, Branda, and other well known historians. We must add that not only was his science exalted, but also his goodness, his devotion, his doctrine, and his activity.               

Nice, in Provence, was his birth place. He knew our congregation through Danny, his classmate, with whom, at the age of 18, he went to Genoa by boat and entered the Novitiate of St. Bartolomeo of the Armenians. On September 15, 1673, he received our habit and changed his name from John Baptist to Francis Louis. After simple Profession he stayed in Genoa for the Philosophical and Theological studies. In 1675 he defended the treatise on “Logic” in the presence of scholars, receiving high praises: magna cum laude. Two years later he gave a very erudite speech for the opening of the school year.

In 1678 he went to Pavia to finish his theology and was ordained a priest. For many years Fr. Barelli taught Philosophy in Bologna and Milan at the “Archiboldi” school. In the fall of 1690 he went to teach Scholastic Philosophy at the public school in Lodi.  The “Acts” of “St. John alle Vigne” are full of his works and give us an idea of his prodigious activity.  He really was an encyclopedic man.

 In the Theological school he had the duty to prepare theological discussions for the pupils who were ready for graduation. Sometimes, he himself had to defend theological positions in debates with other Religious orders. He also received the duty of delivering some of the most important eulogies, for example in honor of St. John Capistrano in St. Francis church, of St. John, of St. Fecondo in St. Augustines’ church in Cremona, etc.

He was able to handle any kind of preaching. On feast days he gave biblical lessons after Vespers, preached during Advent and Lent to nuns, retreats to seminarians, Holy Hours, etc. He was the extraordinary confessors for many convents, and an examiner at the seminary. We must not forget his zeal in serving the people attending our church. He was appointed director of the Society of St. Joseph, spreading his devotion and increasing its membership. This devotion to St. Joseph became one of his characteristics, and in 1691 he published a book on St. Joseph, which saw many editions.

In the fall of 1695 he went to Bologna assigned at the Penitentiary. He stayed there for many years managing his duties with great skills in the most intricate cases of conscience. In appreciation the local Holy Office elected him Consultor. Our Congregation took advantage of his talents for a possible new foundation in Venice in 1711. It had been a great desire of our Fathers; nevertheless, again it would be unsuccessful.

What makes Fr. Barelli immortal for us Barnabites are his two volumes on the History of our Congregation, an inexhaustible source of our ancient memories. Fr. Ugoloni, in a letter addressed to him expresses the reaction of the Fathers when they first read it: “You must already know from your personal friends that the Annals of our Congregation, which you composed, have been read in St. Alexander and in St. Barnabas. The reading has been welcomed by everybody, both for the style and the accurate, erudite composition. Many, not content with hearing it in the dining room, brought the book in their rooms and read it with great satisfaction. In conversation they repeat with delight what has been read at the table. May God be praised because there was no one better equipped than your Reverence to embrace the arduous, exhausting and difficult task of composing with universal praise, the long desired Annals.”

Fr. Pezzi tells us that Fr. Barelli wrote the Annals during the first six years as rector of the Penitentiary.

In the years he spent at St. Paul’s in the same city, he gathered a lot of money for the enlargement and beautification of the church (today a minor Basilica), dedicated to our Apostle.

 Consumed by his work, the servant of God died, after a long illness, in the embrace of the Lord, at the age of 82, on December 2, 1726. 

 

December 3

FATHER JOSEPH TRINCHERO
A great mind and educator
(1871-1936)
               

At the beginning of the twentieth century almost all the elements were there to justify harassment in the Catholic Church toward anti-modernism - so much insolent as gratuitous - against a young Barnabite priest from Turin, Fr. Joseph Trinchero. Malicious and unjust gossip could have led him to the threshold of a frenzy spiritual and physical malaise making null the promises of a generous priest. In vain were the reiterated defenses by his superiors who knew him better than anyone else. Among the elements going against him was the fact that he belonged to the Congregation of the Barnabites, who were looked upon with suspicion during those years, due to their modern and Rosminian culture. There was also his friendship with Fr. Semeria, by now in exile in Belgium, because of his ideas, and from whom Trinchero had inherited the leadership of the students. There was the search for a less conventional spirituality with an ecumenical overtone through some understanding with the evangelicals.

The personality of this exceptional character has already been studied by the Barnabite Fr. Achille Erba, a well known professor at the University of Turin, who left his teaching post for the mission in Latin America. What must be done yet is an evaluation of the prejudices and calumnies the Congregation suffered during that period, and which, for sure, influenced some of the negative evaluations of Fr. Trinchero. In this regard it is very meaningful to hear the words given in confidence by the Countess Parravicino to Bishop Bonomelli (September 20, 1906), that men like Ghignoni, Gazzola, De Feis - all Barnabites - would make any Order very proud, contrary to “the ecclesiastical Roman environment for whom they were becoming a source of uneasiness.”

For sure the young Trinchero was not up to the exceptional genius of Fr. Semeria, but he did not have any less purity of ideals, or a less earnest desire to prepare the Catholics to make a proper prestigious entrance in the new century, as wished and hoped by Rosmini, and somehow even by Towianski. We do not have to worry about Rosmini who has been declared a Blessed and is on the way to canonization. Instead, for Towianski, who will be the black mark for Trinchero, it is better to remember his role as a religious reformer. Towianski (1799-1878) lived in Switzerland, from where he had launched a program of reform for the Catholic Church. The program was not totally orthodox for those times, but did respond to the expectations of many scholars who wanted to remain faithful to the Catholic Church. His theories were adopted in Piedmont drawing him into the Risorgimento movement for the unity of Italy. The so-called towianism, a mixture of Slovak mysticism, was outclassing the figure of the Pope because of his negative stance against the unity movement of Italy. Among its followers were the president of the Senate and the leading lawyer Attilio Begey.

Naturally, during the modernist crisis at the beginning of the century, Towianski’s name was added to the cause as one of those plotting against the purity of the Catholic faith. The young Trinchero from Turin, and a dear friend of Begey, a leading follower of Towianski, could not avoid being included in this list. This kind of reputation accompanied him as he moved to Genoa at the Barnabite school “Vittorino da Feltre,” to be with Fr. Semeria. Meanwhile he had graduated form the University of Bologna with the thesis “A short essay on the development of Modernism,” which he discussed with Professor Francesco Acri.

The work was rather rushed, but it manifested the desire of the young author for a renewal in the thought and life of the Catholic Church. Naturally he had touched on Towianski, and he loved to emphasize the larger role given to the heart instead of the intellect, with a more balanced relationship between authority and freedom. There was nothing which could offend the orthodoxy to the Church. Rather, for Fr. Trinchero, modernism could not play a religious leading role in the Church exactly because the Church had moved the religious problems which were to be resolved in terms of life to the intellectual level. “Modernism, to be faithful to itself, should be life, instead it is an intellectual movement. A wave of lived and alive Christianity, which denotes the torpor and the sloth, should give more air to our enclosed environment (...), should show us radiantly, in all its height, the divine reality which dominates, pervades, stimulates, and refrains the whole body of the individual and social life, should give back to the spirits the vigor and the liberty, better than all the critical and philosophical disquisitions. We do not know Christian life because we have more experience of it inside us than around us. Still there is among us, in Italy and outside, a group small, but which is an elite group, that in silence longs for and prepares this integral renewal of the whole man and of the whole life. It venerates as its master the Polish Andrey Towianski.”

The name of the Polish reformer is mentioned only as an example of religious practice, not as a theoretic teacher of a dogmatic thought. To make the suspicions worse, there was the friendship with the attorney Begey and with the Catholic democrats, who were widespread in Piedmont. This was - because they were requesting political autonomy - to compromise the orthodoxy of those who, like Fr. Trinchero, were upholding them. Back from Bologna to Genoa to teach, he found there the ambush ready for him.

The so called “Counsel of Vigilance,” organized in every diocese by severe, but not always enlightened inquisitors within a climate of a witch hunt, reported him to Archbishop Pulciano for audacious ideas, but without specifying which ones. This simple indication was enough to forbid him to preach, although his superior, Fr. Michael Tosti, was making himself guarantor of his orthodoxy: “The alarm about his preaching has no foundation,” Fr. Tosti declared in his letter to the head of the diocese. At the same time he was claiming for the Barnabites “a greater consideration, in view of his kind of life and the service rendered in the city.”

Attorney Begey, who was very well informed about these events, although he was in Turin, wrote to their common friend, Fr. Angelo Gambaro, who was also a victim of the same suspicions: “Our dear Trinchero has been punished by the archbishop of Genoa because of the living power of his preaching which was disturbing the Quietism... He has been deprived of the faculty to explain the Gospel during the Mass and at the Institute for the Blind. As he went to his Excellency to ask why, he answered him bluntly: Go back to Rome! But because he was insisting that he wanted to hear the motive from him and not from Rome, like a son may wish from a father who punishes him, his Excellency exclaimed: in no place in the world, in no tribunal what the accused says is exalted! And he dismissed him making him understand that in his house he did not want to be etc...”

The moral depression of the young Trinchero, which affected also his not too strong physical health, was made more acute - even though the superiors of the Congregation had great esteem for him - with the anti-modernism oath, which he endured more “as a disciplinary measure which had no value in the internal forum.” But suddenly, another unexpected coincidence will deteriorate his moral and spiritual illness, that is, the news that Sister Antonietta Rattaggi, of the Sisters of Charity, a sharer of the dreams of the reformers, was suddenly transferred from Genoa to the infirmary of the Motherhouse under strict supervision; while in Genoa one of the Sisters like a policewoman, “was investigating, gathering and putting together...”

Luckily, the Superior General of the Barnabites, Fr. Peter Vigorelli (who had been requesting further proofs to guarantee Fr. Trinchero’s orthodoxy), was receiving assurance from Genoa that in no way anyone could doubt about his “truly Christian, catholic, religious” way of thinking. But Fr. Trinchero, as he came to know all this trepidation about himself, and not really understanding so much maliciousness, in desperation opened his heart to the superior, manifesting the most exquisitely mystical nature of his efforts as a reformer. “I feel that the habit of external practices, not always envisioned or partaken by the Holy Spirit, have stifled even among us the deep, real, living feeling of God which religious life is all about, has almost extinguished the fire of Jesus. I do not say in all of us, but in a general way as it appears from the external life. I am very much in pain for this and this is why I am trying to rekindle in me and in others, for me and for others, this spirit of Jesus. Toward this, as much as I could, for years, and now with more ardor than ever, I have directed my life. Behold, father, the truth about my purpose, although it is obscured by my many shortcomings, and, allow me to say it, also by many false interpretations by others.”

Therefore, those who were thinking that Fr. Trinchero was assenting with the modernists in identifying the Catholic renewal with the cultural one, were making a big mistake. Moreover, he was refusing, as we have said, any religious value for the modernist as well as for the anti-modernist intellectualism. And, in regards to this, he was accepting fully the Roman condemnations as they were hindering Christianity from any deviation, but without implicating any acknowledgement on the scientific level. But the accusations did not calm down, especially because of his references to towianism. And so, two years later, Fr. General was coming back to the very delicate subject requesting the renewal of “a most explicit adhesion” to face the more than ever persisting objections of the malicious ones. Then, Fr. Trinchero, very much mortified and exasperated, sent to Fr. General a further clarification, “I once again affirm that I do not stray and I do not want to stray from the teaching of the Church; and for Church I mean our Catholic Church, which recognizes as its head the Supreme Pontiff, Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth. I hope, Father, that these words of mine answer in full what you desire from me, and they put a close to this chapter, painful for me and for you, without leaving behind any trace neither of suspicion nor of sadness in our soul.”

Anyway, the Provincial Superior, for convenience sake, because of the severe sanction inflicted to Fr. Semeria, dear friend of Fr. Trinchero, deprived him of the office as vice-superior of the St. Bartholomew community, an office given to him to help him come out of his depression. Therefore, he withdrew to himself, passing those days, “full of passion,” in total silence. Fr. Trinchero had to face this kind of nicodemist (like Nicodemus) attitude, leading him to consider himself a front-runner of the Church (a “vestal virgin of sacred fire,” as attorney Begey will write to him), in his upcoming crisis, pervaded by a deep longing for freedom and sincerity.

World War I (1915-18), which he considered as a spiritual catharsis and a seed of independence for the oppressed, led him closer to the spirit of the Democratic League, which was advocating intervention. This brought him to collaborate with the magazine “L’Azione,” published in Cesena by Eligio Cacciaguerra, to unload his patriotic and mystical passion.

But, after a few months, he felt estranged to the ideals of the League, to its judgment too interested in politics to the damage of the religious conscience, so he joined Joseph Donati, founder, since 1919, of “The New Liberty.” In this magazine he will publish his commentary to the Sunday Gospel, without signature, but there is no doubt about his authorship.

Finally, in the midst of so many tensions, personal and national, caused by the post-war period, the Italian politics experienced the crisis of “Fascism,” starting in 1922. The restless and naive Barnabite fell into the trap of the “rising Fascism,” just as his friend attorney Begey, who thought to see in it a movement capable of “renewing the beloved Italy.”

Not even his last days will be peaceful. In September of 1935, “due to a troubled conscience,” he temporarily left the Barnabitesto stay, always as a priest, with his relatives outside Turin. There he was afflicted by a slight stroke while celebrating Mass. He returned among the Barnabites in Genoa, passing the last days of his tormented life in the Barnabite minor seminary.

Fr. Achille Erba, CRSP, affirms that Fr. Trinchero never separated himself from his total commitment to Christ. Indeed, “This austere religious, who in general left a tremendous impression on his pupils and those who met him on their journey, belonged to that race of humans who are thirsty for an intimate experience of Christ, and would run after it everywhere at any cost, even of breaking their neck.” Well, we must add that, in general, often it is not the one who possesses a charism to be at fault for its failure or for breaking their neck!

 

 

December 5

BISHOP  ENRICO  VIALARDI
Bishop of Mantua
(1633-1711)

 

Bishop Vialardi was born on April 9, 1633 in Casalemonferrato.  In 1648 he professed the vows as a Barnabite in the Monza Novitiate. After his studies in Milan he was ordained a priest in 1657 and assigned to St. Charles in Mantua. He will stay there his entire life, first as a religious and then as a bishop.

He was a very well-known and requested preacher. At 33 he preached for Lent in St. Alexander in Milan, “multuque Patriciorum accurso, omniumque encomio, acuta et commendata virtus.”  With the pulpit there was the confessional to keep him very busy.

In the congregation he served as visitor in Etruria, and often a superior in St. Charles in Mantua. It was his plan to build a new, magnificent church. The community did not have the necessary financial means but Fr. Vialardi, with his trust in God and in the people of the city, laid the foundation on July 16, 1674. He obtained from the Superiors the permission to use the money from his preaching apostolate, and when free, he was with the worker giving his material help.  It took only three years to complete the project, including all the necessary sacred furnishings.

In 1685 Gian Lucido Cattaneo, bishop of Montua died. The Duke Gonzaga proposed three names for a successor, but the Holy See did not accept any of them. After many consultations the three names were dropped and they all agreed on Fr. Vialardi. He was consecrated in St. Charles ai Catinari, Rome, on March 3, 1687.

The official historian of the diocese, Fr. Romagnili, wrote: “This prelate was very jovial, full of spirit, affable and courteous with all... with a great heart, generous and free with all, ready to use funds for buildings... Easy to get angry... such passion abated in a short time... He was fast and impetuous in his resolutions and constant and firm in what he was involved never loosing heart....

In the government in his diocese for almost 24 years he had been a very hard worker.  He had visited the whole diocese many times... No other Bishop of Mantua has ever ordained so many priests. This very zealous bishop had a great desire to call a diocesan synod, but the circumstances did not allow him. He supplemented with the publications of the resolutions of previous synods, accompanied with a circular letter of his own.”

Pope Innocent XII said of him: “Maybe I do not have in the whole church another Bishop who shows more constancy and, in a glorious way, in so many occasions, against powerful personalities, and even against armed people in his large diocese and city of Mantua.”

He died at the age of 78 on December 5, 1711.

 

 

December 9

BISHOP  CHARLES  MASCARDI
Bishop of Ventimiglia
(1662-1731)
 

At the age of 15 Charles Mascardi professed his vows in the Barnabite novitiate of St. Bartholomew of the Armenians in Genoa on December 27, 1668.

Ordained in 1686, he taught Philosophy in Acqui, Asti, St. Alexander in Milan, and theology in Macerata and Pavia. Often he was elected Superior of the community showing always a fatherly concern for his confreres. 

On August 7, 1710 Pope Clement IX elected him Bishop of Ventimiglia to succeed the other Barnabite bishop, Ambrose Spinola, who had been transferred to Sarzana. 

It was the beginning of his “via crucis.” His first confrontation was with the Duke of Genoa, upset because Bishop Spinola had refused to remain as the bishop of Ventimiglia.

Because some of his parishes were in the Piedmont territory and in a pitiful state, bishop Mascardi went to Turin to deal with the Royal Court. Such a move created jealousy in the Duke of Genoa, always in contrast with the house of Savoy. The bishop was able to reach an agreement and so he was granted a Vicar to care for those parishes plus the payment of due contributions which had not been paid for many years. 

Genoa tried all possible avenues to have bishop Mascardi transferred, and obtained severe orders from Rome forcing the removal of the Vicar.  But time proved Bishop Mascardi right when in 1727 pope Benedict XIII ruled in his favor.

In the midst of these trials he did not panic, and went ahead with his apostolic visit in the Ligurian parishes, even though he had to face many hostilities. In Castelfranco he was even denied room and board, while in Bordighera he became the object of public derision and thrown out of the church when he tried to reform some of the confraternities.

The worst persecution came by the Mayors and Regents of the city who, having some jurisdiction in the cathedral, banned the use of the organ, removed the rope of the bells, and the candles needed for the processions. The bishop took action against them banning them from entering in the cathedral, but only to be mocked and to see them force their way to the main altar during the office and steal the candle sticks and other sacred furniture. Then they presented a public accusation against him in parliament denying him the regular dues.

Meanwhile, over and over again he himself had made recourse to the government to take a stand in favor of the Church. To come to his aid was God himself with a tornado which devastated the city. This made them stop molesting their bishop, but not for too long. Once the fear faded away, they started in a subtle way to attack him again.

In all of this, what made him suffer most was that sense of hate and vengeance which characterized that society. His enemies tried to use his eye problem to have him removed, but with no success. In the midst of all these fights he dedicated himself to the pastoral care of his people, who did love him and admired him: “As it is testified by his very enemies this prelate is loved and highly respected making him worthy of all high praises.”

He died on December 9, 1731 at the age of 71. It is interesting to notice that all the bishops before and after him, asked to be transferred or went into exile.

 

 

December 11

FATHER LUDOVIC MERLINI
He preached virtues in an heroic way
(1551-1625)

 

Fr. Merlini was born in Acqui in 1551 and was baptized as Bernardino. As a young man he pursued first the military life. Afterwards he decided to become a lawyer. Finally at 33 he decided to enter the Barnabite Congregation instead of accepting a prosperous career from the Duke of Mantua. 

He received the habit in Monza on April 12, 1583, studied moral Theology in Pavia, and in March of 1586 he celebrated his first Mass. In 1591 he was elected Master of Novices in Monza; six years later he was procurator general; in 1600 Assistant General, Visitor General, Superior of St. Blaise, and finally he was assigned to Vercelli.

In 1608, when the provinces were created, Fr. Merlini was elected Provincial Superior of Piedmont with residence in St. Dalmazzo in Turin.

In 1610 he was back in Milan as superior of St. Barnabas, and in 1614 he was again Master of Novices until his health failed him.

From the report to Father General written by Fr. Eugene Nascimbeni we know that Fr. Merlini was a man who practiced every virtue to a heroic degree. During passionate times he would double his penances, eating once a day a bowl of soup, a little fish and some water. He would refuse to drink a drop of water in memory of the thirst suffered by the Redeemer on the cross. Often it would happen that he was missing from the community events, and they would find him absorbed in ecstasy in the choir, Embarrassed, he would excuse himself saying he did not hear the bell.

In 1625 he was teaching the Novices the Divine Office. At the antiphon “Triste est anima meo usque ad mortem,” he burst into tears and could not contain himself.

This is how Fr. G. Secchi described his death: “I was a novice in Monza in 1625 when Fr. Merlini got sick. He asked the doctor, with the permission of Fr. Superior, J. Alexander Ferrari, to celebrate Mass for the last time. The doctor agreed if he felt up to it. The following morning when Matins had started in the choir, Fr. Merlini went into the sacristy... got ready for Mass and started the celebration at the altar of the saints. At the consecration he burst into tears with his elbows resting on the altar. I was serving the Mass. After 15 minutes I thought better to call Fr. Superior... he came, then went back into the sacristy to put on a surplice and stole and came back to the altar. After another 15 minutes Fr. Merlini was able to finish the Mass. Afterwards he went back to bed. When the doctor came in, Fr. Superior asked him why he had given Fr. Merlini permission to get up. The doctor said he had done it to please him but he was well aware he would not be able to stand up and in a couple of days he would die.”

 

 

December 12

BISHOP JOHN PERCOTO
Missionary in Burma
(1729-1776)

 

Bishop John Percoto was a true follower of Christ, an Angel in the world, a fervent Religious in the convent, an indefatigable missionary in the pagan lands, always and everywhere a man completely dedicated to God. He was a great devotee and promoter of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Fr. Ignatius Visconti in one of his letters, published by Fr. Griffini, gives a beautiful portrait of his religious life.

He was born in Udine from a very noble family. He made his profession in Monza on November 9, 1747, completed his studies in Milan and Bologna, and was ordained a priest in 1753. The new priest was appointed spiritual director and professor of Philosophy first in Macerata, and then in Bologna. However in 1760 he was called to the foreign missions.

Before following him to the foreign lands, let us listen to the words of Fr. Visconti: “I can assert that, from the very beginning of his religious life, he was a singular example of regular observance, very exact in the smallest customs, a great lover of silence and privacy, completely dedicated to mental prayer… He had a tender devotion to our Lady. On the days that he received communion his internal happiness was such that it was reflected on his face. He had control of his emotions and I never saw him angry, though his temperament was inclined to anger. The humility of his spirit was very deep, so much so that when he was praised he was completely embarrassed and often blushed. His chastity and purity of conscience was such that I can affirm, from his annual and general confession, that he never lost his baptismal innocence. His obedience to any order was exact as also was his poverty. He was so willing for corporeal mortification that it was necessary to force him to moderation.”

Fr. Percoto journeyed to India with Fr. Benigno Avenati. It was a long journey lasting two years, full of troubles, dangers, and misadventures. They arrived in Rangoon at the end of October 1761.

The state of the mission was pitiful. Of all the missionaries, only Fr. Gallizia was found alive. Having begun to take care of a group of Christian children as soon as they arrived, Fr. Percoto was assailed by a high fever which reduced his strength. Shortly after the fever had left him, it destroyed the lives of Fr. Gallizia and Fr. Avenati, so he was left alone in this immense evangelic field for five and a half years in a state of true martyrdom. He did not waste his time. He learned the Burmese language so perfectly that he became superior to the local scholars. He also composed a kind of a grammar and a complete dictionary of great usefulness of those who would follow him. Moreover, he studied the Buddhist theory carefully to refute them in his preaching and in his writings. At the same time he made long journeys to confirm Christians in their faith, to convert pagans, and to build new and more comfortable oratories and chapels.

His great worry was that he would die alone and that all his works would be lost. But our Lord answered his insistent prayers. After five years he embraced with joy four confreres who had come to help: Fr. Gherarado Cortenovis, Fr. Carpani, Fr. Re, and Fr. Micini. A few months after their arrival, he received the bulls of his election to the episcopate of Massul and as apostolic Vicar of Ava and Pegù. Although his humility made him reluctant, he had to accept the election. No Catholic Bishop was at hand for the Consecration until Providence sent Bishop Brigat of the Foreign mission of Paris, who consecrated him on January 31, 1761. The Episcopal consecration gave him a new fervor and a new strength for a greater propagation of the gospel. His presence was insistently requested by the people of Monlà, made up of eleven villages. The servant of God answered the appeal, an appeal rich with heavy crosses and deep consolation. Ferrying in the river Mu, the boat capsized. He saved himself by clinging to a tree and catching a rope thrown to him by the seminarian who was on the journey with him. When they arrived in Monlà he established a seminary for the education of the native clergy. The Talapoins were in open war against him, but he was the winner. He attacked also the Brahmans with his catechism and writings. As a retaliation, the monks obtained permission from the government to destroy the seminary which was only two years old. But the Bishop was not defeated. He pressured the Court of the King of Ava and obtained the reconstruction of a larger seminary in a better location.

In 1772 he saw, with great jubilation the arrival of Fr. Marcellus Cortenovis and Fr. Cajetan Mantegazza, two powerful pillars of the mission who were entrusted with the care of Monlà and Chiantoroa.  The Bishop went back into the capital of Rangoon to better govern the mission. It was here that Fr. Percoto obtained the marvelous conversion of the three Buddhist Wiseman, who, in the future, would give growth to the mission, which now was flourishing again after so many adversities. The church was beautified and the members increased: after a very short calm, war among different ethnic groups was spreading. The Christians had to undergo many harsh sufferings, which only served to fortify them in their faith.

Among many other beautiful memories of this Apostle of the Gospel, we can mention the compilation of the Brahman-Latin-Portuguese dictionary, a task so exacting that he was forced to retire at Nubeck and then at Ava to regain strength, but without success.

Foreshadowing the end, he worked harder and with more fervor in the last month of his life. In December, in order to better prepare himself for the feast of the Immaculate Conception, he made a general confession to Fr. Micone. On December 12, 1776, at the age of 45, he entrusted his spirit to God.

We can perceive the general sorrow from the word of Fr. Cortenovis: “It is impossible to express the sorrow that all of us, together with the Christian community, feel at this loss. This morning at the Gospel I turned around and gave the news to my Christians present at the Mass.  Neither I, nor they, could restrain the tears. As one of them told me yesterday, neither war nor all the misadventures have been as miserable as the loss of our pastor.”

 This is how Fr. Percoto is remembered: as an example of virtue, an ardent missionary, and a dedicated pastor.

 

December 14

FATHER FRANCIS M. DENZA
Famous astronomer; builder of the Vatican Observatory 
(1834-1894)

 

Fr. Denza was a luminary in the field of science.  But for us Barnabites, he was, above all, a man of rich goodness. Yes, he was a great man of science, but also an excellent Religious.

For our congregation he is not only an ornament, but also a son of obedience and a tireless worker. He was born in Naples on June 7, 1834, the son of Michael and Virginia Zizzi. At the age of 16 he asked for our habit and received it on March 24, 1851. Francis finished his novitiate at St. Augustine’s in Resina where he professed his simple vows. For the next two years (1851-53) he studied philosophy at St. Philip’s in Macerata, and then for three years (1853-56) theology in Rome. One of his masters was Fr. Vercellone, from whom he received the skill and love for biblical studies. The love for sacred studies never left him; even when obedience called him to be completely dedicated to natural sciences. He always tried to perceive in creation the thought and the word of the Creator. Many dissertations and primarily “The harmony of the skies” show the constant tendency of his spirit. Thanks to the help he received from the above, he was able, in about three years from his assignment to the “Royal College Carlo Alberto” in Moncalieri, to found an observatory there, which in the future will become the center of the Italian Meteorological Society and well known in the Scientific world.

In 1866 Fr. Denza began the publication of a monthly bulletin in order to divulge the fruits of his observations made in this observatory and other places.

Not all his time was absorbed by the study of science because he had to spend a great part of it teaching. Until 1866, when he became paralyzed, our father taught mathematics, physics, and natural science in all the classes of the Liceum. His many pupils, coming from all over Italy, remembered the joviality which always permeated the arid subjects of his classes, along with the severity of discipline and the necessity to study.

Year by year, his reputation was growing, as were his scientific works. There are enough publications, both large and small, to fill our Barnabite library. Those familiar with the natural sciences can understand how much weariness our confrere had to go through for the meteorological observations illustrated in his books. Besides the observations made at Moncalieri and those received from his many correspondents, he made many and sometimes lengthy journeys. In October of 1875 he went to Tunisia to study the magnetic elements, and he spent his fall vacations, from 1872 to 1878, traveling all over Italy. During these journeys, prudent and active as he always was, Fr. Denza was able to increase the meteorological station in Italy, where the work was facilitated by his “Anemoietograph.” Thanks to the help and initiative of our Father, Italy was covered with a net of more than 200 observatories, thus being second to very few nations.

Fr. Denza took part in many national and international scientific congresses about meteorology, and also in many exhibits. Very famous was the one on the occasion of the Jubilee of Pope Leo XIII. During this exhibit the Pope gave the permission to rebuild the Vatican Observatory, using the talent of Fr. Denza. The works began at once. Fr. Denza seemed to become younger. He left Rome on June 17, sure in his heart that the Vatican would have an observatory worthy of its majesty and grandeur. He returned on June 26, 1889 to set the machines into action which were already present in the observatory and also those which he had just obtained with the permission and the financing of the Holy Father.

On July 24 the Secretary of State told Father Denza that the Pope had given him the honor and the duty of representing him at the International Congress of Astronomy, for the charting of the skies, held in Paris during September. In this meeting, admirably remembered in the records of Astronomy, he obtained, to the great satisfaction of all, an agreement numbering the Vatican Observatory among the 18 observatories of the entire world in which the work of a photographic chart of the sky was divided. In this way the observatory made its triumphant entry into the world of science.

But unfortunately, because of his intense work, the Father’s physical strength was very much weakened. He collapsed following a solemn pontifical audience. Comforted by the last sacraments and a papal blessing, he entrusted his spirit to God, whom he had contemplated and made known in the reflection of creation.

Fr. Denza was a man of science and received many honors from the world, which recognized his merits. King Umberto I made him knight of the Order of SS. Mauritius and Lazzarus in recognition of the education given to his nephews, the princes. He was Knight of the Order of Leopold of Belgium, Official of the French Academy and of the Legion of Honor, a title given to very few foreigners.

Pope Leo XIII, very dear to him, decorated him with the cross “In favor of the Church and the Pontiff”. 

But Father’s true glory is the interior one, the one of the Christian and religious virtues. He was admirable for the dignity with which he went through the last eight years of his life, almost immobilized by paralysis on the right side. He had a very strong will and was authoritarian in his commands, but at the same time very jovial.  He was always at the service of truth for the advantage of the congregation, for the glory of the Church, and the goodness of souls. He never worked to gain honor and recognition. He always preferred the intimate affection and respect of his confreres and his alumni to the recognition of great men.

For this love of the Congregation in 1866 he refused the invitation of Senator Matteucci and the Secretary of Public Education, Domino Berti, to take the direction of the Italian Meteorology in Florence. His place was in Moncalieri where the Barnabites and his young people were the love of his life.

May his name always be blessed among us, and may it enliven us to cultivate with the same activity and rectitude of intention those sciences from whose progress the congregation and the church expect so much.

 

 

December 14

FATHER  LOUIS  TRENKLER
Man of great generosity during the Prussian invasion of Austria,
and during a cholera epidemic 
(1808-1887)

 

Born on July 5, 1808, he studied Philosophy and Theology at the University of Vienna.  He entered the Congregation in 1832 and celebrated his first mass on July 26, 1835. His assignments were in St. Marguerite in Udine, then in Mistelbach, pastor in Mausstrenck, St. Mary’s in Vienna, and finally he was made pastor of a country side church in Huttendorf.

It was here that in 1866, during the Prussian invasion, Fr. Trenkler showed, in a special way, heroic attachment and dedication to his people, suffering with them all kind of abuses, but never loosing his patience. After the war, cholera devastated the country and again the shepherd was constantly on the front line to care spiritually and materially for his flock. 

His final destination was St. Michael in Vienna, where he would spend his last year fully absorbed in the apostolate of the confessional.

Fr. Trenkler was a humble peaceful man, dear to all.  He had a very special devotion for the Holy Eucharist and would never miss the opportunity to stay in adoration, especially where the forty hours were taking place. Blessed always with good health, he did not hesitate to use penance to achieve holiness. 

 The holy religious gave his life to God on December 14, 1887 at the age of 80.

 

 

December 17

FATHER PETER CORTENOVIS
Preacher, teacher, and parish priest 
(1731-1794)

 

Fr. Peter was the second of six Cortenovis brothers who became Barnabites.  He entered the congregation when he was 16, and professed the vows on October 3, 1745.

His first assignment was to teach in various schools: St. Marino in Crema, St. Joseph of Serravalle in Friuli, in Cremona, and in Lodi. In February of 1763 Fr. Peter was nominated parish priest of St. Vincent in Cremona, where he would stay for twenty years. He had to leave the city for political reasons.  Cremona was in the state of Milan, he was from Bergamo, a Venetian city, and according to the new rule by the Emperor, he was a foreigner, a persona non grata, therefore he had to leave. His brother consoled him: “We do not have a permanent home here on earth, but we are looking for a future one. I believe that you and people like you, don’t worry about the right to stay in a place since the whole world is home. My wish is that all Barnabites would love and help each other wherever they are. I have always hated nationalism and the consequent competition.”

From Cremona Fr. Peter went to Bologna, then he was invited to Pisa by the Archbishop, but for a short stay since the Grand Duke Leopold II decided to close all schools. So he went to St. Martin in Asti, where he stayed for six years. In 1792, requested by the people, he went to Crema to teach. Three years later, and a few months before his death, he was in St. Aureliano (Montù) as master of students.

His superior, Fr. Floriano di Rolandis, wrote: “This religious has always served well the congregation in his many assignments, preaching in Lodi, teaching in Crema, and as a parish priest for twenty six years in Cremona and Asti.  He will always be remembered for his unique prudence, burning zeal for the salvation of souls, enduring strength for many difficulties, pains and toils, and for his bright holiness which drew him to the hearts of the people of Cremona and Asti.  They all considered him as their loving father. Though so busy, he never missed his religious practices... I should not miss to say that this saint, a few days before, announced his death to his novices...”  

He died on December 17, 1794 at the age of 63.

           

 

 December 17

FATHER GAETANO M. SERGIO
Theologian and Biblical scholar
(1845-1920)

 

Fr. Sergio was born in Naples on October 28, 1845. At first he attended the school of the Jesuits, then in 1861, he changed to our school of “St. Mary of Caravaggio” in Naples. At the death of his father he decided to enter our congregation, and he was accepted on December 23, 1861.  This is how he is described in the minutes:  “An intelligent young man, inclined to study, a good writer, giving signs of carefulness, of good morals, a little shy, very humble and devout with the desire to serve God.”

After his novitiate he studied Philosophy in Pontecorvo (Naples) and theology for two years in San Felice a Cancello. To avoid the draft, on July 1866 he went to Rome where he finished his theology at St. Carlo ai Catinari. He professed the solemn vows in 1867 and on September 18, 1868 he was ordained a priest. He had been working with Fr. Vercellone in biblical research for the publication of the new Vatican Greek Codex of the Bible; therefore, when in 1869 Fr. Vercellone died, Fr. Sergio automatically took over the work, and the same year two volumes of the Codex were published.

In 1870 when Rome was invaded by the Italian army, Fr. Sergio had to escape into Switzerland. After only four months of exile he was able to go back to Rome to his studies, especially the ancient biblical languages, plus English and German. In 1871 he published the third volume of the Codex.  Unfortunately his sight started to give him trouble and by the doctor’s order he had to quit his biblical studies. Fr. Sergio put the wealth of his knowledge to the service of our Barnabite seminarians: 1872-73 he taught Philosophy in Rome, dogmatic theology in Paris, and from 1874 to 1890 Greek in Naples. On September 22, 1890 he was elected superior of the Bianchi institute in Naples. Five years later he was back in Rome to teach theology. The Cardinal Vicar, Ludovici M. Parrochi, nominated Fr. Sergio examiner of the clergy, Pius X named him consultor of the “Propagation of the Faith,” and in 1898 he was also elected assistant General.

Fr. Sergio was a great scholar and an exemplar religious. He was always faithful to the community activities, even when he was advanced in age. As a lover of poverty, the superiors had to intervene to have him wear a new habit. He had a great respect for the opinion of the others. This is evident in that he was so obedient to sacrifice even his own scholarly opinion in favor of the opinion of others, especially of superiors. Very humble, he never hesitated to ask the opinion of others. He died in the Lord on December 17, 1921.

 

 

December 18

FATHER BATTISTA CRIVELLI
18th Superior General (1632-38; 1644-50)
(1582-1651)

 

The young Crivelli used to attend our church in Milan. He asked to enter the congregation, and on July 9, 1602 he received the Barnabite habit in Monza. He studied Philosophy at St. Barnabas for one year, then logic and theology in Pavia, where he was ordained a priest on December 19, 1609.  

Fr. Crivelli exercised his priestly ministry in Pavia until 1615 while serving the community as the chancellor, Vice-Master of students and vicar. In 1615 after a very short stay at St. Barnabas, Fr. Battista was elected Master of the students at St. Alexander in Milan. In 1620 he became also Superior of the same house. In 1626 the General Chapter elected him Visitor General, and three years later Assistant General, which will lead him to be elected Superior General in 1632. In 1639 he was again Assistant General and Superior in St. Alexander to substitute Fr. Grasso who had been transferred to Vienna. In 1644 he was again elected Superior General. At the end of his term, in 1650, he went to France as Assistant and Visitor General. Fr. General Falconi used him as his special counselor. As they were visiting the French province, Fr. Crivelli got very sick in St. Eligius in Paris, and died on December 19, 1654, at the age of 69. 

The whole Congregation felt deeply the loss of such a confrere. A man gifted for leadership, Fr. Crivelli was well known for his sweetness and understanding. In the exercise of his authority he greatly valued the opinion of his counselors. His care and love reached people in need also outside the religious community, especially the sick, the poor, and the prisoners.

“Fr. Battista Crivelli was excellent in dealing with business, well known for his prudence, care and great love for the congregation. He distinguished himself in many other virtues, especially gentleness, affability, and the observance of religious discipline. As people came in contact with him and heard him speak, they would be inflamed with love and respect for his person. Very severe with himself, he used to fast three days a week, and to punish his body with scourges and sackcloth. His mortification was of great example for confreres and followers.  Therefore it was more than fitting for him to be elected more than once Superior General of the congregation.”

           

 

December 19

FATHER IGNATIUS AUGUSTINE SCANDELLARI
50th Superior General (1823-26)
(1759-1832)
 

Fr. Scandellari was a scholar and a priest of great virtues. He went through the terrible time of the French revolution without loosing the enthusiasm for his religious and priestly commitment. With great prudence he knew how to avoid any unnecessary confrontation with the authorities or the people while inside his heart he was bleeding for the injuries inflicted upon the Vicar of Christ and His Church. He knew that down here the final triumph belongs to what is good and so he dedicated his life to it.

While still young, he was in the penitentiary of St. Andrew in Bologna as well as synod examiner and doctor in Law.

He was appreciated even by the French government which named him prefect of Sta. Lucia’s School. Pope Leo XIII named him consulter of the inquisition, very pleased with his wise interventions. 

In 1804, during the rebuilding of the congregation, Fr. Scandellari was elected Provincial superior of Ligouri region, and in 1823 he was called to lead the Congregation as its 50th Superior General.

A scholar, he published very little, but the people of Bologna were very grateful for his contribution to their city fame.He died in St. Lucy on December 19, 1832.

 

December 19

FATHER  JOACHIM  M.  BARBETTA
Founder of the “Artigianelli” Institute in Monza 
(1821-1889)

 

Fr. Barbettea was born in Milan, on December 18, 1821. He first entered the diocesan seminary, then in 1841 he asked to be admitted to our congregation. He professed the vows on June 3, 1844 and was sent to teach at the San Francesco school in Lodi. There he was ordained a priest in 1845. 

In 1848 he was assigned to the Longoni School in Milan, where he stayed until 1860 as a teacher and as vice-rector. In 1860 his new post was in Monza at Sta. Maria degli Angeli School. In 1865 he was elected pro-rector of the new school of St. Joseph. Finally in 1876 he was assigned to St. Alexander in Milan. So, his whole full life was dedicated to the teaching apostolate between Milan and Monza. He was well remembered for his courage and stamina, openness, sincerity and warmth.

His zeal led him to the founding of the “Opera degli Artigianelli” in Monza. At first he gathered a group of poor and abandoned children in a dilapidated small house. Some of the young men were skilled in carpentry, shoe making, book binding, and other skills. Under the guidance of Fr. Beretta, and with the help of many friends, in a short period these young men were able to put on the market the fruits of their labor, and this allowed them to move into a better building.  When Fr. Beretta was transferred to Milan he entrusted the organization to the Congregation “The Sons of Mary” of Brescia, founded by the Venerable Pavoni, which allowed the organization to keep flourishing.

 

 

December 21

BISHOP  AMBROSE   SPINOLA
Bishop of Ventimiglia and Sarzana 
(1645-1727)

 

Bishop Spinola was a man of great humility and patience, called by God to serve His Church in many capacities.  In the Congregation he was the superior in St. Severino and St. Paul in Genoa, Provincial Superior and Assistant General, and, while in Genoa, he was examiner of the clergy. Later, against his will, the pope wanted him Bishop of Ventimiglia, and then at Sarzana.

Bishop Spinola had a fight against the pretenses of the Duke of Savoy.  The situation deteriorated so much that the Pope had to intervene with an annual subsidy.  While at Sarzana he built a seminary, introduced classes for the laity, instituted a credit company for the poor farmers, brought discipline in the way processions were taking place; in other words, he was a true pastor, fully dedicated to the material and spiritual welfare of his people.

Two years before his death he resigned as a bishop and retired to prepare himself for his earthly departure, which took place on December 21, 1727, at the age of 84.

 

  December 22

FATHER JOHN ANTHONY REDENTO BARANZANO
A scholar in all fields of knowledge

(1590-1622)

 

FATHER JOHN ANTHONY REDENTO BARANZANO A scholar in all fields of knowledge (1590-1622)

Giovanni Antonio Baranzano was born on February 12, 1590 in Serravalle Sesia (Vercelli), the fourth of eight children of Pier

Francesco, a notary public, and Clara Pilotti. The bright young boy had his schooling at home first, then at the seminary in Vercelli, in Novara for the study of Rhetoric, and at the Brera in Milan for Logic.

 In Milan he answered the call of the Lord asking admission to the Barnabites. He was accepted on January 28, 1608. He received the habit on April 8 from Fr. Dossena, assuming the name Redento, and professed his vows in Monza on April 11, 1609. 

After finishing his philosophical studies in St. Barnabas, in 1613 he moved to Pavia for theology. In June 1615 he was ordained a deacon, and in August he was assigned to teach philosophy in Annecy. There on December 19 of the same year he was ordained a priest by St. Francis de Sales.

Soon Father gave evidence of the power of his intelligence and a great zeal for the development of his students. At the same time he was fully dedicated to his personal sanctification and the priestly apostolate. St. Francis de Sales had a deep friendship for him and in a letter he calls him “good, flexible, simple, and honored with various gifts of science.”

Father General sent him in France to help Fr. Tobia Corona to obtain from King Louis XIV the license to open schools in the kingdom. His intervention was very helpful in the cause. He himself was entrusted with the foundation, in 1620, of a school in Montargis. Unfortunately it was his last assignment. A high fever consumed his strength and in only fifteen days brought him to the tomb. It was December 22, 1622. He was only 33 yeas old.

Fr. Baranzano embraced with a passion every field of knowledge from philosophy to theology, from mathematics to astronomy. His studies brought him in contact with illustrious scholars of the time like Bacon and Galileo. He wrote various works on philosophy and science, like “Summa Philosophiae Anaciacensis,” “Novae opinions physicae,” “Dialecticae questiones,” and “Uranoscopia” published by his students in 1617, which contained his lessons of that year. It contains 517 pages about astronomy. Fr. Redento admits that Copernicus’ works were difficult to interpret because they were written with an obscure language. Then he deals with the stability of the sun and the

 movement of the earth, speaks about the planets known at that time, their relationship to the sun, their movement and their orbit. He talks about the day, the night, and the seasons.

But exactly that year Paul V, with a decree of the Congregation of the Index, had condemned Copernicus’ books, while Galileo had received an admonition through Cardinal Bellarmino (the process itself will take place in 1632). Fr. Baranzano was not aware of all this and indeed, very happily, he sent a complimentary copy of his book to Father General Boerio. Fr. Boerio, aware of what was going on in Rome, to avoid any problem with the Inquisition, called him right away to Rome and forced him to make a retraction. But St. Francis de Sales intervened immediately avoiding the development of another “Galileo crisis.” So, after a few months, Fr. Baranzano was back in Annecy to continue his teaching on the Copernican theory, but only as a probable hypothesis.

Fr. Baranzano was a scientist, yes, but especially an educator very much respected and loved by his students. He knew how to stimulate enthusiasm as he presented complicated math or philosophical concepts. While in Montargis many illustrious personalities were coming to listen to his lessons and to enjoy his conversation.

Besides the scientific work, we must remember also Fr. Barnazano’s apostolic work. He was a great preacher and produced some ascetical booklets like, “How to go to Confession,” and “A small guide for the meditation over the Passion of the Lord.”

 
 By Fr. Anthony M. Bianco, CRSP

 

As part of its "Local Societies Initiative," the Metanexus Institute on Religion and Science has awarded a three-year, $15,000 grant to the Salesian Center for Faith & Culture at DeSales University, Allentown, PA., for the purpose of promoting a dialogue group - named "The Baranzano Society" - that will explore the dynamic interface between science and religion. To begin in July 2003, this group will dialogue about contemporary issues in the field of Bioethics.

At the time of ST. FRANCIS DE SALES (1567-1622), the validity of the experimental method and the autonomy of the natural sciences were not yet fully accepted within religious circles. To the Savoyard area came a young Barnabite scientist and scholar - JOHN ANTHONY (REDENTO) BARANZANO (1590-1622) who was to become friends with the likes of Kepler and Francis Bacon. He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop de Sales and taught at the Chappusian College in Annecy (France). His lectures on astronomy were published by two of his students (Uranoscopia, seu de coelo, 1617); the work taught the Copernican theory and some ideas of Galileo. But, since the publication had neither the approbation of the bishop, nor of Baranzano's religious superiors, and since the Copernican theory had been condemned by Pope Paul V "until corrected," Baranzano was called back to Milan by his superiors and ordered to publish a retraction. (This he did, though he kept teaching the Copernican system as a probable hypothesis, thereby protecting his scientific integrity.

However, Francis de Sales intervened on his behalf and prevailed upon his superiors to arrange Baranzano's return to Annecy in 1618. Defending him in his scientific work, the bishop gave approbation to a new edition of the book. A contemporary Salesian scholar, Alexander Pocetto, concludes:

"The whole relationship of Francis de Sales with Baranzano gives us a fresh and unaccustomed look into the character of the saint. The fact that he came to Baranzano's defense when he faces a serious threat to his career as a teacher and scholar, not to mention his priestly vocation, by an authoritative decree of the Church indicates very clearly that de Sales acknowledged the autonomy of science and of other secular disciplines as they were beginning to emerge. The approbation given to the later works of Baranzano shows that his scientific writings, though at odds with a Church censure, did not contravene the faith in de Sales' view. From the position that the saint took in this very delicate and potentially explosive issue, we can justifiably conclude that he maintains the right of the scholar and scientist to pursue the truth by refining his thought and by competently and responsibly handing the methodology of his particular discipline."

At DeSales University, "The Baranzano Society" seeks to continue this tradition, to encourage this pursuit, and to form this character by bring faith and reason together in responding to important issues of the day. And these days, perhaps no issues are more significant, nor more delicate, than those in the field of bioethics.

More on St Francis de Sales and Fr. Baranzano please read study of Fr. Alexander T. Pocetto, O.S.F.S., " Francis de Sales, Galileo, and the Autonomy of Modern Science"


 

 December 23

 FATHER AMBROSE MAZENTA
14th Superior General (1612-17). 
(1565-1635)

 

 Ambrose Mazenta professed his vows in Monza on June 4, 1591. “He was famous all over Italy because of his noble birth, the splendid genius, the deep knowledge, the public works, his accomplishments in and out of the congregation, his spiritual life and especially his religious and priestly virtues.  When he was already a Knight of Malta and a member of the lawyers guild, in 1590 he joined our congregation. Besides law, he excelled in theology, philosophy and history. He was well known in mathematics, but his primary love was for architecture. His buildings are the Cathedral of St. Peter, the Basilica of St. Paul and the church of the Holy Savior in Bologna; St. John in Lodi, and many others.  He finished the magnificent Church of St. Alexander in Milan, erecting the dome on eight columns. The Grand Duke Ferdinand I selected him to take care of the fortification in Leghorn.  Pope Paul V asked him to study and determine the boundaries of the Ferrara territory...  Pope Urban VIII delegated him Apostolic missionary in Sicily...  Bosco attributes to him the safety of Leonardo da Vinci’s manuscripts which were in the Ambrosian Library.

While he was the Superior General of the congregation, at the request of St. Francis de Sales and encouraged by the Duke Charles Emmanuel I, he accepted the houses of Annecy (1613) and Thonon (1616) with the public schools.

Fr. Colombo wrote: “A black mark appears in his holy body and busy life; his patriotism led him to believe that Morigia and not Zaccaria was our founder. Truly he went overboard to honor his country favoring Morigia, but at the end, with similar modesty, he accepted the decision of the 1620 General Chapter in favor of Zaccaria.” Fr. Mazenta’s opposition was beneficial because it caused a deep search and study of the origins of our congregation. Another Barnabite, Fr. Spinola, said: “Fr. Mazenta had a very holy and righteous mind, and since he was prompt to follow all regulations without any enticement, he expected the same from the others...”

Detached from worldly things, he refused Cardinal Lodovisi’s large monetary donation for the completion of St. Paul alla Colonna church: “We are not jewelers, and we are not merchants by profession!” was his answer, and the donation went to the Jesuits for their church of St. Ignatius.

While he was Provincial of the Roman Province, on the way back from a very tiring trip to the houses in Naples, he got back very sick and died on December 23, 1635 in St. Carlo ai Catinari, at the age of 70.

 

December 24

FATHER POMPONIO TARTAGLIA
Great preacher
Instrument for the merger of the Annuciation Congregation with the Barnabites
(1581-1655)

 

Giovanni Battista Tartaglia was born in Arcidosso (Siena), in 1581, from Alessandro and Feliciana Ginaschi. While attending the Law School at the Perugia University, he came in contact with the Barnabites and asked for admission. He was 23 years old.

He was accepted on May 3, 1604, and was sent to the novitiate in Zagarolo. He received the habit on the feast of the Assumption, August 15, 1604, from Fr. Abbondio Parravicini, local superior, and changed his baptismal name to Pomponio. He professed the vows the following year, September 11, 1605, in the hands of the new superior, Fr. Eliseo Torriani. For the study of philosophy he was sent to Rome at the St. Blaise all’Anello community. In three years he received all the Orders: Minors on September 26, 1606, Subdiaconate on March 22, 1608, Deaconate on March 14, 1609, and the Priesthood on June 13, 1609.

On September 11, 1611, he was assigned to the community of St. Paul alla Colonna in Rome, and two years later, on January 2, 1613, to St. Mary in Sanseverino (Marche), but to last only one year. He participated in the General Chapter of 1614, and was transferred to Pavia, but again the following year, 1615, he was transferred to St. Frediano in Pisa, this time as superior, where he became famous as a preacher. In 1617 he was called to be superior in Sanseverino. Unfortunately there he became very sick, and so in 1619 he went to his own family in Arcidosso to recuperate. After four months he was assigned to St. Carlo in Rome.

On April 30, 1621, Pope Paul V asked him and Fr. Biagio Palma to preach a mission in Ostia. Once again he became very sick and had to take time off with his family to recuperate. On March 22, 1622, he returned to Rome to be assigned to St. Paul alla Colonna.

In 1623 the Congregation asked him to carry on the merger with the Congregation of the Annunciation in Pescia; therefore, in 1624 he moved there as superior and formator. The merger was so smooth that the following year he was able to return to Rome, where he was to stay until 1628, when he was sent to Zagarolo, and in April 1630 to Spoleto as Vicar. In 1632 we find him in Sanseverino, then as superior in Perugia until 1635 when he returned to Sanseverino as superior until 1638. In 1640 he went to Perugia, in 1644 in Spoleto, in 1647 finally again to Perugia where he will conclude his earthly pilgrimage on December 24, 1655.

Fr. Tartaglia was an appreciated preacher and author of spiritual works. His most famous work was the “Spiritual exercise to know yourself and God by man,” in three parts (Perugia, 1641-1647).

 

 December 26

FATHER JOSEPH ALBINI
59th Superior General.
(1808-1876)
 

Fr. Albini received his first education in our St. Louis School in Bologna, and then he pursued a degree in law from the University of Rome. He was about to get married when he felt the call from the Lord to Religious Life. He was about 30 years old when he entered the novitiate. He professed the vows on November 26, 1837, in Naples.

After his ordination he was assigned as a teacher in Parma. After seven years he was called to be the Rector of his old school in Bologna. He became also Provincial Superior, and in 1852, he was asked to rebuild the Province in France. In 1855, Pius IX asked for a Barnabite to rebuild the seminary of Osimo, and Fr. Albini was called to the task, after which he went to France and opened the novitiate in Aubigny.

From there in went to Aosta to reopen the old school of St. Benignus, where he taught philosophy until 1865, when he was elected Provincial Superior of France. His next assignments were as Rector again in Bologna, and Provincial Superior of the Roman Province, until 1871, when he was elected Superior General.

Throughout his life, Fr. Albini was an exemplar religious aiming constantly toward perfection. In the variety of duties entrusted to his care, he acted always with patience, steadfastness, totally detached from his own will. He was also a zealous priest. In Parma he would catechize the farmers and the inmates in the local jail. While in Bologna he busied himself with the confessional and preaching for various monasteries. He was very instrumental for the spreading in Italy of the devotion to the Sacred Heart.

 He governed our Congregation during very troublesome moments and was admired for his zeal, and great resourcefulness in facing them. After five years as Superior General he became suddenly very sick, and on December 26, 1876, he died in the Lord at the age of 68.

 

 December 28

BISHOP SEBASTIAN DOSSENA
Bishop of Alife
(1605-1662)

 

We know very little about Bishop Sebastian, a distant relative of the great Bishop Cosimo Dossena.

He was born in Milan in 1605, and very young he entered our Congregation. He professed the vows on April 18, 1621. After his studies in Milan and Rome, Sebastian was ordained a priest in 1627.

In 1632 we find him in Pavia as a preacher, and from 1638 to 1641 he was also Superior: “Fr. Sebastian Dossena started his preaching with great satisfaction of all the people and of his Highness Lady Marguerite of Savoy...”

In 1642 he was assigned as Superior of St. Alexander in Milan. After three years he was elected Provincial Superior of the Roman Province, and later also Superior of St. Carlo ai Catinari in Rome.

            In 1653, he was sent as Superior in Prague, where the building itself had deteriorated to shameful conditions. He had to beg door to door to have the means to meet the ends. Cardinal d’Harrach made him his personal theologian and an assessor for the running of the diocese, treating Fr. Dossena as a special member of his family. In recognition of Fr. Dossena's great dedication to Prague, the Cardinal made the proposition in Rome to promote him to the episcopacy. So when Fr. Dossena went to Rome, Pope Alexander VII, enticed also by his success as Lenten preacher, elected him bishop of Alife, near Naples. He was consecrated in 1659.

In three years, he captivated the love and admiration of his people. At his sudden death in 1662 at the age of 57, he was surrounded by all, especially by those who were from his diocese and died on December 28.

           

December 30

BISHOP ALEXANDER DE ALESSANDRI
Bishop of Nabucco and Apostolic Vicar in Cochin-China
(1688-1738)

 

James de Alessandri was born in Bergamo on November 23, 1704. He professed his vows as a Barnabite and changed his name to Alexander. He studied philosophy and theology in Milan. His first assignments were in Acqui, Pisa, and Asti to teach philosophy. While in Asti, on December 8, 1717, Fr. de Alessandri received a letter from Fr. General assigning him to the Mission in China. Three days later, he was in Rome, together with Fr. Sigismondo Calchi, to receive the blessing of the Holy Father and of Father General.

Once he reached the mission, his first assignment was in Toning. But he would not reach his destination due to a furious persecution against Christians, provoked by a renegade woman from Kesat; therefore, he was reassigned to Cochin-China. Although the missionaries were not allowed to preach the gospel, they were well accepted as men of knowledge, medicine and science. In 1776, a new king, Nink Voung, gave full freedom to the Church during his reign of thirteen years.

Fr. de Alessandri received, through the hands of Fr. Rasseni, the pontifical nomination as Bishop of Nabucco and Apostolic Vicar of that Kingdom. Bishop de Alessandri was the sixth Vicar of Cochinchina and the first non-French. This caused great tension within the French missionaries who were following Gallicanism and, therefore, resented any missionary sent by Rome. He started his Apostolic visits in 1730, which took him two years to complete. His health started to deteriorate as a consequence of his heavy schedule and efforts.

“I have almost completely lost my good health,” he wrote, “and slowly I became incapable to continue my mission. But anyway, I thank God Who assists me in what I am doing, more than what I deserve, and especially for sending me a missionary from the Seraphic Order, who is of no little help in my work.” In another letter, “I continue in my task, but I cannot survive too long due to illnesses, and especially for stomach problems, for which I cannot eat rice anymore, which is the daily bread for this country. May God’s will be done for His greater glory....” In a final letter, he says, “I have been in Cochin-China for fourteen years. During this time, 23 missionaries have died. At present, I have 19, of whom 6 are Jesuits and 4 Franciscans. Of them, 2 or 3 are totally healthy and strong, the others, I first of all, are almost totally incapable to continue in the apostolic ministry.”

Bishop de Alessandri did survive another 2 years, always calm and happy to serve the Lord. He died at the end of 1738, at the age of 50.

 

 

December 31

FATHER LOUIS FERRARI
61st Superior General
(1831-1904)

 

Fr. Ferrari was born in Porto Maurizio on October 6, 1831. Following the examples of an uncle, two brothers, and two sisters, he too entered the Religious Life. On November 20, 1847, he received the Barnabite habit in St. Bartolomeo of the Armenians in Genoa. He was in Rome from 1850 to 1854 for theology, where he was ordained a priest. His first assignment was in Parma to teach Philosophy, and three years later, in Paris to teach Theology.

He was very much praised for his intelligence and clarity of ideas, especially in his class presentation. He was also a well-known and requested preacher, especially for retreats for religious and diocesan clergy. He was outstanding also in the practice of Religious Life, and so, when he was only 33, he was elected Master of Students in Paris. In 1869, he was also elected Superior of the House, and in 1870, Provincial Superior. In 1877, he was elected Assistant General. While in Rome, he was also in charge of the Sisters of Divine Providence, and for three years in charge of the catechumenate program.

During this time, Fr General Alexander Baravelli had the idea to open a Minor Seminary in Genoa like the one we had in France. The task was entrusted to Fr. Ferrari. A year later, after having finished his canonical visit to France, he was again elected local Superior and Provincial. Shortly after, a persecution against religious inflamed in France, expelling all foreign Religious. So Fr. Ferrari was back in Genoa on October 16, 1880. In 1881, by a special permission from the government, he went back to Paris. In 1885, at his request, he was freed from his charges and went to Rome to teach theology, but a year later, the General chapter elected him for the third time Provincial for France and local Superior in Paris.

In 1889, Leo XIII called him to Rome to be the Superior General, and in 1892, he was reelected by the General Chapter. In 1898, after three years as General Visitor to France, Fr. Ferrari was elected for the third time Superior General. During his nine years, he strengthened the regular observance, giving first of all personal example. He composed the book “De Statu Religioso” as a compendium of all Barnabite canonical laws. He also published a “Regulations for the Economic Administration and the Exercise of Civil Rights.” Because of the difficult and unstable situation caused by the suppression, he refused to open new houses so as to consolidate what was already in existence. His third term ended in 1901.

He refused to be again General Visitor of France, and also the right to choose his own residence. He was assigned to St. Alexander in Milan. In 1904, he is again General Visitor for France and Superior in Brussels, but only for a few months. Back to Milan, he was assigned to St. Barnabas and he dedicated himself to the confessional and the pulpit. In 1906, he acquired problems with his legs and liver. He died on December 31.


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