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.
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Menologio - June
Who could ever investigate the height of the virtues of the one who was raptured to the third heaven, where he heard secrets which cannot be talked about with man? of the one who, raptured in the heavenly realm, was crying out: Oh! the heights of the richness and wisdom of God...; of the one about whose praise so many enlighten Doctors have written, and always in a style which was inferior to his merits?...
Nonetheless, if it is not possible to legitimately excuse anyone who with the only one talent he has received does not employ the service of his soul to praise God in his Saints, how could I be excused who for already so many years have been at the service of the glorious name of this most faithful holy Servant of His?
(Fr. John Peter Besozzi, Lectures on the life of St. Paul the Apostle, 1576)
Fr. Centurione belonged to the nobility of the city of Genoa. As a young man he was already a member of the great council of the Republic. In 1577 Stephen married Vicentina Lomellini, but after a short period he became very cold and inconsiderate toward his bride.
In 1579 the famous “pestilence of St. Charles” invaded the city of Genoa and also the Centurione household. Stephen saw one of his faithful servants die in his arms and he himself became infected. This brought him back to his senses both as a man of God and as a spouse and changed his life. Back to good health he was nominated health secretary, doing a terrific job trying to help all those affected by the disease. Then he was elected major of Savona using his office to improve not only the City structures but to bring peace among the various parties. His next assignment was a judge in Corsico and then for 13 years he was the Governor of Melfi. While busy in these various political assignment, Stephen dedicated himself to the religious and civil education of his many children, and he even found time to dedicate himself to charitable works. In the midst of all this he wrote down in various volumes the spiritual experiences he was going through with the Lord.
But the Lord had not finished with him. His spiritual guide, the Capuchin Friar Leo of Naples, encouraged him to turn back to his hometown in Genoa where the Lord wanted him for something else. He went back to Genoa with his family in 1599 to find himself busy with the founding of the order of the Sisters of the Annunciation, called ‘Turchine,’ which had been started by the Blessed Maria Victoria Strato. He got them the Papal approval, and then, on his own expenses, he built for them their monastery in a very isolated location.
At this point the great Council wanted him as the Director of the fortress in Savona, but the Lord inspired him to take the Minor Orders instead, becoming a Cleric and so ineligible for public office, to the dismay of the Great Council. This lead to the Priesthood in 1605, when he was 58.
When his last daughter got married, he decided to enter religious life and asked the Carmelites for admission. But since he was occurring tremor in his hands, he was not accepted, so he asked the Barnabites who instead overlooked the problem and welcomed him. Fr. Cermischi wrote: “He esteemed all the good he was doing as worthless if he did not consecrate himself totally to God with religious vows. Although affected by a paralysis in his hand and legs, in 1612 he entered the novitiate in Monza, and the following year on June 6 he made his solemn profession.”
This religious was gifted with the gift of abundant tears, rich in humility and patience and with an overabundant charity.
When he lost his sight, he received the gift of abundant tears in his intimate union with the Lord. Asked if his deteriorated nervous system was painful he answered to his superior Fr. Andrew Ferrari: “I tell you, father! although in my anguish I’m tortured by serious and intense pains as if my interior was pierced by thorns, anyway all this is nothing in comparison to what I would like to suffer out of love for God; but the repeated visits by the Blessed Virgin Mary, she appeared to me three times, have given me so much consolation that my pains have been totally relieved.”
He spent 13 years as a Barnabite until he died on June 3, 1625 at the age of 77.
Two activities characterized Fr. Belli’s life: the scientist-teacher, and the evangelization. An artist by nature, and a tireless and precise worker, whatever he handled had to be done in a most perfect way. In his free time he dedicated himself to gardening, producing the most splendid of flowers.
In 1881, with the opening of the new school in Cremona, Fr. Belli moved there from Lodi. He used to say that it was the year of his conversion. In the previous 20 years as a priest, taken by his scientific activities, he had never preached. After a very long and painful preparation, he had the courage to climb the pulpit for the first time to deliver a sermon in honor of St. Alexander Sauli. From then on he did know any limits, climbing the pulpit even five times a day. His sermons were dense with substance, rich with form, lively in the deliverance. Where he succeeded most were in popular missions and spiritual retreats.
Fr. Belli had been a student in our college in Monza. At the end of his studies, against the will of his father, he decided to enter religious life. He professed his vows in Monza on October 22, 1857. During his novitiate he had the fortune to meet Fr. Schouvaloff. The encounter left an indelible spiritual mark on him.
He was greatly gifted for mathematics and natural sciences, and so he dedicated his first years to teaching and experiments in Milan, in Monza and in Lodi. For many years, in Lodi, he was also the vice-rector. And then came his assignment to Cremona.
He was in Cremona for 18 years totally dedicated to the pulpit and the confessional, always ready to comply with the demands asked of him. This availability to the wishes of the Superiors was indeed one of his major characteristics.
Death caught him in the midst of his activities. His aorta vein had dilated, and in October of 1897, he started to suffer lack of voice, forcing him to cancel all his preaching appointments. He died on June 4, 1898, at the age of 59.
It is worthwhile to commemorate today four of our confreres who perished in the ocean on the way to the Burma mission. The four of them, in their youthful enthusiasm, had answered with generosity the call to be missionaries in far away lands. Fr. Casanova and Fr. Linderman perished in the Atlantic in the midst of a furious tempest which left not one survivor of the shipwreck; instead, Fr. Gazzari and Fr. Quadrio almost reached their destination when they met the same sort in the waters of Martaban. Few sailors survived to reach land and to bring the bad news to Fr. Nerini.
Before leaving, Fr. Gazzari had told his sister, a nun: “Since you are my confidant, I tell you that I will not return because during the Mass I have promised to the Lord to leave my bones there.” And just before departing he whispered: “We shall see each other in Paradise and pray the Lord I can go there soon.” When the shipwreck happened on the night of June, she woke up suddenly and heard her brother say: “Dear sister, just now I’m going to Paradise.” She remembered her brother’s words before leaving and she shared them with her co-sisters. Naturally the news of the shipwreck reached them after many months.
He was a descendant of the Courts of Barengo (Novara). His father, a medical doctor, named him Jerome. At first he studied medicine but then he felt called to the clerical life and dedicated himself to the study of theology. This too did not satisfy the young man, so he went to St. Barnabas in Milan and asked the Father General, St. Alexander Sauli, to be admitted. He was 26 years old when he was accepted in 1569, and received the habit and the name of Augustine. He professed on August 27, 1570, and four months later he was ordained a priest.
At first he was assigned to Cremona to preach, then he was called to Milan to teach Scholastic philosophy in St. Barnabas. He became a discreet and the right hand of the Father General Facciardi. In 1578 he was sent to Pavia as Superior, where he governed with such prudence and ability that a year later, after the publication of the Constitutions of St. Charles (1579), he was elected Superior General. He showed great zeal in the observance of the new Statutes of the Congregation, a zeal combined with a great charity and sweetness in dealing with his confreres, which led to a re-election as Superior. He was also a man of studies, especially of Sacred Scripture. In his continuous research he collected so much material that he got the idea to compose a sacred history from creation to the birth of Jesus Christ. It took him 18 years of intense work before publishing it under the title “Annales Sacri,” which saw many reprints.
During his government he allowed Fr. Bascapè, as requested by St. Charles, to go to the court of Madrid for special business, and sent Fr. Boerio in Switzerland to work among heretics. He was the first to open schools of arts in our houses, and introduced the solemn exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in all the churches of the Order during the annual triduum of the Carnival.
The Duchess of Mantua kept offering him the Episcopacy of Mantua or Casalmonferrato, but he was very adamant in refusing.
When eighty he was caught by a fever. He took it with great joviality and asked for the anointing. As the news of his illness spread, many were those who wanted to receive his final blessing. Since the ladies could not enter in the monastery, the sick Father was brought on a stretcher in the sacristy to satisfy them. He died on June 10, 1622.
Fr. Gabuzio wrote: “Agostino Tornielli, a noble from Novara, famous for his religious humility, righteousness, prudence and knowledge, a mirror of regular discipline, for fifty years lived a holy life in this order; for a long time he held the office as Superior General and other responsibilities, published in the midst of his many jobs, the Annales Sacri from the beginning of the world to the passion of our Lord: a new and splendid work very useful for a knowledge of holy Scripture.”
FATHER BASIL STUPPA
Fr. Stuppa, following the example of the Holy Founder, at 26, when already a medical doctor, decided to enter our Congregation. On February 19, 1589, he received the habit from the Venerable Bascapè changing his baptismal name, Donato, to Basil.
In 1595 he was ordained a priest and assigned to Cremona, where he spent the rest of his life. Fr. Pezzi tells us that his expertise in moral theology was such that he was constantly sought for his advice. His confessional was every day besieged by a long line of penitents. The abundant offerings he would receive made their ways to the many poor he was serving, or a few times they were a blessing in tough financial moments for the community.
Among his many virtues, outstanding was patience. He collapsed at the age of 68 during the 1630 pestilence, on June 13.
The Peruzzini family, from Fossombrone, gave three of its members to the Congregation: Fr. Joachim who became Provincial Superior of the Roman Province, and two of his nephews, Charles Augusto who became Bishop of Macerata-Tolentino, and his younger brother Scipione.
When only 16 Scipione consecrated himself to the Lord in our novitiate in Zagarolo, on December 23, 1728. After his ordination he used extensively as a teacher in various schools of the Roman Province. But Fr. Scipione distinguished himself more than just as a teacher but as a leader. Also three times he was Provincial Superior (1755-1773), then Visitor General, Procurator General, Vicar General, and finally in 1779 the General Chapter elected him Superior General.
One of the Chapter members was St. Francis Xavier Bianchi, indeed the new Superior General selected him as his companion during the Canonical Visitation in Northern Italy. One night they got lost, ending up in a ravine. St. Francis invoked the intercession of St. Frances of the Five Wounds, and miraculously they were spared from any injury. The problem was how to dig the carriage from the ravine, when suddenly a young man appeared on a horse and with a rope. He pulled them out without problem, and then disappeared. Back in Naples Fr. Bianchi found out from his dear friend Sr. Frances of the Five Wounds that it was the Archangel Gabriel sent to their rescue.
Fr. Peruzzini’s six years as Superior General were very painful ones because of the political events he had to face. In 1781 the Josephine law of the Austrian Empire separated Lombardy from the rest of the Congregation. Then the Leopoldine law saw all the houses in Tuscany closed. Meanwhile the situation of our mission in Burma was becoming more desperate for lack of members. With a very heavy heart he consulted all the Provincial Superiors and the overwhelming opinion was to withdraw from the mission. But Fr. Peruzzini, after more studies and prayer, decided to hold on and sent two more missionaries, Fr. D’Amato and Fr. Sangermano. On the brighter side, in 1782, he opened the new foundation in Bormio.
At the end of his term, Fr. Peruzzini was very tired and sickly. He retired in Foligno where he will spend the rest of his life. He died on June 13, 1793, at the age of 81.
FATHER JOHN PETER BESOZZI
Fr. John Peter Besozzi was the faithful, intelligent, and generous coadjutor of St. Charles Borromeo in his pastoral ministry of the Archdiocese of Milan and in the efforts for the Catholic reformation. Before dying on June 17, 1584, he had the joy of being lovingly comforted by St. Charles himself, who, on hearing that Fr. Besozzi was dying, interrupted his apostolic visitation and ran to St. Barnabas. His octogenarian friend was weak and fearful for the upcoming death, so he stayed at length by his bedside in prayer, and then gave him the blessing “in articulo mortis.” Fr. Besozzi was one of the most illustrious personalities of the Barnabite Order, as a matter of fact of the religious history of Milan and of Lombardy in the second half of the 1500’s. He was one of those men who left a deep mark in the shaping of the post-Tridentine Church. After the three Co-founders: Anthony M. Zaccaria, Bartholomew Ferrari, James Anthony Morigia, he was one of the greatest players in the most crucial moments of the internal and external development of our Congregation. He played a crucial role in the composition and promulgation of the 1579 Constitutions. He is also the religious who, in the painting by Cerano, kneels in front of St. Charles and receives the document of approval of the new Order.
Born in Milan in 1503, at 20 he became a lawyer, and at 29 he married Vienna Dati from Cremona, from whom he had a son, Orazio. In 1537 he met Fr. Morigia who converted him to true Christian life. He joined the Society of the Married of St. Paul, founded by St. Anthony M. Zaccaria, and in a short time he distinguished himself for his piety and fervor.
In 1541 the Besozzis, in perfect common agreement, decided both to enter Religious Life, John Peter as a Barnabite, Vienna as an Angelic. A singular example followed four centuries later by the Princes Paternò-Castello of Sicily.
Although John Peter was a well known lawyer in the city, and even extremely friendly with the Barnabites, still, according to the custom of the time, he had to withstand many humiliations and mortifications before being accepted in the Congregation. One day he was asked to go door to door as a mendicant to provide dinner for the Community. Another day he had to stay at the entrance of St. Ambrose Basilica to beg for alms, dressed as a patrician in the midst of the usual daily beggars. On another occasion he was asked to go for Communion in another church with a rope around his neck. Not satisfied with these public penances, the Fathers asked him to go in the public plaza, in front of the Cathedral, on the vigil of Pentecost 1542, and holding a cross, to preach about the vanities of this world.
Finally, on June 29, 1542, when he was 40 years old, he received the Barnabite habit from his confessor, Fr. Morigia. Although still a novice, on March 25, 1543, Easter Sunday, he was ordained a priest.
After the profession of the vows, Fr. Morigia sent Fr. Besozzi as Visitor to the “Venetian Missions” in Vicenza, Verona, Padua, and Venice. He stayed in Venice for about two years well known for “his special ability to handle souls, reconciling them with God and bringing them back to him.”
Although a priest and a professed religious for only a short time, in the General Chapter of April 28, 1546, he was elected Superior General. It was through his efforts that the house and church of St. Barnabas were completed. In 1547 the community moved into its new residence, which would become the Motherhouse and give to the Congregation its popular name as Barnabites.
His greatest worries were the “Venetian Missions,” especially in Venice. There, through him and the Angelic Paola Antonia Negri, many noblemen had joined the reform movement together with “many noble women of the high society.” At the same time he sent missionaries in Ferrara and Brescia to fight the Protestant movement.
Wisdom and prudence allowed Fr. Besozzi, a born leader, to choose valid cooperators, and to use a just severity in the admission of candidates to the Order and in their formation to religious discipline.
For political reasons the Barnabites and the Angelics were expelled from the Venetian Republic. Fr. Besozzi had to pay the consequences. The following year, Fr. Marta, new Superior General, decided to send a delegation to Rome to clarify the situation and, possibly, to revoke the Venetian ban. He selected for the delicate mission Fr. Melso and Fr. Besozzi, who was also Master of novices. It was during those days that the 17 year old postulant Alexander Sauli asked for admission.
In the fall of that year, 1551, the two Fathers went to Rome to support the innocence of the Barnabites and to defog the accusations. At first they received a warm welcome from Cardinals and Prelates of the Inquisition, among whom were the future Popes Paul IV and Pius V, and especially the famous Cardinal Morone, president of the Council of Trent. But almost suddenly in January 1552, the two were arrested, thrown in jail, tried and treated rigorously. The accusations brought by the powerful Venetian authorities were based on two presumed doctrinal heresies by the Barnabites, and “their too close relationship with the Angelics of St. Paul.”
Through the intervention of powerful Curia people and friends, Fr. Besozzi was freed one month later (Fr. Melso had to wait 12 more days), on probation and under house arrest in the home of St. Ignatius of Loyola, who welcomed him with “fatherly love.” The process ended with a full absolution, therefore, after the pontifical audience, the two Barnabites were able to go back to Milan free and innocent. Many years later Fr. Besozzi would write to the first Cardinal Protector of the Congregation: “That great Fr. Ignatius, first Superior of the Society of Jesus, would say that our troubles were sins of humility.”
After the apostolic visit by Monsignor Marini, who greatly praised the Barnabites, Fr. Besozzi was re-elected Superior General. It was like a confirmation for the humiliations he had suffered, and a way to publicly show him the esteem and gratitude of the whole Congregation.
During this period there would be the confrontation with the Angelic Paola Antonia Negri and followers, who were condemned by Rome as “deserters.”
In 1556, at the end of his term, Fr. Besozzi was made “major,” that is, he had the task to supervise everything and to give his counsel for a good flow of community life. The following year he was sent to Pavia for the foundation of the first house of the Barnabites outside Milan: Our Lady of Canepanova. Together with the newly ordained, Fr. Sauli, he had the task to preach and minister to the University students, while Fr. Omodei was busy with the catechesis of the people. Together they were untiring in the confessional, zealous in promoting frequent Communion, and the decorous celebration of the Mass.
Fr. Besozzi’s apostolic ministry in the diocese of Pavia was of great importance: Bishop Ippolito de’ Rossi selected him as co-visitor in 1561-62, charging him also with the reform of the convents. For the same purpose Cardinal Bernardino Scotti called him to Piacenza in 1564, and many times Cardinal Nicolò Sfondrati, Bishop of Cremona, and future Pope Gregory XIV, called him to be his co-operator.
There were ten years, rich with activities, which prompted the election of Fr. Besozzi as Superior General for the third time. But his health and his advanced age could not cope with these many responsibilities, therefore, the following year he resigned in favor of Fr. Sauli, keeping the direction of the Angelic Sisters. Meanwhile St. Charles named him visitor of various convents, like in Varese, Lambrugo, and Gavirate.
During this period a true competition developed between the Cardinal of Milan and the Bishops of Pavia and Cremona in trying to have the service of this Barnabite, whose apostolic zeal was blessed with great success wherever he went. It is witnessed by the letters they exchanged, which are so rich with praises for Fr. Besozzi. Very meaningful is a note sent by St. Charles in 1570 to Father General, when Fr. Besozzi was nominated superior in Cremona: “The decision I hear this Chapter has taken to send the Reverend Father John Peter to Cremona will greatly jeopardize the spirituality of the Sisters of St. Paul if carried through. Therefore, my desire is to drop the decision...” Actually St. Charles was only partially appeased, since Fr. Besozzi did leave for Cremona, to the delight of the local Bishop. Here, with his usual dedication he promoted catechism classes, preaching on feast days, the laity association “Charity” to come to the aid of the poor, the widows, and the orphans.
Although suffering of various physical problems, like gout and toothache, he dealt with all kind of situations in Busseto, Casalmonferrato, and Monza. In a special way he had to suffer a lot because the “Umiliati,” the Order which in 1571, will be suppressed by Pius V.
On February 6, 1572, he was almost tramped under a horse, “It was a special blessing from God,” he wrote, “if I was not crushed, because there was any possible reason to be thrown on the ground and tramped by the horse, since there was no room to escape, except along the wall.”
After overcoming some infirmities, Fr. Besozzi, in April of 1572, was elected Superior General for the fourth time. In a very active two years he opened the houses of “St. Mary at Carrobiolo” in Monza and of “St. Paul” in Casalmonferrato; prepared the foundation of a house in Rome; promoted philosophy, theology and Sacred Scripture courses for the Barnabite students in Milan; committed himself to collect material for the new Constitutions.
From 1574 to 1576 Fr. Besozzi was in St. Barnabas as Assistant General working “on the Constitutions and to refine for printing some of his spiritual works.” Many times he went to Cremona as Visitor, but during the pestilence he was “in a remote villa with healthy air” not to be a victim himself.
At the end of the pestilence the General Chapter of April 1578 elected Fr. Besozzi Superior General for the fifth time. He was 75 years old, but there was no one capable like him to bring to an end the composition and publication of the Constitutions: this was the most urgent and important task assigned to the new head of the Congregation.
He relied totally on the authority of St. Charles, delegate of the Pope, “to review, correct, change, and ratify the new laws, to put them in use and to imitate their observance.” In the famous Chapter of May 25, 1579, chaired by St. Charles, the long journey of the new code of Barnabite life ended. Fr. Gabuzio, in his eloquent presentation speech addressed the Venerable Fr. Besozzi in these terms: “Indeed you have a very special and proper right to an act of thanksgiving and to rejoice, oh! John Peter Besozzi, our Superior, very prudent and religious father. You, although advanced in age and ailing, as our guide and best shepherd, with singular solicitude, with incessant study have dedicated yourself to this task, and through you it has come to a happy end with great joy for the benefit of all.”
In his last years he was tried by illnesses and adversities, but as Assistant General, from 1582 on, he was of great help for the Confreres and the Angelics with his experience, authority and practice of virtues.
On June 17, 1584, comforted by St. Charles’ presence, he died “peacefully” in his beloved house of St. Barnabas, in Milan.
Writer of Ascetical Books
- Talks on the life of St. Paul the Apostle (Milan, 1573): a collection of more than a hundred talks given to the Angelics. The book is divided in three parts: vocation and accomplishments of the Apostle; his virtues; supernatural gifts.
- Warnings for nuns (Milan, 1578), written at the request of St. Charles. These pages are shining with a remarkable psychological penetration (remember that his wife was one of the Angelics), the doctrine and the reforming spirit of the Council of Trent: they were read with great satisfaction by pious souls and they were kept “almost like relics.”
- Spiritual Letters (Milan, 1578): 118 letters mostly addressed to the Angelics in Milan and Cremona. The authenticity is contested, but we do not go into it here. Anyway they are documents with a high ascetical value and spiritual power.
Profile of a Man
This is Fr. Besozzi’s profile in his human and spiritual qualities described by the Angelic Sfondrati, his contemporary:
“Father Besozzi was a man full of fervor and of love of God. Although he had served in the world during his first years, his conversion was so alive and efficacious that it was of great example and edification for the city. He never abandoned the path he had taken from the very beginning; instead, he followed it growing in perfection, and consisted in giving himself at the service and for the benefit of his neighbor. As he told us himself so many times, he felt called by the Lord to give himself to the exercise of charity, which he did with marvelous profit, with the help of the natural talents with which he was gifted, acute intellect, great wisdom and great ability in every kind of worldly and spiritual businesses, which was making him useful and appreciated by all. Since in the conversation he was so benevolent, affable and happy, everybody was trying to have the opportunity to converse with him. He always tirelessly gave of himself and, although not keen in welcoming others, he was always appreciated by all the Prelates, who used to come even from far away towns. He dealt with illustrious people with such tact that he benefited them a lot for their welfare and the one of the society.
He had a very pious and devout spirit, never omitting for whatever reason the daily sacrifices he offered with great efficacy inspiring devotion to anybody present; which he did even if advanced in age, especially in solemnities, as it can be seen in his books and letters, although very sick, especially with gout, which affected him in his last years.
He was straight forward in his way of life, so that, in himself or others, there was not a speck less than sincere or fearful of God: he concluded his life in these good works in his Congregation, after a journey of eight years.”
VENERABLE MR. MICHELANGELO PANE
Born from a rich family in Asti, following his father’s wishes, Michelangelo dedicated himself to the studies at first with the Jesuits in Turin, then with the Barnabite in Asti, where he felt the call from the Lord.
He had to overcome the opposition of his family, but finally he was able to enter the Novitiate in Monza where he professed his vows on January 14 1629.
He moved to St. Alexander in Milan to continue his studies, but only to encounter the pestilence which took his life.
In the Acts of St. Alexander we read: “On June 17, 1630, Michelangelo Pane, from Asti, the glory of the novitiate of St. Alexander, died at the age of 18. A man of such modesty, seriousness and observance and fervor, that in only one year and a half as professed, he reached the highest of perfection, which is usually achieved by others after many years.”
Father Villoresi, baptized as Andrew, was born in Monza in 1814. We could say that the love for ecclesiastical and religious life was a characteristic of the Villoresi family as five of seven brothers became priests. The young Andrew attended the diocesan seminary in Monza, then in Milan, and he celebrated his first Mass in Desio, where his brother Anthony was assistant pastor. After only ten days the newly ordained priest obtained the permission to enter the Barnabite Congregation, drawn especially by the personality of Fr. Fortunato Redolfi.
At the profession of his vows on February 10, 1841, he changed his name to Louis, and went to the University of Pavia for classical and philosophical studies. After his graduation he taught Philosophy for one year in Lodi, and then he was assigned to teach in Monza. During this time famous is his correspondence with one of the greatest Catholic Philosophers of the time the Abbot Anthony Rosmini.
The political and military events of those days, the anticlerical movement, and the social condition of the people, compelled Fr. Villoresi to leave the teaching post and to dedicate himself to the assistance of the people, especially through the famous Oratorio, instituted by Fr. Redolfi. Eventually the Oratorio became a seminary with the blessing of the Vicar of the Archdiocese, Msgr. Caccia Dominioni.
In November 1862, the “St. Joseph seminary” was officially inaugurated. It was an institute for poor clerics who, for financial reasons, could not enter the Milan seminary. In forty years it would become a most providential and fruitful institute, bringing to the priesthood more than 700 young men, some of them well known saints of the time. Many became excellent religious, intrepid missionaries, or parish priests in the archdiocese of Milan, all of them men of God, steadfast in their faith, molded in a typical “Villoresian” style.
Fr. Villoresi’s friendship with Rosmini caused a split in the Archdiocese among those with a more liberal attitude, and the diocesan clergy with a more traditionalist-intransigent attitude. The controversy precipitated in the years 1897-1901, when Cardinal Ferrari decided to close the Villoresi seminary to avoid further divisions in the cultural formation of the clergy. But later the Cardinal himself had to regret that decision as a big mistake.
Fr. Villoresi himself was subjected to many accusations as a “liberal” and a “Rosminian,” but he “endured them with patience, generosity, and humility, as the men of God are used to do, who receive more light and power by their virtues, their convinced respect for authority and the observance of discipline.” In 1877 the Apostolic Visitor who was sent to investigate the situation, had absolved Fr. Villoresi from any possible accusation, indeed he had only high praises for him.
Because of his piety and prudence Fr. Villoresi gained great and deep esteem also in the Congregation as he covered many offices: Rector, Master of Novices, and Provincial Superior. He died on June 17, 1883 at the age of 68, and his funeral was a triumph in the whole city of Monza with the presence of more than 800 priests.
Michael Favero, son of Giacomo and Maddalena Lovere, was born in Moncalieri (Turin) on January 3, 1885. After attending the elementary school in town, he joined the Royal College Carlo Alberto of the Barnabites, to move then to their seminary in Asti first and then in Cremona. On October 11, 1902 he entered the novitiate in Monza and professed the vows on October 12, 1903. He attended the Liceum in Lodi where on October 13, 1906 he professed the solemn vows. For theology he went to St. Barnabas in Milan, but after one year, due to his health, he moved to Voghera where he was ordained a deacon on September 13, 1908, and worked as a catechist in the local oratorio.
He was ordained a priest on December 18, 1909, and was put in charge of the oratorio. In September 1913 he was transferred to Cremona as assistant director and confessor of the Zaccaria Club and as a preacher and teacher of Latin and Religion. On February 19, 1918 he was drafted into military service until August 1919, when he returned to Cremona in charge of the youth activities in the Community and the Diocese, where we also find him between the end of 1927 and 1939.
His activity as preacher, teacher and lecturer sees him back and forth in St. Alexander, in Lodi, at the Zaccaria in Milan, in St. Barnabas, in Florence, and in 1939-40 also as Rector at the Royal College Carlo Alberto in Moncalieri, then again in Florence. In 1946 he was nominated as Visitor General of the Roman Province until 1951. In 1949 he left Florence for Eupilio at the retreat center, where he died on June 18, 1965.
Among his works we like to mention, The mystical Body in St. Paul (Rome, 1941), Priestly experiences (Padua, 1951), Evangelical Triptych (The sheep, the drama, the son), Poetries (Eupilio, 1953), Nuptial catechesis (Eupilo, 1953), Ad quid venisti? (4 volumes, Eupilo 1955), The heart and the cross (Eupilio, 1956), Almost Renzo’s vineyard (Bologna, 1963), This is how he saved us (Savona, 1964).
Bro. Bergonzi was born in Macerata in 1724, baptized as Theodore. He developed the vocation for religious life and he asked for admission to the Barnabites as a lay Brother. After his novitiate in Zagarolo, he professed his vows on July 5, 1750.
After few years of service in the Roman Province he was assigned to the mission in Burma. Bro. Angel Cappello, medical doctor, had died and the mission was in dire need of a substitute, so the Superiors turned to Bro. Bergonzi. At first he went to Milan to go through a special training at the “Maggiore” hospital, in general medicine and in surgery. In the spring of 1768 he left for Burma.
His disastrous trip lasted nine months, but he made it. Bishop Percoto welcomed him with great delight. We have only few records of his activity there. Bishop Percoto wrote in one of his letters: “Bro. Romuald is with Fr. Cortenovis, in charge of the temporal needs of the house, and dedicated with great charity to the care of the sick.”
In another report we read: “As he (Bishop Percoto) saw that those professing the medical arts in those lands, were more inclined to kill than to heal the sick, with many prayers he beg the Superiors and the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda to send him someone proficient in medicine and surgery, and finally he obtained Bro. Romuald Bergonzi, expert in chemistry and pharmaceutics, and excellent doctor, who was for the Missionaries and the Burmeses of any condition, of immeasurable advantage.”
He died at the age of 62, on June 19, 1786, while in the city of Nabec.
Alexander was born in Milan from the Belloni noble family. Small and not too handsome, his father sent to the University of Pavia, hoping to make out of him a man worthy of the family. There he was under the direction of the Jesuits.
When 20 he showed the desire to be a religious, at first as a Carthusian, then as a Benedictine, finally as a Barnabite. Our Fathers judged him not too healthy, or too intelligent, bad looking, so he was rejected. Because of his persistence, in 1575, he was accepted on trial. After three Chapters he was officially admitted, and received the name, Maurizio. He professed on August 6, 1576, but instead of being sent to continue his studies, he was sent to work in the fields in Cernusco, then to the maintenance of the sacristy and domestic chores in St. Barnabas. He himself will say that these humiliations at the beginning of his religious life became the foundation of his spiritual life. The acts of the community tell us that one day, back all sweaty and dirty from the field, he approached the Superior in the choir, during prayers, for the blessing. The Superior scolded him for appearing in those conditions and sent him away. As, in all humility he withdrew, Fr. Superior told the Community: “He looks ugly, but he is good, and one day he will be a column of the Congregation.”
Finally he was able to study, and after only one year, in 1580, he was admitted to priestly ordination. Assigned in Pavia immediately he started to reach out to the people in his apostolic ministry with such great fervor to cause deep admiration and awe. Realizing the great ignorance among the people in religious matters, he would walk tirelessly throughout the day in the midst of the workers to reach them and instruct them. Before he knew, he found himself surrounded by many helpers of great fame too, like the Count Federico Borromeo, future Cardinal. It was the beginning of a long standing tradition of catechetical instruction approved and supported by the Bishop. He had a very sweet, down to earth approach, based on his own personal prayer. He became very popular among our seminarians, often talking with them of spiritual things, and teaching them how to fight temptations. He was for many of them instrumental for their vocation and their perseverance.
He had special gifts for the direction of souls, scrutinizing their hearts, and reading in their consciences. His prudence was superb, acquired more from prayer than from books.
For seven years (1585-1592) he was Superior of the local Community, which was very large with more than 60 members. He knew, especially through prayer, how to take care of their spiritual as well as material needs.
He died on June 20, 1592, at the age of 58.
A life fully dedicated to God in the Church and the Congregation, but we do not have a complete biography. Fr. Maccabei was born in Alessandria on September 11, 1672, and received the name Peter Jacinto. He received the Barnabite habit in 1691 in Monza, and professed on November 9, 1692, in the hands of Fr. Bazzetta.
He studied in St. Alexander in Milan, and then in Pavia where, around 1697, he was ordained a priest. In October 1698 he was in Milan to teach philosophy in the Arcimboldi school, and to do apostolic work, especially preaching, in St. Alexander. Six years later he was in Pavia to teach Theology, and finally, he was assigned to Rome, where he remained until death.
In 1716 he was made Superior of St. Charles and it was to his delight to finally see the church consecrated on March 19, 1722, by Cardinal Lawrence Corsini, the future Benedict XIII. In 1725 he had to participate in what was going to be probably the stormiest General Chapter of the Congregation. The storm was caused by the on-going political squabbles between France and Spain, with Cardinal De-Polignac standing for France and Cardinal Cienfuegas for Spain. The Chapter found itself split in two factions, one favoring the election of the Frenchman Fr. Capitain, and the other Fr. Maccabei. Benedict XIII, to avoid further troubles, assigned Cardinal Marefoschi to preside the Chapter. At the end, the Representatives from Lombardy, for the sake of peace, voted for Father Capitain, and Fr. Maccabei was elected Procurator General.
During the next six years he obtained from the Vatican the privilege to celebrate the office of St. Paul once a week, the office of the Immaculate on Saturday, and on the third Sunday after Pentecost the office and Mass in honor of St. Joseph. He had to fight also for the rights of out Fathers in St. Alexander against some pretenses by the Carmelites of St. John in Conca.
In the General Chapter of 1731, in Milan, he was unanimously elected Superior General. During his term he had to put up a strong battle with the Episcopal Curia in Milan and in Cremona to safeguard for the Congregation the direction of the Angelic Sisters. At the end of his term he was elected Assistant General, a post he kept to his death.
During this time he was also at the service of the Church, as he was Consultor of the Sacred Rites, of the Index, and Examiner of Bishops. Benedict XIV chose him as his confessor. He also directed the Venerable Joanne M. Solimani, Foundress of the Baptistine Sisters.
And so this most holy and learned man, always at the service of the Church and the Congregation, at the age of 76, on June 20, 1728, closed his eyes in St. Charles ai Catinari.
Fr. De Brito was born in Rangoon (Burma) in 1765. His father was a Portuguese and his mother a local native. Educated by Fr. Sangermano, he developed the vocation for religious life. At first he attended the seminary in Nabeck, then in Rangon. In 1793 he was ordained a priest with other native students, by Bishop Cajetan Mantegazza. Shortly after, together with Fr. Andrew Coo, he received the Barnabite habit from Fr. Marcel Cortenovis.
His first assignment was in the church of the Assumption in Rangoon, caring with great charity and dedication for the flock entrusted his care, especially the institute for street girls, created by Fr. Cortenovis. After a period in Ava he was back in Rangoon. The war had destroyed many of the churches, so he had to dedicate a lot of his efforts in rebuilding them. By then the Congregation could not find any more members to send from Europe, so he found himself all alone in Pegù, while Fr. Amato was covering Ava.
He consecrated himself totally to the apostolic work and endured all the hardship with his brother priests. He had to suffer persecution and even prison by the English. He learned to perfect his English, Portuguese, Spanish, and the local language. He even composed a grammar and a dictionary Italian-Palese, especially to help new missionaries. Among his other many publications we have to mention a collection of homilies for various occasions, and, since he was a good doctor, a pharmacopoeia in Italian-Burmese-Latin, together with a medical handbook in Burmese.
He fell victim to sickness on June 21, 1832.
Seven days after the death of the Venerable Pane, another young man fell victims of the pestilence: Gaspar Castiglione from Milan. After his profession in Monza he had moved to St. Alexander for the Theological studies.
Three days later he was followed by Fr. Celedonio Marzio, pastor of St. Alexander. He was really the good shepherd who generously had given himself for his sheep spiritual and material welfare.
The day after another young man was falling, Matthias Landi from Piacenza, 18 years of age. He had entered the Congregation in Montù.
These our three confreres gave their life on the same day, victims of the pestilence in Cremona.
Fr. Poli, at the General Chapter held in Pavia, had been assigned to Bologna. He had stopped in He had professed his vows in 1604, and he had been a teacher in Vercelli and in Pavia.
Fr. Savaresi had professed the same day with Fr. Poli. When he entered the Congregation he was already a priest and teacher. For many years he had taught moral theology in Cremona, and he had been in Perugia and Bologna as a penitentiary, and as Superior in Montù. Because of his great prudence in spiritual matters he had been the confessor of many convents.
Fr. Seregni joined them in the evening of the same day. Although 70 years old, he had fully dedicated himself to the assistance of the sick. He had been the tailor of the community.
It is not easy to draw Fr. Martini’s biography. He was an extraordinary man: great intelligence, piety, cheerfulness, affection, tenacity in his ideas, creativity. He could easily move from the theater to philosophical discussions, from balloons to the pulpit, from the play-ground to the chapel, from classical to Neapolitan poetry, from the stage to the confessional.
He had an unlimited love for Philosophy, but just as well for his silk flowers. Just as he had a tremendous ability to expose the Scholastic philosophy, so he could twine the petals of roses, jasmines, dahlias, or any flower. With great speed and ability he could cut and sow together customs for the theater.
With the boys at the Oratorio in St. Charles ai Catinari, or at the La Querce College in Florence, he knew how to be a boy himself in their midst. The little ones found in him a substitute mother, as he would accompany them through the day, and in the evening put them to sleep with his stories.
He was the Providence for many unfortunate people, with his heart full of charity. His memory indeed is a blessing for all of us.
Born in Naples in 1840, he had professed as a Barnabite in 1859, and he died in Florence on June 26, 1905, at the age of 65.
Fr. Vitale was born on November 5, 1849, in Gaeta, where his father was an officer of the royal guard of the Borbon King, Ferdinand II. Having completed his studies in Naples, he entered the diocesan seminary and was ordained a priest on December 23, 1876.
He used to frequent our church of St. Joseph a Pontecorvo, and there he exercised his first apostolic ministry, feeling very welcome and appreciated especially by Fr. Cerchi. This led him to ask to be admitted in the community. He went to the novitiate in San Felice a Cancello, and professed his first vows on December 19, 1879, followed by the solemn profession in Rome, at St. Charles, on August 14, 1884.
He remained in St. Charles as a preacher, as spiritual director of the Sacred Heart Oratorio, and theology teacher to our students. From 1886 to 1892 he was vice-master of the students.
In March, 1891, Fr. Anthony Maresca had become too sick to keep following the Apostleship of Prayer as its national director, therefore, Fr. General proposed to the general director, Fr. Regnault, S.J., to have Fr. Vitale as his successor. Fr. Vitale was officially installed as the new director-superior on April 19, 1891. He held the position until 1896, when the new statutes of the organization eliminated the director-superior position. In 1893 he organized a pilgrimage which drew over seven hundred members to Rome on the occasion of the episcopal jubilee year of the Holy Father, Leo XIII. The following year more than 1300 people participated in St. Charles at the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the Apostleship of Prayer.
Another great accomplishment was the organization of national congresses, the first in Palermo in 1899, and the second in Milan in 1901. In 1914 he celebrated also the 50th anniversary of the publication of the organization’s magazine, “The Messenger of the Sacred Heart.”
Meantime in 1896 he had become also the pastor of St. Charles at the death of Fr. Vallesi. He was a very zealous pastor, supporting and guiding all the lay organizations of the parish. In 1900 he opened a recreation center for the youth which gained great resonance in Italy. This was the beginning of the national Federation of Catholic sport associations, founded in 1906 by Fr. Vitale with the Count Mario Carpegna.
In his last years, his body started to fail, forced many times to stay in bed. The people offered many prayers, Benedict XV sent his special apostolic blessing, but on June 26, 1916, at the age of 65, he passed at better life.
Fr. Rasario will always enjoy a special remembrance among the confreres because of his dynamic stamina in promoting the devotion to our Holy Founder, after the decree of Urban VIII prohibiting the cult of those who had been BLESSED for less than one hundred years. Fully confident in the success of the campaign, he worked tirelessly to collect anywhere documents and remembrances to prove the holiness of Fr. Anthony M. Zaccaria.
He had been born in Soresina in 1592, and had professed the vows in Monza in 1612. He studied philosophy in Cremona and theology in Pavia. In 1618, back in Cremona he was ordained a priest. For 21 years he taught in Lombardy, Romagna, and Savoy, where he became a dear friend with St. Francis de Sales. Then he was assigned to St. Barnabas. It was there that he started his work to collect documents to prove the holiness of the Founder.
When close to his death he had the privilege to be visited by the Blessed Mother, an apparition which was duly documented by the Provincial Superior, Fr. Corio, through his secretary, Fr. Cernuschi.
In the Acts of St. Barnabas we read: “On June 28, 1608, Fr. Charles Jerome Rasario died, weakened by the weight of the years, fortified by the Sacraments of the Church. To be able to sustain with greater strength the last fights of life, just before he was seen to welcome with the greatest devotion the Most Blessed Virgin, and shortly after, having overcome the agony for one hour, he flew away to heaven, as we hope, among the choirs of angels, having contemplated the Queen of the Angels appearing to him.”
Born from one of the most illustrious political families of Milan, Fr. Visconti entered the Congregation when 16, and professed his vows on March 3, 1661. After his ordination in Pavia, where he had completed his theological studies, he was assigned as a teacher to Lodi first and then to Milan. As usual in the midst of his teaching he dedicated himself also to the preaching apostolate.
In 1680 he was made Superior of St. Alexander. Meantime the Senate of Milan asked him to study the controversy about the border between Lombardy and the Piedmont. The following three years he was also Provincial Superior, and from 1686 to 1689 Visitor, then Procurator General of the Congregation. Finally in 1692 he was elected Superior General, to be reelected the following three years, although his health by now was not that good. Indeed, it was because of his health condition that Innocent XII had to change his mind about making him a Bishop.
Although weak, he started the canonical visitation of the German Province together with Fr. Bazzetta. In Vienna the Emperor Leopold I gave him a royal welcome, going for dinner at St. Michael to show his appreciation for the Barnabites. Fr. Visconti was able to finish the visitation, but came back to Milan afflicted with sever visceral pains, signs of an appendectomy. A stay in the country side did not help him, and on June 28, 1679, at the age of 63, he gave his last breath.
A man of great virtue and a scholar, he spoke perfect Spanish, he was used extensively by local governments and by the Church for many projects. He promoted religious culture in the Congregation, and many books very dedicated to him.
Bro. Secchi was born in Strevi in 1607, from David Ravenna and Diamante, both of them Jewish, and he was named Salvatore Ravenna.
As a young boy he came in contact with our Fathers in Acqui, and slowly he developed a love for the Catholic faith and for the Congregation, which led to his conversion in 1619. Because of his young age he could not enter the Congregation, so his godfather took him in his house, gave him his family name Secchi, and taught him his profession as a tailor.
As soon as the age allowed him, he entered the Barnabite community in Acqui as a postulant, and on January 16, 1625, he was officially accepted as a Brother and was sent to Monza. After five years he entered the novitiate and professed his vows on January 18, 1632.
He was assigned to St. Barnabas, in Milan, where for the rest of his life he attended to the administration of the goods and the fields of the community, while serving also as a tailor. He died on June 28, 1688, after a long and painful illness.
FATHER CESAR TONDINI DE’ QUARENCHI
Fr. Tondini was born in Lodi on January 11, 1839. He was a polyglot, chronologist, speaker, missionary, but especially an untiring apostle for Christian unity between Rome and the Russian Orthodox Church.
After his ordination he was assigned to our community in Paris, which had been founded by Fr. Schouwaloff with the specific purpose of promoting through prayer, studies, and apostolate the return of Russia to the Catholic Church, according to the ecumenical mentality of the time. Shortly after, he was sent by the Superior in Sweden and Norway, where the Barnabite Fr. Paul Stub was working tirelessly to spread the Catholic Church. He was there for only two years, but it was a precious time as he used it to learn the Nordic languages and culture, and to build experience in the apostolic missionary ministry.
Fr. Schouwaloff had written: “The Russians have kept among the treasures of their faith the cult of Mary…Yes: Mary will be the bond of unity between the two churches, and will make of those who love and honor her, a people of brothers under the paternal Vicar of Christ Jesus.”
“These words of Fr. Schouwaloff are always in my mind,” Fr. Tondini would say, “When still young I had heard of the Association of Prayer for the conversion of England, instituted and promoted by the Passionist Ven. Fr. Spencer. Behold, shortly after my priestly ordination, all alone in my room, suddenly I was invaded by a deep emotion and I thought to hear these words: ‘What Fr. Spencer had done for England, must be done for Russia.’” Without hesitation he got to work asking everybody for prayers, Rosaries, Holy Communions, Visits to the Blessed Sacrament, Holy Masses, etc… He outlined a precise program, which, printed in various languages, in June 1862 was divulged all over Europe, with the blessing of the Holy Father. He obtained also that all the major Shrines would celebrate a monthly Mass for this purpose.
Fr. Tondini directed his efforts also to strict scientific research to bring to light precious and authentic documents, like: “The Primacy of St. Peter proved by the titles used in the Russian Liturgy,” and “The Pope of Rome and the Popes of the Orthodox Church of the Orient.” As a member of the Science Academy in Bologna he published many booklets and leaflets in various languages on the Gregorian calendar and the Easter reform in Russia. He was also dreaming to have the Meridian and universal time set in Jerusalem, as the city of Jesus Christ. Because of his great knowledge of the Orient he was instrumental for the drafting of the Concordat between the Holy Sea and Montenegro.
Wherever he was, he immersed himself with the local people trying to answer to their needs. In Paris, for example, he worked tirelessly for the Italians immigrants, and in Serbia, Herzegovina, Bosnia and Bulgaria he reached out for the workers to provide for their religious needs. Fr. Tondini was in Paris and London, Stockholm and Christiania, Vienna and Diakovar, St. Peterburg and Moscow, Rome and Constantinople. Wherever he was he left examples of hard work, holiness, and virtues, always dedicated to Christian unity.
In 1906, at the death of Fr. Cacciari, Fr. Tondini was nominated Procurator General of the Congregation, so he had to leave Constantinople, where he had been for four years, and move to Rome. He obeyed, but his health was not the greatest. For two years he served the Congregation in Rome, but in the midst of severe sufferings and pains. He reached the end on June 29, 1907.
Michelangelo Teroni was born in Leghorn in 1661. When 16 he entered our Congregation and professed his vows in the novitiate of Zagarolo in 1677. He distinguished himself in Rome during his theological studies.
After his ordination he was assigned as a teacher of philosophy for our students in Montù, then to teach theology in Bologna at first, and then in 1691, he moved to Rome. After seven years there he became Superior in St. Charles, Assistant and Procurator General of the Congregation.
During the earthquakes which plagued the city he distinguished himself for the help and assistance given to the worst victims. Because of his theological skills he was extensively used by the Roman Congregations, and in recognition for these services Clement XI named him Bishop of Venosa in Apulia. He was consecrated on May 22, 1713, but only in 1717 was he able to enter his diocese. Meantime the Pope had made him administrator of Civitavecchia and Orvieto.
Once in his diocese he dedicated himself to his pastoral work with great zeal and love, but almost immediately he got sick with severe migraines. He lasted only nine years as the illness led him to his death on June 30, 1726, at the age of 66.
The young Trabattoni was pursuing a career in the business world when he felt the call to the religious life. After his studies in St. Barnabas and Rome, he was ordained a priest on September 24, 1887.
His first assignment was in Moncalieri as Vice-rector and as a teacher. In 1890 he was in St. Charles in Rome, and shortly after in Florence. Because of his health he was transferred to Monza where he worked as procurator, spiritual director, and prefect of the sacristy. After one year in Lodi, on October 8, 1903, he was called to be the Rector of the Bianchi College in Naples. He wrote: “My unworthiness makes me cry, and I do not understand how my Major Superiors could think of putting on my shoulders such a high and serious task.” He was full of initiatives, including the experiment of the part-time boarding school, and so one year later he was elected Rector of the newly established Vittorino da Feltre as a separate Community from St. Bartholomew in Genoa. Many were his accomplishments to create the proper and necessary structures for the new school, and he was full of initiatives for the physical, intellectual and spiritual development of the students.
When he left his position, the Community was reunited with the one of St. Bartholomew. Fr. Trabattoni, trying to regain his physical health, in 1911 went to a villa in Switzerland. The following year he came back as Superior in Voghera, and then in Lodi, where he stayed until his death, on June 30, 1921.