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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Menologion - March
I experience everyday, thank God, that I amhappier about my vocation… And then what good examples to copy! If to live with saints is one of the most beautiful graces the Lord could grant, and one of the most pure consolations one could savor, I can say then that I have received this grace and that I am tasting this consolation. May the Lord grant me theability to imitate so many examples of virtues!
In October 1883, having reached, as prescribed, the age of 16, I pronounced my vows, which bound me to God and to my Order forever. I have never regretted it, either to have pronounced them, or to have pronounced them at that time
(Fr. John M. Semeria: Letter to his Mother, Roma, October 1885; In My Remembrances, 1927)
obedience, he was tireless in the apostolate, moved by charity at the service of others.
copy of the image of Our Lady to the public veneration in St. Charles church. The copy was made by Brother Pietro Valentini (1732).
her the grace to be able to read her ‘little office’.
cornerstone of St. Alexander’s church in Milan
Father Gajetan De Vecchi, a Milanese and brother of the saintly FatherFelix, professed his vows on October 28, 1762, in Monza, and studied philosophy in Milan, and theology in Pavia. Gifted by the Lord, he became right away a well known and requested preacher on the pulpits of the major cities of Italy. Because of his prudence and piety, for fifteen years he was also master of the professed students in St. Barnabas.
In 1784 Fr. Gajetan was transferred from St. Barnabas to St. Alexander where twice he was Superior. The community was dismantled in 1810 with the Napoleonic suppression, but Fr. De Vecchi had the privilege to remain in St. Alexander, and in 1812, at the death of his brother, he became the parish priest.
His great merit is to have reestablished the Order in Lombardy. On November 13, 1825, in St. Alexander he was unanimously elected Provincial Superior.
While working zealously for the rebuilding of the community and the remodeling of the house he was caught by death on March 2, 1826, at the age of 82.
Born in Genoa in 1651, Paul Borelli entered the novitiate of St. Bartholomew in Genoa, and professed the vows on October 6, 1668. After his ordination he was called to teach theology in Milan at first and then in Pavia, Bologna, and finally Rome, where he became a member of various ecclesiastical Congregations. It was Innocent XII to nominate him Bishop of Noli. He was consecrated by our Cardinal Morigia on May 27, 1700.
He moved right away to Noli and having realized the pitiful condition of his clergy, he started a prudent and firm reform. Not only the clergy but also the faithful responded with great enthusiasm to his reform and catechetical program, especially with the frequent and devout attendance to the Sacraments. He never missed an opportunity to preach and instruct the faithful, and taught his clergy to do the same.
Although busy with his pastoral care, he kept available to the Holy See to resolve controversies between the nuns of St. Claire in Albaro and the Genoa Curia, and between the parish priest and the parish chapter of Finale, and to reform the Conventuals in the Noli monastery.
A man of great poverty and with a great generous heart, he stripped himself and the bishop’s residence of everything that was not absolutely necessary. He was also a man of deep prayer and, although not required, he never missed the choir with the Canons of the cathedral.
While still a young man of 59, he died victim of apoplexy on March 3, 1710. Fr. Semeria said about him: “In the piety as well as in sciences he had the greatest reputation... He governed the church of Noli for ten years always true to himself.”
Father Claudius professed his vows in Monza on January 11, 1676. He was a well appreciated preacher and confessor especially of monasteries. When Fr. Gattinara was named Bishop of Alexandria, Fr. Strada, then Superior in Lodi, was called upon to be Provincial Superior in his place, moreover twice he was confirmed in the position.
Elected Superior General, in 1721 he obtained from Clement XI an important Breve to define exactly the number of Religious with active and passive voice in the General Chapter. Confusion had risen because the large number of members from Lombardy were making a proportional representation difficult if not impossible. He also put pressure on the Holy See to give us the Burma mission.
He died in St. Paul, Bologna, on March 3, 1724, during the canonical visit. He has left a manuscript with the chronicles of St. Mary’s in Canepanova in Pavia from 1558 to 1694.
Father Duelli had to suffer a lot because of the revolutionary times he lived in. While he was Provincial Superior in Piedmont, in 1798, the French Jacobeans confiscated all the properties of the Congregation in that region. As the Congregation was reestablished after the fall of Napoleon, in 1826 he was elected Superior General to carry on the difficult task of rebuilding the Congregation. He performed his task with great love and dedication not only for the Congregation but also for the Church, as he opened our house to many Roman Congregations to set their offices in it.
He died in St. Charles on March 3, 1831, at the age of 80.
Father Mauri was born in Monza on February 12, 1840. It was natural for him to pass from the oratorio to the novitiate. Because of his young age, although admitted to the temporary vows on December 4, 1856, his solemn profession had to be delayed until October 22, 1857. Five years later he was ordained a priest.
In 1864 he was assigned to St. Alexander to take care of the poor children attending the night classes to learn Christian doctrine and how to write and read. His ability as a preacher became well known and therefore many started to request his services. In 1870 he was transferred to the college of St. Joseph in Monza. Aware of the needs of the time, with the help of his own family, he created the “Catholic society of mutual help for men.” In 1873 Fr. Mauri was transferred to Lodi to exercise again his excellent qualities as teacher, preacher, and confessor.
During this time there was a growing mistrust about the canonization of our Founder, Anthony M. Zaccaria, and it seemed that a precious stone was missing from his crown since the Angelic Sisters had been extinct. From the beginning of 1879 there was an exchange of letters between Fr. Mauri and a priest from Lodi about the need of some pious ladies to have a rule to follow. At first they thought to bring from Milan the Sisters called “The Ladies of Nazareth,” but then the priest confided to Fr. Mauri: “Why to call others? Let us do something which is our own. You are a religious, then you can put together a rule suited to the need.” “No, I am not a saint,” Fr. Mauri answered, “to have inspirations for a cloister rule... Rather I have a desire, shared by some others in my Congregation, that is, to reestablish the Order of the Angelics of St. Paul, which is almost a Barnabite thing, because it was instituted by our Venerable Founder.”
Father General, shortly after, approved the idea, while the priest provided a house and wrote to two ladies in Cremona who desired a cloister life. They were Antonietta Corbellini and Cristina Caravaggio. They received the letter on the day of Pentecost at the end of a novena to the Ven. Anthony M. Zaccaria asking the Lord’s guidance for their vocation. They understood the letter as God’s answer to their prayers.
On November 21, 1879, the feast of the Presentation of Mary, the first five postulants got together in a house in Palestro Street. Bishop Dominic M. Gelmini instituted the cloister and gave them the Constitutions of the old Angelic Sisters, with the necessary modifications requested by the times. Fr. Mauri was nominated as ecclesiastical assistant, and Corbellini as first Superior. What was needed now was the baptism of trials and suffering. The very priest who had cooperated so much with Fr. Mauri became the first to oppose them. The two postulants from Lodi were not able to adapt themselves to the Rule and so eventually withdrew, “So, in order for us to reach the point where humanly it would be a total ruin and so we would be admiring the prodigy of God who works with nothing, God called to Himself Corbellini who, as an Angelic, went to heaven on November 30, 1880, at the age of 50.”
Mother Cherubina, left alone, did not get discouraged, but followed Bishop Gelmini and Fr. Mauri’s guidance. The Barnabites right at that moment wanted to dispose themselves of the monastery of St. Mary of the Cross in Crema. Fr. Mauri asked and obtained to give the first choice to the Angelics. They moved in the new house on June 26, 1881. Two days later Bishop Francesco Sabbia blessed the chapel and the monastery assisted by Fr. Thomas Zoia, Provincial of Lombardy, and other Barnabites and diocesan priests.
Soon the number of the postulants started to increase; therefore, the next move was to obtain the official approval from Rome, which came on April 21, 1882, recognizing the erection of the monastery in Crema, and granting the Constitutions with the privileges enjoyed already by the original Angelics.
At first Fr. Mauri kept busy with his assignments in Lodi, but in 1884, to be able to take care of the needs of the Angelics he had to move to Crema. The monastery was good enough with the monastic life, but various circumstances suggested moving to a more centralized location so they thought to move to Milan. They approached Cardinal Ferrari and the Superiors of the Congregation, and during the Eucharistic Congress, on August 30, 1895, the cornerstone of the new monastery of the Holy Family was laid by the Cardinal. On September 10, 1896 Fr. Mauri accompanied the community in their new residence. In 1893, even before they were completely settled in the new Monastery, Fr. Mauri provided also a new foundation in Fivizzano and few years later in Arienzo.
At this point the Superiors assigned Fr. Mauri back into a Community, and precisely to St. Alexander in Milan. With pain he obeyed. The following year, October 1909, the General Chapter made him Superior of St. Luke in Cremona, then in Monza as vicar, and to St. Barnabas as master of the students. While in St. Barnabas he had the opportunity to visit almost every year the Angelics in Fivizzano and Arienzo. He tirelessly gave himself to all kind of apostolic activities as preacher, confessor, retreat master, etc.
Although very healthy he was caught by death at the age of 76, on March 4, 1916.
Father Maffetti was born in Brescia in 1670. When 19 he entered the novitiate in Monza and professed the vows on October 23, 1689. After the theological studies done in Macerata, he was ordained a priest in 1695, and immediately showed his great ability as a preacher. In the years 1701-1707 we find him in St. Alexander as teacher of theology and philosophy, then in Monza where, for six years, he was Superior and master of novices. Three years later, “by obedience,” he accepted the heavy duty as
parish priest of St. Charles ai Catinari in Rome, where he stayed for 18 years until his death.
His was a humble and simple life, working daily towards perfection. The Acts of St. Charles say: “Many other things he provided for the ordinary use: which show how this very pious man in the decorum of the church is really looking for the honor of God and not to make a show;... It was the duty of all the Fathers to visit the sick, but for Fr. Maffetti it was a daily commitment not allowing anyone to die even during the night without his assistance.”
The cult of the Blessed Mother played a central role in Fr. Maffetti’s devotion. In the novitiate in Monza he practically built a new chapel dedicated to the Blessed Mother with Child, but the first remembrance of his special devotion toward her goes back to Macerata, as described in the Acts: “In his piety the Rev. Januarius Maffetti consecrated and offered, at his own expenses, to the altar of the Blessed Virgin four artificial flowers in silk; if he surrounded with flowers the altar of the One who is called an enclosed garden, he believes that he will produce nothing else but fruits of glory and richness.” These fruits became more manifest in Rome as he instituted the devotion to Our Lady Mother of Divine Providence.
He died in his 70’s “leaving to his followers a notable legacy of doctrine, piety, and of every virtue.
Father Calchi was born in Milan on May 21, 1685. His father was a Senator, and so also one of his brothers, while another brother became Bishop of Lugo. As a young man he entered our Congregation and professed the vows in Monza in 1703. Once a priest he was assigned to teach in the Arcimboldi School in Milan and, when only 32, he was made Superior of St. Alexander to the great delight of the community. Meantime Clement XI had asked the Congregation to provide some members to join the Pontifical delegation in Beijing to tackle the question of the Chinese rites. Fr. Calchi was one of the volunteers assigned to the new vineyard. At the end of the mission in Bejiing, Bishop Mezzabarba, Apostolic Legate, assigned Fr. Calchi to the mission in Burma, and then made him Apostolic Vicar in the kingdom of Pegù, Ava and Martaban.
On October 3, 1719 Fr. Calchi left Canton, and after a dangerous trip he reached Siriam, the major port of Pegù, where he found the priest Joseph Vittoni, assigned to him by the Pontifical Legate. The area was completely pagan, with a very small group of Portuguese and two priests, one in Ava and the other in Siriam, who did not take care of the evangelization. Indeed they became among the greatest obstacles to Fr. Calchi’s apostolate, even attempting to his life. They accused the two in front of the king of Burma of being spies. But Divine Providence turned the king on their side and Fr. Calchi and Fr. Vittoni received his special protection and esteem. The King even asked Fr. Vittoni to go to Rome to ask the Holy Father to send more missionaries, while giving to Fr. Calchi a free hand in his apostolic activities.
Fr. Calchi took advantage of the situation building right away a church and a residence for the missionaries. He was able to learn well the Burmese language and he even prepared a dictionary to help future missionaries.
He dedicated himself totally and completely to his mission heedless of the difficulties and any kind of suffering he had to endure. If his spirit was strong, eventually his body had to give in. For three months he was seriously sick and all by himself, until Divine Providence sent him, through the Propagation of the Faith, the priest George Rossetti who administered him the Anointing and the Viaticum. Fr. Rossetti has left us the following testimonial of his death: “What is needed here is a scholarly pen to
describe the happy death of this zealous co-missionary of mine. His mind was clear up to his last breath, and as he was coming closer to death he seemed to become happier than one going to a feast or to a banquet. As he asked me about his condition I told him in all sincerity that there was no much hope about his health. He added with a smile on his lips, a serene face and a tranquil and joyous spirit: ‘I am not afraid of death, rather I die willingly because I have some good down-payment on my eternal salvation as the previous night I had the consolation to be visited by the Most Holy Virgin with St. Joseph and a myriad of angels.’ As he received communion that same morning, after a repeated confession, I administered him the Extreme Unction. Having taken, right after, about two or three spoons of rice, in the greatest disposition of soul and body, peacefully he gave his spirit to the Creator on March 6, 1728.”
He was not even 43 years old. “Because of his virtue,” Fr. Grazioli wrote, “without doubt he enjoys the beatific vision in heaven, and he will live for a long time on earth in the memory of men.”
Father Venturini was born in Bologna on February 2, 1800. He attended our St. Lucia school and among the teachers he had great personalities like Frs. Ungarelli and Spotorno. When 17 he asked to be admitted to the Congregation and entered the novitiate in St. Charles ai Catinari in Rome, professing his vows on January 25, 1818. During his theological studies he had to go back home due to an illness, but, once in good health, he was assigned to Naples to teach at St. Mary a Caravaggio. In 1822 he was back in Bologna where he was ordained a priest.
For twenty years he would teach literature, in a short time creating for himself quite a reputation for his great pedagogical skills in communicating with the students. In 1854 he published a collection of “Rhymes,” followed by many various biographies, eulogies, pedagogical and literary dissertations. But what made him well known were his “Discorsi sopra la verità e la eccellenza della religione cristiana” (conversations on the truth and the excellence of the Christian religion). These were the fruits of weekly reunions he was having with the University students.
In 1844 he was also elected Superior of the local community of St. Lucia, and in 1847 the General Chapter made him Provincial Superior of the Roman Province. It was during this time, in 1849, that Father Ugo Bassi was executed by a firing squad of the Austrian government. Many letters attest to the efforts by Fr. Venturini to save his life. In one of them we read: “The Most Rev. Fr. Provincial, just back from Riolo, and very busy, lets you know, your reverence, about the tragedy of Fr. Ugo Bassi, who, captured by the Germans, has been executed by firing squad on August 8, nearby the Certosa of Bologna. He was assisted by a chaplain from the parish of Charity, went to confession, asked for pardon, and retracted whatever he may have said or written or done against Religion, good morals, and the Christian and religious feelings, and he protested to die faithful to the true faith of the Catholic Apostolic Roman Church, and asked to notify all about his confession, and so with signs of the goodness of his heart, and of Christian resignation, gazing at Our Lady of St. Luke, whom he fervently invoked, he died. Someone will put in the papers the feelings he has expressed in dying for the good of those who could have had a sinister concept about it. It is seems that, either out of justice, as he was never secularized, or out of charity, it would be convenient to offer for him the usual prayers, and even more, considering so many happenings and unpleasant things he has been involved with during these
miserable times...” He wrote also to Fr. Bassi’s mother to console her.
His life was a short one as he died at 50. His health had not been the greatest when he became the victim of apoplexy. He died on March 6, 1850.
John Ferrara, with his exemplary conduct edified all those who had the fortune of meeting him. At home, during the Novitiate, in Lodi, in Rome, everywhere he was very much loved by all because of his simplicity, modesty, piety and deep commitment to his vocation.
He was born in 1859 in San Felice a Cancello. Since his early youth he used to attend our church of St. John the Evangelist and helped in teaching catechism to the local children. When he expressed the desire to enter our Congregation he was sent to Milan for the novitiate, which had been set up in St. Barnabas because of the sad political situation of the time. He professed the vows on April 21, 1875, and in 1877, together with other Barnabite students, he was sent to Lodi to finish his lyceum studies.
In Lodi he started to develop the illness which will lead him to his death. He went to Rome to try to complete his theological studies in private, but his health did not cooperate. A too rapid growth of his body mined his whole system, especially his chest. As he realized the desperate situation, he concentrated completely on his spiritual life, and he consecrated himself to the Lord with the solemn profession on December 7, 1878.
Bound to his bed by now, pain was his daily bread. One evening he said: “I have suffered a lot today, but I am happy and glad out of love for Jesus.” having received the Sacraments he kept repeating. “Oh! What a grace the Lord has granted me calling me to religious life! How sweet it is to die as a religious!” while holding the crucifix to his chest.
The evening before his death he asked for the Holy Viaticum, and after a long agony during the night, in the morning of March 6, 1879, he bowed his head
and died in the Lord.
Father Camillus was born in Pisa on December 6, 1851, from the Duke Melzi d’Eril and Marianna Caccia. He attended our Carlo Alberto school in Moncalieri, where his vocation to the Barnabite Order was born.
At first, from November 4, 1868, to November 1869, he was a guest at St. Charles ai Catinari in Rome. Then he entered the novitiate. Beautiful are the letters he received from his father during this time of trial for his vocation: “The most important thing is to keep and nourish the evangelical spirit the Lord has granted you since you were a child... In the midst of the studies, of the marvelous liturgical celebrations that make Rome so splendid, do not forget that your first and only purpose is to become a saint.” “I will invoke upon you the choicest blessings so that, coming always closer to perfection, you will become of honor and splendor for the Church, of example and edification to our brothers in Jesus Christ.”
Camillus professed his simple vows in 1870, pursued his theological studies for three years, was prefect of discipline for one year in Moncalieri, and then back to Rome for the second novitiate. Finally in Florence, on November 13, 1873, he made his solemn profession. And Florence would become his permanent residence, except for two years (1882-84) as vice-rector in Moncalieri, until his death on March 10, 1929.
Fr. Camillus led a straight forward life animated by love for science and God. He took care of the spiritual direction of the community and of the school, cared passionately for sacred liturgy, and with great personal involvement he prepared the first communicants. He loved religious and community life.
A man fully dedicated to his studies, especially in physics and mathematics, he published over 49 works which, as usual, were greatly admired or bitterly opposed. Humility, sign of any true greatness, was the secret of his success.
Brother Charles was born from a farming family in the territory of Spoleto. As a young man he moved to Foligno looking for work and eventually established himself around the church of St. Magnus. Here he dedicated himself to spread the devotion to an image of the Blessed Mother, and organized a campaign for the construction of a new church in her honor under the title of “Our Lady of St. Magnus.” Meantime he became an intimate friend with the Venerable John Baptist Vitellio, a disciple of St. Philip Neri, and founder of the Oratory of Foligno. Often he invited him to preach in his shrine and he was inflamed by his sermons.
Having felt the vocation to religious life he begged the Blessed Mother for guidance. In 1612 the Barnabite Fr. Gavanti was in Foligno to preach for Lent. He was so successful that the people asked and obtained to have a Barnabite house in the city. Frs. Gavanti and Brollino were the founders. At first they stayed with Fr. Vitellio, at it was there that they met and became friends with Charles Sauri. It seemed to be Our Lady’s answer to Charles’ prayers for guidance. Under the suggestion of Fr. Vitellio, Charles asked for admission to our Congregation. Although advanced in age (he was 48), on August 15, 1612, he was accepted and send to St. Mary’s of Loreto in Spoleto, and then to Monza for the novitiate, but professed the vows in Spoleto on May 29, 1613.
A man of great humility and obedience he became a great example of a true servant of God. Fully dedicated to prayer, he would utilize every spare time for it. Unable to read, he experienced great regret because he was unable to recite the little office of the Blessed Mother. So he prayed with great insistence to her to grant him this grace. One day, as he opened the book of the little office, he found himself able to read it and recite it together with the other confreres. Naturally this grace increased more than ever his devotion to the Blessed Mother, so that it was difficult to find him without the rosary beads in his hands, while keeping always fresh flowers in front of her images.
Brother Charles had a special devotion for the Blessed Sacrament too. He would receive Holy Communion almost every day, and serve as many Masses as possible, while taking great care of the sacristy. When advanced in age he would spend long time in the choir staring at the Blessed Sacrament.
Often he went through the city and the country side to collect donations for the community, and wherever he went, the people experienced his holiness.
In 1630 he had the privilege to assist on the deathbed his great friend Fr. Vitellio, who assured him of his eternal salvation, which he reached on March 11, 1642, at the age of 78.
As a young Barnabite, Father Giribaldi was assigned to teach philosophy and theology in Milan and in Annecy.
He became Provincial Superior of the Piedmont-Gallia Province, and he visited every house admired by all for his promotion of zeal in the observance of discipline. Later he was elected General Visitor and as such he brought to realization the foundation in St. Andèol in France. Back in Italy he was made master of novices in Genoa, and then Provincial again, this time of the newly founded Etruria Province.
For three years he was in Rome as Assistant General, and then Cardinal Boncompagni was able to take him to Bologna for the Penitentiary and as assistant parish priest of the Cathedral.
In 1686 he was elected Superior General. He governed the Congregation for six years first of all through good example, building up a great reputation, very much appreciated by Innocent XI and by Cardinal Ludovisi, who sent him to visit his diocese of Porto.
His last years were spent between Macerata and Genoa, where he died on March 12, 1697.
Born in Milan in 1627, Fr. Triulzi attended the Arcimboldi school, and when 15 he asked to be admitted to our Congregation. He professed the vows in Monza in 1642, and, ordained a priest, he taught philosophy in St. Alexander.
The Archbishop of Milan often used him for the revision of books and visits to monasteries. But where Divine Providence wanted to use his apostolic zeal was in Austria. In 1665 he was assigned to St. Michael in Vienna. There he attracted the admiration of the Emperor Ferdinand III, who proposed him to Innocent XI as Bishop of Azoth and auxiliary of the Archbishop of Grau, Primate of Hungary. He was consecrated in Italy in 1674.
He worked in Austria for 15 years, suffering a lot in his fight against the Turks. In 1689, after assisting at the crowning of Joseph I, King of Hungary, he had to go back to Milan to take care of his health, but it was already too late. He died on March 12 of that year.
We read in the Acts of St. Alexander: “On March 12, with great sorrow of all, the Most illustrious and Rev. Bishop George Triulzi left this valley of tears to fly to the heavenly kingdom. His body was buried in this temple with a solemn funeral...”
Father Alexander belonged to the noble Viariggi de Boas family of Chieri. He spent his early years as a Barnabite priest teaching philosophy and theology in Asti and Vercelli.
In 1736 he was made Superior in Chieri, and right away Bishop Gattinara of Turin asked him to visit all the monasteries of that city.
In 1747, as he was made Provincial Superior of Piedmont and Savoy, he moved to Turin. In 1748, together with Father Lucciardi he founded the school of St. Benignus in Aosta, and the same year he brought to completion the construction of the new building in Chieri.
In the General Chapter of 1749, held in Milan, he was elected Superior General. It was he to give permission to Father Gerdil to teach philosophy in the University of Turin. Wanting to expand the missionary activity of the Congregation, in 1752 he sent out a circular letter inviting volunteers for the Burma mission.
While visiting the community in Vercelli he was attacked by a violent fever which led him to his death in 1754.
General and Bishop of Tortona
Cosimo Dossena was born on February 22, 1548, in Pavia. After his studies in philosophy, history and sciences, he pursued a military career, and as such he participated in the battle of Lepanto. After the victory, Sir John of Austria took him to Madrid to present him to Philip II to be assigned to the Netherlands as a Field Master, but Cosimo had already decided to pursue religious life instead.
On March 18, 1582, he entered the Barnabite novitiate in Monza, and professed his vows on June 3, 1584, followed by the Sacred Orders, minors by St. Charles in 1584, and the majors in Piacenza on March 22, 1586. That same year he was made master of novices in Milan, three years later Superior in Pavia, and in 1591 in St. Blaise in Rome. Two years later he was Procurator General. While in this position he made all efforts so that many Barnabites would not become Bishops, assuring the Pope that the Barnabites were always ready to assume even the most demanding tasks but without honors.
Five times Father Dossena was elected Superior General, and under his leadership the Congregation enlarged itself in the Bearn, in Asti, Bologna, Spoleto, Lodi, Perugia, Genoa, Naples, Acqui, Turin, Vigevano, Aquila, and Foligno. It was also during his generalate that the schools were opened to the public. Besides serving the Congregation, he kept himself always available at the service of the popes.
And so for twenty five years he served both the Congregation and the Holy See, until obedience asked of him a great sacrifice: Paul V, on November 15, 1611, made him Bishop of Tortona. He tried every possible way to decline, but to no avail, and when he went to present his homage to the Holy Father, the pope embraced him, gave him his own rochet and whispered in his ear: “We have never been so happy in making a Bishop!”
He was consecrated on March 4, 1612, and on October 4 he took possession of his diocese, but at night to avoid unnecessary expenses and rowdy celebrations. He became the model of a true shepherd, always in the midst of his people, reaching out to the ignorant, the poor, the afflicted, and the sick. He visited the whole diocese, followed by a Synod. And he cared in a special way for the well being, intellectual and spiritual, of his clergy. In 1616 he called upon the Barnabites to open a house in the city, and also the Jesuits.
In his own private spiritual life he was a man of great devotion. He cultivated his prayer life with the Holy office, privately and together with the Canons, with daily meditation and spiritual reading, and nourished a great devotion toward the Blessed Mother.
He was getting up in age and his health had started to give signs of deterioration, but nothing gave indication of his sudden death on March 13, 1620, when he was found well composed, the eyes closed and the arms crossed on his chest. The funeral was a great triumph as the people wanted to express once again their love for their beloved shepherd.
Father Colombo wrote: Fr. Gabuzio “was born in Orolungo in 1551, and died in Rome in 1621. His master was Father Manuzio. With a clear and precise Latin he wrote his own life, composed such a beautiful biography of St. Pius V, that the Bullandists included it in their famous Collection. He wrote the history of the Congregation of the Barnabites from its first beginnings to the XVII century... By order of Paul V he drafted the Rituale Romanum, very well accepted by that Pontiff and by Clement VIII. He was in contact with the greatest Latinists of the time.”
Cardinal Fontana said about him: “This great man professed his vows when he was 25, on August 6, 1576. He was so well esteemed by our ancient Fathers because of his singular intellectual qualities, his piety and his knowledge, defined as admirable by the Bullandists, that three years after his profession he was called upon to give the opening speech at the General Chapter of 1579, at the presence of St. Charles... He was Superior in Casalmonferrato, twice in Cremona, three times in St. Paul alla Colonna in Rome, and Assistant General.”
Father Stancari writes in the Acts of Cremona: “A man of singular virtue and doctrine, he worked tirelessly in this college of Cremona, especially in reading Rhetoric and in teaching Greek and Hebrew to our youth for many years, and for eight
years he governed with great care, exemplarily and charity.
In 1967 Paul VI wrote: “We love to see in him (Fr. Semeria) one of the most noble and known figures of the past generations, for his simplicity and humility as a religious, for his vast culture, for his powerful eloquence, but especially for his exemplary attachment to the Catholic faith; and we wish his memory and his example would encourage total fidelity to the Church, a love which sacrifices itself for our neighbor, and the spreading of good studies.”
Fr. Semeria was born in Coldirodi (San Remo) on September 26, 1867. The one who was going to be the “Father of the orphans” was an orphan at his birth: his father, a military man, died of cholera during the military campaign of 1866. The mother, then, moved to Turin with the 11 month old son. When 9, Giovanni went to the Jesuit school in Cremona until he was 14, when he moved to the Barnabite school Carlo Alberto in Moncalieri.
Only after one year he asked to be admitted as a novice, and so at the age of 15 he entered the novitiate in Monza, where he had as Vice-Master the Venerable Fr. Schilling. On October 22, 1883, he professed the vows, and for the occasion he wrote to his mother: “...I will irrevocably consecrate myself to the Lord, I will choose Jesus Christ as my portion in time and in eternity, renouncing forever the goods and pleasures of the world, my own will, to surrender the total dominion to the good God, who has given me everything as a gift. My dear mother, who, thanks be to God, far from considering this act a foolishness or a folly, but values it as it really is a great grace from the Lord, for sure you will pray on that day so that my holocaust would ascend to God rich with fragrance to obtain heavenly blessings upon all of you. Oh! Pray that I would never fail in the oaths promised in front of God, and never trample under foot the most sacred vows... Let us pray, and in prayer we will find the strength and the needed and indispensable power. Let us pray for each other...”
Obedience called him to Rome to finish his studies. Many are his letters of this period addressed especially to his mother, manifesting his tremendous love for God, the Church, the Pope and the Congregation. All through his studies he showed his love for public speaking, and his predilection for speculative thinking, but he did not limit himself to intellectual exercises, he also engaged himself in teaching catechism to the children at the “Sacred Heart Oratorio” and at the hospital “La Consolazione.” He published his first book as a student, “Analysis actus fidei.”
When only 23, on April 5, 1890 he was ordained a priest. He stayed in Rome as director of the Oratorio, and as a teacher to our seminarians. Immediately he was elected as a member of various academies, and started to publish articles in theological and biblical magazines. In October of 1892, Leo XIII asked him to attend, as his special envoy, the congress of scientists in Genoa. Meantime he was attending to his studies and in 1897 he graduated in philosophy from the University of Turin.
In 1895 he was transferred to St. Bartholomew, in Genoa, which would become the center of his future activities. Many of the young people in Rome, already captivated by the young Semeria’s energetic spirit, sent their good wishes when he departed. He was thought of as a “most beautiful, noble, sincere, loyal soul, and of high intelligence” the 18 year old Eugenio Pacelli (future Pius XII) wrote for the occasion.
Fr. Semeria spent the next twelve years with the young people of Genoa. “Oh, the beautiful time spent with the young people of all ages! I never got bored with them. And as I remember them all, and I gladly see them again, so also it seems that they are not unhappy when they encounter me.”
He became rector of the “St. Alexander Sauli Club,” where he supervised the teaching of religion as well as sport activities for the young, which, at that time, were looked upon with suspicion. With Fr. Ghignoni, he founded the “Superior School of Religion,” and initiated many charitable activities. The cultured people of Genoa were drawn to the church Alle Vigne to hear his Sunday sermons. Many were the books he published during this time.
In 1897, the 30 year old Semeria traveled back to Rome to deliver the Lenten sermons in St. Lawrence in Damasus, receiving high praises from Leo XIII. Every day a large crowd, Romans and foreigners, including Queen Marguerite and the future pope Benedict XV, would pack the church two hours before the service would start. This tremendous success was Fr. Semeria’s baptism as a great sacred orator. From then on he did not restrict himself to preach solely in Italy, but he traveled to France, Belgium, Switzerland, England, Asia, Africa, and America to deliver his powerful sermons. He gained fame in Cartage at the International Eucharistic Congress, he spoke on any event, happy or sad, church or state related, interpreting the feelings of the Church or of the civic community. Any and every theme belonged to him, from the launching of a new vessel to the profile of a thinker. Someone once wrote: “The only sermon he lacks is about the devil’s horns.”
But his popularity was not accepted by all, and eventually open opposition mounted against him, and so in 1912 this naturally gifted orator, unjustly accused to be a modernist, was forced into exile to Brussels. The battle against Modernism was sparing no one. Fr. Semeria’s heart was broken, but he obeyed. He spent two years of forced silence and inactivity, helping the Italian immigrants. One consolation for him was the opportunity to travel to the Holy Land, to Egypt, and to Greece.
In 1915 World War I brought him back to Italy. At the personal request of General Louis Cadorna, Supreme Commander of the Italian Army, Fr. Semeria became the chaplain of the Supreme Command. A new page was opening in his life. Homilies, conferences, conversations, Masses on the front line, confessions, visits to the wounded... He was going through piles and piles of correspondence for those who were asking him the most unexpected requests. He would run where the danger was the thickest to encourage the men to duty.
In the full fury of the war, he wrote: “I and others like me, had the delicate task to face the soldiers who were carrying on that horrible duty, summarized in two words, of which I do not know which one is the most atrocious and repugnant: kill and die. It was a duty, it was a need. At more length I shared this ministry with Fr. John Minozzi, a nice fellow from Abruzzi, an incomparable animator. We promised ourselves and the soldiers - I with my speeches, he with his conversations - that we would not forget their children. We made that promise often and with more insistence to those from the South. At the conclusion of the Armistice it was our duty to keep the promise.”
By 1919 two orphanages were in project: one in Amatrice (Rieti) and the other in Gioia del Colle (Bari). Yet the money to finance both projects was very scarce. Fr. Semeria left for the United States to appeal to the hearts of the Americans. With his tremendous sense of adaptation he felt at home right away. He spoke in churches, theaters, halls, and at town meetings. Many were astonished by this bearded figure with such a picturesque and disorderly style.
“When,” he wrote, “...after a summary description of heroic gestures of Italy and its soldiers during the three years of the colossal war, I would plea for the orphans, the children of our fallen soldiers, tears would wet their cheeks; and when, shortly after, I would come down to extend my hand, dollars would rain in my hat: that historical hat which has seen in its inside thousands of dollars, and which I am ready to give as a gift to anyone who would give me a thousand liras for my orphans.” Fr. Semeria returned to Italy tired but happy. He did not force his orphans to study; instead he directed them toward vocational jobs so needed at that time in Italy. In five years, 27 shelter-laboratories were opened: 9 in Calabria, 11 in Basilicata, 4 in Campania, 3 in Abbruzzi. He founded also 14 summer camps on the Alps and one on the shore in Monterosso (La Spezia). Today, under the direction of the “Disciples” of Don Minozzi, there are about one hundred centers with schools, laboratories, and shelters.
From this time on, Fr. Semeria’s theology of the “heart” was replacing the theology of the “mind.” The books, conferences, homilies, publications, and everything he worked on was directed toward his orphans. He was constantly on the move to “sell himself,” as he was fond of saying. His last speech was in Montecassino. He went up, shivering with fever, but still smiling with 14 boxes of books. When he was taken back to his orphans in Sparanice, he collapsed totally exhausted. Fr. John Semeria, the father of the orphans, or better the humble “servant of the orphans,” died in their midst on March 15, 1931. As he laid in bed, his last words were: “I do feel that I should have done more and better. I ask God’s forgiveness for not having done it. I exhort you to charity. Live in charity.”
When his mortal remains were brought to Rome to his Barnabite house in Via Chiavari, they were wrapped in the Italian flag as a national hero. This exemplary man and Religious showed in life and in death what does it mean to truly live as a man of God and as a Barnabite: “If the Lord wants me to work for him, here am I, Lord; if the Lord instead wants me, here am I, Lord, I am ready.”
In 1603, at the age of 34, Zaccaria Colom from Pau, in the Bearn (France), entered the novitiate in Monza among the opposition of his own brother, Louis, and the Bishops of Lescar and Oleron who wanted him to be a diocesan priest. Even King Henry IV intervened with Clement VIII and Paul V to stop his religious profession. After an examination about his freedom and his right intentions by Cardinal Federico Borromeo, sent by Paul V, the novice, who had changed his name to Fortunate, was able to profess his vows on June 21, 1606.
Zaccaria Colom, as the rest of his family, was a Huguenot and had been converted to Catholicism by Cardinal Amold D’Ossat. When he became a priest, the very people, that is the King and the Bishops, who had opposed his profession as a religious, asked the Pope to send him in the Bearn as a missionary. Paul V agreed with the proposal and the Barnabite Congregation with enthusiasm accepted the challenge. And so on July 1, 1608, Fr. Colom and Fr. Maurice Olgiati moved to Pau.
At first in the small town of Lucq, they used an altar under a tree in the middle of the fields as the center of their mission; then they transformed into a chapel the dining room of an old convent; and finally they were able to move in the parish church of the town. During this time Fr. Colom, following the desire of Henry IV, was able to establish himself in Moneim, making that the center of the mission, but actually they were itinerant preachers, Fr. Colom mostly in the diocese of Lescar and Fr Olgiati in the one of Oleron. Their mission was so successful that the King wanted to make Fr. Colom a Bishop.
In 1610, he had to go to Paris on behalf of the mission and of the Barnabites, and remained there for two years. What he needed were the necessary royal permits for the acquisition of properties for the mission, and new permits for the Barnabites to establish themselves in France since the old ones were void because of the sudden violent death of the King. Unfortunately he was not successful in this because of the opposition by the royal chancellor and some members of the Parliament inclined to the new wave of Gallicanism. As he went back in the Bearn he had the joy of witnessing the conversion of his brother Louis, and his community was enriched with the presence of the saintly Brother Ludovic Bitoz.
In 1614, Fr. Colom and Bro. Bitoz established themselves in Moneim to face one of the most critical periods (1614-1617) for the Barnabites in the Beam: revolutions, persecutions, and illnesses, and eventually the death of Bro. Bitoz.
In 1620, the Fathers centered their missionary efforts in the city of Nay, and the people were so pleased that they were asked to make it their own residence. The invitation was accepted and in 1623 the Fathers of Lescar with Fr. Colom as Superior established a community in a school offered them by the city. The Barnabite seed started to flourish in France: in 1629 a house was opened in Paris, another in Etampes, in the Diocese of Sens, and they were ready to open a novitiate in Lescar.
The Provincial Superior, Fr. Colom, after an attack of pleurisy died on March 17, 1631.
Fredrick Asinari of the Counts of St. Marzano in Asti, had just graduated in law from the University of Pavia when he was asked by St. Charles Borromeo to teach Canon Law at the newly established seminary in Milan. Having been in contact with our Fathers both in Pavia and in St. Barnabas, he felt the call to religious life. As he became a priest he celebrated his first Mass in St. Barnabas and promised to become a Barnabite, which he did on October 5, 1574.
His first assignment was in Pavia, where he stayed for 16 years teaching Moral Theology and as director of the Congregation of Penance composed of many of the nobles of the city and University students. Many became his outstanding pupils, like Orazio Spinola, later Archbishop of Genoa; the Abbot Paul Emile Sfondrati, Bishop Ippolito de Rossi, all three future Cardinals; Giambattista Brivio, Bishop of Cremona; Giambattista Arcimboldi, great prelate in Rome; Ferdinand Taverna, Bishop of Novara; Prince Grimaldi of Monaco; the Duchess Christine of Denmark. Some of these Bishops relied on Fr. Asinari as confessor, and for many services in their diocese.
With great regret of the whole city he had to accept the new assignment as Superior in St. Alexander in Milan. The church was small and inadequate, the residence very poor, and most of all, the community in dire need, to the point that they had to ask for food from St. Barnabas or from the Angelics in St. Paul. Trusting in God, Father Asinari went to work with courage and determination. First of all he made sure that the community was in peace, faithful to regular observance, dedicated to the church and the care of souls: “He himself was absorbed in prayer, often in the choir or in his room on his knees, fasting almost every day, sleeping almost always dressed, a great enemy of any special treatment for himself. All these things created a great veneration among his confreres so that at any hint by him all would obey right away, and since he was a most sweet character, humble, gracious and courteous, all were in awe at his sweet words.”
As his virtues got to be known outside, many requested his spiritual direction. At the end of his term in St. Alexander, more than five years, he was made Assistant, and as requested by the Mothers of St. Paul he became confessor of the Angelics, and under his direction their monastery became an exemplary one for all the others in the city. He even introduced for them daily communion, a unique thing for those times.
In 1599, he was elected Superior General of the Order. To avoid the election, Fr. Gallicio reports, he even tried to get away from the Chapter. The Congregation had great hopes in him, but unfortunately they were frustrated by his sudden death. Immediately he had started to visit all communities, starting with Casale, Novara, Pavia, and in Bologna, on his way to Rome, he was hit by a high fever. In fifteen days he was dead in the hands of his conferees. It was March 18, 1600.
Pietro Antonio Giarda was born in 1595 in Vspolate (Novara). e embraced religious life at a very young age as he entered the Barnabite rder in 1611, and changed his name to Christopher. He professed his vows in Monza on February 24, 613 in the hands of the Superior General Mazenta. He studied eloquence in Milan, philosophy and theology in Pavia and was ordained a priest in March 1620.
His first assignment was for the foundation of St. Ludovic in Montargis where he taught eloquence, then he was in St. Alexander in Milan, gaining great admiration from all his pupils.
Because of his qualities and piety, the Superiors selected him to be a preacher and again he distinguished himself for his eloquence and ability to communicate with his audience. He climbed all the most important pulpits of Italy, including Bologna and Rome. He was in Rome for many years. He was superior of St. Paolo alla Colonna from 1531 to 1534 and of St. Charles ai Catinari from 1635 to 1639. From 1641 to 1644 he was also Provincial Superior of the Roman Province.
In 1644-1645 he was a member of the Sacred Congregation of the Index and of the Rites, where he was deeply admired for his cultural, theological and spiritual contributions. This is why he was, then, entrusted to bring to its conclusion the process of canonization of St. Francis De Sales, which had been started in 1624 by the Barnabites Giusto Guerin and Maurizio Marin.
Esteemed for his literary activity, Fr. Giarda was asked by the Superiors to prepare a history of the Congregation. Unfortunately he was not able to bring it to completion due to his many commitments. Instead he published a spiritual work entitled “Apis religiosa” (religious bee) edited in 1625 and dedicated to Urban VIII. In the first 12 chapters he describes the curriculum of those admitted to religious life. In the second part he deals with the laws and prescriptions regulating religious life. In the last section he covers the day of the religious as a precious gift of time received from God leading toward eternal life. He uses the example of the life of the bees to describe the ardor, the fervor, the constancy, the perseverance, the commitment, the stability, the faithfulness needed in religious life.
Innocent X became his personal friend, and esteemed him as “a grave, prudent and careful man,” and loved him for his “life of innocence and good customs.” The pope offered him the choice between three dioceses, but Fr. Giarda would not accept to be a bishop, until Bishop Alberto Giunta of Castro died in 1646. Castro was close to Rome and so would have allowed him to continue with his responsibilities in the Curia. “And so it has been God’s pleasure,” he wrote later, “to entrust to me the care of the church of Castro, with repeated precepts of obedience, while I was not looking forward to, rather constantly refusing it in so far as it is licit to refuse.”
The political intrigues of the time had caused an open war between the Farnese family and the Holy See over the Ducky of Castro. As a consequence Ranuccio II Farnese refused to acknowledge the election of the new bishop, considered as an interference by the Holy See in the affairs of his Ducky. His intolerance pushed him to take a drastic decision: to stop at any cost the entrance of the new bishop in the diocese, so he entrusted Francesco Pavoni to carry out his orders. Pavoni warned Bishop Giarda not to attempt to go to Castro until an agreement had been reached.
After his consecration as a Bishop in St. Charles ai Catinari, on May 18, 1648, Bishop Giarda sent the notice to the Duke, and prepared himself to go to Castro. He tried in many ways to convince the Duke to reach an agreement, ready to be at his total disposal although emphasizing that first of all he was at the “service of God and his Church.” He wanted to have a personal visit with the Duke bringing as a gift a copy of the life of St. Francis de Sales. But there was no answer. He even tried to take possession of the diocese through a special envoy (per aspectum), but again with no result. Having exhausted all possible ways, Bishop Giarda accepted to go personally, as decided by the Pope. Holding a crucifix he proclaimed: “Behold our banner and our defense, under the protection of the Crucifix we have to fight and there is no other way.”
But the trap had been prepared as described in the Viterbo process: the two mercenaries, Ranuccio Zambini of Gradoli, and Domenico Cocchi of Valentano, having been informed about the day of the Bishop’s departure and the people accompanying him, on March 18 they set the ambush near Monterosi; they stopped the convoy and shot the Bishop, hitting him on his side. The bishop did not die immediately, and fully conscious was able to say, as reported by the Abbot Gabriele Besançon: “Jesus… O God, mercy; What a favor! To value me worthy to suffer for you. I die willingly for the Holy Church and willingly forgive those who have offended me!” He was taken to Monterosi for some emergency intervention, but everything was useless. At about 1:00 p.m. of March 19, 1649, Bishop Giarda was pronounced dead. Temporarily he was buried in the church of Sts. Vincent and Anastastio in Monterosi. Nine days later he was taken to Rome in St. Charles ai Catinari as ordered by Innocent X.
As a consequence the Pope excommunicated everyone involved in the event, and later even intervened militarily leading to the destruction of the city on December 3, 1649.
Also the diocese was suppressed, so Bishop Giarda was its last bishop. He gave his life in obedience to the Holy Father. As he was dying he was heard saying: “If our Lord (the pope) had asked or ordered me to go to Spain, or England, or India, at the service of the Church, and I was absolutely sure to be lynched in thousands of ways, I would have gone willingly and gladly. And what greater fortune for me than to die obeying to the one who is the Head of the Church and holds God’s place on earth, and to give some service to the Spouse of Jesus Christ” (as reported by Abbot Besançon).
Cardinal Fontana was born in 1750 in Casalmaggiore, and attended the Barnabite schools in the same city. He entered the Congregation following his two older brothers, and professed the vows on October 21, 1766. He studied philosophy in Milan and theology in Bologna. One of his teachers, Cardinal Malvezzi, said of him: “born for the school, young in age, but old in prudence, in doctrine, and in religion.”
In April of 1772, Father Ermenegildo Pini took him along on his visitation in Austria and Hungary. His vast culture, the power of his intellect, his beautiful personality attracted the attention of many, and the authorities in the Empire offered him a chair at the Vienna University, but he refused.
Back in Italyhe was assigned to teach in Bologna and to help his brother, Father Mariano, in the direction of the San Luigi school. Next he went to teach in St. Alexander in Milan. He excelled as a teacher and a scholar in the literary world among the admiration and satisfaction of parents, pupils and authorities.
In 1797, a new field of apostolate opened for Father Fontana in which he would excel. His fame was well known also among people of government and it will be most beneficial to our Institutes during those critical moments that the Lombard Province was going to experience. He acted with such wisdom and prudence with the authorities that our schools were preserved, and Napoleon himself extended special protection over the houses of the Barnabites. He attributed this success to the special intercession of the Holy Founder: “I believe I have to add here that, to the glory of God and of His Servant Anthony Mary, having made recourse to the special intercession of the Servant of God for the particular needs of the Lombard Province, while I was its Provincial Superior, and having experienced his most beneficial results, not only me, but all my confreres have attributed the graces received from God for the above mentioned Congregation, to the special intercession of Father Anthony M. Zaccaria.”
In 1799 Fr. Fontana, having finished his term as Provincial, accepted Cardinal Gerdil’s invitation to Rome, where he was elected consultor of the Congregations of Rites, and became Procurator General of the Order. It was the beginning of a life dedicated to the service of the Church and he was extremely appreciated in the ecclesiastical world as well as in the secular. It was not a surprise when Pius VII selected him as his personal theologian, and then as his personal companion when he went to Paris to crown Napoleon as Emperor. He left Rome on November 2, together with Cardinal Michael di Pietro. While in Paris he kept himself secluded and even tried to avoid the crowning ceremonies and parties.
In the General Chapter of 1807 he was elected Superior General. That was one of the most turbulent moments of our history. On February 3, 1808, the French troops invaded Rome and our house of St. Charles ai Catinari. Fr. Fontana, together with other Superiors General, asked to go outside Rome, specifically to Macerata, to have the freedom to govern the Congregation, but the pope did not allow him because he wanted him to be close to him. On July 6, 1809, Pius VII was taken prisoner to Paris.
Fr. Fontana was waiting for troubles, and indeed on midnight of August 12 the soldiers knocked at the door of St. Charles and
ordered him to leave Rome for Paris in 24 hours.
He asked and obtained to bring along a companion: “The following night a military detail came with a carriage provided by the government for the trip to Paris. They led him to the Minerva where he found the Superiors General of three other Congregations. All together they attended the Mass celebrated by the Barnabite Fr. Louis Lambruschini, and then in two carriages headed for their destination. Fr. Fontana was with Fr. Gaddi, Master General of the Domincans, and in the other carriage were Fr. Gualemgo, General of the Theatines, and Fr. Quarantotti, General of the Clerics Minor. Each had a companion and the one of Fr. Fontana was Brother Charles Sambiagi, who has provided us, written with naivety but deep feelings, a precious memoir of the captivity and the suffering of his loving and worthy Superior. The trip of 36 days was very painful due to the harshness and the maltreatment received from the guards...”
They reached Paris on September 17: “Led to the police, they were locked in for seven hours in a small room; then, called one by one, accompanied by a guard, they were led to a hotel, not far away, with the order not to go out, with a guard at the door. They were also forced to wear secular clothes. After a few days each was assigned to the place of their exile, and Fr. Fontana was assigned to Arcis-sur-Aube in Champagna. After a disastrous trip, during which he fainted few times, they reached their destination, and they were received by the Prefect and the Mayor. Father was in Arcis for almost one month and was faithful to a conduct of extreme prudence he had imposed on himself, and which was approved by all. Although often invited, he went to visit no home, except the pastor and two other very good priests. After about a month he receive the order to go to Paris to the Ministry of Cults. From there he was sent to Fontainebleau to have an audience with the Emperor.
It was a very long audience with the proud and crafty incoherent tone peculiar of that man. At first he heard invectives against the Pope using vile and plebeian names to conclude the speech with words of esteem and admiration for the same Pope. In front of this ambiguous character and the most feared man on earth, Fontana kept his modesty, cautious, very alert and consistent in his answers. The Emperor asked him to go to the Pope in Savona, making him all kinds of promises, but Fr. Fontana asked everything to be in writing, to allow him to reflect and to make sure that it was for the greater
good of the Church.
Meantime in Paris a commission had been created to deal with ecclesiastical business. The resolutions presented on January 11, were very clearly in favor of Napoleon’s shrewdness and pride. To avoid the meetings Fr. Fontana tried every excuse and a high fever came to help him. When he went to visit Cardinal Fesch, he was asked again to go to Savona, and again Fr. Fontana demanded to have everything in writing. When Napoleon heard this he became furious and exclaimed: “Very clearly he is an enemy of France: then, he will never leave my States.”
Cardinal Maury was made Archbishop of Paris by the Emperor. On November 5, 1810 the pope sent a letter from Savona against the election, but in place of his original letter a false one was made public approving the election. But the fraud became a public knowledge and Fr. Fontana together with Msgr. De Gregorio was accused of making it public. On January 4, 1811, Fr. Fontana was transferred to the prison of Vincennes. For eight months he was in a dark and humid cell, without bed or any comfort. His teeth started to decay and he lost eleven of them. In October he was moved to a better cell with Cardinals Opizzoni, Di Pietro, Gabrielli and De Gregorio.
On January 25, 1813, the first three Cardinals were freed, leaving behind Cardinal De Gregorio and Fr. Fontana. During these times Fr. Fontana composed the novenas for Christmas, the Annunciation, St. Joseph, Pentecost, and Sts. Peter and Paul. On January 1814 the two prisoners were transferred to the prison for criminals in Paris.
Here, after three years, Fr. Fontana saw again Bro. Charles, who kept visiting him twice a week. Meantime the allied forces were coming closer to Paris and entered the city on April 1, bringing freedom to the prisoners. On May 5, 1814, Fr. Fontana left France.
After a visit to his parents, he went to Monza to rest. There he received the note from the Pope: “Let Fr. Fontana know thatwe need him and we expect him in Rome.” He went and was asked to work in four ecclesiastical Congregations. Shortly after he followed the Pope to Genoa, following the invasion of Rome by the Neapolitan troops.
When peace was reestablished, they went back to Rome, and in the consistory of March 8, 1816, the pope named Fr. Fontana a Cardinal with the title of Our Lady in Minerva’s church. The Barnabites were very happy that Fr. Fontana after so many suffering was recognized. Afraid to lose his guidance in those most difficult moments, they asked the Holy Father to allow him to continue to serve the Congregation as Superior General: “We congratulate the Barnabites for having this kind of a Superior,” was the Pope’s answer. He made sure that some houses were saved from the suppression, while others were reopened.
He was already advanced in age and his health started to show the signs of his many suffering. In 1820 he became very ill. In Naples he regained his strength and went back to Rome to his usual rhythm of work, but again to get sick. He died on the day of St. Joseph, March 19, 1822, and he was buried in St. Charles.
General - Bishop of Bobbio
Fr. Manara entered the Congregation when 16, and professed the vows in Monza in 1670. While a student, together with some others, he showed signs of pride and disobedience. But the penance imposed on them by the Father Provincial was very beneficial, leading him to a life of great fervor.
His first assignment was to teach philosophy and theology in Lodi and Milan, and then he was the cofounder of the community in Udine. After a year of prayer in a hermitage in Cantù, he became a well known and demanded preacher all over Italy.
Twice he was elected Superior General of the Order cultivating regular observance, care of the souls, and love for study among his confreres. His letters are full of humor, solid piety, and very wise in judgments and in giving directions.
It was Clement XI to nominate him Bishop of Bobbio in 1616. There he built the seminary, remodeled the bishop’s residence and the cathedral, and established new parishes. He loved to be close to his people, to meet with them and to chat with them. In this way he brought about the reform of the clergy and of the people.
He died on March 21, 1726, at the age of 73. He always loved the Congregation and even tried to open a Barnabite house in Bobbio, but because the pope would not allow a community with less than 12 members, it never went through.
A pupil of our St. Marino school in Crema, Fr. Premoli entered the Congregation very young and professed the vows on October 11, 1716. His first assignment was to teach philosophy in Asti, then theology in Lodi. Transferred to the penitentiary of Bologna’s cathedral, he became very close to Cardinal Lambertini, who made him his spiritual director, and entrusted to him many delicate missions: in 1738 the revision of the “Theological Studio” of St. Paul; in 1740 he is Rector of the Penitentiary, and he adds some rooms for the Fathers who are going to run the seminary; in 1743 Pope Lambertini asked him to give Bible classes in the cathedral, which he would do for nine consecutive years.
In 1749 he was elected Procurator General of the Congregation, and so he moved to Rome. Six years later he was Superior General. The pope wanted him to be a Bishop, but he was able to dissuade him, loving to serve instead his Congregation. He worked tirelessly for the cause of our Venerables.
In 1761, at the end of his second term, he asked to go to Crema to spend the rest of his life, where he dedicated himself to the confessional. In 1762 he was elected theologian of the Holy Office, but he never missed his daily duties in the community. In 1749 he built a church in honor of St. Martin with a design by Fr. Rosasco. The same year he developed cataracts in both eyes, limiting considerably his activities.
Victim of a high fever, he died on March 21, 1771.
We commemorate together these three missionaries, victims of their missionary zeal in Burma. Bishop Gallizia was 27 and professor of theology in Rome when in 1726 he left for the mission. In 1743, back in Italy, he returned to the mission with two companions, Father Mondelli, 27, and Father Del Conte, only 23. Their story can be found in the “Istoria del Cristianesimo nell’impero Birmano” by Fr. Gallo. Here we will describe only their death.
During the revolution by the Burmese people against the Europeans, Bishop Gallizia with Frs. Mondelli and Del Conte found refuge on board of a German ship. But also the ship was seized, and so all those on board had to abandon it. They tried to defend themselves but all of them were killed including our Fathers.
Bishop Gallizia had all the qualities of a vigilant and loving shepherd, motivated in his zeal by the glory of God. He spent his time in the administration of the sacraments, the instruction of the youth, and the preaching of the Word of God. He lived in a small room used as sacristy, and ate only once a day. His life was a very adventurous one, and he did not lack initiative and courage. During the first trip from Europe, on board a Moore ship, he became the pilot to pull it through the reefs. During a fire he threw himself into the river to save himself on his return to Burma. Following a shipwreck, he saved himself swimming to the shore. He was victim of thefts, and much more.
Fr. Mondelli, Fr. Nerini wrote, attended with great dedication to his mission. He celebrated his first Mass on January 25, 1744. Wanting to reach more people, he dedicated himself to learn medicine too. Second to no one in charity he reached out to his enemies. He always spoke with sincerity and genuineness in front of the King and so more than once he ran the risk of been decapitated.
About Fr. Del Conte, Fr. Nerini testified that he inspired so much peace and joy that all those who were coming in contact with him thought he was an angel. He studied with intensity and learned well the Burmese language. He became the apostle of the catechism going house by house.
May the example of these noble apostles be of example to us to work with prayer, action and sacrifice to spread the Kingdom of God.
Father Maresca for 25 years was the apostle of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the apostleship of prayer. He studied in Lecce and then in Naples with the Jesuits. When about 20 he was engaged to get married. One day, going to visit his fiancé, he was thrown off the horse he was riding. He felt deeply humiliated and, transported to a nearby monastery to treat his wounds, he expressed to the monk taking care of him his desire to embrace religious life. It was the pastor of St. Dominic church in Soriano to suggest to him to enter our Congregation. He went to the novitiate in Resina at first, then in San Felice a Cancello, and professed the vows on August 15, 1855. While in Rome for the theological studies, he developed a special devotion towards the Sacred Heart of Jesus. His first assignments were to teach in Teramo and Parma. But let us come to the main activity of his life.
The Apostleship of prayer was born in 1844 at the scholasticate of the Jesuits in Vals (France), through the efforts of Fr. Gautrelet. In 1861 Father Ramière, SJ, had started the magazine “Messager du Coeur de Jesus” to spread the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
In Italy, since many of the Jesuit Institutes had been suppressed, the Barnabites took over the movement, and so Father Maresca obtained to spread the same devotion, movement, and magazine in Italy. At first the magazine was a simple translation of the French edition, to become later an original one. He was publishing at the same time more than 30,000 copies of the Rosary of the Apostolate. Meantime he kept his regular commitments in the Congregation wherever he was assigned by the Superiors: in 1867 in Bologna, in 1879 in Rome.
When on December 8, 1869, Belgium was consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Fr. Maresca petitioned Pius IX for the same privilege for Italy. It became a reality between the years 1871-1875 with the consecration of various individual dioceses. Our Congregation gave the example with its own consecration decreed by Father General Joseph Albini on December 8, 1871, and carried out in St. Charles ai Catinari on January 14, 1872.
Father Maresca’s dream was also to build in Rome a temple in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He used the “Messenger” to motivate the devotees. In 1879 he approached the Cardinal Vicar, Raphael Monaco La Valletta, to be the honorary chairman, and on August 17, 1880, he laid the cornerstone of the building, but unable to raise enough funds, the pope himself entrusted the project to Don Dosco who brought the building to completion. Fr. Maresca decided also to move the center of the “Messenger” from Bologna to Rome in St. Charles ai Catinari, a move solemnized by great celebrations, including an audience with the pope who expressed his appreciation for the movement and encouraged them in their efforts.
Another idea Father had was to build a seminary for priests dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus to help in a special way the diocese of the South so poor in clergy. He opened the seminary in 1884, and started the construction in Prati di Castello in 1887. He moved in that poor district and opened a chapel to assist the people.
What kind of a religious man was he? His prayer life transpired through his homilies and spiritual conferences as he spoke with great enthusiasm and familiarity about the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Often he would do the Stations of the Cross, and he was always present in various liturgical celebrations in St. Charles. He received from the Lord a very humble and dedicated heart himself. His defects were purged by a painful cancerous wound to his arm. For years he suffered atrocious pains but he never gave up his work.
Finally, he collapsed in St. Charles on Holy Thursday of 1891. He was 60.
Ignatius Visconti, leaving behind riches and career, dedicated his life to the Lord as a Barnabite in Monza on December 17, 1733. After the ordination, he was a teacher of theology and philosophy in St. Alexander, master of the second novitiate, and confessor of the Angelics. In 1770 he became Assistant General, and so after 50 years in St. Alexander he moved to Rome.
In 1773 he became Superior General. Fr. Cortenovis wrote: “I am happy because of the great quiet and order present in the Chapter. I am also pleased by the election of Fr. Ignatius M. Visconti because he is from Milan, and because he is a honorable and loyal gentleman, an exemplary religious whom we all know. The Lord must be thanked for giving us more than we deserve. To keep good order during these times it is a great and very rare grace... In the midst of the storm threatening so many well equipped ships, who knows that our little boat would not reach safety?”
The times were stormy. The Jesuits had just been suppressed and Clement XVI was calling on the Barnabites to take over some of their activities. And so in Bologna they took three more houses, in Milan the Longoni moved to the large Imperial college, in Turin the Royal college of the Nobles, and in Bormio the St. Ignatius school. In all of this Fr. Visconti showed the great prudence the Lord had enriched him with. He paid a visit to the houses in Austria and he received the most warm and happy welcome by the Imperial Court and the Queen.
Back in Rome he entered in a very friendly correspondence with Father Bianchi in Naples, and invited him to Rome for the Jubilee year 1775. In Geneva he allowed Fr. Alexander Philippe of Chambery to reside at the monastery of De-Pellonax, while teaching theology to their students.
In 1779, at the end of his term as General, he went back to St. Barnabas. He had to witness the separation of the Lombard Province from the rest of the Congregation as ordered by the Emperor Joseph II. As Provincial Consultor he tried his best to make sure the Province would stay faithful to the Constitutions.
When also our students were forced to move to Pavia to attend that University, Fr. Visconti volunteered to take their place in teaching catechism to the children in various parishes. In 1783 Cardinal Pozzobonelli asked the Barnabites to take over the Penitentiary in Milan, and Fr. Visconti was the first to take that office. He had great care for the studies of our seminarians, and he enriched their library in Pavia. He kept a very amiable character, full of humility, and was deeply loved by all.
He died on March 30, 1796.