“Stop, stop! Behold the Mother of God!”… From that day on, Diego was doing nothing else but talk about Paradise: now he was singing some Spanish songs in honor of Our Lady, now he was dialoguing with the Angels, now he would clap his hands out of joy. The feast of all Saints was close, so Diego started to call each of them by name through the Litany of the Saints. That was the designated day: Don Diego knew and said so. And the 1st of November came. Then he arranged his feet and the arms as Jesus on the cross, just as he had always desired. The agony lasted from the first hours of the morning until the evening: until the Angels came: “I do not know if, except for the miracles, a religious could have a happier and holier death!”
VENERABLE DIEGO MARTINEZ
A model student
When in 1590 a 23 year old Spanish young man presented himself at the door of St. Alexander in Milan, the Fathers were perplexed. At that time St. Alexander was still an old, obscure little church with a little convent of few rooms and in bad shape. The Barnabites had been there since the previous year by the will of St. Charles Borromeo and they did not have yet the opportunity to build up their reputation. So, why this young man, who said to have been a page at the Court of Philip II of Spain, was asking for admission? Was he looking for refuge, running away from problems?
Proper certifications were needed from a Notary public. While they themselves would look into it, so they sent the young man away with gentle words, but with skepticism.
They found out that he had been at the Court in Madrid from 1579 to 1586, until Senator Baldassar Mugnoz de Salazar, assigned by the Court to Milan, brought along the 20 year old Gabriel Martinez as his secretary “because he was a young man of excellent qualities.”
Gabriel Martinez was born in Dosbarrios (Toledo, Spain) in 1567, son of Pedro and Maddalena Maria Carrero. When 12 he became one of the 40 pages Philip II wanted at his service, to be joined a year or two later by Louis Gonzaga, at the service of the King’s son. The two struck a most intimate friendship, sharing ideals and innocence of life. In l584, at the death of the Prince, Louis went back to Milan.
Two years later, 1586, Gabriel moved to Milan with the Senator Salazar. Three years later, in 1590, he finished his service, and felt ready to ask the Barnabites for admission.
The Fathers found out that he had been at the school of Roberto Franzinetti, a public teacher, who on August 3, 1590 gave him the most positive recommendations notarized by Giovanstefano Daverio: “I testify that since 1586 until now, he has come to school as often as he could... he shows great diligence, behaving with great modesty... obedient to what I have commanded, accepting almost all that I have told him. He has always shown a devout spirit, religious and zealous in the service of God, despising the things of the world, enjoying spiritual books... revealing to me his intentions... I add that it is not because of human motivation, but out of devout fervor he spontaneously asks for Religious Life.” Also Battista Sacco, royal commissary of the Naviglio Grande of Milan, attested that, having known Gabriel at the Court in Madrid, “he enjoyed the greatest esteem for his piety, honesty and integrity of life.” Gabriel, backed by these and other credentials, knocked at the door of St. Alexander, but to enter he had to wait for another year, maybe constrained by his father. After the death of his father, in 1591, he was accepted on September 24th.
On October 26th he was accepted as a postulant, and on November 6th as a cleric, in the Congregation, while waiting for the approval by the Superior General, Fr. Bascapè. The approval must have arrived at the beginning of January, because on January 15th, Fr. Gabrio arrived in Monza with Fr. Ludovico Merlini, superior and master. Immediately he immersed himself in a retreat of 15 days, concluded with a general confession. That was the custom of the time to signify a total change in life and, indeed, Fr. Gabrio attested that from day on he “walked from good to better, giving great hopes about himself.” He received the habit on April 23, 1592, and changed his name to Diego.
We have no news about his Novitiate, but the letters of the Fathers to the Superior General for the admission to the profession attested that “he has gone a long way on the road of the Lord, especially in humility and obedience” (Fr. Merlini), “good and exemplary conduct to the consolation of all” (Fr. Tuetti), “Not little profit he has made in regular discipline and the great desire he shows to serve the Lord, with total resignation to obedience” (Fr. Peretti). And so on May 1, 1593, he was able to profess his vows in the hands of Fr. Boerio, delegate of Fr. Bascapè, who had just been made Bishop of Novara.
He remained in Monza until June 3rd, when he was transferred to St. Alexander where he received the Minor Orders, and then on October 4th he moved to Cremona to continue his studies. He had a little fever, so moved by prudence, the Fathers asked him to stay in bed. He never came out of it until his death on November 1, 1593.
It was during this last month that the young Diego really showed the grandeur and solidity of his virtues. The historical archives in Rome have five lengthy and beautiful letters attesting to his edifying attitude during those last days of his life. Two were written by the student infirmarian Germano Mancinelli, one by Fr. Marziano Ferrari, Vicar and confessor, the other two by Fr. Gabuzio.
Actually these last days were a sequence of edifying episodes attesting to the profound and deeply rooted holiness of Diego, manifested also with supernatural events, like the apparition of the Blessed Mother and the intense perfume his body was emanating after his death.
“Are you happy?” Fr. Ferrari asked him. “Very happy!” was his answer, “if you could see my heart!” “Do you remember the Lord? Do you keep him in your heart?” I remember nothing else, Father; if you would touch my breast, you would find Jesus, my Lord!” Indeed he used to hold tight the Crucifix saying: “I would suffer a thousand years, a thousand years, if that is your will.” He found great comfort in reading the Passion of the Lord.
Before receiving the last Sacraments he renewed his profession of the vows. During his last days, he was staring toward the sky, with his face always very serene and glad, and he closed his eyes saying: “To paradise: I contemplate the immense glory of Divine Majesty.” It was November 1,1593, when he was 26 years old.
BISHOP GIUSTO GUERIN
Bishop of Geneva
Baldassar Guerin was born in Tramoy (Savoy), in 1578. In 1597 he went to Turin to study Law and moved to Pavia the following year, where he started to attend our church of St. Mary’s. He became attached to the Barnabites, and in 1599 asked for admission, entering the Novitiate in Monza on December 11th, of the same year. On February 20, 1600 he received the habit, the name Giusto, and professed the vows on February 24, 1601, in the hands of Fr. Tornielli.
He went to Pavia for Theology and was made infirmarian. It became quite a task, because the community, composed of 60 members, experienced an epidemic, giving him plenty of opportunities to practice patience, humility, and charity. He was ordained a priest in Milan in 1607, and celebrated his First Mass in St. Alexander.
His first assignment was as a confessor, although young, in Monza. In 1609 he was chosen to be one of the pioneers for the first foundation in Turin, together with Fr. Pentorio (Superior), and Fr. Merlini. Fr. Guerin showed to be a man of great goodness, prudence, and zeal in the direction of souls, so he was chosen as confessor and spiritual director of the Princesses Maria and Caterina of Savoy, both of whom will die acclaimed as saints.
In 1614 he was entrusted by the Superiors with the foundations in Annecy, and later Thonon, Bonneville, and Paris, at the invitation of St. Francis de Sales. Indeed, upon the invitation of the Duke Vittorio Amedeo, Fr. Guerin was the first Barnabite St. Francis talked to in Turin. Fr. Fregoso and Fr. Gabaleone, with Fr. Guerin, were assigned to this new foundation. He convinced the Superior to make Fr. Fregoso as Superior, while he was put in charge of temporal affairs. The foundation faced many difficulties, but through the intervention of St. Francis, the protection by the Duke, and the skill of Fr. Guerin, they were all happily overcome. In a short time he became well known as a spiritual man, full of zeal for the salvation of souls.
He worked with St. Francis for the new foundation in Thonon, where the Barnabites were called to teach philosophy, theology, Hebrew, morals, Sacred Scripture, grammar and humanities. Fr. Guerin was made the Director and Superior. Later this foundation will become a very flourishing Novitiate for the Congregation. Naturally he became a most intimate friend with St. Francis de Sales, and upon the death of the Saint, he will be asked to be the Postulator General for the canonization process. A task he accepted with great delight and determination. It will be another Barnabite, Fr. Giarda, to bring the process to conclusion with the canonization in 1665 by Alexander VII.
Father was always very active in the life of the Congregation. He took part in every General Chapter beginning in 1612. In 1626 he was elected Provincial Superior of the Province of Savoy and Piedmont, in 1629 he was Provincial Vicar, and in 1631 Provincial Superior again. In 1630, during the pestilence, he found refuge together with a Brother in a country house, outside Asti. He continued going to the Palace to give spiritual direction to the Princesses, and on the way back to the house he would cook on the fire a few vegetables and have dinner with some salted fishes. Father Marin wrote: “He carried on his face a certain glow of holiness, attracting to himself the souls and rending him venerable in the sight of those he encountered... He was very familiar with Paul V... Many prelates, very difficult to give in to anyone, at the presence of Fr. Giusto would bend, and he would get whatever he asked for... He would never embark on something without first recommending himself to the Holy Spirit, to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and to the Guardian Angel... One day I complained for having to wait too long in the waiting room of a Prelate. He told me: ‘How many times we have forced the Holy Spirit to measure the circle of our heart waiting to be opened for him, and then we have dismissed him!’”
Charles Emmanuel I wanted Fr. Guerin to be Bishop of Mondovì, and later Vittorio Amedeo I tried to have him named Archbishop of Turin, but he was able to refuse. Finally the Duchess of Savoy, Lady Christine of France, convinced him, after he received the order from Urban VIII, to accept to be Bishop of Geneva. He was consecrated in Turin on June 25, 1639, and entered his diocese on August 17th.
He first organized his episcopal family. He kept the Barnabite Fr. Barni as administrator, and established immediately a good relationship with the Canons of the Cathedral Chapter. On September 4, 1639 he started the Canonical Visit. He used to get up early in the morning for meditation and the Mass, then he would confer the Sacrament of Confirmation. He would spend time in preaching as a catechetical tool according to the kind of audience he was facing. He would then spend time to listen to any concern or complain, trying to know at depth his people.
The first need he felt imperative was to have a seminary for the training of his priests, a project to be finished by his successor. In 1640, together with St. Vincent de Paul, he introduced in the Diocese the Vincentian Fathers with great benefit for all. He kept living in the style of a poor Religious, but he was extremely generous with the poor.
After four years of continuous hard work he was exhausted, so he asked as coadjutor with the title of succession, the nephew of St. Francis, Bishop Charles August de Sales, who was consecrated on May 14, 1644. The following June he obtained from Innocent X permission to retire. Because the Barnabite school was too noisy with the children, he went with the Capuchins in Rumilly to prepare himself for death, which came on November 2, 1645.
FATHER ANTHONY CONFALONIERI
He kept the unity of the Lombard Province
Eugenio Confalonieri, born in Milan in 1799, received the Barnabite habit on October 17, 1827, changing his name to Anthony. He was 29 years old when he professed the vows the following year. During his formation years he had to endure the humiliations caused by the political misadventures of his brother Frederick who was thrown in prison by the Austrians. He tried to make up with pious exercises, penances, and acts of mercy.
He studied theology in St. Barnabas, demonstrating his great sense of religious discipline, self-abnegation, humility, and attachment to the Congregation. His first assignment was in Monza as spiritual director of the school, and as a helper in the novitiate. From 1836 to 1846 he was Rector of the school in Lodi, leaving behind a great esteem for his zeal and prudence both in the administration of the school and in the confessional. From Lodi he went back to Monza as Superior and Master of Novices. He was then elected Provincial Superior of Lombardy. He was very instrumental in keeping the unity of the Province during the turmoil of the Austrian Empire which had been separating Milan from the rest of the Congregation.
Twice he was elected Superior of St. Barnabas and again Provincial Superior in 1859, but on November 3 of the following year he was called to heaven at the age of 61.
Fr. Mariano Della-Via wrote: “A man of prayer, he used to pass hours in prayer... Great humility and sweetness, constant patience in the midst of pain, untiring activity, and highest economy of time; scrupulous observance of the rule, practice of poverty to an extreme, full and perfect obedience to his superiors, great compassion for the miseries of his neighbor, trying to alleviate them with any possible means, are the virtues we have come to recognize and appreciate in Fr. Confalonieri, and for which he is venerated inside and outside the Congregation.”
FATHER PETER GAZZOLA
Parish priest and distinguished orator
Fr. Gazzola was born on January 9, 1856. He entered the Diocesan seminary, and then the one of the Vincentian Fathers. There he met the Barnabite Fr. Lodi who was the retreat Master. It was at this time that he felt the call from the Lord to be a Barnabite. He entered the novitiate in St. Barnabas and concluded it in Monza with the profession on Christmas of 1877. In St. Barnabas he concluded his last two years of theology concentrating on the study of Hebrew and Biblical exegesis. While still a student he was called upon to teach dogmatic theology and to preach in St. Barnabas. In 1883 the Archbishop asked him to give Scriptural conferences in the Cathedral, and during Advent he preached the novena for the Immaculate Conception in St. Alexander. The following year he was officially assigned as vicar for the parish priest Fr. Mazzucconi, and in 1885, when only 29 years old, he was nominated pastor of St. Alexander.
During his twenty years tenure, he was able to remodel the church, brought in the St. Vincent de Paul Society for men, and organized a club for the youth. But what made him outstanding was his preaching: “Coming close to the souls he had become convinced that a great city and intellectual center like Milan was in need of a preaching which would respond to the difficulties encountered by the faith due to the modern culture, a priestly word, which would accompany and guide the souls in the search for truth... Preaching for him was not an exercise of lungs and memory, but rather, prayer and study. On Sunday, after coming down from the pulpit, where he had explained the Gospel to a most eager audience of the best minds of Milan, he would retire in his room to read the Gospel for the next Sunday, and throughout the week he would meditate upon it, with a Crucifix in his hands... He knew that there were depressed souls in need to hear a heart loving them with sincerity, for real; souls in need of other souls who are full of courage, moral power, spiritual life, to be able to recover the lost trust, hope, and life. These souls found in Fr. Gazzola the counselor, the friend, the father. The good done to these souls, especially through the Sacrament of Penance, is God’s secret... But after only one year, troubles started, as some of his words were misinterpreted. He was accused to follow Rosmini, and was reported to the Inquisition. So he was transferred to Genoa. People intervened and after 28 days, he was back to St. Alexander. Fr. Gazzola never bothered to find out who were his accusers, instead with the same enthusiasm he attended to his ministry of the pulpit and the confessional. On March 5, 1905, he celebrated his silver anniversary, and the great celebrations in his honor, including a Papal Blessing from Pius X, were a testimony of the esteem people had for him.
But then came the end. Modernism was in the air, and some voices reached Rome about his preaching. In the summer of 1906, Fr. Gazzola gave up his position as parish priest, although he remained as an assistant and also as Superior of the community. He gave up for good the pulpit, limiting himself to the confessional, meditation, and study. In 1908 he took the opportunity for a trip to the Holy Land. During his return he received, in Constantinople, his new destination to Cremona. He wrote to the Superior: “I hear that Fr. General has assigned me to Cremona: let it be my final rest! I write to put myself totally at your disposal, as the last of then novices. Let me know your desires.” He took over the spiritual direction of our seminarians, welcomed with open arms by the conferees and Bishop Bonomelli.
But after two years he had to be transferred to Livorno. Once again he expressed to the Superior his total obedience and submission. Once again he was welcomed with great love by the conferees and the local Bishop, Sebastian Giani. He passed his time in meditation and study. On Sunday he would preach for a small group of ladies. All these travesties affected his health. On October 29, 1915, while back from a visit to a sick person, he felt sick himself. The next morning he could not get up to say Mass: “I never missed to say Mass!” he complained. But it was the end. On November 1, he received the Sacraments, the blessing from the Holy Father, a visit from Bishop Giani, and on the evening of November 3, he closed his eyes in the Lord.
ST. CHARLES BORROMEO
Cardinal of Milan,
Secondary Patron of the Congregation
Among the great reformers of the troubled 16th century we have the towering figure of Charles Borromeo, who, with St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Philip Neri, and others, led the movement to combat the inroads of the Protestant Reformation. His father, Count Gilbert Borromeo, was a man of piety and ability, and his mother was a member of the famous Medici family of Milan, sister of Angelo de Medici, later to become Pope Pius IV. The second of two sons in a family of six children, Charles was born in the castle of Arona on Lake Maggiore, on October 2, 1538. He was so devout that at the age of twelve he received the tonsure. At this time his paternal uncle, Julius Caesar Borromeo, turned over to him the income from the rich Benedictine abbey of San Gratiniano, one of the ancient perquisites of this noble family. In spite of his youth, Charles had a sense of responsibility, and he made plain to his father that all revenues from the abbey, beyond what was required to prepare him for a career in the Church, belonged to the poor and could not be applied to secular use. To take such a scrupulous stand in a period of corruption and decadence was unusual, and most significant as an indication of Charles’ integrity of character.
ST. CHARLES AND THE BARNABITES
The Barnabites came to know St. Charles for the first time on September 23, 1565, when he took possession of the diocese of Milan. On April 7, 1567 the Fathers gathered for a General Chapter, and Alexander Sauli, 36 years old, was elected Superior General. This is when the relationship with St. Charles started.
Our Fathers experienced the protection of the Saint right from the beginning. At the death of Amico Gritti, Canon of Novara, his nephew sent Apostolic Letters claiming the church of St. Barnabas. The Fathers did not trust those Letters, and the case was sent to Rome. They were supported by the Cardinal, and toward the end of 1567 the Pope ruled in their favor.
On September 5, 1568, St. Charles was on retreat in St. Barnabas, and on his own initiative he consecrated the main altar, and gave to the Fathers a precious reliquary.
By now the Archbishop had fallen in love with the Barnabites, due to their holiness and integrity of life. At the end of his pastoral visits he used to go to St. Barnabas to rest, living in the Community with the Fathers, and also washing the dishes.
During these years St. Charles suggested the merge of the Order of the Humiliati with our Order. St. Alexander Sauli, then Superior General, afraid to damage the young Congregation, dissuaded St. Charles from the project. Finally, following also an attempt to St. Charles life, Pope Pius V, on February 17, 1570, suppressed the Order of the Humiliati.
The suppression left many religious houses available, and the Archbishop used his influence so that many of them would go to the Barnabites who had been so helpful to him in the diocese. First of all, with the consent of Fr. Charles Bascapè, he obtained for them St. James in Cremona. They took possession of it on May 19, 1570. Without the request of the Fathers, St. Charles obtained from Gregory XIII the church of All Saints in Monza, but it was in such a pitiable state that the Fathers asked to have instead Santa Maria al Carrobiolo, which will become the Novitiate, and will be the last church to be consecrated by St. Charles on June 14, 1584.
When the Cardinal found out that the Barnabites wanted to open a house in Rome, he recommended them to authorities known to him. He tried also with the Republic of Venice to have the band of 1551 against the Barnabites revoked, but without success.
Tasks of trust
St. Charles loved the Barnabites for the simple reason that he experienced their holiness and total dedication to the salvation of souls. The holy Archbishop used the Fathers for the reform of monasteries. They were instrumental for the founding of the monastery of the Capuchin nuns at St. Praxedes, where they served as spiritual directors for many years.
Outstanding among them was Fr. Peter Besozzi. In 1567 he was sent on a canonical visit of various religious orders. While Superior in Cremona he was used by bishop Niccolò Sfondrati (future Pope Gregory XIV) to reform various monasteries. Called back to Milan by St. Charles, the monastery of the Angelic Sisters (whose rules had been written by Fr. Charles Bascapè) was entrusted to his care. Other outstanding Fathers were James Berna, Timothy Facciardi, and Gregory Asinari.
As his trust for the Barnabites was growing, the Cardinal entrusted to them two very delicate and important missions. In the summer of 1580 he sent Fr. Charles Bascapè to the King of Spain, Philip II, because of some tensions between the Archbishop and the Governor of Milan, the Marches Ajamonte. Thanks to Fr. Bascapè’s skill the mission had excellent results.
In 1583 the Fathers Boerio, Adorno and Grattarola were sent in Valtellina to prevent the spreading of Calvinism. Fr. Boerio, pressed by the heretics, twice had to leave the mission. On May 20, 1584, he went back by order of St. Charles. False accusations were presented against him, but during the public hearing, because of a brilliant self-defense, the judges left secretly to avoid shame. But Fr. Boerio and the parish priest of Poschiavo were thrown in prison anyway, where they were maltreated and finally expelled. There was a penalty of 500 scudi for anyone who would offer them hospitality. St. Charles ordered him to stay. The police arrived, the people rebelled, the bells rung, the two priests were set free, but at the end they had to give up.
All of a sudden, during the summer of 1576, a plague exploded in Milan. Many Barnabites became victims of their assistance to the sick, or of the plague itself, among them James Berna (November 15, 1576), considered a saint by St. Charles, and Cornelius Croce (November 16, 1576), 26 years old. The plague caused a halt in the development of the Order. It was because of the encouragement of St. Charles Borromeo that the Barnabites were able to go back to their apostolic activities and to the compilation of their Rules.
The most decisive work accomplished by St. Charles in favor of the Congregation, was the composition of the Constitutions (1579).
When, after the death of St. Charles, his cause of beatification and canonization was introduced, the Barnabites were solicitous to give their support, especially through Fr. Bascapè, by then bishop of Novara. Besides making depositions as a witness, he drafted the 300 questionnaires of the Trial, and in 1605 he was sent to Rome by the Lombard bishops to solicit the cause, which was granted by Pope Paul V on November 1, 1610.
The same year the Barnabites dedicated to St. Charles Borromeo the magnificent church of St. Charles ai Catinari in Rome. The General Chapter of 1614 proclaimed him patron of the Order, prescribing a fast on the vigil, and a solemn celebration of his feast day.
FATHER LOUIS COSTIONI
47th Superior General
Born in Recanati, in 1732, Fr. Costioni professed his vows as a Barnabite on July 16, 1752, in Zagarolo. He taught in Foligno and Finalmarina, in Thonon (France), Foligno again, and finally he was assigned to St. Charles ai Catinari in Rome to give conferences on Holy Scripture, especially on St. Paul.
In 1776, he was elected Provincial Superior of the Roman Province. At the end of his mandate he became Visitor General. From 1782 to 1788 he was Superior in Macerata, and in 1789, again Provincial Superior. The General Chapter of 1794 elected him Superior General. He had to face one of the most painful historical moments of the Church and of the Congregation as the political events of the time, like the French Revolution, attacked the Church and dispersed the Congregations.
Our Congregation was totally eradicated from France, while in Italy the situation was very precarious. He could do nothing else but accepted with resignation the persecution and encourage his confreres to be faithful to their vocation, dedicating himself to visiting and comforting them.
In 1795, while in Piedmont, he had the courage to cross into the forbidden land of Lombardy, and so, after 15 years, the confreres of Pavia and Milan were able to see and embrace again the Superior General. He was so much appreciated that in 1797 Pius V convinced him to accept the Generalate again, to be protracted until 1801 because it was impossible to hold a General Chapter in 1800. But after five months he became very ill, and on November 5th, he suddenly gave his soul to the Lord.
“I am not going to expand on his virtues, it is enough to mention his tireless efforts in serving the Congregation, his resignation in front of the travesties of his time, the zeal for regular observance, his angelic conduct, his affability, love, and perfection... in short he was always an exemplar religious” (Fr. Peter Valerio).
FATHER PETER VIGORELLI
66th Superior General
Fr. Vigorelli was born in the province of Lodi on March 15, 1856. He was a student in our “San Francesco” school, graduating in 1875. He asked for admission to our Congregation and entered the novitiate in Monza in 1877, and professed his Solemn Vows on December 26, 1880.
He was ordained in Lodi on December 31, 1880, and right away he registered at the University of Turin, for Physics and Mathematics. They will be his favorite subjects for his long career as a teacher, even when he was Provincial Superior. During those years he was busy as a catechist for the Brothers, spiritual director of our seminarians, and as procurator.
In Lodi he was vice-rector from 1884 and then Rector from 1898. He loved the youth and so he loved his position as vice-rector. He was rigid with the boys but underneath he was a most tender father. In the General Chapter of 1901, he was elected Visitor General, but he refused, and so he was elected Provincial Superior of Lombardy, to be confirmed in 1904 and 1907. He remained in Lodi until 1904 when he became also Superior of St. Barnabas: “I leave,” he wrote, “I leave after 17 years with no remorse for any failure in my duties.”
While he was Provincial, he had the joy of celebrating the canonization of the Founder. For the occasion he had the facade of St. Barnabas restored. He organized the theology curriculum into four years, as it was in Rome, enlarged the Zaccaria institute, and remodeled the Novitiate in Monza, the retreat house in Galliano, and the new church in Voghera. He also had the joy of the celebrations for the canonization of St. Alexanderd Sauli on December 11, 1911.
On September 1, 1910, he was elected Superior General, to be confirmed in 1016, and also in 1919, until 1922. His government was not marked by great initiatives, but he was the right man, energetic and with a great heart, to face those most troubled times, and preserve the spirit of the Congregation. First it was the Modernism controversy, hitting our Congregation in our outstanding confreres like Fr. Semeria, and Fr. Gazzola. Then came the horror of World War I. Many of our houses became military hospitals with more than a third of the members called to military duty. In 1917, among the Barnabites serving in the war there were 57 priests, 27 students, and 32 Brothers. He dedicated his life to follow them one by one, through letters and any other possible means to encourage them and let them know about his loving concern. After the war concluded he then had to handle the reconstruction of the Congregation. In 1919, he sent to the confreres a marvelous circular letter, inspiring them to internal spiritual life as a foundation for Religious Life, and to be busy in their work, as a necessity and a duty of every Barnabite, fighting any worldly attitude.
Finally in 1922, he was freed from his position, but remained in Rome as Assistant General, Vicar general, professor of Canon Law, and spiritual director. In 1928, he was made Visitor General, and Superior of St. Charles ai Catinari, but the following year he retired to Voghera. He took part in the Chapters of 1931 and 1934, especially to work on the Constitutions in order to align them with the updated Canon Law. The end came on November 5, 1935, following complications from a fall in his room.
FATHER ANTHONY GRANDI
“An Ark of Knowledge”
“In Fr. Anthony Grandi, we write about a man of great intelligence, wisdom and knowledge, and a man of great piety. The tasks carried by him and the honors received were joined by nobility of his spirit, ... glad and blest to be useful to his Order and to any one taking advantage of his work, in promoting the glory of the Church, and cultivating the exercise of virtues” (Fr. Piantoni).
Fr. Grandi was born in Vicenza on June 24, 1760, and he attended our school in Udine. Called to Religious Life, he entered our novitiate in Monza and professed his vows on October 29, 1778. He attended at his studies in St. Alexander and in Pavia, where he graduated in 1784, Summa cum Laude in Theology. Too young to be ordained, he was assigned to teach at the Longoni school in Milan. There he was ordained in 1787.
He was assigned to Cremona, but the Longoni community was able to keep him for an extra year. After two years in Cremona, he moved to the “San Luigi” school in Bologna. The clarity of his exposition, the elegance of his writing, the fluidity of his words, and his vast knowledge, together with his most affable and gentle manners, were the trademarks of the great esteem and affection he built among his pupils and friends. In 1796 the French invasion forced the closing of the college, and Fr. Grandi found refuge with his family. But in 1799, at the end of the occupation, he immediately returned to the Congregation.
Following the General Chapter of 1801, he was called to Rome to be the Chancellor of the new Superior General, Fr. Fontana. In 1807 he will be also Procurator General. Until the suppression of 1810, he taught Theology, Greek, Hebrew, and Mathematics to our students in Rome, and gave various conferences on Philosophy, Physics, and Mathematics. At the suppression, because of his health, he obtained permission to remain in his cell in St. Charles together with Fr. Alpruni and Fr. Cortes, but he refused the Government pension granted to the secularized religious. He passed five years in prayer and study.
Finally in 1814, the Congregation was reestablished, and the community came back to life. He was again Procurator General, and as Fr. Fontana was made a Cardinal, and Fr. Lambruschini, Archbishop of Genoa, he assumed positions in various Sacred Congregations, like that of Rites, the Holy Office, Index, and Extraordinary Affairs. Cardinal Fontana, working also as Superior General, made him his Vicar. This is only to mention some of his activities.
Fr. Grandi loved God above all things, loved the Church, loved the Congregation, and loved the youth, stimulating them to study and a life of piety. He was only 62 years old, when he was struck by a high fever. In all serenity he passed away on November 6, 1822. Pius VII, hearing the news, exclaimed: “What a loss not only for the Barnabites, but for Rome and the Church as well,” he had planned to make him a Cardinal.
FATHER LOUIS BRUZZA
Archeologist and historian
Fr. Bruzza, one of many archeologists in our Congregation, became a martyr of the catacombs. A fall, while directing the excavations in the crypt of St. Hyppolitus, weakened his strong constitution, eventually leading to his death. During the night he felt so sick that he felt the need to receive the last Sacraments; but, not to disturb the community, he went to knock at the door of one of the conferees to ask for them. Four days later he closed his eyes saying: “May the will of God be done, nothing else but the will of the Lord! How good is the Lord! May He be blessed for all He is sending me, since it is all for my good!” It was November 6, 1883.
Louis Dominic Bruzza was born in Genoa, on March 15, 1813. He entered our novitiate in St. Bartholomew and professed the solemn vows on October 7, 1832. Fr. Caspani so described him: “The events of his life lighted two great loves: love for the city of Vercelli, and love for Rome, and more specifically love for their antiquities. This love for antiquities has his roots in the classical studies which he attended, together with Philosophy, at the University of Genoa. Here he met the famous Barnabite, Fr. John Baptist Spotorno, professor of Latin Literature. This contact gave birth to his religious vocation.”
“After novitiate... he was in Rome for three years to study theology. This and the contact with the famous Fr. Ungarelli, and then the teaching in Parma (1835-1839), solidified him... in his love for pagan and Christian antiquities.”
“In 1839 he went to Vercelli to teach... In 1847 he was director of studies until 1853, when the Congregation pulled out. It was here that his passion for archeology erupted in his contact with some local scholars and lovers of local history... The King nominated Fr. Bruzza to the Royal Historical Commission of the city.”
“In 1853 he moved to Naples and in 1855 to Moncalieri, and in 1867 he was elected Assistant General, and so he moved to Rome, always as a teacher of Latin, Greek, and Italian. He kept up with his studies on the city of Vercelli, and in 1874 he published his masterpiece, Iscrizioni antiche vercellesi, with a detailed and complete history of the city... On June 19, 1875 the city conferred upon him the honorary citizenship...”
“On his other love, Rome, he did not publish any great work, but many minor ones... He
opened new ways especially in the study of initials and inscriptions... He started the geographical and topographical study of the Via Valeria. Death prevented him from publishing Regesto della Chiesa di Tivoli, on which he had worked for five years... The scholars will observe that in the matters studied by Fr. Bruzza prevalent were partial and minute subjects, almost like rejects from other studies....”
“All his notes on the excavations, especially those left unpublished in our General Archive... have been lately studied and published in the Bulletin of the Archeological society of Rome...”
Fr. Bruzza was very knowledgeable in diplomacy and paleography, numismatics and epigraphy; he dealt with painting and mosaics, archaic and classical inscriptions, ancient and medieval topography, and the geography of sacred and profane subjects. He kept himself always updated on any new discovery and study, including philology. He was accomplishing all this in the time left over from his duties as a Religious, a professor, and responsibilities in the Congregation.
His modesty and suavity of character were attracting the young to him, and he knew how to entice them to study and to research. His room was always open to people of all kinds, coming for consultation and direction. But, “what is really worthy to be remembered are his religious virtues. All knew of his piety, shown especially in the celebration of the Mass and the recitation of the Divine Office, his tender love for the Congregation...., his cordiality and affability with all kinds of people, so that he was appreciated even by those who were shy to speak to religious, finally his modesty and privacy...” (Fr. Baravelli).
FATHER ANGEL RIGANTI
Fr. Riganti spent most of his life with the Barnabite students. He was born in the province of Milan, on October 24, 1879, the first of seven children. He started his training in the minor seminary in Cremona, and completed his studies in Milan, where he was ordained a priest on April 14, 1906. For ten years he worked in St. Barnabas in various offices, like vice-master, professor of dogmatic and moral theology, librarian, and chancellor of Father Provincial. “Those times were difficult, especially for a teacher of theology. Indeed, as a teacher he was not repetitious. He was one of a clear mind and a steadfast heart. He was one who both instructed and educated, because to instruct without educating the whole person means and is culture without life.”
In 1916 he was called to be Superior of the minor seminary in Cremona. He knew how to mingle and play with the young boys, helping to overcome their homesickness, facing those terrible times of the war when there was not enough food to feed them, caring for their health as the famous ‘Spanish’ flu infiltrated the Congregation. “The years of Fr. Riganti as Superior in Cremona are pages rich with living and daring zeal... He let the heart take over as a provident father toward refugees and soldiers and he opened and directed a ‘house for the soldier.’ The Government, in recognition, decorated him with the title as Knight of Italy, while the Congregation made him Provincial Superior of Lombardy” (1919). During that time he received from the Curia the task to direct the Angelic Sisters in their passage from the cloister to active apostolic life. Meantime the annexed church of ‘Our Lady of Good Health’ was prospering with apostolic activities, especially retreats and confessions.
In 1928 he went to Rome for the General Chapter and was elected Assistant General and Procurator General, with residence at the St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria community. Once again he was asked to put to good use his skill as an architect for the building of the new Seminary and church of St. Anthony M. Zaccaria on the Gianicolo Hill. Meantime, he became Superior of St. Charles ai Catinari; but, on December 4, 1932, when Fr. Caspani was assigned to Afghanistan, Fr. Riganti took his place as Superior and Master of the students in the theologate he had built. In the formation program he was very severe, but he had a very tender love for the students. He was a man of few but essential words, a most humble man teaching more through his personal example.
One day he wrote to a dear friend and penitent of his, that he was afflicted by “an unknown illness, which seemed to advance quite fast, so that it could be healed only by a miracle... Anyway God does not need anybody’s work. I willingly confirm the complete gift of my will and my life to Him, begging Him that any of my feelings may be according to His Heart.” And so he became immobilized, being consumed like a little flame to the end. He died in St. Barnabas, Milan, on November 6, 1934.
BROTHER ALESSIO PALLAVICINI
A man of great simplicity
Nothing exceptional but his good will, docility, and especially extreme simplicity has made Brother Alessio a very familiar personality. Born in a family of farmers on January 31, 1856, he could not attend school because he had to work in the farm. There he led a very simple and prayerful life. In 1884, he felt the call from the Lord and knocked at the door of St. Barnabas. He was accepted as a worker and eventually in 1893 he carried the cross. After five years as a postulant he entered the novitiate and professed the vows on January 17, 1899.
His first assignment was as sacristan in Cremona, then in Lodi for the second novitiate. In 1902 he was in Genoa at St. Bartholomew. A very hard worker, he was a very pleasant personality with his ingenuity, meekness, humility, and sense of humor. His faith was solid and so was his piety. Feeling his age, in 1922, he asked to return to St. Barnabas. He was helping at the door and keeping the room clean, but the arteriosclerosis was advancing, rendering him incapable of any work. When he became bedridden, it became necessary to bring him, in 1926, to the nursing home of the Brothers of St. John. There, still giving a marvelous example of patience and deep piety, he slowly reached the end on November 7, 1926.
FATHER JOHN VINCENT SICILIANI
A very observant Religious
A natural goodness, nourished by solid Christian piety, and associated to a spontaneous humor, full of liveliness, profound science, and love for duty and the rule were the eminent qualities of Fr. Siciliani. He was born on November 8, 1841, in Marigliano (Naples). He did all his studies in the Barnabite boarding school in Pontecorvo until he was 19. At 20 he entered the Nola seminary and in 1863 he received the subdeaconate. But he was feeling the call also to religious life. Since he had to take care of some family businesses in 1864 he became an Oblate of the Barnabites. In 1866 he was ordained a priest and in 1868 he was able to profess the solemn vows as a full fledge Barnabite.
His first destination was the “San Luigi” college in Bologna. It will be his home for thirty six years as professor of mathematics and physics, prefect of sacristy, vice-rector, vicar, and prefect of hospitality. In 1889 he was a member of the General Chapter and was elected as General Visitor of the Roman Province, then in 1901 he was named rector of the college and Provincial Superior. In 1904 Fr. Siciliani received his second and last assignment: Assistant General and Superior of St. Charles ai Catinari, where he would stay for twelve years until a few months before his death.
Study and piety were Fr. Siciliani’s major concerns. He was an excellent professor and enthusiastic scientist. In 1887 he published a work on geometry, while one on trigonometry remained unpublished. He was a very active member of the Accademia dei Lincei. He cooperated with Fr. Denza for the erection of the observatories of St. Luke in Bologna and of S.Nicolò delle Lagune. A man gifted and in love with art, he became an accomplished pianist and organist, and, with great passion, polished the yearly theatrical productions by the students.
So many external qualities found their nourishment in his deep spiritual life. He was always an exemplary religious as a member of the community, especially as superior, surrounded by the esteem and trust of his confreres. He served the Lord with faithfulness in the classroom, in the pulpit, and in the confessional, becoming a trusted spiritual director, especially when pastor in St. Charles. His last apostolate was the one of suffering. When illness struck him, he was absolutely edifying. Unable to walk he would pull himself to the choir, and it was of great joy for him to obtain the permission to celebrate the Holy Mass while sitting. He never lost his hilarity and joviality. Having received all the Sacraments and the blessing from Benedict XV, he died on his birthday, November 9, 1916.
FATHER LOUIS MINELLI
Promoter of the cult toward the Holy Founder and the Apostolate of the Family
Fr. Minelli was born on March 28, 1823, in Bazzano (Bologna). He entered the novitiate in Genoa in 1841, professing the vows the following year. At the end of his philosophical studies, he was assigned to Asti where he would remain for rest of his life.
From 1844 to 1865 he taught the little ones of the 4th year elementary grade. He then moved to teach in the gymnasium. Meanwhile, since 1856 he had become prefect of the sacristy for the church of St. Francis.
He had a true passion for the church, making sure that everything was always in perfect order. All the utensils were in top shape and the most beautiful ones were used for very frequent and well organized sacred functions. He manifested a special devotion for the cult toward the Holy Founder, spreading it all over the region of Piedmont. According to the liturgical directives, he set a picture of the Founder in the sacristy and transformed it into a little shrine, well frequented by the people obtaining many graces from the saint. He distributed holy images, medals, and relics, reaching inside families to bring peace and dedication. This brought the creation of the “Family Apostolate,” explaining its meaning and purpose in a leaflet he had printed. He spread the devotion also in the factories and stores, inviting the owners to sanctify the holy days of obligation.
A man of deep spiritual life, Fr. Minelli became a spiritual director in great demand, and his charity was reaching out to the poor of the area. He knew every single poor person in Moncalieri, and God only knows how many treasures passed through his hands to reach them.
In October 1889 he became sick with apoplexy, limiting the use of his mind and limbs. With great patience and resignation he lasted up till November 9, 1891, when another attack brought him to the tomb. He was 68 years old.
BROTHER PHILIP BALESTRINI
A man of prayer
In the last years of his life Bro. Balestrini was presenting himself as a robust, tall person, with a rosy complexion, ascetical eyes, with lips always moving in prayer, while his hands were grasping the holy rosary: the people in Monza venerated him as a saint.
Thirsty for the Word of God, and very emotional to the point of tears as he listened to it, he never missed a preaching taking place in one of the churches. The people used to say that it were his tears, and not the words of the preacher, that would move them to conversion.
He was born in Milan, Italy on November 16, 1807. His father was a banker and left to his son a substantial fortune. But Philip was attracted not by the money but rather by the exercises of spiritual life. He was longing to be a priest but God had other plans for him. He concentrated more than once uponn the study of Latin, but his eyes did not help him, and so he had to stop. He recognized in this God’s call to religious life as a Brother, a kind of life which would allow him to receive Holy Communion every day. He used to get up at 3:00 a.m. to spend time in front of a sacred image in preparation for the Mass and Holy Communion.
He entered the Congregation in 1837, when 30 years old. As a postulant he was for one year sacristan at the Carrobiolo in Monza and then prefect of discipline in Lodi. In 1839 he entered the novitiate professing the solemn vows a year later in February 1840, in the hands of Fr. Joseph Perabò, Provincial Superior of Lombardy.
He was assigned as prefect of discipline at the “St. Mary of the Angels” school in Monza until 1865, then to the “St. Joseph” school until 1872, and finally at “St. Mary at Carrobiolo” until the end of his life.
Fully dedicated to his delicate task as prefect of the little ones, he constantly inspired them to a life of faith centered on God. He himself was a man of prayer throughout the day, always with the rosary in his hands, and he had a special devotion to the Guardian Angels.
When the children were in class, he would take the opportunity to run to one of the churches where some special devotions or the Forty Hours were taking place. Fr. Almerici describes him in this way: “He was a model of every religious virtue. Sustained by deep faith, he saw God in the Superiors, and he was full of respect toward them. A simple gesture was enough for his prompt obedience with admirable readiness. Before his solemn profession, he wanted to leave his large fortune for the benefit of the Church and the house of St. Mary at Carrobiolo. His love for holy poverty was such that he never made use of his pension except for works of charity with the permission of the superiors… Following our great Apostle Paul, he became all to all, very charitable toward his confreres. Very jovial as a character, he used to say humorous words even when in pain. And in his last illness he always had a smile on his face… this serenity was a reflection of his union with God in prayer. He was most zealous for things promoting the glory of God, and most devoted of the Blessed Sacrament. We can say that his last years were a continuous prayer.”
When on his death bed, the novices were brought there so that they could be inspired by his serenity, and while they were praying together he gave his soul to the Lord on November 10, 1877.
FATHER UGO PETER ALESSANDRO
Theologian and historian
“A man of integrity, pious, renowned for what he wrote, a scholar in every field of knowledge, second to no theologian of his time.” This is the inscription under Fr. Alessandro’s portrait in the “San Luigi” school in Bologna.
He was born in Niece from Peter Maria and Maria Cauvina. When 17 he entered the Barnabite novitiate of San Bartholomew in Genoa, and professed his vows on January 3, 1743. He pursued his philosophical studies in Macerata and theology in Rome until 1745.
His first destination was to teach philosophy in Aosta and in Casalmonferrato. Then, to his great delight, he was assigned to teach theology, since it was his favorite subject. At first he taught in Rome (1758, St. Charles ai Catinari), and then in Bologna in the archdiocesan seminary. His fields of concentration were dogmatic theology and history of the Church. From 1770 to 1774 he was also honorary theology professor at the Bologna University.
He was also superior in Rome and of St. Paul in Bologna, Provincial Superior (1784-85) and Visitor of Etruria, “which, due to the hostility against religious orders at that time, was led to total ruin in the States of the Granduke of Tuscany, Leopold I.” As a consequence, the Ligurian province was created absorbing also the Bologna communities until 1810. In the last 22 years of his life Fr. Alessandro was also Prefect of the St. Lucy public Library.
He was a man of faith very much attached to the Holy See during those turbulent years of the French Revolution, and exact in regular observance and piety. Having reached the age of 70, full of merits, Father Ugo died on November 11, 1795.
FATHER AMBROSE GASPARI
Master of Novices
Fr. Gaspari was born in Milan in 1809 from Luigi and Maddalena Morazzoni. He studied in Monza and joined the diocesan clergy becoming a priest in 1837. He was assigned to the oratorio of Saronno.
After four years he asked for admission to the Barnabite Congregation. He entered the novitiate in 1841 and professed the vows on March 31, 1842 in the hands of the Provincial Fr. Perabò. His first assignment was as vice-rector in the San Francesco school in Lodi. After six years he was transferred to Monza to be vicar for three years and then superior and Master of Novices for ten years. In November 1862 he was made superior of St. Barnabas in Milan until June 1865. It was then that he became sick and so he went back to Monza to rest, but died on November 13th of the same year.
Fr. Gaspari distinguished himself as a confessor and director of souls. Very sensitive to the needs of the poor, he always stimulated the well to do to come to their aid. Often he was on a preaching mission in various dioceses of the area together with the other Fathers.
As a novice master he was like a mother and a wise educator of the spirit leading the novices to the understanding and practice of obedience. Fr. Schouvaloff, in his autobiography wrote: “May the humility of that good Father forgive me if I cannot restrain myself from affirming that I am in debt to him, after God, for the perseverance in my vocation, and to have overcome all trials in my new existence. But I became aware of this only later and slowly I have come to understand that for the soul what counts is a blind and passive obedience. His influence is supernatural. To follow Jesus Christ we have to renounce ourselves, carry the cross every day, obey, suffer… But a day will come when the humiliations and pains will be blessed. With what a wise judgment the master of novices had guided me! How he knew how to temper firmness with meekness, unite strength with tenderness! Between us there was established a union which had as its tie on one side the love for the guide, on the other the love and the trust of the one who is keen to be guided…”
Father was well esteemed as the prototype master. The man of prayer, intimately united with God was very visible in him.
FATHER GABRIO PORRO
First Novice Master in Monza
On May 13, 1570, at 22 years of age, Gabrio Porro, son of Antonio Maria, asked Fr. Omodei, Superior General, to be admitted into our Congregation. After a month of trials he was admitted and received the habit on June 25, 1570.
When the news reached the family they thought that it was only a youthful whim and not a true vocation, because as a youth Gabrio had been a rascal. So they expected him to come back home as they assured the Fathers that later he would have been only a trouble maker in the Community. The Fathers assured his parents that the purpose of the Novitiate was to see if he was fit for that kind of life and so to be patient. He was entrusted to the care of Fr. Gregory Asinari as his Novice Master. The young man proved to be a very submissive character, ready to obey, which put an end to his parents opposition.
When the time for his profession came, Gabrio appeared in front of the community and the Father invited him to reflect well on the step he was about to take, aware that the devil would create all kind of obstacles to try to dissuade him. He answered that he hoped to persevere trusting in God and the help of the prayers of the community. Satisfied with his answer, the Fathers admitted him to the profession, which took place on August 15, 1571. He remained in St. Barnabas for the theological studies and was ordained a priest in May, 1574. Four years later he was elected as a discreet.
What distinguished Fr. Porro was the goodness of his behavior, his gentle spirit, the observance of religious discipline, and the faithfulness to his tasks, so that all were marveling how that rascal character had been changed by divine grace. St. Charles Borromeo himself, who used to visit the Fathers in St. Barnabas, had great admiration for him. When the time came to open the novitiate in Monza, St. Charles himself was the one to choose Fr. Porro as Novice Master. Some confreres were not too happy about the selection, thinking that Fr. Porro did not have enough experience, but he proved them wrong.
For nine years he guided the novices with great prudence, joviality, and firmness so that he was loved as much as feared. Fr. General Bascapè asked him “to write and explain the Spiritual Exercise a novice must do as he enters the novitiate, and the specific ones to be done before the profession” (Letter of April 22, 1587).
Fr. Porro had also special attention for the Angelic Sisters, especially for the foundation of the St. Paul monastery in Monza. Under his government the church of Carrobiolo, totally renovated, was consecrated on June 15, 1584.
In 1588 he was to leave the novitiate as he was elected Assistant General and Superior of the new community of St. Barnabas in Milan. A man of great wisdom and holiness, he was confirmed in his office in four General Chapters. He was admired not only by the confreres but also by so many lay people who had put their souls under his spiritual guidance. Unfortunately, while in Milan he became sick, and the doctor suggested to move him back to Monza. With great patience he endured his illness. He lasted only one month as he gave his soul to the Lord on November 14, 1604.
FATHER JAMES BERNA
FATHER CORNELIUS CROCE
Victims of the pestilence
Fr. James Berna
Fr. Berna was born in Arena around 1534. He heard about the marvelous work of reform done by St. Anthony M. Zaccaria in Milan, and felt the call to join him. So on July 15, 1536, Berna knocked at the house near by St. Ambrose, where the first group of Barnabites used to live. After a very severe and hard trial, he was received by the Superior, Fr. Morigia. The postulant had to show a real and total detachment from himself and to give full obedience before he would be given a chance in the community. For some time he was asked to confess in public every day his defects and also his thoughts, and proper penances were given him like public discipline in the Duomo, or in the market place, dressed in sackcloth, or asking alms from church to church when the attendance was greater.
The Holy Founder, who lived with him for three years, defined him as: “Sir John Anthony, lover of suffering.”
Finally on February 1, 1540, having reached the desired perfection, he received the habit, and on June 7th of the following year he celebrated his First Mass in St. Paul of the Angelics. In 1544 he was a Discreet and was put in charge of the ebullient Lorenzo Davidico. As we know, Davidico left the Congregation, and finished his life assisted by Fr. Berna.
Meanwhile, Fr. Berna had not been admitted to the profession as yet, so in 1546 he made his request to the Chapter. The Fathers listed the conditions: he should become more open and resolute in giving his opinion, give reasonable alms to the poor from his possessions, conquer a soul for God, show more freedom and ease in his task inside and outside the house, and to free himself from scruples. He accepted the suggestions and, after a month, he made his request again. He was able to profess on June 15, 1546.
Once again he was elected a Discreet, which meant to oversee the religious discipline of the community, with the penalty of public reprimand if things were not going well. Because of his scruples, he was put under the spiritual guidance of Fr. Malipiero, prohibiting him to go to confession more then once a week, to meditate more than prescribed, or to do anything outside the schedule. He must have made good progress as the following year he was confirmed as Discreet, receiving many other tasks, and finally becoming also a confessor and preacher. In 1548 he was sent to Vicenza to help Fr. D’Aviano in that mission, remaining there for more than three years, until the Venetian ban of 1551 expelled the Zaccarian family from the territory.
His fervor was very deep, manifested also externally. He used to put little crosses here and there as reminders of Jesus’ cross. Often he would visit the sick and prisoners. He loved vocal prayer in the choir. He even composed various spiritual booklets for the good of souls, but he was not allowed to publish them until later and under a different name. He was able to lead back to God many souls. One day while celebrating Mass a group of nobles were very noisy so Father stopped and asked them to behave. At then end of the Mass, full of resentment they went to look for him to teach him a lesson, and found him at prayer in sacristy. Fr Berna with a smile on his face greeted them, and suddenly they were at his feet asking for forgiveness and dropped their daggers.
He stayed in Cremona until 1570, and then in Nonantola, requested by the Abbott Bonomi. When the Abbott was made bishop of Vercelli, he asked for Fr. Berna and Fr. Boerio to run the church of St. Peter at first and seven years later also the church of St. Christopher. It was during one of his trips that Fr. Berna, crossing a river, had to face on the boat a man who kept cursing and blaspheming. Father tried to make him stop but with the opposite result, to which he said: “Throw me in the river; I am ready to die, but stop blaspheming.” The man, at that, got all confused, threw himself at his feet asking for forgiveness.
When, in 1576, Bishop Bonomi was made Nuncio in Switzerland, Fr. Berna went back to Milan, where the pestilence had already started. In an old report we read that Fr. Berna and Fr. Croce presented themselves to the Archbishop “ready to serve at any risk wherever he would like to send them.” “Before they started their work St. Charles wanted to give them communion himself. On October 26, Fr. Croce was sent to Gentilino, a place arranged as a public Lazaretto. He resisted sickness until November 7th at the service of the victims, when he showed signs of the pestilence on himself. Forced to stay in bed to cure himself, he gave his soul to the Creator on November 15th, at the age of 26. On October 28 Fr. Berna was sent there, who did not stop at any risk or burden for the benefit of those poor people. On November 9th, realizing he had become infected, he was forced to be more careful. Fully resigned to the will of God he died on November 15th (4:00 p.m.), at advanced age. At first they were both buried in two wooden caskets there in Gentilino, and later they were moved to St. Barnabas.”
We can add that St. Charles himself administered the Last Rites to Fr. Berna. All who knew him considered him as a saint. St. Charles as a sign of veneration took for himself his rosary as a special relic.
Fr. Cornelius Croce
Fr. Croce, as a promising young man asked Fr. Omodei admission in the Order. He received the habit from him on December 25, 1571.
He had so much fervor in Religious Life that, not happy with the usual mortifications, he would add many more; and, as if knowing of his short life, he intensified his most scrupulous observance of discipline.
He was ordained a priest on September 24, 1575, “for the benefit of souls,” as he said, “therefore he needed to study and to pray to prepare himself.”
When the pestilence exploded in 1576, he begged St. Charles to use him where the need was most urgent, and, as we have read above, he was sent to the Gentilino, where he died on November 15th.
FATHER LUDOVIC SIEGL
For 20 years Provincial Superior of Austria
The first destination of Fr. Siegl was in Mistelbach as vicar in the parish. The following year he moved to Vienna, where he worked for the care of the souls for 15 years. A powerful preacher, he became the counselor and spiritual director of many nobles. In 1838 he became pastor and superior in St. Mary’s Hilf.
For five years he was Provincial Superior until 1859, and was reelected in 1862. He used great discretion and prudence, keeping always busy with his evangelical activities for the good of souls.
The Archbishop of Vienna and the Bishop of Leitmeritz, asked him to be a counselor in their Consistory. The emperor conferred upon him, in 1856, the Equestrian Cross of Francis Joseph, and in 1871, his golden jubilee, the Crown Cross. After the separation of the Province from the Congregation he was the first to attend the General Chapter in Rome in 1856.
In his old age he kept being the trusted counselor of many. He died in Vienna on November 16, 1877, at the age of 82.
FATHER JEROME FERRARI
First Pastor of St. Alexander
Fr. Ferrari, having graduating from the school of Law at the University of Pavia, gave up his career to become a Barnabite at the age of 24. He attended the novitiate in Monza, receiving the habit on May 27, 1586. After a short period in Pavia, he was ordained a priest on December 17, 1588.
When in 1589 the Congregation assumed the parish of St. Alexander in Milan, Fr. Ferrari was assigned as the first Pastor. He was only 27 years old. He dedicated himself to the task wholeheartedly. Fr. Spinola has left us a memory of him in his life of Fr. Belloni. Unfortunately the Acts of St. Alexander, which were started four years after Fr. Ferrari’s death, say nothing about him, as well as the reports for the General Chapters, which will become compulsory later.
Fr. Spinola says: “Fr. Jerome M. Ferrari, from Serravalle, Doctor of Law, was a Religious of the most exact observance, outstanding in zeal for the care of souls, which he exercised for some years in St. Alexander with extraordinary solicitude, charity, and vigilance; he used to sleep in his habit, so that at night he could be ready, when called, to go to the sick and dying.”
Consumed by his work and lack of care for himself, he developed a serious sickness in his chest, so that he was forced to total rest in Monza, but to no avail. The Acts of Monza, on the very first page, read: “Fr. Jerome M. Ferrari, while Pastor of St. Alexander in Milan, having come here in this college to change air since he was sick, on November (1592), passed from this life to the better one, having received the Holy Sacraments and having given signs of great virtue. He was buried in our church with the usual solemnity, and the divine office was said for him.” He was 31 years old.
FATHER MARIANO FONTANA
Scientist and scholar
Fr. Fontana was the second of four brothers, of whom the first and the third became Barnabites with him. Unfortunately the third died very young, while the first is the famous Cardinal Fontana. He was born on January 16, 1746. Mariano attended the Barnabite school in Casale, showing a great capacity for study and also for running the family business; but, inspired by his older brother Francis, who four years before had entered the Congregation, in 1761, he too asked for admission. He professed the vows in 1762, and moved to St. Alexander for the study of philosophy, and then he was supposed to go to Rome for theology, but on the way he got sick in Bologna, and so he remained there.
In all his studies he excelled in dedication and intensity, gifted with a powerful memory and acute mind. Although he was only 22 years of age, he was asked to teach philosophy in the seminary. There he created a selected library superior to any public one. Meanwhile he found pleasure in composing poems and hymns in Latin, Greek, and in the Tuscan dialect. Although he was teaching philosophy, he was interested in his favorite subjects, that is, the sciences.
When he was ordained a priest, right away, although not thirty years old, he received the privilege to hear confessions due to his great prudence, doctrine, and piety. In 1779, the Granduke of Tuscany nominated him professor of Mathematics of the Marine school in Livorno. After two years, the Count of Mantua named him professor of Physics at the Lyceum of the same city. Fr. Fontana did not want to accept this position as it would mean to live outside the community, but the Superiors convinced him to accept.
He was so successful that after six years the Emperor Joseph II wanted him at the University of Pavia. “We take note,” Fr. Cacciari wrote, “that this sublime and most difficult chair was then, for the first time, added to the most ancient ones; and that the Barnabite, having obtained it due to his great honor, with similar and greater splendor, held it in the midst of the most sublime and rare minds.”
While at the University he published a text book, “a most valuable work,” Colombo affirms, “printed by the Government, and introduced as the official textbook at the University of the Italian Kingdom, and accepted even by Oxford.” Surrounded by the greatest minds of the time, he dealt with them with great humility and respect for their opinions. The many academies of the time considered it an honor to have him on their rostrum.
In 1802, while visiting the area of Varese, he caught a terrible cold and cough. At first he continued his arduous rhythm, but with the worsening of his health he had to give up his position, and in 1803 he retired in St. Barnabas. There he spent his time in counseling, especially of the Barnabite students.
Out of humility he refused to be Provincial Superior. He kept his interest in his studies, leaving many published and unpublished essays. For the five remaining years that he lasted, he was of great edification to all. His health eventually became weaker, and even the air of the countryside did not help, and on November 18 the end came. His final words were: “O Lord, if you like to increase my pains, please, increase my patience too.”
FATHER PAUL FRISI
Paul Frisi was born in Melegnano on April 13, 1728. Since his youth he manifested his tendency for the exact and abstract subjects, as he was attending the school of St. Alexander. When 15, he entered the Congregation, and professed the vows in 1744, finishing his studies in Pavia.
In 1750 we find him in Lodi, teaching philosophy before his ordination. He had come to know Newton’s theories, and it is at this time that his first work on the form of the earth was published by the Count Donato Silvia of Milan, in 1751. As a consequence, two years later, the 25 year old Frisi was inscribed in the Academy of Paris.
Fr. Frisi was ordained a priest in January, 1751 Right away he was called to succeed Fr. Gerdil in the chair of philosophy in Casalmonferrato. Later he was assigned first in Montù, and then in Novara, and in 1753 in St. Alexander in Milan. He affirmed himself as a mathematician, and on February 20, 1756 he was called to the University of Pisa to teach mathematics and physics. The same year he published his work on the daily movement of the earth, obtaining the gold medal from the Academy of Berlin. He participated also in the context on electricity sponsored by the Academy of Petersburg, obtaining first place, but deprived of the price because he had violated a rule putting his name on the report, but, in recompense, the Academy published his report, making Fr. Frisi a perpetual member. In 1758, he obtained another great success with the Academy of Science of Paris, participating in another context about the extension of the atmosphere in the planets. As a consequence the Academy of Berlin also inscribed his name among the perpetual members.
In the autumn of 1760 he was able to travel from Pisa to Rome and Naples. On this occasion Clement XIII requested him to resolve a border dispute between the cities of Bologna and Ferrara. For two years, instead of listening to the contenders, he studied at length nature, compiling his findings in a book as his answer. He was criticized left and right, but, when later the actual works were carried out, they followed in details Fr. Frisi’s findings, although his name was never mentioned. He accomplished many other hydraulic works in the territories of Milan and Venice, as this field became one of his favorites.
For eight years Fr. Frisi had been teaching in Pisa, when he was called to Milan to teach Mathematics at the Palatine schools. He left Pisa on April 6, 1764. The Grand Duke Emperor Leopold ordered his name to be perpetually inscribed in the list of professors at the Pisa University, while the Senate of Bologna, in 1764, elected Fr. Frisi as perpetual honorary professor of mathematics of that University, a unique honor, since it is the only known case.
In 1766 he traveled to France and England, and at this time he became a member also of the Academy of Stockholm. In 1768, he published “De gravitate universali corporum,” in three volumes, a work acclaimed and appreciated in the world of learning as a masterpiece, which was resolving many scientific problems. In 1769 he began a period of five years in which he dedicated himself almost exclusively to resolve hydraulic problems, always surrounded by opposing views and contrasts in this field. But he always followed his system of not paying attention to opinions, but to study nature thoroughly, and then draw conclusions. This is why he received so many requests to resolve various problems, forcing him to travel a lot.
At the end of 1774, he published his major work, “Cosmographia Physica et mathematica.” It was a complete treatise on astronomy, and, as a consequence, this time also the Academy of Uppsala made him a permanent member.
In 1773, at the suppression of the Jesuits, the college of the Nobles was entrusted to the Barnabites. In 1776, the Barnabites merged their Imperial school with the Nobles, but Fr. Frisi did not make the move, either to stay close to the Brera University where he was teaching, or, as someone has insinuated, to be freer. Instead the powerful Prince of Kaunitz obtained for him from Pius VI the secularization, so Fr. Frisi moved with his family.
But it was more a change of habit than of heart. He always considered himself a Barnabite, and used to visit our communities as often as he could. In the summer of 1779 he became seriously ill, but was able to recover, and was able to publish, in 1782, his book of Algebra, which was to be his last work. In the summer of 1784, he had to undergo surgery, but this time he was able to go on for only few months. On November 22, 1784, with the Barnabite Fr. Racagni at his side, he died in the Lord at the age of 56. He was buried with great solemnity in the church of St. Alexander.
FATHER GABRIEL FANTES
22nd Superior General
Fr. Fantes, “a most shining star of the Congregation of St. Paul” (Fr. Pezzi), excelled for his doctrine, manners, singular prudence, and righteousness.
He was born in Camporotondo, in 1622, and he was eighteen when he entered our Congregation, professing his vows in Zagarolo on January 20, 1641. After his studies in Macerata and Pavia, he was assigned in St. Alexander, then Lodi, where he was ordained a priest. For six years back in Milan he taught Philosophy in the Arcimboldi school, and then four years of theology. Busy as he was with school, he had always time for the confessional and preaching. Indeed his homilies were so appreciated that the Conventuals, when he preached about St. Anthony, had his sermons printed.
From Milan he was assigned to Rome, where he was to stay for 23 years, in St. Paul alla Colonna, and for a while in St. Charles ai Catinari. On June 15, 1626 he became Superior of St. Charles, which was about to become the seat of the Superior General. He was instrumental for the opening of the schools in Fossombrone and in Crema. To keep peace in the Congregation he obtained to have the General Chapter held alternately between Rome and Milan. In 1676 he visited the German houses.
He was confirmed as Superior General for a second term, and he busied himself for the opening of houses in Udine, Treviso, Belluno and Venice, but he could not finish his task, because six months before the end of his term he became very sick, and in few days he reached his end. He died on November 23, 1678.
He knew how to captivate the hearts of people with his amiability, modesty, seriousness, and precious counsels, strength of character, great bounty, and piety.
FATHER CLEMENT PISCITELLI
A sweet and charitable worker of the Lord
Expelled from Italy and from France, as finally he was able to return home, Fr. Piscitelli showed the kind of love the exile had inflamed in his heart for the Congregation.
He was born on January 26, 1842, in Messercòla (Acerra). He entered our novitiate in San Felice in 1858, and professed the vows on October 2, 1859. He studied in Naples and in Rome, where he made his solemn profession on May 15, 1964 and was ordained a priest on September 22, 1866.
His first assignment was to teach Italian, Latin, and Greek literature in our school in Aosta. When in 1869 he went back home to visit his mother, he suddenly received a summons from the local government, accused anonymously of evading the military draft. He was able to escape to Rome, but only to have to run again since Rome, in 1870, was invaded by the Italian troopes. He went to Geneva at first, and then to Sion, where the Bishop, with the permission of the Superior General, Fr. Teppa, made him chaplain and confessor of the cloistered nuns. In July of 1871 he moved to our house of Gien in France, where he stayed for eight years as a teacher, vicar, confessor, discreet, and provincial counselor. For one year he was also in Aubigny.
In 1880, he was again on the run, this time expelled by the new ruling in France. He went to England at first, with the Rosminians, and then to Leicester, helping there in the apostolate. In 1881 he returned to Italy assigned to St. Mary’s at Caravaggio in Naples as confessor and preacher. At the death of Fr. Palma in July 1882, he was made superior and rector. He was elected provincial examiner and twice he participated in the General Chapter. It was on his way back home from the second Chapter, that he became very sick with pneumonia and tuberculosis, leading him to his death on November 23, 1892, only fifty years old.
Fr. Piscitelli was a man of great simplicity, meekness, and charity. He had a special love for liturgy, and so cared with passion for the liturgical vestments and vessels. A great devotee of Our Lady, Mother of Divine Providence, he introduced the Marian month during May, and he obtained the solemn crowing of the image of Our Lady. It was Fr. Piscitelli to locate and transfer the remains of the Venerable Francis Castelli, and to lead to a positive conclusion the Diocesan and the Apostolic processes for his beatification.
FATHER JUSTIN BRACCI
Scholar, poet, musician
Fr. Bracci was born in Tuscany on January 13, 1868. The young Justin studied in the Fiesole diocesan seminary, then in private with a priest as tutor. Aspiring to religious life, he at first he stayed with the Brothers of St. John in Rome, then he asked admission into our Congregation. He went to San Felice for the novitiate, and professed the vows on September 26, 1888. He completed his studies in Rome, and then, in 1892, he was sent to Florence to teach. It was there that he was ordained a priest on May 11, 1893.
Until 1895 he kept teaching at “La Querce,” then he moved around: Perugia, Lodi, Bologna, and back to Florence in 1898 until 1907. From 1907 to 1910 he was again in Perugia as confessor and spiritual director of seminarians. In 1910-11 in Bologna, 1912 in Naples, in 1913 Fr. Bracci was in Rome as vice-master of our students, discreet, and catechist. This year was special as it allowed him time for an in depth study of the Fathers of the Church, especially St. Augustine.
In 1914 we find him in our seminary of San Giorgio a Cremano outside Naples, then a short stay in Livorno, in 1917, to be back in Florence, where in 1918 till 1920 he served as Rector. Those were very difficult war times which made a shy and very sensitive character made Fr. Bracci suffer a lot, but in obedience he did his best. When finally he was relieved of his duty, he returned to his teaching with our seminarians in San Giorgio and then to the boarding students in Bologna and Naples. In 1925 he was even allowed, at the request of the Bishop Cardinal De Lai, to be spiritual director of the diocesan seminary in Sabina, at first for one year (1925), and then until his death (1927-1932). In this office, he showed his love for the Congregation directing many young men toward it.
He became very sick during the summer of 1932. He received the best of care, but there was no hope. He died in the presence of our Superior General, Fr. Ferdinand Napoli, on November 23, 1932.
Throughout his life Fr. Bracci dedicated himself to his studies. He was neat, precise, and brilliant in his writing. His poetic religious compositions became favorite texts for popular devotional hymns.
His ‘Victima Sancta,’ a text he had been working on about the Eucharistic doctrine of St. Augustine, was published through the help of Bishop Emmanuel, auxiliary of Sabina.
Victim of the war
Louis was born in Turin, on November 19, 1895. On November 9, 1908, the young Raineri entered our seminary in Genoa, where he showed “simplicity, rectitude, and sincerity: a serene soul, image of peace” (Fr. Clerici). He was made dean of seminarians, scoring always very high in conduct. Very enterprising, he learned how to play the harmonium, and even composed songs for the chapel. He loved drawing and was also a decent actor in the annual presentations.
In 1913, he went to Monza as a postulant, received the habit on November 8, and eventually professed his vows on November 8, of 1914, feast of Our Lady Mother of Divine Providence. “Sometime,” he wrote to his relatives, “in my room I laugh like crazy I am so happy.” “As a novice he was a pro because of his solidity and seriousness and temperance,” Fr. Master asserted.
After Novitiate he went to Lodi to continue his studies. Marvelous were his class notes, which he made available to his companions. But most marvelous was his piety and love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.
In 1915 he received the Minor Orders. Luckily, because of his frail constitution, at first he was not drafted for military service, but after a third visit, on June 13, 1916, he was enrolled. He prepared himself with a ten days retreat in Galliano. He enjoyed also an extra year of rest, because of his health, which allowed him to finish his studies in Moncalieri, and to start theology in Rome. A fifth visit, in October 1917, gave him another month, but then finally he had to reach his assignment. In Rome, he received Communion from Benedict XV, in his private chapel, and on November 1, he left for the army in Turin, assigned to Tortona: “Lord,” he wrote in his notes, “I feel like a flower uprooted from an enclosure, and thrown in the mud of a street... But also the time of military life must be ordered toward perfection, and should not be considered as a time of deferral, which means regression... I long for and envy, although in the midst of the world and of war, the humble religious life enliven by the fervor of perfection.”
He had too short of a stay in Rome on his way to Caserta for the officers’ school training. To feed his spiritual life, he would get up early in the morning for Mass and Communion, and in the evening, instead of recreation, he would find refuge with the Salesians. On Sunday, instead he would run to San Felice a Cancello to stay with his confreres.
At the end of his training, he was assigned to the war front. “On the battle ground,” he wrote to his brother, a Dominican, “we are at the door of Paradise: if the Lord allows for me to be hit by a German bullet, I take a flight and I find myself in the most holy arms... and the Blessed Mother will help me to have a good flight.” On the front he met his brother Gusmano, and in Brescia Fr. Semeria, then the sad news, “Livio Migliorini has fallen!” “I hope he is the last victim; or, if another victim is necessary, let it be the most subject to cold and the greatest spoiler who constantly thinks of you, Rome, and the Scholasticate.” Finally the news of Vittorio Veneto and the war was over.
At the end of a scouting mission, having spent two hours in the cold, he felt sick. In the camp hospital he asked for the chaplain and the Sacraments. He thought about his mother, his confreres, and then he fell victim to the pneumonia on November 24, 1918, at the age of 23.
VENERABLE BARTHOLOMEW FERRARI
Co-Founder of the Congregation
Anyone who reads the Breve of approval of the Order, granted by Pope Clement VII on February 18, 1533, in Bologna, could think that its Founder is Bartholomew Ferrari: “To the beloved sons Bartholomew Ferrari and Anthony M. Zaccaria, Milanese and Cremonese priests.”
Morigia is not mentioned, Zaccaria is in second place, and while Ferrari has the honor to be the one to whom the Breve is addressed.
As we follow the sequence of events we observe that the papal writer and secretary of the Pope was Basil Ferrari, Bartholomew’s brother. Basil, in the past, had many doubts about his brother’s life, to the point of requesting the division of the heredity. Eventually Bartholomew’s zeal during the 1524 pestilence (he used his Maddalena residence outside Vercellina Gate as a lazaretto for the victims), his friendship with Zaccaria at the Oratory “Eternal Wisdom” - precisely aiming at the founding of a new religious family - induced Basil, by now a member of the papal court, to support his brother and companions. As he heard that they were looking for the Pope’s approval, Basil interceded with the Pope and obtained what his brother desired. It could be said that he got it too soon because Clement VII’s Breve reached Milan when the Congregation was not yet established. The absurd actually took place. Through the influence of a powerful brother a Religious Congregation was approved before its very existence.
Once the approval was granted, Zaccaria wanted Bartholomew, who considered him as a father, to be a priest too, even before receiving the religious habit. That year then, 1533, Bartholomew Ferrari was ordained a priest, but he wanted to wait a little before celebrating his first Mass, which took place on September 8th, in St. Mary’s alla Scala. The following year, on August 15th, the feast of the Assumption, Bartholomew received the religious habit from Anthony M. Zaccaria.
Now they were ready to work for “the reform of themselves and of others.” Other brothers joined them. The Angelic Sisters were ready. The “Espoused” (married lay couples committed to personal renewal and to the apostolate) were available. But the strange life of these three groups started to hit the front page of the news. There were many accusations brought in front of the city Senate, the Archbishop, the Inquisition, and the Roman See.
After three years of tribulations, peace came back. Fr. Ferrari must have been instrumental because of the influence of his family in Milan, and of his brother in Rome, where he gave a direct clarification of the events.
Finally in 1537 they were able to outline a work-plan. Called to Vicenza, Zaccaria left with Fr. Francis da Secco, but only for a short period as he had to go back to Milan to take care of the young Congregation. Fr. Ferrari took his place, and for two years he worked hard: preaching, hearing confessions, administering the sacraments, reaching out in the Convents, to the clergy, to the people.., always at the disposal of the local Bishop, Cardinal Ridolfi.
In 1539, as he received the news of Fr. Anthony M. Zaccaria’s grave illness, Fr Ferrari rushed at his bedside in Cremona, and Anthony Mary died in his arms on July 5, 1539, at the young age of 37. Fr. Ferrari arranged for the body to be taken to Milan to be buried in the church of St. Paul of the Angelic Sisters. The Congregation had lost its Founder, but the work had to go on.
The Superior General, Fr. Morigia, sent Fr. Ferrari to a new mission in Verona. He stayed there until 1542 at the service of Bishop Giberti, bishop of Padua and Apostolic Nuncio in Madrid at the court of Philip II. Fr. Ferrari was assigned to the Misericordia hospital and to the Collegio della Pietà. Many were the missions in the city and surroundings, and immense was the good he left behind when, in 1542, he was called to Milan for the General Chapter.
On November 30, 1542, Fr. Ferrari was called to take Fr. Morigia’s place as Superior General. One of his first concerns was to obtain from both civic and ecclesiastical authorities more precise regulations for the newly born religious family. In 1543, Pope Paul III’s Bull granted the Barnabites “To live together, to wear the common ecclesiastical habit, to take the title Clerics Regular, and to share common goods under obedience and our special protection and of this our See.” For his part, Emperor Charles V, from Cremona (he was there on his way to meet the Pope in Busseto to arrange a peace treaty with Francis I), sent Fr. Ferrari a Decree of immunity and exemption for the houses of the Barnabites “in Milan, in the rest of the Milanese territories and in the whole Empire.”
We might say that the speed with which Fr. Ferrari moved in petitioning and obtaining the two documents (papal and imperial) was a premonition of his death a year later. During his term new missions were opened in Venice, Padua, Belluno, Brescia, and he visited all of them in his last year of life. Many of the rules which were to become part of the Constitutions were introduced by Fr. Ferrari: rules for the different house-offices, spiritual conferences open to the laity too, first requests for “brothers” willing to enter the Congregation without looking for the priesthood, but ready to do house work in order to leave more freedom to the priests for their ministry.
He was also the spiritual director of the Angelic Sisters, and worked for the codification of their rules. Many other convents had him as their confessor.
It is not surprising that Fr. Ferrari fell victim of his own work on November 24, 1543.
FATHER PAUL PICCONI
55th Superior General
Fr. Picconi was born in Savona, in 1776. He entered our Congregation and received the habit on October 29, 1792. After his novitiate in Genoa, he studied in Macerata and Rome. He taught in our University in Macerata until the Napoleonic suppression of the Orders. “Very sad for this situation, he constantly refused any position of honor; instead, he preferred to retire in Finale with some other Barnabites. He taught philosophy and mathematics in the public school.”
After the fall of Napoleon, he returned into the Congregation, and was assigned as rector of our schools in Bologna. He was instrumental with the King of Sardinia, Vittorio Emmanuele I, to have St. Bartholomew in Genoa opened again for us, as the 90 year old Fr. Louis Rossi was ready to take it. Cardinal Lambruschini, at that time Archbishop of Genoa, to reinforce the new community, asked the Superior General, Cardinal Fontana, to have Fr. Picconi as Superior (1819). At first he remodeled the house, and then, on November 30,1820, he reopened the novitiate. He served in that community with great dedication, and in 1828 he published a short history of the famous “Face of Christ” kept in the church. Although Master of Novices, he was elected also Visitor General. L
Besides being busy for the Congregation, he was widely used by Cardinal Lambruschini and other Bishops for Sacred Visits, as a Synodal examiner, as censor for publications, and as supervisor of many Monasteries of nuns and Sisters. Cardinal Lambruschini presented his name as Bishop of Aleppo and Apostolic Vicar in the Orient, but Fr. Picconi was able to excuse himself, just as he did for the election as Provincial Superior of Piedmont in 1829.
He remained in Genoa for over 50 years, until 1841, when Fr. General Spisni died, and Fr. Picconi was called upon to continue his mandate. In 1844 the General Chapter confirmed him as Superior General.
At the end of his mandate he went back to his beloved St. Bartholomew in Genoa to continue with his apostolic zeal to serve the community from the pulpit and in the confessional. He passed away on November 25, 1850, at the age of 74.
BROTHER EVARISTO ENTRATI
A precious Brother
Bro. Evaristo was born in Como, on February 27, 1856. He was a weaver and coppersmith before entering our Congregation in 1879. He was assigned to various communities, always available as sacristan, barber, waiter, and so many other tasks, guided by his ingenuity and practical skill.
He professed the vows on December 31, 1885, to be confirmed with the solemn ones in 1889. In 1893 he was assigned to Lodi, and he was to remain there until his death. It was there that his great versatility and skill were really tested. He worked tirelessly assisting the students in various fields, as prefect of discipline, as assistant secretary, took care of the gas illumination, and then the electricity, he even assisted Fr. Vigorelli in the Physics laboratory, and he was the sacristan and the infirmarian, etc.
He had a very sincere and witty character, fast and thorough in his tasks, not at all worried about his slight stuttering. A very pious man, he kept reading spiritual books. He knew by heart so many anecdotes of various exemplary Fathers.
At the end of his life, he became bedridden, but faithfully he received Holy Communion every day. On November 26, 1928, having received the Sacraments, and the blessing from the Barnabite Bishop Giardini, and from the Bishop of Lodi, Br. Entrati died in the Lord.
FATHER PETER MICHIEL
Preacher and Master
Fr. Michiel was born in Venice, around 1493, from a noble family which had given to the city three Doges, Bishops, and a Patriarch. He had studied Law and was already a mature man when he asked admission in our Congregation. He received the habit from the Ven. Morigia on May 3, 1545, and was ordained a priest on Christmas day of the same year. He professed the vows one year later.
He worked together with the other confreres in various missions entrusted to our Congregation, and in 1548 he received a special mission in the city of Ferrara to reform the monastery of St. Claire, with the help of the Angelics. It took him a couple of years, but working very hard he succeeded in his task. In 1553 Fr. General sent over Ludovica Torelli, who, pleased with the reform accomplished, took back the Angelics to Milan. He remained there another two years to complete his task, and in 1555 he was able to return to Milan.
This time they entrusted to his care the novices and he became a model as a Master. When Frs. Sauli, Besozzi and Omodei moved to Pavia, Fr. Michiel had to take over the spiritual direction of their penitents, so he was freed from the novitiate responsibilities. He became also the confessor of St. Charles Borromeo.
He will spend the rest of his life in the direction of souls. He died on November 28, 1573, at the age of 80.
FATHER GREGORY ASINARI
Disciple of St. Alexander Sauli
Goffredo Asinari was one of the young University students Fr. Alexander Sauli organized in a special group in our house in Pavia, to discuss Logic and Philosophy, and to form their Christian conscience.
Born in 1532, he was the firstborn of Count Mark Asinari of St. Marzano. While Goffredo was studying Law in Pavia, he decided, in 1560, to join the Barnabites, following in the footsteps of his younger brother Frederick. Fr. Marta professed his vows in 1561, on the feast of the Annunciation and changed his name to Gregory.
He went back to Pavia to finish his studies, under the direction of Fr. Sauli.
In 1566 he was called to Milan to be discreet of the community of St. Barnabas. The same year he started to hear confessions in church. During this time he became an intimate friend of St. Charles Borromeo, and indeed St. Charles requested the Chapter of 1568, to leave Fr. Sauli and Fr. Asinari in Milan so he could use them for his diocese, and so Fr. Asinari became the spiritual director of the diocesan seminary and the Cardinal’s companion during the canonical visits to the diocese.
In 1568 he remained in Milan as Master of Novices. His refrain was “Humility, humility!” Everyday he would hold the chapter of faults. He was always wearing the discipline. With his experience as Novice Master, he was able to put together the Rules of Novices to be used by the Congregation.
In 1570, Fr. Asinari was all set with a group of young enthusiasts to launch a foundation in Portugal, but he realized that the Major Superiors were not in favor, and with great humility accepted their decision.
In 1573, he was included in the group of Fathers in charge of the composition of the new Constitutions to be promulgated in 1579. In 1574, he was instrumental for the foundation of our first house in Rome, St. Blaise all’anello.
When the church of Our Lady of Carrobiolo in Monza was entrusted to our Congregation, Fr. Asinari was sent as vicar, but at St. Barnabas they felt his absence, and so he was called back to be Master of Novices. In 1573, Fr. General Besozzi was unable to fully carry out his position, so he made Fr. Asinari Visitor General, and was the very first one to hold such an office in the Congregation. In 1577 he was elected Discreet and Assistant.
In 1579, the Chapter entrusted to him the writing of the Rules for the Students, the Lectors, and the Preachers, and was nominated Superior in Casalmonferrato, where he stayed until his death. Here for a year and half he got to know Louis Gonzaga, and most probably he was his confessor.
In 1592, Fr. Asinari had the privilege of assisting St. Alexander Sauli on his deathbed. Two months later it was his turn to go to the Lord as he died on November 29, 1592, at the age of 60.
FATHER EMIL RICHERT
Founder of the Brazilian Province
Fr. Richert was born in Mulhouse, on February 2, 1866. The young boy attended the school of the Christian Brothers, and eventually entered the Barnabite seminary in Gien. To avoid military service, the Superior listed him among the secular clergy, and on May 6, 1888 he received the Minor Orders in Orleans. On September 5, 1890, our novitiate in Mouscron was inaugurated, and Emil Richert received the habit on November 16th. He ended up next door to the novice Charles Schilling. After the profession, November 21, 1891, Emil went to Rome for the diaconate on September 24, 1892, and then reached Paris on July 23, 1893, where he was ordained on February 17, 1894.
The newly ordained was assigned to Gien as teacher of Humanities, German, and English, as procurator, vicar, and spiritual director. But the laws of 1903 brought persecutions for our communities. Our French Confreres thought of a foundation in Brazil, and Fr. Richert was one of the first volunteers. On August 2 they left from Le Havre toward Parà where they were guests of the Bishop in the local seminary, dedicated to learn the language, and some ministry. Indeed the Bishop gave them the direction of the seminary, and promised the parish of Our Lady of Nazaré. Fr. Richert was nominated Rector of the seminary on December 19th. He was also teaching Moral Theology, Canon Law, and English.
At the same time he received the authorization from the Superiors to accept the parishes of Ourém, Bragança, and Vizeu. On January 1, 1895 he received the parish of Our Lady of Nazaré, becoming a separate community. Fr. Richert continued as Rector of the Seminary until 1908 when a new Bishop was appointed. They could not agree on the kind of education to impart to the seminarians, so the Barnabites retired from that mission. It was unfortunate because eventually the seminary had to be closed causing a tremendous shortage of priests in the Diocese.
Fr. Richert became the Superior and pastor of Our Lady of Nazaré. During the nine years of his tenure, many organizations prospered in the parish: St. Vincent de Paul Society, Ladies of Charity, Apostleship of Prayer, Daughters of Mary, Congregation of the Eucharistic Heart, catechism programs, etc. He also gave the idea for the development of the most beautiful Shrine in honor the Blessed Mother, which is now the pride of Brazil. In 1909, he had the cornerstone blessed by the local Bishop.
He attended the General Chapters of 1907, 1910, 1916, 1919, and 1922. In 1907 he was made Visitor General for the French-Belgian province, and in 1910 Pro-provincial for Brazil.
In 1915 he caught malaria and, as a consequence, his health was never again the same. In 1917, after a one year delay by the Archbishop, he moved to Rio as Rector. In 1918 one of his first concerns was to open a seminary in Jacarepagua. In 1921, he was elected Assistant General, and had to leave Brazil. He received the task of settling all legal problems with the closing of the German Province in Austria.
At the Chapter he obtained to be free from his duties and to go back to his Brazil. Back in Rio he became the wise senior of the province. He concentrated his efforts for the success of the seminary, and also for the establishment of the Angelics in that country. Meanwhile his health was deteriorating, afflicted now by a cancer of the throat. Aware of the seriousness of the situation he wrote to his Superior, Fr. Agazzi: “Since soon I will have to appear in front of the Supreme Judge, I humbly beg your pardon, and through you to all the Superiors and Confreres, for my faults as Religious, for the bad examples I may have given, for the sorrows caused to anyone. I beg all to grant my soul the suffrages your charity would inspire you with...” The letter was given to the Superior the day of his death, November 30, 1927.