Archive for the ‘Italians’ Category

The Pope at San Giovanni Rotondo Tomorrow

June 20, 2009

pioHere’s something I was surprised I hadn’t picked up on earlier, then realized that’s because it seems to have only been announced 4 days ago: Pope Benedict XVI will make a pastoral visit to San Giovanni Rotondo, famous as the home of St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio) tomorrow.

His schedule includes a private visit to pray before the relics of Padre Pio at the holy priest’s beloved Shrine of Santa Maria della Grazia; the celebration of Mass in the square in front of the church; a meeting with the sick and the doctors and employees at the hospital Padre Pio founded, which still goes by the name he gave it: the Home for the Relief of Suffering; and a meeting with priests, religious, and young people in the Church of St. Pio of Pietrelcina. 

The Vatican has posted a helpful page, where the Pope’s homily and talks, as well as photos, will go up. EWTN will be covering the visit live, starting Sunday morning at 4 am EST. 

For some side reading, there’s also some generally thoughtful commentary, “Padre Pio, Pope Benedict: Soul Mates?”, published last year by Time magazine, comparing Pope John Paul II’s personal interest in Padre Pio (and in saints in general) with Pope Benedict’s.

And of course, there’s the original novena to St. Pio and an original Litany to St. Pio  in my Saints for Our Times: New Novenas and Prayers.

UPDATE: “Hundreds of thousands” gathered for the visit.   The Pope’s homily is here.  A clip:

As it was for Jesus, the real struggle, the radical combat Padre Pio had to sustain, was not against earthly enemies, but against the spirit of evil (cf. Ephesians 6, 12). The biggest “storms” that threatened him were the assaults of the devil, against which he defended himself with “the armor of God” with “the shield of faith” and “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:11,16,17). Remaining united to Jesus, he always kept in mind the depths of the human drama, and because of this he offered himself and offered his many sufferings, and he knew how to spend himself in the care and relief of the sick, a privileged sign of God’s mercy, of his kingdom which is coming, indeed, which is already in the world, of the victory of love and life over sin and death. Guide souls and relieve suffering: thus we can sum up the mission of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, as the servant of God, Pope Paul VI said about him: “He was a man of prayer and suffering” (To the Capuchin Chapter Fathers, 20 February 1971).


On Francis

May 21, 2009

My article marking the 800th anniversary of the founding of the Franciscan order appears in this week’s issue of Our Sunday Visitor.  It was a piece I thoroughly enjoyed researching and writing.  Francis is an amazing figure in Church history — far more compelling than the most common images of him that we sometimes see around us (i.e., the guy who talked to birds).   In fact, Mary DeTurris Poust, an author whose work I often enjoy, does a very good job of making that point in a column that appears in the same issue of OSV

So especially if you’re a Francis fan, or even curious to see what all the fuss over him is about, it’s a great issue to check out.

St. Caterina Volpicelli: At the Intersection of Holiness

April 26, 2009

I’ve done a lot of reading and writing about saints and other holy people.  And one of the details I’m often pleased to find in the stories of figures who have been beatified or canonized by the Church is a connection with another saint or blessed.  Very often, in other words, saints attract saints to themselves.  They inspire, teach, encourage, and learn from one another.  This is evident in the story of St. Caterina Volpicelli (1839-1894), whose life intersects with not one but two other people already beatified by the Church.

Caterina was raised in Naples, Italy.  As a young teen being raised in an upper-middle class family, she through herself int200px-beata_caterina_volpicellio the pursuit of social refinement.  Her greatest thrill was attending plays, ballets, and dances, more for their social than their artistic value.   Her encounter at age 15 with another figure whose holiness has been recognizedby the Church, Blessed Ludovico of Casoria, made a huge impression on her and changed the course of her life. 

He taught her about the love of Christ expressed through the image of his Sacred Heart, and she begun to practive devotion to the Sacred Heart intensely.  Under Fr. Ludovico’s influence, she also became a third order Franciscan (someone who lives the spirit of St. Francis as a layperson).  During this time, Caterina often spent many hours in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.

Five years later, Caterina joined a religious order, the Perpetual Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament.  When she had to leave the convent not long after because of her poor health, her spiritual director got her involved in the Apostleship of Prayer, an apostolate for laypeople based in France.  She gathered other laypeople in her home with her to pray, and also to raise money to help with the financial needs of poor parishes.  One of those who came to her house was Blessed Bartolo Longo, upon whom she had a profound affect. (Blessed Bartolo was featured by Pope John Paul II in his 2002 Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae.)

In 1874, she founded a new religious community, the Servant of the Sacred Heart.  She said their purpose was “to revive love for Jesus Christ in hearts, in families, and in society.” The order took on the care of orphans and cholera victims.  She also was responsible for the building of a major shrine to the Sacred Heart in Naples. 

I should note that the Italian Wikipedia page for her makes some reference to the distrust and even hostility with which she was regarded by some in the Church hierarchy because of “the originality, the novelty of the form her institute took,” but it doesn’t seem to specify, and I could find any more about it elsewhere — though it is hinted at in the quotation from Pope John Paul II from his homily at her beatification Mass, posted here, which says she developed “new forms of consecrated life.” 

Today, “the Volpicelli Sisters” continue their ministry in Naples, and also live and minister in Brazil, Panama, and Indonesia.  Their website is here.

St. Caterina Volpicelli’s feast day is December 28.

St. Geltrude Comensoli: Making Room for God in Modern Life

April 25, 2009

geltrude_comensoli_600x450I haven’t seen anything that suggests that Geltrude Comensoli (1847-1903) knew or was personally familiar with Don Tadini, but it would not be surprising to find that they at least knew about each other’s work during their lives.  That’s because Comensoli was also from the Brescia region of Italy, doing very similar work at almost exactly the same time.  Tadini was only a year older than Comensoli.  As I noted below, he was very concerned about the situation of factory workers and  the impact of the Industrial Revolution on their lives, especially women, and he started an order in 1900 dedicated to ministering to them. 

Geltrude Comensoli had been a very pious kid, with a strong devotion to the Eucharist.  She joined a convent when she was 15 years old, only to have to leave soon afterwards because of illness.  She became a domestic servant to help support her family, all the while maintaining a very strong prayer life and involving herself in the religious education of the children in her parish. 

When she was 33 years old, she found herself in Rome, traveling with wealthy family for whom she worked as a servant, was present for an audience with Pope Leo XIII, and was actually able to speak to him.  She told the Pope that she wanted to start a religious community devoted to Eucharistic adoration.  Pope Leo suggested she consider that she include the education of young women who worked in factories as part of her community’s mission.  Her new order, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament (known as the Sacramentine Sisters), was born two years later. 

(If find this very interesting because a brief meeting with Pope Leo XIII changed the direction of the American St. Katherine Drexel’s life in a very similiar way.   Not only that, but Drexel chose the very same name for her own  new order she was founding in the United States at almost exactly the same time.  And careful — there’s also an unrelated order, founded in France much earlier, known as the Sacramentine Nuns that’s present in the United States.) 

Geltrude’s order worked hard to help people adjust to the newly industrialized society in a way that included making time for prayer, for God, in their lives.  In a Zenit news article, the postulator of the cause said, “The sisters committed themselves to seeing that careers would not be a risk to the salvation of the soul and would not lead to the abandonment and detriment of those supernatural values that belonged to the Christian and social fabric of Italy at that time.”

She died February 18, 1903. 

There’s a very interesting — even beautiful — Zenit article reporting the miracle played an important role in the cause of Mother Geltrude. 

The Sacramentine Sisters are present today in various countries of Europe, Africa, and South America.  Here’s the website of a boarding school in Turin, Italy, named after her and run by her sisters.

St. Bernardo Tolomei: A Late Vocation

April 25, 2009

 The case of Bernardo Tolomei (1272-1348)  is a good example of how slowly the Church’s wheels can sometimes move.  He died 660 years ago, and was beatified (one step before canonization) 375 years ago!

Bernardo grew up in Siena, Italy, before the time of that city’s most famous resident.  (In fact, at tbernard_tolomei-2850fhe time Bernardo died, the future St. Catherine was one year old.)   He wanted to be a monk early in his life, but his father prevented it.  So he went to school and became a lawyer, spent time serving in the army of feudal Germany (he was knighted by King Rudolph I), and also was involved in government.  At some point he was afflicted by blindness.  At age 41, he decided he was finally going to devote the rest of his life to God in prayer.  With two companions, he picked a secluded spot about ten miles outside of Siena and lived a life of silence, manual labor, and prayer.

He and the original two companions founded a monastery and a new order, dedicated to the Virgin Mary and following the rule of St. Benedict.  It was called the Congregation of the Blessed Virgin of Mount Oliveto (or, the Olivetans).  Bernardo served as its abbot for 27 years. The Olivetans still maintain a beautiful monastery on the same site (website, with exterior photo here, photo of the monastery church here, more photos here).  They support the life of the community by producing wine, liquor, and olive oil, which they sell along with books and religious products in a monastery store.  (Want to support the monastery founded by St. Bernardo Tolomei?  Information on their products, along with an email address and phone number are here.)

In 1348, a plague ravaged Siena, and Bernardo, along with many other monks,  left their monastery to help the victims.  He caught the plague himself while tending to the sick and died of it on August 20 that year.  His body was included in a mass grave of plague victims, which has never been found.

In the United States, the Olivetans are at Holy Trinity Monastery, in St. David, Arizona.  (Looking for a good place to go on retreat?)  The order also has monasteries in Italy, France, England, Brazil, Guatamala, Israel, and South Korea.

St. Bernardo might be a good companion for people who found their “true calling” late in life, after other diversions along the way.

His feast day is August 20.

St. Arcangelo Tadini: A Saint for Working Women

April 24, 2009

Arcangelo Tadini (1846-1912) (yes, his first name was Archangel) was a parish priest in northern Italy.  The Industrial Revolution had begun moving at full swing, transforming a lot about European society, during the mid-1800’s.  Tadini put a lot of energy into helping his people understand the place of work in Christian life.  In particular, he ministered to women who found themselves working in factories (a new situation), often in degrading conditions.  tadini

As part of this ministry, Tadini founded a new religious order in 1900 called the Workers Sisters of the Holy House of Nazareth.  (The name refers to the time Jesus spent as a worker — that is, as a carpenter in Joseph’s carpentry shop.)   Their lives and ministry were remarkable, particularly for that time — the sisters took jobs in factories, working alongside other women, to encourage them and to teach by example that one could be a woman, work, and still live a life of faith and joy. 

(Note the date he founded the order, nine years after the publication of Pope Leo XIII’s blockbuster encyclical on the rights of workers.  In others words, Tadini and his sisters were working hard to implement the Church’s newly developing social teachings in a practical way, in the lives of real people.)

There’s an Italian website dedicated to Don Tadini here

The order he founded — which apparently has sisters today in Italy, Brazil, and Burundi — has a website here.  The site suggests they’re still very devoted to making known the Church’s social teaching.  And they’re obviously a vibrant bunch!  I love that main photo, with the sisters running towards the camera.  And then there’s this photo of the street sign, apparently where one of their houses is located.  The name of the street on the sign is literally “Happiness Lane.”  And someone has posted a hand-written sign below it that says, “It’s true!”

Someone has produced a little celebratory video here.  Not much to it, but I like the quotation from Tadini it features: “Holiness is in our hands.  If we want to posses it, we only have to do one thing: love God!

So thanks to God for this witness of the value of work and the holiness that we can reach in our work lives.  Thanks to for the sisters who are his spiritual daughters even today.  And prayers for them and their ministry. 

Seems like Fr. Tadini might serve as a fine patron to everyone who goes to work every day, and maybe especially for women who work.

His feast day is May 20.

A Miracle for Mother Casini?

January 2, 2009

Here’s a notice from the Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio, which offers an interesting peek into the Church’s canonization process.  The diocese has published information related to an investigation of a possible miracle, attributed to the intercession of Mother Maria Teresa Casini

Mother Casini, born in Italy in 1864, was the foundress of the Oblate Sisters of the Sacred Heart, an order devoted particularly to the well-being of the diocesan priesthood.  The Sisters have a convent in Youngstown, where they also run two retirement homes from priests, a pre-school, and do parish ministry. (Youngstown is their only location in the U.S.; they’re also in Italy, Brazil, India, and West Africa.) 

In 1997, the Vatican recognized Mother Casini’s heroic virtues, formally declaring her worthy of consideration for sainthood.  That means she is a “Servant of God,” with the title Venerable.  A miracle would be needed for her beatification, and another for canonization.

The notice from the Youngstown diocese is part of the current investigation of a reported miracle.  It involves the healing of a 5-year-old Youngstown boy back in 2003, attributed to the intercession of Mother Casini.  The boy, who attended the Oblate Sisters’ pre-school and kindergarten, was in a coma following a near-drowning:

After constant prayer to the Venerable Mother Casini by the Sisters and many Faithful, on Friday, June 27, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in concomitance with the celebration of the Holy Mass in the Chapel of the Sisters, towards 7 p.m., less than 48 hours after the accident, the child gave clear signs of wakening up from his coma, moving his arms and legs. On the morning of Saturday, June 28, the patient had all tubes removed. On Sunday, June 29, he was able to eat solid foods and on June 30 he was discharged. From that day, the young Jacob has kept growing in excellent health and without deficits or meaningful neurological problems from the serious accident.

If verified, it’s certainly a cause for rejoicing, both for the Oblate Sisters of the Sacred Heart and for the Diocese of Youngstown.  One suspects that the boy and his family don’t need any sort of formal verification in order to rejoice, even now, five years later. 

Thanks to Matt Swain at Sacred Heart Radio for the tip on this.

John XXIII’s diaries

December 19, 2008

The Journal of a Soul, first published several decades ago, is a generous sampling of the diaries of Angelo Roncalli (who became Pope John XXIII), which he kept from his teen years right up to his death.  If you’ve never explored them, it’s well worth the time. 

Turns out that hefty tome is only a small portion of all of Roncalli’s diaries.  They been published in full now, in 10 volumes! 

The first volume contains works of young Angelo at age 14, in which he recounts his experiences as a seminarian. The last volume presents the testimonies of the Pontiff in 1963, the year of his death, when he was overseeing the recently launched Second Vatican Council.

They are only available in Italian at this point.  And since The Journal of a Soul is out there, making the full 10 volumes of interest to a rather limited audience, I wouldn’t look for an English translation anytime soon.

America’s Pius XII article

December 18, 2008

There’s an article on Pope Pius XII, “A Pope in Wartime,”  in the new issue of the Jesuit journal America.  Written by church historian Gerald Fogarty, SJ, I’d say it’s more significant for the publication it’s in than for anything particularly new in the article. 

The article is generally positive toward Pacelli.  It doesn’t present him as particularly heroic in his criticism of the Nazis or defense of the Jews during WWII, but it does present some sound evidence that Pacelli had strong anti-Nazi sentiments (probably more because of their treatment of the Church than their treatment of the Jews) and that his “silence” was not out of cowardice or approval of Nazi persecution of the Jews.

In other words, Fogarty concludes he was anti-Nazi and acted on it, not especially heroic, but not evil or anti-Semitic either.

Mother Cabrini (or at least her arm bone) on the move

November 25, 2008

St. Frances Xavier CabriniMother Cabrini relic gets new home

November 25, 2008

A sacred relic of the USA’s first saint, Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini, who helped the poor and sick in Chicago, was moved Sunday to a new temporary home in a Little Village church.

The Chicago Tribune reports that parishioners at the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii welcomed the relic, the humerus bone of the right arm of Mother Cabrini, who was the first American to be canonized by the Catholic Church.

She is one of us,” said Bishop Raymond Goedert during the services. “Every piece of Chicago was blessed by her presence. Chicago is where she lived and died.

Mother Cabrini started dozens of hospitals, schools and orphanages throughout the country. In Chicago she founded the now-shuttered Columbus Hospital in Lincoln Park, and the Cabrini-Green public-housing complex was named in her honor.

The relic was transported in an ornate glass and gold reliquary to an altar at the church. While there are dozens of Mother Cabrini relics worldwide (her heart is in Italy), the humerus bone is Chicago’s most significant.

The relic was displaced about a year ago from a Mother Cabrini shrine on the property of Columbus Hospital, which is being renovated into Lincoln Park 2520, a 306-unit condominium complex. The National Shrine of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini is housed within a chapel on the grounds. The chapel is owned by the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which Mother Cabrini helped found, and is undergoing renovations.