BIOGRAPHIES OF NEW BLESSEDS - 1999
The following Blesseds were beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1999  :  

Bl. Anicet Koplinski
Bl. Anna Schäffer
Bl. Anton Martin Slomsek
Bl. Antoni Julian Nowowiejski
Bl. Arcangelo Tadini
Bl. Deogracias Palacios
Bl. Diego Oddi 
Bl. Edmund Stanistaw Bojanowski
Bl. Edward Joannes Maria Poppe
Bl. Ferdinand Mary Baccilleri 
Bl. Henryk Kaczorowski
Bl. José Rada
Bl. José Ricardo Díez
Bl. Julián Moreno
Bl. León Inchausti
Bl. Manuel Martín Sierra
Bl. Marianna Biernacka
Bl. Mariano of Roccacasale 
Martyrs of Motril 
Bl. Nicolas Barré
Bl. Nicholas of Gesturi 
Bl. Pio of Petrelcina
Bl. Regina Protmann
Bl. Stefan Wincenty Frelichowski
Bl.
Vicente Pinilla
Bl. Vicente Soler
108 Polish Martyrs

 
3 October 1999

Bl. Ferdinand Mary Baccilleri was born on 14 May 1821 in Campodoso (Modena), Italy. His family gave him an excellent Christian upbringing and sent him to the Barnabite school in Bologna and the Jesuit school in Ferrara. In 1838 he entered the Jesuit novitiate in Rome, but later returned to his family because of poor health. Afterwards he studied theology in Ferrara and was ordained a priest in 1844.

The first years of Fr Baccilieri's ministry were devoted to preaching archdiocesan and Lenten missions, spiritual direction and the teaching of Italian and Latin at the seminary in Finale Emilia. In 1848 he began studying for a doctorate in canon and civil law at the Pontifical University of Bologna. Three years later the Archbishop of Bologna asked him to administer a troubled parish in Galeazza. Fr Baccilieri was so successful that the people and his confreres convinced Cardinal Oppizzoni to appoint him parish priest. So, at the age of 31 he was named parish priest of Galeazza in the Archdiocese of Bologna, where he served for 41 years, despite the fact that more-prestigious assignments were offered him.

He was assiduous in preaching to his people, basing his sermons on Scripture, the Fathers of the Church and great spiritual writers, but he lost his voice in 1867 and so paid others to continue his work of catechetical instruction. He dedicated himself to spiritual direction and the sacrament of Penance, sometimes spending as many as 16 hours a day in the confessional.

Such zeal led to Fr Baccilieri's becoming almost unconsciously the founder of a religious congregation. The need to provide education for poor girls living near the parish church prompted him to start the Confraternity of the Sorrowful Mother. Three years later the Servite Third Order was established and in 1856 there was the clothing of the first Mantellate tertiaries. Realizing the need to keep this small group of consecrated women united, in 1862 he opened a small convent and in 1866 gave them the rule and constitutions of the Mantellate Servile Sisters of Rome. The community was approved by the Archbishop of Bologna in 1899 and by the Holy See in 1919. The small seed gradually flourished in Italy, Germany, Brazil, South Korea and the Czech Republic .Physically worn out by unflagging work for his parish and new religious congregation, Fr Ferdinand Mary Baccilieri died in the odour of sanctity on 13 July 1893.


Bl. Arcangelo Tadini was born on 12 October 1846 in Verolanuova (Brescia), Italy. At the age of 18 he entered the seminary in Brescia, but had an accident that left him with a limp for the rest of his life. He was ordained in 1870, but illness forced him to spend his first year as a priest with his family.

From 1871 to 1873 he was a curate in Lodrino, a mountain village, and then at the Shrine of Santa Maria della Noce near Brescia.

He was known for his attentiveness to his people's needs. After flooding left many parishioners homeless, he organized a soup-kitchen in the parish house that served 300 meals a day. In 1885 he was transferred to Botticino Sera as curate and two years later was appointed parish priest and dean of the same parish, where he spent the remaining 25 years of his life.

A zealous pastor of souls, he provided catechesis for every age group, started a choir, organized various confraternities, remodeled the church and cared for the liturgy. When he preached, people were amazed at the warmth and power that his words instilled.

With the spread of the industrial revolution, he founded the Workers' Mutual Aid Association, to help labourers suffering from illness, accidents, disabilities or old age. He used his own inheritance to plan and build a spinning factory, outfitting it with the latest equipment and later building a residence next to it for working women. To educate young working women, he founded the Congregation of Worker Sisters of the Holy House of Nazareth who went into the factories to work alongside the other women, sharing their toil and tensions, while teaching them by their example. To the sister and the young working women Fr Tadini held up the example of Jesus, who not only sacrifice himself on the Cross, but spent the first 30 years of his life in Nazareth where he was not ashamed to use a carpenter's tools or to have calloused hands and a brow bathed in sweat.

He taught his parishioners that work is not curse, but the way men and women are called to fulfil themselves as human beings and as Christians His strength came from prayer: his parishioner used to see him stand for hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament, despite his disability, absorbed in the contemplation of God. Fr Arcangelo Tadini ended his earthly life on 20 May 1912.


Bl. Edward Joannes Maria Poppe was born on 18 December 1890 in Moerzeke, Belgium, to a baker's family of modest means. From his mother he learned generosity and a devotion to prayer, and from his father a dedication to work and a love of the poor. In May 1909 Edward Poppe, a brilliant student, decided to become a priest to serve "poor Flanders". As a seminarian he was distinguished for his desire to fulfil the will of God perfectly by following the example of Jesus and Mary and by being open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

After ordination he was assigned as a curate to St Colette's, a working-class parish in Ghent. His special concern was for children, the poor and the dying. Leading a life of great personal poverty, he devoted particular attention to catechesis and Eucharistic associations, and was very concerned over the increasing dechristianization of society.

For reasons of health he was transferred to the rural area of Moerzeke and appointed rector of a religious community (1918-22). They would be four years of contemplation and study, half of which were spent in bed because of his poor health. He began writing about the problems affecting Flanders: Marxism, secularism and materialism. He wrote 10 short works, over 284 articles and thousands of letters. His visit in 1920 to the tomb of Therese of Lisieux had a deep impact on his spiritual life: from then on her "little way" became his way too.

He mobilized all educators for a re-evangelization campaign, whose starting point and goal was the Eucharist and whose watchword was: "First yourself, then others". During this period he perfected his forward-looking apostolic methods and promoted a priestly association, catechesis, education in the faith through a Eucharistic campaign, liturgical renewal, the lay apostolate and the Flemish social movement. His home became a place of prayer and encouragement.

In October 1922 he was sent to Leopoldsburg to serve as spiritual director to clerics fulfilling their military service. During these last 15 months of his life, he was happy to share his message not only with future priests but with countless people who were touched by his words and writings.

Flander's most beloved priest died on the morning of 10 June 1924 with his eyes fixed on the image of the Sacred Heart, on the merciful love to which he had totally entrusted himself.


Bl. Mariano of Roccacasale was born on 14 January 1778 in Roccacasale (L'Aquila), Italy, on the ridge west of the Morrone, the mountain range celebrated for the life of Celestine V. He was baptized with the name of Domenico, and his family of farmers and herders, rich in Christian faith and honesty, raised their six children in deep religiosity and love of the land. To Mariano fell the task of guarding the flock and his father's herds in the Morrone pastures.

It was in the solitude of the mountain plateaus that his young soul was formed in reflection and silence. There he heard the Lord's voice and at the age of 24 presented himself at the Franciscan friary of St Nicholas at Arischia in the Abruzzi Province. At his clothing in the Franciscan habit he took the name of Bro. Mariano and, after his profession, he spent 12 years in Arischia. His life in these years can be summarized in two words, prayer and work, as he faithfully carried out the tasks entrusted to him as carpenter, gardener, cook and porter.

At the age of 37 Bro. Mariano asked his superiors for entry into the hermitage of Bellegra. For the next 40 years he served there as porter, using the key entrusted to him to open not only the hermitage door for many poor people, pilgrims and wayfarers, but also the locks on many hearts, closed until then to God's grace. For one and all he always had a smile accompanied by the Franciscan greeting: "Pax et bonum".

He had a particular love of the poor: he washed their feet, fed them soup, and meekly, joyfully yet firmly reminded them of the principles of their faith and recited the "Hail Mary" with them. His works of charity were not always well received; he endured no lack of insults and threats, but knew how to tame people with sweetness and patience.

Prayer was the source of his dedication. A soul profoundly Eucharistic, he gave all the time left free from his occupations to Eucharistic adoration and active participation in Holy Mass, leaving an indelible impression on all who saw him kneeling in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.

On 31 May 1866 Bro. Mariano spent his last day on this earth, dying peacefully in the Lord on the feast of Corpus Christi.


Bl. Nicholas of Gesturi was born on 5 August 1882 in Gesturi (Sardinia), Italy, to a family of modest means. Given the name Giovanni at Baptism, he was orphaned at a young age and raised in the home of his older, married sister. After receiving his First Communion in 1896, he began to pray in a remarkable way, frequently receiving Holy Communion, mortifying himself and cultivating the spiritual life with rigorous detachment from even the licit attractions of his surroundings. From his love of nature he developed an uncommon nobility of spirit and refined sense of judgement. He seemed inclined towards the priesthood, but his family's poverty proved an insurmountable obstacle.

After being cured of a painful rheumatic illness at the age of 29, Giovanni entered the Capuchins in Cagliari as a third order oblate. Two years later he received the habit, taking the name of Bro. Nicholas. After a year of novitiate he made his first profession in 1914 and his solemn profession on 16 February 1919. He spent his first 10 years of religious life in various friaries, where he served mostly as cook. In 1924 he returned to Cagliari, where he spent the next 34 years begging for the community.

Every day of the year, from 1924 to 1958, Bro. Nicholas would walk modestly and silently through the streets of Cagliari, without asking for anything. But people soon realized that he was an exceptional soul and gifts of money or in kind would be offered spontaneously. Many confided in him or asked him to pray for spiritual or material favours. He was frequently called to the bedside of the sick at home or in hospitals. Extraordinary cures took place and it became known that God's powerful hand was working through this poor friar.

He gave more than he received. His life, his way of walking and of presenting himself invited everyone to conversion, to prayer, to love and to the service of God and neighbour. They said of him: "He was more sought than a seeker". His holiness was one of silence, which he only broke to point out the will of God.

His conduct was marked by a lively sense of God's presence and by continuous union with the Lord. Through a Gospel life lived in penitence, Bro. Nicholas bore witness to Christ's message on the streets of a distracted and troubled city. He died on 8 June 1958.


Bl. Diego Oddi was born on 6 June 1839 to a peasant family of Vallinfreda (Rome), Italy. Given the name Giuseppe at birth, he spent a youth marked by the daily toil characteristic of the very poor. But his family was deeply religious, morally upright and very virtuous, making their home a nest of joy and peace that was the envy of the whole village.

One day, at the age of 20, he heard himself called repeatedly as he was reaping barley in the family's fields. His response matured during daily visits to the local church and a year later he visited the Franciscan hermitage of Bellegra and was deeply affected by the place and the holy life of the friars.

Four years later he returned to the hermitage and met Bro. Mariano of Roccacasale, whose counsel had a profound impact on him. Overcoming the resistance of his father, he entered the hermitage of Bellegra in 1871 as a simple "third order oblate". He followed the friars into exile after the expropriation of ecclesiastical property by the Kingdom of Italy and was able to pronounce his solemn vows in 1889.

Living at the turn of the century, for 40 years he traversed the Subiaco region, begging for alms. Unlettered, but witty and gifted in conversation, he surprised everyone with his words: genuine words that sprung from a heart used to regular conversation with God. Day and night while working or walking, he prayed continually. From continuous conversation with the Lord he acquired wisdom and depth of faith, and many people, from simple believers to Bishops and Cardinals, were edified by him.

.In addition to his assiduous prayer , the austerity of his life and penance caused all who knew him to marvel. He always traveled on foot over the stony and muddy streets, with feet hardly protected by his Franciscan sandals, but many were the miracles that blossomed at his passing. But the most genuine miracle was his own person and his smile: wherever he went, he left the impression that everything was suffused with the creative breath of God.

His death on 3 June 1919 consecrated a life of unconditional obedience to God as expressed, according to the Franciscan Rule, in the orders of his superiors and the events of everyday life.


19 September 1999


Bl. Anton Martin Slomsek was born in Slom to a Styrian peasant family on 26 November 1800. He was ordained a priest on 8 September 1824, the feast of the Birth of Mary, and celebrated his First Mass at Olimje on 26 September.

He served as a chaplain in Bizeljsko and Nova Cerkev, not far from Vojnik. He then moved to Klagenfurt where for nine years he was the spiritual director of seminarians. In October 1838 he became parish priest in Vuzenica, in 1844 canon of St Andrew's Cathedral in the Labot valley, and in March 1846 he was appointed parish priest-abbot in Celje.

He had just begun his ministry in this city when he was made Bishop of the then-Diocese of Lavant. He chose for his episcopal motto: Ad maiorem Dei gloriam animarumque salutem, "For the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls". He was consecrated in Salzburg on the feast of Sts Cyril and Methodius (5 July 1846) and resided in Sankt Andrä until September 1859, when he transferred the episcopal see to Maribor.

His pastoral zeal led him to promote quality printing and he was considered a great pedagogue and catechist; he was also a writer and poet. As a teacher of the people, he reawakened their Christian awareness, worked for ecumenism along the lines of the apostles to the Slavs, Sts Cyril and Methodius, and founded various confraternities. It was to him that Pope Pius IX entrusted the task of renewing religious life in the Benedictine monasteries of Central Europe at the time, a service he undertook by making apostolic visitations. He was responsible for transferring the episcopal see from Sankt Andrä in Lavantal, Austria, and for reorganizing the Diocese.

Above all, Bishop Slomsek was a pastor of souls and a great dispenser of sacramental grace; in this way he contributed to the sanctification of the People of God. He encouraged the continuing formation of the clergy and was a great speaker, a man of culture with ecumenical horizons and a precursor of the Second Vatican Council regarding the inculturation of the Gospel in Slovenian life.

He died in the odour of sanctity in Maribor on 24 September 1862. His tomb, which the Holy Father visited on 19 May 1996, is located in the Chapel of the Cross in Maribor's cathedral.


13 June 1999


Bl. Regina Protmann was born in 1552 in Braniewo (Warmia) to a devout middle-class family. She received a solid religious formation and, although she sought to be no different from her peers, was distinguished by her beauty, intelligence and piety. She joined a Marian sodality founded by the Jesuits and entrusted herself to their spiritual direction.

In Warmia, the spread of Protestantism and the epidemics caused by the plague made a deep impression on her. In 1571 she received a sudden inspiration of grace and left her family to devote herself exclusively to God and to a life of prayer. This change was recognized by her first biographer, Fr Engelbert Keilert, S.J., as a phenomenal gift of grace. In Regina Protmann's time there were no female religious orders in Warmia which took private vows other than Beguines. However, despite the existing practice, she was prompted by the Holy Spirit to found a contemplative-active institute with perpetual vows, whose sisters would not observe a strict enclosure that would prevent them from visiting the sick at home. This was an innovation and on this basis she founded the Congregation of the Sisters of St Catherine of Alexandria.

In all her activities she was an example of zeal to her sisters whose work included seeing to liturgical vestments, caring for the sick at home, teaching children the principles of the Christian faith and the rudiments of reading and writing. After 12 years of community life she wrote the so-called "Short Rules", approved by the Bishop of Warmia in 1583. She founded three more communities in Ornet (1586), Lidzbark Warminski (1587) and Reszl (1593), and revised this Rule with the help of two Jesuits.

Regina Protmann's daily bread was to do her heavenly Father's will; indeed, her spiritual maxim was "as God wills", and she saw death as full union with God. She died on 18 January 1613 in Braniewo. Today the Sisters of St Catherine serve on three continents and in nine countries: Belarus, Brazil, Finland, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Russia and Togo. An essential element of their mission is Christian education and the instruction of children and youth.


Bl. Edmund Stanistaw Bojanowski was born on 14 November 1814 to a noble, patriotic and deeply religious family in the village of Grabonóg, then part of the Prussian Empire. Edmund showed an inclination for literature and the humanities and, while studying at the University of Breslau [Wrocław], translated Serbian Songs into Polish, writing his own introduction on the history of Serbia (1834); he also translated Byron's Manfred and wrote some poetry of his own.

In 1836 he went to Berlin to continue his studies, which were interrupted first by the death of his parents and then by his own illness. While seeking his vocation he devoted himself to social work in the rural community and founded a home for abandoned children. His activity acquired an increasingly religious dimension. To continue and develop it, he gathered a few young girls aged 14-30, unmarried and of peasant origins. At first his work had no similarity to a religious congregation. But the request for more homes and the generous response of so many young girls spurred Bojanowski to found a religious institute, and in 1858 the rule of this new congregation, the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate, was approved by the Archbishop of Poznan.

The homes spread throughout Poland, which was then divided between Prussia, Austria and Russia. This political division also led to the division of the congregation, which, in order to avoid suppression in Austria, was obliged to detach itself formally from the Prussian homes, since they were considered "foreign". When Bl. Edmund Bojanowski died on 17 August 1871, the congregation had 22 houses and 98 sisters in the Poznan region.

After the founder's death, the congregation was further divided for political reasons. Four congregations survive which directly reflect the founder's spirituality, as well as two that were founded by others but inspired by Bojanowski's work: the Poor Servants of the Mother of God, founded in England by Frances Margaret Taylor, and an Eastern-rite Ukrainian community. Today the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate have 3,334 religious who live and work in Poland and abroad.


During the years 1939-45, 108 Polish Martyrs died in odium fidei at the hands of the Nazis. These martyrs came from various places: three Bishops, 52 diocesan priests, 26 religious priests, three seminarians, seven brothers, eight women religious and nine lay people. Seven of these sacrificed their lives to save others; 16 who could have saved their lives preferred to stay faithful to their mission or vocation or to support those in danger; five were students of the Salesians and under torture encouraged one another to persevere to the end; five were killed for having helped Jews.

Among these new Blesseds are: Bl. Antoni Julian Nowowiejski, Archbishop-Bishop of Płock (1858-1941), a zealous pastor, eminent teacher of liturgy and historian, who was tortured when he refused to trample on his pectoral cross and was put to death in the concentration camp at Działdowo; Bl. Henryk Kaczorowski (1888-1942), rector of the major seminary of Włocławek, who was arrested in 1939 but, remaining steadfast in faith, was taken to Dachau on 6 May 1942 and killed in the gas chamber after encouraging a group of despairing prisoners with the words of Psalm 23; Bl. Anicet Koplinski (1875-1941), a Capuchin of German origin, the apostle of charity of Warsaw, who refused to leave his friary in order to save his life and so died in the gas chamber at Auschwitz; Bl. Marianna Biernacka (1888-1943) gave her life in place of her pregnant daughter-in-law and was shot on 13 July 1943 in Naumowicze near Grodno.

It was actually their reputation for holiness and the graces attributed to their intercession which first drew attention to the need to start the causes of beatification for these 108 servants of God. Their causes, proposed by 18 Dioceses, the Military Ordinariate and 22 religious families, were only begun in 1992 due to the circumstances in postwar Poland.


7 June 1999

Bl. Stefan Wincenty Frelichowski was born on 22 January 1913 in Chełmza to Ludwik Frelichowski, a baker, and Marta Olszewska. After finishing his secondary studies, he decided to enter the diocesan seminary in Pelplin, where he was known for his serenity, modesty and devotion to the Sacred Heart. He wrote in his diary: "On the first Friday of the month I began the novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus with the intention of receiving a clear and ardent vocation. During the nine first Fridays I want to ask Jesus for a heart that loves him ardently, a priestly heart. Jesus, you said to St Margaret that you would not refuse the request of anyone who receives Holy Communion on nine first Fridays of the month. Jesus, who said: 'Ask and you shall receive', I ask you to give me the grace of a clear and ardent vocation".

He was ordained in Pelplin on 14 March 1937 and appointed secretary to the Bishop. The following year he was sent as a curate to St Mary's Parish in Torun. He threw himself into all the parish activities and also served as Scout chaplain. He was known as a fervent and faith-filled pastor of souls.

On 7 September 1939 the German army occupied Torun. Four days later all the priests at St Mary's Parish were arrested and imprisoned. All were released the following day except Fr Frelichowski, who was sent successively to the concentration camps of Stuthoff, Sachsenhausen and Dachau. In each of them he devoted himself to clandestine pastoral work and gave spiritual guidance to al the prisoners.

In 1945 he decided secretly to aid the camp's typhus victims, who were isolated and without any assistance. As a Good Samaritan and priest he brought them whatever food or medicine he could find and heard confessions in Polish, French and German. He eventually contracted the disease and died on 23 February 1945 at the age of 32. For the first time ever, the camp authorities gave permission for his body to be shown to the public. An eyewitness recalls: "The crowd of prisoners moved through the morgue in silence and prayerful recollection. Young and old came, Poles and foreigners. Everyone knew him. At that moment so many intense prayers were offered to the Creator for him, so many tears rolled down cheeks. He departed as a beloved and holy priest. It was the death of someone who had sacrificed his life on the altar of love and mercy for others".


3 May 1999

Like the Apostle Paul, Padre Pio of Pietrelcina placed at the centre of his life and apostolic work the Cross of his Lord as his strength, his wisdom and his glory. Inflamed by love of Jesus Christ, he became like him in the sacrifice of himself for the salvation of the world. In his following and imitation of the crucified Christ he was so generous and perfect that he could have said: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2:20). And the treasures of grace which God had granted him so lavishly he unceasingly passed on through his ministry, serving the men and women who came to him in ever greater numbers, and bringing to birth an immense host of spiritual sons and daughters.

This worthy follower of St Francis of Assisi was born on 25 May 1887 at Pietrelcina in the Archdiocese of Benevento, the son of Grazio Forgione and Maria Giuseppa De Nunzio. He was baptized the next day and given the name Francesco. At the age 12 he received the sacrament of Confirmation and made his First Holy Communion.

On 6 January 1903, at the age of 16, he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin Friars at Morcone, where on 22 January he took the Franciscan habit and the name Brother Pio. At the end of his novitiate year he took simple vows, and on 27 January 1907 made his solemn profession.

After he was ordained a priest on 10 August 1910 at Benevento, he stayed at home with his family until 1916 for health reasons. In September of that year he was sent to the friary of San Giovanni Rotondo and remained there until his death.

Filled with love of God and love of neighbour, Padre Pio lived to the full the vocation to work for the redemption of man, in accordance with the special mission which marked his entire life and which he exercised through the spiritual direction of the faithful, the sacramental reconciliation of penitents and the celebration of the Eucharist. The pinnacle of his apostolic activity was the celebration of Holy Mass. The faithful who took part witnessed the summit and fullness of his spirituality.

On the level of social charity, he committed himself to relieving the pain and suffering of many families, chiefly through the foundation of the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza (House for the Relief of Suffering), opened on 5 May 1956.

For the servant of God, faith was life: he willed everything and did everything in the light of faith. He was assiduously devoted to prayer. He passed the day and a large part of the night in conversation with God. He would say: "in books we seek God, in prayer we find him. Prayer is the key which opens God's heart". Faith led him always to accept God's mysterious will.

He was always immersed in supernatural realities. Not only was he himself a man of hope and total trust in God, but by word and example he communicated these virtues to all who approached him.

The love of God filled him, and satisfied his every desire; charity was the chief inspiration of his day: to love God and to help others to love him. His special concern was to grow in charity and to lead others to do so.

He demonstrated to the full his love of neighbour by welcoming, for more than 50 years, countless people who had recourse to his ministry and his confessional, his counsel and his consolation. He was almost besieged: they sought him in church, in the sacristy, in the friary. And he gave himself to everyone, rekindling faith, dispensing grace, bringing light. But especially in the poor, the suffering and the sick he saw the image of Christ, and he gave himself particularly to them.

He exercised to an exemplary degree the virtue of prudence, acting and counseling in the light of God.

His concern was the glory of God and the good of souls. He treated everyone with justice, frankness and great respect.

The virtue of fortitude shone in him. He understood very early in life that his would be the way of the Cross, and he accepted it at once with courage and out of love. For many years, he experienced spiritual sufferings. For years he endured the pains of his wounds with admirable serenity. He accepted in silence the many interventions of his superiors, and in the face of calumnies he always remained silent.

He habitually practised mortification in order to gain the virtue of temperance, in keeping with the Franciscan style. He was temperate in his attitude and in his way of life.

Conscious of the commitments which he had undertaken when he entered the consecrated life, he observed with generosity the vows he had professed. He was obedient in all things to the commands of his superiors, even when they were burdensome. His obedience was supernatural in intention, universal in its scope and complete in its execution. He lived the spirit of poverty with total detachment from self, from earthly goods, from his own comfort and from honours. He always had a great love for the virtue of chastity. His behaviour was modest in all situations and with all people.

He sincerely thought of himself as useless, unworthy of God's gifts, full of weakness and infirmity, and at the same time blessed with divine favours. Amid so much admiration around him, he would say: "I only want to be a poor friar who prays".

From his youth, his health was not very robust, and especially in the last years of his life it declined rapidly. Sister Death took him well prepared and serene on 23 September 1968 at the age of 81. An extraordinary gathering of people attended his funeral.

On 20 February 1971, barely three years after the death of the servant of God, Pope Paul VI, speaking to the superiors of the Capuchin Order, said of him: "Look what fame he had, what a worldwide following gathered around him! But why? Perhaps because he was a philosopher? Because he was wise? Because he had resources at his disposal? Because he said Mass humbly, heard confessions from dawn to dusk and was—it is not easy to say it—one who bore the wounds of our Lord. He was a man of prayer and suffering".

Even during his lifetime, he enjoyed a vast reputation for sanctity because of his virtues, his spirit of prayer, sacrifice and total dedication to the good of souls.

In the years following his death, his reputation for sanctity and miracles grew steadily and became established in the Church, all over the world and among all kinds of people.

God thus showed the Church his desire to glorify on earth his faithful servant. In a short time the Capuchin Order took the steps prescribed by canon law to begin the cause of beatification and canonization. After examining the case, the Holy See, in accordance with the norm of the Motu Proprio Sanctitas clarior, granted the nihil obstat on 29 November 1982. The Archbishop of Manfredonia was thus abled to introduce the cause and set up the informative process (1983-90). On 7 December 1990 the Congregation for the Causes of Saints recognized its juridical validity. When the Positio had been completed, there was the usual discussion on whether the servant of God had exercised the virtues to a heroic degree. On 13 June 1997 the special meeting of the theological consultors was held and gave a positive judgement. In the ordinary session on 21 October 1997, with Bishop Andrea Maria Erba of Velletri-Segni as the proposer of the cause, the Cardinals and Bishops recognized that Padre Pio of Pietrelcina had lived to a heroic degree the theological, cardinal and associated virtues.

On 18 December 1997, in the presence of Pope John Paul II, the decree on heroic virtues was promulgated.

For the beatification of Padre Pio, the Postulation presented to the competent Congregation the healing of Mrs. Consiglia De Martino of Salerno. The regular canonical process concerning this case was held at the ecclesiastical tribunal of the Archdiocese of Salerno-Campagna-Acerno from July 1996 to June 1997, and the case was recognized as valid by a decree dated 26 September 1997. On 30 April 1998 at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the Medical Board examined the miracle, and on 22 June 1998 the special meeting of theological consultors gave its judgement. On 20 October 1998 the ordinary congregation of the Cardinals and Bishops belonging to the Congregation, together with the proposer, Bishop Andrea M. Erba, was held in the Vatican.

On 21 December 1998, in the presence of Pope John Paul II, the decree on the miracle was promulgated.



 7 March 1999

Martyrs of Motril 

Between 25 July and 15 August 1936, seven Augustinian Recollects, Bl. Vicente Soler, Deogracias Palacios, León Inchausti, José Rada, Vicente Pinilla, Julián Moreno, José Ricardo Díez, and a diocesan priest, Bl. Manuel Martín Sierra, laid down their lives for Christ in the streets of Motril, Granada, during the Spanish Civil War. All were simple men devoted to their ministry and all came from staunchly Catholic backgrounds.

With the triumph of the Popular Front on 16 February 1936, there was mounting tension. On 1 May, worship in their church was prohibited and a threatening crowd of 7,000 gathered at the monastery door. On 3 May, there was a similar demonstration: the faithful were insulted and chased with guns as they left Mass. On 16 July, churches were closed and on the 19th, the celebration of Mass was banned. Fr Julián was thrown out of the Recollect nuns' convent, where he had gone to celebrate Mass, and a detailed search was made of the two Recollect houses. Fr Soler warned the nuns of the danger, encouraging them with the hope of future reward: "Some of us will die and be martyrs, but after Good Friday comes the Resurrection".

After hiding in a policeman's house, Fr Moreno and Fr Pinilla returned to the monastery on July 24 and, despite the risk, the whole community chose to stay. Fr Manuel felt that seeking shelter was a temptation and on 22 July swore never to abandon his parish. The next day, the entire Augustinian community did the same. Early on 25 July, five of its members, Frs Palacios, Inchausti, Rada and Moreno, and Bro. José Ricardo Díez, were violently seized and riddled with bullets. The following morning, Fr Vicent Pinilla was machine-gunned at the entrance of the Church of the Divine Shepherdess, where he had taken refuge with the parish priest, Fr Manuel Martín Sierra, who was also killed.

Fr Vicente Soler hid in the home of two young women until 29 July, but was betrayed and captured. He led prayers for his fellow prisoners, encouraged them, heard their confessions and converted the socialist Juan Antúnez. He was shot at dawn on 15 August with another 28.

Like St Maximilian Kolbe, he offered to take the place of Manuel Pérez Reina, a father of eight; his offer was rejected because the soldier noticed his name on the list of the condemned. His charity did not stop with this heroic act. As the militia took prisoners from the line to shoot them, Fr Soler blessed and absolved them. Since he was 10th on the list, he was able to absolve the others, including the young man to be shot after him, a member of Catholic Action named Francisco Burgos. He was shot three times, but survived to pass on these details of Fr Soler's imprisonment and death.


Bl. Nicolas Barré was born in Amiens, France, on 21 October 1621. Educated by the Jesuits, he joined the Minims of St Francis of Paola at the age of 19. While still a deacon he was asked to teach philosophy, and after ordination he became a theology teacher while continuing as preacher and as director of the famous library at the convent of Place Royale, Paris.

After falling ill, he was sent to the friary in Amiens and then to Rouen, where he carried out his apostolate mainly with the Third Order of Minims. Here he first met the young women who were to join him in the popular missions as teachers in the "Little Charitable Schools" for poor children. He had been praying and reflecting on this project for 15 years. In his view, the root cause of all social evils was the lack of education and training for young people.

He began a movement offering popular education. The little charitable schools multiplied in the parishes, where first women and then men were called upon by the parish priest or Bishop. The "trade schools" soon developed, enabling young people earn some income.

Gradually, he felt drawn by the Holy Spirit to suggest to both the men and women teachers that they form their own community, without vows or cloister, for the purpose of educating ordinary people. Called by Canon Roland to Rheims, then to Lisieux and later to other towns in France, "the Charitable Teachers" gave rise to several foundations inspired by the same apostolic spirit. Nicolas Barré was consulted several times by the young John Baptist de la Salle, thus playing a decisive role in the foundation of the Brothers of the Christian Schools.

As the number of teachers increased, Nicolas Barré was also spiritual director to many people, especially those suffering interior trials. With extraordinary discernment, he taught them the way of abandonment in faith that he had learned from his own experience. His wisdom and holiness became so famous that it was often said that "hopeless cases must be sent to Fr Barré".

Nicolas Barré tirelessly sought to lead both the people he directed and the charitable teachers to the prayer of the heart inspired by contemplation of the inexpressible mystery of God, who out of love became man and "even a little child". Nicolas Barré, the spiritual master, was both an apostle and a mystic and expressed this magnificently in his Spiritual Canticle, a mystical poem of abandonment to God. His life was marked by the message and charism of St Francis of Paola: humility, charity and evangelical penance, which bore fruit in the education and formation of youth, fostering each individual's growth in their journey of faith. He died in Paris on 31 May 1686.


Bl. Anna Schäffer was born on 18 February 1882 in the parish of Mindelstetten, between Regensburg and Ingolstadt in the heart of Bavaria. A quiet, reserved child, she learned piety and the love of God from her mother, who raised her to be a good Christian. After making her First Communion, she offered herself to the Lord. Wishing to enter an order of missionary sisters, after finishing school she tried to earn the necessary dowry in various places between Regensburg and Landshut.

Here, in June 1898, Anna heard Jesus' call, which would be decisive for the rest of her life: she would endure long and painful suffering. She left her job in great haste, but on 4 February 1901, at the forester's lodge in Stammham, her time of suffering began. That day, the stovepipe over the laundry boiler had become detached from the wall, but in trying to fix it, Anna unfortunately slipped into a vat of boiling lye, scalding both legs to above the knees.

Despite intensive treatment, the doctors were unable to heal her injuries. After she was released from hospital as an invalid in May 1902, her condition continued to worsen, confining her completely to bed. To her painful infirmity was added extreme poverty. After futile attempts at rebellion, Anna learned to recognize God's will in this harsh school of suffering and to accept it with ever greater joy. In weakness and poverty she heard the loving call of the Crucified One to become like him. This was her mission in life and its fulfilment. She generously decided to offer her life and sufferings to God. Every day she received Holy Communion from her wise spiritual guide and parish priest, Fr Karl Rieger.

In the autumn of 1910 some extraordinary things happened. In visions, which she called "dreams", Anna first saw St Francis, then the Redeemer, who was ready to accept her sacrifice of reparation. From that time, and few people knew it, she bore the wounds of Christ. Later, in order to suffer in secret and to avoid any sensationalism, she asked the Lord to remove the visible stigmata. She was now ready to accept even greater sufferings. At the same time, Anna intensified her spiritual apostolate, promising her intercessory prayer and offering consolation in word or letter to all who turned to her.

On 25 April 1923, Anna was permitted to live the events of Good Friday: her condition considerably worsened. Her legs became completely paralyzed; this was followed by painful cramps due to a stiffening of the spinal cord and, finally, by cancer of the rectum. But she was able to combine an active apostolate (she wrote countless letters to the needy and to those who sought her advice; she gladly did embroidery for churches and chapels) with one of prayer, sacrifice and suffering. In a letter of 29 January 1925 she wrote: "The most important thing for me is to pray and suffer for the holy Church and her Pastors. Whenever I receive Holy Communion, I fervently pray to our beloved Redeemer to continue protecting his holy Church and her Pastors, to grant me the most agonizing martyrdom and to accept me as a little victim of reparation".

After accidently falling out of bed five weeks before her death, Anna suffered a brain injury, causing her to lose her voice; thus she became even more a "silent victim". On 5 October 1925 she received her last Communion. As she was making the Sign of the Cross and saying "Jesus, I live in you", she returned to her Creator a soul purified by the fire of prolonged suffering.

 


Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
Various dates and pages in 1999

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