|BIOGRAPHIES OF NEW BLESSEDS - 1997|
|The following Blesseds were beatified by Pope John
Paul II in 1997 :
|12 OCTOBER 1997
BL. ELIAS del SOCORRO NIEVES was born on the Island of San Pedro, Yuriria, Guanajuato, Mexico on 21 September 1882 into a modest but deeply religious peasant family. He early expressed his desire to be a priest but circumstances prevented it: at the age of 12 tuberculosis brought him to death's door, then his father was killed and he was obliged to earn the family's keep. Despite his adult age and scarce preparation he was admitted to the Augustinian college of Yuriria in 1904. He overcame his frailty and inevitable difficulties in his studies with determination, never failing to find the financial help he required, so that when he took his vows in 1911 he changed his name from Mateo Elias to Elias del Socorro. He was ordained a priest in 1916. In 1921 he was appointed parochial vicar of La Canada de Caracheo, a village then isolated and extremely poor. At the time when the "Christeros" movement started as a popular reaction to the religious persecution, instead of obeying the Government's orders to settle in a large city, he moved to a village in the nearby hills of La Gavia, thus assuring his faithful of his continued religious assistance, usually given under cover of night. After 14 months of this clandestine ministry, together with two ranchers who had offered to accompany him, he was arrested by a military patrol. Soldiers and prisoners set out at dawn on 10 March 1928, for the small local capital of Cortazar. On the way, the captain gave orders to shoot the two ranchers; they died proclaiming Christ the King as victor. At the next halt, the captain said to Fr Nieves, "Now it is your turn: let us see if dying is like saying Mass", to which he answered, "You have spoken the truth, because to die for the faith is a sacrifice pleasing to God". He blessed the soldiers and began to recite the Creed. His last words were "Long live Christ the King".
BL DOMENICO LENTINI was born, the youngest of five, in Lauria, Potenza, Italy, on 20 November 1770, to parents who were poor but deeply religious. He felt called to the priesthood at the age of 14 and made great progress in piety as well as in his studies at the seminary in Salerno. He received priestly ordination in 1794 and exercised his ministry in Lauria throughout his life, He would spend long hours in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament and celebrated the Eucharist with such intense participation that his contemporaries called him "an angel at the altar". Fr Lentini was always available to administer the sacrament of Penance, and by his zeal he brought about the conversion of many sinners. He was totally dedicated to evangelizing activities not only in Lauria but throughout the Diocese and outside it. His Lenten homilies touched many hearts, because he first practiced what he preached. He also had a tender devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows spreading this devotion and founding a congregation of spiritual commitment, penance and charity. He intensely loved the Church and combined holiness of life with a profound Christian culture which he made available by teaching literature, philosophy and theology to young people, turning his house into an authentic Catholic school. He was a shining example of Gospel charity and saw Christ in the poor to whom he offered whatever he had. He observed a strict voluntary poverty, united to an unconditional obedience to his Bishop whom he regarded as God's representative. Inspired by the humility of the Cross, he lived frugally, rigorously mortifying his body and sleeping little, with the floor as his bed, Through these harsh acts of penance, he offered himself to God in expiation and reparation for sinners. The Servant of God died on 25 February 1828. In his lifetime and after his death he was considered a saint, and the fame of his holiness endures.
She chose the religious life despite her family's opposition. In 1885 she was joined by some young women, but it was not until they were clothed on 1 May 1887, that the Congregation of Mary Reparatrix was officially founded, in Strasbourg. A year later they made their first vows. Mother Mary of Jesus rejoiced when her own two daughters entered the congregation (although she was later to be criticized for having influenced them). After their deaths, she. devoted herself tirelessly to her mission. As her spiritual daughters' model and inspiration, she proposed Mary as mother associated with the person and saving work of her Son. Her apostolic goal to make known the name of Jesus, his mercy and love, enabled her to take courageous decisions. In 1859 she responded to a call from the Jesuit Fathers in Madras. Other foundations followed, in India and in the islands of Mauritius and La Reunion, and in Europe she opened houses in France, Belgium, England, Italy, Ireland and Spain. Mother Mary's last years were filled with suffering: deaths in the family, worries about her sons, difficulties and separations within the institute and spiritual trials in which she felt abandoned by God. Her health deteriorated and she died on 22 February 1878 at the home of her son, Adrien, in Florence.
The little chapel where the saint's body had been preserved was almost unknown when Mother Maria entered the monastery. Today the basilica is a centre for thousands of pilgrims who follow St Rita's life through the pamphlet, Dalle Api alle Rose, which Mother Maria started in 1923. Through St Rita, many are brought closer to God. This was precisely the Mother's dream. In a letter in 1943, prior to the end of the Second World War, Mother Maria Teresa prophetically wrote: "Let us hope that the Lord will quickly grant us the grace of a peaceful end, and Cascia will see an infinite number of persons indebted for favours received". Due to her greatness of heart, orphan girls were taken in; today, in a sizeable number, they live in the modern St Rita's "Hive", next to the church. Around the monastery other important institutions came into being: the Augustinian seminary, St Rita hospital, the retreat house. Mother Maria Teresa's love and suffering were and are her vital sap. Her frail health was a long, slow calvary for her, but her spirit sustained her to the end. "I am leaving this world", she wrote, "with faith, hope and love! I hope to find you there ... where God reigns and where we will live for ever". She died on 18 January 1947. Her remains rest in the crypt, next to the saint she loved so dearly.
9 November 1997
His pastoral and social activity was limitless. He personally conducted the visitation of his Diocese five times, visiting all 365 parishes, Half of them could be reached only on mule-back or on foot. He celebrated three Synods, one of which was dedicated to the Eucharist. He encouraged frequent Holy Communion and perpetual adoration. He reorganized the seminaries and reformed their curricula, anticipating the Thomistic reform of Leo XIII. He was tireless in administering the sacraments, in preaching, in teaching people ardently to love the Pope and the Church, and in practicing truth, unity and love.
He gave a heroic example of charity in assisting cholera victims, in visiting the sick and prisoners, in aiding the poor and bankrupt noble families. He saved thousands of farmers and workers from famine, depriving himself of everything, selling his horse, the chalice and the pectoral cross Pius IX had given him. He founded and institute to assist hearing and speech-impaired women, organized the assistance of the young single women employed in rice fields, established societies of mutual aid, en him He founded an institute to assist hearing- and speech-impaired women, organized the assistance of the young single women employed in rice fields, established societies of mutual aid, workers' associations, rural banks, cooperatives and Catholic Action groups.
Called by Pius IX the "Apostle of the Catechism", he gave directives that it be taught in all parishes. He planned and presided over the first National Catechetical Congress in 1889
He was convinced that devotion to religion and to one's country could and should be reconciled in the hearts of the Italian people. He endured many hardships to promote reconciliation between Church and State and thus to solve a painful moral dilemma for Italian Catholics, But the times were not yet ripe. Thus he aimed at preparing this religious reconciliation on a practical level, combining religious belief and patriotic love in his work with migrants.
Struck from the beginning of his episcopate by the dramatic growth of Italian emigration, Scalabrini became an apostle for the millions of Italians forced to emigrate, often in dire conditions, always in danger of losing their faith and their attachment to religious practice.
With the approval of Leo XIII, on 28 November 1887 he founded the Congregation of the Missionaries of St Charles (today known as Scalabrinians) for the religious, moral, social and legal care of migrants. He convinced St Frances Xavier Cabrini, the Mother of Migrants, to leave for America in 1889, to care for children, orphans and sick Italian migrants. In 1895 he himself founded the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of St Charles for migrants. Even the Sisters Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus were encouraged to care for migrants. His spirituality and his love for migrants recently inspired the birth of a new secular institute, the Scalabrinian Lay Missionary Women.
Bishop Scalabrini was fervently devoted to the Eucharist and used to spend many hours in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. Another mark of his spirituality was his devotion to Our Lady and he expressed his love for Mary in his homilies and Marian pilgrimages. It was dawn on 1 June 1905, the feast of the Ascension of the Lord, when he died. His last conscious words were, "Lord, I am ready, Let us go".
The Chavez Orozco family lived in the Mexicaltzingo neighbourhood, which was inhabited by the need and unskilled workers. The care of the faithful was entrusted to Fr Agustin Beas, a zealous priest who devoted his attention to the infirm poor. To care for them he improvised a hospital in the parish house, where he put six beds in a room and called it Holy Trinity Hospital. The sick were cared for by the women of the St Vincent de Paul Society.
On 20 February 1892 Vicentita had to enter that hospital to be treated for pleurisy and it was precisely at that moment that she received the inspiration to dedicate her live to God in the person of the poor and the sick. On 10 July she regained her health and returned to Holy Trinity Hospital to serve the sick with extraordinary charity for the rest of her life. She took private vows with Catalina Velasco and Juana Martin del Campo in 1895. On 12 May 1905 she founded the Congregation of the Servants of the Poor, later renamed the Servants of the Holy Trinity and the Poor. She made her canonical profession in 1911 and was named Superior General in 1913, a service she performed for 30 years as the soul and leader of her institute. She was a model superior by her moral authority and genuine charity, and knew how to guide her daughters in putting their lives in the Lord's hands.
She was fervent in prayer and saw obedience as the greatest form of sacrifice, She fully lived her consecrated chastity and heroically practised the theological and moral virtues, particularly humility, simplicity and charity. St Paul's saying, "The love of Christ impels us", was the ideal of her life.
She suffered greatly during the Mexican Revolution. In 1914 Carranza's troops installed themselves in Guadalajara's cathedral and imprisoned priests and religious. In 1926 St Vincent's Hospital in Zapotlan was turned into a military headquarters. The sisters took no heed of the danger but continued to care for the wounded with great dedication. Once the sisters had to take refuge in the home of some kindly people were protecting them, Mother Vicentita was left alone with a postulant to care for the wounded, enduring insults and even death threats. The commandant who arrived later reprimanded the soldiers for their unbecoming conduct thus implicitly praising the greatness of the brave religious. The majority of the sick cared for by the Servants of the Holy Trinity and the Poor went to confession and received the sacraments. The Lord blessed the institute with abundant vocations and 17 new foundations (hospitals, clinics and nurseries). In 1942, at the age of 75, Mother Vicentita began to experience eye trouble, She suffered greatly yet patiently and never complained. Despite her years she was the first in chapel each morning at 4:00.
On 29 July 1949 she was not able to come to chapel and her condition worsened. Her pale complexion and weak pulse indicated her serious state. The chaplain, Fr Roberto Lopez, anointed her and shortly afterwards Archbishop Jose Garibi Rivera (Mexico's first Cardinal) heard her confession and celebrated Mass. At the elevation of the Host Mother Vicentita expired peacefully, without tremor or convulsion, like a baby falling asleep. She died on 30 July 1949 at Holy Trinity Hospital in Guadalajara, Mexico.
He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Nagyvarad on 24 August 1915. He served as a curate in Gyula and as a military chaplain for a brief time during the war. He worked for a year as a prefect of Nagyvarad's seminary and then returned to Gyula's parish priest. Although young, he found wisdom and pastoral zeal. He was distinguished for his love of the poor. He was distinguished for his love of the poor. To further the religious education of the young he established a college and invited religious congregations to the city in order to strengthen the religious life of the faithful. A true priestly community was created in his parish and he strove to maintain good relations with the pastors and faithful of the other denominations.
Pope Pius XII appointed him Bishop of Gyor on 21 January 1941. He was consecrated a Bishop on the following 24 February and took possession of his see on 2 March. He chose as his episcopal motto: "The Cross strengthens the weak and makes gentle the strong". Despite the raging war at the time, he worked with great enthusiasm. He loved his priests, the weak and the needy. He used every occasion to alleviate the distress and suffering of others. He energetically devoted himself to strengthening the moral and religious education of young people. When racial laws were introduced into Hungary, he defended the victims of injustice and raised his voice against the political authorities in power. In his various writings and sermons he condemned persecution and brutal actions, thereby risking his own safety. During bombardments he did not hesitate to come to the immediate aid of the victims.
As the war front drew near, he housed the refugees in his episcopal palace and withdrew to a small room. On hearing the horrible news of the risk to which women were put, he declared that he was ready to defend them even at the cost of his own life. This he was to demonstrate on Good Friday afternoon when some drunken Russian soldiers arrived at the episcopal palace to bring to their barracks 100 women and girls who had taken refuge in the cellar. The Bishop categorically refused the request. After a long altercation, a Russian officer began making threats with his pistol; the Bishop slowly advanced, trying to make him leave the cellar. At that moment the officer turned and fired. The Bishop was shot in the forehead, hand and stomach. The frightened Russian soldiers ran off; the Bishop fell to the ground.
After a preliminary examination he was taken to the hospital and underwent surgery. Awakening from the operation, he thanked God that none of the women lodged in the cellar had been violated. He also thanked God for having accepted his sacrifice. After surgery he spoke his last words as he prepared for death. He prayed for his priests, the faithful, the Hungarian people, the State authorities and his country. He died on Easter Monday, 2 April 1945, entrusting his soul to God's mercy.
He was buried in the crypt of the Carmelite church. His confessor, a Carmelite priest, immediately wrote to the diocesan authorities to begin the beatification process, because the Bishop was truly a saint and a martyr. He is now buried in the cathedral of Gyor.
27 September 1997
BL. BARTHOLOMEW MARY DAL MONTE was born in Bologna on 3 November 1726 to Orazio Dal Monte and Anna Maria Bassani. At the age of six and a half he received Confirmation from Cardinal Prospero Lambertini, Archbishop of Bologna, who was later to become Pope Benedict XIV. Even if the date of his First Communion is unknown, the boy's religious intentions have been preserved, which gave a Eucharistic dimension to his whole life.
A boy of lively intelligence and cheerful temperament, he received a thorough education in the humanities at the Jesuits' Santa Lucia College. But his priestly vocation encountered the bitter opposition of his father, who hoped that his son would be a banker. His missionary inclination was encouraged by a meeting with St Leonard of Port Maurice which confirmed the young man in his choice of the priesthood. He received priestly ordination on 20 December 1749.
The new priest was obliged to postpone his pastoral commitments for two years, since the Vicar General had asked him to complete his studies. He finished them brilliantly, earning a degree in theology. After spending his first years learning the art of preaching at the school of the most famous preachers of the time, Fr Bartholomew Mary began an extraordinary ministry of popular missions.
His activity was not limited to the parishes of Bologna: despite delicate health, he zealously spent all 26 years of his generous priestly life preaching in at least 62 Dioceses, in hundreds of popular missions, Lenten retreats and spiritual exercises for clergy, religious and lay people, working miraculous conversions and bringing about many reconciliations between contending parties. The "missions" became intensive workshops of religious instruction with systematic evangelization for all the faithful, at a time when the harmful consequences of certain ideas influenced by Jansenism and the Enlightenment were spreading.
He came to be known as "the missionary of discretion". His life was modeled on the ministry of Christ himself: intransigent in proclaiming the truth but welcoming and merciful to sinners. As a priest who belonged totally to God and was dedicated to the salvation of souls, he was a living image of the One who is "rich in mercy" (Eph 4:2), and was very devoted to Mary, Mother of Mercy.
Exhausted by his unremitting apostolic labours, during his last mission two months before he died, he prophetically exclaimed: "I am going to die in Bologna on Christmas Eve". On 24 December 1778 he serenely gave up his spirit, departing this life to celebrate Christmas in heaven. All Bologna mourned him deeply. Since 1808 his mortal remains have rested in the chapel of Our Lady of Peace in Bologna's Basilica of St Petronius.
22 August 1997
BL. FREDERIC OZANAM was born on 23 April 1813 in Milan, where his parents, originally from around Lyons, were temporarily living for professional reasons during the Napoleonic wars. His family, which was deeply Christian, gave him a love for God and the poor from a very young age and taught him to search for and to find Christ in those who carry the heaviest burden of human suffering.
After a happy childhood he distinguished himself at the College Royal in Lyons with his penetrating intelligence, at a time marked by the sort of uncertainty that sometimes leads one into contact with philosophy. But his teacher, Fr Noirot, a holy priest, soon helped him to leave behind the labyrinth of contradictory opinions and confirm him in fidelity to the Church.
On leaving the College Royal he went to Paris to study law. Ozanam was struck by a society that was in the throes of great upheaval. The revolution of July 1830 had brought dark days upon the ancient Bourbon line that had hoped to strengthen the throne with the support of the Church.
Scepticism predominated in university teaching. Isolated and discouraged, he wrote to his friend Falconnet: "Paris disgusts me because there is no life, no faith, no love".
He soon rallied. In Andre-Marie Ampere, the great scientist, he found a friend who showed him fatherly care, lodged him in his son's room and in casual conversation showed him the horizons of science, concluding with the assertion: "Ozanam, how great God is! How great God is!".
From then on his sense of direction was marked by an unshakable certainty: Christianity was the only remedy for healing the ills of contemporary society. It was essential to reconcile religion and learning.
Ozanam wanted to promote human and spiritual values
Wanting to share his passion for history, the source of belief, with his friends, he gathered companions from among students at the Sorbonne. With them he threw himself into endless work, responding to the professors who questioned their convictions, daring to refute their arguments before the whole university and bringing two of them to justify themselves or withdraw.
He was intensely aware of his contemporaries' need to nourish and deepen their faith, and so he led a delegation that by its stubborn determination finally convinced Archbishop Hyacinthe Louis de Quelen of Paris to reform preaching. The Archbishop entrusted the pulpit of Notre-Dame to Fr Henri Lacordaire, whose celebrated "Notre-Dame Conferences" satisfied the spiritual thirst of many young contemporaries.
Following the 1830 revolution French Catholics were very divided. Many saw no security except in the restoration of the fallen regime. Others, including Ozanam, felt that it was necessary to move beyond the regime issue and to concentrate on the essentials: the promotion of spiritual and human values based on love and social justice.
Twelve years before Karl Marx's 1848, manifesto, he was deploring the increasing gap between the strong and the weak. This gave him a prophetic premonition of the terrible and unavoidable confrontations between rich and poor: "The question which divides men in our time is no longer a question of political systems. It is a social question, that is, of knowing which will prevail: the spirit of selfishness or the spirit of sacrifice".
These ideas were also professed by the Tribune Catholique, a clergy gazette founded in 1832 by Emmanuel Bailly. Connected with the gazette was the "Societe des Bonnes Etudes", a sort of literary circle whose aim was to promote among Catholics a taste for philosophical, historical and religious research. This organization was Ozanam's dream. Along with his friends he immersed himself in it and expressed his passion for the history of religions. The "Societe" thus became the History Conference, open to all and where discussion was always free. Young, non-believing philosophers were able. to come and ask about Catholicism, its teachings and practices.
However, Ozanam's friends sometimes came off second best in the otherwise very courteous discussions. One challenge above all got to them. The social work of the Church down the centuries was recognized as meriting esteem and respect, but in the present day was it notable for any charitable activity or mission? Replying to this question embarrassed them.
They dedicated themselves to serving the poor
It seemed that in order to regenerate the faith, argument would not suffice. There was an urgent need to translate this faith into action, to evangelize not merely in words but through authentic charity. Ozanam exclaimed enthusiastically: "A blessing from the poor is a blessing from God.... Let us go to the poor".
On 23 April 1833, his 20th birthday, he brought together at the offices of the Tribune Catholique those of his companions who felt the same desire to serve people in serious need. New economic conditions had multiplied the sufferings of all classes. Faced with so many families stricken by hunger, cold and sickness, these young people resolved to answer the call of Christ by dedicating themselves to the poor.
They asked Sr Rosalie, a Daughter of Charity, for the addresses of families in distress to whom they could bring some bread and a lot of friendship. Their resources came solely from their own savings. Such was the origin of the first St Vincent de Paul Conference. The History Conference became the Conference of Charity.
Meanwhile, Ozanam gained cultural and professional achievements. As a doctor of law in 1836, he began a short career as a lawyer. As a doctor of literature, he won first place in the new "aggregation" examination of the faculties of literature established by Victor Cousin in 1840. Substituting for Prof. Claude Fauriel in 1841, Ozanam was awarded his chair of literature at the Sorbonne in 1844.
On 23 June 1841 he married Amelie Soulacroix in the church of Saint-Nizier in Lyons. The year 1845 brought great joy to his home at the birth of his daughter Marie, whom he was to cherish deeply. From then on his time was divided between his family, teaching, historical research, literary work and various civic, social and religious commitments.
Ozanam's passion was learning. Homage has deservedly been paid to the literary and scholarly value of his books, and he was also a remarkable teacher, endowed with a conscience acutely sensitive to his professional duties as well as to the obligations and sacrifices they imposed. His teaching and his dealings with intellectual circles were marked by tolerance and respect for others. His natural kindness, combined with his innate integrity, enabled him to welcome the opinion of others with respect and goodwill. If he was successful in his clear resolve to propose the truth and only the truth, he was careful to do so without being aggressive. Towards the end of his life he said: "If anything consoles me on leaving this earth before finishing what I wanted to do, it is that I have never worked for the praise of men but in the service of the truth".
Democracy must be based on justice and charity
His influence continued to spread beyond the confines of the university. The foundation of the St Vincent de Paul Conferences brought him into contact with the working class and to see how much these workers suffered from the industrial changes taking place in the first half of the 19th century. After studying the problem in detail, he wrote in 1848: "I ask ... that we should take responsibility for the people who have too many needs and not enough rights, who are claiming a fuller role in public affairs and guarantees in favour of work and against misery".
Among the social Catholics of the 19th century, he was one of the first to come up with the idea of the "salaire naturel" (forerunner of the minimum wage), to demand measures against unemployment and accidents, and to ask that workers be guaranteed a pension. A good number of these ideas found their way into Leo XIII's Encyclical Letter Rerum novarum.
Ozanam wanted to see democracy established in justice and charity. In this respect he counted on the Society of St Vincent de Paul, whose existence proved to be a real opportunity. He was convinced that the meeting between those who have and those who have not is the best guarantee of mutual understanding. This is why the Vincentians' rule makes personal contact with those who suffer and direct service to the marginalized their basic work, the ultimate objective being to build up everyone spiritually, morally and humanly.
The work he took upon himself and the dedication he gave to it took their toll on his delicate health. At the end of 1852 he was forced to seek rest in Italy, but to no avail.
After disembarking at Marseilles on his way home, his health deteriorated and death seemed imminent. He regarded it with great serenity and, as the priest who ministered to him welcomed it with faith in God, he said: "Why was I afraid? I love him so much". A short while later, on 8 September 1853, he died peacefully, murmuring: "My God, my God, have mercy on me". He is buried in the crypt of the church of Saint-Joseph-des-Carmes at the Catholic Institute of Paris, among the students to whom he gave the best of himself.
His cause was introduced in the Archdiocese of Paris on 15 March 1925, and Pope John Paul II approved the decree of his heroic virtues on 6 July 1993.
6 June 1997
BL. MARIA BERNARDINA JABLONSKA (1878-1940) served for most of her life as Superior General of the Albertine Sisters founded by St Albert Chmielowski, a Franciscan community that cares for the very poor.
7 May 1997
BL. FLORENTINO ASENSIO BARROSO, was born in Villasexmir, Vallolid, Spain, on 16 October 1877 into a poor but devout Christian family. He was ordained -a priest on 1 June 1901. He gained a licentiate and doctorate in theology at the Pontifical University of Valladolid, where he then taught until he was obliged to give up by the illness and death of his Archbishop, Cardinal Cos.
He was then appointed parish priest of the metropolitan cathedral. He was a prolific preacher and many of his homilies have been preserved. He was also spiritual director and confessor to many religious congregations. The fame of his zeal led to his appointment as Bishop and Apostolic Administrator of Barbastro. He was consecrated on 26 January 1936. A plot to disrupt the ceremonies organized for his entry into the city obliged him to postpone it to the following day and limit it to the prescribed liturgical rite. The busy four months and 23 days of his governance ended tragically. Bishop Asensio introduced many reforms and was ever available to the poor and the sick. He also wrote a pastoral letter appealing for unity in Christ.
Notwithstanding his spirit of goodwill and collaboration he was unable to overcome the authorities' hostility, and was forced to witness their anti-clerical activities, profanation and spying. On 20 July 1936, he was put under house arrest and then imprisoned. On 1 August he was put in solitary confinement. Accused of collaborating with the enemies of the people he was tortured, mutilated and mocked. After midnight he was loaded with 12 others onto "a death truck" and taken to the cemetery to be executed. He did not die immediately and so his executioners fired three shots in his temple.
His body was thrown into the common grave. After exhumation, his remains were identified and transferred to the cathedral where they were laid to rest in the burial place of the diocesan Bishops in the cathedral crypt.
BL. CEFERINO GIMENEZ MALLA, known as "El Pele" was born a Gypsy in Fraga, Huesca, Spain, probably on 26 August 1861, and a Gypsy he remained. He chose Teresa Gimenez Castro a Gypsy from Lerida as his wife and settled with her in Barbastro. In 1912 he regularized this Gypsy-style union and became a model Christian. He had no children but adopted one of his wife's nieces, whose descendants are still living. He was a flourishing horse dealer with a respectable position in society and ever ready to give generously to the poor. Unjustly accused of theft and imprisoned, he was finally declared innocent: the lawyer for his defence announced: "El Pele is not a thief, he is San Ceferino, patron of Gypsies". In his dealings, he never cheated anyone. Held in great esteem, El Pele was frequently sought by Gypsies to help them solve the conflicts which sometimes flared up between them. His reputation for charity and piety was widespread and although he was illiterate, educated people esteemed him for his honesty and his wisdom. He was a member of several religious groups. At the start of the Spanish Civil war, at the end of July 1938, he was arrested for trying to defend a priest who was being dragged through the streets of Barbastro, and for keeping a rosary in his pocket. He was offered freedom if he would stop reciting the Rosary. He preferred to stay in prison and face martyrdom. He was shot at dawn on 8 August 1936, against the walls of Barbastro cemetery. He died clutching his Rosary and crying: "Long live Christ the King!".
BL. MARIA ENCARNACION of the Sacred Heart, baptized Vicenta, was born in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala on October 1820 to a pious Christian family. At the age of 15, awed by the mystery of Bethlehem, she heard the Lord's call. On 1 January 1837, she entered the Beaterio of Bethlehem founded by Bl. Pedro de Betancout and was clothed that same year. Here she was tormented by the lack of a truly religious atmosphere and realized that the community was drifting away from its original charism. But faithful to her original call, she hesitated before transferring to the convent of the Catalinas, where, despite its prayerful atmosphere, she found no peace either. Thus she returned to her original "Bethlehem", the model of an organized and well-directed community impressed upon her mind. She was elected prioress in 1855. She revised the constitutions bringing them into line with the order's original charism but the older sisters refused to accept them. She therefore planned a new Beaterio in Quetzaltenango which she founded in 1861.
Mother Maria Encarnacion gradually formed a lasting relationship of deep intimacy with the Lord. She was intensely attracted by Christ's humanity, contemplated at the most poignant moments of his life. Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane was the central point of her contemplation, which led her to interiorize the Lord's sorrows and promote in the Church a special devotion to the intimate sorrows of his Sacred Heart, and reparation for humanity's sins. This ideal formed by her spiritual experience became a firm tradition of the Bethlemite Sisters who dedicate the 25th day of every month to the prayer of reparation. Mother Maria Encarnacion of the Sacred Heart introduced the reform she had so desired and thus saved her institute's original charism. She died on 24 August 1886, the eve of the feast of the Sorrows of the Sacred Heart whose celebration the Lord himself had asked of her. The Institute of Bethlemite Sisters is present today in 13 countries.
BL. ENRICO REBUSCHINI was born on 25 April 1860 in Gravedona, on Lake Como, Italy, to a wealthy family. He was sensitive to the needy and was so generous that he would give away all he had, to the last penny. He felt called to the priesthood and the consecrated life but was firmly opposed by his father. After a year studying at Pavia University, he could no longer tolerate the anti-clerical environment and returned to Como. Military service, a diploma in accountancy and two years' in his brother-in-law's silk factory could not deter him from following his vocation. The Diocese sent him to Rome where he attended the Pontifical Gregorian University and made an excellent impression there. But becoming gravely ill he had to return home. He recovered and embarked on a life of rigorous asceticism. He clearly perceived his objective: the gift of himself to God, a life constantly oriented to the Lord. He also became aware of his neighbours' needs, and for them resolved to develop the virtues of listening and service, seeing in them God himself. Enrico had always had a strong inclination to care for the sick, so in 1887 he joined the novitiate of the Camillians, Servants of the Sick, in Verona. He was ordained a priest by the future Pope St Pius X on 14 April 1889. He was sent to Verona's civil and military hospital (1891-1899) and then to the Cremona community where he lived until his death. From 1903 to 1937 he was administrator of the new St Camillus clinic and for 11 years, superior of his house. In all his free moments he would retire to pray; God had blessed him with the gift of contemplative prayer. As he walked through the streets of Cremona, people "saw" that he was holy and called him the "mystic of the streets". During his 49 years as a priest, Fr Rebuschini served the sick, even to the very end. After celebrating Mass for a sick person he felt ill, and he died a few days later on 10 May 1938, from bronchial-pneumonia.
BL. GAETANO CATANOSO was born in Chorio di San Calabria, Italy on 14 February 1879. His parents were landowners and exemplary Christians. He was ordained a priest in 1902 and served as a parish priest, gaining a reputation for holiness. He keenly felt the sense of sin and the need for reparation which he expressed in the devotion to the Holy Face. He established the confraternity of the Holy Face in his parish and in 1920 he launched the bulletin The Holy Face through which he also promoted the association of the Poor Clerics, to encourage priestly vocations. In 1921 Fr Catanoso became parish priest of Santa Maria de la Candelaria, Reggio Calabria. He revived Eucharistic and Marian devotions, promoted catechetical instruction, the crusade against blasphemy and the profanation of feast days. He encouraged missions to the people, especially during Lent and the month of May, and set up the so-called "flying squads", teams of priests willing to cooperate in the parishes, giving homilies and hearing confession on these occasions. From 1921 to 1950 he served as confessor to religious institutes and Reggio Calabria prison; he was also hospital chaplain and spiritual director of the archiepiscopal seminary. In 1929 he offered himself as "a victim of love" to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In that period he founded the religious Congregation of the Daughters of St Veronica, Missionaries of the Holy Face, for the purpose of constant prayer of preparation, humble service in worship, catechesis, charity especially to children, young people, priests and the elderly. The first convent was opened in Riparo, Reggio Calabria, and the first religious were clothed in 1935.
He showed great docility when the Archbishop curtailed his activities for the congregation. The constitutions he had written for his institute received diocesan approval on 25 March 1958.
He died on 4 April 1963 after spending his last days in continuous prayer.
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