Monday, January 14, 2019

Prayer for Consecration to our Blessed Mother

Mother, I come before you today and consecrate myself entirely to you.
Take my vocation, make it a gift to your Son; something that will last in time and eternity.
Take my faith, strengthen it and enable me to embrace your Son's will in every moment.
I give you my hope, teach me to live with my eyes set on heaven.
I give you my love, help me to give until the last moment of my life.
O Mother, you stood beneath the cross, help me to stand there, too.
You took John into your care, take me as your own.
Today, I place all the powers of my mind and soul at your feet
to be faithful to your Son until the end.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

A quick guide to Catholic teaching on vocation (by Cardinal Vincent Nichols)

A quick guide to Catholic teaching on vocation.
by Cardinal Vincent Nichols

Given at International Congress on the Pastoral Care of Vocations in Rome on 20 October 2016. 
General overview of the Church's teaching regarding vocations
In the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi there are three paintings by Caravaggio telling the story of St Matthew. I am sure you are familiar with them. The first is entitled theCalling of St Matthew and it is an excellent starting point for these reflections on the doctrine of the Church on vocations. 
As with all of Caravaggio's paintings, light plays an important part in their composition. In theCalling of St Matthew we see the light of eternity coming from behind the figure of Jesus, flooding into the scene of the taxman Matthew at his table. Jesus is summoning him in a call which comes in heavenly light, for it comes from the Father. Jesus' hand of summons is unmistakably the same hand as that of Adam, in Michelangelo's masterpiece in the Sistine Chapel. Jesus is the Second Adam and is calling Matthew to the fulfilment that he alone can give. 
This makes so plain the first aspect of the Church's doctrine of vocation: God is the source of every vocation. 
Then, in the picture, we see that Jesus is accompanied by Peter. The summons given to Matthew is to become one of the companions of Jesus. The call and its fulfilment take place in the context of the Church. 
Thirdly, Matthew is called in the reality of his everyday life and work. You may recall that the group around the taxman's table are dressed in the clothes of the sixteenth century whereas Jesus and Peter are clothed in the timeless robes of New Testament iconography. The call of God comes to us as we are, flawed and compromised, in the daily realities of our lives. 
These three aspects will provide the structure for this presentation with a fourth section looking briefly at the pastoral implications of this doctrine. 
Divine Source of Every Vocation 
(a)  In this Year of Mercy, we remember that the first expression of God's mercy is the gift of life with a purpose. Every life has a God-given purpose. This is indeed good news, the foundation of the Gospel message. To open up this truth to people today is a spiritual work of mercy. St John Paul II describes the nature of this common human purpose when he says: ‘Love is the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being’ (Familiaris Consortio 11). What a mercy in life to know that our basic purpose is to love at all costs rather than to succeed at all costs! This urge to love causes a restlessness in the human heart which finds fulfilment in the love of God. This restless search for God is an absolutely fundamental truth of our human condition (Vultum Dei Quaerere 1). Yet, out of respect for his gift of free will, God remains hidden. Pastores Dabo Vobis says this: ‘The history of every priestly vocation, as indeed of every Christian vocation, is the history of an inexpressible dialogue between God and human beings, between the love of God who calls and the freedom of individuals who respond lovingly to him’ (PDV 36.1). 
(b)  'In seeking God, we quickly realise that no one is self-sufficient. Rather, we are called, in the light of faith, to move beyond self-centredness, drawn by God’s Holy Face and by the “sacred ground of the other”, to an ever more profound experience of communion.' This affirmation of Vultus Dei Quaerere reminds us that this experience of communion arises in the call to discipleship, and is a communion both with other people and with God in Christ (VDQ 1). Hence our Trinitarian understanding of vocation: the call has its origin in the will of the Father; it is given expression in and through the Incarnate Word; its dynamism, within this communion, is the work of the Holy Spirit.  Furthermore, every vocation has within itself, as we shall see, the dual movement of the Trinity: its inner communion and its outward mission. It is this that makes all of the baptised missionary disciples, knowing that discipleship is incomplete without mission and mission is impossible without discipleship. This Trinitarian root of vocation, as both discipleship and mission, shows how the Church’s doctrine of vocation is rooted in the Mystery of both God and man. ‘Either vocations ministry is mystagogic, and therefore sets out again and again from the Mystery (of God) in order to lead back to the mystery (of mankind), or it is nothing’ (In Verbo Tuo 8). 
(c)  God’s merciful call to love finds expression in the vocation to be a missionary disciple of Christ. But this discipleship must now take on a specific shape in the unfolding life of every individual. In a famous passage, Blessed John Henry Newman summarises the meaning of an individual’s vocation: 
‘God has created me to do him some definite service: he has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission – I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for his purposes: as necessary in my place as an Archangel is in his. I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for nothing. I shall do good, I shall do his work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place.’ (Meditations and Devotion: Hope in God-Creator) 
The Church understands the elements of this ‘definite service’ to be expressed, typically, in one of the states of life commended by the Church and in work. 
Firstly, states of life. A Christian expresses his discipleship through living as a consecrated person, an ordained minister or as a lay person, in either the single or married state. The growth in understanding marriage as a vocation is a striking feature of the development of the Church's doctrine in the last 50 years, culminating in the title of the recent Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. In the midst of much debate and controversy, there was perhaps too little refection on the first word of the Synod’s title: The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World. In parallel with this developing doctrine of marriage and family life as a vocation, we see a growing number of lay faithful, single and celibate, who are vital contributors to the life of the local church. The place of this state of life within the Church’s doctrine requires further consideration. (IVT 13a) 
The other key element in a person’s definite service is their work. The doctrine of the connection between work and vocation goes back many centuries but the most recent full expression of this doctrine is St John Paul’s Encyclical Laborem Exercens where he states: ‘work constitutes one of the fundamental dimensions of a person’s earthly existence and of their vocation.’(LE 11) Work, as defined by this encyclical, is not only paid employment but also the work of caring for family members, voluntary work and artistic work. The Church values all work as a service to others, whether paid or not. 
Yet work is only one dimension of a person's vocation. The recent tendency to identify completely a person’s vocation with their work is not part of the Church’s doctrine. Historically, the idea of work as defining a whole vocation finds its origins in the teaching of the Protestant reformers. (‘The Reformation and Vocation’ by David Hoyle in The Disciples’ Call, C Jamison ed, 2013) 
In contrast, the Catholic doctrine of vocation sees God calling every individual to love through being a disciple of Christ in a particular state of life and working at the service of others. That is their unique and definite service. 
The Communitarian Dimension of Vocation in the Doctrine of the Church 
While each definite service is lived out by an individual, no vocation is found or developed without a community. In a very individualistic culture such as ours, in Europe, some people can unconsciously slide into a narcissistic understanding of vocation: that is only about 'God and me'. Consider for a moment a concert pianist giving a solo concert: she is on stage performing apparently all alone and she alone receives the applause. She could be forgiven for thinking this is all about her and nobody else. Yet her artistry is the fruit of the dedication of her parents and teachers, of piano makers and composers. The truly great performers have the humility to recognise this. By contrast, some enthusiastic Christians can think their real purpose is to be ambitious not for St Paul’s higher gifts but for religious stardom. As somebody once said of the English, an Englishman is a self-made man who worships his creator. 
By contrast, every vocation has a mother, and the mother of our vocations is the Church. (Optatam Totius 2) This is strong affirmation in the doctrine of the Church. In reflecting upon it, I would suggest that this maternal quality of the Church with regard to vocations is made up of some key qualities. 
The first is the praise of God. In fostering an orientation of praise, the Church creates the context in which the ear of the soul is opened to the call of God. Without this, there is no soil, or humus, in which a vocation can be planted. 'The Church is the house of mercy, and its “soil” is where vocations take root, mature and bear fruit'. (Message of Pope Francis for the 53rd World Day of Prayer for Vocations) 
A further quality which nurtures vocation is that of service. Vocation is a call to selflessness and finds its expression in the service of others. It is therefore nurtured in a community which esteems service, especially the service of those in need. 
Thirdly, and here I speak from my own experience, when there is joy in the Church, when priests and religious are full of laughter and fun, then the ground for the seeds of vocation is especially fertile. The motherhood of the Church, in fostering vocations, then, has these three characteristics: praise, service and joy. 
This inter-active nature of vocation is seen at its every stage. For example, the family is the first seed bed of vocations because the family is itself an unfolding of the life of the Trinity – that sharing in life and love which is continuously creative. Family prayer and the celebration of the sacraments of Christian initiation, the acts of mutual service that characterise family life, the sharing of meals, the conversations across age groups, the role of grandparents, all of these and much more are the interactions that constitute the soil of praise, service and joy in which the Spirit plants the seeds of many diverse vocations. 
Once a vocation begins to develop in the life of a disciple, its unfolding comes through a discernment which takes place in a context of love. ‘The vocational journey is undertaken together with the brothers and sisters whom the Lord has given to us,’ says Pope Francis, ‘it is a con-vocation. 
The whole community of the Church is invited to ‘assume their responsibility for the care and discernment of vocations.’ This means that ‘pastoral work for vocations is related to ongoing formation of the person.’(IVT 26e) The statement In Verbo tuo expresses well the community dimension when it states: ‘vocational discernment happens in the course of precise communitarian journeys: liturgy and prayer, ecclesial communion, the service of charity, the experience of receiving the love of God and offering it in witness.’ (IVT 27) 
This means that all pastoral work has a vocational dimension. Yet pastors can become discouraged nowadays as they see too few signs of priestly or religious vocations. (IVT 6) But it is important that every parish and school, every school and ecclesial movement, every local church, all must have an ear open to the call of Christ in the life of the members of their community. Without putting pressure on people, we need to find new ways to propose vocations to them. This can mean at times suggesting that a man might consider the priesthood. Again it may mean putting to a couple that it is about time they got married. Just a few weeks ago, I was told by a man who had been living with his partner for over thirty years that he was to get married, simply because his grand-daughter asked him, bluntly, why he and grandma were not married! Do children have more courage than we should have? 
Of course we are aware of many pressures on people not to make life-long commitments. Yet other testimonies and role models are at hand, and we should use them. 
Most of us will have followed the Rio Olympics. You may have noticed that Great Britain did rather well! In particular, the British cycling team did outstandingly well. Two of the most successful cyclists were Jason Kenny and Laura Trott, winning 10 Olympic medals between them. One month ago, after their triumphal return to England, they got married in their local Catholic church. Laura issued an ecstatic statement saying that her wedding day was by far the best and happiest day of her life, even better than all the gold medals. She wrote: ‘Surrounded by my loving family I have just married my best friend and now I can call him “My husband”.’ The day after the wedding, Jason posted a photo of Laura, still in bed, with the simple caption ‘Good Morning Mrs Kenny!' All vocations should share in that kind of community joy, a joy shared with others, a joy that reflects the joy of the Church, the bride of Christ. 
Priestly Vocation 
So far I have been emphasising the theological and ecclesiological dimensions of vocation as presented in the doctrine of the Church. Indeed, these dimensions reveal for us the truth that the Church community is the seedbed for all vocations and that prayer and love must form the framework and context for all vocational discernment. Now let us look at the Church’s doctrine as it describes the distinctive character of the priestly vocation. 
(a)  First, priestly vocation has a specific Christological character. Pastores Dabo Vobis gives us the starting point: ‘Christ the Shepherd is the origin and model of priestly ministry.’ (PDV 23) This is the first and fundamental conformity to Christ required for an authentic vocation to the priesthood. In such a vocation it must be evident that a man wants to be a shepherd who loves, rather than a master who controls. The Pastoral Guidelines for Fostering Vocations to the Ministerial Priesthood expresses this clearly when it says: ‘If ministerial priesthood does not find its origin in this love, it collapses into being the performance of a function, rather than the gift of the service of a shepherd who offers his life for the flock.’ (PG 6) 
I add a personal reflection to that. When an experienced English diocesan vocations director was asked recently to describe the qualities he looked for in a candidate for the priesthood, he replied that the first quality is simple: ‘Turn up!’ By this he meant that the man who wants to be a priest must turn up at the time he agreed to meet the vocations director. He must turn up for the events that he says he will attend, because turning up is a large part of the life of a parish priest: Turning up on time to say Mass, turning up to visit the sick, turning up to say his office, turning up to meet his brother priests. It may not sound much, but turning up is the humble key to much of the priestly life. This simple insight is another way of expressing Christ’s invitation to leave all and follow him with the freedom of spirit needed to fulfil the apostolic mission that he entrusted to the apostles. (Presbytorum Ordinis 2) This simple personal experience reflects the Church's doctrine of vocation. 
A further Christological character of the priestly vocation is expressed in the teaching of the Church that ‘… the priest, as well-attested by the doctrine of the character of Sacred Orders, is configured to Christ the Priest who enables him to act in the person of Christ the Head and Shepherd.’ (PG 6) How might we understand ‘configured to Christ the Head’? 
There is no doubt that this is perhaps the most difficult aspect of the calling of the priest. In the tradition of the Church, this aspect of her teaching is a basis for the respect and leadership that is granted to the priest. But too often the priest can see this respect and reverence as an affirmation of his own opinions, his preferences, his tastes over those of other people, especially over those to whom he has been called to minister. Yet the entire point of priestly authority, or headship, is that it must be that of Christ and only that of Christ. Disputes in a parish or community can only be resolved when they are referred to Christ and to the patterns he teaches us. The pattern of Christ's authority is twofold: it is to do the will of the Father, and to see authority always exercised in humble service. This is the Headship of Christ to which every priest is to conform himself. 
(b)  A second theological quality of the priestly vocation is its ecclesiological character.  Here I quote again from the Pastoral Guidelines of 2012, paragraph 6: ‘This first dimension of the Sacrament of Orders, its Christological character, forms the basis of its ecclesiological dimension. Inasmuch as it is necessary that the Church herself is called together by the Risen Christ, priests are given the ability by the Sacrament of Orders to be effective instruments for the building up of the Church, by means of the proclamation of the Word, the celebrations of the sacraments and guiding the People of God.’ (PO 4-6) Without these gifts the Church would lose her identity.  Ministerial priesthood is thus the vital and key point for the Church’s existence, inasmuch as it is the effective sign of the priority of grace by which the Risen Christ builds up the Church in the Spirit. (PO 15)  Thus, the ministry of the priest is always an ecclesial ministry. Its expression in the service of Word and Sacrament, in leadership of the parish community, in obedience to the bishop and, according to the mind of the Church, in a celibate way of love are significant demands on the life of a man. For this reason, the Church has the right and duty to discern vocations to the priesthood, and has the right and duty to insist on personal qualities necessary for this ministry. 
Here we can add a further element to this ecclesial dimension of priestly vocation. The priest, as servant of the Church, seeks to express the sacramental gift of priesthood in the reality of a life configured to Christ’s mission which has become the universal mission of the Church. The Pastoral Guidelines puts this well. ‘Availability for mission defines the truth of the priest in each of his activities. This means developing an inner structure and a way of being, more than a way of doing, that is distinguished by its courage in going beyond any kind of particularity in order to open one’s heart to the needs of the new evangelisation.’ (PG 10) 
This emphasis on mission and on 'a way of being', a very precise phrase, invites me to add remarks taken from the experience of priests in my own country of England. 
In the period of the persecution of the Catholic Church in England during and after the Reformation, English secular priests were referred to as missioners. They accepted that name with pride and at their ordination in seminaries, in Rome, Douai and elsewhere, these young men committed themselves to the English mission, knowing that once they arrived in England their ministry could be over in a matter of hours, weeks or months and they would then be arrested, tortured, and in all probability put to death. They knew that in those years of persecution it was an act of treason to be present in England as a Catholic priest. Indeed, it was a state of life punished by the most cruel of deaths. Priests at that time were executed not for what they did, but simply for who they were. Their very 'way of being' carried with it the death penalty. Today, in different circumstances, this same freedom of heart and strong sense of identity enables many priests to be missioners of a New Evangelisation often in countries far from their homes. For this history and for this present we thank God! 
(c)  The third theological aspect of the priestly vocation that we must note is that this vocation is deeply rooted in the life of the Trinity: its Trinitarian character. Here we apply directly to the priestly vocation those aspects of the Trinitarian character of vocation which we noted earlier. It is worth to repeat, then, that every priestly vocation is a call from the Father. Thus, in the heart of the priest is the consolation and challenge of knowing that he has been called by the Father for one sole purpose: that the Father may give him to the Son, as a gift of the Father, to be a companion for Jesus forever in the mission entrusted to the Son by the Father. This, for me, is the deepest meaning of priesthood: that it is the will of the Father that my hands, my voice, my actions, are given to the his Son so that, in the power of the Holy Spirit, they may be channels of God's grace for all to whom I minister. Understanding priestly vocation in this Trinitarian manner makes many things clear, but especially that the purpose of faith, the thrust of grace, is to draw every person into the very life of God himself, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, there to find fulfilment and eternal happiness. 
As noted earlier, this Trinitarian dimension of vocation also implies a life in which inner communion and outward mission are integrated. For the priest this is explicit in his daily life of prayer and service. He seeks overtly, in his priestly life, both to be close to the Lord and to be a channel for the work of the Holy Spirit in sacramental ministry and in the service of love, given and received, in his daily ministry. For this to be possible, a man must have been formed in the life of the Spirit before entering seminary. Presbyterum Ordinis states: ‘Pastoral ministry for vocations to ordained ministry is directed at generating men of communion and mission, capable of being inspired by the “new commandment” (John 13:34), the source of the “spirituality of communion”.’ (PO 7) This reminds us that the everyday task in the life of the priest is to combine the deepening of that communion in the Lord, in both its personal and communitarian sense, with the energetic engagement with mission, with the proclamation of the faith in word and deed, in every time and place. The faithful priestly vocation is indeed always to the glory of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. 
These Christological, ecclesiological and Trinitarian dimensions of the priestly vocation constitute the core of the Church's teaching on vocation. 
The Churchs Doctrine of Vocation in Practice 
The Church’s documents on vocation and especially on priestly vocation contain so much more than this quick overview of her doctrine has been able to convey. Many attempts are made to express this core doctrine in more accessible terms and to link this doctrine to practice. The National Vocations Framework for England and Wales is one example. We have copies available for you to pick up at the end of this session. It takes the Church’s fundamental doctrine on vocation, as I outlined, and generates an agreed, simple definition of vocation. With that definition as the foundation, it outlines some steps that a diocese or a parish can choose to take in promoting a culture of vocation, knowing that support is available if they want to take those steps. 
In the documents of the Church there are many other practical indications about structures, expectations, roles, etc., needed for the promotion of vocations. But these are not truly part of the doctrine of the Church, although they are certainly part of her wisdom. 
In conclusion, come back with me to the chapel in San Luigi dei Francesi and the paintings of Caravaggio. The second of the three paintings is the Inspiration of St Matthew. Here we see Matthew the Evangelist, writing the Gospel, simply clothed and possessing only a pen. In responding to the call of Jesus, he left behind all the gains and profit of being a tax-collector and brought with him, into the service of the Lord, only his best gift: his pen. We are surely to do the same: give our best abilities to the Lord, in our ministry to his people. 
The third picture is the Martyrdom of St Matthew. Following an ancient tradition, it depicts Matthew, now dressed in vestments and celebrating Mass, being slain before the altar.  His blood runs into the dark foreground of the painting, interpreted by some as flowing into a baptismal pool, constructed at the foot of an altar according to the detailed requirements laid down by Charles Borromeo in the Milan of Caravaggio's youth. Matthew’s blood mingles, as it were, with the blood of Christ and becomes the source of our rebirth in baptism. 
Today it is impossible to see, or imagine, this painting without thinking of Fr Jacques Hamel, killed on 26th July at the foot of the altar where he had just celebrated Mass. 
Here is an image of the fulfilment of the priestly vocation. Fr Jacques, at the age of 85 years, continued to serve in the church long after the age at which he could have stepped down. His love of the priesthood and the love in which he was held by the people, shown so clearly at his Requiem Mass, moved him deeply to continue his ministry, even unto death. The witness of his daily life as a priest life, I suggest, is summed up in the manner of his death: on his knees, before the altar, in the very position he had taken when he was ordained. 
Our struggles are different but we too have to fight, each day, to keep fresh the original call and inspiration which brought us to our knees at the moment of our ordination. We too want to bring that dedication to the moment of our death, for death is the final call of our pilgrimage, the final vocation, to which we want to respond with humble integrity and loving trust in the Lord. It is he who calls us to life, to our ministry and through death into his presence forever. That is our enduring hope and it is indeed the joy of the Gospel we proclaim. 
I thank you for your attention.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Orphans and the Pious House of the Annunciation

from: "Acts and Processes of the Sanctity and of the Miracles of the Venerable Jerome Emiliani", Somascan Fathers, edited by Fr.Remo Zanatta, Houston, TX 2015. P.98-100.

The institution of the orphans girls, also founded by Miani, was near the converted. The church was dedicated to the Announciation.
The first witness to be interrogated was Barbara Zanchi, daughter of Vincenzo and Elisabetta, she was from Redona. She was 45 and was accepted in the pious house at 7. She was in charge of the hand-looms.
Domenica Gavazzi of Bergamo was 42 and entered the Annunciation at 10. Her father was Giovan Battista, the mother Isabetta. She was in charge of the food and sewing teacher.
Anna Gabinali, or Gabuziali, of Bartolomeo and Maddalena. She was from Bergamo. She entered at 7. She was 39. Her duty was to keep in order the cloth.
These three witnesses were called to depose again in the apostolic process respectively on the 7th, 17th, and 18th of February, 1625. The second deposition is, in general, more abundant in news and details not only about Miani but the life itself of the orphans and institution. In the apostolic process other three orphans were interrogated who had received healing attributed to the intercession of St. Jerome: Giovanna Adobati, of Cristofoto and Antonia, born in Venice, 56, who used to help the teachers. Brigida Pellegrini of Celanella, daughter of Giobbe and Lucrezia, 47, in charge of the garden and of medicating. Maddalena Barili, 30, born in Bergamo in Borgo San Leonado, daughter of Rocco and Maddalena, who used to work at the hand-looms.
Also these depositions are rather generic. The old ladies had repeatedly narrated the facts of Miani’s life, but the young did not always put “enough fantasy”. In the recalling there remained especially the extraordinary facts, as the one of the bread. There are then the usual testimonies of general character: he was a men of holiness and bounty of life; in vile dress he used to do good and holy deeds, to bring back to good life the dissolute persons and build pious institutions.
In the apostolic process are not missing more particular news; he used to come often to the house of the orphan girls, which then was in the quarter of Pozzo Biano, to review “the actions”; among his friends there was a priest from Vicenza, a certain Angelo della Cera, a father Gelmo; he used to eat only bread and the worse giving the good one to the poor; he used to wear a black short cassock, a big leather pair of shoes and on the head hair “which were not beautiful”; for mortification he was wearing a low, small round cap called “bretignolo”; he was a strong, animated man; he had taught one of the mothers how to medicate especially the ring worm: before dying he wanted to wash the feet to all orphans one of whom, while dying, saw the luminous throne which would have received his father Jerome, he used to wear cloth he carried the cilice, he was sleeping on the bare ground.
Among the old ladies of the institution of the orphan girls the recalls are especially regarding sister Buona and sister Scolastica.
Sister Buona was born between 1515 and 1520. She died in 1593 about 80 year old. She had known Miani and many times talked to him. She had been a mother of the pious institution, “a completely spiritual woman, a good and exemplar life who was making many prayers.”
Scolastica died in 1610 about 90 years old, Father Vincenco Gambarana had entrusted to her the direction of the orphan girls; she kept that duty for many years. “She was a spiritual woman of very great devotion and attending with diligence to the government of the institution; she left a very good memory of her deeds and in the institution she is thought of holy life; she was making very many prayers”.
These two women among the first orphans gathered by Miani, besides preserving the memory with their word and testimony with their life, the bounty of their master, alimented in the hearts of the youngest a true devotion toward the founder.

The depositions give to the processes testify to that as well as the narration of the graces attributed to the intercession of St. Jerome; the sacks of bread deposited at the door while the whole community turns to him in prayer, or the basket of “fresh, white, beautiful” bread and great cheese in it, or the bag of money in a moment of need such as to induce mother Scolastica to pawn the chalice, and then the healings of Giovanna Adobati, Brigida Pellegrini and Maddalena Barili.

Somascan Fathers

Historical Notes about the General Archive

Historical Notes about the General Archive

The General Archive was located in Pavia, St. Maiolo Community, from 1569 until 1810, which was where Father General used to reside. In 1810 the Congregation experienced the tragic event of the Napoleonic suppression. Knowing that government was coming to take possession of everything that belonged to our Congregation, our fathers living in Pavia quickly tried to save all they could: documents, books and manuscripts were thrown into bags and brought to some friends who were in the same city of Pavia.
Some years later, Father Quarti recovered those bags and brought everything to Somasca, to Father Maranese, who had remained in Somasca as pastor of the parish.
In 1823, the Somascan Congregation arose out of the Napoleonic suppression, and in 1829 the first General Chapter was held in Genova, at the Church of Maddalena. In  that particular chapter our fathers also discussed where to place the General Archive. Three options were proposed: the first one was Como, “Gallio College”, the second was Somasca, at the “Mother House”, and the third option was Genova, “Maddalena”. Unanimously,  Maddalena was chosen because Genova was a quieter region in Italy at that time, compared with Milan and all over Lombardia in general.
Therefore, from Somasca all that remained from the Original General Archive was sent to Genova, at the “Maddalena Community”. Only the Letters of Saint Jerome Emiliani were kept in Somasca.
In the following years, the local superior of the “Maddalena” used to take care of the General Archive. For the most part the Archive was kept in a small room, sometimes not cared for very well.
In 1910, Father Stoppiglia (local superior of the “Maddalena”) requested permission (and it was granted) from the Father General to put the Archive in order. The Father General at that time was Father Pietro Pacifici, who later became Bishop of Spoleto.
Father Stoppiglia not only put  the General Archive in order, but he also published documents, searched for lost manuscripts, and edited different books. When Father Stoppiglia died in 1835, his assistant Father Marco Tentorio  passionately and strenuously continued this delicate and important task of taking care of the General Archive.
In 1946, father Marco Tentorio was named General Archivist by Father Giuseppe Brusa,  Father General of the Congregation. Father Tentorio began to travel all over Italy, visiting many communities, libraries, museums, and private collections, trying to organize the General Archives, which little by little grew in size so much that the current location was not enough anymore.
In 1973, Father Fava, Father General, approved the new expansion of the General Archive. From a small room, including hallways and a few “piles of documents placed in some corners,” the General Archive was moved to a different floor of the “Maddalena”, spacious and more organized.
After the death of Father Marto Tentorio, the Archive was entrusted to the local superior (Father Beccaria, 1993-2005).
On October 2005, the new General Archivist was nominated, Father Maurizio Brioli.
A decision was made to move the General Archive to Rome, in the General House, where it is currently located; the process was completed in 2008.

Some bibliographical references for the General Archive:
1.         1910 - 1935: Father Stoppiglia was in charge of the Archive. The reference is AMG (Archivio Maddalena Genova)
2.         1935 - 1973: Father Marco Tentorio was the General Archivist. The reference continued to be AMG. From 1973, a new reference is used: ASPSG (Archivio Storico Padri Somaschi Genova)
3.         2005 - today: Father Maurizio Brioli introduces a new and modern reference: AGCRS (Archivio Generalazio Chierici Regolari Somaschi). This is done in order to follow the system that all the General Archives are using (AG = Archivio Generale + our Congregation official reference = CRS)

Brief History of the Somascan Order



The Somascan Order is part of the religious movement that developed in the midst of the Christian renewal in the sixteenth century. Founded in 1532, it is second in the chronological series of the Orders of the Clerics Regular. In 1525 at Rome St. Cajetan Thiene started the Theatines; in 1532 St. Jerome Emiliani founded the Somascans in Venice. They are followed by the Barnabites of St. Anthony Maria Zaccaria in Milan, and by the Jesuits of St. Ignatius at the chapel of St. Denis, Montmartre, in 1534.
The times with their changed social and cultural conditions, called for variety of activities; they required active spreaders of the faith, who would indeed come from organized bodies, but who would mix with the world and deal with the world. Hence a double aspect of these Orders of the Clerics Regular. Their members were true religious, who took the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Their poverty was even more absolute than that of the Franciscans: they lived in common and austerity. They all wore the black cassock of the secular priests. They all engaged in the same kind of outside work and apostolate. While first attending to the material needs of the sick, the poor, the illiterate, they found a way to their soul and raised them up towards God. Finally, they realized that the pope and the ecclesiastical authority could effect a thorough reformation and, therefore, they made themselves the direct helpers of the Holy See and the Bishops upon whom they immediately depended.
All the religious orders born in the sixteenth century are influenced by the Oratory of the Divine Love. At that time pious and religious confraternities were founded in several parts of Italy. One of them appeared in Rome in 1515, which was called the Oratory of the Divine Love. The attention of its members was turned toward the inner renewal of the religious life. The best way of spreading the religious renewal was to reform themselves through pious exercises, prayer, through the reception of the sacraments and the performance of works of charity. Humble and modest, they merely wished to set a good example. Several Christian humanists belonged to the Oratory. Their association was morally, socially and intellec­tually distinguished. It was soon joined by two men who were both to influence deeply the future of the Church: St. Cajetan Thiene and Cardinal GianPietro Carafa (later, Pope Paul IV), the spiritual director of St. Jerome Emiliani.

THE FIRST SOMASCAN CHAPTER in 1533: the Chapter of the mats of straw.

It is the heart of the summer 1533. Around Merone the harvest is almost finished. The moon rises on the sleeping countryside. A few men walk noiselessly along the deserted field. They look like conspirators. They suddenly stop and sit on clusters of millet that are scattered on the ground. These men are going to hold a council, like on the eve of a battle, trace a plan, and regulate a battle.
At the same hour in the world a conspiracy is being plotted, inspired by ambition and cupidity. But these evening walkers are the companions of the Divine Love, the friends of the Lord Jesus, and the Holy Spirit guides them.
It is a long time since Jerome heard the call for help. And long, since did he answer. But now he is asked for more. Two questions must find answer this night: What more should he do for the love of God? What more should he do for his neighbor?
Men of different talents united in Merone to associate themselves with the servant of God in the help of their neighbor. There are priests and lay people. Jerome, who always judged himself unworthy of receiving the Holy Orders, consults the first ones with a profound respect. Altogether they plan land­marks, establish a program; little by little a conclusion is reached. What a clear and inspiring evening! The condottiere calls for a council the members of his flock, and forms a regular militia glorious through the centuries in Christ's army. Seated on straw and scornful of the ancient emblems of the dynasty of the Emiliani, Jerome founds a new family and takes a new coat of arm: Christ carrying the cross, and a motto: 'My Burden is Light', and the title: 'The Compagnia of the Servants of the Poor.'


The good grain will abound. Now there must be a cradle, which will be the mother-house, the novitiate, the residence of the disciples of St. Jerome. Nevertheless, Jerome is far from thinking that he has founded a religious order. He thinks of a small institution, a fraternity, a company like that of the Divine Love.
Later on, accompanied by a few children, Jerome crosses the St. Martin Valley. Some small villages bordered by ponds, surrounded by mountains, attract him. Splendid scenery! But at Vercurago where his friends offer him the hospitality he does not stay. The spot is not deserted and silent enough, while the neighboring village seems favorable to peaceful contemplation.
No one can move heaven and earth without kindling the hatred of Satan. Jerome is struck by the malevolence of a wealthy man: "Out of here, starving beggar! No tramp in my territory!" Jerome does go away in search of another house. In the gentle light of autumn here is a village on the edge of a lake, protected by a mountain, Somasca. Suddenly Jerome stops. Without difficulty he obtains from the Ondei family a house. It is not a resting place, but a point of departure. The converted soldier of New­
Castle has found his headquarters. Near him, men are going to realize their vocation and work for the glory of God.


The second assembly was held in Somasca. The moment had come to give the institute stable regulations inspired by the statutes of the Divine Love, by the Benedictine ideal expressed in the motto: Ora et Labora.
In the house of the Ondei convened men of different social classes, priests and lay people, dressed humbly. The name of 'The Compagnia of the Servants of the Poor' was definitely adopted and many decrees were approved by the assembly. The administration of the institutions would be assigned to some honest and capable laymen; thus the religious members would be free for their spiritual apostolates. As for poverty, they agreed unanimously to refuse anything that could constitute an assured income, the religious becoming firm in the desire to live with the unique trust in the Divine Providence. For the same reason, the servants of God sould never accept family inheritance of those who would become members of the community. They engaged themselves to live by daily alms. They would receive the Holy Orders, recite together the divine office, would preach the gospel and hear confessions.
The great concern of Jerome was always the renewal of the Church for which he composed a prayer that the children said daily: "Dear Father, our Lord Jesus Christ, we ask of your infinite mercy to return the Christians to the state of sanctity that showed forth at the time of the Apostles."


By the Bulla of June 6, 1540 Pope Paul III approved the newly-born Institute and gave faculty to elect superiors, to call for a general chapter, to issue the constitutions.
In 1565 a prelate of twenty-seven years of age, Charles Borromeo, made a solemn entry to Milan. He entrusted the Somascans the direction of St. Maiolus College in Pavia. A few months later, the young Arch­bishop of Milan made an official visit to the tomb of the Father of the Poor, opened the coffin and incensed the relics. It was the first ecclesiastical approval of the sainthood of Jerome Emiliani.
In December 6, 1568 the Society was officially named "The Order of the Clerics Regular of Somasca" by Pope Pius V, once Jerome's friend in Pavia.
In the region of Lombardy as well in Venetia the example of Jerome Emiliani continued to stir enthusiasm. However, it is only in 1747, under the pontificate of a Somascan alumnus, Pope Benedict XIV, that the ceremony of the beatification took place in the Vatican Basilica. Twenty years later, the 16th of July 1767, Clement XlII proclaimed saint Jerome Emiliani.
The 24th of May 1921 by a decree of the Congregation of the Rites, Pope Benedict XV granted
the Somascan Order the privilege of venerating the Blessed Mother under the name of “Maria, Mater Orphanorum”, “Mary, Mother of the Orphans”.
1928 Pope Pius XI proclaimed solemnly St. Jerome Emiliani "Father of the Orphans and Univesal Patron Saint of Needy Youth".
Through calamities and difficulties of any kind that have developed during the four centuries of history the Somascan Order has never ceased its apostolate for the needy youth. St. Jerome has now on earth those numerous hands and arms of which he has dreamed. His disciples have founded seminaries, houses of education, colleges, professional schools, workshops in Italy, in Switzerland, in Spain, in Central America, in Mexico, in Colombia, in Brazil, and in the United States of America. In Belgium exists a branch of the Somascan Order since the Hieronymieten dedicate themselves to teaching and to the care of the sick under the patronage of St. Jerome Emiliani. They are established in the Oriental Flanders, at St. Nicholas-Waas, Gand, Beveren-Waas, Lokeren, Maldegem, Sleidinge, Stekene. These religious members address to the Founder of the Congregation of the Servants of the Poor this beautiful prayer: "Your hands were instruments of prayer and charity. Teach us to pray and love in spirit and truth”.

Provident Father

Provident Father,
You call the young adults by name from different families, cultures, and pasts - each of us unique and made in your image, blessed and challenged with the different gifts given to us by you.
You call us to be one.
You call us to be perfect.
You call us to be merciful.
You call us to be holy. 

You call us to be your adopted children. Lord, grant that, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Orphans, under whose mantle we find protection , we remember that you said you will not leave us as orphans,  but will be with us always . As ones who dare  to call you Father, light our hearts on fire so that we may choose to say "yes" to your love with our entire being and in turn share ourselves with your other children - our brothers and sisters, especially those who are suffering.
Grant that we remain united with those who have come before us and those who will follow in our footsteps, to proclaim your message of love in the name of your Crucified Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.


Friday, October 23, 2015

The Family continues to increase
In April, we were talking about a large number of new children entering our “Lar” after the initial “wave” of children the odd one still kept coming. The last one just came on May 31st, which was the Feast the Most Holy Trinity, and he is the third brother of two boys who had arrived the month before and who live in Lar. The next day, June 1st, we celebrated the International Day of Children, there are now three groups of three brothers who live here.
Fedinho y Samito
Some minutes after his arrival
When it seemed things had stabilized in terms of the number of children, a new child arrived unannounced on September 30. The helpless situation in which he was found led police to bring him to our center, no more documents that a letter explaining briefly the reasons for his admission   and with nothing but a bag of cookies and the clothes he wore, probably given, partly, if not all,  by the same  family services of the  Police. We welcome and hope he feels at home, while waiting for clarification of his family situation and see if there is a better option.
On Sunday, September 27th, we celebrated our patron, the Virgin Mary with the title of Mother of Orphans, we got a surprise: The dairy cow has given birth after months and months of waiting and hearing that she was pregnant or as they say here, “cheia” (full), and we had begun to doubt that she was full.
It is not the “son of the Moon” as the song of the now extinct Spanish band Mecano, but a son of “Cometa” (LUA- Moon in Portuguese) was the name given to the other dairy cow.
The cow
The cow “Cometa” with it´s calf “Treviso”
The name of the calf is Treviso, a name of an Italian city where our patron, St. Jerome Emiliani on the same day, (the 27th) but 504 years before, left a sign of his gratitude before an image of the Virgin for having escaped from castle where he was imprisoned.
That same Sunday, coinciding with our patron, there was also a great celebration in the parish, as 16 children received Baptism, together with another one, who made his First Communion. Congratulations to all and to those who prepared them. Thanks also to all those who helped make it was such a festive, participatory and organized ceremony.
The Sunday before, the celebrations were no less, as we celebrated  St. Peter Claver,
Solemn Mass of St. Peter Claver
Solemn Mass of St. Peter Claver
patron of the  parish, a Spanish Jesuit who in 1610, while still a novice, went Colombia where he wanted to be “always the servant of the black people” (aethiopum semper servus). We had a visit from the new pastor, who had recently taken possession of this parish and another, where he lives. We had solemn Mass celebration, food, and performances, including dance, in which the new pastor participated with art.
It would seem that celebrations also stimulate the cattle, for the night of October 4 saw the birth, by Moon light, of Paz (peace), the new calf of  “Deolinda”.
Mother and daughter
Mother and daughter
The name was chosen to commemorate the Peace Treaties signed in Rome that same day in 1992, which led to the end of the civil war in Mozambique. A date that is still celebrated throughout the whole country.
Football training with coach
Another new feature of recent months is the “football school” which, although without official recognition, is being carried out in our Center, for both boys of Lar as well as youth from around the area, helped by some of the older kids in the Lar. All are welcome to participate The training sessions are  all loaded with a good amount of physical exercise: jumping, running, sit-ups … that ends with what everyone likes the “big jogo”(big game) football match, with several rounds, as the number of students cannot be accommodated  in just  two teams.
Apoyo escolar de portugu├ęs
Tutoring the Portuguese language
Along with the work of sport, there is also an increase in individual work. Seeing the approaching end of the course, and the need to prepare well for the end of cycle exams, a new group has created for all those who, in addition to personal study and educational support during the day, want “something more”. Envisaged mainly for strengthening the core subjects: mathematics, Portuguese … are offered. It is a great success, and done at a time when they were normally resting or glued to the television. Also Congratulations to our new university student, Waite and our seminarian Abel. Win in the fight against the power of the television is not easy, but you are getting there day by day.
Waite and Abel tutoring a class
Waite and Abel tutoring a class

Monday, October 5, 2015

Somascan missions in Nigeria

For five centuries the Somascan Fathers and Brothers have carried out throughout the world Saint Jerome Emiliani’s legacy, “work, devotion, and charity are the Foundation of our activity”.

The Somascan Fathers or “The Company of the Servants of the Poor" was founded in 1534 when Jerome Emiliani called together his collaborators and companions for a general assembly. This handful of laymen and priests adopted an organized structure for the movement of religious and social reform started by Jerome in 1529 in Venice. Their goal was to dedicate themselves to the care, assistance, promotion of poor, orphans, abandoned youth.

The Somascan Fathers and Brothers continue St. Jerome's mission by: living in communities pursuing holiness by prayer and ministry to the poor living in humility and kindness loving poverty and work praying to the Crucified Jesus and Mary Mother of the Orphans being either priests or brothers. Performing different ministries in the Church, such as: care of orphans, disadvantaged and poor treatment of at-risk-youth rehabilitation of drug addicts education pastoral care and spiritual guidance pastoral care of minorities foreign missions youth formation. Working in: group homes treatment and rehabilitation centers retreat houses schools youth centers parishes.

1. Giovanni Ferro Children Village: It is a village for children where our fathers, with local families and volunteers welcome street children who are abandoned and who have nothing. We are building a vocational school, where children can learn a job.
2. Parish with an Elementary School (grade 1 to 6th)
3. Center of Promotion of the Women (young girls are at risk for human traffic to Europe, the prostitution mafia is very active in that south region); we offer a place, support, and job opportunities, teaching trades, skills (bakery, tailoring, along with some basic accounting)
4. Education, formation of young seminarians to become a priest. We have a house of formation where young men can discern their own vocation to the priesthood and religious life.


Friday, September 25, 2015

The Evangelical Counsels Hidden in the Our Father

The Evangelical Counsels Hidden in the Our Father

Freedom is the ability to live out the words of Christ in His prayer commonly known as “The Our Father”. It is in the Our Father that our earthly passage to complete eternal freedom is outlined.  I honestly believe that the only way to be completely free is the purposeful embracing of the evangelical counsels hidden within Christ’ prayer. The evangelical counsels are: 1. Poverty 2. Chastity 3. Obedience (obedience means “to listen”).

“Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” (I love God and He is my all.) “Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. (In heaven there is no marriage as we know it on earth. In heaven we are like the angels Matt. 22:30 this is the evangelical council: Chastity.) “Give us this day our daily bread” (evangelical counsel: “Poverty” that is acknowledging that I am fed by the hand of God daily. My air, my water, my rest, all are gifts from the Father enough for this moment, enough for today. Also, the Eucharist, the bread of life, is the resurrected food which sustains and nourishes the resurrected life, the eternal life, within us John 6:53.)  “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. (This speaks of the evangelical council: “obedience”. In “obedience” I “listen” to Christ within myself and Christ within all, even those who persecute me, I listen for any semblance and/or resemblance to the spark of life within all known as Christ. It is in listening that I preserve the source of this life with great care, carefully guarding the harmonious unity first known in the beginning of all creation as the “Holy Trinity”. ‘I (Christ) was formed long ages ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be’ (Proverbs 8:23). And, ‘In the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ John 1:1). And “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” (i.e. ‘the love of money is the root of all evil’ 1 Tim 6:10 is further encouragement for embracing the evangelical counsel “poverty”. I trust God not goods. I want to be completely free.)

I heard that a Saint said in regard to various prayers and formulas, “After the Our Father everything else is a play on words.”