Thursday, 31 December 2009

Rev. Fr Arnold Van Everdingen, C.SS.R. (1808-1856)

Father Arnold Van Everdingen was born at Cuylenborg in Brabant, Holland, on the 26th of August, 1808, of pious parents. He does not seem to have had any thought of the priesthood when a young boy. There is not much known of his youth and early manhood, beyond the fact that he ever preserved a lively faith and piety and a desire to serve God more perfectly. Later we find him studying Theology in the Seminary at Hagveld. After his term there he was ordained priest in the 39th year of his age, April 3rd 1847. His mother, a most holy woman, assisted at his first Mass, and it is related that she fainted from very joy.

He exercised himself in the duties of a secular priest for three years, and then entered the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. After his profession at St Trond in Belgium on the 8th September 1851, he was sent to Clapham, London, in 1853. Of his short stay there, we read, “His Zeal for the conversion of sinners was insatiable…” “In a short time he overcame the difficulties of English and preached with great fruit…..” “It was wonderful to see the number of persons, quite unknown to him that flocked to his confessional, and all went away from him in peace, testifying publicly, to his goodness, compassion, and zeal for the salvation of souls.”

In 1855, he took part in the great Mission at Kingstown, after which he went to Limerick (Ireland). He showed the same zeal in Ireland as in England, both at home and on Mission, sparing himself in nothing, until Saturday 20th December 1856, when he was seized with fever which obliged him to leave his confessional. Nevertheless, he returned to the same salutary work the next morning, and celebrated the eleven o’clock Mass. It was the last time he offered the Holy Sacrifice, for that day he took to his bed, to leave it no more.

He soon became delirious, but on Christmas Day, God gave him the full use of his faculties; he made a General Confession and received the Last Sacraments. From the moment he received the Viaticum he enjoyed peace and tranquillity until the evening of St Stephen’s Day when surrounded by the Community, praying for his passing soul, he finally expired.

He was the first Redemptorist to die in Ireland, and the first to be laid to rest in the crypt beneath the sanctuary of St Alphonsus’ Church.

The concourse of priests, secular and regular, and of the faithful at his obsequies, showed the esteem in which they held him whom they knew as “Father Arnold.” †


Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Rev. Fr John Baptist Lans, C.SS.R. (1808-1886)

Father was born in Haarlem, Holland, on the 15th July, 1808. He was ordained priest on the 16th April, 1833. He laboured on the secular mission for nine years, taking St Alphonsus as his teacher and model. He found in the writings of St Alphonsus the remedy for an undue severity which a Jansenistic spirit would impose on the people. From being a disciple he became a son; for he entered the Redemptorists and made his Vows on St Alphonsus' Feast, August 2nd, 1843. Ten years later he went to England where he was at the end of 1848 appointed superior at Hanley. In 1851, he proceeded to Bishop Eton, and from thence went to Limerick (Ireland) in 1852, for the Mission in St Michaels.

After the erection of the houses in Holland and England into a province, he became Rector of Clapham, and Vice-Provincial. During his life he filled in a firm and fatherly spirit every office, and endeared himself to all who knew him. His devotion to St Joseph was most remarkable. The desire he had long cherished of dying in the month dedicated to his favourite Saint was satisfied. After a most holy life he died a most holy death, 31st March, 1886, in the 78th year of his age. He had built his own monument in erecting the beautiful church at Bishop Eton. There his body reposes under the Lady Chapel, awaiting its glorious resurrection. †


Saturday, 26 December 2009

Rev. Fr Patrick Furlong, C.SS.R. (1835-1864)

Father's native parish was Bannow, Co Wexford, Ireland. He was born on the 22nd of February, 1835. At the age of fourteen, he went to St Peters College Wexford, where he studied for some years. A Redemptorist Mission, which he attended, was the means of bringing his stay at the college to an end. During that mission, God’s voice called him to the missionary life, and after a short interval the young student left all to correspond with his vocation. He entered the Novitiate at St Trond in Belgium, was professed October 15th 1856, and ordained priest in 1862 on 22nd of March, the day on which is celebrated the apparition of our Lady to St Alphonsus at Foggia.

Father Furlong proposed to himself nothing less than to imitate St Alphonsus , and to this end he copied the resolutions which the Saint had made for the guidance of his life as a priest, and carried them always in his Breviary. He was never without a book written by the Holy Doctor, whose writings, together with the rules and constitutions of the Congregation were the basis of his religious life. When the end came he was occupied in extracting from a new Life of St Alphonsus by Cardinal Villecourt, the Saints practice of the twelve virtues which the rule proposes to Redemptorists to exercise month by month.

Limerick was the destination fixed for him by the Superior He arrived in September, and at once set to work under Father Rector’s direction, for he wished to have the seal of obedience on everything he did. He was never idle, and this spirit of industry accounts for the number of Sermons and Instructions which he had written during his short apostolic life. He took part in eighteen missions, and on these the children were nearly always entrusted to his care. His heart and soul were in his work, and God blessed his efforts. At home he was most assiduous in the confessional as well as in time of Mission.

Although weak in health he was ever ready to help anyone who asked his assistance. He never lost his joyous serenity. From boyhood, it seems, he had suffered from palpitation of the heart. This malady increased with his years. At length it grew so alarming that he had to leave a Mission and return to Mount St Alphonsus, never to leave it again. He got worse day by day, but as his body grew weaker his soul seemed to acquire new strength. No one knew him, during his illness, to have uttered one word of complaint, and he was for ever thanking those around him for their charitable services.

His chest became worse and the oppression he suffered was very trying. To get some relief he had to change his position frequently. At these times he would think how Our Divine Saviour remained motionless on the Cross, and how He suffered oppression in His agony. The day before his death he said to the Brother infirmarian: “We must love Jesus Christ much. I never before this understood what it is to die.” His love for the Blessed Virgin was always great, and his confidence in her showed itself especially at the end. Then he would frequently exclaim, “Oh how good is our Mother, how good! Now I understand it.” His brother, Rev. Fr J Furlong, OSA, came to see him. He was a younger brother and had been recently ordained priest. The Rector, Fr Plunkett, gave Fr Furlong the last Sacraments on the 15th of December, and on Sunday, the 18th, at 10 o’clock, fully conscious, he asked for and received absolution, then sweetly reposed in Our Lord, supported in the arms of his brother, with Fr Rector, and Brother Michael near him.

The chronicler writes; “The deceased won the affection of everyone, and in our house, he spread abroad the good odour of Christ and left a memory full of blessings. All remember his singular rectitude in his judgements, words, studies, offices, and in all he did.” The Most Rev. Dr Butler, with the clergy of the city, secular and regular, assisted at his obsequies, after which his body was laid in the crypt. †


Thursday, 24 December 2009

Rev. Fr James Bradshaw, C.SS.R. (1818-1892)

This Father was one of those who formed the first Redemptorist Community on Mount St. Alphonsus, Ireland. He held the office of Prefect of the temporary church. He was gifted with a beautiful voice and had made a special study of music, so that he was well fitted to form and take charge of the first choir at Mount St. Alphonsus.

Being appointed to help Father Furniss in the children’s Missions, he acquired much of Father Furniss’ art, and to the end of his life, loved to devote himself to that work.

He was born in Lancashire, on the 12th of March, 1818 and grew up amidst the good traditions of that Catholic county. Having made his Ecclesiastical studies in the College of Ushaw, he was ordained Priest in his thirtieth year and, two years later, entered the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer.

About this time God called many Priests to the Congregation who made their novitiate with Father Bradshaw at St. Trond and were destined to do much for its extension afterwards.

From the time Father Bradshaw left Mount St. Alphonsus, the greater part of his religious life was spent at Bishop Eton, England. He loved the quiet of that house, for he was of a very nervous temperament. His death was very sudden. He had gone to bury his brother; on the morning of the burial he said Holy Mass; after the funeral he dropped dead.

This was on the 5th of July, 1892. His body was brought to Bishop Eton, and there, we confidently hope, it awaits a glorious resurrection. †


Monday, 21 December 2009

Rev. Fr Leo Vanderstichele (1825-1887)

Counting from his first Mission in 1851, at St John’s Mission Limerick, to his last one given in the Church of St Nicholas, Dublin, in the year 1884, this Father was occupied in constant missionary work for the long space of thirty-three years. Every year of this time was well filled up with Missions and retreats.

He was attached to the Limerick Monastery, Ireland, from 1859 to 1862, and again in 1871, remaining a member of the Community for five years. He had spent many years in Clapham, London, and in Bishop Eton; the last seven years of his life he lived at St Joseph’s Dundalk (Ireland).

Father Leo Vanderstichele was born in Belgium, on the 5th of April 1825. His religious Profession took place when he had just completed his twentieth year, and his ordination to the Priesthood six years later. His religious life was remarkable, chiefly, for a love of mortification, and for the exactness with which he performed the everyday exercises prescribed by rule for the members of the Congregation.

It has been said that his life, as a missioner for thirty-three years, was one well filled up with work. After this, there were three years, those immediately preceding his death, in which he could do nothing but pray and make acts of submission to God’s Will. Early in 1884 he had a paralytic stroke, which made him unfit for further missionary labours. He died a holy death, on the 8th June, 1887, and is buried beneath the sanctuary of St Joseph’s Church, Dundalk. †


Saturday, 19 December 2009

Br Joachim Kelly, C.SS.R. (1831-1898)

Brother was born in London, of Irish parents, on the 10th of December, 1831. The name given to him at Baptism was Walter. Br Joachim laboured in England, Australia and Ireland. He died at Clapham, on Lady Day, March 25th, 1898, and was buried in Mortlake. †


Friday, 18 December 2009

Rev. Fr James Thompson, C.SS.R. (†1890)

This true Redemptorist was one of that number of holy young priests to whom Almighty God gives very extraordinary gifts of mind and heart to suit them for the exercise of the sacred ministry, but from whom His Infinite Wisdom, for reasons not known to us, withholds strength of body and length of days. Father Thompson was a man of great talent, and a priest whose consuming passion was zeal for souls. His sympathy with the poor, and kindly disposition towards all were remarkable. To him, indeed, the words of the Apostle are very applicable, that he made himself all to all in order to gain all to Christ. And yet Father Thompson’s short career – he died when thirty-eight years old – was devoted to teaching rather than to missionary work among the people.

He belonged to a Scottish Presbyterian family, and was educated in one of the public schools in England. He used modestly to complain in after life that his masters had formed too high an idea of his abilities as a student, and that he had been in consequence advanced too quickly into the higher classes; but in this point his judgment may be doubted. It was not until college days were over, and he had already chosen and entered upon a secular calling that God gave him light to enter the Catholic Church, and when he was faithful to this, a further call to the priesthood and the Religious state.

He entered the Redemptorist Novitiate at Bishop Eton in 1876, and was admitted to the Vows on the 15th of October of the following year. Four years later he was ordained priest, continuing his Theological studies during the year after ordination. He was then for some years a professor in the House of Studies at Teignmouth. During this period when the summer vacations came round for the students, instead of taking some rest after the year's teaching, he was urged by his zeal for souls to spend the time giving Missions.

He was sent to Ireland to teach in the Juvenate in 1886, and an appointment some twelve months later as Director of the Juvenate, may be supposed to have been something of the nature of a trial to one whose natural bent seemed to impel him so strongly to the apostolic work of the Missions. If he felt it as such, those who saw him work in the Juvenate could hardly have thought so, he devoted himself so entirely to the boys. To him the education of those, who, he hoped, would later on do the work for souls so dear to his heart, was a great field for apostolic zeal.

It is told of him that on one occasion when he had taken part in the annual retreat given to the Confraternity of the Holy Family his interest in the boys’ studies became visibly increased, and when he feared that he might seem too exacting, he explained that the little experience which he had lately had of the great work to be done for souls, made him feel that anything that could be done in preparation for that work was not excessive.

But Father Thompson’s labours were drawing near their end. He had become so delicate that the Superiors, following the doctor’s advice, sent him to the warm climate of Australia in the hope that he might there recover strength. It was not, however, to be so. He grew ever weaker until his holy death on the 2nd May, 1890 at the Waratah Monastery. He now enjoys, we trust, the full reward of apostolic zeal. †


Monday, 14 December 2009

Br Charles Moucha (1817-1901)

Brother was Polish, having been born in Retibar on the 1st of December 1817, and professed on the 9th of the same month in 1845. When he died at Bishop Eton, England, on the 8th of August, 1901, he had reached his eighty-fifth year and had been nearly fifty-six years professed. He was the last survivor of the first Limerick (Ireland) Community, and surpassed them all in length of years and profession. He sacrificed himself by prayer and work at his trade, by these means opening to himself the gates of heaven. At his golden jubilee the Most Rev. Father Rector Major remembered him with a beautiful letter of which the good old man was justly proud. †


Sunday, 13 December 2009

Rev. Fr John Antwerpen, C.SS.R. (1822-1853)

Father Van Antwerpen was at the first Mission given in Ireland in 1851 and he was the first of the band of missionaries to go to his reward. He died at Bishop Eton on the 19th of October 1853, how full of merits, our short notice will reveal.

Born in Endhoven, in Holland, on the 29th of January, 1822. He had the great blessing of pious parents, and he grew up under their eyes like another St Gerard. Before he had reached the age of seven he used to shed tears when he heard that anyone had offended God. When hardly six years old, one day he was missed from home. His parents looked for him everywhere and at last, after long search, found him in the Church. He was kneeling in a quiet corner, praying to Jesus in the Tabernacle.

We do not know what passed between him and the Divine Prisoner, but we do know that from his tenderest years, he did penance for sin, and strove to lead other children to practice piety. After his First Communion his devotion to the Blessed Sacrament grew more and more. Even in these early years he is known to have passed hours in prayer in the church.

In due course he made the ordinary studies in a college of his native town. Here he advanced in learning, and still more in virtue. About this time he resolved to lead a life of perfect chastity, and no persuasion could ever induce him to change his mind. He had always wished to consecrate himself to God in religion, but he knew not where.

The Blessed Mother of God, to whom he had always been most devout, led him to the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. He received the Habit on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in 1840. He made his profession on the same feast in 1841, a favour he won by prayer, for his health having given way, there would have been no hope humanly speaking of him making his profession in the Congregation.

He spent seven years in the house of Studies, at Wittem, living a life of great fervour, both when well and when ill; and was ordained priest in 1848. That same year he was sent to England. From the Monastery in Bishop Eton he went in 1851 to Limerick for the Mission in St John’s. There he inherited the name of good Father John, and was known by this title in the other Missions in which he took part. These were sixteen in all. The fervour with which he prayed, his devotion at the altar, the ardour with which he spoke especially of the Blessed Sacrament, impressed all who knew or heard him.

We cannot dwell on the power that God had given him to touch the hearts of sinners. In Letterkenny, for example, so great and evident was the change which he effected in the Ribbon-man that his Lordship the Bishop said, while shedding tears, “I never expected to see with my own eyes so great a blessing of God. “ All in the town and neighbourhood were converted. His simplicity and innocence drew every soul to him. But his heart went out especially to the poor and afflicted. He never measured his strength, which we know was not great, but worked as if he were one of the most robust.

His last Mission was in Wexford. Before leaving that town, when some said to him, “We shall soon see you again at the Renewal,” he raised his eyes to heaven and said, “No no …. I hope then to be in a better place.” He was indeed, worn out, and his superiors sent him home to Bishop Eton to rest. He knew that it was to be for a long rest, and he occupied himself only about his last journey. As he grew weaker the doctor was called in. The physician assured everyone that there was no danger and that the Father would soon be quite well. When he had left Father John said to his confessor, “Father, do not be deceived, I am certain that the time of my dissolution is at hand.” How can you know that:” asked the confessor, “your illness is not dangerous.” He then related how he had prayed that he might die when he had attained the age of our Blessed Lord. “My time,” he said, “is come and I feel that I shall soon die from this illness.

Soon the slight illness turned into typhoid fever. It made such progress that the last Sacraments were administered to him on the Feast of the Purity of the Blessed Virgin, that feast on which two years before he was present at the opening of the first Mission in St John’s. He received the Holy Viaticum on the 19th of October. From henceforth he was so weak that he could only say, O charity! O blessed sweetness!” He frequently pronounced the names of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

After night prayers the Community surrounding his bed said the prayers for the agonising, to which they added the Litany of our Lady’s Sorrow’s. When they came to the words: “Lamb of God who takest away the sins of the world, spare him through our Blessed mother of Sorrows,” his most innocent and beautiful soul took, we confidently hope, its flight to heaven. Throughout life his presence brought a blessing wherever he went. †


Friday, 11 December 2009

Very Rev. Fr Gabriel Hampl, C.SS.R. (1814-1875)

Fr. Hampl was born on May 28th 1814, in Luditz, a city in German – Bohemia (Eger District). He studied grammar at the Piarist School, finished Secondary School with the Praemonstratensians in Saaz, Germany, and then entered the University of Prague where he attended Philosophy lectures for one year. Since he did not pass the examination at the end of the year, he was expected to repeat the course.

However, he was not willing to do that. Therefore he set out on foot from Prague to Freiburg in Switzerland, where he arrived on May 26th 1833, and asked to enter the Redemptorist Congregation. By good fortune the Rector of the House, Fr. Czech, was also a Bohemian. Fr. Czech cordially received the young student, whose academic records and outward appearances did not recommend him very much nor did his outspoken attitudes. But Fr. Czech did offer him admission, and Fr. Czech never had to regret his decision. The indolent philosopher soon became one of the most eager students, and a beloved son of the Prefect of Students, Fr. Neubert.

Until Autumn of that year Fr. Hampl attended lectures in physics and philosophy at the Jesuit College in Freiburg. His clothing ceremony was on October 28th 1833, and he remained at the Noviciate until April 24th 1834. Then, because of the persisting dissention between the Austrian and Swiss governments, the Superiors thought the best course would be to send him to Austria into the Noviciate in Weinhaus near Vienna. After a completed Noviciate he was sent to the University in Vienna to study for another year because the courses he took in a foreign country were not acknowledged at that time in Austria. His records were recognised only as a temporary identification card. Then in Autumn of 1835 he came to the Mautern monastery, made his Profession of Vows there on March 18th 1836, and was ordained a Priest on July 28th 1838.

After he was Socius to the Novice Master for a year in Eggensburg (Austria), he returned to Vienna where he was assigned as a preacher in the Redemptorist Church as well as to minor apostolic occupations. In March, 1841, he was appointed to Modena, Italy, and departed for that city, but went only as far as Innsbruck, where another order overtook him: do not go to Modena, but to Altoetting, Bavaria, where a new House had been founded.

In the following year he became involved with the Missions so that he could take part in prospective Missions in Bavaria with Altoetting as his base. The only exception was the short time he spent in Innsbruck and Vilsbiburg (Bavaria). After 1848 his missionary activity extended beyond Bavaria. As a Mission Superior on the Rhine, in Silesia, Wuerttemberg, Upper and Lower Austria, as well as in Bohemia, he displayed a wonderful effectiveness.

Everywhere Fr. Hampl went he was one of the most beloved Missionaries. He was a truly popular speaker. He did not sweep away the congregation with lofty, enthusiastic presentations, but by graphic comparisons, gripping examples, and practical applications in life. He made deep impressions on his listeners by arresting their attention. His style of speech was popular and noble; his delivery was vigorous and unaffected. All of his sermons were very carefully written. He didn’t hesitate to spend 3-4 weeks and sometimes longer on the preparation of one Mission sermon, especially one teaching dogma. With the greatest diligence everything from beginning to end was written down, and given for the most part word for word. Every sentence and every word was carefully chosen. No wonder that his sermons remained deeply fixed in the hearts and memories of the audience. An example of this is that a Brother could still repeat to this writer the main part of one of Fr. Hampl’s sermons 40 years after the Brother had heard it.

One was not inclined to believe that Fr. Hampl considered himself suitable to be a Local Superior because of his cheerful, droll frame of mind that he always showed around his confreres. But experience proved exactly the opposite. In 1854 he was named Rector of Bornhofen (Schleswig), and satisfied the trust of his Superiors’ to such a high degree that he was retained in that office for seven years. Then he was entrusted (Oct. 1861) with the office of Rector of Maria Hamicolt (Diocese of Muenster), and as the student advisor in academic respects. Then in April 1862 he became Provincial of the Lower German province, which office he filed laudably for 9 years until 1871.

In the Autumn of 1850 at the pilgrimage place of Bornhofen a branch of the order was founded. It was expected to strengthen and continue the splendid work begun in the preceding Spring in the Diocese of Limburg in Germany. The Superiors, however, were not in the position to fill the Bornhofen House with a sufficient number of Missionaries as there were few subjects at their disposal. The hopes of Bishop Peter Joseph Blum, who was very eager for souls, were not fulfilled in the first three years. In order to satisfy the Bishop’s justified challenge to some extent; Fr. Hampl was transferred from Altoetting to Bornhofen and named Rector of that House.

He understood how to remedy the sad state of affairs at the House in every way. Since he was already known as an excellent Missionary, a number of Missions were requested by parish priests and were held with great success. Furthermore, Fr. Hampl made every effort to train the young priests, who hitherto had received no comprehensive instruction in preaching. Through guidance and example he taught them to become eager missionaries. Fr. Hampl knew how to command respect by his valiant character and candid appearance as well as by his extensive knowledge in every social situation without damaging religious moderation and humility. He was listened to readily at Missions, but also at Spiritual exercises, which he held for priests and cloistered nuns at various locations.

In conversation with people of all social classes he understood how to act in a natural but still very dignified manner. In this way he won the trust of high-ranking clergy and also of the laity. The dethroned King of Portugal, Don Miguel, greeted Fr. Hampl after the Mission in Heubach (Wuerttemberg) in a very gracious way. The Countess Hahn-Hahn came to Bornhofen for several days every year to take part in religious exercises under Fr. Hampl’s guidance, and in one of letters she did not think it unworthy of her rank to describe her stay in Bornhofen to present and future generations.

Fr. Hampl also succeeded in improving the material conditions of the Bornhofen House during his years as Rector by prudent saving, but also by setting up ornamental gardens and planting a number of the best fruit trees, which gave the House a more beautiful exterior appearance. Fr. Hampl had proved himself to be an efficient Superior in every respect in Bornhofen, and later on also for a short time in Maria Hamicolt. Then in 1862 he was assigned to an even more important office as Provincial of the Lower German Province.

What qualified Fr. Hampl in particular for this office was his great love for the Redemptorist Congregation to which he had given himself from his early youth. He had absorbed the unalloyed essence of the Congregation in Freiburg and Vienna through acquaintance with the pupils of the late St Clement Hofbauer. Therefore in conversation and in his conferences he referred with special priority to these old Redemptorists: Frs. Czech, Neubert, Schoellhorn, Passerat, etc.

He cited examples of them, namely their zeal for souls, their mortification, their poverty, and other characteristics like these, as well as the miraculous advancement the Congregation experienced since those times.

Fr. Hampl often used to tell of the saintly Fr. Heinzl, his former Rector in Mautern, who displayed all sorts of edifying character traits. Fr. Hampl also told of Fr. Heinzl’s three fondest wishes, which had been completely fulfilled:
1. To be allowed to honour the late Alphonsus de Liguori as a saint.
2. That at least 50 Fathers would be active this side of the Alps.
3. That he would see the Congregation spread also into America.

Fr.Hampl gave great importance to the general well-being of the Congregation. One day when he heard of an unhappy misunderstanding in one of the Provinces, he expressed himself in these words: - ‘I would gladly give one of my fingers if that would remedy this grievance.

By his unremitting efforts he succeeded in improving the material situation of the Province to a considerable degree. In particular, he rendered outstanding service concerning the defrayal of charges to the students at all times. And he did this with great self-denial in that he economised on his travels in every possible way, and went short of bread, so to speak, in order to spend less on himself. With great effort he showed distinct proof of his love for the Congregation by collecting all the relevant reports from the Bornhofen Monastery into a chronicle. Also with bee-like diligence he set up a day to day Provincial Chronicle, which consisted of approximately one thousand closely written pages in the ledger, and which went up the year 1871.

As Superior he was very considerate towards his subordinates. He understood how to show great patience with the weakness of others, and, if a correction was necessary, to delay rectification until a suitable opportunity. Then he would give his opinion frankly and candidly so that everyone understood what was expected of him.

After Fr. Hampl had held his offices as Provincial for nine years with great self-sacrifice and astuteness, he was relieved of this heavy burden in 1871. The two following years he spent in Trier as a Minister and Provincial Advisor until he was exiled from the German Empire in 1873, and so returned to his homeland, Austria, where he spent his last days, in the Leoben House. Repeated attacks of apoplexy had broken his mental and physical strength. The suppression of the monasteries in the Rhineland and Westphalia where he had worked so long, depressed him to such an extent that his earlier bright frame of mind never again revived.

New attacks weakened his mind even more, until in 1875 a severe stroke almost reduced him to an infantile state. He received the Last Sacraments and died soon afterwards on March 1st 1875. May he rest in peace. †

[Translated from German by Mrs Marianne Lang]


Saturday, 28 November 2009

Rev Fr Jean Sibille, C.SS.R. (1910-1944)

Here we present the life of Fr Sibille. Unfortunately the posts are only available in French at present, but as usual we give a short summary of each chapter and some documents in English.

A note written on a calendar page by Fr Sibille:
Monday 7 August
St Laurent de Terregatte

My God, I willingly offer
the sacrifice of my life for France,
for the J.O.C., for souls!
Souls! . . . Souls!!

7 August 1944
Fr Jean Sibille

A Testimonial

14 August 1945
Monsieur Pierre SIBILLE
19, Rue de la République

Dear Sir,
May I above all present to you in the name of Captain Maggiar, and in my own name and that of all his companions in the regiment, our profound and respectful condolences.

Your son has left amongst us unforgettable memories. He was with us in North Africa during the formation of the regiment, in England during its training and during the long period we awaited our landing. His activity was a precious help for the commanding officers. From the beginning of the campaign in France he shared our sorrows: while accompanying to their deaths our first fallen, as well as sharing our joys at the victories in Normandy and at the liberation of Paris.

His discreet and efficacious apostolate and his ceaseless activity, his good humour and his smile made him the friend and confidant of all. The gift he had of always finding himself wherever his presence was necessary, the simplicity and authority with which he fulfilled a task rendered very difficult by the dispersion of his Regiment, have made him appear to us as the very epitome of a military chaplain par excellence.

It is with very profound grief that we saw him leave us – at the threshold of his native Lorraine, which he so loved and of which he spoke to us with such fervour and emotion. His death has left in our ranks an empty place, which will never be filled.

This death is marked for us with the signs of purity and of simplicity which were certainly two of the dominant characteristics of your son's life.

I wished him a final farewell before he was placed in the coffin, in death his face had retained his calm, smiling aspect which we all knew and loved so much in him.

As I told you, and I hope it will be for you a consolation as it was for us, your son died for his country and his Faith in the exercise of his apostolate.

Please deign to receive, dear Sir, the expression of my very sincere condolences and at the same time the assurance of my best wishes.

Captain Martinet
Second Commander of the Armoured Regiment of Marine Gunners


Second Armoured Division
Armoured Regiment of the Marine Gunners

of the decree of 13 February 1945
Official Journal of 4 March 1945

Nomination to the National Order of the Legion of Honour
(under posthumous title)

Sibille. J. Naval Chaplain
"A chaplain whose influence and total disregard of danger commanded admiration. Always in the front line, lifting the moral of all he approached by his calm words.
Already recommended twice, he fell mortally wounded at Flin where he had come to bring aid to two men who were gravely wounded.
Captain Maggiar,
Commandant of the Armoured Regiment of the Marine Gunners
Signed, Maggiar

This citation carries with it the conferral of the "Croix de Guerre" with palms.

Captain Martinet
Second in Command of the R.B.F.M.
Signed, Martinet

Chapter One
Summary in English

Fr Jean Sibille was born in Bouzonville, a little city of Lorraine in the diocese of Metz. Interestingly Bouzonville gave three of its best sons to the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer – Fathers Glaser, Altmeyer and Sibille, and even more interestingly and somewhat strangely, each of these Redemptorists died at exactly the same age of 34 years in 1932, 1946 and 1944 respectively. The mayor of Bouzonville has posted a good number of old photographs of the town which give a good idea of the places mentioned in the early chapters of this presentation. You can view the pictures here.

Father was the sixth child after four girls and then a much prayed for little boy who died in infancy. He had also two younger sisters. Amongst many childhood incidents there is an amusing one of an officers "kepi" or military hat given to Jean by a cousin and which he proudly wore as his Sunday best.

He also had a tender love for animals and a generally sensitive disposition. His father, with some strictness, instilled discipline into his son, something which would serve him well later on. "I was raised by parents both pious and very conscious of their duty," attested Father Sibille.

Chapitre Ier

Allongée au bord de la Nied, Bouzonville, petite cité lorraine du diocèse de Metz, garde le cachet d’une bourgade moyenâgeuse. Son ancienne abbaye bénédictine du titre de Sainte-Croix, fondée vers 1030 par Albert d’Alsace, comte de Metz, et son épouse Judith, incendiée et restaurée plus d’une fois, transformée maintenant en hôpital, continue sa mission séculaire d’asile des pauvres et des souffrants. Toute impregnée des prières des moines, l’église paroissiale, en style ogival du XIVe siècle, à trois nefs, conserve une relique insigne de la vraie croix que le comte Albert avait rapportée d’un pélérinage en Palestine. (1)

La longue liste des quarante abbés de Bouzonville s’augmenta, au cours des siècles, de plus d’une belle figure sacerdotale ou religieuse.

Cette petite ville donna trois de ses meilleurs enfants à la Congrégation des Rédemptoristes, les Pères Glaser, Altmayer et Sibille, morts tous trois dans la fleur de leurs trente quatre ans.

Dans l’automne de 1910, Monsieur Glaser, clerc de notaire et chantre sacristain, voit partir son fils Joseph au petit séminaire de Montigny-les-Metz. Joseph, mobilisé en 1916, connaît toutes les horreurs des champs de bataille de la Galicie, de la Macédoine et de la France. Après deux années de Grand-Séminaire, ses voeux les plus ardents se réalisent. Il est admis, le 9 septembre 1920, au noviciat des Pères Rédemptoristes aux Trois-Epis. Doué de talents remarquables, le jeune prêtre se prépare au professorat en suivant les cours du Collège Angélique de Rome. Muni de tous les diplômes, il occupe la chaire de Droit cannon au scolasticat d’Echternach, avec une compétence et une conscience admirables. Mais dans la chaire de la parole divine, le Père se surpasse et fête de véritables triomphes. Le peuple et des nombreux prêtres, avides d’entendre sa parole harmonieuse, imagée et si riche en doctrine, le réclament comme missionnaire. Les supérieurs ayant accédés à ces désirs, le Père Glaser quitte l’enseignement pour se livrer à la prédication et aux travaux apostoliques.

La maladie de Basedow et la septicémie vinrent arrêter net sa brillante carrière. Terrassé, il demande des prières non pour guérir, mais pour faire la volonté de Dieu. “Mes forces déclinent, mes ailes sont brisées. Je ne pourrai plus voler que jusqu’à Dieu, mon Père. Venez, Seigneur Jésus.” Le 1er juin 1932, âgé de trente quatre ans, il prend son essor vers le ciel dans un dernier chant qui se mêlera harmonieusement aux accords des saints et des anges.

Le Père Jules Altmayer, né le 16 février 1911 à Château-Rouge, mais élevé à Bouzonville où son père tenait un atelier de sculpture, marcha dignement sur les traces de son compatriote. Après un bref séjour au petit-séminaire de Montigny, suivant son attrait pour la vie religieuse, il continua ses études chez les Pères Rédemptoristes. Sa santé fragile et sa faiblesse cardiaque ne l’empêchèrent pas de fournir un beau rendement, d’abord comme professeur de mathématiques au pensionnat de Bertigny près de Fribourg en Suisse, ensuite comme desservant de la petite paroisse de Froidos dans la Meuse où il avait trouvé un refuge durant ces années de guerre. Ne pouvant atteindre les âmes par la prédication, son zèle eut recours au ministère de la plume. Ses articles dans la revue “Le Perpétuel Secours” présentaient une doctrine ascétique solide et profonde dans un style vivant et concis. Toujours souffrant, souvent alité, il fut le vrai Père des infirmes, veillant à leurs intérêts spirituels et même matériels. Préoccupé de fonder des homes pour les malades, il s’en fut jusqu’à Annecy en quête de renseignements et de dévouements. C’est là que le dimanche 27 octobre 1946, le Christ-Roi vint prendre son jeune et fidèle serviteur, chargé de mérites et de bonnes oeuvres.

Et voici leur frère et leur émule, le souriant Père Jean Sibille. Sur la gauche de cette large rue pavée qui aboutit à l’église paroissiale s’élève une maison haute et mince qui s’ouvre au rez-de-chaussée sur un petit magasin de chaussures. Le cordonnier qui l’habite, Monsieur Pierre Sibille, rappelle bien un peu son brave compagnon dont parle La Fontaine.

“... il chante du matin jusqu’au soir,
Plus content qu’aucun des sept sages.
Il n’entasse guère

Un jour sur l’autre : il suffit qu’à la fin
Il attrape le bout de l’année :
Chaque jour amène son pain.”

Et, de 1902 à 1907, chaque année ou chaque deuxième année amène son enfant. Le cher papa et madame Marguerite Nadé, la bonne maman, l’acceuillent avec une joie toujours neuve. Ce sont des chrétiens de vieille souche. Une soeur et une tante de Mr.Sibille sont religieuses de la Providence de Peltre. Mais pourquoi Dieu ne leur envoie-t-il que des filles? Enfin, le 19 décembre 1908, au n° 189 de la Grand’Rue (actuellement n° 19 rue de la République) le bonheur leur sourit : après quatre filles, voici un joli garçon! Hélas ! le petit Gustave préfère la compagnie des anges à celle de ses soeurs qui l’ont pourtant couvert de leurs baisers et entouré de mille attentions. Après deux mois il s’est envolé au paradis.

Les prières redoublent dans ce foyer si religieux. On conjure le ciel d’envoyer un autre petit frère qui se plairait mieux sur notre terre et qui serait un jour officier, médecin, curé, missionnaire, et qui sait, peut-être même évêque ! Le 29 avril 1910, l’enfant prodige fait son entrée en ce monde. Tous le trouvent plein de charmes et de grâces. Dès le 5 mai on le porte en triomphe à l’église pour le baptême. Jean sera son nom. Il sera choyé et cajolé par tout son entourage. En 1912 et 1916, deux autres soeurs viendront encore égayer le cercle familial.

Petit bambin doux et timide, il fréquentera, dès l’âge le plus tendre, l’école maternelle tenue par ses éducatrices modèles que sont les Soeurs de Peltre. Durant les récréations, il prendra ses ébats autour du puits séculaire de la grande cour de l’ancienne Abbaye.

Tel jour de la guerre 1914-1918, un grand convoi de troupes passe devant la maison paternelle. Les habitants sont sur le pas de la porte pour le voir défiler. Les chevaux glissent sur le pavé humide, quelques-uns s’abattent et ont de la peine à se relever. Tout à coup, Jeannot a disparu. On le trouve dans un coin de la cuisine, se bouchant les yeux et les oreilles. Son tendre coeur ne pouvait voir souffrir les pauvres bêtes.

Trois petits chiens lui furent offertes tour à tour. On ne pouvait lui faire de meilleur cadeau. Malheureusement, en grandissant ils tombèrent tous malades. Quel gros chagrin ! Il s’en alla avec ses chers toutous chez le vétérinaire. En infirmier consciencieux et dévoué, il leur administra tous les remèdes. Hélas ! tous ses soins furent inutiles. Et Loulou et Fidèle et Mimi, tous les trois, trépassèrent. Pour Jeannot ce fut chaque fois un jour de deuil où il ne put prendre aucune nourriture.

A la belle saison, Jean sort tous les jours avec ses deux chèvres pour les mener auix pâturages. Les chevaux eux-mêmes ne l’effraient pas. En ces années 1915-1916, les médecins sortent encore en coupé. A califourchon sur le cheval de flèche, Jean n’est pas peu fier de conduire l’attelage de Monsieur le docteur de Bouzonville. Malheureusement, il est désarçonné à la première caracole. L’accident risque de devenir très grave. Les deux chevaux arrière se cabrent et s’emballent. On relève le cavalier qui saigne et crie à tue-tête. La frayeur a été plus grande que la blessure. Cependant, toute sa vie, Jean gardera les traces d’un beau fer à cheval imprimées dans le cuir chevelu.

Tout jeune, il donne déjà de belles preuves de son ardent patriotisme. En 1918, un sien cousin de Rennes lui a offert un magnifique képi d’officier. Un képi rouge ! Ce sera la coiffure des dimanches et des grandes fêtes.

Achille, quoique éduqué au milieu des filles de Lycomède, fut nouri par le centaure Chiron de moelle des lions. Il devint un homme, le plus fameux des héros grecs. “J’eus le bonheur d’être élevé par des parents pieux et très conscients de leurs devoirs,” témoignera Jean Sibille. De bonne heure il récite ses prières au petit Jésus et à la bonne Mère Marie.

“La discipline, dit le vieil adage militaire, est la force principale des armées.” Elle est aussi le principe d’une bonne éducation, pensait le brave papa Sibille qui depuis vingt-sept ans, avec sa hallebarde, sa grande stature et sa longue moustache, maintient l’ordre à l’église de Bouzonville, en s’y promenant en son constume chamarré de suisse. A Jean il n’épargnera pas l’effort dur et soutenu. Il avait bien compris que “rien n’est dangereux pour celui qui est dessous comme la bonhomie de celui qui est dessus” (2). Jean qui prêchera si bien l’esprit de sacrifice aux Coeurs Vaillants parlera d’expérience quand il leur dira : “Pour qu’un gâteau soit meilleur on le saupoudre de quelques grains de sucre, pour bonifier une omelette, il faut quelques grains de sel, pour rendre une journée plus belle, il faut l’assaisonner de quelques sacrifices. Les grains de sacrifice piquent d’abord comme le sel, mais ils se transforment ensuite en sucre et c’est le bon goût qui reste.”

Chacune de ses journées est parsemée de ces petits sacrifices. Tous les matins, il est levé de très bonne heure, pour servir la messe à l’Ecole ménagère d’abord et ensuite à l’église paroissiale. “Si l’effort coûte, l’effort paie. Il rapporte plus de bonheur qu’il n’impose de peine. En meutrissant notre appétit de jouir, le renoncement fait saigner la chair du vieil homme, mais en épanouissant nos sentiments les meilleurs, il fait chanter l’âme du régénéré.” (3) †

(Taken from the life by Rev Fr P. Stricher, C.SS.R. "Chaplain of the Marine Gunners," and typed by Mr Aime Dupont of Flanders.)

1. Allemang, art. Bouzonville, Dictionnaire d’Histoire et de Géographie Ecclésiastiques, Fasc. LV – LVI, col. 284-286.
2. CH. PEGUY, cité par G. COURTOIS, L’art d’être Chef, Lyon, Editions Rivoire, p. 127-128.
3. ABBE TELLIER DE PONCHEVILLE, causerie de Radio Strasbourg, 5 oct. 1938, La Croix, 13 oct. 1938.


Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Rev. Fr Edmond Declerq, C.SS.R. (1865-1932)

Father was born at Rebaix, Belgium, on 3 November 1865 and made his religious profession on 4 October 1885. He was ordained to the sacred priesthood on 5 October, 1890.

The unanimous sorrow expressed at his death by the faithful and confreres who had known him was a vibrant testimony of the good accomplished by this valiant missioner who had criss-crossed Belgium during the 40 long years of his apostolate.

Possessed of a truly popular eloquence, he well knew how to make his Missions and retreats profitable in the search for lost souls and in directing the faithful towards solid piety. God alone knows the good he worked.

These consoling results Father Declerq humbly attributed to the Christian formation he had received in his family home and to those who formed him in the religious and apostolic life. But most of all he attributed any success to Our Mother of Perpetual Succour to whom he had a remarkable devotion, and whose cult he had propagated with unceasing zeal.

He hoped for the strength to pursue his apostolate for a few more years but his strength failed him. He had to cease the good fight – for thus was God's Will, and he passed his last days in terrible sufferings which he bore courageously, offering them to Jesus and Mary for the salvation of souls.

Father died at the monastery of Tornai on 22 May 1932 and was buried in the cemetery of Rumillies.

O Mary, Mother of Perpetual Succour, grant to me thy Perpetual Succour, and make me to ask it of thee with cease. †

[From Father's Mortuary Card]


Saturday, 21 November 2009

Very Rev Fr Bernard Hafkenscheid, C.SS.R. (1807 – 1865) — Chapter III

Doctor of Theology
and One of the Greatest
Redemptorist Missioners of All Time

Written by Rev Fr M.J.A. Lans
Professor at the Minor Seminary of Haarlem, Holland

Summary in English

From the time of their arrival in Rome the two companions sought to be admitted to the Roman College. With the aid of the Camaldolese Cardinal Capellari, the future Pope Gregory XVI and Mgr Caprano, they were speedily found lodgings. Pope Leo XII had greatly at heart the welfare of Dutch students who found themselves in difficulty and he had appointed a priest to take care of them and also offered financial aid for students in difficulty.

They quickly settled into the life of the seminary. The are extant many letters written by Fr Bernard which describe their life in the Roman College. Beelen and Hafkenscheid became ever firmer friends. They also befriended a French advocate and their evenings were often spent in the discussion of various literary works.

The two friends applied themselves very seriously to their studies, appreciating their value, and the value of time, studying, as they were, with around 2000 other young men. Fr Bernard went so far as to write to his parents that the personage whose company he frequented the most was "somebody" called “Thomas Aquinas”. But he did have other interests too – the better writings of de Lammenais before his apostasy, and for recreation the great Italian poet, Torqueto Tasso. Tea was his preferred guide to the Eternal City. During their holidays he and Beeler were able to make several improving pilgrimages.

Fr Bernard's beautiful voice was in much admiration by the college choir – in fact his talent would have led him to the Papal Choir, but for the fact that this office would have required an engagement of 25 years!

His ardent application to his studies was for him the admiration of his teachers and he was regarded as one of the most remarkable students of the Roman College. He obtained the silver medal in Dogmatic Theology for his dissertation against Jansenius' fifth condemned proposition. The medal – one of the most coveted in Rome – was presented to him by the then Jesuit General, Most Rev. Father Roothaan, himself a Hollander. The award was a cause of great rejoicing to the other Dutch students in Rome whose prestige was well boosted by the success of their compatriot.

Father Bernard was also the life and soul of that same student community who were most saddened when their friend "Hafje", as they called him, was not able to be present at their reunions, of which he was the example and the edification.

Chapitre III
Etudes de Bernard a Rome

Dès le premier jour de leur arrivée dans la Ville éternelle, les deux amis se mirent à en parcourir les rues, cherchant la demeure de quelque étudiant hollandais, qui pût les aider à se faire admettre au Collège Romain. Ils surent bientôt qu'ils devaient se rendre auprès du cardinal Capellari (plus tard Grégoire XVI), ou bien chez Mgr Caprano, secrétaire de la Propagande. Leur résolution fut bientôt prise; dès le lendemain ils se présentèrent à l'hôtel du cardinal, munis d'une foule de lettres de recommandation. Son Eminence les accueillit avec bonté et leur dit de se rendre, le jour suivant, chez Mgr Caprano.

Toujours plein de sollicitude pour ses enfants persécutés, le Souverain Pontife avait pris grandement à coeur les intérêts des séminaristes exilés de la Hollande. Mgr Caprano, après avoir reçu nos deux jeunes gens de la manière la plus affable, leur manifesta le désir de Sa Sainteté, Léon XII, que les séminaristes hollandais qui venaient à Rome, poursuivîssent leurs études au Collège Romain; que s'ils n'avaient pas assez de fortune pour se procurer à leurs frais le vivre et le logement, la Propagande leur viendrait en aide et pourvoirait à leurs besoins.
Par une attention délicate, un prêtre, le P. Lacroix, était expressément chargé par le Souverain Pontife de prendre en mains les intérêts des étudiants hollandais. Ce bon prêtre se mit incontinent à la recherche d'une demeure convenable pour ses nouveaux clients, et ce jour-là même Hafkenscheid et Beelen, après s'être fait inscrire comme théologiens au Collège Romain, purent fixer leur tente : Via dell' Angelo custode [1].

Les deux amis prirent, sans tarder, leurs mesures pour atteindre le but qui les avait amenés à Rome. Conduite régulière, peu de rapports avec le monde, fuite des divertissements, zèle persévérant pour l'étude, telles sont les règles qu'ils se prescrivirent, et auxquelles ils se conformèrent ponctuellement durant tout leur séjour dans la Ville éternelle. Il n'y avait encore que peu de temps qu'ils étaient à Rome, lorsque Bernard fit connaître à ses parents son ordre du jour : "Le matin, disait-il, je me lève vers sept heures ... Vers huit heures, nous allons au Collège, qui est éloigné de dix à douze minutes de notre demeure. Cependant, avant d'aller en classe, nous déjeûnons ... La classe dure deux heures et demie et se fait par deux professeurs différents ... L'un est un homme d'environ trente-cinq ans, qui enseigne déjà depuis quatorze ans. Le feu de la jeunesse n'est pas encore éteint en lui. Il joint à des connaissances extraordinaires le talent de les communiquer aux autres. c'est un homme, en un mot, dont je regretterais de devoir perdre une seule leçon. Les études au Collège Romain sont des plus fortes. Je ne doute nullement que je ne passe avec beaucoup de fruit les quelques années que j'espère séjourner à Rome.

"Le Collège Romain est compté à bon droit parmi les plus grands édifices de la cité. On y instruit la jeunesse depuis l'ABC jusqu'à la théologie. On commence par le latin et l'on finit par la théologie, de manière que le nombre des étudiants, grands et petits, qui se rencontrent tous les jours, à la même heure, quoique dans des salles diverses, s'élève à peu près à deux mille. Oui vraiment, nous sommes fiers d'appartenir à un tel collège.

"Les classes finies, nous assistons à la sainte messe dans l'église attentante au Collège. Oh ! le beau spectacle que ces deux mille jeunes gens agenouillés avec ordre dans l'enceinte de l'église ! Après la sainte messe, les Hollandais s'attendent les uns les autres devant la porte du Collège. Quel bonheur alors de se voir et de s'entretenir quelques moments ! Ensuite chacun se retire en sa demeure et étudie dans sa chambre, jusqu'à ce que la cloche sonne onze heures et demie, heure habituelle du diner ...
"A deux heures après-midi les classes recommencent. Comme le matin, elles durent deux heures et demie. Vers cinq heures, chacun se retire de nouveau dans sa chambre et passe la soirée avec ses livres ...
"Voilà mon genre de vie ordinaire. Maman avait coutume de dire que nous étions des promeneurs ou des voyageurs d'Emmaüs, je voudrais qu'elle nous vît un peu à Rome. Ici nous sommes ensemble nuit et jour; nous mangeons, nous buvons, nous nous promenons, nous étudions ensemble; en un mot, voit-on Beelen ? on voit Hafkenscheid; voit-on Hafkenscheid ? on voit Beelen."

Une amitié si intime entre deux jeunes gens pleins de talents devait nécessairement favoriser d'une manière notable leurs progrès dans les sciences. Ils travaillaient avec une ardeur qui ne se ralentissait point. Des occupations incessantes, écrivait Bernard à ses parents, m'ont empêché presque des mois entiers de songer à la maison paternelle ou à des affaires de famille ... Que s'il se répandait le bruit de quelque nouvelle, je ne le saurais même pas; car durant ces derniers mois, j'ai gardé la chambre, comme un ermite, depuis le matin jusqu'au soir." - Souvent même leurs heures de repos étaient employées à agrandir le cercle de leurs connaissances. Une chambre attentante à la leur était occupée par un avocat français, qu'ils ont dépeint comme "un homme de grand mérite, très honnête et très religieux.” Après avoir consacré, le soir, un temps considérable à l'étude, ils avaient coutume d'aller passer quelques moments avec leur voisin. L'entretien roulait alors sur les ouvrages de Lammenais, de de Bonald et autres; de sorte que cette récréation quotidienne leur était de la plus grande utilité. Par l'entremise de cet avocat, ils firent la connaissance du savant dominicain, de la Marche, et du célèbre théatin, Ventura; ils eurent même plus d'une conversation avec eux. Les relations avec de tels hommes durent nécessairement exercer une influence des plus salutaires sur l'esprit et sur le coeur de nos deux étudiants.

Bernard évitait toute espèce de société, afin de mieux jouir de la compagnie de ses livres. Ses parents lui ayant posé la question suivante : "Quels sont ceux que vous fréquentez ? " Il leur répondit : "Vous désirez que je vous fasse connaître ceux que je fréquente ? Eh bien, permettez-moi de vous dire leurs noms. Un des principaux personnages avec qui j'ai lié amitié, c'est saint Thomas, surtout dans sa "Somme théologique". Du matin au soir, il est en ma chambre, et même sur ma table ! Ce saint Auteur n'est pas facile à comprendre. Cependant à force de temps, je me suis tellement habitué à sa manière de parler, que je m'entretiens bien souvent avec lui jusqu'à minuit. Vous ne sauriez croire combien sa conversation m'est agréable. Jamais je ne le quitte sans avoir appris de lui quelque chose de nouveau. Les jours libres, c'est-à-dire le jeudi et le samedi, il m'arrive de passer plusieurs heures avec Lamennais, qui m'est d'un grand secours dans mes études théologiques, mais surtout philosophiques. (Alors la gloire de Lammenais n'était pas encore ternie par son orgueilleuse révolte contre l'Eglise).

"Vous comprenez bien que je ne m'occupe pas toujours de ces études si sérieures : l'arc ne saurait être toujours tendu. C'est pourquoi je rends de temps en temps une visite au poète italien le Tasse; d'ordinaire nous nous entretenons alors de la "Jérusalem délivrée" par Godefroid de Bouillon. Ce n'est ni de la philosophie, ni de la théologie; mais c'est si supérieurement beau et utile, que souvent je dois me plaindre de ne pouvoir goûter plus longtemps le plaisir d'une telle conversation ... Je fréquente Téa, qui a publié une belle "Description de Rome". Pendant les dernières vacances je lui ai souvent donné le bras, et j'ai vu et admiré sous sa conduite la vieille Rome avec ses monuments.

Que vous en semble ? Ne sont-ce pas là de belles et bonnes compagnies ? Je suis sûr qu'on ne pourrait former à Rome de meilleures liaisons. Aucune liaison avec quelque romain que ce soit, ne saurait être mise en parallèle avec les miennes. Je pourrais facilement, si je le voulais, être chaque soir dans telle ou telle société; mais je n'y tiens nullement. Je cherche des compagnies qui puissent m'être utiles pour l'esprit et pour le coeur.

"Peut-être fréquenté-je quelques savants ? - Ah ! oui; il y en a cinq ou six, qui me témoignent une grande affection. Ce sont mes professeurs, avec qui je puis converser aussi souvent et aussi longtemps que je le désire. Eux exceptés, je ne connais presque personne ... mais aussi je n'ai, à proprement parler, besoin de personne. Mes professeurs, mes livres, mes compagnons d'étude, hollandais et romains, sont pour moi la société la plus agréable que je puisse et doive fréquenter. Déjà depuis deux ans je converse avec eux, et je continuerai à m'attacher à eux tout le temps qu'il me reste à passer ici. Personne, hormis eux, ne saurait me procurer des médailles et des grades. (Comme nous le verrons bientôt, au moment où il écrivait ces lignes, son application à l'étude avait déjà été couronnée). Un travail non interrompu, voilà le seul moyen d'avancer et de faire des progrès qui méritent récompense. C'est à Rome que je suis devenu un peu philosophe, comme on dit vulgairement, et j'espère le devenir encore davantage ... C'st pourquoi nous sommes presque toujours dans nos chambres, étudiant de toutes nos forces, sans nous soucier beaucoup de ce qui se passe à Rome ou ailleurs. En vivant de la sorte, je crois vivre comme il faut, et acquérir l'esprit de l'état que j'ai choisi et que j'espère embrasser un jour".

Le temps des vacances était, pour lui et pour son ami Beelen, un temps de repos que tous deux savaient encore mettre à profit. Souvent alors ils faisaient ensemble un voyage dans l'une ou l'autre partie de l'Italie; ils visitaient les sanctuaires célèbres si nombreux sur cette terre éminemment religieuse. Mais s'ils restaient à Rome, les livres n'étaient pas absolument abandonnés. "Vous ne manquerez pas de me demander, écrivait encore Bernard à ses parents, comment il m'a été possible de passer deux mois dans les loisirs des vacances; écoutez combien ce fut pour moi chose facile ... Le matin, je m'occupais à achever quelques traités que les vacances nous avaient fait interrompre; j'avoue que, assez souvent, je devais cesser le travail pour recevoir la visite de l'un ou l'autre ami, qui certes était toujours le bienvenu ! Plus d'une fois, je fis à ces amis le reproche qu'ils me dérangeaient trop rarement. Vers midi, nous nous rendions au restaurant, ce que je n'oubliai jamais de faire; car sachez que, si jamais je deviens aussi ponctuel pour tout le reste que pour ce point-là, je rentrerai dans la patrie comme un modèle de régularité. Après le repas, se faisait la promenade soit à l'intérieur de la ville, soit au dehors; et au coucher du soleil, nous étions rentrés au logis. - Mais les soirées, comment les passions-nous ? - Oh ! fort agréablement. D'ordinaire je faisais une lecture amusante dans quelque poète italien. Ensuite nous allions souper; et alors nous avions des entretiens si animés sur je ne sais quelles matières, que la fin du repas coïncidait bien souvent avec le temps du coucher. Vous voyez que cette façon de vivre ressemble fort à celle d'un rentier ... Et cependant cela ne tarda pas à me devenir ennuyeux".

Peut-être plusieurs de nos lecteurs se feront-ils cette question que Bernard lui-même mit un jour dans la bouche de ses parents : "Quelles étaient donc les récréations favorites de notre jeune étudiant à Rome ?" - Précédemment déjà nous avons dit que, dès son bas âge, Bernard avait eu un grand attrait pour la musique. A Rome, la musique "devint chaque jour sa grande et pour ainsi dire, son unique récréation au milieu de ses études." Aussi était-il souvent question dans ses lettres de la musique qu'il avait entendue à Rome, et il savait l'apprécier avec un goût exquis. Grande était sa joie lorsque, assis au piano, il exécutait avec ses amis les pièces de musique qu'on lui envoyait d'Amsterdam; lorsqu'il parcourait avec eux cette magnifique "Création" de Haydn, qu'il comparaît à une source capable d'étancher complètement la soif de la musique. Il avait fait connaissance avec un prélat romain, qui, contraint par son âge avancé de renoncer à la musique, avait mis son piano à la disposition de Bernard de son ami Beelen et de l'avocat français. Ceux-ci profitaient habituellement de cette offre bienveillante le jeudi, qui était pour eux un jour libre, ainsi que nous l'avons vu.

Une autre occasion de satisfaire son amour de la musique s'offrit bientôt à Bernard : on lui donna place, en qualité de soliste-ténor, parmi le petit nombre de chantres choisis dans le Collège Romain pour rehausser l'éclat des cérémonies religieuses qui se célébraient dans l'église de cet établisssement. Chaque dimanche, dans l'après-midi, on faisait dans cette église le catéchisme aux élèves du Collège; ensuite le choeur exécutait les plus beaux chants italiens et latins. Ce fut à ce propos que Bernard écrivit un jour : "La musique que nous exécutons est si belle, si magnifique, que je goûte de vraies délices à chanter à l'église." La beauté, la sonorité de sa voix fut bientôt remarquée; on accourait en foule à ses réunions, afin d'entendre ce "Cantore olandese", et les Italiens se disaient souvent pleins d'admiration : Che bellissima voce! Che bellissima voce ! (Quelle belle voix ! Quelle belle voix !). Après une épreuve qu'il subit avec succès, Bernard fut même admis à concourir pour l'office de chantre pontifical; mais, à son grand regret, il lui fallut renoncer à cet honneur, lorsqu'il eut appris que personne ne pouvait être admis comme membre de la chapelle pontificale, à moins de s'engager à en faire partie pendant vingt-cinq ans [2].

Une application aussi assidue, un zèle aussi persévérant pour se perfectionner dans les sciences qu'il était venu étudier à Rome, tout en assurant à notre séminariste une large part dans l'amour et l'estime de ses supérieurs, ne pouvaient manquer d'obtenir les plus heureux résultats. Aussi, d'après le témoignage même de ses maîtres, Bernard fut-il un des élèves les plus remarquables du Collège Romain; il avait d'ailleurs avec lui la bénédiction divine qu'il implorait chaque jour, et qui lui préparait d'éclatants triomphes.

Le jeune Hafkenscheid n'était encore qu'à la fin de sa première année d'étude dans la Ville éternelle, quand une dissertation "de seria Dei voluntate salvandi omnes omnino homines [3]," dissertation dirigée contre la cinquième proposition condamnée de Jansénius, lui valut la médaille d'argent en théologie dogmatique. Nous ne résistons pas à l'envie de reproduire presque intégralement la lettre qu'il envoya à ses parents pour leur annoncer ce triomphe. On y voit briller une noble fierté, une joie candide, une vive satisfaction, qui prenait en partie sa source dans la pensée du bonheur qu'il allait procurer à sa famille; son caractère s'y révèle mieux que nous ne pourrions le révéler nous-même.

"Assurément vous avez déjà reçu de moi des lettres qui vous ont été agréables, et qui ont réjoui votre coeur. Cependant, j'en suis sûr, autant que je suis sûr que le Pape est à Rome, jamais vous n'en avez reçu d'aussi agréable que celle-ci. Réjouissez-vous, bon père, bonne mère; réjouissez-vous, bien-aimés frères et soeurs, et vous aussi, amis et connaissances. Mais toutes vos joies réunies ne seront pas encore à l'unisson de la mienne. Quelles agréables surprises nous sont parfois réservées ! Oh ! la soirée du 5 de ce mois (septembre 1829), quelle soirée ! Tous les Amsterdamois, tous les Hollandais d'ici en furent comme hors d'eux-mêmes ! - Mais qu'est-ce donc qui nous a tant réjouis ? - Quelle question ! - Qui donc, je vous prie, ne se serait pas réjoui d'avoir remporté le premier prix de théologie dogmatique, la médaille ? Etre le premier Hollandais qui remporte le premier prix à Rome, au Collège Romain ! N'y a-t-il pas là sujet de se livrer à l'allégresse ? ...

"Le 5 de ce mois, à quatre heures après-midi, eut lieu la distribution des prix. Un brillant orchestre prit place dans l'église, devant l'autel, au milieu de décorations et de draperies de tous genres. Peu s'en fallut que je ne vinsse pour cette circonstance en tenue ordinaire, tant je songeais peu à recevoir le prix d'honneur. A l'arrivée du Général des Jésuites, suivi de tous les professeurs et d'autres personnages invités à la cérémonie, l'orchestre entonna une symphonie telle que l'église en fut comme ébranlée. Le R.P. Roothaan [4], qui présidait, ayant pris place au milieu de l'église sur un trône élevé et tendu de rouge, un des professeurs prononça un discours; après quoi un étudiant de la Compagnie de Jésus monta dans la chaire superbement ornée, pour proclamer les noms de ceux qui, cette année, avaient remporté les prix. Voilà que mon nom est proclamé ! ... Comment ce jésuite parvint-il à prononcer si bien nom si barbare ? ... Conduit par un Père jésuite, je fus présenté au Général, et là, moi, amsterdamois, je reçus de la main d'un compatriote la médaille d'argent ! Lorsque je l'eus reçue, l'orchestre se mit à jouer une pièce tellement animée, tellement gaie, que reconduit par le même jésuite, j'allai presque en dansant occuper la place de distinction destinée aux lauréats ... Mais tout n'était point terminé. A peine fûmes-nous sortis de l'église, que mes condisciples hollandais se cotisèrent pour célébrer cet évènement en grande pompe. Hier soir, ils sont venus me trouver dans ma chambre au nombre de neuf. Nous bûmes du thé hollandais, nous fûmames une pipe hollandaise. Vous nous connaissez assez pour deviner ce qui se passa entre nous ce soir-là. Vraiment, nous n'avons jamais passé à Rome une soirée aussi joyeuse. - "J'éprouve trop de joie pour vous parler d'autre chose. Quelle nouvelle, après tout, pourrais-je vous annoncer qui eût quelque intérêt, après cette nouvelle unique dont je m'empresse de vous faire part ? "

Pour juger de la satisfaction qu'éprouvèrent en cette circonstance les étudiants hollandais, et de la franche cordialité avec laquelle ils applaudirent au triomphe de Bernard, il suffit de lire l'extrait suivant d'une lettre écrite par l'un d'entre eux: "Vous savez qu'à la fin de l'année scolaire, c'est la coutume dans notre Collège, d'assigner l'un ou l'autre point choisi dans les traités étudiés précédemment. Le point assigné est la matière d'une dissertation à faire "sine ullo librorum adjumento.

Ad scholas veniant instructi cum charta et calamis tantum. [5]"
"Outre les scholastiques des Jésuites et les élèves du Collège Germanique, tous les élèves du Collège Romain qui ont suivi, durant l'année, les leçons de théologie, sont admis au concours. Eh bien, dans une de ces dissertations, la médaille a été gagnée par qui ? - Par notre ami Hafkenscheid, qui l'a obtenue, proecedentibus nequidquam Italianis [6]. Que vous en semble ? Cela seul vaudrait presque la peine de venir à Rome. Il faut que cette dissertation ait été conduite avec beaucoup d'intelligence. Je me réjouis de ce que les Amsterdamois ont fait, dès la première année, si belle figure à Rome. Cette médaille suffit à elle seule pour établir la réputation de toute la colonie hollandaise. Nous avons célébré entre nous cette victoire amsterdamoise d'une manière fort joyeuse. Nous nous sommes aussi concertés, et nous avons décidé comment nous nous y prendrons l'année prochaine, si pareil cas se présente de nouveau parmi nous."

Que personne ne s'avise de blâmer ces démonstrations cordiales, ce naïf enthousiasme, non plus que ces parties de plaisir qui réunissaient souvent, surtout pendant les vacances, nos jeunes étudiants hollandais, soit à l'occasion d'un repas commun, soit à l'occasion d'une soirée amusante. L'Eglise ne prétend nullement retrancher toute espèce de récréation aux jeunes gens qu'elle prépare au sacerdoce, ni les obliger à une gravité qui dépasse la mesure de ce que comporte leur âge. Une franche gaité, la fréquentation de quelques amis d'un commerce agréable, peuvent s'allier fort bien à un zèle infatigable pour l'étude et à des efforts soutenus pour la pratique de la vertu. Ce n'est point à tort que Bernard écrivit un jour : "Où est l'homme qui, devant chaque jour se livrer à des études sur Dieu et les attributs divins, ne se permettra pas volontiers de temps en temps quelque délassement agréable ? A la vérité, je suis devenu un peu plus sérieux; cependant, quand l'occasion se présente, je suis encore le même qu'auparavant. Demandez-le à mes compagnons; tous vous diront, j'en suis sûr, qu'il en est ainsi."

En effet, les témoignages de ses condisciples, que nous avons pu recueillir, certifient que Bernard était l'âme et la joie du cercle des jeunes Hollandais, et que leur entrain perdait beaucoup quand "Hafje" (c'était ainsi qu'on le nommait par abréviation) était absent. Lorsque parfois ils faisaient au nombre de dix à douze, une petite excursion de vacances, c'était lui qui réglait tout, qui avait soin de tout, qui déterminait la route à parcourir; et chacun alors de le suivre comme le meilleur des guides. Ces délicieuses réunions ne contribuaient pas peu à fortifier chaque jour davantage les liens d'amitié qui unissaient le groupe des étudiants hollandais. Elles les détournaient de certains divertissements qui eûssent été nuisibles à leurs études; elles leur procuraient l'occasion de jouir largement, quoique d'une manière toujours innocente, des récréations du jeune âge, et aussi de s'édifier par de mutuels exemples de vertu. Tantôt ils s'entretenaient de leurs familles respectives, se transportant ainsi en esprit au foyer domestique; tantôt ils traitaient l'une ou l'autre question concernant leurs études. Il n'était pas rare qu'ils évoquassent le souvenir de Hageveld, des joies qu'ils y avaient goûtées, de l'affection dont ils y avaient été l'objet, et alors revenait toujours ce voeu cher à leurs coeurs : "Plaise à Dieu que bientôt les efforts de notre vénéré et bien-aimé régent soient couronnés de succès, et que les séminaires ouvrent de nouveau leurs portes aux catholiques hollandais !" La Providence divine qui dirige tout avec une sagesse admirable, les exauça au delà de leurs demandes. †
[Typed by Mr Aime Dupont of Flanders]

[1] Vicino alla Fontana Tresi, n° 89.
[2] La chapelle pontificale date du temps de saint Grégoire le Grand. Ses membres sont placés sous la surveillance du Pape et ne chantent que devant lui. Tous leurs statuts sont sanctionnés par des décrets pontificaux. C'est un fait notoire que les Hollandais ont été, pendant de longues années, la gloire de cette chapelle.
[3] De la volonté sincère de Dieu de sauver absolument tous les hommes.
[4] Le R. P. Roothan, alors Général de la compagnie de Jésus, était également natif d'Amsterdam.
[5] Sans l'aide d'aucun livre. On n'apporte en classe que des plumes et du papier.
[6] A ce propos on ne lira pas sans intérêt une note qui nous est communiquée par Mgr. Bogaers, un des condisciples de Bernard, actuellement doyen de Cuick (Hollande).
“J'ai encore entre les mains, dit l'auteur de la note, la liste authentique de la distribution des prix au Collège-Romain en 1829. J'en extrais ce qui suit :

Prix décernés aux élèves de Théologie.
Pour la classe du matin :
1er Prix – Vincent Pecci (aujourd'hui Joachim).
2me Prix – Jean Corley.
Accessit – Bernard Hafkenscheid.
Pour la classe du soir :
1er Prix – Bernard Hafkenscheid.
2me Prix – Vincent Pecci.
Vincent, ajoute Mgr. Bogaers, était le nom de baptême de Sa Sainteté Léon XIII. Il le changea, suivant l'usage d'Italie, lorsqu'il fut nommé nonce à Bruxelles.
Parmi les brillants sujets du Collège Romain à cette époque, il faut encore citer Mgr Vecchiotti, qui obtint le premier prix de théologie en 1831, et qui fut plus tard internonce à La Haye.


Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Rev. Fr Joseph DeMeester, C.SS.R. (1862-1939)

Father DeMeester was born at Roulers, Belgium, on 29 August, 1862 and made his Holy Profession on 15 October, 1882. He was ordained to the Sacred Priesthood on 8 October, 1888.

He was a great and very popular Redemptorist Missioner. His sermons – simple in form but rich in depth, and delivered with an uncommon warmth and conviction, made him a particularly sought after orator.

In the course of his apostolic career which spanned nearly half of a century he preached 1170 Missions and retreats. His varied eloquence touching all classes of persons. Because of his talent for preaching it was his task over many years to introduce his younger confreres to the art of sacred oratory.

He was the director of the Association of the Holy Family as well as the Work of the Foreign Missions. The latter was particularly dear to him and he spread it with a zeal to which many a Missioner rendered homage.

But above all Father DeMeester was a man of prayer. Death, which came on him suddenly at Jette on 10 January, 1939, did not find him unprepared.
[From Father's mortuary card.]


Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Rev. Fr Henricus Ducarmois, C.SS.R. (1862-1939)

Father Ducarmois was born at Ronser, Belgium, on 21 October, 1875, and made his profession on 5 October, 1893.

He was ordained a priest on 4 October 1901 and left for the Congo Missions on 26 March, 1905. True to the voice of God that he had heard, Father consecrated himself wholeheartedly to the Congo. His strapping health and his burning zeal for souls seemed to signal to all a long and fruitful life. But God willed otherwise and wished to call him unto Himself. He was to die within 5 months at the Mission of Kinkada on 15 July, 1905.

The harvest is indeed plentiful but the labourers are few. Leave thy land and thy people, saith the Lord, and come out of the house of thy father and come into the land that I will show you. †

[From Father's mortuary card]


Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Novice Brother Baudouin De Ridder (1889-1914)

Brother Baudouin was born in Assche, Flanders on 5 January, 1889. At his Baptism he was given the name Guillaume. He passed from this world unknown to it, in a most humble manner on 22 November, 1914, at Beauplateau.

But his soul was known to God and became one of those whom God not only takes unto Himself by a religious vocation - but also in his case - by a premature death.

As he prepared himself for religious life - to which he desired so ardently to consecrate himself - the young novice edified his confreres in the faithful and joyful accomplishment of his daily tasks: loving to be able to speak of the Good God - and loving above all to be able to give to prayer all the moments of his day which were left free after work.

God, Whose judgements are unfathomable but always merciful, judged him ripe for Heaven. God sent him death when nobody dreamed that it could happen. He was remembered for his love of Our Blessed Lady, which calls to mind the words of St Alphonsus:
"O Mary, when one dies loving thee, salvation is assured!"

Sweet Jesus, grant unto him eternal rest. †

(From Brother's mortuary card.)


Friday, 9 October 2009

Very Rev Fr Jozef Ghekiere, C.SS.R. (1890-1940)

Father Ghekiere was born at Iseghem, Flanders, on 10 April 1890. He made his Redemptorist profession at St-Trond on 24 May 1908, and was ordained to the sacred priesthood at Essen on 29 June 1916.

He had a warm and simple Flemish nature, which, unacquainted with flattery and pretence, made him faithful to his duty, and full of zeal for those souls entrusted to his care. Interiorly he wept over his own exile and that of others from Ukraine.

He was a loving soul under a somewhat rough appearance. He had been a missionary for the Ukrainians in Canada, Volyn and Galicia. In Canada, he was the superior of Komarno, where he looked after 40 parishes. He gained the esteem and admiration of all. In Volyn, he finished the building of the monastery of Kowel, the first in what was formerly Russian controlled territory. After that he was appointed as Rector of the House of Studies in Holosko near Lviv. There he was surprised by the war. During the eight-day bombardment he stood up for the well-being of all his confreres. All of them were saved, but were exiled.

After much suffering he returned to Flanders upon the request of his Superior. An infection in his veins, caused by great travel fatigue, caused him to stay in bed. A blood clot caused his unexpected death at the Redemptorist Monastery in Brussels on 21 January 1940.

God had accepted his sacrifice! Without doubt, it will bear fruit a hundred fold.†

[From Father's Mortuary Card]


Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Very Rev Fr Bernard Hafkenscheid, C.SS.R. (1807 – 1865) — Genealogy

Fr Bernard's Genealogy

A distant nephew of Fr Bernard Hafkenscheid, Mr Maurits Hafkenscheid, has put up an interesting website which catalogues the genealogy of Fr Bernard himself. The site can be found at
The site explains that the Hafkenscheid family (Hafke = Habicht = havik = hawk, Scheid = Flurgrenze = borderline between estates) has taken its name from the former Havkenscheid castle in the hamlet of the same name near Bochum, Westphalia. In 1340 Deitrich von Havekenscede was vassal of this castle and is the ancestor of a family that has held it in fee until the seventeenth century. There are several indications that his family is connected to that of Fr Bernard.

The ancestors of the family came to Ulft, the Netherlands, under remarkable protection of the Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen family, to which the Count of Bergh belonged. Joannes Fredericus Hafkenscheid, the oldest ancestor in the family file on this site, was employed by the Count of Bergh and was made viscount of the House of Ulft in 1691.

The coat of arms depicts a hawk on top of a hill. The official description (in Dutch): "Schild: in goud op een heuvel van sinopel staande een havik van natuurlijke kleur, met opgetrokken rechterpoot, de vleugels in vlucht. Helmwrong dekkleden en vlucht: van goud en sinopel".

The site is divided into generations. Fr Bernards "spreadsheet" we give below:
While the site is probably relevant only to scholars of the great Missioner, still the fact that it gives some mortuary cards of relatives is a rather unique and personal resource in reference to the life of this Father which we are serializing. Also much of that life in the early chapters is drawn from letters written home by Father as a seminarian to the reading of which we are told all the members of the direct and even extended family and friends were invited by his father, Michael. Thus these are the people who were there and followed the career of their great uncle.

Below are the mortuary cards of Father Bernard's parents and brother. They tell us that his father, Michael, died in Amsterdam on 28 September (the vigil of his name's day) 1846 at the age of 74 and that his mother followed him 5 years later on 23 January, 1851. Fr Bernard must surely himself have had a copy of this card. That of his brother Christiaan is captioned with the interesting heading "Jesus, Mary, Joseph" which is common enough but to which is added also "Thaddeus" in honour of the holy Apostle and helper of the helpless, St Jude Thaddeus. It tells us that he, a doctor, died in 1899, that is 34 years after Fr Bernard. The final image we have reproduced is of Father's niece Maria Johanna who died at the age of 28. The only other direct family photograph given on the site is of her and she died in 1852, so once again Fr Bernard would have been aware of this sad death. †


Saturday, 3 October 2009

The Servant of God Fr Giuseppe Maria Leone, C.SS.R. (1829-1902) Enlarged

(Here follows a more extensive necrology of the Servant of God than previously published.)

The Servant of God, Fr Giuseppe Leone, was born to Nicola Francesco Leone and Rosa di Biase in Trinitapoli, Bari Italy on 23rd May, 1829. He was baptized the following day in the parish church of St. Stephen Protomartyr, and on 1st May 1833 he received the Sacrament of Confirmation from the Archbishop of Trani.

As a child Giuseppe, though restless and lively, demonstrated piety and a tender love for Mary and for Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. One of many boys in his family, Giuseppe Maria was a joy to his parents, always affectionate and willing to follow their guidance. He had remarkable gifts of intellect and memory, demonstrating much wisdom even in his youth.

At thirteen years of age he entered the diocesan seminary in Trani. Giuseppe had already experienced the loss of his mother, and one night he saw an apparition of Our Lady. She assured him that she intended to take him into her care, saying "You are mine."

Thereafter he decided to embrace a more perfect vocation and become part of the Redemptorist Order. Using the excuse of going to the feast of the patron of the nearby town of Cerignola, he went to visit the Redemptorists with high hopes of joining their Congregation. However, due to the delicate condition of his health, he was refused by the superiors of the Institute.

Giuseppe did not give up hope, and eventually through steadfastness and prayer, he received an invitation from the Redemptorists to come to Nocera dei Pagani that his vocation might be considered. After a favourable interview, the Superior General approved his request to join the order, but only after he obtained the approval of Nicola, his father. This approval was not granted to Giuseppe at first, because it had always been his father's desire that his son should become a secular priest.

Upon his return home, his father was adamant and even refused to allow him into the house. Giuseppe went to a monastery of Andria where he remained for about two months, in the midst of prayers and tears, hoping to obtain from God a change in his father's will. Eventually, however, the continuing battle with his father and his relatives caused him so much dismay, that the poor young man fell prey to a serious case of malaria.

Then, in the midst of such misery, he experienced a vision of Jesus under the appearance of a youth, full of gentle majesty. He was filled with the feeling that, although all of his family was against his vocation, Our Lord was in favour of it. Just a few short days after that comforting vision, Giuseppe got up out of bed perfectly healed and unexpectedly received the consent from his father and the approval of everyone else who had previously opposed his request.

At the age of 21 years in 1850, Giuseppe Maria Leone was clothed as a Redemptorist and the year after he made his Profession. Initially he was sent to complete his studies in Iliceto, but later in 1852 he moved to Vallo de Novi because the conditions of the area were more suitable to his health, and there he completed his studies. In 1854 he received the long-awaited ordination to the priesthood.

His ordination changed his life deeply and supernaturally. Considering that his regular studies were incomplete through reasons of ill health, his ability to interpret Holy Scripture and Patristics was considered miraculous. He was unable to join the Missions and was instead continuously occupied with the Spiritual Exercises for priests, religious and seminarians.

Under the law of suppression in 1865 he was forced to return to the family home in Trinitapoli, where he soon gained the esteem of all. There he was appointed director of the congregation of the church of St. Joseph, where he spent long hours in the confessional hearing the confessions of the women. However, the men felt more at ease going to confession at his house, which was often filled with penitents, especially in the time of Lent, when the stairs and hall were often crowded to overflowing.

It became widely known that he could see what lay in people’s hearts and consciences. Father Leone was chosen by nearly all the priests of the surrounding country as their confessor and as the spiritual director of their consciences. He would talk to Mary with real familiarity, and she would often appear, consoling or inspiring him and also dictating entire sequences of the many books that he was to write. He was known to have the gifts of prophecy and bilocation, and was revered by all as a saint.

Events occurred which could only be explained by Divine intervention, and these served to increase the esteem and confidence of the people in their holy confessor. One well known incident took place when the house of the Servant of God was full of people waiting for confession. All of a sudden Father Leone got up, and going out into the midst of all the penitents, he said, "Whatever happens, do not be afraid, I am with you." Not ten minutes later, the strong jolt of an earthquake was felt, shaking the entire house. He calmly smiled and encouraged everyone, inviting them to resume their preparations for confession.

In 1867 cholera broke out in Trinitapoli resulting in many deaths among the people. The disease reached epic proportions, and about thirty people were dying daily. Father Leone, though suffering himself, worked to relieve those affected by the disease. He proposed that the population of Trinitapoli should seek the intercession of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and asked the people to have recourse to her with confidence The people responded with genuine enthusiasm, and began a novena.. At the end of the novena, the cholera disappeared miraculously.

Grateful for such a wondrous response from heaven, Father Leone gathered a collection from the citizens to procure a statue of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart from artisans in Naples. The statue came towards the end of that year, and was accepted by the people with great enthusiasm. This statue was later known as the Madonna of Father Leone, or the Madonna of Cholera.

It was during the cholera epidemic that the Servant of God lost his father. Old Nicola, already advanced in years, was struck by the disease. He died in the arms of his son without anguish, giving up his soul to God. After his death, Father Leone continued to reside in the family home, along with his older brother's family.

In 1877, he became seriously ill, so much so that doctors had given up on his recovery. But all of a sudden, against all odds, he recovered completely. He attributed this to a very special grace of Our Lord, which seemed intended to prolong his life so that it could be the spent for the salvation of sinners. Afterwards, Father Leone not only continued his apostolate of prayer and works for salvation more intensely, but he also offered himself as a victim soul to expiate the sins of others.

His suffering, in fact, did increase more and more, and became an unremitting martyrdom. His pains would grow stronger during the periods in which people gave in more easily to the temptation to sin, as in times of carnival, holidays, etc. Then his sufferings increased so much that it seemed he was near death.

In 1880, Father Leone was called by Superior of the Congregation to move to Salerno. He was ready to obey, and was sadly resigned to go to his new assignment. But the people who loved and venerated him as a saint, did everything possible to restrain him, and at the time of his departure, with tears in their eyes, accompanied him to the train.

He remained in Salerno for the remaining 22 years of his earthly life. There, despite being tested physically by his sufferings, he continued to engage in apostolate works. The fame of his holiness spread everywhere. Wonderful was the good that by his word and example was produced in the souls consecrated to God. From all sides came the faithful came to confess to him, to ask for advice, seeking the comfort of his words and his prayers. Those who could not meet with him in person, wrote letters to which he replied with great kindness and patience.

He soon became the confessor and spiritual director Dr. Bartolo Longo and his wife, founders of the Shrine of our Lady of the Rosary in nearby Pompeii. For twenty years, while remaining on the side-lines, Father Leone was one of the main architects of the religious works connected with the miraculous image of Our Lady of Pompeii. Besides guiding the construction of the great church, he was the soul and the inspiration of the many initiatives undertaken at Pompeii to promote the Rosary, to support religious vocations, and to provide for the newly established orphanage.

Father Leone had lived such an intense and fruitful life, and had become so physically exhausted from continual suffering, that the faithful were kept in constant apprehension for his life. However, to their surprise, he always remained calm and serene, and brought forward the work entrusted to him by the Divine Will, until it came to the time marked by God for him to go to receive the reward of his virtues.

Rich in merit and years, and mourned by all, he ascended to God on the 9th August 1902, at the age of 74. The graces received through his name have been numerous. The body of this Servant of God was buried in the cemetery of Angri and then in 1920, on the 13th October, he was moved to Pagani and laid to rest in the chapel of the Redemptorist Monastery, where St. Alphonsus’ mortal remains had reposed for several years. †
Photo credit to Santi e Beati


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