Saturday, 18 April 2009

The Servant of God Br Rosario La Duca, C.SS.R (1793-1860)

Brother Rosario La Duca was born on the 6th of October, 1793 in Maschito, Potenza, the son of Carmine and Mario Cappariello. At the age of 14 he lost his father and, coming from a large, impoverished family, was obliged to start work as a shepherd.

From then on he would spend all day in prayer and to this purpose he carried small devotional images and some candles. He would erect little altars and, like St Paschal Baylon, he would pray continuously while the flock was grazing. He had a special devotion to the rosary. At the age of 20, in 1813, he bade farewell to his parents and the world so as to join the Redemptorist Order. He spent his noviciate in Illiceto with the fervour one would expect of a saint.

Here he accustomed himself to the physical mortifications which he was to practise until the end of his life: every morning he got up at 5 o’clock, often wore a hair shirt, and scourged himself at least twice a week; on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays he made the Stations of the Cross before lunch and dinner; he kissed his fellow brothers’ feet to beg for soup; blended herbs for his main courses and ate kneeling or else seated on the ground in a slightly uncomfortable position. He often spent long hours on his knees without a break. And in addition to all these he carried out the daily and weekly hardships allotted to the novices.

He visited Jesus in the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar very frequently and received Him every day at Holy Communion. Each morning he asked Our Lady for her blessing and before putting on his cloak he would recite three 3 Hail Marys, prostrating himself and adding to each the beautiful ejaculation, “By thy Immaculate Conception, O Mary, make my body pure and my soul holy.”

He recited the Hail Mary many times throughout the day, especially at the beginning and end of different undertakings. He often prayed the Holy Rosary and happily carried the beads by his side, keeping them in his hands continuously when not occupied by work. Day after day he asked Our Lady for the grace of Holy Perseverance in the Institute whilst praying the Salve Regina.

He entertained a special devotion to Our Lady, Mediatrix of all Graces, who was venerated in his own village and of whom he had a picture in his cell. He also venerated Mary Most Holy using the titles Our Lady of Sorrows and The Immaculate Conception, and during the day would utter several times the affectionate prayer of St Alphonsus that begins,“Most Holy and Immaculate Virgin, and my Mother Mary”.

Like all Redemptorists of the day he wished to take the so-called “vow of blood.” This meant that he would be ready to shed his own blood if necessary, in order to defend the honour afforded to Mary by her Conception without stain of sin. This honour was defined by Blessed Pius IX as an article of faith on the 8th of September, 1854, and the news was received with an exceedingly joyful heart by Brother Rosario.

On every Wednesday and Saturday of the year he abstained from eating meat, as is usual on Fridays. On Saturdays, in imitation of St Alphonsus and St Gerard, the fast consisted mostly of bread and water and he also used to practice this mortification on the vigils of the principal feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the novena days that preceded such feast days, Br Rosario also adhered to the special mortifications and corporal penances of the Congregation.

At the end of his noviciate, he moved to the monastery of Pagani and from there he was allotted to that of Girgenti, Sicily.

In 1826 the Rector Major, Fr Cocle, moved to the Monastery of Girgenti and sought Br Rosario’s assistance in the library. What greater praise could testify to the virtue of our brother than the of faith placed in him by his superiors and especially by the illustrious Rector Major.

On the 8th of September, 1827, the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, he committed himself completely to God with the sacred vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, to which was added the vow of perseverance in the Institute.

He was entrusted with taking care of the monastery church and was thus engaged practically the entire day. He was constantly going back and forth, keeping it clean and putting everything in its place. So swift was he in discharging his chores as sacristan, that it seemed as though his feet were gliding above the ground.

Having organised everything, instead of taking a rest he would kneel down to pray. The faithful admired this and approaching him they would recommend themselves to his fervent prayers. He would reply with his habitual expression, “God’s will be done.”

The inauspicious decree of Garibaldi in 1860 was directed also against the Redemptorists, obliging them to dissolve before the 2nd of August. But where were they to go? Their love for the Congregation wouldn’t allow them to be separated from it, and therefore the decision was made to seek asylum on the island of Malta; but Brother Rosarius, because he was 67 years old and in poor health, stayed on in Sicily as custodian of the precious church built in 1858 in honour of St Alphonsus. In this way he was able to continue to show examples of prayer and penance as sacristan, a position he had previously held for many years to the great edification of the faithful.

After falling gravely ill, Alphonsus Manto (father of Paulo Manto who later identified Brother Rosarius’ grave) lovingly attributed his recovery to Brother Rosarius. The brother gave Alphonsus a pair of his poor, worn breeches saying, “Take these for your wife, Alphonsus, for they will be useful for your children.” They were indeed used by that pious family and still are as the breeches are passed from house to house to ward off various diseases.

On 19 August, 1860, on the Sunday before the Octave of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Rosarius said to his friend: “Go outside, Alphonsus, and leave me on my own.” As Alphonsus was honouring this request, he saw with amazement from the doorway Rosarius sitting on a bed with his face lit up as if in ecstasy in contemplation of the lovely statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Graces. (This statue stands today in the church by the altar of St Michael.) Later, Alphonsus went into the little bedroom and found the brother looking as if he were on the point of expiring and offering no replies to his questions. So Alphonsus recited the litanies for the commendation of the soul, and when he had finished, at 5am, Rosarius gave up his soul.

No sooner had the news of his death emerged when a stream of people came to see his body or touch it, and many objects in the room were apropriated as precious relics. The general consensus being that Br Rosario was a saintly man, gave rise to the idea of conserving his features by reproducing his visage on canvas. Beneath the image, D. Giov. B. Picone wrote the following words, summarising his entire life:

“Frater Rosarius Adduca laicus professus C. SS. R. lucanus, Charitate erga deum et pauperes fervens, sine intermissione per multos annos orans, durissimo vitae genere carnem spiritui subijciens, regularis observantiae exemplum. Animam Deo reddidit 19 Augusti 1860.”

A few days previously Brother Rosarius had said to Alphonsus: “You are to bury me before the altar of the Sorrowful Virgin.” However, permission was necessary from the dreadful authorities; and since there was no hope of this request being acceded to, his friends secretly took the body in the dead of night and buried it in the sacred place Rosarius had desired. Before the burial, Alfonsus had been to take his measurements for the coffin. Whilst about it, Br Rosario opened his eyes and looked at him for a while with a satisfied smile, a sign of gratitude for what Sig. Manto was doing for him.

The register of deaths in the public archives of Rome records it thus:
“Rosarius Adduca, laicus, obiit in Girgenti die 19 Aug. 1860, aetate provectus et jam morte vicinus cum Nostri insulam dereliquerunt.”

Upon returning to Girgenti in 1914, the Fathers found a statue of a Redemptorist in the sacristy of the Church of St Alphonsus. Beneath the statue they discovered the following inscription:

Brother Rosarius La Duca, professed lay brother of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer.
Burning with love for God and for the poor, praying without ceasing for many years, subjecting the flesh to the spirit by a very harsh regimen of life, an example of regular observation of the Rule. He returned his soul to God on August 19th on the feast day of God’s servant, Alphonsus di Liguori.

Brief but memorable, the encomium reveals that by 1860 the feast of St Alphonsus had been translated to 19 August. Inscribed on the bottom of the tablet, apart from the date of his death, are the names of all those who had contributed to the carving on the statue by Onophrius of Zinafra.

In the previous year, when the Rector of the Monastery of Girgenti and the Superior of the Province of Sicily–Calabria, Rev. Fr Aloysius M. Nobili, began work to renovate the floor of the sacred building, a pious widow from Mamum, Paula Manto, pointed out a particular spot in the church and said: “Here is where the body of the holy religious Brother Rosarius was buried.” She spoke the truth, for on 13 September, 1929, the tomb was discovered on the left hand side in front of the High Altar.

It is easy to understand why the memory of this brother is imprinted on the minds of the local people. Although very few who had known Brother Rosarius were still alive in 1929 when his tomb was discovered, the renown of his outstanding virtues had been personally passed on to later generations through various anecdotes told and retold over the years. Written documentation, apart from the inscription mentioned above, has not come to light.

Ever since his tomb was found, the faithful began to pray for this brother’s intercession with God, and many claim that their prayers were answered in marvelous ways. The remains of Br Rosarius, a few bones and ashes, were respectfully reburied in a funerary casket by the brethren in their original resting-place. Moreover, the Administrator, Rev. Fr Joseph de Caro made public a collection of stories about the dead man. In the small biography of Brother Rosario, written by P. de Caro, there are reports of many graces obtained from God at his intercession.

Of graces attributed to the intercession of Brother Rosarius we record this instance. On 15 September, 1929, in the year of the discovery of his tomb, Julietta Guaia, who had suffered so badly for nine long years from arthritis that she could not move at all, was fully restored to health in the presence of a large crowd at the tomb of the humble brother. What is particularly extraordinary about the event is that this girl had accurately dreamed during the night of 26 May (before the discovery of Rosarius’ tomb), that she would be cured in that place. She had told the content of her dream straightaway early the next day to four women friends. When she was taken to the church on that 15 September, she was at once able to predict with total accuracy where Brother Rosarius’ body lay. May it please the Most High that this faithful servant of His, whose life was hidden with Christ in God, be glorified before the whole world.

(Translated from Latin by Mr Philip Lane of Tasmania.)


Saturdays with Our Mother of Perpetual Succour II

Trust your Mother
Our Mother of Perpetual Succour has worked a miracle here. A young mother of a family was ill for 12 years. Suffering from a chest illness, she could no longer even leave her bed and three doctors all gave her no longer than eight days to live. That which increased the sorrow of this poor mother and of the family was that her only child was to receive his First Holy Communion on 26 May and everybody hoped that she would not already be dead by this day. An aunt of the sick woman wrote to the family about Our Mother of Perpetual Succour and of the miracles worked by this Blessed Virgin. Immediately the whole family recommended the poor woman to Our Mother of Perpetual Succour. These prayers were heard. She who could no longer even move and whom the doctors had "condemned" was suddenly cured on 26 May. She was able to assist at the First Holy Communion of her child. May Jesus and Mary be praised and thanked!
Fontaine, France

For nearly two years a dear sister found herself a prey to extremely painful sciatic pains. After having used all the remedies of science, without experiencing the least improvement, she addressed herself to Her on whom we never call in vain, the refuge of the infirm and the sick. A novena was begun with the promise to take a miniature every day before reciting the prayers. But, Oh prodigy! No sooner had the first miniature been placed on the tongue of the sick person, when all the pains disappeared instantly. Thus full of joy and thanksgiving towards her Benefactress our dear ill-one cried out: “I am cured! Glory and thanksgiving to Our Mother of Perpetual Succour!” From that moment she has felt no pain and has completely recovered the use of her leg of which she could not use before without extreme pain to the point that she had sometimes had to be carried. This fact happened now more than four months ago and the cure is always in evidence.
Manosque, France

Coming out of a grave illness, I found myself in a state of desperate tiredness. My stomach above all became rebellious; I had no appetite, difficulty in digesting what I ate, vomiting, etc. On more than one occasion I was tempted to ask to be discharged from a work that I no longer had the strength to accomplish. It was then that a Redemptorist introduced me to Our Mother of Perpetual Succour. The community and the children began a novena with me. Having taken a miniature of Our Lady I felt immediately a sensible improvement, in result of which I was able to take up nearly all the religious life and perform my daily work. I was however not yet in my normal state. From time to time the stomach disorder made itself felt and kept me in a state more or less feverish. One day even I had to remain in bed with my aches and pains. “Good Mother,” I exclaimed, “thy glory will be tarnished if I suffer a relapse.” Having said this prayer I felt even stronger pains but I did not loose confidence. The night passed not too badly and the next day, due to an unforeseen circumstance, the cause of my illness was discovered and removed. I was saved by the evident protection of the Blessed Virgin. Today I follow all the exercises of the community and undertake a work that absorbs all of my time.
Sr M.M. Antony, France


Saturday, 4 April 2009

Saturdays with Our Mother of Perpetual Succour I

The Cure of Marie Kannengiesser

In the north of the French department of Moselle one may find the parish of Hargarten. It has the distinction of having given to the Redemptorists one of their most learned and distinguished members, Fr Jean Kannengiesser, C.SS.R.

Now Fr Kannegiesser had a sister named Marie who was born in Hargarten in 1842. She too had felt herself called to the religious life, and had asked and obtained permission to enter the Benedictines of Flavigny. Suddenly, during her novitiate, a very grave malady came upon her. The doors of the monastery, after which her generous soul had so longed, seemed to close before her forever and a cure seemed impossible. Thus, wounded in body and soul, the poor novice had to take again the way of the world, which she had never wanted.

A walk of about one hour separates Hargarten from Téterchen, where, since 1847, the Redemptorists had an important monastery. As one would expect, the Redemptorists of Téterchen were not slow in spreading the devotion of Our Mother of Perpetual Succour in all of Lorraine and the Saarland. As true sons of the Most Zealous Doctor, they wanted to redouble their efforts to this effect and thus they obtained from Rome a painted copy of the original image, blessed with particular attention by Pope Pius IX. The reception of the image was grand and solemn, and it was at this moment that the ex-novice came to ask the aid of Our Lady.

Here follows the authentic account.
“[...] She was suffering from an a disease of the spinal marrow. The house doctor declared to Fr Laglasse that he considered the sickness as incurable and mortal. He told the same thing to the superiors and also attested it in different letters which he wrote to the parents of the sick woman. She was to spend 18 months in her paternal home in great difficulty.

Marie, that was her name, who could no longer count on the help of men, had recourse to Heaven. Hearing that an image of Our Mother of Perpetual Succour was to be enthroned at Téterchen [...] she prepared herself for this solemnity by a novena of prayers. On the feast day she went on pilgrimage to Téterchen and confessed and received Holy Communion in our church, and then returned the four kilometers without being in the least bit disturbed by the bad weather, which would normally have brought on a new increase of her infirmities.

Three days later she made another pilgrimage to Téterchen to ask once more for the benevolent protection of Our Mother of Perpetual Succour. While she knelt before the venerated image she heard an interior voice which said: “But you are cured, you feel no more pain, and therefore you injure the Blessed Virgin if you continue to look after yourself as in the past.” From that moment she felt not the least pain any more, she neglected all the precautions, so necessary beforehand for her health, she ate and worked like a healthy person who had never been the slightest bit ill. Within two years she sought the austerity and rigour of the Carthusianesses of Grenoble [...]”

The document, signed by Fr Jacques Lilliée, C.SS.R and dated 8 September 1868 is preceded by the declaration: “All these facts we believe come from persons worthy of credence and we have taken all the precautions necessary, in as much as is possible, to guarantee the historic authenticity of them [...]”

The best mark of a true cure is its duration. At the time that this account was written Marie Kannegiesser was still alive and had entered her 90th year.With her newly re-established health she took herself to the monastery of the Holy Cross at Beauregard, near Grenoble, where the Carthusianesses chanted day and night the glory of God. There she received the name of Rosaline while retaining that of her baptism which reminded her of the singular favour she had received.

For long years Sr Marie-Rosaline served Our Lord in the sweet solitude of Beauregard but then came the sad years inaugurated in France by Combes. Like so many others, Sister had to take the road of exile. On 13 June 1904 she saw her beloved land of the Grand-Chartreuse for the last time and departed with her companions for Italy. They stopped near Turin at Giaveno.

By the grace of God here another monastery arose, that of San Francesco. Mother Marie-Rosaline became its prioress. At the time of writing the monastery was flourishing. She had the joy there of welcoming her brother, Fr Jean, who was also in search of a refuge for his Fathers. At an advanced age she gave up her superiorship always thanking Our Lady for the health she had enjoyed for 65 years. †

(From an account by Rev. Fr Jean-Baptiste Raus, C.SS.R., Le Perpétuel Secours, June 1931)


Rev. Fr Joseph Coppin, C.SS.R. (1840 - 1915)

This death notice was found in the papers of Fr Joseph Coppin, C.SS.R., upon his death in 1915. It is a fitting tribute to the life of a priest, who so lived in the light of eternity that he was able to write the text of his own mortuary card.

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto!

Praise, thanksgiving, love and glory to Jesus Christ my Redeemer; to Mary Immaculate, Who inspired in me the devotion to Her Dolours, Who put me on the way of salvation; to Saint Joseph my beloved patron and protector; to the Holy Angels who I have never invoked in vain; to St Alphonsus, St Gerard, St Teresa and St Mary Magdalene who have aided me on the road of piety.

Born at Hansinelle of Christian parents on 27 May, 1840, I languished in this vale of tears for nearly three-quarters of a century. I entered eternity on...27 November, our monastery at Tournai. O Eternity, forgotten and fearful mystery, how little one thinks about thee.

I received the priesthood on 19 December, 1863. “The dignity of the priest is great, but great is the responsibility,” said St Lawrence Justinian.

I made my religious vows in the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer on 8 December, 1872. Blessed are those who are called to live in the house of the Lord!

I ask of all those who wished to offer me a little affection in my mortal life to say three times the Gloria Patri to thank God for the graces He gave me and in reparation for the harm I caused to the glory of the Lord, Who should be dear to us above all.

I hope to meet you in Paradise. Pray for me. †

J. Coppin, C.SS.R.
(Translated from Father's mortuary card.)


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