Sunday, January 10, 2010


Tomb of Cardinal Cesare Baronio (Baronius) in S. Maria in Vallicella, Rome

Cardinal Baronius left a reputation for profound sanctity which led Pope Benedict XIV to proclaim him "Venerable" (January 12, 1745).

In 2007, on the 400th anniversary of his death, the cause for his canonization, which had been stalled since 1745, was reopened by the Procurator General of the Oratory of St Philip Neri

See Elizabeth Lev`s article A Saintly Chef

The Martyrology and the Annals are his monuments. The Church owes him a great deal.

Kerr`s English biography from which extracts below are taken needs to be updated.

"Owing mostly to the reform of the calendar effected in the pontificate of Gregory XIII., but partly to the tendency to romance arid embroidery which endangers every work, various errors had crept into the Roman Martyrology. The Pope, wishing that it should be entirely revised and partly re-written, consulted Cardinal Sirleto, one of the greatest scholars of the day, who had rendered him the greatest assistance in the reform of the calendar, and who had, moreover, studied the subject of the Martyrology.

Probably, the Pope hoped that the learned Cardinal would himself undertake the work ; but he, warmly supported by St. Philip [Neri] suggested that the task should be given to Baronius. The Saint hoped great things of his son as a historian, but he had no certainty that his hopes would be realised. He was glad, therefore, that this lesser work should be given to him as a test whether he were indeed capable of carrying out the greater scheme formulated in the Saint s brain.

The labours of Baronius had increased enormously. In his latter courses of history he had entered more deeply into his subject, and required all his time and skill to handle the mass of material which he had gathered round him. He was, moreover, engaged at this period in shaping the idea of the Annals as a written book. He was diffident of his own powers always rated more high by others than by himself and, knowing that he was, at the best, untried, he quailed under the responsibility of undertaking a work so important to the Church as the revision of the Martyrology. Other and more personal motives also held back his will from consenting to the task; for he shrank from the thought of adding a new burden to that which was already exhausting his vital powers. When, therefore, he found the work imposed on him beyond the power of refusal, he suffered under a sense of injustice, for, he knew that, even without this additional labour, he had more to do than had any of the other fathers.

Thus, he first tried to decline the new duty, and, when obedience compelled him to accept it, he begged that he might be relieved from some of his ordinary duties, or, at the very least permitted to say his Mass at the hour most convenient to him. But St. Philip, knowing what he was about, refused every concession, showing himself now to be that "stern exactor" as which Cesare, later, so lovingly described him. ...

Gregory XIII. was no more when Baronius finished his task, though it took him barely two years to complete it; and it was at the feet of his successor, Sixtus V., that he laid it with this humble letter, which is full of interest, both as showing, from his own point of view, the immense area of his researches during the past twenty-seven years, and also as pointing out beyond dispute that he was actually engaged in writing the Annals when be undertook the revision of the Martyrology.

"Last year," he says, "I revised the Roman Martyrology with much labour, illustrating it by notes on the early history of the Church. With my poor abilities I undertook to clear away the many difficulties which obscured it. However, you appointed to help me a man of singular piety and great learning, I mean Cardinal Sirleto of happy memory ; and, moved by his encouragement, I undertook more than, perhaps, I was able to accomplish ; and I accepted the duty, relying solely on God s help. I did not approach the work quite unprepared, because for many years I had been engaged in treating the subject of ecclesiastical history, and in thoroughly sifting the acts of the early ages, not only by reading histories written by other men, but by turning over and examining the writings of the fathers and a great many other documents, especially the mass of manuscripts hidden away in your Holiness s library, many of which are of great antiquity. To these labours I hope my ecclesiastical Annals will testify later, for I have not ceased to work at their compilation with that modicum of talents given me by God."

(Amabel Kerr, The Life of Cesare Cardinal Baronius of the Roman Oratory (1898) pages 54 -57)

"Baronius received next to no help in his great work from the Roman Oratory. It might be almost said that he received none at all, for the only exception was that given by Brother Andrea Brugiotti, to whom was afterwards consigned the management of the printing-press belonging to the Oratory, which St. Philip set up in the piazza of the Vallicella.

This brother is mentioned as having helped Baronius, but his aid must have been of a most casual kind, for it is expressly said that every word of the Annals from beginning to end was written by their author s own hand. Not only did he correct every sheet himself as it came from the printer, but he often made fresh copies of his manuscript sheets, so as to include the corrections and suggestions which he received from outside. All this he did alone ; and when a foreign bishop came to see him after the publication of the first volume of the Annals, and asked him how many assistants were appointed to help him in his great work, he smilingly replied ; " Torcular calcavi solus I have trodden the wine press alone."

"There is no thought of relieving me here, or of in any way helping me with the work," he wrote to Talpa in 1589, while he was struggling with his second volume, vainly working against time to get it finished by the time he had promised it to the Pope. "All hope of help lies in you, who from the beginning have sympathised with the work. But there, let the matter rest. There is much more that I could say, but not with pen and ink. Pray to God for me."

"I am now writing at the rate of one sheet per diem, which is very severe work," he says in another letter. " I know not whether I ought to complain of receiving no help from here. However, I make no remonstrance, for I know that all are busy with other things."

We can gather from some of Baronius s letters to the Naples fathers that as part of St. Philip s method of dealing with him a method described by himself as causing him to make bricks without straw the Saint not only forbade all help from the Roman Oratory, but made certain regulations which necessitated great caution on Cesare s part in profiting by the help so freely offered by the Naples fathers.

"Now," he writes to Tarugi, while still engaged on the first volume, "as soon as the volume is printed, an index must be made ; and as I cannot do this myself, I should like to hand over the work to Messir Tomaso Galletti, and Messir Francesco Bocio."

Evidently, however, obstacles were put in the way which arose from no want of will on the part of the fathers mentioned ; for later in the year he wrote again, this time to Father Talpa: "I have decided to do the. index myself; not because Messir Camillo with a little advice could not do it very well, but in order to remove all idea that he is kept at Naples only to do my work. It is evident that this is not approved of. As God has given me the grace to endure the fatigue of the greater work without the help of any one in the house, I hope He will not fail me now, and will enable me to bear this extra burden, which is little or nothing compared with what I have already borne."

Whatever it was that St. Philip said or did in connection with this affair, to which Baronius alludes in the veiled and guarded way in which he always wrote when referring to his holy father s actions towards himself, it was probably only one more instance of the Saint s way of exacting obedience, and removing the trial after it had been given. Father Camillo made the index after all, though, owing to his incompetency, Baronius may have regretted having permitted him to undertake the
task. ...

No one can live at high pressure without some safety-valve. Certainly Baronius could not have done so, for his nerves were strained to their utmost tension, his soul was depressed by his solitary work, and his heart was wounded in spite of himself by the Saint s attitude towards him, which he could not understand, and which "almost scandalized" him.

He found his safety-valve in the Naples Oratory, from the fathers of which he obtained not only all the help he had, but still more precious the sympathy without which he could scarcely have got through his work. There was no point about the Annals too minute for him to lay before them, and he took and acted on their advice about all such minor matters as the size and arrangement of the type and marginal notes, as well as the weightier subjects connected with the writing itself.

His letters to Father Talpa, which he sent by courier regularly every week, while the first volume was in process of construction, are full of the most graphic touches, illustrative of his own absorption in his work, as well as the equally sympathetic absorption of his correspondent and the other fathers. ...

There were at that time three fathers at Naples to whom Baronius was much attached, Tarugi, Talpa and Blessed Juvenal Ancina.

To Tarugi, the dux verbi as he called him, he was especially bound by affection, and his feeling towards him amounted almost to veneration. Though Baronius was younger than himself by eleven years, their lives ran on very parallel lines. They were two of the Saint s earliest disciples, and were those whom he chose in an especial manner to carry out his ends. None of his sons are so closely connected with his memory as they. They were both made Cardinals on the same day ; and they died within a year of each other, and lie side by side in the sanctuary of the Chiesa Nuova. ...

This father [Talpa] il prudente, as the saint called him was St. Philip s right hand, and he would never come to a conclusion on any important matter without consulting him. Compared with many of St. Philip s sons, Father Talpa led an unknown life ; and though possessed of a mine of knowledge he never initiated any literary work. His fund of information, however, made him very appreciative of the work of others ; and probably without his wise sympathy, by which he was able to encourage even while he criticized, the Annals of Baronius would have lacked some qualities which they now possess.

Cesare thoroughly valued his assistance, and when he completed the Martyrology he declared in the preface that the whole credit of the work was due to Father Talpa, the librarian of the Congregation. It is characteristic of their intercourse, and of Baronius s trust in his judgment, that though every man, however learned, might have praised what he had written, he would not allow one word to appear in print without Talpa s approval. ...

But most of his trials and very real they were to a man as busy as he came from B. Juvenal Ancina, who constituted himself corrector and reviser in chief, and in whose judgment Baronius had not the same implicit confidence as he had in Talpa s. Ancina was a most severe censor, and, though Cesare thanked him repeatedly for his severity, he could not help finding fault with its undueness. Nor could he refrain from complaint at his dilatoriness in making his promised corrections of the sheets, of which he held fast possession.

In letter after letter are to be found passages such as these : "Try to hasten Father Juvenal. Beg him, if he wishes to be in time, to make more speed. If he does not send by the next despatch, his labours will be in vain. ... If Father Juvenal undertakes to do the revision, he must do nothing else." ...

After the completion of his first volume Baronius completely broke down, and in October 1588 St. Philip sent him to Monte Cassino for rest and recreation. He had constantly hoped to spend at Naples any holiday granted to him, but he wrote to Talpa from Monte Cassino that he was too worn out to attempt the journey there. After this break-down he took an annual holiday at Frascati every spring, in the house belonging to the Congregation ; and while there he put away all thought of anything but God alone, and in Him found the rest he needed. A tablet in the church at Frascati, inscribed to "Cesare Baronius who used to come here for retirement while engaged on the Annals" connects his name with the place ; but more living was the memory which lingered there of how he employed his days of repose.

(Amabel Kerr, The Life of Cesare Cardinal Baronius of the Roman Oratory (1898))

"So sure was Baronius of St. Philip [Neri] s state of glory that he set to work to prove his sanctity immediately after his death. He was one of those who were most urgent with Clement VIII., and persuaded him to open the process of his holy father s claims to be raised to the altars of the Church. ...

Cesare displayed zeal for the speedy canonization of St. Charles [Borromeo] and St. Ignatius, as well as for that of his own holy father. While the cause of the latter of these two saints was in process, so confident was Baronius of his sanctity and claims to the veneration of the faithful that he boldly proclaimed his conviction by act as well as by word, and, taking a picture of the holy founder of the Society of Jesus, he climbed up, and with his own hand fixed it over his tomb.

It was a great joy to him to witness the beatification of St. Aloysius, who had died only in 1592 ; and there is something almost moving in the great devotion displayed towards this young saint by the holy and learned old man. He frequently visited his shrine, made his virtues the theme of his sermons, and had his life read aloud during meals.

The devotion to certain saints is often an indication of the inner life of their clients ; and thus it is well to try and discover who were those to whom Baronius was especially devout. As a rule, as is often the case with those who make the first ages of the Church their study, his chief devotion was for the early saints, martyrs and doctors, in whose company he lived, till they became to him as familiar friends to whom he intuitively turned for help in all emergencies. He looked on it as his bounden duty to revere in his heart and by his actions those saints with whom he was in any way brought into connection.

Such were SS. Nereus and Achilleus, the patrons of his titular church, with their fellow-martyr St. Flavia Domitilla ; such also were St. Fortunatus and St. Sabinus, patrons of certain abbacies conferred on him St. Gregory Nazianzen and St. Gregory Thaumaturgus were, however, the saints to whom he had the greatest devotion, St. Peter and St. Paul always excepted.

As for his devotion to these holy Apostles it was, as it were, the epitome of his loyal and all absorbing love of the Church. Their pictures lay on his bed when he was dying, to be venerated by his last glance ; and a look at them was his Credo, when he could utter no longer.

(Amabel Kerr, The Life of Cesare Cardinal Baronius of the Roman Oratory (1898))