Friday, April 30, 2010

Saint Augustin Schoeffer (1822 – 1851)

Bust of Saint Augustin Schoeffer (1822 – 1851)

From the early 1600s onward, Catholic missionaries of various affiliations were present in Vietnam, though on a small scale and only in the lowlands.

Near the end of that century, a papal intervention gave the evangelisation of the northeast portion of Tonkin--covering roughly one-third of the region--to Spanish Dominicans based in Manila, whilst the Societe des Missions Etrangeres de Paris (MEP) was given the remaining two-thirds.

La Société des Missions Etrangères de Paris (the Paris Foreign Missions Society) (MEP) was established 1658-63. It was one of the main societies for the conversion of Vietnam.

Thousands of Catholic priests, religious and laity in Vietnam who were killed between 1625 and 1886 for their faith

Fr. Schoeffler was one. Following his arrest in the Tonkin, he was invited to renounce his Christian faith and to trample upon the Lord’s cross. When he refused, he was sentenced to death.

The sentence of death, written on a board and planted into the ground before him, read: “In spite of the prohibitions of the religion of Jesus, Augustin, a European priest, has dared to come by stealth into the kingdom to preach that religion and to deceive the people. He is condemned to be beheaded and his head to be thrown into the water.”

He died on 1st May which is his feast day.

In Lent 1849 he wrote the following in a letter to M. Auguste Verrier who was then wishing tobecome a seminarian at the Paris seminary:

"Que la croix de Jésus soit notre unique amour [?]

Bien cher Auguste, ...

Pour ce qui est de ta vocation, de ta prédilection pour une mission plus tôt que pour une autre, sois la desus bien indifférent, car dès qu'il y a des infidèles à convertir que ce soit au Japon ou au Pérou peu importe, la récompense de ses travaux sera toujours aussi belle car partout il y a à souffrir. Je t'assure qu'actuellement je suis bien revenu de la prédilection d'une mission sur une autre, si j'étais encore à Paris peu m'importerait le champ qui me serait dévolu à défricher [le texte porte "déchiffrer" !]. Si Dieu destine une âme à des grandes choses, au martyr par exemple, sa divine Providence saura le trouver partout et par des circonstances inconnues aux hommes faire parvenir ce coeur au but de ses désirs. ...

Les commencements sont un peu durs il faut l'avouer, les maladies, changements de manière de vivre, cela coûte un peu, mais qu'importe, Jésus a bien plus souffert pour nous, n'est-il pas juste que nous nous efforcions de prouver par nos efforts notre reconnaissance pour tous ses bienfaits."
On September 24, 1857, Augustin Schoeffler was declared Venerable by Pope Pius IX. He was beatified by Pope Leo XIII on May 7, 1900. He was made a saint by Pope John Paul II on June 19, 1988.

St Thérèse of Lisieux was inspired by the martyrs of Vietnam. She was given a copy of the Life and letters of Venerable Théophane Vénard, ( 1829 - 1861) a priest of the Paris Foreign Missionary Society, who had been martyred in Vietnam some years previously.

She was inspired by his example to volunteer for the new Carmelite monastery in Hanoi. She carried on a correspondence with Carmelite sisters at Hanoi, Vietnam. They wished her to come out and join them. But her health did not allow her to go before her death at an early age.

Inspired by such heroism, she wrote:

«Pour les pécheurs, je voudrais ici-bas
Lutter, souffrir à l’ombre de tes palmes,
Protège-moi, viens soutenir mon bras ...

O bienheureux Martyr! De ton amour aux virginales flammes viens m’embrasser...!» (2nd February 1897)

She died on 30 September 1897, clutching a relic of the Venerable Théophane.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"Soffrire e tacere"

Floriano Bodini (1933 – 2005)
Cardinale Andrea Carlo Ferrari 1994
Cappella di San Martino, The Duomo, Parma

Bishops have had a fair knocking recently. The media in the child abuse crisis while mainly slandering the Pope has not been very kind towards Bishops in general.

Many think that the Pope should react fiercely against them if they have not been up to the mark in dealing with pedophile priests.

In addition many commentators have been quite hard on them in regard to other issues. Why have`nt they been more vocal in criticising X, Y or Z or in relation to A, B or C?

They experience pressure from below: the clerics and the religious as well as the laity. They also experience pressure from the top down. The Vatican Curia is not often slow to make its views known on certain occasions.

At the end of the day, they have the sole responsibility for matters within a certain territorial jurisdiction. The Buck stops firmly with them in this world and more so in the Next.

They are expected to be men of unassailable character.

“1 The saying is sure: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task. 2 Now a bishop must be above reproach, married only once, temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an apt teacher, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way— 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of God's church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace and the snare of the devil”
1 Timothy 3:1-7 (New Revised Standard)

“7 For a bishop, as God's steward, must be blameless; he must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or addicted to wine or violent or greedy for gain; 8 but he must be hospitable, a lover of goodness, prudent, upright, devout, and self-controlled. 9 He must have a firm grasp of the word that is trustworthy in accordance with the teaching, so that he may be able both to preach with sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict it.”
Titus 1:7-9 (New Revised Standard)

“The shepherds of the flock ought to carry out their ministry [as Bishop] with holiness, eagerness, humility and courage in imitation of the eternal High Priest, the Shepherd and Guardian of our Souls. They will thereby make this ministry the principal means of their own sanctification. Those chosen for the fullness of the priesthood are gifted with sacramental grace, enabling them to exercise a perfect role of pastoral charity through prayer, sacrifice and preaching, as through every form of a Bishop’s care and service. They are enabled to lay down their life for their sheep fearlessly, and, made a model for their flock (cf. 1 Pt 5:3), can lead the Church to ever-increasing holiness through their own example.”
Dogmatic Constitution on the Church : Lumen Gentium, 41.

The office of Bishop and its duties were set by Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Gregis (16 October 2003) at

Presumably bishops-to-be are not allowed to read the Exhortation and only get to read this after Episcopal Ordination when they do the induction course for new Bishops in the Vatican. Otherwise very few would want or agree to become a bishop.

Society`s attitude in general in respect of many matters is carping and often critical to the point of caricature. The same applies to the Church. With greater education and communications in the West, one might expect greater tolerance and less opportunity for misunderstanding. However the opposite often appears to be the case.

It is easier to run with the pack than to defend and explain, to attempt to hold the pack back. Is there also the thought that if the mob are attacking A or B, then at least they are not attacking me? It is of course a more pleasant sensation to be attacking someone for someone`s alleged faults as it does give one`s own regard for oneself a boost.

Sometimes reputations take a great deal of time to be salvaged after being unfairly torn to bits.

Self-defence is often useless and counter-productive. As a bishop one cannot of course succumb to despair. And one has to turn the other cheek. Oh, and one has to behave like a loving father towards his children and exercise all the virtues. And yes, they must constantly smile. Otherwise they are not filled with Christian joy and one would not be a good bishop. As a doctor falling ill might regard or feel that there is a sense of failure, likewise a bishop who sins is regarded as falling short of the mark.

And does one really one expect a bishop or a Conference to be on twenty four hour call to provide a running commentary on all current events of the day ?

Of course there have been bad bishops and probably there are one or two bad `uns knocking about at the present time. In the `bad` league one might think of the Italian bishop who does not appear to have been very nice at times to Saint Padre Pio

From the way some commentators write or speak one might think that we are not blessed. I seem to recall that when the saintly Cardinal Hume was Archbishop of Westminster, there were a number of voices who were quite critical of him.

Silence and suffering in the face of criticism must be an Episcopal vow at Episcopal ordination.

One outstanding example of a good bishop from the Catholic Episcopate is the former Cardinal Archbishop of Milan, Blessed Carlo Andrea Ferrari (13 August 1850 - 2 February 1921) who was Archbishop of Milan at the beginning of the twentieth century until his death.

I have written at length about him before. See the following posts:

He came from humble stock near Parma where he was first educated in the seminary there. He was ordained there. He became Professor and Rector of the seminary there until his elevation. His memory is of course celebrated with a fine marble statue in the Cathedral in Parma. (see above)

He was appointed to the Episcopate at the very early age of forty years by Pope Leo XIII. He seems to have been highly regarded by the elderly Pope. The feeling was mutual. In particular the Bishop took to heart the Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII for which he is probably best known: Rerum Novarum – The Rights and Duties of Capital and Labour (May 15, 1891).

As a Bishop in the Northern Italian city of Como at the close of the Nineteenth century, he would have been well aware of the conflicts engendered not only by the industrialisation of Northern Italy but also the lack of political power of most of his flock. This lack of political power arose not only from the estrangement of the State and Church after the Re-Unification of Italy but also from the lack of democratic institutions in the new Italian State. In his diocese, there were riots and disorder, killings and serious woundings.

The words of the Encyclical faced the challenges which the Bishop was to face in his first diocese but also later in the Archdiocese of Milan, the second most important diocese after Rome and the most industrial and populous area in the entire Kingdom of Italy.

“The great mistake made in regard to the matter now under consideration is to take up with the notion that class is naturally hostile to class, and that the wealthy and the working men are intended by nature to live in mutual conflict. So irrational and so false is this view that the direct contrary is the truth. Just as the symmetry of the human frame is the result of the suitable arrangement of the different parts of the body, so in a State is it ordained by nature that these two classes should dwell in harmony and agreement, so as to maintain the balance of the body politic.

Each needs the other: capital cannot do without labor, nor labor without capital. Mutual agreement results in the beauty of good order, while perpetual conflict necessarily produces confusion and savage barbarity. Now, in preventing such strife as this, and in uprooting it, the efficacy of Christian institutions is marvellous and manifold. First of all, there is no intermediary more powerful than religion (whereof the Church is the interpreter and guardian) in drawing the rich and the working class together, by reminding each of its duties to the other, and especially of the obligations of justice.” Rerum Novarum, paragraph 19

In May 1894 he was raised to the Cardinalate and that year also transferred to the Archdiocese of Milan where he stayed until his death,

Fin-de-siecle Milan was a place of turbulent change. The political unification of Italy led to the commercial dominance of Milan over northern Italy. Milan became the rail hub of northern Italy. Rapid industrialization and the rise and growth of Milanese banks led to economic growth at a “Chinese rate” and brought a rapid expansion in the city's area and population.

The atmosphere can be illustrated by the Bava-Beccaris massacre of May 1898 in Milan. After a riot following a strike at the Pirelli factory instigated by the Socialist Turatti, which was severely put down with the loss of life and many injured, workers organized a General Strike (“ Protesta dello stomaco" ) to demonstrate against the government of di Rudinì, holding it responsible for the general increase of prices and for the famine that was affecting the country.

The government declared a state of siege in the city. General Bava-Beccaris (later to be called il macellaio di Milano, the butcher of Milan) ordered his troops to fire on demonstrators. On May 9, 1898, the troops used artillery to breach the walls of a monastery outside Porta Monforte, but they found inside only a group of beggars who had come to receive assistance from the friars. According to the government, there were 118 dead and 450 wounded. The opposition claimed 350 dead and more than 2,000 injured people. About 2000 were arrested.

Discord prevailed.

The Rudini government fell in 1898. In July 1900 King Umbert I was assassinated by an anarchist at Monza near Milan. The anarchist cited the massacre and the subsequent decoration of Bava-Beccaris by the King as the reasons for the assassination.

However the Cardinal did not have a “good crisis”. On the advice of his assistants he left the city to go on a pastoral visit to pieve di Asso (Como). This was described as his “fleeing the city” by the secular press which supported the Government and the radicals.

Pope Leo XIII felt it appropriate to issue an admonition. He wrote to the Archbishop:

“In sì critici momenti, Noi avremmo desiderato che Ella, signor Cardinale, si fosse potuto trovare nella Sua diletta Milano, conciliatore di pace e apportatore di conforto"

It was probably his lowest moment. He accepted the criticism in silence.

He vowed that in future he would be more vigilant in protecting his flock.
It is how men deal with great setbacks in their careers and with personal humiliation that is the great marker as to the personality of the man.

Not many could be like Archbishop Georges Darboy of Paris (16 January 1813 – 24 May 1871) who stayed in Paris during the Comune and was seized, imprisoned and slaughtered. If anything what had happened to Darboy during the Commune would have been reason enough to flee Milan in 1898 when it seemed that some were intent on establishing another Comune there and then.

Some fold and never recover.

Criticism can be severe. As we have seen recently. Often heads on a large scale are demanded. Public opinion often requires blood to be sated. Sometime however a sacrifice of blood merely increases the appetite for even more blood.

Some however accept the verdict, repent and renew their resolve. They are transformed. That is what seems to have happened to Archbishop Ferrari.

He set up "Cappellani del lavoro", cooperatives in the fields of industry and agriculture, mutual self help societies and rural banks. He also set up institutes for the improvement of housing for workers especially in the cities.

In the Press, he set up a Catholic publishing company as well as a Catholic newspaper "L'Unione", which eventually became "L'Italia". (This eventually became the Italian Bishops newspaper “L`Avvenire”)

As a Bishop he continued his visitations and by the end of his Ministry had carried out four visitations of the enormous Archdiocese, visiting each of the 800 parishes and other institutes in his purview. At the time the Archdiocese had 1.600.000 inhabitants, 2.300 priests and 11.000 women religious.

On becoming Archbishop, he took the name “Carlo” after his model, St Charles Borromeo.

His secretary Don Giovanni Rossi, said of him that he never saw him idle for a moment: he was either praying, writing or talking.”

His motto was “Do many things and do them well.”

He never tired of repeating:

"Se volete conquistare il cuore del popolo amate i fanciulli, i vecchi, gli ammalati, i poveri" (“If you wish to conquer the heart of the people, love the children, the old, the sick, the poor.”)

To those who complained about the iniquities of the times, he replied “Moaning is useless ! One should always do, do, do !” or “From each wrong comes the opportunity for good".

Blessed Ildefonso Schuster, a late successor as Archbishop of Milan described his work thus:

“"le sue quattro visite pastorali per la vasta diocesi con centinaia di migliaia di cresime, di comunioni, di ininterrotta predicazione, oltre il restante peso della corrispondenza, delle udienze, dei negozi di curia, richiesero non solo una costituzione fisica sana, ma uno spirito eroicamente fervente verso Dio e verso il prossimo"

It was the burning heroic spirit striving towards God and the next world which turned round a disaster in his Ministry into such a resounding success.

The Cardinal in the Holy Land on pilgrimage 1902

In 1902, he made a pilgrimage to Palestine.It was the first time that an Italian cardinal had made a visit there. At that time the Holy Land was a French Protectorate. Accompanying him in the party was Don Giacomo Maria Radini Tedeschi, who three years later would become the Bishop of Bergamo and the great influence on the future Pope John XXIII.

The mission required a great deal of diplomatic skill so that sensibilitites would not be ruffled and there would not be a diplomatic incident.

The pilgrimage had a profound effect on the Archbishop spiritually. After a meeting in Jerusalem with the Orthodox Patriarch discussing the primacy of Peter for an hour, he confided in his diary:

“Quella sera, sedutomi sul canapé, pensai che l’indomani avremmo dovuto lasciare la santa Città, il santo Sepolcro, pensai e piansi dirottamente, tanto era il mio rincrescimento”

He spent all the next night in prayer in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre before setting off the next morning on the journey home.

Later back in his diocese he said:

“Il pellegrinaggio continua. Fino a tanto che noi viviamo in questo corpo mortale, siamo quali pellegrini lontani dalla Patria, e non abbiamo qui ferma città, ma andiamo cercando la futura. Noi non ci siamo recati alla Gerusalemme terrena per altro fine, che per animarci a raggiungere la celeste, e non può negarsi che dalla conoscenza dei luoghi santi deriva un accrescimento di fede e di amore verso Gesù Cristo, che è la via del Cielo. Viene di qui che la Terra Santa, una volta visitata, rapisce indicibilmente il cuore cristiano”.

In the conclave of 1903 after the death of Pope Leo XIII, he was “one of the main players”. His candidate was defeated. Saint Pius X was elected.

It was during this Pontificate that the Archbishop probably endured his severest test.

The problem was “Modernism” or “the Modernist Crisis”. It was a rather nebulous heresy. Even its sternest opponents seemed to find it difficult to define with sufficient precision. It assumed different forms in different places and at different times. Modernism in Italy was a different creature from that in France. But even today the charge of “Modernism” is not one which any Catholic would relish.

In Italy it would appear that the problem was complicated by the fact that ”modernists” were associated with the desire for increasing political involvement by the clergy and the laity in the secular sphere which had been denied them since 1870.

It would appear that Pope Pius X was advised by various sources such as Don Umberto Benigni that Archbishop Ferrari was either a Modernist or was soft on Modernism and was not doing enough to extirpate Modernism from his diocese. Relations between the Vatican and the Archdiocese nosedived.

Pope Pius X accused Milan of being the centre of “Modernism” His seminary received three Apostolic visitations. Anti-Modernist Catholic newspapers such as La Riscossa which was financed by the Vatican openly called the Cardinal “a Modernist” - probably the worst insult that could be hurled at a Cardinal in those days. The affair with the personal attacks on the Cardinal lasted about five years.

He was not a Modernist. He was perfectly orthodox. He protested in private to the Pope his loyalty and fidelity.

There were two main issues. First a certain number of Modernist priests were in the diocese. The Cardinal cracked down on them and restricted their activities. Second, the Milanese Catholic press. The Cardinal imposed corrections and some restrictions. But these did not appear to be sufficient measures.

On 9th March 1908, the Archbishop wrote a handwritten letter to the Pope abasing himself before him and explaining what he had done in obedience. Not only in regard to certain priests especially those in the Barnabite Order (which in those days were under particular suspicion of Modernism) and in regard to catholic publications in Milan. Even after all these years one is touched by the tone and emotion underlying it. He is not defending himself. He is defending his diocese and his flock. It is a poignant testimony to his feelings for his Diocese.

You will note the interesting reference to a Monsignore Ratti of the Ambrosiana who later became Prefect of the Vatican Library, then Archbishop of Milan and later Pope Pius XI:

“Beatissimo Padre

Mai come in questi momenti sentii vivo il bisogno di rivolgermi, quale povero ed indegno figlio, al Padre buono e santo per dargli ragione di quanto ho creduto in coscienza di operare in questi giorni a difesa, non dirò della povera mia persona, ma dell’onore di questa diocesi.

Sono ben lungi dall’attendere encomii al mio operato: spero di non averne biasimo; però se questo mi venisse, lo accetterei con devota rassegnazione.

La nota di modernismo si era scagliata su questa diocesi; anzi essa chiamavasi centro, vero centro del modernismo. L’accusa era delle più gravi; la voce che la diffondeva passava da opuscolo ad opuscolo, eppoi ad un giornale e da questo ad altri. Qui il malcontento cresceva e giustamente si invocava una parola riparatrice di sì grave ed insolente calunnia che valicava anche le Alpi, come rilevai da qualche lettera giuntami di là.

Dico calunnia perché: a) su 2300 sacerdoti posso assicurare che appena quattro o cinque mostrarono tendenze modernistiche, e questi furono chiamati, corretti e qualcuno anche sospeso dalla predicazione; e ringraziando Iddio, ho tutta la speranza di vera emendazione. b) La famosa Lega Democratica Nazionale, capitanata dal Murri , inutilmente, anche in questi ultimi mesi, rinnovò il tentativo di costituire una «sezione » e quella che esisteva a Gallarate andò totalmente in sfacelo. c) Venne in Milano l’ultima domenica di febbraio il disgraziato sac. Minocchi e bastò che io avessi spedito il giorno prima il divieto di intervenirvi a tutte le sagristie perché neppure un sacerdote si vedesse a quella conferenza, la quale del resto, anche nel laicato fu un assoluto insuccesso. d) Il «Rinnovamento» voleva dire soltanto un piccolo numero di giovani modernisti, biasimati da tutti, e questa voce fioca di propaganda modernistic va spegnendosi ormai, se pur, come ritiene mons. Ratti dell’Ambrosiana non sia già affatto spenta. e) Del «Giornale d’Italia» appena ne arriva finora qualche copia; sicché, anche per avviso di rispettabilissime persone, non ho ancora condannato nominatamente questo giornale per non fargli, come sul dirsi, della reclame. f) La «Cultura sociale» benché non professi il modernismo, pure ha le sue colpe e non leggiere; ma fu sconfessata, per modo che portò le sue tende a Como e se ne prevede presto la fine.

Dopo tutto ciò non era tollerabile l’accusa lanciata a Milano come «vero centro di modernismo» (Unità Cattolica), e particolarmente inflitta al seminario, quasi vi si insinuasse il modernismo.

Con ciò si attacca l’arcivescovo, si screditano il seminario, e specialmente alcuni professori venivano calunniosamente segnati a dito come modernisti, mentre tutti hanno sempre dato le più chiare prove di integrità e purezza di dottrina, e di quella perfetta romanità che è il primo vanto dei seminarii milanesi.

Tutti poi si rimase sorpresi dall’opuscolo pauroso del notaio Donadoni perché combattendo il modernismo mai disse una parola contro il «Rinnovamento»; e di più egli prese parte l’anno scorso alla sottoscrizione di parecchi liberali che volevano ad ogni costo rimanesse parroco a S. Alessandro il P. Gazzola, Barnabita, che portava il suo contributo al liberalism ed al modernismo; tanto è vero che lo hanno come direttore spirituale quei del «Rinnovamento».

Anzi riguardo al P. Gazzola debbo soggiungere che, nominato il nuovo parroco, feci istanza perché fosse traslocato da Milano, e per sollecitare la cosa minacciai di togliergli la facoltà di confessare e di predicare 65; ma pur troppo (sebbene ne abbia scritto in passato anche al S. Uffizio) ho il dispiacere di vederlo rimanere qui in Milano, dove non esercita certamente una salutare influenza.

A questo medesimo proposito debbo soggiungere che un signore milanese (e lo ha detto a me egli stesso ier l’altro), stato a Roma in questi ultimi giorni, udì da un distinto prelato del Vaticano fare alte meraviglie perché l’arcivescovo di Milano tolera [sic] ancora in sua diocesi il P. Gazzola. Ma che cosa potevo io fare di più? Gli ho fatta rinunziare la parrocchia; gli ho tolta già da tre anni la predicazione fuori della chiesa di S. Alessandro, e in ultimo venni alle suindicate minaccie; ma a questo si rispose con lettera che a Roma nulla si aveva da dire contro il P. Gazzola.

A me intanto non rimane che tacere e sopportare l’accusa di una certa acquiescenza di modernismo, sia religioso, sia politico. Sì, adesso viene fuori anche il modernismo politico — che io chiamerei piuttosto vecchismo, perché nella forma attuale non ha meno di 60 anni: è il liberalism in politica — ed è altro argomento di lotta fra giornali cattolici a solo vantaggio dei nemici della Chiesa.

Qui abbiamo l’«Unione» che ha avuto i suoi torti. Ho chiamato, ho ammonito più volte in camera caritatis, e — posso dirlo — non senza frutto; ma se tutto non ho potuto ottenere, non è certo per mia trascuranza.

Continuerò ancora a chiamare ed a correggere, ma dall’altra parte non posso non tener conto del bene che fa, e ne fa molto, con una tiratura di oltre a 12 mila copie. È poi da riflettere che hic et nunc, attese le condizioni nelle quali ci troviamo, siamo ridotti a questo dilemma: o l’«Unione» come è o nessun giornale cattolico in Milano. Non mi sentirei di appigliarmi alla seconda parte del dilemma; dunque rimane la prima, collo studio di procurare il più possibile il miglioramento dell’«Unione».

Ma intanto ecco le lotte fra giornali e periodici cattolici che fanno gran male, dividono il campo cattolico stremandone le forze, e chi ne gode, ridendo, è il nemico; il nemico che si avanza a schiere compatte coll’arma terribile di una stampa satanica, col vessillo spiegato in mezzo alle turbe parlamentari che porta il motto infernale: «né Dio, né padrone ». È doloroso quanto mai: si fa strage di tante anime dall’oste nemico, intanto che i figli della Chiesa si dilaniano a vicenda.

Santissimo Padre, forse ho detto troppo, ma non oltre la verità. Del troppo chiedo umilmente perdono, ma dopo che ho detto mi trovo sollevato, perché nel cuore del Padre questo povero figlio ha versato il suo cuore; e se non ci rivolgiamo al padre per avere conforto, a chi ci rivolgeremo mai? Se però invece di conforti merito rimproveri, anche questi mi saranno cari, perché novella prova dell’amore del Padre.

Padre Santo, implorando la benedizione, si professa col bacio de’ santissimi Vostri piedi, l’umilissimo, ubbidientissimo, ossequentissimo figlio
✠ Andrea C. Card. Ferrari, Arciv. di Milano.”

The reply on 13 March 1908 from His Holiness was not quite as effusive:

“Eminentissimo Signor Cardinale

Non Le nascondo l’impressione che mi ha fatta la nota dell’Eminenza Vostra sul modernismo, perché fin d’allora ho previste le conseguenze che (sia pure in mala fede) avrebbero dedotte i nostri avversari a loro vantaggio.

D’altronde l’Eminenza Vostra ha giudicato necessaria quella pubblicazione ed io non ho da che ridire, perché l’Eminenza Vostra meglio d’ogni altro conosce ciò che passa a Milano e quindi si deve rimettere al suo prudente giudizio quanto ha creduto di fare per ovviare alle imputazioni
che si andavano diffondendo, offensive al suo clero.

Che se non ostanti le cure sollecite del Pastore (che non può far miracoli) c’è pure, com’Ella asserisce, qualche inconveniente, ognuno però deve riconoscere la di Lei vigilanza, per la quale furono impediti mali maggiori.

Stia pertanto di buon animo e La conforti l’apostolica benedizione che Le impartisco di cuore, confermandomi Suo obbligatissimo, affezionatissimo

Pius PP. X.”

The Cardinal at the 1908 International Eucharistic Congress in London

The situation got worse. Partisan supporters on both sides seemed to fan the flames. Small incidents could aggravate such as the incident involving offhand remarks of the Cardinal in a Seminary one Good Friday about Catholic newspapers in his diocese. The cardinal wanted to correct errors in the newspapers. The Vatican wanted to suppress the newspapers. He told his clerics: “In the matter of the newspapers, always be in agreement with your Bishop and you will be in agreement with the Pope. ... You will never go wrong.” These remarks were reported back (after the appropriate “spin”) to the Vatican. A fierce reaction followed.

Some suggested that the Cardinal go to Rome and resign his cardinalate in protest. This was never an option. Obedience to the Pope was paramount. He retorted:

“"Questo non sarà mai; io ubbidisco sempre, sempre, sempre. Gli ordini del papa non si discutono".

“That will never be. I obey the Pope. Always. Always. Always. One does not question the orders of the Pope.”

There was no rebellion. There was only obedience. Despite the hardship and anguish he remained true to his resolution made at his Episcopal ordination: "Soffrire e tacere"

Those who might want to inquire further into the issue may wish to look at where the issue is discussed at length in Italian with the full correspondence between Pope Pius X, the Cardinal and Cardinal DeLai

Eventually Pius X came round to a different view of the Cardinal. After a number of years, the Pope had the humility and the courage to say to Mons Rosa, the Bishop of Perugia who was his confidante:

"Purtroppo sul conto del Card. Ferrari ci siamo sbagliati". (“Perhaps on the matter of Cardinal Ferrari, we were wrong”)

It was the First World War which provided the greatest test for the Archbishop and he showed his mettle. Italy joined the War late in 1915 after being wooed by the Allies and also the German-Austrian Alliance. It entered the Allied side. Milan was in the forefront of the Italian war effort. He put the Church towork and dispelled any prejudices that the Church was not patriotic. The Church`s work in the aid of orphans, widows, displaced persons and families, soldiers, prisoners and others was never forgotten.

The foundation for good works which he instituted is now the Compagnia di San Paolo, also called the Opera Cardinal Ferrari. It still exists and thrives. It was an early Apostolate of its type.

It was he who was responsible for L`Azione Cattolica which spread throughout Italy.

At the end, he signed the papers for the foundation of Università Cattolica in Milan which is still going strong and is one of the major learning institutions in the city.

The qualities which first attracted the attention of Pope Leo XIII and later came to be belatedly admired by Saint Pope Pius X were recognised by Pope Benedict XV, the successor of Pope Pius X.

On 22nd May 1918, Pope Benedict XV addressed his Apostolic Letter Maximas Inter to the Cardinal about the Campaign of Calumny and Hatred directed to Pope Benedict in respect of his conduct during the First World War. See   Perhaps the Pope realised that the cardinal would know how he felt being defamed or criticised unjustly. He also had great influence as a patriot within his Archdiocese.

But it was nearer home that his qualities were recognised. His qualities were fully recognised by the clergy and people of Milan who flocked to his funeral in droves in 1921.

The exposition of the Cardinal in a glass casket in Milan Cathedral

It was these qualities which led Pope John XXIII to speak his panegyric to him at the Vatican on 19th February 1961, the fortieth anniversary of the founding of the Company of St Paul and the passing of the Cardinal. After his ordination the young Angelo Roncalli saw the Cardinal about once a month. He knew him well. The influence of the cardinal on Monsignor Giacomo Maria Radini Tedeschi was strong and through him on the young priest.

Pope John`s speech on the Cardinal at    is worthwhile re-reading even although it is only published in Italian. There is no doubt about the genuineness of the emotion and admiration which Pope John had about the Cardinal.

“Nell'ora del vespero del 2 febbraio u. s., quando tremavano ancora tra le guglie del Duomo le ultime note dell'Angelus, l'anima santa del Cardinal Ferrari si levava a volo verso il cielo, presentata al Signore dalla Vergine Madre, nella festa della sua Purificazione.

La morte, che in questi anni ha mietuto in gran copia le sue vittime non solo sui campi di guerra, ma ancora fra i personaggi più notevoli che ebbero parte negli avvenimenti contemporanei, forse mai apparve così solenne, e fu accompagnata da così commossa e riverente ammirazione, come presso questo figlio della montagna, che la grazia del Signore e la fedeltà nel corrispondervi elevarono tra i principi del popolo, e fecero degno di risplendere tra i più insigni uomini di Chiesa dell'epoca nostra.

« I funerali celebrati il lunedì 7 successivo, più che manifestazione di cordoglio unanime e di preghiera suffragante, furono una glorificazione delle virtù dello scomparso, una vera apoteosi.

Chi vi assistette li ricorderà finché viva. Conviene risalire a quanto è scritto dei funerali di S. Carlo per trovare nella storia di Milano alcunché di somigliante.

Degno omaggio, del resto, alla grandezza morale di un personaggio che volle e seppe rimanere quale Iddio lo aveva fatto, cioè sacerdote nel senso più alto della parola, null'altro che sacerdote.

Quando si voglia infatti, e pur senza prevenire giudizi che sono ancora il segreto di Dio, chiedere alla liturgia della Chiesa un pensiero, che riassuma tutto il Cardinale Ferrari, nella sua persona e nella sua edificante attività pastorale, subito ci soccorrono le belle parole pronunciate in onore dei pontefici santi: Ecce sacerdos magnus, qui in diebus suis placuit Deo et inventus est iustus, et in tempore iracundiae factus est reconciliatio.
Spettacolo invero singolare, in giorni di tanto odio fraterno, di così accese lotte sociali, quel convenire di tutte le classi e di tutte le correnti nella espressione di omaggio sulla salma di chi non visse se non per Iddio, per la Chiesa, per le anime ; preferì l'affermazione alla negazione, il fare al criticare, sempre e senza posare un istante mai; il non conoscere piccolezze, ma superare ogni ostacolo con invitta costanza, traendo ispirazione non da criteri mondani, ma solo da quelle ragioni altissime di fede e di pietà cristiana che costituivano il fondo migliore del suo spirito.

« Dinanzi a questo spettacolo l'anima sacerdotale, pur nella mestizia della scomparsa dell'insigne Pastore, quietamente si ricrea e trae incoraggiamento a proseguire, secondo il buon indirizzo ricevuto da lui, ad occuparci del regno di Dio e della sua giustizia, e non di altro: ad attendere a farci santi, per riuscire santificatori ; e meritarci anche quaggiù gioia e gloria verace, più che nel fasto delle dignità, nello splendore delle anime conquistate.

Nel cuore dei Bergamaschi la memoria del Cardinale Andrea Carlo Ferrari avrà un culto fatto di speciale riconoscenza, di venerazione e di amore.
Durante i ventisei anni del suo episcopato Milanese, per ben trenta volte fummo allietati dalla sua visita in città, nelle valli, in circostanze di feste solenni, in giorni di trepidazione e di dolore. Ricorderemo la santa amicizia che l'univa ai nostri vescovi Mons. Guindani, Mons. Radini, Mons. Marelli ; le prodigiose immagini di Maria incoronate di sua mano; la singolare tenerezza con la quale si tratteneva coi Bergamaschi e delle cose nostre.

Ci segua sempre anche dal cielo quella sua benevolenza, e unito il suo spirito, come speriamo, a quello dei nostri Pastori, di là con loro continui a pregare per questa chiesa Bergomense ».

Così scrivemmo allora; e voi immaginate e quasi sentite l'emozione dell'umile sacerdote quarantenne di allora, il cui cuore di Pontefice della Chiesa universale non è mutato.”

And for another shorter appreciation of the Cardinal by Pope John XXIII see his speech on the Fiftieth anniversary of the newspapers Unione and L'Italia (the newspapers which had caused all the problems for the Cardinal during the Modernist Crisis) 
“Una luminosa ed alta figura, santa ed indimenticabile, di insigne pastore della Chiesa sentiamo qui presente; più ancora la sentivamo ascoltando le vostre parole di Cardinale Arcivescovo di Milano: la figura del vostro quart'ultimo predecessore sulla Cattedra dei Santi Ambrogio e Carlo, il Cardinale Andrea Ferrari. Nel 1912 egli fu l'animatore del nuovo giornale L'Italia, come lo fu in ogni altra memorabile intrapresa apostolica di pensiero e di azione del tempo suo. Oh, il Cardinal Ferrari!

Noi anche conserviamo vivo il ricordo della sua profonda sensibilità e preveggenza; della sua ansia di giungere dappertutto al momento giusto, di corrispondere ai bisogni accresciuti delle anime, di adattare i metodi di azione pastorale alle enormi difficoltà che il laicismo e la conclamata libertà in ogni campo frapponevano all'apostolato del clero e dei laici.

Fu lui a comporre le comprensibili disparità di vedute, che facevano capo ai giornali preesistenti; fu lui a voler dare unità alla situazione della stampa nella sua arcidiocesi, rimanendo esemplare anche per questa impostazione di un lavoro unitario. I principii che animarono i cattolici milanesi, nel dare vita al loro quotidiano, sono rimasti immutati nel corso di questi cinquant'anni, fruttificando rigogliosamente sul primitivo ceppo robusto. Certo, prove di vario genere non sono mancate, in un periodo singolarmente denso di eventi storici, in cui i cattolici sono stati chiamati ad un arduo dovere di continua presenza, di efficace testimonianza. Ella, Signor Cardinale, ne ha ben riassunte le tappe, indicando il difficile lavoro di orientamento richiesto ai giornalisti cattolici per il momento presente.

Diletti figli! È ben naturale che nella luce che promana dalle figure e dalle consegne del passato, ripensando oggi al cammino percorso, vogliate gradire da Noi alcune riflessioni che vi siano di paterna indicazione nel riprendere, rinfrancati, il buon cammino. E le Nostre parole traggono spunto dal giornale medesimo, da ciò che è il suo nome, il suo impegno, il suo grande precetto.

Il nome anzitutto, diletti figli, che palpita sulla testata del quotidiano a espressione di leale amore di patria. Fu il Cardinal Ferrari a volere quel titolo: ed è cosa da sottolineare subito, questa volontà di chiarezza, questa decisione fermamente sostenuta, che veniva a coronare la sua opera di equilibrata distensione.

Certo, anche L'Unione suonava bene, ed era indicativo di tutto un programma: ma nel volere come titolo L'Italia, il Cardinale poneva d'un tratto il giornale, il suo significato, il suo impegno nella luce di un ampio orizzonte, che attirasse più vasti consensi, anche oltre i confini delle organizzazioni cattoliche, nel segno di un ideale comune.

Nelle contrastanti passioni dell'ora, nel lento maturarsi di una coscienza politica del laicato cattolico italiano, nelle aperte ed occulte avversioni suscitate da chi non può adattarsi a concedere ai cattolici la pienezza dei diritti che ogni cittadino reclama per sè, singolarmente preso ed associato : chiamare il giornale cattolico col nome della patria voleva dire anticipare i tempi, e porre i fondamenti di quella operosa partecipazione dei cattolici alla cosa pubblica, di cui ora, a cinquant'anni di distanza, dobbiamo rallegrarci, dobbiamo umilmente ringraziare il Signore.

Erano i tempi in cui sul nome di cattolico veniva gettata palesemente un'ombra di diffidenza, e talvolta di disprezzo, quasi a indicare inettitudine del cristiano ai grandi compiti di preparare una più civile convivenza, una più giusta legislazione, un più moderno senso di individuale e collettiva responsabilità nel governo della cosa pubblica.

LasciateCi ripetere una recente confidenza fatta da Noi ad un giovanile gruppo di Azione Cattolica della vostra arcidiocesi: « Quando riandiamo ai ricordi della Nostra giovinezza di seminarista qui in Roma — dicevamo il 1° giugno — sull'inizio del ventesimo secolo, ancora non riusciamo a sottrarci al senso di amarezza che Ci causava il sentirci noi tutti, clero e popolo cattolico d'Italia, quasi dei tollerati, degli ospiti, cui era appena concesso di visitare la dimora degli avi e bisbigliare sotto voce il canto della fede antica”

On 10 March 1964, a former Archbishop of Milan, Pope Paul VI spoke about the Cardinal to an Association which carries on the social work of the Cardinal in the same Archdiocese:

“Vediamo quindi con vero compiacimento come questa diversità di provenienze e di attribuzioni sia composta in una superiore unità nel nome del grande e compianto Presule di Milano, il Cardinale Ferrari, che fu una vivida fiamma di generosità, di carità e di zelo, tuttora accesa ed alta sull’intera Arcidiocesi e irradiantesi anche oltre, attraverso le opere, che da Lui han preso l’avvio o l’ispirazione.

Noi stessi siamo stati testimoni edificati e commossi di questa presenza viva del Cardinal Ferrari nella memoria e nel cuore dei fedeli; Noi stessi abbiamo osservato di persona come sia stato profondo e benefico il solco da lui tracciato in diocesi di Milano, fin nelle parrocchie più lontane e sperdute; e abbiamo cercato di continuare quel solco, di prolungare quell’influsso, di estendere quella testimonianza..”

In the Mass for the Beatification of the cardinal, Pope John Paul II said in his homily (10th May 1987):

“Cristo fu la “porta” della santità per il Cardinale Andrea Carlo Ferrari, il quale, dopo essere stato Vescovo di Guastalla e di Como, resse per ben ventisette anni l’arcidiocesi di Milano, seguendo con appassionato fervore pastorale le orme dei grandi predecessori Ambrogio e Carlo.

Sorretto da fede robusta e zelo illuminato, egli seppe indicare con giudizio sicuro la via da percorrere fra le nuove e difficili realtà emergenti nel contesto religioso e sociale del suo tempo. Seppe vedere i problemi pastorali che le circostanze storiche ponevano, con l’occhio del buon Pastore, indicando i modi per affrontarli e risolverli. Egli è pertanto un esempio di grande attualità.

Consapevole che l’ignoranza dei principi essenziali della fede e della vita morale esponeva i fedeli alla propaganda atea e materialista, organizzò una forma di catechesi moderna ed incisiva. Anche lo stile pastorale fu da lui rinnovato: ispirandosi al “buon Pastore”, egli ripeteva con forza che non si doveva attendere passivamente che i fedeli si avvicinassero alla Chiesa, ma che era indispensabile tornare a percorrere, come Gesù, le vie e le piazze per andare loro incontro, parlando il loro linguaggio.

Egli visitò per quasi quattro volte la vasta arcidiocesi ambrosiana, recandosi nelle località più lontane ed impervie, anche a dorso di mulo ed a piedi, ove da tempo immemorabile non si era veduto un Vescovo. Per questo, di fronte alla sua pastorale infaticabile, alcuni dicevano: “È tornato san Carlo!” (Positio super virtutibus, 267).

La sollecitudine del pastore ebbe espressione anche nella promozione di forme nuove di assistenza, adeguate al mutare dei tempi. Primi destinatari dell’ammirevole fiorire di iniziative sociali furono i fanciulli ed i giovani abbandonati, i lavoratori, i poveri.

Maturò così nel cuore del Cardinale Ferrari il progetto di una opera, che costituisce oggi una sua eredità preziosa; la Compagnia di san Paolo, chiamata anche Opera Cardinal Ferrari. Dall’idea originaria di una Casa del Popolo, che raccogliesse le organizzazioni di apostolato dei laici e di assistenza dell’arcidiocesi, si sviluppò una serie di attività ispirate al geniale e coraggioso dinamismo pastorale dell’Arcivescovo: il “Segretariato del Popolo”, le mense aziendali, le missioni agli operai, la Casa del Fanciullo e quella per la rieducazione degli scarcerati, le grandi iniziative nell’editoria cattolica, l’organizzazione dei pellegrinaggi di massa.

Merito insigne del Cardinale Ferrari fu proprio quello di percepire con felice intuito l’urgenza di coinvolgere i laici nella vita della comunità ecclesiale, organizzandone le forze per una più incisiva presenza cristiana nella società. Fu solerte promotore dell’Azione Cattolica maschile e femminile che, sotto il suo determinante impulso, crebbe e da Milano ebbe un benefico influsso su tutta l’Italia. Si prodigò anche per l’erigenda Università Cattolica ed ebbe la gioia di vederne l’incipiente attuazione.

Ma il segreto dell’instancabile azione apostolica del nuovo beato resta la sua vita interiore, fondata su profonde convinzioni teologiche, soffusa di tenera e filiale devozione alla Madonna, incentrata su Gesù eucaristico e sul crocifisso, espressa in un atteggiamento costante di grande bontà verso tutti, di commossa sollecitudine verso i poveri di eroica pazienza nel dolore.

Il 29 settembre 1920, tra i lancinanti dolori del male che lo soffocava, scrisse nel suo diario queste estreme parole: “Sia fatta la volontà di Dio sempre e in tutto!”. Il Cardinale Andrea Carlo Ferrari, che ora invochiamo come “beato”, aiuti anche noi a compiere sempre la volontà di Dio, in cui sta la nostra santificazione”

The Full Memorandum or Wish List for the Pope`s Visit

The Telegraph has published on its website the full "Wish list" of the Memorandum compiled by the United Kingdom Foreign Office Team in preparation for the Pope`s visit to the United Kingdom in September 2010.

Previously only an extract was available.

The full "List" is below.

One wonders if the rest of the Memorandum will now be published.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Italian Renaissance drawings at the British Museum

Fra Angelico to Leonardo: Italian Renaissance Drawings is the latest exhibition at The British Museum in London until 25th July 2010.

A must see !

There are exceptional drawings by Raphael and Michelangelo. Ten Leonardo da Vincis. Works by Botticelli and Uccello, Pollaiuolo Mantegna, Vivarini, Cima, Bellini, Carpaccio, Parri Spinelli from Arezzo and even Titian. Half the exhibits come from the British Museum’s own fine holdings, and the rest from the Uffizi gallery, in Florence, the world’s most bountiful store of Italian Renaissance treasures

Andrea del Verrocchio, [Andrea di Michele di Francesco de' Cioni] (c. 1435 – 1488)
Head of a woman.[detail] c.1475
Charcoal (some oiled ?), heightened with white, pen and brown ink on her left eye, 32.4 x 27.3 cm (whole drawing).
The British Museum, London

Anonymous Lombard (Workshop of Giovannino de'Grassi (active in Milan 1389-1398) ),
Two studies of a cheetah, 1410
Watercolour and bodycolour on vellum,
16.4 x 12.3 cm (whole drawing).
British Museum, London

Sandro Botticelli, [Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, ](c. 1445 – May 17, 1510)
Allegory of Abundance or Autumn , c. 1480-5.
Black and red chalk, pen and brown ink, brown wash, heightened with white, on paper with an irregular orange-red ground consisting mainly of red lead, 31.7 x 25.2 cm (whole drawing).
The British Museum, London

Raffaellino del Garbo, (1466 or perhaps 1476 – 1524)
The Risen Christ , c. 1495-97.
Silverpoint heightened with lead white over stylus indications on grey preparation, 37.8 x 25.5 cm (whole drawing).
The British Museum, London
The main figure is a study for Christ in the 'Resurrection' altarpiece painted for the Capponi chapel in the church of San Bartolomeo a Monteoliveto in Via Monte Oliveto, Florence, and now in the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence

Raphael, [Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino] (April 6 or March 28, 1483 – April 6, 1520)
Cartoon for St George, [detail] c. 1504-5.
Pen and ink, over black chalk, the outlines of the figures pricked for transfer, 26.5 x 26.7 cm.
Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi, Florence

Leonardo da Vinci, [Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci ] (April 15, 1452 – May 2, 1519),
Landscape (detail), 1473.
Pen and two shades of brown ink, 19.4 x 28.5 cm (whole drawing).
Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi, Florence

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519),
Study for the background of the 'Adoration of the Magi', about 1481, Metalpoint, pen and brown ink, brown wash, touches of lead white heightening, over stylus and compass incising, on cream preparation.
Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi, Florence

Titian, [Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio] (c. 1473/1490 – 27 August 1576
Study of a Young Woman
Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi, Florence

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Officials in the United Kingdom mock the Pope

Official Memorandum regarding the Pope`s visit to the United Kingdom in September 2010

Before the Pope`s visit to the United Kingdom in September, officials have to plan. It is, after all, a State Visit. However one does expect that since they are employed in the service of the State, they would approach the task with  a degree of professionalism and not as if they are members of a  fourth form secondary class. Regrettably it would appear that there may be some civil servants in rather high positions who have an extremely juvenile sense of humour and lack the professionalism for which the British civil service was always admired and respected.

The Sunday Telegraph has  published official documents written by officials responsible for the British Government planning for the Papal visit. Considering that there are very delicate consideratons to be taken into account to ensure that the Visit is a success or at least does not pass with a serious incident, one would have expected that they would be of a very high quality. However ...

Amongst the documents are a memorandum (above) which ridiculed Church teaching on abortion and other matters

The suggestions for events for the pope`s visit  included the Pope opening an abortion ward; spending the night in a council flat in Bradford; doing forward rolls with children to promote healthy living; and even performing a duet with the Queen; that the Pope should reverse the Church’s "policy on women bishops/ordain woman"; and that the Vatican should "sponsor a network of Aids clinics".

The Foreign Office issued a public apology after being approached by The Sunday Telegraph, while Francis Campbell, the UK ambassador to the Vatican, met senior officials of the Holy See to express the Government’s regret.

The "ideal visit" list was circulated within Whitehall by a junior Foreign Office official, an Oxbridge graduate in his 20s.

In an emailed memo dated March 5, headed "Policy planning ahead of the Pope’s visit", he invited senior colleagues to attend an "inter-faith meeting" the following week to discuss themes for the visit.

Attached to the memo were three "background documents", including the "ideal visit" list, which he said would form the basis of discussions. He added in the memo: "Please protect; these should not be shared externally. The ‘ideal visit’ paper in particular was the product of a brainstorm which took into account even the most far-fetched of ideas."

Recipients included Nicola Ware, a senior Foreign Office official, as well as officials at 10 Downing Street, the Department for International Development, and the Northern Ireland Office.

The exercise appears to have been intended to ensure a high impact for the papal visit and to identify areas such as development and climate change on which the Government and the Vatican could co-operate, but the list of ideas has caused offence.

Another of the three background documents, titled "Papal Visit Stakeholders", lists figures and groups that the officials consider significant to the tour, and ranks them in order of how "influential" and "positive" each one is perceived to be.

The Queen, David Cameron, and Tony Blair are all ranked as highly influential and positive. It rates Susan Boyle, the singer, as more influential than Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster

It is of course a bit of fun gone wrong. It was not quite a brain storming session which was responsible as a complete mental collapse.

However one does wonder if there are some officials who would be quite happy to see the forthcoming Papal visit turn out to be a fiasco and are not really working to ensure that it will be successful. One hopes that this was simply one official going "off his rocker" and not a sign that the forthcoming visit is going to turn out to be a headache not only for the church but also for the British state.

Roger Wagner

Roger Wagner. b.1957
The Harvest Is the End of the World and the Reapers Are the Angels, 1984.
Oil on canvas.
23 x 32 inches.
Private collection.

These drawings of angels were made into woodcuts and included in Wagner`s first book of poems, entitled Fire Sonnets, published by the Besalel Press in 1984

He depicts a world transfigured by the presence of God and his angels:

And in that summer evening's fading light
I saw his angels gather in the wheat:
Like beaten gold their beauty smote the air
And tongues of flame were streaming in their hair

He has also produced illustrations for a new translation for the Second Book of the Psalms. Below is the painting for Psalm 46.

Roger Wagner. b.1957
Psalm 46
There is a River
Oil on panel
19 x 15cm
Private collection

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.

5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.

6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

7 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

8 Come and see the works of the LORD,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.

9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear,
he burns the shields with fire.

10 "Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."

11 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Roger Wagner`s website is here.

See also the exhibition of his work in Oxford.

The Blessed Angelico

Attributed to Isaia da Pisa
Original Floor tomb of Blessed Fra Angelico
c. 1455
Cappella Frangipane e Maddaleni-Capiferro, Santa Maria sopra Minerva

Fra Angelico died in Rome in February 1455.

He was buried in the Cappella Frangipane e Maddaleni-Capiferro near the High Altar of the Dominican Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome. The Church also contains the tombs of many Florentines including two Florentine Popes.

Within his own lifetime Fra Angelico became known as ‘Il Beato’ Angelico due to his reputation and the reverence with which he painted religious subjects.

Although only beatified in 1982 by Pope John Paul II, the recognition of his piety by his contemporaries is seen in his tomb

As regards the depiction of Fra Angelico, reference is made to The Constitutions of the Order of Preachers, and preceding the revised edition of St. Raymond of Pennafort, 1241, the rule of the Observant Friars of which Fra Angelico was a member:

"The brethren shall not sleep on mattresses, unless they cannot obtain straw or something of that sort on which to sleep. They shall sleep dressed in tunic and shoes. It is lawful to sleep on straw, a woollen mat or sacking."

Fra Angelico is sleeping according to the Constitutions.

His arms are crossed while he sleeps, forming a gesture understood to signify humility.

In a contemporary sermon by Fra Roberto Caracciolo da Lecce the meaning of this pose as an imitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is explained:

"…Lifting her eyes to heaven, and bringing up her hands with her arms in the form of a cross, she ended as God, the Angels and the Holy Fathers desired: “Be it unto me according to thy word.” Quoted in Michael Baxandall, Painting and Experience in Fifteenth Century Italy, Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York, 1988, p. 51.

The Virgin, through her humility and acceptance of the divine will, served as a model of obedience for the monks.

Paolo Morachiello has pointed out:

"Observants not only considered the Virgin to be the first and perfect example of the apostolate but also saw her as their inspiration and model." (Paolo Morachiello in Fra Angelico: The San Marco Frescoes, Thames and Hudson, London 1996, p. 270.)

Beato Fra Angelico (Guido di Pietro)
Death of the Virgin 1433-34
Tempera on wood
23 x 14 cm
Museo Diocesano, Cortona

As in life, The Beato has the bare minimum of earthly possessions with him in the tomb. It is he alone awaiting Christ.

Vasari in his Lives of the Artists has this to say of the Beato;

"He was most kind and sober, keeping himself free from all worldly ties, often saying that he who practised art had need of quiet and to be able to live without cares, and that he who represents the things of Christ should always live with Christ. He was never seen in anger by the friars, which is a great thing, and seems to me almost impossible to believe; and he had a way of admonishing his friends with smiles.

To those who sought his works he would answer, that they must content the prior, and then he would not fail.

To sum up, this father, who can never be enough praised, was in all his works and words most humble and modest, and in his paintings facile and devout; and the saints whom he painted have more the air and likeness of saints than those of any one else. It was his habit never to retouch or alter any of his paintings, but to leave them as they came the first time, believing, as he said, that such was the will of God. Some say he would never take up his pencil until he had first made supplication, and he never made a crucifix but he was bathed in tears."

Three years after his death the Dominican poet Fra Domenico da Corella said of the Beato: "Rich in skill and unerring in religion"

Fra Angelico has two epitaphs on his tomb.

The first seems to have been composed by the cleric and humanist Lorenzo Valla (1405 or 1407 – 1457). It states;

"The glory, the mirror, the ornament of painters, John the Florentine is preserved in this place. A religious, he was a brother of the Holy Order of Saint Dominic and he was himself a true servant of God. His pupils greatly mourn the death of such a great teacher because who will find another draughtsman as he ? His homeland and his order mourn the death of such a distinguished painter who had no equal in his art."

The first epitaph seems out of place with the sculpture of Fra Angelico on his tomb. Perhaps however it indicates how the cult of saintliness in some circles was then linked to the pride of one`s homeland and the desire for fame and boasting of the achievements of "one`s own". It seems a bit out of place when remembering the humble friar.

The second epitaph is perhaps more appropriate and more consistent with correct attitudes about what constitutes sanctity. it is the epitaph which is better known.

The second epitaph reads:

"Here lies the venerable painter Brother Giovanni of Florence O P, 1455
Let it not be said in my praise that I was another Apelles
But, O Christ, that I gave my reward to all your people
The deeds that count on earth are different from those in Heaven
I, John, flourished in the city known as the flower of Tuscany."

Modern tomb arrangement of Beato Fra Angelico (1979)

The modern tomb arrangement which you see now in the Church is the work of the architects G. Pediconi and M. Paniconi, and dates from 1979

It was in front of this modern tomb arrangement that Pope John Paul II knelt on 18th October 1984 and proclaimed Blessed Fra Angelico the Patron Saint of Artists.

He had a deep appreciation of the life and works of the Blessed Painter especially his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary

In his Letter to Artists, (4 April 1999, Easter Sunday) Pope John Paul II wrote:

"Every genuine artistic intuition goes beyond what the senses perceive and, reaching beneath reality's surface, strives to interpret its hidden mystery. The intuition itself springs from the depths of the human soul, where the desire to give meaning to one's own life is joined by the fleeting vision of beauty and of the mysterious unity of things.

All artists experience the unbridgeable gap which lies between the work of their hands, however successful it may be, and the dazzling perfection of the beauty glimpsed in the ardour of the creative moment: what they manage to express in their painting, their sculpting, their creating is no more than a glimmer of the splendour which flared for a moment before the eyes of their spirit.

Believers find nothing strange in this: they know that they have had a momentary glimpse of the abyss of light which has its original wellspring in God. Is it in any way surprising that this leaves the spirit overwhelmed as it were, so that it can only stammer in reply?

True artists above all are ready to acknowledge their limits and to make their own the words of the Apostle Paul, according to whom “God does not dwell in shrines made by human hands” so that “we ought not to think that the Deity is like gold or silver or stone, a representation by human art and imagination” (Acts 17:24, 29). If the intimate reality of things is always “beyond” the powers of human perception, how much more so is God in the depths of his unfathomable mystery!

The knowledge conferred by faith is of a different kind: it presupposes a personal encounter with God in Jesus Christ.

Yet this knowledge too can be enriched by artistic intuition. An eloquent example of aesthetic contemplation sublimated in faith are, for example, the works of Fra Angelico."

The monastery of San Marco in Florence, which the Beato decorated and where he prayed and painted is an extraordinary place, an experience. This was not intended to be a museum or art gallery. It was to be a place alive with deep prayer and contemplation.

Walking up the stairs one is confronted by an angel with multicolored wings, announcing momentous news to Mary, and the beginning of the Incarnation

One also comes to scenes special to the Dominican order. St Dominic adoring the Crucifixion is depicted more than once. St Dominic had a special devotion to the Crucifixion. St. Dominic is shown embracing the base of the Cross—the blood of the Saviour trickling onto his hands. This image urged the monks to follow by example.

An inscription at the base of one of the Crucifixion scenes encourages the brothers to embrace Christ’s suffering in the same manner as their founder:

O saviour of the world, accept my salutations, accept them, Oh Dear Jesus; I want to rise on your cross, and know the reason; therefore give me the force to do so.
(Paolo Morachiello in Fra Angelico: The San Marco Frescoes, p. 288, note. 1.)

Further on one comes to the individual cells in which one can seclude yourself. Each cell contains a frescoed wall painted by Fra Angelico to aid the monks' prayers and life. One is alone in a landscape in which Jesus comes and goes, as if entering the very place where one sits, contemplates and prays.

Beato Fra Angelico (Guido di Pietro)
The Annunciation1450
Fresco, 230 x 321 cm
Convento di San Marco, Florence

Beato Fra Angelico (Guido di Pietro)
Saint Dominic Adoring the Crucifixion
Fresco, 340 x 155 cm
Northern corridor, Convento di San Marco, Florence

Beato Fra Angelico (Guido di Pietro)
Fresco, 193 x 164 cm
Cell 6, Convento di San Marco, Florence
As well as the Apostles, on either side, stand the Virgin and St Dominic in positions indicative of prayer. The heads of Moses and Elias appear beneath the arms of Christ.

Beato Fra Angelico (Guido di Pietro)
Coronation of the Virgin
Fresco, 184 x 167 cm
Cell 9, Convento di San Marco, Florence
The saints represented on the lower part are (from the left) St Thomas, St Benedict, St Dominic, St Francis, St Peter Martyr and St Mark.

Now we see the place empty apart from the frescoes. What were the cells like when the place with filled with friars ?

Perhaps we can get an inkling from a small panel painted by Friar Angelico which was part of The San Marco Altarpiece (1438-40). The Altarpiece was removed and dismembered in the seventeenth century during the renovation of the church belonging to the Convent of San Marco and dedicated to the two medical saints, Cosmas and Damian.

In the scene below, the Deacon Justinian sleeps while Sts Cosmas and Damian enter his chamber trailing patches of soft cloud. They replace his corrupted and gangraneous leg with a healthy one. Note the swags of curtain, the hard bed, the container hanging from a nail on the side of the bed, the glass and decanter, the slippers and the simple three-legged stool. No carpets or rugs. A simple life with few possessions. Friars were supposed to travel  light through life.

Beato Fra Angelico (Guido di Pietro)
The Healing of Justinian by Saint Cosmas and Saint Damian1438-40
Tempera on wood, 37 x 45 cm
Museo di San Marco, Florence