Barnabite Holiness


1600 (XVII Century)

  • Servent of God Raymond Recrosio (1657-1732): Bishop of Nieces, apostle of God's love and of the Sacred Heart
  • Ven. Michalengelo Pane (1612-1630): Barnabite student who died during the pestilence of 1630
  • VENERABLE BARTHOLOMEW CANALE (1605-1681): author ofascetical works
  • Ven. Anthony Mary Pagni (1556-1624): Founder of the Congregation of the Annunciation in Pescia, then    Barnabite


1700 (XVIII Century)

1800 (XIX Century)


1900 (XX Century)   

  • VENERABLE SARAFINO GHIDINI (1902-1924): exemplary Barnabite student
  • Servent of God Louis Raineri (1895-1918): Barnabite student victim of the World War I
  • Fr. John Semeria (1868-1931): father of the war orphans
  • Fr. Francis Castelnuovo (1911-1961): saintly Master of novices and students
  • Fr. Erminio Rondini (1895-1943): founder of the Little Workers of the Sacred Heart


In search of God
More often than ever people are saying that tomorrow belongs to the contemplatives. In this world which has become a desert because every “Good Ideology,” as Fr. Semeria would say, “has withered,” it will make flourish once again those flowers God had planted in the Garden of Eden, where he could encounter man "at the breezy time of the day. “The prophets are the saints of this heavenly era, since the divine promise is constantly offered to man: “My heaven will become a reality on earth through your hands.”

 Anthony M. Zaccaria summarizes the spiritual drama of his own time in the clash between “lukewarmness” and “fervor.” He felt that what needed to be awakened in the consciousness of his contemporaries was “an energetic spirituality and zealous spirit” (Lt 5, 32). Speaking to the lay people gathered in the Cenacle of Friendship, instituted by him in Cremona, Anthony Mary, with suggestive and passionate strokes, draws a dramatic picture of the “true spiritual life.” With a hammering persistence he invites his first audience: “Therefore, conclude and say: I want to lead a spiritual life, I want to become the same spirit with God... I want to have God always in my heart... and I, as a consequence, would be a member of his kingdom and of his heredity” (Sermon, (Sr)  II).

Man achieves spiritual life through the conversion of his heart, Anthony M. Zaccaria dedicates few dense and concrete pages to this subject, always in his instruction to the laity. “You will convert yourself to God” he writes, “by reading part of the Scripture... and...offering a sacrifice...the Most Holy Eucharist” (Sr III). He emphasizes that the Word provides a force which is the force of new life, while the Eucharist provides the nourishment for this new life just born in the heart of man. But so that Word and Bread be efficacious, man has to be condescending. This is the source of the spiritual exercises. For the first generation of Barnabites, Angelics, and the Married of St. Paul it was summed up in two words left them by the “first Father and Founder” of the Paulines, Battista da Crema: Knowledge and victory over oneself, the knowledge of the interior person, of his deepest needs, of his serious limitations, but especially of the work done in him by the Holy Spirit, defined by Anthony Mary with musical terms: “Rhythms and Melodies!” We understand, then, the need for solitude, silence, inferiority, and docile listening which go along with the spiritual exercises.

Once knowledge is achieved, the interior world needs to be beautified, “adorned' as Anthony Mary would say. This implies a committed work of asceticism summarized in the words “victory over oneself.” This implies a “perfect and total victory” over what in man is but fully human, and, therefore, not truly divine. “To fight and to conquer,” Anthony Mary says to the laity in Cremona, “is a great crown,” (Sr V) it is a great triumph.

It is easy to understand how from these premises the Bamabites developed a unique care for spiritual life, promoted among all categories of people, inviting them to the “spiritual exercises,” that is, a series of prayer practices, and to asceticism to achieve the perfection of the interior man.

To reach this goal they provided first of all “masters” of spirituality, rich in interior life and experienced in directing souls. It would be impossible to list all the Bamabites who, highly qualified in the spiritual arts, through patient faithfulness to the confessional and always available for personal dialogue, have directed and guided so many souls toward holiness. It is enough to mention Fr. Charles G. Quadrupani's (1740-1807) book, “Documents for instructions and tranquillity of souls,” fruit of a retreat preached in Turin in 1795.

The Bamabites together with the spiritual provided also ascetical resources to promote interior life. Sometimes they promoted classic texts like the writings of St. Catherine of Siena, Rosmini's “Massime di perfezione” (the first French edition was by the Bamabite Fr. Tondini), or today “The cloud of Unknowing.” Other times they offer their own personal experiences, like Bartholomew Canale (1605-1681), author of a “Spiritual Diary,” a treatise on asceticism which saw many editions.

Besides persons and texts, the Bamabites offer also centers which are specifically set up for the “knowledge and victory” we have talked about. In the old days it was the “convent” of St. Barnabas, where St. Charles Borromeo used to have his annual retreat, or the Carrobiolo in Monza always open for those in search of God. Today we have flourishing centers in Eupilio, Sanzeno, Brussels, Benevides (Brazil), Lewiston and Bethlehem (USA).

In these centers the old tradition of classic spirituality is enriched with the inputs of the new one, open even to people of other Christian denominations and of different religions. Well known are contacts taking place with the Orthodox in Sanzeno and with the Tibetan Buddhists in Eupilio. It seems that today there are two main streams leading to the search for God in the desert, in solitude, in silence, in the interior, and both of them open to man in his immense need for liberation and progress.

The Bamabite spirituality does not experience a conflict between the mainstreams, rather considers them as interdependent. The more one is involved in spiritual life, the more he becomes available to his brothers and sisters; the more he tastes the joys of the spirit, which are “supreme and really true” as Fr. Battista da Crema used to say, the more open he is to the pains of humanity, and he takes on his shoulders “the burdens of his neighbor,” as our Holy Founder loved to say (cf The Writings of St. Anthony Zaccaria, 47). Moreover, he “ruminates” the Word, he “toils” in the apostolate, using an expression used by the Angelic Negri to define the spiritual and pastoral life. Or still yet, using her words, the warmer a man becomes with God's love, the more inflamed he is toward others, provoking fires of love and faith in towns, religions, and states.

Perhaps, some may say that although there is an increase in the demand for religion, and although the activities in spiritual centers are becoming more intense, still those who go through similar exercises and experiences are only a minority. But it is this minority to be recognized and even praised by Christ when he spoke of salt and leaven. A small thing, but destined to give flavor and growth to the great mass. In this the Bamabites do nothing else but follow the intuition of Fra Battista, who recommended to work in depth rather then extension, “It is better to lead few to true perfection, to the summit of virtue, than to raise a lot of commotion among many and then leave them in their imperfection.”

From these spiritual centers, having turned to God, men and women go back in the midst of their neighbors, and each one of them becomes a center of spiritual radiation which brings “everywhere an energetic spirituality and zealous spirit” (Ibid.).
Called to be “Great Saints”
In one of his most beautiful and vibrant letters, written eight days before his death, St. Anthony M. Zaccaria exhorts his first companions gathered in St. Ambrose, Milan, not to debase themselves below “the vocation to which you have been called, “ which was to be “heirs... of great saints” (Letter, (Lt) 7). A very specific and challenging program to achieve holiness.

It was obvious that a Founder would demand such a program from those whom he had called “his sweetest children” :they had to become his collaborators in the spiritual enterprise God had entrusted to him, the reform of the Christians, clergy and laity, during a time marred by ideological confusion due to the Protestant schism in the Church, and the moral corruption among many of the leaders themselves. A task which was out of proportion for human initiatives and means. Only an authentic manifestation of evangelical life could have been able to recall and to cause a renewal in the work of salvation.

How did the Bamabites respond to their Founder's challenge? It is very difficult to evaluate “Holiness”.  By its very nature it belongs to the interior life of the individual, although it can also have exterior manifestations always caused by contingent situations which many times are absent.

The efforts of the saints to keep hidden their interior assimilation unto Christ, can prevent the world in which they live from recognizing their holiness, or it can be appreciated only according to what is evident at the outside. In the early  Church the sudden public manifestation of holiness was given by the bloody witness provoked by the persecutors.  For three centuries this will be the only sign, and that too bound to contingent elements. How many Christians would have witnessed Christ in that way if given the opportunity! And the number of martyrs is surely less than those who actually gave their life for the faith. Even then a choice had to be made, based on contingent elements like the social or ecclesial condition of the individual, the young age, the cruelty or drama of their death, etc. We could call them casual motives but they were motivated by Divine Providence. If in human events nothing is up to chance, as Jesus says in the Gospel, much less up to chance would be the glorification of martyrs and saints in the history of the Church.

In the more than 477  years of our Bamabite Congregation history, the value “holiness” has had three expressions. 1) One officially acknowledged and sanctioned by the competent authority of the Church; 2) another has been publicly recognized in the Bamabite family, among the people bound to the Congregation, and even among the people of entire cities or regions; 3) a third expression finally is known only to God and to the few privileged people who happened to live together with authentic saints without any publicity.

Obviously we can have a list and pertinent information only about those who belong to the first category of saints, who either have reached the glory of the altars, or their cause is underway, maybe trapped in the labyrinth of norms and regulations, which characterizes the specific pontifical department. In the second category some Bamabites have received an “officious” title as saints, which was tolerated by the ecclesiastical authority during a time when related rules and regulations were in the process of being formed. Juridically strictly speaking today those titles have no value at all; at most they prove the fame of holiness for the individual in case the formal process would be introduced. Among them we have the cofounders Venerables Ferrari and Morigia; the Venerable John Peter Besozzi, third Superior General and re-elected for five terms; in the XVII century the Venerable Cosimo Dossena, twelfth Superior General and then Bishop of Tortona; the Venerable Battista Crivelli, eighteenth Superior General; Bishop Venerable  Christopher  Giarda, killed in hate to the Holy See; the young Diego Martinez, companion of St. Louis Gonzaga at the Spanish Royal Court; the Venerable Michelangelo Pane, dead at the age of eighteen serving the victims of a pestilence; the Servant of God Ludovic Bitoz, a Brother, apostle among the Huguenots in the Beam (France); the Venerable Stephen Centurione, founder of the Turchine Sisters.

In the XVIII century these titles started to fade way. Up to the XIII century it had been up to the local Bishop to ascertain the holiness of individuals, and sometimes it was done in a very summary way. Gregory IX with his “Decretales” reserved this task to the Holy See. But also in Rome the process had been rather light and expeditious, and limited only to the canonization process. During the Reformation, also as a reaction to the negation of the cult of the saints, their glorification was over-burdened with external glorification, like pompous ceremonies in the Vatican Basilica at the time of the ritual proclamation, while the process itself became arduous and extremely complicated.

A new juridical step was added, Beatification, that is, the permission for the diocese in which the saint was born and/or had died, and for the Religious Congregation of the Saint to venerate the “Blessed”  If it was not for the restricting laws of 1588 by Sixtus V, the list of Bamabite Saints would be as long as the one of preceding Orders. A drastic law was the one signed by Urban VIII in 1634, which abolished all the cults which had started after 1534. A perfect coincidence with the birth of the Barnabite family! Obedient to the Holy See, the Congregation immediately dropped all cults including the one in honor of the Holy Founder, so dear and precious. Suddenly the Congregation was without any Saints. But this did not stop the people from keeping venerating many Barnabites. Some of them received even titles, like Bishop Paul Nerini, killed in defense of his people in Burma; or the Servant of God Charles Fedeli, a 24 year old deacon; many others were venerated as saints, although without titles. For example, Fr. Jerome Vaiano, dear to St. Charles Borromeo; Fr. Peter Sessa, a model of regular observance; the seminarian Sebastian Carii; Fr. Alexander Lurani, a man of prayer; Bishop Pious Gallizia, first Apostolic Vicar in the Kingdoms of Ava and Pegu (Burma), killed by Indies together with Fr. Alexander Mondelli and Fr. John del Conte; Bishop John Percoto, apostolic missionary of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

These are only few  names taken from a very lengthy list. Walking through the corridors of some of the Barnabite houses, the visitor is amazed at the many oil portraits of serious faces raptured in prayer, or youthful faces with sparkling eyes. The Latin inscriptions sometime talk about scientists and scholars, but often they praise the virtues and the great accomplishments of those Barnabites.

But the picture-gallery of the Barnabite Saints presents many blanks. During periods of war and/or pestilence there was no time for portraits. They were too busy in giving their lives for heir brethren.

In our modem times we rarely make portraits of our venerable confreres, but they are not less memorable. The young Alexander Collareta, Fr. Augustine Schouvaloff, Fr. Louis Villoresi, Fr. Primo Armani, the young Joshua Ponsiglione, Fr. Charles Bartesaghi, Fr. Erminio Rondini, Fr. Paul Molteni, Bro. Angiolino Perego, Fr. Francis Castelnuovo, Fr. Rocco Carenzi, Bishop Eliseo Coroli... How many names we could add!
The Road to Canonization
Our Congregation has officially presented twelve candidates to the judgment of the Holy See about their reputation as saints and the heroism of their virtues. The General Postulation of the Order promotes other causes which have special ties with the Bamabites: a priest, three sisters, and a lay woman. Two of the twelve Bamabites, because of the present situation, have no hope at all. They had been listed among the so called “silent” in the curia language. Only the fortuitous discovery of some documents or glamorous miracles would help their cause. They are the Servant of God Anthony M. Pagni (1556 -1624), founder of the Congregation of the Annunciation, which merged with the Bamabites; and the Servant of God Jacob M. Pericolo (1761-1853), a priest who joined the Order at the of 60, and was instrumental in the rebuilding of the Neapolitan Province after the Napoleonic suppression.
The other causes are at different stages in the judicial and administrative processes handled by the section for causes of canonization of the Congregation of Rites. The major steps are the following:
  Ordinary/Diocesan Process
Following the death of a person who has lived ah exemplary Christian life, the so-called “fame of sanctity” or “fame of martyrdom” may spread in an ever-increasing manner, together with the conviction that by appealing to his intercession, special favors will be granted by God. The bishop of the diocese where the person died institutes a process. A tribunal is established to interrogate witnesses in order to gather evidence of a juridical character, which the Congregation of Rites will use in ascertaining whether or not there exists a fame of sanctity and, if so, its foundation and extent.
This process is called ordinary, because it is instituted by authority of the ordinary of the place. It is said to be informative, since it furnishes the Holy See with the information necessary to determine the advisability of formally introducing the cause, in order to verify whether the servant of God exercised virtues in a heroic manner or whether he died for the faith, and it is necessary to ascertain whether purity of doctrine exists in the writings of the servant of God.
Introduction of the Cause
The postulator has the duty of presenting and discussing the cause with the competent judges. In his study, presentation, and defense of the cause, the postulator avails himself of one of the advocate-procurators of the Congregation of Rites. It is the duty of the advocate to prepare a brief, based on the testimonies and documents available, aimed at proving the existence of a true reputation for sanctity and the advisability of introducing the cause.
A printed volume, technically called Positio and containing all the material thus far described, is presented to the Congregation of Rites. After due examination, they express their judgment on the case.
Apostolic Process
By the decree of introduction, the cause passes from the competency of the bishop to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Apostolic See. Following a decree of the Congregation of Rites, the apostolic process on the heroic practice of virtue or martyrdom is instituted. The judges for the process are delegated by the Holy See.
In addition to the witnesses already interrogated during the informative process, new witnesses may be presented, summoned, and interrogated. At the conclusion of the process, an authenticated volume of the acts is sent to Rome, and copy of the whole process is consigned to the postulator, who then assumes the responsibility of preparing, together with the advocate, a new study that will serve as a basis for discussions on the heroic practice of virtues or martyrdom.
Heroic Practice of Virtues or Martyrdom
Once the validity of the processes, both ordinary and apostolic, has been ascertained, the postulator prepares and presents to the Congregation of Rites an outline composed of (l) an information, i.e., a systematic and clear exposition of the life of the servant of God and of his virtues or martyrdom, and (2) a summary of the depositions of the witnesses interrogated specifically on these points during the course of the processes. This outline has the purpose of demonstrating, if the cause is about a non martyr, that his life was so profoundly inspired by Christian charity toward God and men that, in the actual occurrences of daily living, he practiced all Christian virtues in a truly perfect, exemplary, and heroic manner. If the cause is about a martyr, the report is intended to prove that the servant of God was killed in odium fidei and that he accomplished, therefore, the supreme sacrifice of love for Christ and the Church. This study is presented and carefully examined by the Congregation of Rites. If their study is positive it is presented to the Holy Father for approval, and the official declaration of the Servant of God as a Venerable.
Even when the severest investigation and discussions have brought the conclusion that a servant of God practiced all Christian virtues in a heroic manner, the Church prudently demands a confirmation in the form of miracles before proceeding to beatification, in fact, these extraordinary interventions of divine omnipotence, so numerous in the life of Our Lord, were announced and promised by Him as signs that would accompany and distinguish throughout the centuries His Church, and in particular her faithful children, who believed in and lived according to the principles of the gospel.
For this reason, miracles constitute an unequivocal proof of the approval given by God to the person and life of the future beatus or saint. When miracles are performed by God in connection with the fact that some faithful have turned in prayer to a servant of God and invoked his intercession, being fully convinced that he is not only in heaven, but also a powerful intercessor before God in virtue of his merits, then it is evident that miracles indicate that God does not deny such conviction; indeed He confirms it. In fact. God confirms with signs only what corresponds to truth and reality.
These processes follow a procedural pattern is substantially similar to that illustrated above. They nevertheless possess an element of distinction: in addition to questions of a theological, juridical, and historical character, many problems of a strictly scientific nature and questions of medical science must be examined, since miraculous medical recoveries are often under examination. Investigations of this kind are conducted with the utmost rigor, and both in performing and in estimating them, the Church avails itself of the help of experts in the sciences related to the question at issue.
Once the discussion on the miracles is favorably concluded, the way is open to beatification. Having heard the opinion of the consultors, of the officials, and of the cardinals, if and when he deems it opportune, the pope orders the publication of the decree called de tuto. A day is then selected for the solemn celebration in the Vatican basilica of the formal beatification.
The Holy See presents the new blessed to the faithful as an example to imitate. It allows veneration of him, but restricts it to a city, a diocese, a region, or a religious family. Accordingly, the Apostolic See authorizes a special prayer, a Mass, and a proper Divine Office.
From Beatification to Canonization
If, following beatification, information is received about further miracles (only one miracle is needed either for beatification or for canonization) obtained through the intercession of the blessed, the cause is resumed, that is, again taken into consideration, with a view to canonization, which constitutes the final goal of every cause. When it is proved that God operated miracles through the intercession of the blessed, the Holy See proceed to his solemn canonization. This constitutes the final and definitive sentence by which veneration of the new saint is extended to the universal Church. The sentence, which infallibly declares the exemplariness of the saint's life and exalts his sublime function of heavenly intercessor, is contained in the bull of canonization.