1000 East Maple Avenue
Mundelein IL 60060
Feast of St. Teresa of Avila
October 15, 2015
Dear Stigmatine Lay Member,
Many greetings and a daily remembrance in my Mass for you all! Through the kindness of Tereza Lopes, our Lay Stigmatine Member of Brazil, presently living with her husband Vicente, in Plano TX.
For our November 2015 reflection from St. Gaspar, I would like to share with you two documents from our Stigmatine History. One of these is a translation of the entries under the date of November 4th, through the years from 1777-1911.
The first is from the “Stigmatine Calendar”:
1816: The birthday of the Congregation. On this day, Fr. Bertoni, Fr. John Mary Marani and Brother Paul Zanoli came to the Stimmate to take up residence. The beginnings of the Congregation.
1862: The Novitiate was transferred from the Stimmate to the Trinità for the second time. Fr. Marani, Superior General, blessed the House that had been renovated. Fr. Vincent Vignola celebrated the Mass. The Trinità had been vacant for the past three years due to the work going on there. There were three Professed Students: Charles Zara, Francis Sogaro and Louis Morando [these last two would pass away as Consecrated Bishops]. There were four Novice Students: Andrew Sterza, Joseph DeVai, Joseph Sembianti and one other. There were also several Brothers there: Bro. Zanoli, Infirmarian and laundry; Bro. Nicora, Porter and tailor; Bro. Reali, Cook. Among the Aspirants were Anthony Caucigh, Pio Gurisatti and James Marini.
1866: This was the Golden Jubilee of the Congregation. It was the first Sunday of November. The day was celebrated both at the Stimmate and at Villazzano, Trent, where the Students of the Congregation were living ‘in exile.’
The second entry is from an original composition called the ‘Short Chronicle’, written during World War I. Here is the then Superior General’s letter of that time:
The Superior General
to all the venerable Fathers and beloved Brothers
of the religious Congregation of the
Stigmata of our Lord Jesus Christ
The 4th day of November 1816, our Venerable Founder took possession of the locality of the House of the Stimmate and established there his dwelling, accompanied by Fr John Marani and by Brother Paul Zanoli, for the purpose of carrying out there the holy plan with which the Lord had inspired him. On that day, therefore, there began our beloved Congregation which as a result will complete on November 4th next, the first century of its existence. In this centenary recurrence, the Congregation finds the world in conditions very similar to those which were experienced at its beginning. At that time, there were deeply felt the disastrous results of a world-wide crisis that had just terminated – while the crisis that so travails the world today is even more acute, and we are experiencing all the horrors of an inhuman war and all the alarm for its consequences, which will result from this for the cause of religion and society. Nonetheless, the memory of our beginnings ought to serve as some comfort in the present hour.
There was indeed the desolating spectacle of devastation wreaked on the religious field by so many human deviations at the beginning of the last century. The occasion of all this served the Lord in order to lead our Venerable Founder to experience within himself the inspiration for a new religious community. He thus manifested, with still an additional argument, how the divine Providence always makes His purposes holy even when situated into the greatest human travail.
The fact that there can be no external celebrations would seem to be fitting for the circumstances in which we are living. And therefore, with my present Circular Letter, I invite all the Confreres to celebrate on that day such a joyous recurrence, with some religious service of a family and intimate character, for the scope of thanking the Lord for all the benefits showered on our Congregation in this century of its existence, to placate the Divine Justice and to obtain the grace to keep ourselves ready for all He might permit as a just punishment for our own sins and those of others.
Let us pray above all that the Lord might concede to us, even at the cost of some heavy sacrifice, to re-acquire fully that secret of the saints, through which our early members knew how to harmonize together so many values which, by human criteria, are altogether irreconcilable. Our first confreres knew very well how to unite the following:
- The continuous quest for the most humble, hidden way, given as the characteristic of their life, together with an illustrious reputation for holiness.
- The most austere penance the most sincere joy.
- A heroic detachment and an authentic spirit of poverty with the legitimate expenses undertaken for the buildings of the house and the Church, realized without debt, and also in taking care of them without sparing propriety and décor.
- The most regular discipline with the most varied multiplicity of occupations.
- The most complete subjection with the full development of the individual activities of the Confreres.
- Their constant study and work with their most solid piety.
These conciliations represent the secret of the saints; they remain a mystery to this world, and precisely for this reason, they represent the divine character of the Lord’s works. This secret ought to be the precious inheritance that our first Fathers and Brothers have left to us. If we have lost these to some extent, may the Lord grant them to us anew. And let there be the humble recognition that in fact we have lost these values in part, and the vivid yearning that we might reacquire this spirit in its entirety. These are the sole conditions that the Lord asks of us in order to bestow on us this important gift that would constitute for us the most beautiful celebration of our centenary.
In order to facilitate for us the acquisition of such a grace, the reception of the Apostolic Approbation of our Constitutions could indeed contribute to this. It is my hope that during this year, this grace will be granted.
I announce further that as a remembrance of such a happy experience as this is, that there are being published the historical recollections of our Religious Congregation.
I wish from my heart the blessings of heaven on all
Rome, October 24, 1916
The Superior General
Father John Baptist Tommasi.
It is truly a challenge to keep these lofty ideals, but this is our call as we begin a kind of centenary year honoring our canonized, St. Gaspar Bertoni. Let us continue to pray for one another!
Gratefully yours in the Merciful Stigmata,
Rev. Joseph Henchey, CSS