Category Archives: Stigmatine Laity


Mundelein Seminary
1000 East Maple Avenue
Mundelein IL 60060

August 8, 2017
Commemoration of St. Dominic

Dear Stigmatine Lay Member,

This month is highlighted by the Solemnity of the Blessed Mother in her Assumption into heaven. The “style’ of this month ’s letter to our group, is to serve as a reminder for us all to pray for one another through St. Gaspar Bertoni’s intercession, that we might all one day join Mary now assumed into heaven. May this Solemnity serve as a reminder for all of us to add as an intention of our prayer for one another, that we might all live in an ever more intense hope of our own being called home to heaven in God’s own time.

With the long and spectacular Pontificate of Pope St. John Paul IInd, many still think of his actual living out of his  Pontifical Motto,  Totus Tuus – “all Thine” O Lord. He truly poured himself out into his service of the Church unstintingly, and totally – and provided us all with an example. As we know from the Vatican II Document, Lumen Gentium, there is a universal call of the whole Church to holiness. As the great Dominican theologian, Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, OP wrote in his Christian Perfection and Contemplation,  that the Sacrament of Baptism when properly developed and unhindered, has within its effects that of sublime holiness is the vocation of all the Baptized.  St. Gaspar helps us with this ideal – let us ponder his teaching from his own Spiritual Diary, called the Memoriale Privato in Italian:

… Only God knows what He would accomplish within us if He were not impeded by us…

14th FEBRUARY 1809

[106.]       … This came from the interior security she [St. Teresa of Avila] had in following God’s will. She strongly believed that there is nothing that could hamper God from realizing what He has established.

Her only fear was that she would not correspond duly to the graces of God.

This is a principle that aims at its being reproduced in each one’s life. But who is this personality about whom Fr. Bertoni writes?  We believe it is a person of the caliber of St Teresa of Avila. The traits are very probably hers. Here are some texts from her Life:

… I happened sometimes to feel tormented by most serious tribulations, having become the object of detraction on the part of this city and of my own Order. Many more afflictions of a different nature gave me further cause for anxiety. In those circumstances, I could hear the Lord telling me: “What do you fear? Don’t you know that I can do anything? What I have promised, I’ll accomplish? (it had always been so, in fact!)”. I then would muster up courage and become ready to embark upon any new work whatsoever. I would face, for the service of God, even greater torments and suffering, though it was very heavy for me. This experience happened so many times that I cannot remember.”  [1]

“Oh, what a joy to have to suffer in doing God’s will!”[2]

“The only ambition we can have (and God does not allow any other), must be that we serve His Divine Majesty at any cost.  In my Foundations, I never did anything, as little as it could be, which would have seemed to disagree with God’s will.” [3]

“Whatever we do for Him, is always too little.”[4]

“Blessed be God, because if we do not fail Him, he will never fail us first.’[5]

“Oh, what a misfortune to live in this life! It is like having always our enemies at the door. We cannot leave our arms even for eating and sleeping. We are continuously fearing that somebody, somewhere, should attack and storm our stronghold! … Pray, my dear daughters, that his Majesty should always live in me. Otherwise, after having spent my life in such a miserable way, I would not know how to give myself comfort.” [6]

“It is clear that a person must never rely on oneself. One should never expose oneself to temptation. Even if one had received many graces of Prayer. We can always fall. Be very careful! I beseech you for God’s sake.’ [7]

29th JULY 1809

[144.]       God does not turn down any of those who want to militate under the banners of His Son, and who avail themselves of the means He has prescribed: namely prayer and mortification. Indeed, such a person will have a glorious triumph.

This is a point from St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises. The Meditations of The Kingdom of Christ and The Two Standards have the same conclusion, i.e. the voluntary enrolment in the army of the Lord. However it is necessary to accept the conditions, i.e. to follow Christ in poverty, in self – abnegation, in humility and to take up His weapons which are prayer and mortification. Victory and triumph will follow. We take some passages from the Meditations, which Fr. Gaspar gave the Seminarians in 1811:

… We know where God called us from, but we do not know where will He lead us to.  We cannot imagine what would God do of us,  who are the apple of His eye,  if we did not raise obstacles to His grace, but would instead surrender ourselves always and totally to His hands! …  When we abandon ourselves to Him and follow Him faithfully and steadily and, in all humility, do not take the lead before Him…the Lord adds His share…  [8]

18th MAY 1811

[168.]       Undertake the spiritual journey by the narrow way and by Penance.

The text is inspired by the verse in Matthew 7:14: Narrow is the road that leads to life.   It could have been an inner voice, or taken for such by Fr. Bertoni who wanted to register it on paper and make it into a personal resolution. It could otherwise have been a generous resolution developed by himself which became a decision of his conscience in imitation of the Saints. What we are sure of is that he took it very seriously. So seriously that his biographers gave the blame to the severe miliary fever, which devastated him in 1812 and put the rest of his life [+June 12, 1853] in jeopardy, due also to his excessive work. He had not spared himself in the ministry and in the acts of penance: fasting and mortification to gain self-control. Furthermore, he was convinced that in order to correspond to the graces God gave him and to follow the mission he felt he was invested with, he could do nothing less than that. For many, especially in later life, this hope is challenged by chronic poor health.

[169.]       I shall forget your sins, and I shall show you how many things you have to bear in my name.

It sounds like part of a dialogue between the Lord and his Servant.  God calls Fr. Bertoni to the undertakings of His glory.  Fr. Bertoni, (we suppose), objected like St. Peter after the first miraculous catch of fish:  Depart from me, Lord, because I am a sinner (Luke 5:8). The Lord replied: I shall forget your sins… (Is 43:25) or I shall never again recall their transgressions (Heb 10:17). He repeats what he had said to St. Paul: I shall show him how many things it is necessary that he should bear for my name. (Ac 10:16). Similar words have been directed to several Founders of Religious Orders. Fr. Bertoni will address these – and in Latin! – to Leopoldina Naudet on 14 Dec 1812. He will even add, jokingly as Saints can do: Take courage! This is the best share which God keeps in store for His beloved ones: … it is not a mouth-full for all!

[170.]       Very few are the people who have the perception of what God would do of them if He was not hindered by them in His plans.

It is the great Ignatian principle which became one of the corner-stones of Fr. Bertoni’s spirituality. Here it is presented in the form in which Fr. Mariani, S.J. reported it. It is worthwhile to quote here the original form as we have it in Bartoli’s book:

… Very few are those who have the perception of what would God do with them if they would put themselves totally into His hands and let His grace work in them. One would never believe that a rough and shapeless trunk of a tree could become a statue which will be admired as a miracle of wood-carving. That trunk, if it depended on itself, would never let itself be cut by the chisels of a wood cutter. Only the wood cutter, as St. Augustine said, can foresee with his artistic eye what could come out of the trunk.  Similarly, there are many people who think they can just live as ordinary Christians. They have no perception that they could become saints if they just let themselves be fashioned by the grace of God and, by making resistance to God’s work, would not spoil the design that God should like to realize in them…[9]

It is clear that the principle written by Fr. Bertoni is a summary of all this.  In a Meditation in Primum Regum to the Seminarians, he used it several times and made a moving application of it. We have noticed it already on 29 July 1809 but did not explain it:

We cannot imagine what would God do of us, who are the apple of His eye, if we could not raise obstacles to His Grace, but would instead surrender ourselves always and totally to His hands

For that expression:   apple of His eye Fr. Bertoni quoted Zc 2:8: For he that touches you  (i.e. my priests) touches the apple of My eye …

Let us pray for the intercession of St. Gaspar – and of Mary herself already assumed into heaven – that we might all persevere in our hope in God’s healing Mercy, that we might join them for all eternity celebrating the eternal Thanksgiving in the heavenly sanctuary!

Fr. Joseph Henchey CSS

Acting Spiritual Director


Mary: from Kenosis to Glory – by Rev. Joseph Henchey, CSS



[1] St. Teresa of Avila, Life…  o.c., Ed. Rome 1949, c. 26, n. 2.

[2] Id.  Interior Castle,   Fifth Mansions, c. 2, n. 14.

[3] Id.,  Foundations,   c. 27, nn. 14, 15.

[4] Id.,  Path of Perfection,   c. 12, n. 1.

[5] Id., Letters,   Venice 1739. Letter 38, to Alfonzo Ramirez.

[6] Ic., Interior Castle,   Third Mansions, nn. 2-3.

[7] Id., Life… , o.c.,  c. 19, n. 13.

[8] St. Gaspar Bertoni’s Conferences on St. Gregory Exposition on Primum Regum – Meditation 16 a [## 5457-5508] – 1 Reg3:9-14; Meditation 16 b [## 5509-5554] – 1 Reg 3:15-21.

[9] Bartoli, o.c., Book 4, n. 36 margin.


Mundelein Seminary
1000 East Maple Avenue
Mundelein IL 60060

July 3, 2017
St. Thomas, Apostle

Dear Stigmatine Lay Member,

“… But Thomas (who was called the Twin) one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him: “We have seen the Lord!’ But, he said to them: ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails, and my hand in his side, I will not believe!’

… A week later, His disciples were again in the house… Jesus came and stood among them and said: ‘Peace…!’ Then He said to Thomas: “Put your finger here and see My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side Do not doubt but believe .”  Thomas answered: ‘My Lord and my God!’…Jesus answered him: ‘…Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe!’… [Jn 20: 24-29].

Earlier, these Apostolic men did not believe the eye-witness account that St. Mary Magdalene had seen the risen Lord – but her testimony was not believed! Once the Church leaders had been converted to Integral Paschal faith and hope, in their turn, St. Thomas would not believe them! May we today think of him on his feast day that he was the first one converted by the stigmata!  Could we not want to be numbered among those followers of the Risen Lord – being on-going converted to an ever deeper, Faith Hope and Love yearning for healing in the Sacred Stigmata of our Lord Jesus Christ [cf. Is 53:5; 1 P 2:24]?

There is no doubt that still in today’s world, human suffering is so rampant.  And with the marvels of modern medicine, many of us are living longer lives than perhaps many if not most of our loved ones who have gone before us. We cannot help but hear again these words of Scripture: “… Seventy is the sum of our years, or eighty if we are strong… they pass quickly…!” [Ps 90:10].

In our faith, we believe that there is a two-fold content, a two-fold “object” of Divine Revelation: God Himself, and His Plan.  All that happens in life in some way fits into this plan – even the hairs of our head are counted! [Lk 12:7] – no matter how many [or few!] of these may there be.

There are four or five general “reasons” offered to us by divine revelation to help us understand human suffering:

  • punishment for sin;
  • pedagogy: suffering is the ‘school of God’;
  • purification: like silver and gold we are being purified;
  • redemption: in some way, human suffering enters into the Plan of Salvation [ this is explained beautifully by  Pope St. John Paul II, in his Exhortation Salvifici Doloris [Salvific Suffering];
  • Eschatology: we do not have here a lasting home.

Our beloved Founder suffered very much in his nearly 76 years of life. The reflection this month of July is on a biblical reflection on suffering and some thoughts from Fr. Cornelio Fabro, CSS on these many years in the founder’s life – that contributed to, and shaped his entire spirituality. May God grant that we might all receive such a grace!

Sincerely yours in our Merciful High Priest,

Fr. Joseph Henchey CSS
Acting Spiritual Director


Appendix I:

The Mystery of Human Suffering – by Rev. Joseph Henchey, CSS [2017]


Mundelein Seminary
1000 East Maple Avenue
Mundelein IL 60060

Trinity Sunday
June 11, 2017

Dear Stigmatine Lay Member,

The Holy Trinity and St. Gaspar Bertoni

This Trinity Sunday tells us much about the charism of St. Gaspar Bertoni. A number of our Stigmatine students of the Founder’s special grace believe that St. Gaspar was much inspired by the Most Blessed Trinity – by the Eucharistand by the integral Paschal Mystery: the Sorrowful Wounds on Good Friday and the Glorious aspect of these Wounds of the Apostolic Mission on Easter night.

There clearly is a “Trinitarian” dimension to Fr. Bertoni’s great dream for the Stigmatines – a group of individuals, who  would strive to live together as a family, and would communicate God’s Word and love in their ministry, as the Father sends out  His Word incarnate in Jesus Christ [The Father so loved the world that  He sent His only son, did not spare Him – cf. Rm 8:32-Jn 3:16] – and the Father and the Son send out their mutual Love – in an eternal Mission of Truth and Love.

St. Gaspar’s Apostolic Mission lived the Mystery of the Eucharist as Offertory [offer your spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ… [cf. 1 P 2:5 – Rm 12:1, ff.: ‘make of your lives an oblation to God’s Mercy…’], Consecration [the Father consecrated Me and sent me into this world… [Jn 10:36] and Holy Communion [The Father and I are one – Jn 10:31].

In previous months, we have shared together some thoughts on St. Gaspar living out the ”Model’  of Christ – the Heavenly “Copy” – striving to imitate the Divine “Exemplar” – the supreme “Paradigm”  – whose mind all are called to put on [cf. Ph 2:5-11].  In this Divine Word, for St. Thomas Aquinas, God has expressed His complete Word in Whom there is revealed full truth. The Holy Spirit has been sent to us all to reveal that which Jesus Christ has taught by his life and message.

Changing now for this month, the metaphor from speaking the word, to listening to the message – St. Gaspar heard [digne, attente, devote] the Divine Word deep in his apostolic missionary heart – and strives in His Apostolic Mission to ECHO this Word of God all his life.  His ideal for the Stigmatines is coined in his phrase: Verbi Dei quodcumque ministerium [cf. # 163]: any ministry of the word of God whatsoever: from the “Apostolate of the Pen” – to “Evangelical Conversation” – to share the message of hope in God’s mercy.

Usually, on June 11th, the Church remembers St. Barnabas – his proper name was Joseph, but he was called Barnabas, as he came as ’the Son of Encouragement’ [cf. Ac 4:36] being full of the Holy Spirit. St. Gaspar’s Message to us all then is:  Lift up your hearts! – By His Wounds, all of ours will be healed [Is 53:5; 1 P 2:34]. Let us listen to this in our hearts!

Respectfully submitted:

Fr. Joseph Henchey CSS
Assistant Spiritual Director

Appendix I:
The Ministry of the Word of God in St. Gaspar Bertoni - an ECHO of St. Ignatius of Loyola - by Rev. Joseph Henchey, CSS


Mundelein Seminary
1000 East Maple Avenue
Mundelein IL 60060

Commemoration of St. Catherine of Siena, Doctoress of the Church
April 29, 2017

Dear Stigmatine Lay Member

Image of the Virgin Many highly esteemed by Fr. Bertoni

As the month of April ends and May begins, there are two Dominican Saints commemorated, who have been much honored by the Church: St. Catherine of Siena, Dominican Tertiary – and in early May, the Dominican Pope, St. Pope Pius Vth. St. Catherine served as a counselor Popes – and St. Pius Vth promulgated the Decrees of the Council of Trent – as well as promoted devotion to the Most Holy Rosary. This devotion came to the Church through the ministry of St. Dominic and many early Dominicans.

To commemorate this month of May, we will offer a “birds-eye view” of a Stigmatine Calendar with an insight into some Stigmatine history from 1777-1911 – events that took place in the month of May over the years.

For our spiritual reflection, I am also offering a translation of a study compiled by our late   Stigmatine Confrere, Fr. Cornelio Fabro, CSS, on some of St. Thomas’ insights on Mary [1].   [St. Thomas emphasized the universality of Christ’s redemption of the human race – and the Franciscan, Duns Scotus, clarified the more the terms of the mystery, by teaching that Mary was more loved by God, hence more perfectly redeemed from the contagion of sin: we have all been healed, and the contagion of sin was prevented from ever reaching her by God’s special grace – and the technical word used is “preventively”].  Then, secondly, there will be a brief outline of several of the parish sermons delivered by St. Gaspar, considering the Mother of God. [2]    [It is remarkable that in his spoken word we have very little of his ideas regarding Mary as the Spouse of St. Joseph.  However, our Patronal Feast of the Holy Espousals was simply a devotion lived in the early Stigmatine community.

Fr. Bertoni entrusted his congregation to the patronage of the Holy Spouses, Mary and Joseph

Let us deepen our devotion to the Blessed Mother of God in this month of May – as we ask for the intercession of the Holy Spouses Mary and Joseph, on our own lives, those of our families and of the Church.

May God bless us all, each and every one! – let us ask for the grace of an increased devotion to Mary and Joseph, the Patrons of our Congregation and in a particular way, of our Province here in the USA!

Fraternally yours in our devotions to Mary and Joseph,

Fr. Joseph Henchey CSS
Acting Spiritual Director

[1]  An Aspect of the Mariology of St. Thomas Aquinas – by Fr. Cornelio Fabro, CSS.

[2]  An Aspect of the Mariology of St. Gaspar Bertoni in his Parish Sermons.

Stigmatine Calendar for May

An Aspect of the Mariology of St. Thomas Aquinas – by Rev. Cornelio Fabro, CSS

An Aspect of the Mariology of St. Gaspar Bertoni in his Parish Sermons – by Rev. Joseph Henchey, CSS


Province of the Holy Cross – Provincial Headquarters, Retreat & Conference Center and FABER Centers

On March 18 & 19, 2017, there took place, at the Stigmatine Seminary of Philosophy (Chácara do Vovô) in Campinas, SP, the annual province-wide conference of the Stigmatine Laity (FABER)  [1].  The conference was attended by members of the six FABER local centers, i.e.: Marilia, Praia Grande, Ribeirão Preto, Itararé, São Caetano do Sul and Campinas (all in the state of São Paulo).

It was a very important moment in the journey of the Stigmatine laity, in which we evaluated the work carried out by the FABER local centers in the last 12 months, and draw up new guidelines for the next period.

2017 FABER Annual Conference – group picture

About 35 people were gathered, among them all the Provincial Councilors, including Fr. Luciano Romero da Silva, CSS (Vocation Director and Director of the Stigmatine laity) and Brother Marcos Paulo.

In addition to the meetings, we had also out-of-home and leisure moments, such as a visit to the Cathedral of Campinas, a prayer service in front of the tomb of the deceased Stigmatines, a picnic at Lake Taquaral and, at the closing of the first conferences day, a beautiful Italian Night, prepared and offered with great affection by the FABER Campinas.

2017 FABER Annual Conference – The Italian Party group picture

The second conference day was begun with the Holy Mass, presided by Fr. Luciano Romero da Silva, CSS, who preached and assured us that hope never disappoints, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit given to us (Rm 5:5).

With this certainty, we were able to make all the decisions, including the schedule for the next province-wide meetings, that follows:

– September 8-10, 2017:  annual retreat, at Santana Retreat House and Conference Center (Fazenda Santana), in Corumbataí, SP;

– November 18, 2017: a pilgrimage to Aparecida, SP;

– March 17-18, 2018: annual conferences in Itararé, SP.

At the end of the conference, a Relic of St. Gaspar Bertoni was presented to all of us.  This relic will visit consecutively all the FABER centers, starting in Itararé.

We ask the Lord to strengthen up the spiritual journey of all the Stigmatine Laity, for we can continue walking in the footsteps of our Founding Father St. Gaspar Bertoni, under the light of his Charism.

By Kelci Ribeiro Ferreira dos Santos
Stigmatine Laity Councilor

[1] FABER stands for FAMÍLIA BERTONIANA, the Family of lay Stigmatines in the Province of the Holy Cross, in Brazil.


Mundelein Seminary
1000 East Maple Avenue

MARCH 19,2017
Solemnity of St. Joseph
[Letter for APRIL]

Dear Stigmatine Lay Member,

Having reached more than the mid-way point in Lent – and with the coming of the new springtime, with its joy-filled celebration of Easter, the Ascension and the Pentecost, the reflection by Fr. Bertoni for this time may be his appeal for totality! This is already included from Old Testament times, in the  wording of the First Commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your minds.”[Dt 6:4; Mt 22:37; Lk 20:27 = CCC # 2083].   One of the great enemies of holiness is mediocrity. We were reminded of this for more than a generation by the Papal Motto and personal example of the late Saint Pope John Paul II: TOTUS TUUS.

Most of us Stigmatines, glad for the existence of the Lay Stigmatines in our lives, find much inspiration in the lived example of the Laity. By their fidelity and reverence, they inspire us by the Faithful Witness.  While perhaps St. Gaspar did not ever expect that there would ever be such a structure as “Stigmatine Laity” I think today he would say that we truly need  such a group:

From his Dec. 2, 1808 entry Spiritual Diary:

[this whole month of December 1808 provides a rich source of spiritual inspiration]:

[80.]       It is most unfortunate and a shame to see so much holiness in the Laity and so much imperfection and vices in a priest.

This is a stimulating reflection for the work of personal progress in holiness.  It reflects at the same time a grace and a disgrace most evident in the times of Fr. Bertoni.  Bishop Innocent Liruti, at the end of his first year as bishop of Verona, had to write a very strong Decree of correction  However, he went on to say that The deplorable life of some who depart from the good example of others, cannot take away the honorable reputation that our Clergy justly possesses. [1]

When Fr. Bertoni was just 33 years old, he was called by his

St. Gaspar Bertoni

Bishop to take on an official apostolate among the Clergy[2], in 1810, he will present the same stimulating thought during the Introductory Meditation of the Spiritual Exercises on The End of Man:

Many secular people fulfill this goal better than the Clergy. Their lives are full of good works while ours are full of hot air. Their lives are spiritual, while the lives of many clergies are unfortunately not so …  The Church, in these times, cries bitterly over this disorder which brings down scourges and gives scandal to the people more than ever… If you are already deacons or priests, then weep, weep! With penance wash away these stains. Begin with your own before which, perhaps, “we have sinned without knowing”…  Let us put our lives in order. Let us learn from many secular people how to live properly. “The unlearned come to the fore and snatch the Kingdom of God for themselves” [cf. Lk 16:16).  And we ourselves with all our learning, where shall we go?…[3]

He gave a similar teaching to the Seminarians in Jan. 1811:

… There, in the good example of secular people: in the faithful observance of religion and the perfect charity of many secular people, Divine Providence supplies His chosen ones with a powerful stronghold against the scandal of worldly priests... Therefore, whoever clings to this help, will strive to, make an effort as do the secular people in progressing towards perfection. Such a person has sure signs of a genuine ecclesiastical Vocation… [4]

It goes without saying that Fr. Bertoni preached these things to himself before preaching them to others.

… For Christ I am nailed to the cross… and it is the same cross of Jesus Christ.  In Greek it is more clear: [Christò synestàuromai]  i.e. together with Christ I am nailed to the cross. It is as if I am grafted and planted together with the tree of the Cross of Christ. I possess in communion with the same tree its sap and its life: namely Grace and Charity…  [5]

So, in inviting both to self-denial and to the cross, Fr. Bertoni was sure that as far as the Lord is concerned, He will never fail. On the other hand, he also saw the cooperation of God with so great an amount of Grace that human cooperation – as spontaneous as it can be – did not seem to him much more than a simple acceptance of an invitation. Furthermore, the cross was consequently so much lightened, to be able to say It is not us, but Jesus who, out of love for us,  carries it in the end.

Here is the concluding prayer, which referred to Gal 6,14 and Mt 16,24:

… Lord, we have experienced the tribulations of Your Church, in which we see the enhancement of both Your wonderful providence as her Spouse and the prudent and virtuous behavior of Your Bride. We highly respect Your most wise governance. We pray that You may make Your Spouse to imitate You in following and carrying out what You said: He who wants to follow me let him carry his cross.  Grant that we may carry the cross, not to drag it. That we may carry it so willingly that we boast of it. That we may carry it with so much love that we end up in boasting in nothing else but in it. This cannot happen unless first the world should be crucified to me and myself to the world.  This will never happen until the world becomes a cross to me, as I am to the world, because of the irreconcilable opposition of feelings… [6]

7th DECEMBER 1808:

[83.]       When God calls people to some projects of spiritual life, one has to seize the opportunity of the momentAnd at once they left the nets and followed Him.

We can trace the thought of Fr. Bertoni in a Meditation from DaPonte which is entitled: The Calling and Vocation of the Apostles. The text is from St. Matthew 4:20.  Fr. Bertoni summarized the 4th point as follows: The obedience of the Apostles to God’s vocation was most perfect with regard to:

  1. the intellect 2. the will    3. the execution.

Da Ponte wrote[7]:

… Consider the excellent obedience with which the Apostles answered their calling. In fact… while Peter and Andrew were casting their nets into the sea and Zebedee’s sons were mending their nets in the boats with their father, when Christ called them immediately and at once, they left their nets and their father and everything and followed Him.

…  With this kind of obedience, the apostles showed the three excellent properties of this virtue. The submission of intellect and judgment: making them obey Christ and subjecting them to His orders without making any excuse[8].  The submission of will[9]: subjecting it completely to that of Christ, dispossessing themselves of the love they had for their wives, children, fathers, relatives and their own properties.  The perfect execution: which was – as Saint Chrysostom says – prompt, punctual and cheerful, without delay not even for a moment and without contradiction. Oh, the miracles of God’s power! Oh, what changes can God do!

Fr.  Bertoni often spoke of our Divine Vocation. His teacher here, Fr. DaPonte, has stated that it comes “through the grace of the Holy Spirit, not depending on our merits, and that with it all other necessary goods are given for our salvation…; then it was really the case to exclaim: I fear Jesus passing by! This is seen in the traditional sense, i.e. “Woe to those who let Him pass without following after Him! Woe to those who do not seize the opportunity of the moment!

20th DECEMBER 1808

[87.]             In the spiritual enterprises it is of great advantage when two people find that they can share the same perception.

Fr. Gaspar found this advantage from the outset with Fr. Matthew

Fr. Gaetano Giacobbe, Benefactor of the Stigmatine Congregation [[1809- +1898]
Farinati (ordained in 1802) and afterwards also with Fr. Cajetan Allegri (ordained in 1805).  Fr. Giacobbe[10] wrote that … these priests, animated by the zeal and spirit of Fr. Bertoni, formed, as they put it, a threefold cord of admirable harmony among themselves… This principle held not only collaborating in the youth apostolate (to which Fr. Giacobbe seems to refer) but also in common study for their mutual spiritual growth. In addition to many other indications, we have a witness of this in the various extracts of quotations which the three priests drew together from the Life of St. Cajetan of Thiene and above all from Rodriguez’ Exercise of Perfection.

Very revealing are the words which Fr. Farinati wrote on the inside page of the hardcover of that book: There are excellent ideals contained in this booklet!   These words are followed by a quotation from the prophet Ezekiel:  I sought among them for a man that might set up a hedge and stand in the gap before me in favor of the land so that I should not destroy it: but I found none. (Ezk 22:30).  It seems that Fr. Farinati recognized in that prophetic text a common vocation of the three friends to be just that man.  This was what stimulated them – as priests belonging to no Order –  applying to themselves the whole exercise of perfection which was reserved for the Religious. It was also on the strength of the principle which Fr. Bertoni will support strongly, i.e. that what in the Religious is a tension towards Perfection, in the Priest should be acquired perfection.[11]

[88.]             While we feel called to some high degree of Perfection, we should pay attention not to underestimate those who do not want to follow us. They might perhaps be of equal and greater merit in front of God.  We all have the same purpose. Not all use the same means.

This maxim is a development on that of 12 Oct: He who is drawn by the Spirit to a way of greater perfection… should not resent others who are of lower virtue and use lesser means as long as these are good.  We were saying, there, that such is the spirit that filtered through the meditation of The Kingdom of Christ, according to St. Ignatius and Da Ponte. Different people are freely called to militate under the banner of Christ. It is clear that each person must imitate Him in the condition to which each has been called,  for himself following those different invitations.

Fr. Bertoni intended to keep the commandment which regards our neighbor: Do not judge… and to preserve one’s own meekness and humility of heart.  We can see an encouragement in reminding ourselves that merit does not depend on the greater or lesser excellence of a vocation. This is God’s gift. It depends rather on the greater or lesser correspondence to such a gift.  It could, therefore, happen that somebody with a lesser gift of God would correspond to it with greater perfection than others with a greater gift.

As for the variety of ways and means to reach the same Ultimate End, this is but a logical consequence of the variety of the same vocations.

[89.]         – It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you (John 15:16). We have to pay much attention not to set ourselves against the Lord with our sins and lack of mortification.

The text from St. John’s Gospel could have been applied also to the preceding entry. But Fr.  Bertoni wrote it with a dash separating it from the previous note. He admonishes the each one – i.e. no one other than himself – not to put obstacles against the action of God with sins and the lack of mortification.  He saw also here the connection between two undertakings: that of his personal sanctification (cf. 12 Oct) and that of the promotion of the greater glory of God through a life dedicated to the Apostolate (cf. 15 Sept). We could have expected a hint at the Ignatian principle which is at the base of everything, as we have said in the note of 12 Oct: very few are those who… And also the encouraging sentences of 2 and 3 Dec.: Take care that we do not fail the Lord, because He will surely not fail us. The Lord just shows us the cross…


St. Paul tells us that we are all Temples of the Most High, of the Holy Spirit – still under construction – being built up by one another. As the Pierced Side of Christ provided  an opening into the sanctuary of the Trinity –and invites us all into the celebration of the Eternal Celebration of thanksgiving by the Merciful High Priest forever in the Celestial sanctuary – let us all look into our own personal  efforts to live this Lent, and to witness to the living of the Charism, unique otherworldliness of St. Gaspar Bertoni.  By God’s infinite mercy, this is a gift for us all. Let us seek to inspire one another on how we strive to follow the lord, through the daily picking up our Cross through life.

Respectfully submitted:

Fr. Joseph Henchey, CSS
Acting Spiritual Director

[p.s. In my letter for last month, I mistakenly quoted the date of the death of Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, op – he died on February 15, 1964].

[1] Bishop’s Letter, Septuagesima 1809, in: Raccolta di Lettere Pastorali.   Verona 1817.

[2] With this apostolate, Fr. Bertoni indeed merits the title: Apostolic Missionary to the Clergy.

[3] Collectanea Stigmatina,   Vol. I, pp. 119, 120.

[4] Meditation 11 on Primum Regum January 1, 1811 – MssB ## 5182-5939.

[5] Panegyric I, Point 2: MssB ## 1795-1842.

[6] 5th  Meditation on Primum Regum. December 9, 1810.  MssB  ##  4963. [All students of St. Gaspar remember his beautiful insight in considering the Church as ‘a Model of Holy Abandonment’ [cf. Epistolario Letter 38,  October 26, 1813. p. 99.

[7] Meditation 6.

[8] St. Gaspar puts this among his Grades of Obedience in his Original Constitutions –  CF # 144.

[9] Noted in St. Gaspar’s Original Constitutions –  CF # 141. The qualities Fr. Bertoni notes here, based on St. Ignatius, are:  integra, prompta, fortis, humilis.

[10] Summarium Additionale,  Document 26, p. 342.

[11] cf. his Retreat to the Clergy, in 1810, in:  Collectanea Stigmatina,  Vol. 3,  p. 129, ‘The Purpose [End] of the Priest’.


Mundelein Seminary
1000 East Maple Avenue

February 24.2017
For the Month of March- devoted to St. Joseph

Dear Stigmatine Lay Member,

John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the USA [May 29, 1917- +Nov. 22, 1963]
On this date, in 1964 – just three months after the assassination of President John Kennedy, Fr. Reginald Garrigou–Lagrange, O.P. died at Santa Sabina Monastery in Rome [the general headquarters of the international Dominican Order]. For the first half of the 20th century, ‘Fr. Garrigou’ was a major contributor to Catholic Theology, one of international repute. To this day, he is perhaps best remembered for his work in Spiritual Theology – and his masterpiece, “The Three Ages of the Spiritual Life”. In recent years, many of these voluminous contributions to theology are being reprinted.  He taught at the ANGELICUM in Rome for well over a half a century – and taught a number of our American Stigmatine Professed Students near the end of his long career, in the years 1952-1958. Among his major contributions of the Church is the fact that he also served as the doctoral thesis tutor of a young priest from Poland – Fr. Wojtyla – who later became St. Pope John Paul IInd.[1]

In our small Stigmatine world he also directed the thesis of our late

Fr. Nello Dalle Vedove, CSS, in his fine theological study on the spirituality of St. Gaspar Bertoni.  Fr. Nello’s fine work was entitled: “Gaspar Bertoni, A Servant of God”:  A Model of Holy Abandonment”.  This fine theological thesis proves that the now canonized Fr. Bertoni lived a life of a heroically strengthened theological hope in the living of Thy Will be done of the Lord’s Prayer` – throughout the long and very challenging physical and spiritual sufferings he had to endure for most of his 76 years on this earth. This fascinating study is still highly readable for anyone interested in a much deeper appreciation and reflection on St. Gaspar’s life and authentic spirit.

It is interesting to note that still today, there is interest in the re-

Fr. Réginald Marie Garrigou-Lagrange, OP, French Catholic Theologian [Feb. 21, 1877- +Feb. 15, 1964]
printing of Fr. Garrigou’s theological works – perhaps originally compiled in the 1930’s. In his tract on Divine Providence, Fr. Garrigou refers to St. Joseph as a Model of Hope in the constellation of the Saints of the Church. In the theologian’s work on Christ [and His Incarnation and in His Redemption of the world], also recently reprinted – there is a final Compendium on Mariology with a few fine pages dedicated to St. Joseph.

Fr. Garrigou teaches [cf. Christ, Aeterna Press Nov. 2016, pp. 567, ff.]:  “…there intervened between St. Joseph and the most Blessed Virgin Mary a marital bond… there is no doubt that to the most distinguished dignity whereby the Mother of God very far surpasses all creatures, it came about that nobody is greater than St. Joseph… God gave Joseph as Spouse to the Virgin… Patron of the Dying, protector of the holy Church.  St. Joseph then, was predestined for an exceptional mission, as Spouse of the Mother of God, and foster-father of the Son of God. The Guardian of the Redeemer received a sanctity in proportion to his mission, and this sanctity increased until the very end of his life. St. Joseph was predestined to the protection of the Son of God incarnate and of His Mother… St.  Joseph was considered by Fr. Garrigou as a “Model of Holy Abandonment [Hope].

St. Pope John Paul II, born Karol Jozéf Vojtyla, in Poland [May 18, 1920- +April 2, 2005]
In the light of all the above, it is interesting to note that one of the finest “Apostolic Exhortations” on St. Joseph was presented during the long Pontificate of St. John Paul II: on August 15, 1989, the Apostolic Constitution Guardian of the Redeemer [Redemptoris Custos] was promulgated.  A recommendation I might personally offer is that all read this work Redemptoris Custos, in a very prayerful, meditative spirit during the month of March, in observance of the coming Lent. It is a wonderful contemplation on the Pope’s oblation of faith, and the commitment of life, as Totus Tuus – St. John Paul IInd’s papal motto. The document provides a powerful meditation on the Mystery of the Holy Espousals.

Our late and distinguished confrere, Fr. Cornelio Fabro, CSS – offers some profound philosophical and theological insights into the term “Model” and its synonyms and parallels – as an ideal that offers us much for our own lives of faith.

In Thomistic circles – cf. in this regard: Roy J. Deferrari[2] and his voluminous Lexicon of St Thomas Aquinas[3], which treats of the exemplar/exemplary in several ways, as follows:

  • as a Noun: it means COPY; IMAGE; PATTERN; MODEL; EXAMPLE; PARADIGM; STANDARD, etc. Thus St. Thomas presents Jesus Christ As the Example for believers [III, q. 15; a. 1; 21, a. 3]. St. Thomas notes that when we try to explain in the mysteries of Faith, most helpful to be understood, we propose better known “examples” [I-II, q. 19, a. 10 c] – for our moral lives as well: Put on the mind of Christ Jesus.
  • the term used as a CAUSE and as an adjective: this presents a form to be imitated, but one that assists us (as a Cause) in the undertaking This is an ideal that needs to be imitated, lived, in that God is also the First Exemplary Cause of all [I, q. 44, a. 3]. We are all made in His image and likeness. Furthermore, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the Exemplary Cause of our own [cf. III, q. 56, a. 1 ad 3um].

For a prayerful reflection on St. Gaspar for the month of March this year, with the help from the works of our late confrere, Fr. Cornelio Fabro, CSS – I have presented some thoughts on this wonderful Christian ideal – in the hope that each one of us might make a further application of the Stigmatine Founder’s life on our own. For this, let us pray to our Holy Patrons, the Holy Spouses Mary and Joseph, to intercede for us all for a blessed Lent.

God love you all!

Sincerely yours in St. Gaspar!

Fr. Joseph Henchey, CSS
Acting Spiritual Director


Jesus Christ, Icon of the Invisible God. St. Gaspar Bertoni, Model of Holy Abandonment.

[1]  Fr. Vojtyla [who is nowadays St. Pope John Paul IInd] was Fr. Garrigou’s doctoral directee for his very apropos thesis on the darkness: “The Question of Faith according to St. John of the Cross”.

[2]  By the way, our former neighbor on Quincy Street in NE Washington D.C..

[3]  Loretto Publications: NH 2004.


Mundelein Seminary
1000 East Maple Avenue
Mundelein IL 60060

January 22, 2017
Eve of our Patronal Feast of the Holy Spouses

Dear Stigmatine Lay Member,

A Baseball Pitcher

In the month that will soon open, we find ourselves in the midst of winter – yearning for the spring.  Soon we will hear the clarion call for baseball teams: Pitchers and Catchers are called to Spring Training early in February! This is an early call to an anticipated spring.  We look ahead to Lent, followed by the new springtime and the resurrection.

A Baseball Catcher

For the month of February, I offer, on Appendix I, these reflections to the Stigmatine Laity: pondering on the month of February through our history from the “Stigmatine Calendar” and our call to detachment and to trust in the God of the blessings more than to the Blessings of God!

For this month of February, I submit, on Appendix II, an English translation of a recent serious theological study on Christ, as Spouse [of the soul; of the Church].

May the God of Mercy bless us all in our efforts to serve the Church, Spouse of Christ – to be more dedicated to the Nuptial Banquet of the Eucharist – to look forward to the eternal Easter Nuptial banquet of everlasting life!

Respectfully yours in St. Gaspar!

Fr. Joseph Henchey, CSS
Acting Spiritual Director

Appendix I:

Stigmatine Calendar for May

Appendix II:

The Lord Jesus Christ: Spouse of the Church and the Soul [Christology and Contemplation] – by Vincenzo Bataglia.  English translation by Fr. Joseph Henchey, CSS


Mundelein Seminary
1000 East Maple Avenue
Mundelein IL  60060

December 26, 2016
St. Stephen – 1st Martyr

Dear Stigmatine Lay Member,

Here, the day after Christmas, the Church reminds us of the first Martyr, St Stephen. As our second centenary as Stigmatines fades into happy memory, we look forward to this beginning the third centenary – and early in January, we have the celebration of the Epiphany of the Lord. Like the Magi of old, we are called to follow the star: to follow God’s word.  St. Thomas Aquinas and the Mystics refer to faith compared to a candle in a dark place – and, in faith, we pray that perpetual light may shine for all eternity, when we are brought home to God, by following the star of God’s word, and the teaching of the Church.

As St. Stephen was giving his missionary life up to the Lord, the Scriptures tell us that as the Saint was being martyred, being filled with the Holy Spirit,  and saw the heavens opened [cf. Ac 7: 54-60]. This is the goal of our pleasing the Lord by one day entering heaven, persevering in faith all through life, by following the bright star of His word in a darkened world.

To teach us along our way, the Church offers us a wide variety of ‘Models” of Redemption – this meeting of God’s Infinite Divine Mercy with our abysmal human misery.  Some of these are:

  • Agriculture [vine and branches; seed of God’s word];
  • Economics [Debt; Purchase price];
  • Medical [healing, Eucharist as Pharmacum: Antidote]; Liturgy [Sacrifice, Communion, Holocaust];
  • Juridical [Tribunal; Judgment; Advocate];
  • Military [Spiritual Combat; sword of God’s Word; helmet of salvation]; Family [God as Father; Spouse; Infancy].

Over the marvelous discoveries of the past 225 years, some might at Astronomy – with the discovery of a bit more of the immense treasures of the created universes.

Astronomy can teach the open mind about the size of the planets, and stars – the distances – their speed – and the power of their gravity and the magnetic fields in this millennia-old “tug of war’ going on in the skies above.  A modern theologian, the late Has Urs von Balthasar, developed the idea of a Christological Constellation – all the saints of the New Testament and of all time gyrate around the  Central Power of God’s Mercy, drawing us ever onward and upward and upwards. Spiritually, the infinite Mercy of God has reversed the natural Law of gravity – he used the metaphor of a “Christological constellation” – reversing the natural process of falling down, but his mercy Lifts us up – and we pray in each Mass, Lift up your hearts!

St. Gaspar Bertoni spoke of being drawn on ward by the power of the Lord: in his very first letter, of Nov. 12, 1812, he writes about his dream of a community. He reminds us that when Peter heard that correction when he seemed to be sinking into the deep waters, the Lord said to him:  “Ye of little faith! Why do you doubt?”  [Mt 14, 31]. The Lord Jesus was very near to the struggling Peter at this time, and was approaching him over the storm waters, drawing him by His own right hand. His prayer was at that time as the Spouse in the Song of Songs: Draw me after you! [Ct 1:23] [cf. Epistolario, pp. 23, f.].  Again St. Gaspar reminds us in his 149th letter [cf. o.c., p. 236] – the Lord takes hold of our weakness, and draws it to Himself and shares His own good odor with us. He further noted that good prayers of dear people for us further enable us to draw the carriage of our burdens in the service of the Lord [cf. o.c. p. 286].

This same ideal is presented to us in the resurrection of the Spouse of the Church. We read in John 12:32 that when He is raised up, He will draw all to Himself.  Fr. Bertoni’s own spirituality seems to manifest a kind of Eucharistic Constellation, as his own Spiritual Diary indicates this way:


Fr. Bertoni continued with great determination his apostolate and his penances until October, the month during which a very severe illness struck him.  He was hardly recovering from that illness, when Bishop Innocence Liruti gave him more ministries to accomplish in the Seminary.  He had to suspend the assistance to the Canossa “Retreat”, except for the Direction of its Superior, Mother Leopoldina Naudet.

Before presenting an outstanding “gift of Prayer” which Fr. Bertoni received on 30 May 1812 (during the Octave of Corpus Christi), we should like to give an extract from Leopoldina’s Diary. It deals with an experience of ecstasy which she tried to resist, during the Mass of Holy Thursday which on that year fell on 26 March:

“… While thinking of the Institution of the Blessed Sacrament I was taken in spirit to the place of the Last Supper. In the contemplation of what was going on there, I felt being very pleasantly but strongly drawn out of myself. I abandoned myself and surrendered to the power and pleasantness of that pulling force. When I realized that my body was also going to be involved and it started to lose its sensitivity, my natural reaction forced me to become distracted.   I did that, however, with some hesitation. I knew that I was told not to do like that and to trust in God. Notwithstanding that I gave myself an excuse thinking that what I was experiencing could be a physical weakness. I continued to distract myself in order to have control over my feelings and to remain self-conscious… “

Fr. Bertoni had previously advised her with a statement so characteristic of him: Do not resist God. Trust in God!  What would have happened on that Maundy Thursday if Leopoldina would not have resisted the attractions of God, seems that her Spiritual Director experienced himself a couple of months later on 30 May 1812.


30th MAY 1812

[171.]      While in prayer before Mass I was taken over by some drowsiness and I heard from the Crucifix these words addressed to my heart: Look at this Heart of mine!  Those words immediately brightened my mind with light and my heartfelt suddenly a great fervor. Then it was as if my spirit rose up to see the lovable object which was indicated. I felt a shivering throughout my whole body.  I found I had my eyes and mouth closed but my soul was wide awake and full of delight.

It seemed that my soul wished to separate itself from my body. It seemed to be dying and yet to enjoy this. When it turned again back with desire towards the one who was talking to it, I had another shivering and the feeling of a sweet painful death.  My soul was then confused about what to do. If the experience had continued it was going to die or at least to be separated from the body. In such inability to act, it rested with delight in the hands of the Lord and finding great peacefulness it was ready to die in that very moment. Then, in an instant, it regained contact with the senses.

The effect of this was a very tender devotion to the Sacred Heart. During Mass, I was full of sentiment. My soul was moved to tears at Holy Communion. After Mass, I kept much recollection and gladness for the whole day with an increase of Faith, Hope and Charity.[1]

The text is worth reading and meditating with devotion.  This would be sufficient to understand it and to savor it without pretending to penetrate the deep phenomena which it narrates.  However, some remarks are helpful. We take from what Fr. Dalle Vedove wrote with regard to that mystical experience of Fr. Bertoni:

… It is probable that he was preparing in those days the homily for the Feast of the Sacred Heart, the following Friday. Spending nights in work, study and prayer makes one somehow drowsy early in the morning. But Fr Bertoni’s drowsiness was not just natural: it was that turgidity and tying up of the human faculties which is characteristic of mystical experiences. The words Look at this Heart of mine! were heard distinctly. What followed was like a flash of lightning: an irresistible desire to see the lovable object which was indicated.

… The sudden and almost violent way in which Fr. Gaspar was taken by this mystic gift showed that it was not a simple ecstasy, which should have developed slowly and pleasantly, but rather a real rapture or flight of the spirit. The effects of this extraordinary experience invaded not only the spiritual faculties of mind and will but also the physical ones with characteristic phenomena like shivering of the body and shutting off of sight and voice. He even reached, twice, the state of alienation close to death. Yet the whole experience was described as delightful and in great quiet. The rapture in front of the Crucifix marks the height of Fr. Gaspar’s extraordinary spiritual gifts. After this mystical experience, he was no longer sure what he should write down on paper. He will record only seven more short notes and will leave blank the remaining 90 pages of his JOURNAL. The reason could be that a new phase of his life was opening up.

… Within few months he will be struck by a sickness which will accompany him for the remaining forty years of his life, marked by intense suffering. From the ecstasy in front of the Crucifix which showed him the Sacred Heart, a new journey began. It will lead him to the total sacrifice of self. Just like Jesus who, after his Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, took decisively the road to Jerusalem for his sacrifice on Mount Calvary… [2]

Let us pray for each other, for a blessed and happy new year – with the prayers of our Patrons, the Holy Spouses, Mary and Joseph, let us undertake our journey of following the Lord – the Star of His word, until He leads us all home to the perpetual life of His Eternal glory.

Sincerely yours in the Merciful Lord,

Fr. Joseph Henchey, CSS
Acting Spiritual Director


P.S.     To help us reflect on this new year, I am offering two reflections from St. Gaspar: one from his Epiphany Letter of 1806 – and the other, a meditation on his spirituality and theology.

[1] Web-Site Note:  it is interesting to note that in these days [less than a week later] Fr. Bertoni was thinking integrally also of the Glorious Wounds retained in Christ’s Risen Body. In St. Gaspar’s sermon on the Sacred Heart [June 5, 1812], he stated: His side, opened after His death, is used to show us that Heart, that same Heart wounded by the lance, that WOUND RETAINED IN HIS GLORIOUS BODY, render the Heart so sweet, evident, divine, so much so that it is impossible to venerate the Wounded Heart without remembering and venerating His immense love [cf. MssB # 1771]. This integral theme is much in evidence in Fr. Bertoni’s spirit – cf. J. Henchey, CSS, ‘S. Gaspare Bertoni: una speranza missionaria…, in”:  Symposium…, pp. 143-160.

[2] Fr. Nello Dalle Vedove, Un modello…, o.c., pp. 191, ff.

Parish Sermons-1806-1211-1240]

Eucharist and Draw – by Rev. Joseph Henchey, CSS


Mundelein Seminary
1000 East Maple Avenue
Mundelein IL 60060

 Solemnity of Christ the King 2016

Dear Stigmatine Laity,

If it is not too personal, I would like to share a dear memory with you from my own life, from our special celebration of “Christ the King Sunday” of 1955 – my ordination as a Deacon on that day.  In those years, the Solemnity of Christ the King was celebrated on the last Sunday of October – and the date that year was October 31st, for us Americans, Halloween. So my class and I went down in our own history as the “Halloween Deacons!”

St. Gaspar Bertoni, Founder of the Stigmatine Congregation

By that stage in our formation, the person and writings of our eventually sainted Founder, St. Gaspar Bertoni, were such a part of our daily lives as we prepared for these great and challenging steps along the way toward the Stigmatine Priesthood.  We came to understand that St. Gaspar Bertoni was much inspired to imitate/ follow Jesus Christ in his own particular manner, as “Apostolic Missionary” responding to the portrait of the Risen Christ: We must make in ourselves a portrait of Jesus Christ. [His Diary, Feb. 26, 1809]. In Jn 20: Jesus showed His Apostles His wounded hands and His side, saying: As the Father sent Me, now I send you! – and his hope was that this dream would also be handed on to other later generations of Stigmatines. It seems that already before his death, St. Gaspar hoped that the Stigmatines would become “international’ as he said in his Original Constitutions: that we should be ready to go “anywhere’ in the Diocese or the World.

St. Gaspar chose a sublime “way of living”, a truly committed modus vivendi, by choosing St. Ignatius of Loyola, as his “Model’ about which he wrote:  For the examination of conscience one should choose a Saint of the same vocation as a mirror…[July 30, 1808]. St. Paul had already taught us that Jesus Christ was the ICON [the image] of the Living God [cf.  Col 1:15]! St. Paul’s challenge was also: put on the mind of Christ Jesus! [cf. Ph 2:5, ff.]. This is what St. Ignatius did, and St. Gaspar followed suit and tried to do the same in his own life.

As we remember from our recent celebration of our second Stigmatine  centenary, St. Gaspar entered the House called the Stimmate [named for the Stigmata of St. Francis] in Verona  on November 4, 1816 – and died there on June 12, 1853, after nearly 53 years as a priest. As his health declined, in the 1840’s,  he was inspired to put together some kind of a rule of life to be observed as he approached his own death. While he lived, the first Stigmatines looked upon him as the “Living Rule”. In the mind of the Church, a book of “Constitutions” approved by the Church, is intended to  keep this blessed manner of living alive – even though it would need periodic updating with the passing of the years.

In this month’s reflection, we will offer the first  four “Codes” of St. Gaspar’s Way of Life: His Original Constitutions [1840, and the years following,  after living the community life for a quarter of a century]. – an eventual Appendix to Part XII to St. Gaspar’s original code – a juridical addition, requested by the Holy See for the initial approval of the community; a manuscript of 1889, prepared for printing as the Congregation sought its definitive canonical approval – which came in 1890; and finally, another Code [with corrections, omissions] offered following the results of the General Chapters of those years and the required observations from the Holy See in 1890– four booklets in all.

In his Summa, St. Thomas Aquinas dedicated some 25 of his lengthy  Questions to the matter of “Law”. Jesus Christ “translated” His Father’s Will/Word in His Incarnation. With His Resurrection/ Ascension, the Lord left this challenge to His Church – some of her members were inspired by the Spirit to communicate Christ’s revealed message in the spoken and written Word. Through the centuries, great men and women were called to further the Kingdom of God – which had its own “Constitutions” in the Commandments, Beatitudes and Counsels.  Each of these great individuals left their mark on the pages of the history of the Church, and her holiness.  The ideal was committed to the human word, which constantly needed further fathoming, and a deeper understanding. To help in this process, Laws and various codices came to gather with some practical insight into the great Mystery of God and His Plan.  As. St. Thomas noted [cf. A. I. Menessier, OP, Pattern For A Christian According To St. Thomas Aquinas, pp. 47, ff.] fundamental requirements ask for contemplative reflection, updating, editing.

The Law of a religious community – its fundamental Law – after the divine revelation, is the Teaching of the Church and her   special Witnesses. To be valid, this Law needs to look out for the betterment of the whole. Obedience to the Law of God is to live His will.  As Moses’ presented a Law written on stone Exodus], Jeremiah [31:31, ff.] speaks of a New Covenant of God’s Mercy written on the hearts of human beings. These attempts needed progressive education, and on-going enrichment by the understanding and the living of those Laws that lead to God. Each human existence has divine meaning.  Faith is first and in every way, in the Revelation that God makes of Himself – through the centuries this is more deeply grasped to live by the understanding that comes through Contemplation, Study, Magisterium and Lived Experience [DV 8].

As the divine word was incarnate in human flesh – to redeem the world and to make known the plan of God, the celebration of the Incarnation is observed as “Christmas”. The three Masses were thought of as the eternal birth of Christ from the bosom of the Father – the Mass at Dawn as the birth from the Blessed Virgin Mary – and the birth of us all  through the grace of God in our lives offered to us through Mercy.

St. Gaspar saw it this way:

During the three [Christmas] Masses: recollection and an experience of the great benefit of [my] vocation. What a great blessing it is to become oblivious and stripped of all created things. To seek only God. How much did God honor and love His humiliated Son.  Oh, what a responsibility do we have to do for Him, partly at least, what He firstly did for us. [December 25, 1808].

As Christmas approaches, along with the great mysteries of Jesus’ Eternal Birth from all eternity – His birth from the Blessed Virgin Mary, Spouse of Joseph – let us pray over the Mass during the Day, asking God to deepen His Sons birth in our hearts and minds.

A blessed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year! Let us continue to pray for each other! With much hope in God’s Mercy and with the intercession of our Holy Patrons, the Spouses Mary and Joseph, may blessings come to us all in this happy season!

Fr. Joseph Henchey, CSS
Acting Spiritual Director


Early Juridical Formulations of the Stigmatine Constitutions