Friday, May 3, 2013

The Story Of A Life Of Entire Devotedness

Little, we imagine, has hitherto been known in England about St. Francis di Geronimo, but henceforth it will be impossible to plead the want of an accessible and highly readable Life in the vernacular in excuse for ignorance. Miss Clarke has drawn up from the best Italian and French lives, and from the processes for his beatification and canonization, a narrative which is quite a model of even and interesting narrative, of clearness and simplicity of arrangement, and of judicious selection. In the career of any missionary there must necessarily be a frequent recurrence of events extremely like one another. He has to preach over and over again the same truths, to inculcate the same duties, to reprove the same vices, to remedy the same abuses, and to minister to the same needs, spiritual and corporal, of the poor or other sufferers. And if he is a wonder-worker, as St. Francis was in a very remarkable degree, much art is required in both the choice and grouping of the miracles, if interest and curiosity are not to be stifled by repetition and monotony. The Life under review avoids all tedium, and leads the reader on without fatigue to ever growing knowledge of the Saint and the characteristics of his work. The style is clear, graceful and attractive, by its easy flow and utter absence of pretentiousness. We trust that Miss Clarke may enrich our Catholic literature with many more such instructive biographies; she will thus render an inestimable service alike to devotion and the spiritual life. St. Francis' life, in spite of his indefatigable labours, was prolonged to seventy-four years, forty-six of which were spent in the Society. 
Born in 1642, he held at the age of twelve the offices of sacristan and catechist in a house of the Theatines near his home. At sixteen, his vocation to the priesthood being unmistakable, he received the tonsure, followed five years later by minor orders, and after three more years of study by the priesthood at the age of twenty-four. Four years later (1670), with the reputation already of a holy priest, he entered the Society, and his Master of Novices was heard on the day of his admission to say frequently,  
"This is a happy day for the Society of Jesus. We have received a holy priest into our midst: he will be an example to all his fellow-novices, and a perfect model for their imitation." The prediction was more than verified, but early in the second year of his noviceship as the companion of the veteran missioner, Father Bruno, he began the active career which with minor exceptions was to occupy him for the remainder of his life. 
Almost from the beginning of his religious life, St. Francis conceived an ardent desire to devote himself to foreign missions, and those, as he earnestly and repeatedly petitioned Father Oliva, the General of the Society at the time, where he might have most chance of suffering martyrdom. Encouraged at first by his Paternity in this desire, he was destined in the end to the disappointment of his hopes. Naples was to be his Indies. There his labours were to multiply to such an extent that we are told ten Jesuit Fathers were required after his death to fulfil the various functions he performed. Numerous and striking as were the miracles he wrought, wonderful as were his predictions, perhaps the greatest wonder of his life was the ascendency he gained over the hearts of men by his unwearying charity and precious gift of sympathy. He does not seem to have been gifted with remarkable ability; he had no special aptitude for oratory; his style was never particularly elegant, nor judged by ordinary rules of rhetoric could it be called eloquent, yet its effects were astounding wherever he went. He could have said like St. Paul: "My speech and my preaching was not in the persuasive words of human wisdom, but in the showing of the spirit and power." He was simple, earnest, vivid in illustration, and above all full of the love of God and man, and like the great Apostle of the Gentiles " all things to all men." 
Hence, though for his greater trial his labours were for a time restricted to one class of men by his ecclesiastical Superiors out of the idea that one who dealt principally with the greatest sinners amongst the poor was unfitted for the task of exhorting or directing the educated and refined, or of instructing the clergy or the devout, it was soon discovered that there was no class, learned or unlearned, rich or poor, worldly or devout, into whose special wants he could not enter to the full. 
But what he did, how he laboured, how he was tried and proved by mortifications and disappointments, how he lived down all obloquy and mastered all hearts in every rank of life,—for the details of all this we must refer our readers to the biography itself, where they will find the story of a life of entire devotedness perservered in through more than forty years, externally not diversified by much that the world calls eventful, yet rich in wonders, in labours, and in fruit. And they will find that story told with a freshness, vividness and charming simplicity which will ensure its perusal to the very end.
Link (here) to The Month

No comments: