Alfonso Lupo: Themes of sermons in Rome

Preaching of Alfonso Lupo in Rome (1571-1572)

Translated by Patrick Colbourne O.F.M.Cap

Translator’s note:

This translation is based on the introduction, text and footnotes which were published by P. Costanzo Cargnoni O.F.M. Cap. in I Frati Cappuccini: Documenti e testimonianze dell primo secolo, Edizioni Frate Indovino, Perugia, vol III/1, pp.2382-2411. The only additions to the notes made by the translator are references to Francis of Assisi: The Early Documents, edited by Regis Armstrong, O.F.M. Cap., J. A. Wayne Hellmann, O.F.M. and William J. Short O.F.M. Conv., New York City Press, New York, London, Manila, for an English version of quotations from the Writings or Biographies of St Francis.

Table of Contents

Introduction by Costanzo Cargnoni O.F.M. Cap.

It is well known that Father Alfonso Lobo was once a fervent, popular and sought-after preacher in the sixteenth century. When he arrived in Italy in 1571, he was still a member of the Spanish Discalced Friars of St Peter of Alcantara. He began preaching in Rome at the Oratory of San Giovanni Fiorentino, San Girolomo della Carità and San Bassilio the first residence of St Phillip Neri and his Congregation. He also preached in San Giacomo degli Spagnoli, where he opposed the “Pure Blood Statutes” of Toledo, which he said were heretical, contrary to human rights and to Gospel liberty. These statutes prohibited “conversos” or “marranos” (i.e. the descendants of recently converted Jews or Moors) from holding ecclesiastical or public office. Because of this and also because he spoke strongly against Prelates who practiced simony by accumulating church benefices, he incurred the anger of the Inquisition which imprisoned him for some months, suspended him from the office of preaching and forced him to make a public retraction.

Even though Father Lupo was a famous preacher we do not have any of the texts of his sermons. He left nothing of the kind. His preaching came from a serious study of the word of God but was above all the fruit of lengthy prayer and bitter penance. This is witnessed by the evidence that we have in the second volume of this collection and especially by the accounts given by Federico Borromeo. (cf. nn. 2235-2254).

However we can have a better grasp of the mood, and preferred logic of his preaching by recalling what an Oratorian, who was one of the first followers of St Philip Neri, wrote at the time in a “diary” or “spiritual chronicle” regarding the activity at the Oratory of S. Giovanni dei Fiorentini during the years of 1571-1574. It contained points or notes that were longer or shorter which provoked thoughts and sentiments, exclamations and inferences in the sermons between 1571 and 1572 that had made an impression on the chronicler.

This is the most valuable and accurate evidence which we still possess concerning the actual preaching of Alfonsi Lupo just before he entered the Capuchin Reform. The arguments emphasise a spirituality that stresses the reform of Christian living, that of the laity, religious and priests by means of the celebration of the Sacraments, heeding the word of God, devotion to the Madonna, faithful observance of the Rule and a spirit of prayer, great love for Christ and the Church and strong opposition to clerical abuses, especially the accumulation of benefices and simony and the defence of the rights of the poor.

While reading the pages of this chronicle we can understand how honest opposition to conformity like this must have struck and threatened the minds of the aristocrats and disturbed the court authorities and the Spanish Church hierarchy and sections of the Roman Clergy. They were the forerunners of the Lenten Courses in Milan and other Italian cities where there would be the denunciation of vice and the failings of both Church and Public authorities. This was preaching that exerted strong influence on the Capuchin Order even if was hard to copy its very personal character which was so charismatic of its style.

Sermons in Rome by Alfonso Lobo

1. [The causes of the lack of enthusiasm in priests]

5900 Father Lupo[1] said: that this could happen for one of two reasons: either something important was lacking in their formation, or they were careless about some venial sins which has caused them to become lukewarm and deprived them of spiritual consolation and they have to make up for this by seeking transitory worldly consolation, watching or listening to prohibited things, or engaging in conversations that might not only make them sin venially but even mortally. People who act like this seeking bodily consolation distance themselves from spiritual consolation, since spiritus inde perit, dum corpus dulcia quaerit.[2]

Father Lupo also said that these people turn pallid because they eat dirt. Picture, he said, the son of a Lord, who has been feed very delicately with wholesome dainty food and yet with all of this he looks pale and yellow. This is because when he got up from table he went and consumed dirt which ruined the good food that he had eaten before. Such a person will always be sick. This is what happens to priests who celebrate Mass every day without experiencing any improvement within. Indeed, they carry on feeling lukewarm, because when they come away from the altar, they spend a lot of time filling themselves with earthly things and worldly business which, as was said above, although all of these things are not mortal sins, they chill charity. Since the preservation of purity of life is most important for someone who wishes to meditate and experience improvement in frequenting and receiving the sacraments. One should heed what the poet said est virtue placidis abstinuisse bonis (virtue is promoted by abstaining from some good things).

2. [The cross in the life of the Christian]

5901 Father Brother Alonso Lupo, on the second day of the Paschal Resurrections,[3] said with regard to the passage it was necessary that Christ had to die.[4] “Tell me, concerning your own life, how do you think that you will enter into glory, when it was necessary for Christ to suffer so much to enter into his glory?”

3. [Venial sin]

5902 When Father Lupo was preaching to catechumens in S. Basilio he said: even though it is true that venial sins do not deprive the souls of grace, in their own way they hold the soul back and dispose it to easily fall into mortal sins. Sometimes a person can commit many venial sins so that it seems that then he does not have a skerrick of grace even though no amount of venial sins can make up a mortal sin. If a cloak was so badly splashed with mud that you could not recognise its colour because it had so many stains, you also would not know if the cloth was trim or rough. On this point he quoted the example of a nun who asked God to show her whether her soul was bright and beautiful or not, so that she could correct her faults. One day when she was saying this prayer, an old man came through the door. He had a venerable appearance and had a cope that was folded under his arm. He said to her: “You asked God to show you your soul, as you wanted to keep it very clean. Well here it is. It is no more or less beautiful then this.” He suddenly showed it filled with leprosy with a fly in every wound. Then the saintly man disappeared.

The nun was totally confused and, when she consulted a man who was holy and learned he told her not to be afraid because what had been shown did not represent mortal sins, because in that case what would have appeared would have been death which would have been according to what the Apostle James had taught: when sin in fully grown it gives birth to death.[5] It was only a sign of the many venial sins of which she was not aware but which had made her very soiled. The flies represented the demons who, by means of many temptations, had led her to commit them. For this reason, she should be more careful in future.

4. [On listening to the word of God and the Eucharist]

5903 When Father Brother Alonso Lupo was preaching in S. Gieronimo and expounding the following words of the Our Father: give us this day our daily bread,[6] he said just as the body is unable to sustain itself without nourishment, so too the soul. Just as the body cannot survive without bodily food the soul looks for spiritual food. The main food is made up of four things: the Word of God, the example of Christ and the saints, the Sacrament of the altar and the other Sacraments and prayer with contemplation of the divine mysteries.

Jesus Christ taught all of these four abundantly during the course of his life especially during the last sermon that he preached to his disciples in which, after recommending charity and humility to them in his discourses, he gave them the same thing in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. In addition to this, in order to edify them somewhat more by his personal example, he wanted to display the humility that he had preached, and he knelt down to wash their feet. Finally, he went to pray in the garden in order to show them the ultimate food for the soul.

With regard to all of these things he said that the most important was listening to the Word of God since this was the salt that made the other things tasty and preserved them. If you receive Communion often without listening to the Word of God, you may easily enter into a fog of sanctity and Gospel life without achieving anything but losing what you should gain by frequently receiving Communion.

5904 The same could be said about prayer, fasting, pilgrimages, giving alms and all the other good works that follow on from the Word of God that teaches and instructs us as to how we should carry them out and how to be aware of what is evil. To show how beneficial and necessary it is to listen to the Word of God he cites the example given by St Augustine who said: non minus peccatum est verbum Dei negligenter audire, quam corpus Domini permittere in terran cadere (it is no less a sin to hear the Word of God carelessly, that to allow the body of Christ to fall on the ground).[7] The gloss says to preach about the body of Christ is more efficacious. It states the reason, which is, that it converts more people and makes them contrite in such a way that by means of this, their mortal sins and slight venial sins are forgiven by means of Christ’s body.[8]

This means that the Word of God is subtle food for the soul when it is not just taken in by the ears but when it is well digested within by meditation. It is not enough for us to hold food in the mouth if we want it to sustain our body; we have to take it into the stomach without spitting it out so that it can be digested and absorbed. The Saviour said as much in St Luke when he said: Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that gave you milk, so also are they who hear the word of God and keep it.[9]

5905 Along with this we ought to note that in order to support the Christian soul it is very important to receive Communion regularly, because when this is done with proper preparation the soul receives an infinite number of benefits from the grace that God confers in the Sacrament. Therefore, if your can do this worthily, you should not let a day pass without doing it. Thus, you ought to think about what the Council[10] said, that in the Diocese of Mangunzia there was so much fervour in the early Church that the priests were not satisfied to celebrate Mass once, twice or three times a day but wanted to celebrate many times a day. The Council decreed that they could celebrate only three Masses a day and not more.

There is no time now to deal with the other two foods of the soul that were mentioned and treated above, that is, the example of Christ and prayer.

5. [On a contrite and humble heart]

5906 In a sermon on the Birth of the Lord, Father Lupo expounded the words on earth peace to men of good will.[11] He said that “good will” meant having a kind heart and good intentions. Sacred Scripture states this and it means the same thing as the words of Psalm 50: a contrite and humbled heart, O God, you will not despise.[12] This describes: a person who does not do only what he wants to do, who subjects his will to another person and who does not want to follow his own will but who is subject and humble towards what others wish. Such a one can be honestly said to have a contrite and humble heart for which God has high regard.

6. [The conditions for fruitful Communion]

5907 Concerning the words: give us this day our supersubstantial bread,[13] Father Lupo said that in order to receive this bread worthily and so that it may have the effect that we ask, we ought to prepare ourselves in such a way that our conscience cannot accuse us of any mortal sin that has not been confessed. We ought to have a firm resolve not to sin again, to avoid the occasions of sin and to receive communion with the most devotion possible. After Communion has been received both a priest and a lay person ought to retire to a separate place, if possible where there are no lights, and closing off their exterior senses, kneel down to consider that they have the Creator of heaven and earth within them, and the one who created and saved them and, even though you are such a great sinner, the one who has made you worthy of sharing in such a great mystery. You should spend at least a half an hour in this thought and meditation. Spend an hour if you can, or even two hours. If a person could continue this in a dignified manner, he will find that his soul will gradually grow in fervent love of God and that he will come to recognise his defects more clearly each day and how to overcome them.

5908 He commented on these words of Isaiah: in silence and in hope I shall conserve my strength.[14] Do not be preoccupied with questions, or other prayers for the time being, but think only of the one whom you have within you. Therefore be very alert, when the demon sees the great fruit that the soul derives from such close and familiar conversation with God, he will suggest worldly business as a distraction, or, on another occasion, persuade the person to break off and attend to other spiritual works which will seem to be good in themselves, but which are not useful or necessary for the soul since they can be attended to later. By repeating these acts the soul will become so enflamed with God that it will be strengthened to the point that, if necessary, it would willingly suffer martyrdom.

He added to this the words of the wise man: love is strong as death.[15] He said that death was strong because it divides two partners, namely soul and body, which had been born together and always lived together. If you say that death is strong when it separates those who have loved each other for a long time, it means that love is something very powerful. Those who love each other perfectly do not count the cost of suffering death for sake of the one that they love. This is something that is solid: jealousy is as hard as hell.[16] Just like hell it cannot relax, but causes torment eternally, rigorously and relentlessly. This is why it is said to be hard. Any one who values love finds it to be like this. Anyone who finds that he does not love God has to set aside his own will and pleasure and the delights of this world in which he has spent his whole life and for which he should suffer eternal death. This is a very hard thing.

7. [Contrition and purpose of amendment]

5909 Concerning the words of the Our Father: forgive us our trespasses, Father Lupo said first of all that before asking God to forgive us we have to be sorry, and for our sorrow to be perfect the seven conditions were laid down by St Paul and have to be fulfilled. These are indignation, vendetta, desire, imitation, concern, counsel and fear.[17]

Firstly, one should experience indignation against oneself for having offended God; 2. take vendetta against oneself, by doing penance; 3. desire, not to offend again; 4. imitation of God and his saints in those things than can be imitated; 5. concern, with regard to past negligence; 6. counsel, for the future; and 7. fear, concerning repeating the offense.

Once armed with these weapons it is necessary to fight against three enemies and conquer them, namely honours, possessions and the flesh. A Christian will then know if he has perfect contrition, or at least, if he is acting, as best he can, to acquire it when being sorry for the past he resolves that even if he is troubled by the thought of losing his reputation in the future, he will never abandon serving God, and that even if he were tempted to give up all his possessions and not gain the whole world, he would never commit a mortal sin. He would resolve not only to be disposed not to offend God by sins of the flesh, but to also avoid all the occasions of sin.

To prove the firmness of such a proposal not to offend God in future it is enough for a person to resolve not to offend in any way, and to have confidence in God freeing him from temptation and that he avoids the occasion of sin. If God occasionally allows the occasion to occur without the person seeking it and with the person having tried to avoid it, he should know that God will give him the strength not to fall but to prevail. There is no doubt that this will happen, when he has done the best that he could. He should ask God’s help knowing that it is impossible that God would allow something that displeases him. The Prophet said: Unless the Lord keep the city, in vain do the watchmen keep vigil,[18] and no one is continent except God had granted it.[19]

8. [The Marian devotion of priests]

5910 Speaking about the mystery of the Incarnation, Father Lupo cited the Gospel passage Missus, etc[20] and said that the whole human race was obliged to cultivate a special devotion to the Virgin Mary, our Lady, because it was she who procured our redemption. All should ask for her help in what they need, but especially all priests since they work along with her in this exalted mystery. Like her, who had him take flesh in her womb, they make God come down from heaven to earth according to what is meant by the five words let it be done to me according to your word.[21] Priests do this each day by the five words of the consecration: hic est corpus meum (this is my body). They make God fall from heaven to earth and place him in his body which is a greater dignity than a creature can possess, even though he were the Emperor, King or Lord of the whole world.

In addition to this, except for the Virgin, our Lady, this mission has been given to no one but priests, they should always have recourse to her as their guide in showing the way to heaven, and ask her insistently to be their advocate and intercessor before her glorious Son so that, as St Bernard said at the end in his sixth sermon on the Nativity: God wants nothing good to come to us except through Mary’s hands. [22] This is why in some places, such as in Spain, there is a praiseworthy custom according to which when priests begin Mass before they say the Confiteor, they ask for her assistance in performing such a great work.

9. [Temptations and fault]

5911 When speaking about the words in the Our Father: lead us not into temptation,[23] Father Lupo said that there was need for discretion so as not to stumble or be worried about every kind of temptation. This is especially true with regard to some deceptive and ugly temptations against the faith, or the Sacraments or the virginity of our Lady if at times we wonder or are confused about these things. When we do not consent to them but reject and rebut them this is meritorious. The demon, in going about his work, opens his box, as if he was gracious, and displays his goods to see if we are attracted to any of it when it is all just wind. When we tell him that we do not want anything from his shop and that he should go to those who want it, we have not committed any sin just by looking at it when by chance he put it before our eyes when we were not thinking. The same applies to lesser sins that are not that serious and when we reject them without consenting and without taking any pleasure or leaning towards anything that would be serious; we need have no scruple since as St Augustine[24] says: there is no sin in what we see, but in what we consent to.

10. [The year 1572]

5912 In1572, during the celebration of the memorial of St Paul the Hermit [25] when speaking about his life, Monsignor Giovanni Francesco said: “It is possible that very many days have passes during which many of us have come to this Oratory each day studying and being taught about the spiritual life for hours and yet only a few have derived any fruit from such good, holy teaching that is preached here. I do not say that we could count the fruit on our fingers but on our nose, as the common people say …”

11. [On the worthy reception of Communion]

5913 When speaking on the words of consecration of the most Holy Eucharist Father Lupo said: Rather than thinking that we eat him, it would be more true to say that we are eaten by him, since, when we receive him worthily we change into him by means of grace, and we become one with him: He abides in me and I in him.[26] Because this is what is happening, so that we can be more worthily be eaten by him and become one with him, it behoves us to become angels as innocent as he is.

For a lamb to be consumed he must first die. We too have to die to sin. Then he has to be skinned. We should note that it is easy to skin flesh off a lamb. The difficulty starts with the head, because there are four senses in the head and only one in the rest of the body. When you go to skin the common people and the general public and the workers, remember how that this cannot be compared with skinning the head of a lamb that has only one faculty. This will be threatening to human beings. The Word of God is like a sword.[27] When they see it, they will begin to tremble and pant with fear and say: Lord, what do you want me to do?[28]

There are many spots on the head that have skin, around the eyes, the ears, nose and mouth. Whereas we are presumed to be instructed and intelligent with regard to defending ourselves against our vices; they grow quickly within us so that we find that we are strong in acquired unworthiness, spending our life on what is vain with no more thought about what a Christian ought to do besides the general rules of going to Church and hearing Mass etc. However, when a lamb is to be skinned so as to be consumed, one should know that no one will eat it if it is raw. He has to be cooked in pain and compunction for his faults and for our sins, through penance. In the same way God will consume us.

12. [The presence of Christ in the Eucharist]

5914 On the day of Carnivale, he [Fr Lupo] said, in order to explain how Our Lord Jesus Christ could be in so many places in the world in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, that although this was a mystery that had to be believed by faith, it could be compared with how the sun appears quite clearly in Rome in all the streets and palaces as well as in the entire world, when people put themselves in a place where they can see it. If each one had a mirror in his hand each one would see the sun in the mirror. With all of this there would still be only one sun. If the mirror were to be broken into many parts you would still see the sun. The same applies to this mystery. The mirrors in which the sun can be seen are the species that priests hold in their hands, by the divine authority that is given them by the character that is impressed on their souls bringing the sun of justice into each one of them. Because of this there are not many suns but just one very exalted mystery. The same applies if the species is broken into many parts. The same real body of Our Lord Jesus Christ is present in each one of them, no more or no less than was in the intact host.

13. [The universal judgement]

5915 In a sermon on second day after the first Sunday of Lent,[29] Father Brother Alfonso Lupo, when speaking about the judgement that would take place in the Valley of Josaphat, said that there were two reasons why Our Lord chose and favoured the use of that place as being more convenient and appropriate than any other place for the universal judgement.

The first is because when Our Lord Jesus Christ took human flesh for our salvation and suffered and died amidst so many torments to redeem us, it all took place in the land where he was born. He grew up in Nazareth, lived in Galilee and Capernaum and died in Jerusalem. By coming to the valley of Josaphat, at the centre of all of these places, he increased our humiliation because we had derived no benefit from his suffering, passion and death. By standing there in judgement, I say, one can see all of these places. He can baffle those who are wicked by showing these places by using his finger to point them out to their eyes while saying “See Nazareth over there where I was born for you; see the mountain over there where I fasted for forty days for you, see Jerusalem over there where Pilate lived, where he gave me fifty lashes and many insults for you and where I was crowned with thorns, see the street where I was made to carry the cross on my shoulder, and, finally, see Mount Calvary over there on which I was crucified between two thieves for you. You who are wicked and ungrateful did not bother to benefit from such benefits, but instead of glorifying me, you turned to crucifying me as many times as you committed mortal sin and therefore ,you who are cursed, go into the eternal fire.”

The second reason is because it is very appropriate that where the Lord was scourged and died that he should triumph over his enemies who are all wicked in not wanting to benefit from his death.

14. Indulgences: the stipulations for acquiring them]

5916 In a sermon given on Wednesday after the Ember Days,[30] when speaking about the Stations in Rome, Father Lupo said that in order to acquire indulgences it was necessary that a person be contrite and confess his sins in such a way that although the Pope intended to grant them, de certa scientia et de plenitudine potestatis (from certain knowledge using the plenitude of authority), to a person in mortal sin, he did not intend that such a person would derive any benefit unless he sought absolution. Therefore, he said that the sinner would do better during the Stations or spending some time alone in his home thinking about his sins and being sorry for them, because without this kind of foundation, visiting the graves and the bodies of the saints was a waste of time.

He also said that indulgences were meant to settle accounts. As if to say: if someone deserved eternal punishment because of mortal sin, and the sin was forgiven in Confession, eternal punishment was changed into temporal punishment. And the indulgence was payment for that time. Thus, when a person died after having confessed and being contrite, if he had not paid the complete price and some imperfection due to venial sins remained, for which he had to stay ten or twenty years in Purgatory, the indulgence would compensate for that time. However, it is well to consider the way to go about gaining such indulgences. Not everything that is done will fulfil what is demanded if one continues to dally and become involved in something that is especially hurtful or prejudicial to someone else, or looks at what is impure with eyes that wander here and there. This will soon make the soul sick again rather that obtain forgiveness for past sins.

To make this point, and to show how difficult it is to gain indulgences and to make those who want to obtain indulgences think again so that they would not go ahead without the proper dispositions, he gave the example of two women, who out of the thousands of people who took part in the Stations, gained nothing. This was manifested by divine revelation. Each one of them went along with all the others. They read with great devotion. When seeking to acquire an indulgence one should cultivate deep thought after praying and be at rest when others are active.

15. [Multiplicity of benefices]

5917 On the following day,[31] Father Lupo preached a sermon in which he claimed that he was explaining what he had said elsewhere, when he had condemned multiplicity of benefices. That occurs when a person has two benefices even if they were easy to look after and did not involve the care of souls, even when one does not suffice to provide a living. This becomes a matter of conscience.

He took to explaining that he was in agreement with what was contained in session 24, canon 17[32] in the Council of Trent which applied when either one of those benefices required personal residence. If the one that required residence was sufficient a person should not hold the other. He joined this proposition to question 21, article 1 in the chapter headed Clericus that said: no one can administer two domiciles.[33] He quoted from the tract on multiplicity of benefices by Dionysius the Carthusian,[34] showing how the Chancellor of Paris who conducted the school for all the theologians in Paris had condemned multiplicity of benefices. (At the time they considered that one benefice of the value of 15 Parisian pounds was sufficient). The only one to oppose this was the Chancellor who held many benefices. A few days later when he found himself close to death and the Bishop told him that he was in a bad way because he was so obstinately opposed to everyone, he said he would think about it. He then gave up his spirit. A few days later he appeared to the Bishop in a frightening and shocking state. He said that because he had not believed, he was and would remain in hell permanently. With all the wealth that he had possessed he had committed many sins of the flesh and avarice since although he had so much, he had never given alms.

Speaking about the practice of benefices, he stated that anyone who holds a benefice, even if it be worth no more than one or two hundred ducats, which would be enough for a servant or page to live on when he added a Mass stipend, should not hold additional benefices no matter how common they might be, under pain of going to hell.

5918 As we go back to establishing how we ought to understand chapter 17 of section 24 of the Council of Trent we note that it says that a person cannot have more than one benefice unless he cannot subsist on that benefice provided and that such subsistence does not imply living in pomp. If one is a teacher what was mentioned above is enough to live off. If he wants to have many benefices so that he can have a greater number of servants and live in splendour and pomp this would be the wrong way to interpret the sacred canons and Councils. Any one who holds a benefice worth one or two thousand ducats and uses it to have extra servants, mules, pets and other things is sinning because he would have sufficient to maintain his own needs with five or six hundred ducats, giving what was surplus to the poor because it belongs to them. He cannot keep it with a good conscience or use it on profane things.

What I have said might seem harsh to theologians or canonists. However, they should remember that I am not saying anything on my own authority. Let them give serious consideration to what I am saying since it is based on Sacred Scripture, the Councils and the sacred canons. If they do not want to make a mistake they should not rely on their own teachings because the interests of self-love are buffeting them, and they are not disturbed about being judges over their own things. They ought to do what doctors do. When the best doctor in the world falls sick, he calls another doctor to treat him. If he were to say: “Sir, you know more than the rest, treat yourself”. He would answer: “Although what you tell me is true, nevertheless in this illness, where my life is at stake, I do not trust myself since it might become necessary to take much blood from me and things could go wrong. I think so much of myself that I might think of applying other remedies that would not heal me.”

In conclusion he said, returning to what he has said above concerning benefices of any kind, whether bequests or not, or simply benefices, if by means of one your can support yourself with the provisions mentioned totalling about 200 ducats, you could not manage any more, no matter how simple, as the burden would destroy your head to the point that you would go to hell together with the burden.

5919 I regard this as being true, no one can keep a pension unless the one receiving the pension recites the office or does something good for the soul of the one who is providing the benefice. In short, they are fruits of the Church and they were donated with consequent obligations and responsibilities. If it turns out that the one who receives the benefices cannot fulfil theses obligations, he should not be given any more.

With regard to this he said: “Consider for a while who is going to go to hell. They tell me that it is someone who goes hunting benefices. Such a person said he would rid himself of them, but he still has about thirty. Do you think it will go well with him when he comes to die? I certainly believe that he will end up in hell.”

He said this so clearly that all who were present had little doubt about whom he was speaking about as many of them were his friends. I recall that a few days after the sermon, because I was in touch with all that Father Lupo had said regarding the condemnation of multiplicity of benefices, that all the texts and teachings that he had used were quoted in the criminal proceedings against Bernardo Diaz. It was an embarrassment to me that it had to be repeated so many times before the truth came out.[35]

16. [Concerning the Gospel of the Transfiguration]

5920 In his sermon on the Second Sunday of Lent,[36] when he spoke about the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ, Father Lupo said that the reason why Moses and Elias were present was that the law and the prophets were until John.[37] Moses, who was the lawgiver represented the law and Elias represented the Prophets because he, more than anyone else, was zealous about God’s honour. The one who was the lawgiver and the other who represented the Prophets, came to lay down their authority and to resign from and lay aside their offices. The image was meant to convey that from now on they no longer held authority with respect to either ceremonies or laws. If any of this remained in force it would only be to the extent that it received approval. Their resignations and their laying aside of responsibilities and offices into the hands of our Lord Jesus Christ was confirmed by the voice of the Father: This is my beloved Son, listen to him.[38] This is my Son, who is the object, the purpose and the goal of the Prophets, listen to him.

He set down the example of how when a new magistrate or judge arrives the former one takes off his regalia and gives it to the new one who puts it on to begin presiding. The former one has no more power and cannot enforce what he laid down. The new one has to confirm theses things. So, on behalf of the others, those saintly men as leaders from the Old Testament came to lay aside their authority, handing over the entire Old Testament into the authority of the new judge and universal legislator. As has been said, from then on everything comes to an end except the laws which, as we have said, he, who has great power, enforces and approves them.

When dealing with the rest of the patriarchs, [Fr Lupo] says that Moses asked [Jesus] to have compassion on all of them, even if they did not deserve it, since they had been living in expectation of a great gift and wonderful moment for so long. Elias asked for the heavenly paradise, because now that [Jesus] had revealed his face, the earthly paradise would no longer satisfy anyone. Thus, on behalf of all the other Prophets he requested he should be allowed to finish what he had started. It was at this point that the Evangelist says that Peter said: Lord it is good for us to be here let us make three tabernacles.[39] However, when treating the death of his Master he dares to say: Lord, let it be far from thee,[40] and the Master remarks, Get behind me, Satan.[41] As he had seen so much glory, he presumed it would exclude dying.

17. [The stomach and the vanity of clerics]

5921 On Tuesday after the Second Sunday in Lent,[42] Father Lupo said people go to hell for one of two things, or for both together, and they are either because of the stomach or vanity.

They will go there because of the stomach because there is nothing a man would not do in order to eat, no danger to which he would not expose himself. They will do anything to eat. They would go to India to get food and then come back to Rome.

With respect to vanity, what would a man not do for the self-importance of being in command, to gain a reputation, to live a grand and splendid life? We see this more clearly here in Rome than in any other part of the world. A person comes here with nothing and whereas he would have previously been content with 100 ducats to live on, now he is not satisfied with three hundred. Nor would he be satisfied with three thousand because of his craving to live in pomp, having many servants, horses and carriages. He does not know that he does not need all that much to survive. Concerning what he does have, he does not consider that he cannot keep so many benefices in good conscience, when one would suffice to permit him to live without pomp in a good and simple manner. It is a monstrous thing not to be satisfied unless one has a residence in a certain place and a benefice that brings a title with it. What is worse is to seek such benefices without knowing that it is sinful.

He presented the story of Abimelech[43] who killed seventy of his brothers to become King of Sichem, so strong were his predilections to command. One of the brothers, who had been spared, climbed up a mountain, he called the citizens and told them how the trees chose to have the olive as their king and he responded: “I am satisfied with producing sweet fruit and I do not want to take on more trouble.” They went to the fig tree, who said the same thing, saying that he produced sweet fruit and that was enough for him. They spoke to the bramble which only produces thorns, and it immediately accepted the burden and said that they would all be protected by its shade. Then a fire started, and because it was dry and had no leaves, it was the first thing to be burnt, along with all the others including the highest cypresses. I want to tell you that the same thing will happen to you. This will occur when the city is seeded with salt.

5922 He applied this to the clerics who lived in Rome. If you want to know they are the ones who feed the stomach or vanity, you can see this when they have a benefice worth 100 or 200 ducats which is enough for them to live on without pomp. When they are offered another, they take it and do not refuse it with the excuse that its fruits will satisfy them, and they will not seek anything better. Believe me this is being a big friend of the stomach or vanity or of both. Then crying out he said: “If things are like this, what is to be said about them. Not only do they not refuse but the go about as if they were hunting rabbits with branches, chasing after benefices. I call them dry sticks that burn. This is because they have procured and obtained the vainglory of benefices undeservedly and unlawfully, as well as giving bad example and failing to edify, burning the people and their subjects.”

Turning to the priests he said: “Who can blame me, my Lords, for screaming from the height of this pulpit, like a guard or sentry from a tower. I crack my skull showing everyone the way to glory and they do not want to reach port sailing in the ship of penance, because they do not present themselves to the sailors, who are you confessors. When I send them off well prepared to do what you command them, you receive them so cheerfully and give them such a light burden that I do not know how they can enter into the boat safely. However, they labour and toil in vain if they do not comply with both the preacher and the confessor. But they think of me as rigorous and of you, my Lords, as very merciful. Because of this I am convinced that better are the wounds of a friend, than the deceitful kisses of an enemy.[44]

The following day he spoke on the words of Zebedee: say that these two sons of mine may sit, etc. [45]

18. [Riches]

5923 When Father Lupo was speaking about the Gospel concerning the glutton, who was clothed in purple and fine linen,[46] he said that the punishment that the Lord imposed on this man gives us much to think about. It says a lot when he is described as being rich and well dressed. He was not a cleric, nor did his goods belong to the church. In spite of this he gave him a heavy punishment for what he had done because he had not shown any compassion for the poor. Even if a person is rich it is not right to banquet every day, or to dress sumptuously without being concerned about the poor, even if they are simple. This would not apply to priests because what they have belongs to the poor and they are merely dispensers.

He began by saying what all the Doctors say about how dangerous riches are, how difficult it is for a rich man to be saved, especially if he is one of those who use riches as a means to offend God with comfort, adding one sin to another. They are like the beasts of burden which Lords use for their travels. They are loaded with gold, jewels and great riches. They are decorated, rich, well-loaded and elegantly covered with treasures and crowned with plumage. When they have arrived at their destination they are cast aside, everything is taken off and they are left naked and nothing is left on the poor beasts except the marks and scars that have been left by the load. The same goes for rich people who abuse and traffic in riches, and offend God every day for they will be left with a tomb, when everything has been taken away from them and all that remains will be their skin which will show nothing but the scars of mortal sin, each of which will mean eternal death for the soul.

5924 Returning to the point: “Perhaps you will say to me: I am a lay person; I am not obliged to give alms except in the case of necessity.” Do not try to bind me so strictly. Did you not hear what Christ himself said: “Depart from me you cursed into everlasting fire, for I was hungry, and you gave me not to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me not to drink. I was naked, and you covered me not, etc? When did we see you hungry? Amen, I say to you, whatever you did to one of the least, you did to me. [47] Does this limit you to cases of necessity?

Going ahead with the sermon he said: “Where does our miserliness and blindness come from! When our first parent was in the state of grace, he went about naked and it did not upset him or make him ashamed. As soon as he committed sin, he recognised that he was naked. When God called out to him, he attempted to cover himself. As penance for his sin God made him two garments of sheep skin and he put them on to protect himself against the cold and the heat.

Tell me, in your case, do you perhaps think that God has neither the knowledge nor power to make you clothes out of fabric or silk? No indeed! Why do you make clothes? There are two reasons. The first is for protection from the cold, so that, as St Bernard says, when commenting on this passage, what we are looking for in clothing is warmth and not colour. This embarrasses clerics who clothe themselves in red and silk. It also embarrasses lay people who throw away up to 50 coins on a pair of shoes.

The second reason is this. Some wear clothes for penance for their sins. Such is the case when the Inquisition hands out garments to those guilty of heresy. Tell me, what do you think, does someone who receives such a garment from the Holy Office because of his errors, to shame and confuse him, and to make an example of him before others, decorate it with pearls or precious stones? If he were to do this would he not be considered as being ridiculous, absurd, even mad! We are like this when we go in search of clothing that is made of silk and is embroidered and ostentatious.

19. [Concerning the heart and prayer]

5925 Speaking about the words “not that which goes into the mouth defiles a man”, on Wednesday after the Third Sunday in Lent,[48] Father Lupo spoke about the duplicity and malice of the Pharisees and how they went about astutely spreading calumny about the works of Jesus. They went to the disciples to talk about the mistakes that they imagined Christ was making: why does your master eat with publicans and sinners. [49] They spoke to Christ of the defects that, in their opinion, the disciples were committing: why do your disciples eat without washing their hands? [50] They believed that it was their duty to make fraternal correction before saying anything to others.

From this we may conclude, with reference to the washing of hands, that what comes from the heart is worse than what comes in through the lips. When you join this to what the Psalmist said this people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me, [51] it follows that this passage could apply to most of us, who, when we are saying the Rosary, or the Office, as we are obliged to do, we place our hands on the marble slabs, and our eyes on the door, and have our minds fixed on a thousand things that are so far removed from what we are reciting that you might say that we are jumping from place to place, saying half a verse, speaking to someone, and, still not finished, turning to argue with another, and, often, paying so little attention that when we have finished the Psalm, we do not remember what we have said, and because we are worried, we turn back and repeat it more than once.

5926 “Tell me, on your life, if any of you were having a discussion with someone of rank, would you not be careful about what you said and pay attention without turning around to anyone else? You would speak and present yourself to him with appropriate dignity while asking him what you wanted. How is it then that when you are speaking with the Lord of Lords you show no more respect than if you were speaking with your servant in the stable? Listen to what the Royal Prophet is saying and to how he teaches you to pray: I will confess to you with the instruments of the psaltery,[52] which means, that the psalms should not said without paying attention when I am praising and confessing you.

Consider carefully that the prayers and psalms that have been approved by the Church belong to God, because he has set them out through the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of his Son Jesus Christ, or through the ministry of our Holy Mother Church, which was inspired by the same Holy Spirit, so they are vessels which help us to pray well and ask for grace and mercy. We have only to empty the vessel if we want to acquire what we desire. I am trying to say that we should take care to fill the vessel with what we need to help us to pray; which is devotion, attention, consideration, compunction and contemplation, taking care to fix our mind on what is contained in the vessel whether it is speaking about glory, death, hell or judgement. This would be to confess you with the instruments of the psaltery, and not leaving them empty, since prayers like that would merit little or nothing. When you are obliged to say the Office, to say it like this would be like paying with counterfeit money which would be equivalent to not fulfilling your obligation.

20. [Prayer and Preaching]

5927 Speaking on the Gospel for Tuesday after Laetare Sunday on the words My doctrine is not mine, and how does this man know letters, having never learned?, [53] Father Lupo commented on how Our Lord taught all the wise men of this world because they had to humbly ask for wisdom from God. If you do not ask for this and work from this basis your study will produce little fruit. No matter how good a reader or student you are, if you want to progress in studies, you have to always begin with prayer.

In this respect, he admitted that in his own case, often, even though he had studied about what he was going to preach to them, he still remained without knowing what to say, when by God’s mercy, which he always invoked, he found what he should say was given to him over time. He added that all good preachers spend the night insistently asking God what they ought to say to his people in the morning. They did not make study as their basis or trust in it, until they had insistently asked God for help. He quoted what the Psalmist said: because I have not known learning. [54] It is because I do not depend on my knowledge, or my reading, that I humbly ask that I will enter into the powers of the Lord. [55] The other secrets of divinity are there. This is the kind of study that is helpful, and that it is acquired by prayer. He said this with spirit and fervour and practiced it with devotion and affection. Anything else, no matter how subtle or learned would be lacking in spirit and dry and would go in one ear and come out the other.

5928 He gave an example of a large gathering during which many learned men and prelates disputed with a great heretic to try to convert him. He answered all of them very cleverly. So that not only could they not convert him, but they became more confused than he was. A saintly man who was there saw this. He was not well educated but was upset over the loss of this soul and of the many others who were following his teaching. He fell down and in front of everyone, filled with love and charity, began to cry at the sight of such obstinacy and at his loss. He said to him: “Brother, when it is so plainly clear, how do you have doubts and difficulties over the testimony that has been sanctioned by God and all of his saints! You do not believe! However, tell me, can you deny that what is contained in the Creed is false? Listen to me and I will tell you what you doubt and what you should believe.” He then said with the same fervour and in tears: I believer in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, etc. he had not finished the Creed when the heretic threw himself on his face on the ground, saying that he believed and held all that the holy Mother Church held. Most of the prelates asked him how had he been converted by such a simple man and not by the many prelates who had said the same thing. He answered that you can contest to what is written down and to knowledge, but no amount of human knowledge can respond to the words of the Holy Spirit.

21. [Reform of your own state]

5929 In a sermon on the Passion, when explaining how St Peter had hardly put a foot in the palace when he immediately began to deny Christ, said that each one of us, whatever state we belong to, is given great freedom to live how he pleases. However, if people of whatever state do not reform, it will be impossible for them to be saved.

Religious might say: “O Father, I observe my rule, attend choir and attend Mass every day, why are you challenging me?” “So that you will rid yourself of the pretentiousness and vanity associated with being a prelate and not become proud, but embrace humility and subjugate yourself to true poverty etc.”

The cleric might say: “Sometimes I say Mass and support some poor relations.” I challenge you so that you will say Mass every day if possible, live a chaste and exemplary life, not become involved in worldly affairs, not become weighed down under a mountain of benefices that you cannot attend to, not arrange to make yourself a beneficiary of the goods that belong to the Church, or, to express it in a better way, of the goods that belong to the poor, etc.”

One who is married might say: “I go to Confession once each year as holy mother Church commands and support my family as well as I can.” “I challenge you to go to Confession more often and not be satisfied with going only once a year, since this law was only made for those who are wicked and want to make excuses saying that it is enough to go to Confession once in a lifetime, not to make illegal contracts that involve usury and some form of deception in order to support yourself etc.”

5930 Finally, do you want me to give you a rule that would apply to all in general? I say that with respect to the normal journey that we are travelling at present, that the rule that would apply to all states of life would declare that no one would be saved because everyone has erred in his own way. [56] It is necessary for everyone, in their own state, to refrain from saying: it is enough if I live in the ordinary way that those in my profession live, because our state is in such a state of ruin that it is very clear that this is not the road that Christ Our Lord or his saints took to go to heaven. Saint Bernard said: there is no pretty part in a head crowned with thorns. [57] We also read how as St Bernard was approaching death, another saint had a vision in which he saw that thirty thousand other Christian were about to die at the same time. The souls of the infidels who were too many to count went to hell. However, what he noted was that of all of the thirty thousand Christians who were leaving life at that time, only St Bernard and a Prior in the Carthusians went to heaven directly, and all the rest went to hell. Here he cited the vision that S. Pietro Petinaro of Siena had in which he saw St Francis following in the footsteps of our Lord.[58]

22. [Reform of religious]

5931 Saying more about this subject, on the following day, he said that in many cases it was quite true that the normal path that most followed was not headed towards glory. This could be seen in many Orders and religious Congregations in which the life was lived with such laxity as to be religious only in name. Whoever wants to think about this should consider the facts. He also said quite openly: “I know that there are quite a few who are trying to spread calumny about me. I do not condemn any religious Order that has been approved by the Holy Roman Church since all her institutes are holy, and also because there are many members in all of them who live a holy life. However, I know well that the first fervour and observance of the rule have cooled down so much that, that if their founder were to return he would say that this was not his rule as he had left it or at least that it had been so significantly relaxed as to be hardly recognisable.[59]

Tell me, on your honour, if someone had to go to India, which is called the new world, by ship would he not be regarded as being mad if after looking at many ships he boarded an old wreck of a ship, without seeking the advice of someone who had experienced the trip and the many dangers and hardships that usually occurred? This would show that it was better and very important to choose a strong new ship that was safe that had a good captain and an experienced crew. I offer the same advice to those who wish to pass over to the eternal world of glory on the ship of a religious life, leaving the earth and all that it contains. Let them seek and work at finding one that is well-equipped, strong and safe and which has a good captain and an experienced crew and one that does not tell them not to observe the Rule as they should.”

23. [The prayer of intercession]

5932 On the Sunday before the Ascension, Father Lupo preached on the words if you ask the Father anything in my name, he will give it to you.[60] Quoting St Augustine he said, do not ask the Saviour for anything that is not necessary for salvation.[61] This is asking for something that cannot be granted. Ask for something else. Keep asking without stopping. If what you are asking for is good for the person’s soul, even if at times the answer is postponed, Our Lord will grant it for the greater good of the person and will make him acquire more merit and greater perfection. However, whatever you ask for another person will not always be granted since it might not always be of help to him.

24. [Father Lupo retracts three things the he had preached before]

5933 Father Lupo corrects three things that he had said before and which did not sound quite right. When preaching in Rome in 1571 and 1572 he said that what he had said about the Statute of Toledo which prevented Moors or Jews who had been converted from holding office in the Catholic Church being a heresy, and that those who approved this were guilty of heresy, was a mistake and he withdrew what he had said.[62]

The same applied to when he had said that it was better to listen to a sermon on Days of Precept than to assist at Mass because this meant gaining something useful when one could not attend both.[63]

Thirdly, he retracted what he had said when explaining the words: your own soul a sword shall pierce.[64] It was where he had said that the sword was a suggestion and temptation to be unfaithful, which the Devil put before our Lady, telling her that since it was impossible that her son could be the Son of God, why then leave him to suffer such a death. However, he had misunderstood what St Augustine and St Thomas had said on the subject.


  1. The text was subsequently corrected like this Father Lupo, the Capuchin, said with regard to this matter.
  2. That is, the spirit perishes, while the body is seeking pleasure.
  3. It was Monday 16 April 1571, the first day after the Feast of the Resurrection when Luke 24: 13-15 was read.
  4. Cf. Lk 24: 26
  5. James 1: 15
  6. Lk 11: 3. St Phillip Neri lived with the first priests of the Oratory in a house beside S Girolamo della Carità from the time of his priestly ordination (1551) until 22 September 1583 when he went to “Chiese Novara” in Vallicella.
  7. Cf. Decr. II pars. C 1, q. 94: Interogo (CIC I, 391s), cf. S. August. Sermo CCC, 2 (PL 39, 2319).
  8. Cf. Decr, III pars, de consecration, dist. II, c. 71: Iteratur cottidie (CIC I, 1341s).
  9. Lk 11:37-38.
  10. There is a blank space here in the text.
  11. Lk 2: 14
  12. Ps 50: 19
  13. Mt 6: 11
  14. Cf. Is 30: 15
  15. Song 8: 6
  16. As above.
  17. Cf. 2 Cor 7: 9-11
  18. Ps 126: 1
  19. Cf. Wis 8: 21.
  20. Lk 1: 26
  21. Lk 1: 38
  22. Cf. PL 183, 100 (765)
  23. Mt 6: 13
  24. Cf. S. August. Expositio ex epist. Ad Rom. (PL 25 2066); De nuptiis et concupiscientia, c. 27s (PL 44, 431).
  25. The memorial of St Paul the Hermit fell on 10th January. On this day 10 January 1572 Monsignor Giovanni Francesco Bordini said this by way of an introduction. Concerning him see vol. II, 337 note 1.
  26. Jn 15: 5
  27. Cf. Ephes. 6: 17; Heb 4: 12-13
  28. Acts 9: 6
  29. This was 23 February 1572.
  30. This was 27 February 1572 or Wednesday following the First Sunday of Lent.
  31. That is 28 February
  32. Cf. Sesio XXIV (11 Nov. 1563), Dec. de reformatione, c. 17 (Conc. Œcum, decreta, Friburgi Brisgoviae-Romae 1962, 745s)
  33. Cf. Decr. II pars, CXXI, q. 1, c. 1: Clericus ab istanti (CIC I, 852).
  34. Cf. Diobysii Cartusiani Opera omnia t. 39: Opera minora VII, Tornaci 1810, 247-282
  35. Cf.. Ioannis Bernardi Diaz di Luco. Pratica criminalis canonica in qua omnia fere flagitia, quae a clericis committi possunt, cum eorum pœnis describuntir, Venetiis 1560, 60ss.
  36. Cf. Mt 17: 1-9, The Second Sunday in Lent fell on 2 march 1572.
  37. Cf. Lk 16: 16
  38. Mt 17: 5
  39. Mt 17: 4
  40. Mt 16: 22
  41. Mt 16: 23
  42. That is 4 March 1572.
  43. Cf. Judges 9: 1-57
  44. Cf. Prov 27: 6. Note the zeal and courage with which he insists on the plague of benefices, particularly in Rome.
  45. Mt 20: 21. This was Wednesday of the Second Week in Lent, 6 March 1572, on which the Gospel according to Mathew 22: 17-28 was read. However, the sermon is missing from the manuscript.
  46. Lk 16: 19. This was the Gospel of the Thursday after the Second Sunday of Lent (Lk 16: 19-31) which corresponds to Thursday 6 March 1572.
  47. Cf. Mt 25:40-44.
  48. Mt 15: 11. It was 12 March 1572 after the third Sunday in lent when Matthew 15: 1-20 is the reading.
  49. Mt 9: 11
  50. Mt 15: 2
  51. Mt 15: 8; Is 29: 13. See also Ps 78: 36-37
  52. Ps 80: 22 (Vulg.)
  53. The Gospel for Tuesday after Laetare Sunday which fell on 18 March1572 was John 7: 14-21 from which various quotes are taken here.
  54. Ps 70: 15 (Vulg.)
  55. Ps 70: 16 (Vulg.)
  56. Cf. Is 47: 15
  57. Cf, Sermo IV in festa omnium Sanctorum, n. 9 (PL 183, 480 [10421]
  58. Concerning this vision given to S. Pietro Pettinato da Siena (+1289) cf. Mardo da Lisbona, Croniche de’ frati minori, trad. Di Orazio Diola, parte II, libr. V, Venezia 1586, 451s.
  59. This may also be a reference to the Franciscan Order based on an already mature decision to pass over to the Capuchin Reform.
  60. It was the Fifth Sunday in Paschal time, 11 May 1572 on which the Gospel that was read was taken from John 16: 23-30.
  61. Cf. S. August., In Joan. Evang. tr. 102, n. 1 (PL 35, 1896)
  62. Because he was opposed to the Statute of Toledo, the Pure Blood Statutes, Alfonso Lupo was imprisoned and made to retract. The story is well-known and clearly summarised in the study already cited by Fedele Merelli.
  63. The problem is mentioned, for example, in the sermon at S. Girolomo die Fiorentini. See above n. 4.
  64. Lk 2: 35