Concluding summary: the Capuchin ascetically school

Concluding Summary: The “Capuchin Ascetical School” in the Spiritual Direction of Alessio Segala da Salò

by Costanzo Cargnoni OFM Cap

Translated by Patrick Colbourne OFM 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. 219-234. 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, (1999) for an English version of quotations from the Writings or Biographies of St Francis.

Table of Contents

In the three authors just examined, who are in substantial agreement about the nature and experience of mysticism though they express it in different terminology, we have found a description of the final objective of the journey of mental prayer as well as what was the inspiration behind the “Capuchin ascetical school”.[1] The full comprehensive programme of this “school”, which was based on the marked contrast between penitential severity and mystical appeal and which came to maturity with the generations of friars who lived during the first hundred years of the Capuchin Reform, is presented in a superb manner by a disciple and contemporary of Bellintani, Alessio Segala da Salò.[2]

He clearly presents a rich synthesis that is very simple and yet very extensive and complete as is evident by the great success of the publication of his “spiritual works” across two centuries spanning the eighteen and the beginning of the nineteenth centuries.[3] In him we find all of the points indicated by the previous authors: rich doctrine, useful methodology for discursive meditation that is above all affective, admiration for devotions and especially for the centrality of the Passion of Christ which comes back in all his writings as proof of the authenticity of the spiritual life. We also find that the tone of the work is contemplative and mystical. This is expressed in a discrete manner but is continually present as the final objective. It is presented with firmness and simplicity and not as something that is exceptional in the life of the spirit, but as something that is natural and necessary in the spiritual programme of a Christian.

a) An overview of the works of Segala

His “spiritual works” consist of nine titles, on which it is opportune to dwell for a few moments because they are perhaps the best introduction to his style and teaching.

The first work is consecrated to Marian devotion and bears the title Arte mirabile per amare, servire e onorare la gloriosa Vergine Maria (Brescia 1608; 2a ediz. Brescia 1611). It is Segala’s most famous work that was praised by J. P. Camus and the source of the Mariology of St. Alfonso M. de Ligori.[4] Its objective is to “teach devout and beautiful souls to revere … the great Queen of heaven … so that the faithful soul can come to elevate itself in love.” The Madonna becomes the example and guide in the soul’s ascent to achieve union through the love of God, the infinite Good.

The second work in order of publication is entitled Prattica singolare per quelli che desiderano spiantare dell’anima gli abiti viziosi e piantarvi quelli delle santé virtu; il tutto con multo facilità e in breve tempo (Brecia 1611). Because it was bound as the final chapter of Arte mirabile it appeared as an independent publication in 1611 asserting the necessity and usefulness of abnegation in the spiritual life. Although it took its inspiration from Arte para servir a Dios by Alfonso di Madrid, the Latin edition that was published in 1594 and was edited by the General of the Cistercians, Giovanni Michel de Vesly, preserving its characteristic creativity. Segala wanted to teach a “particular” method of forming the will to guide the beginner during the beginning and early development of the illuminative life. In spite of the cheerfulness of the title the method is quite arduous. It requires the “consummate martyrdom” of purification of the soul that involves continual current and repeated hard work in order to uproot instinctive vicious tendencies and foster the formation of virtuous habits with the ever-present intention of the complete acquisition of a life of union.[5]

The third work, appeared in two volumes in 1612 also in Brescia which bore the title: Cronica celeste, ornate di preciosissime considerazioni overo meditazioni, accomodate per tutti i giorni dell’anno, per contemplare la vita poverissima, i molti disagi, le gravi fatiche e le opere merivigliose che Cristo nostro Signore ha operato per nostra salute, e le rare qualità, i celesti costumi e le eroiche virtú che risplendettero nella gloriosa Vergine Maria nostra avvocata. This is a work of genuine value, but which has been forgotten today. Its objective is the assimilation of Christ’s virtues as they are displayed most of all in the Passion in order to achieve habitual union with God. At the outset there are pages of methodology that are important for carrying out meditation. The author adopts a narrative style and begins a dialogue with the reader adopting an affable tone that creates a climate of recollection and facilitates concentrating on the mystery that is the object of the meditation.[6] In 1622, Segala selected certain meditations from this work which had been dedicated to the Virgin and put them into a popular work entitled: Sette divotissime meditazioni sopra la vita della Madonna, assignate ai sette giorni della settimana per commodità di quelli che si dilettano di contemplar l’opere e azzioni de essa Virgine Maria Santissima.[7]

The fourth spiritual work bore the title: Via sicura del paradise; insegnataci da Gesú Cristo Nostro Signore in quelle parole: Si quis vult venire post me [etc.], dove con esempi si mostrano a tutti gli stati di persone li veri mezzi di annegare la propria voluntà, con diverse pratiche et esercizzi per raffrenare gli appetiti, regolare le passioni e portare la sua croce con tranquillità di cuore. E si scuoprono i mirabili doni che Dio darà sí in questa vita come nell’altra, a quelli che lo seguiranno per questa via (Brescia 1617). This is one of Segala’s main works in which he analyses abnegation of the will and all that it involves in practice. The work is addressed most of all to those who have already started out on the journey to God, but it is useful for all kinds of persons who want to become “fervent” and achieve the perfection of charity.[8]

The fifth work bears the title: Angelico exercizio per tenerela mente racolta e divota mentre si va recitando l’Officio del Signore, della Madonna; e potrà servire ancora per l’orazione vocale e mentale (Brescia 1618). This is a short tract on devout recollection during the celebration of the liturgy of the hours. It teaches the “simple” the way “to unite and transform the heart and mind into the living God”. Meditating on the mysteries of Christ and especially on the Passion of the Lord is the best basis for nourishing exterior and interior devotion which is the mother “of the beautiful daughter of spiritual happiness, from which the generous son known as fervour of spirit is born” and thus fosters an appetite for contemplation, “the gateway to Divinity.”[9]

The sixth work contains a prevalently dogmatic and devotional approach treating the doctrine of Purgatory in one spiritual exercise as the title implies: Triumfo delle anime del purgatorio, distinto in due parti. Nella prima si essorta il cristiano a sovvenire con divoti suffragi le anime de’defonti per condurle al riposo di vita eterna; dipoi sipegarsi gran beni che di ciò può egli conseguire e si risolvono i principali dubbi che in questa materia si possono desiderare. Nella seconda narransi vari esempi d’anime del purgatorio, le quail apparendo a’vivi hanno rivelato loro cose di eterna maraviglia, molto profittevoli di ogni stato di persone per operar bene e fugire le pene di ditto purgatorio (Brescia 1620).[10]

The seventh work is Arca santa nella quale si contengono i sacratissimi misteri della vita e Passione di Cristo Signor nostro, assegnandosi per ciascuno misterio il sacro testo evangelico. Con alcune regole e avvertimenti per saper ben meditare e orare con frutto. Il tutto si è cavato da gravissimi autori (Brescia 1622). This is the work that brings together the best of Segala’s teaching on mental prayer, meditation and affective contemplation.[11]

The last work which consists of two noteworthy volumes bears the title: Catene d’oro delle più belle e meravigliose vite de’santi che ne’ libri de’gravi autori si possono trovare. Distinta in due parti. Nella prima sono riposte le vite de santi; nella seconda, delle santé … Ove el fine della vita di ciascun santo si ponga saluberrimi documenti, per i quail potrà con agevolezza ogni persona ridursi a gran santità di vita e camminare a longhi passi per la via del cielo (Brescia 1627). It offers everyone a series of commentaries on the lives of the saints. It puts forward invitations and ascetical suggestions of fundamental value. Segala conveys his deep conviction of the importance of spiritual reading in stirring up the ascetical life.[12]

All things considered, viewed from this perspective, his ascetical production exhibits a harmonious quality that is balanced and accurate. However, when we delve into the details of his methodology, we can see why Segala is regarded as a “classical author” of spiritual literature and, at the same time, how he clearly reflects the most mature and peaceful outcome of the spiritual journey of the Capuchins during the first century of their history.

b) Certain fundamental characteristics

An initial general observation is that the main inspiration behind all that he produced regarding asceticism was based on what is Franciscan and Capuchin. There are frequent references or quotations from the Capuchin Constitutions and the words and deeds of St Francis that form the basis of entire tracts and many pages. For example this is the case when he is speaking about silence (n. 5590), or referring to the example he mentions the virgin Cecelia who “always carried the ‘Gospel of Jesus Christ’ hidden in her breast”, (n. 5450), or how St Francis through “assiduous meditation” became “like one who had been crucified”, or when he exhorts the reader to imprint or stamp “blessed Christ on his heart” (n. 5454), and when he frequently repeats that when meditating one ought “to arouse the affections rather than excite the intellect” because “praying is nothing but speaking to God from the heart” (n. 5455, 5532) etc., and “in everything one should seek to preserve the grace of devotion” (n. 5458).

An expression that is repeated in some of Segala’s tracts is “to deny one’s own will”. It is a phrase that comes directly from Franciscan inspiration and comes from chapter ten of the Rule: “Let the friars remember that for the love of God they have denied their own will, abnegaverunt proprias voluntates” This is not a case of giving a personal interpretation. We believe that M. Pattrocchi was wrong in describing it as “Jesuit intellectualism … that crept in through Rilabeneria’s formula about smothering the will.”[13]

Another point that needs to be stressed is the structure of his mental prayer which in substance is a copy of Mattia da Salò’s division of mental prayer into the three stages of preparation, meditation and conversation (cf. n. 5459). Here many of the suggestions are copied directly from Prattica dell’orazione mentale, especially with respect to the doctrine of “desire”, the acts of the affection, “aspirations” and spiritual freedom as well as allowing oneself to be led by the Holy Spirit. The same applies to the centrality of Christ’s Passion which is in line with the spirituality of Bonaventure which was popular with the Capuchins at the time.

All of these points, which can be found in different ways in the preceding authors, come together in a wonderful complete and profound synthesis in the spiritual doctrine of Alessio Segala da Salò. What strikes the reader immediately is his “voluntaristic” instinct regarding the need for involving one’s own will, and of “strongly denying one’s own will” as the “sure way of going to paradise” because “ as our own will is the cause of all that is evil in us, so resisting it is the way to what is good for us.” (n. 5501).

This is a genuine “spiritual battle” that involves “strong, forceful and violent acts” (n. 5507) and requires total interior and exterior ascetical effort, mortification and penance. This is a “glorious exercise” that corresponds to the method that was inculcated by the sensitivity that prevailed after Trent and during the Counter-reformation. It is in line with the radical proposition concerning “twelve mortifications” proposed by Henry van Herp who was a favourite of the first generation of Capuchins.

With regard to “denial of will”, Segala prefers to place more emphasis on internal mortifications than on exterior asceticism, adopting an attitude that is similar, for example, to that adopted by Tomasso da Olera (cf. nn. 5486 and 5507) and using expressions that remind us of St Francis de Sales (undoubtedly this is why the Saint recommended the works of Segala to spiritual people) and which would be repeated a century latter by Gaetano da Bergamo and St Alfonso M. De Liguri. In fact, he has no time for internal inordinate emotions that upset souls and are like “a grapple” that grips the soul, and “although they might lead to some exercises and penitential mortifications, they cannot promote an experience of sweetness of spirit, because they exist within hearts that have many disordered emotions and passions.” (n. 5505). Indeed “even a small passion that eats into your heart is enough to impede the freedom of your spirit, just as a very small hair would stop the pupil of the eye seeing clearly.” (n. 5507).

The emphasis on the will implies a commitment to abnegation, to being stripped and to detachment that is carried out mainly within the person, before affecting him outwardly, even though at times inner hidden perfection shines on the outside.[14] The quality of being moved from within is of great importance in Capuchin austerity. It was inculcated from the very beginning, for example, in the Arte de la unione by Giovanni da Fano and repeated in a thousand ways by subsequent spiritual authors in the Order.

The “insistence on the will” proposed by Segala is based directly on the drive of the “emotions” and the reality of “the effects of emotions” on practical behaviour. This is the way that Bellintini speaks about the will calling it “the motor.” It is different to what the Dominican Battista da Cremona wrote at the beginning of the sixteenth century, which was slightly “Pelagian” and arose out of an anti-Lutheran reaction.[15] Because of this the will accompanies the journey of perfection and is a genuine expression of a person’s supernatural guidance.

c) Structure and importance of the method of mental prayer

This work which deals with the progressive establishment of the dominant position of the spirit not only in carrying out the will of God, but also in combining one’s own will with God’s will, to achieve the “union of wills” as Segala puts it, so that the divine will becomes the inner and living inspiration of the human will. This is only possible through the continual and faithful exercise of mental prayer. In doing this a person efficiently continues the apostolate of animation and initiation into deep prayer which always characterised the pastoral activity of the Order.

In all of his “spiritual works” he makes methodical and practical suggestions and provides explanations from his own experiences and from the experiences of those who went before him. In practice, he regards the spiritual journey as a journey of prayer, which, by means of affective acts and penetrating meditations on Christ’s Passion, in varying degrees of intensity by its very nature moves onto loving contemplation that makes one “enter into the Divinity”, or makes a person enter “the immensity of the Deity in a state of infinite wonderment within himself.” This unites and transforms the heart and mind “into the living God” which is “the most excellent and noble objective” of all prayer. (cf. n. 5494).

In his method, which he does not claim to be something new, but something easy, sure, and a short guide for everyone as well as bring a summary of the teachings of the saints, meditation on the life and Passion of Christ and the exercise of aspirations are highly valued in line with Franciscan and Capuchin norms. Preparation is also important for creating the disposition to pray. These three elements guarantee the authenticity, cohesion and effectiveness of mental prayer and are indispensable for genuine spiritual progress.

He distinguishes various stages in the preparation for prayer. The first is “a lively and very ardent desire to have the sacred mysteries of Christ’s life and Passion engraved on your heart” (n. 5455), that is “a very ardent desire to pray”” (n. 5459), to obtain “the taste for meditation”. In explaining this “desire” he borrows his inspiration directly from Mattia da Salò. (cf. 5529).

The second elements is “to recollect yourself” (n. 5400), then making a “profound act of adoration” place yourself in the presence of the immense God and ask for God’s help to pray well and finally as “a prelude or preamble, “commit the points of the meditation to memory”. These “points” derive their inspiration from expressions coined by Ignatius.[16] However, they have an emotional overtone to avoid them becoming purely intellectual.

If “every divine mystery is like a meal, and the points are like mouthfuls, they ought to be chewed one by one to extract their flavour and good nourishment.” (n. 5510). This should not tie the soul down but free it to attend to the prompting of the Spirit. (cf. n. 5514). In any case, to become ready for meditation, one should take on an unaffected attitude, using simple words (that are not unusual), but plain and filled with heavenly devotion (which are not artificial and affected), not overflowing with ideas and full of quotations, but words that express the simple story and give a presentation of the fact or episode in Christ’s life and Passion. What is more, this should not be too brief or too long, yet always complete and substantial, and set out precisely “according to the inspiration and special prompting of God.” (cf. 5511-5512). Tomasso da Olera also taught that it is better to change each day than to dwell on the same things for a whole week. (cf. n. 5313).

This is where the three faculties of the soul come into play. Memory holds up the mater for meditation; intellect discusses and evaluates like a servant who is carrying in a light which as it enters furnishes light for the will. The “points” should be considered “one by one”, “very gradually and very calmly,” that is “with an animated spirit, paying great attention and with tranquillity”, so as to “assimilate them well if one wishes to achieve a taste for them and observe their gentle quality. You know only too well that whoever wishes to experience the strength and potency of pepper has to break it open, crush it and split it into grains.” (n. 5518).

The intervention of the intellect only serves as “a means to excite and arouse emotions and desires for virtue within our heart.” It is like when someone uncovers a treasure and is exhausted by the effort, but once he has discovered “the treasure of emotion and devotion” he stops and becomes preoccupied “with emotion and desire in the will” and develops “acts and plans concerning virtue.” (n. 5519). Ardour of will is the objective; otherwise there is a risk that meditation will simply remain a speculative act of study. (n. 5534).

When a point gives rise to “devotion and sensitivity in the heart” one needs to stop until the “taste” has been consumed. For example, this is like what happens in a friary when water bathes the garden. The water runs and where it finds dry soil it slows down, stops and is absorbed by the soil until the soil is well soaked. In the same way it is necessary “to delay the reasoning of the intellect to enjoy the will becoming immersed and emotional” for as much as possible. (n. 5520).

It is through the “emotion of the will” that very important aspirations break out and begin to operate. Indeed this is decisive for bringing the exercise of meditation to a positive conclusion since this is “the home and the seat of prayer,” (n. 5523, by means of which the soul “rises up to God, which is same as yearning for God.” (n. 5522). This is the derivation of the classical term “to aspire”.

The practice of aspirations also includes the exercise of God’s presence and this is like “giving a boat a push” so that “the process then goes ahead by itself.” (n. 5490). Then come “tears, sobs, sighs, and the desires of the heart” that are much more important than “exalted and subtle considerations.” (nn. 5521-5522). When one no longer needs “points” to “fly to God emotionally” then he has received the gift of prayer and the ability to “fly and at the same time eat like swallows.” (n. 5523). The passage to contemplation becomes easy and this is proved “when a person not longer has to search for incentives for loving by means of meditation, but once he enjoys having found love he desire it and is at rest within the conditions of what he was seeking and desired … because in perfect prayer the intellect is like an ornament … while the will awakening him to loving his spouse.” (n. 5520).

He differentiates meditation from contemplation. The former is more like “discussion of the parts and circumstances of the mystery.” Contemplation requires going beyond “everything material or earthly in thought without discussing the mystery at length, fixing the eye of your intellect on your sweet Christ who is suffering out of love for you”, and engaging in “ a nonrepresentational manner in contemplating his infinite grandeur and his consummate perfection”, interiorly producing “the most excellent acts which arise from contemplation itself, namely, wonder, marvel, love, happiness and sorrow, compassion and the like.” (n. 5498).

According to Alessio da Salò the two most important “circumstances” for such aspirations are the exercise of the presence of God and meditation on Christ’s Passion. Both of them are infallible means of keeping the mind recollected and devout. (Cf. nn. 5493s and 5534s). They require the active intervention of the intellect and of the will. The first considers how man “is completely filled by God and surrounded by God and is swimming in God as if in an infinitely vast sea, like a sponge that was in the middle of a vast ocean which surrounded him on every side.” (n. 5536). The will releases “some warm desires in which the will desires to be united with God with perfect love,” and “lifts the heart up to God” in everything and wishes to do everything out of love for God and according to God’s will. In this way it never ceases praying. (cf. nn. 5537-5538).

Intellectual thinking is not enough. It is not enough to form certain concepts, or bodily images, of Christ or other saints in the imagination, since God’s presence “excludes all such images and considerations.” Instead one has to persist with “acts of the will,” that is “with the emotions and desires concerning the virtues and the imitation of Christ,” for this is the fruit of prayer. (cf. 5539-5540). The teaching that was hammered home to Capuchin Novices during their spiritual formation was just this: keep one eye fixed on the loving presence of God and the other intent entirely on doing good works for love of him. (cf. n. 5541).

The other incentive for devotion is Christ’s Passion. Indeed, the most secure exercise that leads straight to God, to get to know him and to enjoy his divine nature is “to always keep your eyes on sweet Christ”, in his “most holy and sacred Passion” (n. 5548) because “there is nowhere that you will find the Love of God more clearly than in his most painful Passion … The more the soul is transformed into Christ Crucified, the more it will be transformed into the high, glorious God, because his humanity cannot be separated from his divinity.” (n. 5596). It is “in the very deep abyss of divine goodness” that the saints often “found themselves lost and gave up their lives, raising themselves above themselves, by knowing, loving, tasting and experiencing something beyond all human strength and ability.” (n. 5549).

Meditation on the Passion is the first exercise that should be taught to those who “begin to change their way of life” (following general confession and the exercises of compunction and penance). It is evident that this is an allusion to the system in the Capuchin noviciate.[17] This is even more important for those who are proficient and perfect, in accord with what St Francis demonstrated during his entire life by being immersing himself in Christ’s Passion. (cf. n. 5550).

By now we are accustomed to hearing this refrain from Capuchin authors and thus it becomes a characteristic point of the spirituality of the Order. Meditation and contemplation of the Crucified is the road to all perfection. “Other roads are death traps”. Whoever thinks that he can “make more progress taking other roads will find that they are not roads but concealed precipices.” One is deluded in considering that there is “such freedom of life in the service of God” when instead he is following his own will. “There is no better way to discover love than in his loving Passion.” (n. 5551).

Segala sets out the range of emotions that are derived from meditating on the Crucified in seven main points in which it is once more possible to recognise the notable influence of the teachings of Mattia da Salò and Bernadino da Balvano and also of Pietro d’Alcantara, Luigi di Granada and Louis de Blois.[18]

The first emotion is compassion at seeing Christ’s physical sufferings, but even more the “inner” suffering, which was like an “invisible cross,” on which “the good Christ was continually held … from the moment of his conception.” (n. 5556). With this in mind Alessio Segala pleads with very delicate unction: “O soul … go a short way ahead with considering with a merciful eye all of his torments one by one. I hope that from time to time you would burst out with an inner voice into devout, short aspirations … Adopt this style of meditation which is completely loving, devout, sweet and ringing with most merciful emotions.” (n. 5557).

The second emotional activity is contrition and sorrow for sin. (nn. 5558-60). The third is love of God which takes place for five different reasons: because the Father sent the Son into the world and Christ died for us, when we were his enemies. He offered himself and suffered for us without any self-interest, he wanted to suffer more and shed all of his blood when a single drop would have been sufficient.” (nn. 5561-68). These are not outlandish motives or motives that have been invented, but motives that have simply been taken from Sacred Scripture.

Even the acts of wonder and admiration that come from meditation on the Passion are based on five motives. These were often used by other Capuchin authors such as Bernradino da Balvano, because they were a help to penetrating the “divine mysteries”. They include thinking of who is suffering, what he is suffering, who the person is, how he suffers and for whom he is suffering. This is to meditate on the “works and sufferings of Christ, not as something that happened in the past, but in the present.” (nn. 5569-71). This makes one “present in spirit as if looking on in reality with one’s own eyes.” (n. 5496).

Another “emotion” concerns the imitation of the virtues which shine out in the Passion. This is a subject that Segala repeats continuously: “goodness and sanctity do not only consist in having good thoughts and the understanding of holy things, but in solid virtues and in carrying them out in a genuine and proper manner.” (n. 5542). One should “take to heart” the virtues one by one into the soul, making acts of each one internally, until you experience that “they are well implanted in the heart.” This exercise ought to be performed with “great calm and stillness” and not “while moving along in a hurry” (5544). Once the virtues have been “implanted” in the heart, they will easily develop into action, even if “one needs to put some effort into this.” (n. 5492).

The Passion strengthens hope in us once again for it was the moment that we received everything through the Son. Thus the Father will give us every grace and gifts that we ask for, for we are no less than what the Son has given us. It is precisely in such infinite generosity that Segala sees “the work that is most intimate to God” and singles out mercy as the virtue that “glows and shines the most” in God.” (n. 5578).

The seventh and final emotion is gratitude. He simply gathers the most beautiful motives for cultivating this virtue from the spirituality of the liturgy which provides nourishment for the prayer of thanksgiving. We have received everything from Christ: “pardon for sin, grace, glory, peace, salvation, redemption, justification, sanctification, the Sacraments, and merits, teaching” and all that is good. In fact, “if all our works have any merit, they have it through him, washed with his blood.” (n. 5580).

Following the preparatory acts for mental prayer that keep the source of prayer flowing in the heart and ever ready to burst into longed for “strong and warm emotions” there emerges a result that needs the further activity “of brief conversation with the Lord.” (n. 5580).

What stands out very clearly in coming to this conclusion is the offering of Christ’s sufferings and the offering of our very selves with complete abandonment to the divine will, since “this makes up the summit of all perfection”. However, it should be an offering that is made “from goodness of heart and not just in words or appearances, deceiving oneself, as some do – Segala comments – who offer themselves to God, to even suffer the pains of hell.” Such offerings are “deceitful, not true and do not make sense, since such people are not yet ready to endure a single unjust word for the love of God.” (n. 5588).

He also offers a comprehensive evaluation of meditation according to which we should “make note of the defects committed” and correct them. (n. 5457). However, a sure sign that prayer is authentic is the “fervour of devotion” produced in the heart. It is necessary “to keep this within” as long as possible, remembering “the inspiration that occurred, the good proposals and the many resolutions that were made.” (n. 5458). Thus, resolutions are also necessary if we are to make good progress. Here too Segala’s theological and ascetical pragmatism is evident. He maintains that when the soul has concluded the meditation it ought to “resolve to effectively put into practice what it has learnt in prayer as being the will of God.” (n. 5546), placing strong trust in God and being humble should it fail, since (here he borrowed some points from Bellintani) “where generosity and promptness have failed, humility, that is no less a gift from God, will supply.” (nn. 5547 and 5589).

The last stroke of his enlightening and clear description of a method of mental and affective prayer is an atmosphere of silence: “Let him be a person of silence.” This is the most genuine sign in a person who is coming from prayer. He carries in his heart the life, the habit, the gift and the breath of prayer. Whoever has spoken with God and listened to the Word cannot immediately dissipate himself with vane words and gossip. Alessio Segala gives an example and cites the teaching “of our ancient fathers” quoting the first Capuchin Constitutions that praise silence as “custody of spirit”[19] Therefore the injunction bids the friar to leave mental prayer but to never let his heart stray far from the mystery he had meditated upon when he used sacred recollection and never to let “his inner eye stray far from the suffering Christ.” (n. 5590).

The final invitation to meditative silence, which is almost essential in order to “enter into the divinity”, became at the same time a humble suggestion to the readers that tempted them into a gratifying knowledge and an informed hearing of the early Capuchin spiritual writers and spiritual directors, collecting the notes and blending them together into a symphony of prayer, devotion and affective contemplation that permanently and immutable characterised the soul of the “ascetical school” and “classic identity” of the Capuchin friar.


Endnotes

  1. This is the tern used by Paul VI. Cf. C. Cargnoni, I primi lineamenti di una “scuola cappuccina di devozione”, in IF 59 (1984) 111.
  2. With regard to him see the praiseworthy Doctoral Thesis, which is also the only monograph in existence, written by Teobaldo De Filippo, Alessio Segala da Salò (1559-1628) maestro di perfezione cristiana, Roma 1968, XLII – 304 pp.
  3. With respect to the various editions and translations of the works of Segala see Illario da Milano, Biblioteca dei Frati Minori cappuccini di Lombardia (1535-1900), Firenze 1937, 8-50.
  4. The first edition of the work was reprinted four times, the second edition fifteen times in Italian, twenty-one French editions, two German, one English edition and one Latin. Cf. Illario da Milano, Biblioteca 10-18, 21-33.
  5. The Prattica singolare had fifteen Italian, four French, eleven German and one Latin reprints. Cf. Illario da Milano, Biblioteca, 26.
  6. This work went into twelve Italian and three French reprints. Cf, ibid., 20-23.
  7. This very short work ran to seven Italian and two French reprints. Ibid., 39s.
  8. This work was reprinted ten times in Italian, sixteen times in French, and once in German, Cf. ibid., 44-50.
  9. This work was reprinted ten times in Italian: ibid., 8s.
  10. The complete edition ran to nine Italian and eight French reprints. There were a further ten Italian editions that were abbreviated and altered in various ways. There were five German reprints and one French reprint. Ibid., 23-25, 40=44.
  11. This work ran to six Italian reprints: ibid., 9s.
  12. This work ran to three Italian reprints: ibid., 18s.
  13. Cf. M. Pettrocchi, Il problema dell’ascesi in Mattia da Salò, in Humanitas 8(1953) 987; and now in id., Storia della spiritualità italiana II, Roma 1978, 91 This interpretation has been already contradicted for various reasons by Teobaldo da Genova, “Voluntà di Dio” e “unione delle vountà” secondo Alessio Sgala da Salò, in Laurent., 9 (1968) 159 nota 81.
  14. The “peak” of perfection – according to Segala – “is hidden within a person even though occasionally he ought to allow it to shine out.” Cf. n. 5509.
  15. This is the opinion of M. Petricchi, Storia cit., 61-68.
  16. In effect Segala is going back to the Exercises of St Ignatius and to St Alphonsus Liguri.
  17. Cf. vol. I, sec. IV/2: Tradizionie pratiche di province e di noviziato.
  18. The last two are expressly quoted by Segala. Cf. n. 5554.
  19. Cf. Const. 1536, n. 44 (n. 219).