A Critical Introduction to Early Capuchin Preaching (1526-1632)








A work of

Translated by Patrick Colbourne OFM Cap

from I Frati Cappuccini, a work of Costanzo Cargnoni, Edizioni Frate Indovino, Perugia, 1991, III/1, pp 25-234.

Translator’s note: This translation is based on the introduction, text and footnotes which were published by Padre Costanzo Cargnoni O.F.M.Cap. in I Frati Cappuccini: Documenti e testimonianze dell primo secolo, Edizioni Frate Indovino, Perugia, vol III/1, pp.1751-2104. 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

    • Documents

1. “Stern reprimand” by Matteo da Bascio

 2. Evangelical Preaching of Bernardino da Siena by Costanzo Cargnoni

1. Sermon preached in Purgia on Saint Nicholas Day to students

2. First sermon in Lucca in 1538 (Recognising a Christian)

3. Second sermon in Lucca 1538 ( Love your neighbour as yourself)

4. Third sermon in Lucca 1538 (Acquiring true charity)

5. Four sermon in Lucca 1538 (Contempt for the world)

6. Fifth sermon in Lucca 1538 (Confidence in God)

7. First sermon in Vinegia 1539 (Confession of sins)

8. Sermon on the Annunciation in Vinegia 1539

9. Sermon on Expedience of Christ’s death in Vinegia 1539

10. Sermon on Contemplating Jesus on the Cross in Vinegia 1539

11. Sermon on Discernment of spirits, Holy Week, Vinegia 1539

12. Sermon preached in Vinegia on Holy Thursday 1539

13. Christ the pilgrim on the road to Emmaus, Vinegia, 1539

14. Resist sin, strive to preserve God’s grace, Venice, 1539

15: The tears of Mary Magdalene, Vinegia, 1539

3. Bernardino da Balvano: Doctrinal sermon on predestination (Messina 1562)

4. Mario da Mercato Saraceno: sermon on First Sunday of Lent

5. Girolamo Finucci da Pistoia: 3 sermons: God’s Majesty, Predestination, Confession

6. Alfonso Lupo: Themes from sermons preached in Rome (1571-1572)

Without doubt the fundamental and historically most significant activity of the early Capuchin Friars was their involvement in the apostolate of preaching. Much evidence of this had already appeared at the time, dotted through the pages written by chroniclers within the Order and external observers.[1]

1. Texts of sermons as documents that contain preaching material

In addition to the historical sources it is well to turn to another documentary source which is essential for a closer analysis of Capuchin preaching during the first century of the existence of the Order. This source can be seen in a collection of sermons which provide us with the “Capuchin” approach to the religious formation of the laity while allowing us to get away from the customarily eulogistic approach of the devout chroniclers. The written sermons, which are practical examples of what was said, are truly not only theological documents but also evidence of the historical, social and literary environment. They offer an interesting approach that has only been appreciated and studied in the last ten years that makes use of various interdisciplinary techniques that yield enlightening results.[2] In fact preachers use personal experience and their own way of speaking and follow a theory of the method of preaching that is evident in their preaching. Thus each one is different, follows different rules and practices, as they immerse themselves into the religious and social culture of the day.

The first problem in this area is finding written texts. For the first forty years of the life of the Order the Capuchin Friars preferred action to writing and nothing of the little that they wrote was printed. Because of this it is hard to understand why the thick flock of preachers that spread out like a swarm of bees during the first ten years across the various places on the peninsula left so few written traces of their preaching.

In the first half of the sixteenth century when the impact of the method of evangelical zealous[3] preaching that had been adopted by the Capuchins had gained strength and was regarded and a “novelty”[4] there is practically no material if you exclude a few printed sermons preached by Bernardino Ochino, that were the result of notes taken by listener.

Instead, in the second part if the sixteenth century more material becomes available even though it is quite a small amount in proportion to the number of preachers. Although there were sermons that were published, many remained unpublished and were placed in archives or libraries and many were lost.

The first collection of this material contains printed sermons by Bernardino Ochino da Siena, Girolamo Finucci da Pistoia, Mattia Ballintani da Salò, Matteo Persiami da Corigliano and Girolamo Mautini da Narni and it reveals the precise moment of the launch of the first original editions of the texts of sermons as well as of sermons that were probably preached by Capuchins starting from about the end of the sixteenth century and going up to the beginning of the seventeenth century. Other material that came from the pulpit found its way into devout booklets and pocket manuals that dealt with exercises in the life of prayer and piety and contained meditations on Jesus Christ and the Virgin or became catechetical literature and explanations of Christian teaching.[5]

In this published material we note the difficulty of collating the written text with what was actually said from the pulpit. Some were gathered purposefully because they dealt with topics that were of use to other preachers especially younger preachers or those who were just beginning to preach.[6] Others are fragments taken from particular Lenten Courses,[7] or specifically doctrinal sermons,[8] or sermons dealing with the clerical or lay states.[9]

It is probable that unpublished texts are more faithful to what was actually spoken. However, there are not a great number of manuscripts like this from the beginning of the sixteenth century up to the seventeenth century, even if we take into account the Lenten sermons of Mario da Mercarto Saraceno, Giovanni M. da Tusa, Giacomo da Molfetta junior, Anselmo da Monopoli, Mattia da Salò, Paolo da Foligno, Giacinto da Casale. The same could be said of many sermons, both those that are complete or only outlines, by Mattia da Salò, Giuseppe da Leonessa, Matteo d’Agnone, including the boxes of sermons, which are mostly in Latin, by Lorenzo da Brindisi that remain unedited up to our own day.[10]

The search results are not very encouraging. For example, we have no sermons by Bernardinod’Asti, Francesco da Jesi, Eusebio d’Ancona, Giuseppe Piantanida da Ferno, Giovanni da Fano, Alfonso Lupo, Francesco da Soriano nor of most of the Ministers General from the sixteenth century until the early seventeenth century, nor of the great early apostles who by their preaching made a decisive contribution to the spread of the Capuchin Reform in Italy. Some isolated sermon may have been preserved, such as the sermon by Girolamo da Dinami, because it raised controversy on the subject of predestination.[11] We do not have a genuine collection of the sermons of Cristoforo da Veruchio even though his book Essercitii d’anima is the fruit of his preaching and contains a great deal of what he preached to the faithful.[12] The same could be said with regard to Fr Paolo M. d’Asti, one of the most dynamic and valued Capuchin preachers of the sixteenth century. We have no example of his preaching.[13] The admiration of contemporaries and the adulation of the chroniclers remain documents that have no correlation with texts.

2. The development of preaching in the texts of the sermons

Nevertheless, comparing and analysing the few texts, whether printed or in manuscript form, allows us to observe a certain development in the way the word was preached, the diversity among the preachers, the style of language and the impact, both real and assumed, on the crowd. The geographical location, that is the place where the sermon was preached, is also important in identifying if it was in a city, in the countryside or on a mountain. It is also important to know who asked for the preacher to preach to determine whether they were princes who were political or local authorities in the commune with influence in religious matters, and if this had an effect on the content of the sermon, especially in the case of Advent and Lenten courses.

It is possible that all the factors which affected preachers during the days of the ancient regime might have no direct connection with the structure of the sermons contained in the manuscripts which the Capuchin preachers carried around from city to city and place to place in their “pockets”, and which they repeated and changed for different audiences.[14] Apart from the Bible and the office book these manuscript sermons were the most precious “books” that they possessed and because of this they were guarded jealously or passed on to other preachers.

At present, following the information that is available to us, there is almost no other way to describe how preachers handled their material whether it was printed or remained in manuscript form. Undoubtedly more systematic research may unearth new documentary evidence in this regard.

The geographical extent of preaching shows us that at the beginning and at the end of the sixteenth century there was a great variety of circumstances in which the sermons were preached. Indeed, Bernardino Ochino is the only name mentioned leading up to the Council of Trent. After 1660 and going into the first decade of 1700 twelve great names appear. Giovanni da Fano did not print his Lenten Course.[15] Girolamo da Pistoia printed the first part of his sermons. Bernardino da Balvano published some highly doctrinal, biblical and theological material on predestination in 1561. Mattia da Salò had an “active pen,” to use an expression of Stanislao da Campagnola, and prepared about a hundred sermons for printing which, after he died, were subsequently edited by his brother Giovanni. This is the famous Lenten Course he preached in Milan in 1598. The first complete Lenten Course by a Capuchin was the one preached by Matteo Persiani da Corigliano Calabro in 1594. A very rare copy of this was held in the Biblioteca Civica di Cosenza but was destroyed during the war in 1945. Another copy has still not been found.[16] The “apostolic” sermons of Girolamo da Narni were printed in 1632 after he had died. It is evident that the likelihood of the sermons being printed depended on various factors, not the least of which was the reputation and authority of the preacher himself. However, publications were never sought or produced by the preacher but as a rule by the intervention of other persons.

In addition to the lack of interest shown by Capuchins in committing their teaching to writing, the great difference in their literary production in the early years and in subsequent decades can be explained in the first place by the circumstances surrounding the apostasy of Bernardino Ochino, and also by the censures that the Council of Trent placed on Capuchin preaching during the first hundred years of this activity. As Stanislao da Campagnola says: “the burdensome events that took place in the ten years leading up to the opening of the Council of Trent ended in the Capuchins being obliged to cultivate “studies”, as well as “polished diction” and “the art of oratory” so that they could be authorised to deliver “sermons’ and to “preach”. This involved a way that was marked by rigid planning, that provided a form of preaching that moved from sermons which were nourished by a basically penitential culture, which were skilfully created but tended towards exaggerations, such as those by Matteo da Bascio and Bernardino Ochino, to adopting a style and language that combined penance and instruction so as to cultivate a sense of discernment rather than simplicity.”[17]

It is within this background or evolutionary journey that we shall work through the publications or manuscripts of the Capuchin sermons of the first century and evaluate their content, method and language.

3. Capuchin sermons before the Council of Trent

In the early period of the Capuchin Reform, following the initiative taken by Matteo da Bascio, who with the crucial help of the brothers Ludovico and Raffaele da Fossombrone, assembled the first nucleus of future Capuchins and when, somewhat later, a group of educated Observant friars took the reins of the Reform, it is possible to analyse the practice of preaching. This preaching was not coordinated and was not controlled. It was itinerant and very dynamic and had a predominantly penitential tone. It made a great impression of the people by its use of an emotional and popular turn of phrase.

It was the kind of preaching that dwelt with vices and virtues, entered into the concrete political, social and economic situation of the city, advocated reaction to what was immoral and often promoted the foundation of charitable, devotional and apostolic associations.

a) Itinerant and prophetic preaching as Matteo da Bascio understood it

By their preaching the first Capuchin “hermits” launched a new Franciscan reform movement in the various regions of Italy; with their austere way of life and new style of habit, it appeared to be a break with tradition. They were erudite and fervent preachers and genuine promoters of vocations and sponsors of an Order. It is a shame that the manuscript collections of their sermons have not come down to us. We can only rely on chronicles and correspondence to gain a glimpse of this “new” style of preaching, which can be called “new” probably more because of its penitential emphasis and fervour for reform than for its doctrinal content.

At the beginning of the sixteenth century there were many isolated individuals, either hermits or prophets, who, on the margins of ecclesiastical structures, arrived in the cities to enthral the restless population by means of their inspirational sermons. In the thirties this kind of preaching gained a new impetus firstly by means of the Augustinian and Franciscan religious and later through the Capuchins. This reached such a point that, in the year 1536, the chronicler Lancellotti from Modena noted that generally speaking “in almost all of their sermons preachers spoke of the renewal that had to take place within the Church and the whole of Christianity,” quoting “the apocalyptic message of St John the Baptist and other Prophets in Sacred Scripture.”[18]

This itinerant and prophetic preaching became widespread and it is against this background that we situate Matteo da Bascio and his typical moral and penitential preaching that was couched “in words that were simple and ordinary, which were like giving food to the poor.”[19]

The chronicler Mario da Mercato Saraceno repeatedly insists upon how this pioneer of the Capuchin Reform “went about everywhere preaching very fervently …, in a passionate way” right up to his death in 1552. He only used “spiritual words that were full of fervour and warmth while shouting at and threatening the world and miserable sinners who were publically living in sin. He shouted All’inferno (to hell with them). He proclaimed this throughout the whole of Italy.”[20] This was a style of preaching that was entirely different and in sharp contrast to the scholastic subtlety and oratory or affectation that provoked the irony of Erasmus of Rotterdam. Indeed, it showed some indications of what would be found in the mighty development of the Capuchin apostolate that possessed characteristic elements such as its moral and penitential tone, the fostering of popular catechesis and the cultivation of charitable and social works.

We can gain a glimpse of the topics in these sermons by reading the 220 verses of an impromptu poem where the cry All’inferno, peccatori! is repeated 28 times as a chorus. It is a lament over the dominant crimes of society and alternates with describing the of fundamental moral tenets: the Decalogue, the precepts of the Church, the capital sins, failures in the duties of one’s own state and the four last things (death, judgement, heaven or hell). (cf. dec, 1).

b) The three phases or stages in Capuchin preaching

After the twenty-three years of the apostolate of Matteo da Bascio there followed, at least, as far as the early chroniclers are concerned, three phases of development or three stages of Capuchin preaching. The first was from 1528 to 1533. This period “bore the closest similarity to the early times” that is to the time of the original Franciscan fraternity. The second period went from 1533 to 1543. It was “the most glorious in the eyes of the world” because of the large number “of friars who were better educated and were great preachers”.[21]

Mattia da Salò distinguished another phase. This followed the flight of Ochino, which corresponded in time to the second and third periods when Bernardino d’Asti was the Minister General, which was from 1546 to 1552. Mattia said: “When God wanted to make abundant compensation for the brief silence that the Capuchin preachers endured,[22] he gave them the special grace of preaching, and this resulted in the blossoming of wonderful graces, and preachers received calls from everywhere to preach and were received with great devotion.”[23]

These three phases merged into each other, even if one prevailed from time to time. According to Colpetrazzo the first three preacher in the Order were Matteo da S. Leo, Paolo Barbieri da Chioggia, “both of whom were learned and well educated in scholastic teachings”, and, naturally, Matteo da Bascio. The first of these carried out his itinerant ministry around Camerino, the second in the cities, and Matteo da Bascio around Montefeltro. They used to hold a crucifix in their hand, “It was from these servants of God that holding a crucifix while preaching had its origin since it was not done before this.” “They preached with such fervour that everyone wanted to hear them … They preached on Sacred Scripture, especially the Holy Gospel of the Lord God.” They urged the rich and wealthy to give concrete assistance to the poor and “established many Associations, exhorting the people to receive the most holy Sacraments”.[24] They carried out all of this “with great fervour. They preached to seculars since the Father General had given permission to all, lay brothers as well as priests, to speak about God and to convert everyone to the observance of God’s commandments”[25]

This style of preaching was spontaneous, unconventional, and at times off the cuff. It was more the spoken word that came from prayer rather than from anything written or that had been developed from books. As a matter of fact, all this happened at the time of Ludovico da Fossombrone when in 1529 the Statutes of Albacina had established that preaching ought to be the product of “good living” and “giving good example” and not just be “odd and fancy speech or subtle speculation”. The preacher should preach the Gospel of the Lord “purely and simply, during the year on feasts and other special days,” (cf. n. 103). Thus, from the beginning “the friars minor of the hermitical life” were ready and willing “to till the Lord’s vineyard,” and were critical of preaching that was just rhetoric or too speculative.

This is already a step beyond the method of Matteo da Bascio. In Albacina this was probably due to the work of the “learned” Matteo da S. Leo, and, most of all to Paolo da Chioggia -more than to the intervention of Ludovico da Fossombrone – when a more critical understanding and a more accurate diagnosis of the negative tendencies of contemporary preaching was developed.

As the chronicler Mario da Mercato Saraceno says, Paolo da Chioggia “was not one of the excellent and celebrated preachers who gratified the ears of the world with their delivery and rhetoric, nevertheless, he was welcomed everywhere and had a grasp of Sacred Scripture that made him appear to be an expert, as he had committed so much of it to memory, and had such extensive experience in matters of conscience. Thus, when he preached, he did so very fruitfully.”[26] When describing his preaching, Zarlino said very clearly that he “delivered sermons, standing at the altar and reviewed the vices of the people in a most heart-moving manner and exhorted them to live a good Christian life, teaching them Christian moral and civic principles that were explained according to the letter of the Holy Gospel, spelling out the moral qualities and then persuading his hearers to live according to these qualities and develop a perfect way of life. He preached to the simple people two or three times a day according to the circumstances.”[27]

All the historical sources agree in describing early Capuchin preaching as Evangelical preaching closely associating it with proclaiming the word of God and the practice of the law of God in as much as it explained the commandments and Christian doctrine using cases of conscience, all of which was delivered with great fervour, simplicity, zeal and which produced valuable results.

Such valuable results were guaranteed by the establishment and restructuring of devout associations and other charitable initiatives which contributed to the maintenance of the fruits of the preaching. It was in this context that Liberalino da Colle di Val d’Elsa, who was one of the early Capuchin preachers, who loved preaching “in humble surroundings because he was not well educated and because he thought that preaching to simple people was more fruitful,” and “who strongly condemned vice and who loved establishing devout associations,” used to say that “unless he provides something to encourage the maintenance of a devotion or the reception of the most holy Sacraments, a preacher will soon be forgotten along with all that he taught. However, devotion will be kept alive in associations.” He, together with many others, liked to preach predominantly by using “cases of conscience and the example of holy virtues, as can be seen today in his Lenten Courses.”[28] Unfortunately these no longer exist. They would have been very useful in supplying more details concerning primitive Capuchin preaching.

c) The characteristics of the second period of Capuchin preaching

The chroniclers also abound in many details concerning the second period from 1533 to 1543, which is dominated by Ochino. These are mostly external details which give hardly any hint about the content or the structure of the sermon except their connection to events in social reform. Many praiseworthy and famous preachers were operative during those ten years. Most of them came from the Observants. They made a very notable contribution to the spread of the Order and, at least indirectly, made converts, while causing a sensation “because of the new form of their habit, contempt of the world, the spirit that was evident in them and for their new method of preaching.”[29]

Among these we should mention are Giovanni da Fano, Giuseppe Piantida da Fermo, the apostle of the Forty Hours Devotion, Giacomo Paniscotti da Molfetta, Francesco da Soriano, Ludovico and Bernardino da Reggio Calabria, Bernardino da Montolomo, Angelo da Savona, Giordano da Molfetta and many more.

Mattia da Salò said with regard to Bernardino da Reggio, who was known as Giorgio, that he was the first Capuchin to preach in Sicily. He said that he was the first one to introduce the new style of preaching “in those places”. This was “the new style of preaching that struck out at vice and promoted virtue using the strong arguments of punishment and glory. He presented the image of a new arrival dressed in a shabby, patched habit with sackcloth, who was barefoot, emaciated, pale, who was never seen wearing anything but purple, always occupied in hidden doleful prayer, with nothing but spiritual words coming from his lips.”[30]

These educated religious knew how to adapt themselves to the people and preferred to use a simple fervent style rather than one that contained too much doctrine or speculation. However, because they mainly preached in the cities as the request of the various civil and religious authorities “where none but famous preachers preached” their “simple style of preaching” was not always appreciated. When that happened, they were capable of demonstrating that they knew how to preach sublime doctrine in a classical manner but that this was not the best method to bring about a change of heart and break down the initial rejection. For example, this is what Francesco da Soriano, Giuseppe da Ferno and Bernardino Giorgio did. Similarly, the learned Bernardino da Montomolo dealt with these situations:

In the beginning I preached a sermon with the title The Disciple. God worked along with that so much that it was very fruitful. Then because of the heretics I began to preach some doctrine. God chastised me. When I preached in a simple style the church was always full, but now there were not even three people. Know that God chose this Order to preach to simple people, to teach them God’s Ten Commandments and what a Christian should know in order to be saved. We should not be worried about preaching in cities that want to have doctrine, since there is no lack of educated preachers to preach there. However poor farmers, who cannot pay, are being abandoned by preachers. Oh, it to such as these that the Lord has sent us![31]

Simple preaching adopted a more moralistic and penitential tone which was somewhat connected to the style used by the itinerant hermits and prophets. Bernardino da Montolomo went through all the cities in the Marches preaching without stopping very long in the places. As he arrived at the gates of a city or place, he threw himself down on his knees, and he and his companion called out Jesus! in a very loud voice. They went through the main streets crying out. They went about exhorting the people to do penance reminding them of the judgement and hell. In doing so they attracted a number of people who followed them in wonderment over the novelty of the habit and over the unusual way of preaching in the streets, and by using rousing words, until they arrived at the church, or a square. Then they preached a formal sermon which produced much abundant fruit.”[32]

These learned preachers often started out with a simple sermon that appealed to people because of the use of gestures taken from popular devotional and penitential piety. When their souls had been prepared in this way, they gained their attention for the formal sermon.

Giuseppe da Fermo used to do the same thing. Once, in order to persuade the people of Pavia to go to Confession, “he went through the city with a large cross on his shoulder, drawing a great number of people behind him, until he reached the Tesino Gate, where many people had gathered. He preached to them and invited them to the Cathedral where he had set up an altar and there he persuaded them to recite the prayers of the Forty Hours.”[33] Harsh statements regarding reform often came from his lips. As he had done at Modena in 1538, he touched a sore spot (as the chronicler Lancellotti noted) when “he laid the blame on religious who did not give good example, and on the temporal gentry who did the same and did not act with justice.”[34]

Bernardino da Colpetrazzo makes special mention of both Giovanni da Fano and Francesco da Soriano. It is interesting to see how his reflections on the method and the oratorical style in the chronicle appear to have been taken literally from the account given by Mario da Mercato Saraceno and represent an analysis of preaching as it was at the end of the sixteenth century. They highlight “the gracious tone of preaching”, “the creativity”, “the effective turn of phrase”, “the sequence of topics”, “the power of persuasion or warning”, “the intensity”, and “the hyperbole concerning vice”, “the rebuke given to the souls of sinners”, “the hammering of their hearts”, “the depths of fear,” “plunging into hell”, “the praise of virtue”, “urging everyone to practice virtue”, “the lifting of the good to paradise.”[35]

These preachers had great faith in the imagery that popular psychology esteems so highly, such as displaying a Crucifix, a skull or books or other objects on the pulpit. Thus, there was a certain amount of theatre that was designed to have an effect on the physical senses and so move the souls of the listeners.

d) The preaching of Giovanni da Fano

Giovanni da Fano was already an expert preacher while he was still an Observant Franciscan. Lancellotti, the chronicler from Modena whom we have just quoted, has left vivid details of certain incidents that took place during the Lenten Course in Modena in 1530. Giovanni bravely challenged the Duke, “the governors, the Podestà and their associates,” reducing them to silence because they had not forbidden “the great blasphemies against God and his Mother and the saints”.[36] He also mounted a campaign against “the provocative fashions of women and other dishonest behaviour of men as well as women.”[37] As a way to reform the city, he reprimanded wearing low cut clothing, designed stockings and fashionable dresses, dyed hair.[38]

He also had an argument with a tailor over his shop which displayed such items. Every time he passed the back or the front of the shop, they ridiculed him, and he shrugged his shoulders to the extent that the shop and the owner were losing customers. “When he was passing the shop after finishing his sermon an argument developed with the owner to the point that he could have suffered an injury.”[39]

To a “preacher of St Domenic” this kind of zeal seemed to be too indiscrete. He “preached against it”, to the disgust of the devout chronicler who bitterly remarked: “Soon after this the sect of Martin Luther, which is quite numerous in Lamagna, will appear in this city,”[40] Another preacher who had delivered the Lenten Course in the church of S. Maria de la Asse, who was a Canon Regular of St Augustine, criticised such zeal, in agreement with the Dominican: “They say that such behaviour is not a sin, arguing from St Thomas, and according to friar John, the Archbishop considers it to bring such good profit to the city, only the devil would be opposed to it.” Replying, Giovanni da Fano, in order to demonstrate that the sermon contained the truth, once he had finished his preaching, read out a passage from St Thomas, one from St Jerome, one from St Augustine, one from St Ambrose, one from St Cyprian, all that which demonstrated that this kind of behaviour was always sinful and should never happen and that such authors should not be interpreted in the way the others had said. To make his sorrow more evident he washed his hands in the pulpit, took off his sandals and his vestments in the presence of all the people and then prayed for a long time with his crucifix in his hand.[41]

The sermon concluded with “the destruction of vanity” which the chronicler described it like this:

Today, the third day of Easter, Giovanni da Fano, who is a member of the Order of the Franciscan Observants, preached in the Cathedral. He spoke for longer than three hours, in such that it was already 2.30 pm and it went until 3pm, and who knows when he would have finished if the priest had not made a noise with the pews just before he was to sing a Mass and needed to have silence. In this sermon he repeated all that he had said in the other sermons, especially the remarks about the women and the men. He told them to burn all the objects of vanity at the Church of St Cecilia. After this the same preacher preached at the church of St Cecilia and then burnt all the objects of vanity that had been collected during Lent.[42]

After he became a Capuchin he continued to preach in this colourful and zealous style even when it gave rise to controversy. We also have the outline of a sermon that he preached in Verona in 1535 on the topic of death. Colpetrazzo wrote:

“He began preaching very loudly on the subject of death and contempt of the world, associating them with three things: fear of death, the vanities in our life and contempt for the world. This terrified all present who fell into such silence that it appeared that no one was there except the preacher. At the end he produced the skull of a dead person and turned to the people and back to the skull. His words were so effective that they penetrated the hearts of the gentry so deeply that this caused the reform of almost the entire city, reversing the ostentation of the women and the young people.”[43]

More examples like this could be found in the chronicles of the Order and in other documents. Even then we would only have a small memento, a vague impression or fleeting memorial of these preachers and their dynamic style.

These itinerant preachers covered a vast area of apostolic activity and were part of a Christian civilisation that was racked with war, famine, poverty, civic and religious strife in an environment that was open to “prophetic violence.” Thus, the population put aside their customary guides for a moment and became pupils in the school of reformation; trends that willingly accepted the denunciation of vice and sin, unsympathetic attacks on the clergy and the wealth of the nobility and the apathy of the authorities. These people applauded the humility, the poverty, the modest deportment, the work, less for the promotion of social justice than because these things forced those who were powerful to shed their worldly attachments. They banished gambling and turned the people to doing what these preachers were calling for: the abandonment of “vanity”, the purification of their behaviour and the just distribution of wealth. This promoted a kind of power that was more charismatic in nature, a kind of dictatorship of the sacred Word that temporarily eclipsed what usually prevailed and give rise to spectacular gestures of penance. However, the meteor passed in a short space of time and things returned to what they had been before. In the meantime, the sacred word became a source of the revelation of the evils and problems of the day and thus a social factor of prime importance.[44]

We cannot assess such pieces of memory against the background of sermons. Not long before he entered the Capuchin Reform, Giovanni da Fano was very busy with publishing the whole of his Lenten Course. In the month of February1532 he wrote to Cardinal Teatino telling him that he had reworked the text twice: and had it examined by theological experts. “The work was written twice. With the permission of Father General, one of our very learned brothers (who had studied in Paris) has reviewed the whole thing, taking almost a year to complete this work; otherwise the Father General would not have given me permission in scriptis to have it printed. It was then reviewed by a commission of Canons and then by Father Francesco Georgio and Father Hieronimo, if not word by word, at least with respect to the important material, doctrine and theology and was judged to be very safe. It would take more than a year for someone to review it word by word.”[45]

If it could be found, this collection of sermons might give us a better picture of the content as well as the literary and pastoral value of the preaching of Giovanni da Fano. However, he must have experienced some practical difficulties and this edition did not see the light of day. In order to gain a better insight into his concept of preaching it is good to go back to chapter nine of his first Dialogo de la salute, which was published in August 1527, as a commentary on the Franciscan Rule. It reads as follows:

There is no need to dwell too long over this chapter because Brother Stimulant observed the rules and regulations to the letter. When preaching he will present reasonable incentives, speak about vice and virtue, punishment and glory, not about what is frivolous or odd, and not utter detraction against the clergy and religious or individuals. He will derive his stimulation from books and avoid saying what is useless or unusual. He will take a few things from life and because of this he will not spend a lot of time talking to his companions or other people so as not to suffer any restriction or discomfort. He will set an example to seculars by being humble, peaceful, patient, and silent. He will preach more by giving example than by using words. Before preaching he will make a careful confession. He will pray always, recommending himself to blessed Jesus, Word of God, and to his most sweet Mother, asking for grace and wisdom (former holy preachers spent five, six or seven hours in prayer before they preached, and their preaching was very fruitful) to speak about the wonders of his law. He will show the greatest charity and his only motive for preaching will be to win souls, who were redeemed by Christ’s most precious blood. This should definitely be the objective of preaching, that is, the honour of the Divine Majesty and the salvation of souls.

Let him not waste time in idleness, or in talking all day, but in very carefully studying what he is to preach so that it will be more effective. Before preaching he should meditate carefully on what he is to say to see that he is doing what he preaches to others. Ne alio predicans ipse reprobus efficiature. (Lest after preaching to others he becomes a castaway.) Thus, in order to exercise the office of preaching like Jesus Christ, qui cepit facere, postea docere. (who acted first and then taught), to the praise of the glorious God, the edification of his neighbour, the salvation of his own soul and that of others, and to exhort everyone to imitate Jesus, he should conduct himself with consummate devotion, fear of God, right intention, with just, polished and chaste words, honesty and honest conversation, with religious behaviour and gestures in the pulpit and beyond, with modesty in eating, with poverty of clothing, fervour of spirit, charity, discretion, patience, humility and all the other virtues. As blessed Francis used to say, the wisdom of a man is measured by what he does and a religious is as good of a preacher as he is good in what he does. The tree is known by its fruit.[46]

It is significant that in the second edition of the Dialogo d la salute, after he became a Capuchin, Giovanni da Fano continually insisted on the example and teaching of St Francs and emphasised the centrality of Sacred Scripture: “Sacred Scripture together with fear of God is the starting point of all his preaching.” [47]

4. The “evangelical” preaching of Bernardino Ochino

In the second period of Capuchin preaching, from 1533 to 1543, the only preacher to have left a few printed sermons was Bernardino Tommasini da Siena, known as Ochino. He had no interest in having them printed. His reputation which produced a reaction in certain educated laity and church people, as well among simple folk, prompted certain publishers to publish some of the texts, as well as some of the anonymous notes (reportationes) taken during his sermons without his knowledge.

In spite of recent historical contentions, especially on the part of lay historians, that state not only that he was the main figure in the Reformation in Italy,[48] but also that “he was the most famous Italian preacher of the sixteenth century”, because his sermons seem to be very different from those of his contemporaries,[49] it is still impossible to make a genuine comparison of his preaching with other contemporary Capuchin preachers. However, a reappraisal of the texts that appeared between 1539 and 1542 in various Venetian pocket editions, which are very rare today, and which we have included (Cf. doc. 2), gives us a more precise idea of his oratorical reputation, the content and the evangelical and pastoral value of his preaching.

Modern historians have focused on this religious person who is so contradictory and enigmatic, stressing his importance in the religious and theological debates that took place in Italy in the early sixteenth century that centred on the tenets and ambiguity of what has come to be known as: “evangelism.” This emphasis has put many other noteworthy figures in the shade.

It is clear that the fourteen sermons that have been included here are not representative of the whole of Ochino’s preaching. If in 1539 he boasted of having preached thirty Lenten Courses (cf, n. 5793), then he must have had a well-developed collection of topics, as is proved by the speed with which a hundred sermons were published in various portable booklets following his apostasy.[50]

His preaching clearly reflected the characteristics of the elite religious sentiments of the Italian “evangelical movement”. These were made up of an accentuated spirituality and a constant polemic toward “ceremonies” and superstitious practices, with the perception that religious life consisted, in essence, of the interior life as contrasted to the exterior life and in the spirit as opposed to the flesh. These tendencies also maintained that the moral and practical aspects of the Christian life were not influenced by philosophical or theological subtleties. They also fostered spiritual enlightenment (illuminismo), not only in the Valdesian sense [Juan de Valdés] of something that is refined and individual, but as the bond uniting the Communion of Saints in a mystical union of faith and love. All of this took place in an environment of personal equality which admitted no distinctions in social rank or of sex, in accord with a particular interpretation of the Word of God.[51]

a) The themes and structure of Ochino’s sermons

Rather than going into all the complex religious and cultural tendencies of Italian “evangelism” and the tone, content and programme of Ochino’s preaching, it is better to analyse in their chronological order the fourteen reportationes that we have mentioned. When reading them it is necessary to know the exact place where they were delivered. Some were preached in Perugia in 1536 (or 1539), some in Lucca in 1538 and Venice in 1539. The content can be assessed by being sensitive to the religious and social circumstances that prevailed at the time.

The primary and, one might say, the only topic of the sermons is the knowledge of Christ Crucified and how to obtain it. In Perugia, Ochino is addressing university students. This is an environment with which he was familiar. When he was young, he had studied medicine there. The sermon is more like a conference, more like an opening lecture than a sermon. It uses a good way of holding attention by skilfully presenting doubts at the beginning that are solved at the end, sometimes with the help of pointing out the incomplete solutions or errors that happened during the process. (pred. 1).

The topics of the five sermons preached in the Cathedral in Lucca in 1538 focused on how to distinguish a “genuine Christian from a false Christian,” love for neighbour, “genuine charity” towards God and the world, becoming inebriated with the love of Christ, genuine contempt of self and of the world with its concupiscence, complete lack of trust in our own works and deep confidence in God’s mercy (pred. 2:6). Above all the message is expressly directed towards the wealthy, Princes, Lords, Dukes and nobles in a city whose daily life was being torn by social conflict.

The surviving nine sermons that were selected from the Lenten Course in Venice are more complex. The topics are couched in strong reformist language with the definitive aim of “reforming the carnal man.” Therefore, Ochino deals with the Sacrament of Confession, insisting on a method of preparation. He treats the mystery of the Incarnation, unveiling the reason why Christ died on the cross and setting out a method for contemplating Christ on the cross. He maintains that the law of the Gospel is the only path for Christians to follow, proposes the frequent reception of Eucharistic Communion and expounds the Gospel story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. At the end of his Lenten sermons he leaves some spiritual thoughts with the faithful and, finally, he addresses the women in a special way by proposing that they meditate on Mary Magdalene and her conversion of heart (pred. 7: 15). Here too there is a close, concrete connection with the city and actual events that were taking pace.

Making use of the short example presented in this brief “corpus” of sermons, and by applying a synchronistic method of analysis, we are able to see how the message was articulated, its structure, content, images and the space allotted to different aspects of real events and stories. Beside this, it would also be possible to make use of the language, word count, spiritual semantics, content analysis and the study of the formal arrangement of material. This would then facilitate a study of the development in the sermons that would show how the preacher matured as well as showing his pastoral project and, more than anything, how he succeeded in producing change in the social environment of his day.

Bernardino Ochino’s sermons usually started with a question that was based on a biblical quotation which was always taken from the New Testament, particularly from St Paul or the Gospel, with the rest of the sermon being set out around this.[52] When preaching to students in Perugia he used a text from St Paul: For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. In his first sermon he took a text from Like’s Gospel: By their fruits you shall know them. In the second sermon he quoted the Gospel of Matthew: Love your neighbour as you love yourself. In the fourth sermon he commented on a text from John: Do not love the world, or what is in the world. When speaking about trust in God he derived inspiration from a verse in Psalm 5: I hoped in the multitude of your mercies. On other occasions he started with an episode in the Gospel which had clearly been taken from the liturgy of the day such as from the feast of the Annunciation, or the story of the anointing at Bethany, or the account involving the disciples at Emmaus, or the account of the Last Supper. He then often came out with a subject or a question throwing in biblical quotations as he went along (cf, pred. 10 and 14). The only time that he departed from biblical authorities, at least in part, (this was while speaking to young people at the university), he said by way of an apology: “Forgive me if today I depart from Paul and Christ and rely a little on learned and wise people in the world.” (n. 5615).

He paid no attention to the pedantic division of a sermon into a forward, an introduction, division of the topic, development of the divisions and subdivisions and conclusion. In fact, in earlier days, preaching involved splitting up a text from scripture into sections. Within the Medieval tradition the sermon was developed like a tree: the verse (or topic) was the root, the introduction was the trunk, the division was like the main branches, that is the listing of the most important points of the discussion, which should be only three in number, according to a convention that was well established in the Sermones dominicales by St Bonaventure. The dilatatio (development of the points) enriched the topic with new secondary examples which were like the leaves or fruit. The prothema (forward) which was part of a sermon at the university was often replaced by popular preachers with the invocation of the Virgin. The sermon usually closed with the repetition of the opening verse as if to emphasise the finer points and show that the discourse had come full circle.[53]

On the other hand, with Bernardino Ochino the process is very spontaneous and free, and he goes ahead with simplicity and clarity. However, after a closer reading it is possible to discover the traditional structure. One can distinguish the introduction and the first part of the sermon, which usually contains the most difficult and speculative points and may conclude with unusual twists that require further attention. Then comes the second part which is more practical and contains applications that are devout, useful and even pleasing, and which are backed up by examples (which may also appear in the first part), and the final peroration containing moral applications.

As a rule, these parts contain stereotypical expressions. For example, when the topic or the biblical verse has been stated in the introductory part he would say: “this morning I want to preach on these words …” (n. 5615), or else “Now I want us to see how to recognise a good Christian. This is an important and crucial subject. Give me your kind attention and we shall start in the name of Jesus.” (n. 5630).[54]

The sermon in Venice is introduced in a different way: “I am going to show you what is to be avoided and what should be cultivated in order to love Christ and become affectionate and warm. Let us recollect ourselves little by little.” There followed a very short pause (since the introduction had been very demanding) and he began again: “Now for a moment of attention and grace.” (cf. nn. 5676-77). We find another example of a lengthy introduction in the sermon on the feast of Mary’s Assumption. “Now I wish to speak about God’s inestimable and infinite mercy, therefore pay attention and we shall begin” (n. 5689).[55] A further example would be: “This morning I gave you the good news about how to find the way and the method of contemplating Christ on the Cross, with the same spirit of living faith, ardent charity as Mary did beyond any other creature (there followed some silence)” (n. 5714). A little further on Bernardino contemplates the Presentation. “This morning we are going to speak about the reverence we should have and what we ought to do in order to give the most appropriate gift as sincere Christians. Be awake and we shall begin.” (n. 5715).

In sermon eleven we find another type of introduction in which following a few comments on the Gospel the theme of the sermon is presented like this: “I want to convey the good news this morning and with the help of God I hope to show you openly and clearly the path, the norm, the rule and the safest and most secure way to go to heaven…. But first cleanse yourselves well, listen well and we shall commence.” (n. 3730) Bernardino takes great liberties when introducing his sermon with a quote taken from the Gospel of the day. In fact, following a brief reference to the verse, he goes on to explain a doctrine and only after speaking at length does he come back to the quote.[56]

The other parts of the sermon, although they are not clearly defined, start with phrases such as these: “Stop for a while”, “Rest for a while.” “Wait a while, and then we shall continue,” etc. Sometimes after calling for a pause he states what will follow as is the case in sermon fifteen: “Now we may pause and then see the reason for the pause”. (n. 5801)

When Ochino realises that he has taken too long he begins the last section with these words, as if to make the sermon a little more brief: “Now just a hundred words of this and we will end,”[57] or ”Wait while we say ten words and then I will send you home,’ (n. 5712), “and then we will finish.” (n. 5738) In sermon 14, which brings all the Lenten courses to its completion, he uses the same words once or twice, as if to making a countdown: “Now, fifty words and we will finish:” and a little further on “”Now twenty five words and we will let you go.” (nn. 5791, 5793).

As they have come down to us, the sermons in Lucca in 1538 do not contain expressions like this and so their structural divisions are not clear. In any case Ochino loves to divide his sermons into two parts (as in sermons 11 and 12), or three parts (as in sermons 8 and 9) or in four parts (as in sermons 10, 13, 14, and 15).

His personal touch is shown when he explains the central parts using numbers, correlations and comparisons which create vivid impressions without appearing to be a process of teaching about doctrine and morals. Indeed, it looks like they are facts that have been supplied by the listeners themselves, part of a conversation, a back and forth exchange, a friendly inquiry, an unforeseen retort, a case history of actual situations. Sometimes he inserts into the dialogue various distinctions in order to avoid the actual use of the scholastic method. Some characteristic objections enable us to understand his great ability to bring variety into the discourse, such as the following: “Some people will tell say to me: Oh, you will say … How can you say? … I will respond to you …” “Others might say: O Brother …I will tell you … If you answer … I will say. If I ask you… you will say! Come on Brother what are we to do? I will tell you, delightful soul, small easy things … Come Brother how are we to understand this? In two ways … However, you could say …I could put you to the test … Others would say … Others have said this whereas other have said that … tell me …and let it be said…”. But I tell you … think about it …now make a judgement … you tell me … let it be said…” etc.

He often uses the anaphora repeating the same phrase at the beginning of a group of words to make the tone of the discourse more forceful.[58]

A structural element that is often used in this preaching is the use of insertions. At the appropriate moment he uses this to recommend assistance for the poor, to deal with begging, or whenever the topic lends itself to its usage. The typical expressions include: “Because I have been requested incessantly, I suggest that you give substantial alms to the pitiful poor of the city as this would be the best kind of generosity, and make sure it is worthwhile” (n. 5684). Another example: “I recommend very strongly that you ought to convert like the people of Padua. They are already standing at the doors [of heaven]. I recommend them to you as much as I can.” (n. 5804). Another time he said: “These days are called holy … and I draw your attention to the poor nuns at Santa Maria di Grazia outside Brescia, who are holy women, living a good way of life in great numbers. They are already standing at the doors [of heaven].” (n. 5739) When he finished the Lenten Course in Venice he summed up the vast and complex panorama of social poverty in the city: “I remind you of all the circumstances of want that abound in your city, illegitimate children, the incurably poor, those living in shame and the derelicts, those in hospital and the many monasteries of good holy religious, care for any of these would be doing good works.” (n. 5794).

The final strokes of the sermon, which are delivered in Ochino’s own turn of phrase, follow a stereotypical structure and indicate the ultimate aim as being commitment to faith and charity. In his sermons in Venice he used the phrase: “For you to be happy in this life and in the next” with a few variations: “so that you will be happy in the next life and dwell in heaven” (pred. 10); “go to Christ and he will make you happy here through grace and in the next life by means of glory to which he is leading everyone. Amen” (N. pred. 14).

Following this brief analysis, it is necessary to say that the structure of Bernardino Ochino’s sermons is substantially traditional and reflects a life of well cultivated prayer.

b) Narrative content: metaphors, allegories, “examples,” delivery and connection with the people

If Bernardino Ochino made use of the traditional artes praedicandi with great freedom, without weighing down what he was saying with a multiplicity of scholastic divisions and subdivisions, it was for the deliberate purpose of producing what conveyed the message by means of a simple teaching method and to maintain a link with the people. This is shown clearly in the diverse content of stories, especially in the use of metaphor and allegory as well in the choice of examples, which, without doubt, are the most effective elements in the sermons, and the ones that reveal the character of the preacher. Indeed, the most innovative trait of the preacher is his lack of reliance on common anecdotes. Instead, he uses personal experience that consists of examples taken from real life and historical facts, especially recent events. Therefore, when considering Ochino’s sermons, it is useful to look at the content of the stories, to study the characteristics of his examples, and most of all, his range of metaphors which, as Paul Ricoeur says, reveal what “controls his imagination”.

Allegories, images and metaphors

Like every other preacher Ochino liked to continually move from what was tangible to what was spiritual with a decided preference for the second. He does this, for example, with the metaphors that he uses with respect to the states of the soul. “Remember that trees do not know whether it is winter or spring, yet they do not produce fruit in autumn. Similarly, a genuine Christian is not recognised by his Baptism, nor by the ceremonies that he shares in but by the living fruit of lively faith and a living spirit” (n. 5631). In the case of animals, a cat will play with a mouse before he eats it, and the diabolical assassin will play with Christians who burden themselves with the “ceremonies of dead works.” (n. 5637). Ants which are “vile and small” do not consider themselves to be rich when they have “gathered forty grains of wheat” thus showing the emptiness of earthly wealth and power (n. 5656). Birds in the sky “find rest only in their nest” showing that here below Christians can find peace and quiet only in the nest of the cross, that is in Christ’s side enflamed by faith and charity.” (n. 5662). Crows are like arrogant men when seen from above, “He climbs to the top of a tower and when he looks down men look like crows.” (n. 5655).

It is clear that the interpretation of the symbols depends on the subject matter of the sermon and not on some customary convention. It is the topic of the sermon that determines the behaviour of the animal.

The metaphorical image takes on a variety and wealth of signs when Ochino depicts a vision of the pettiness of the world and the vastness of the cosmos and compares them to the frailty of the body and the span of human life.

He uses images in order to demonstrate that the world should be despised as something that is filth and mud (nn. 5640, 5666), a play and piece of theatre (n. 5659), a dream that appears to be true, but that is false when one awakes (n. 5661), a treacherous wicked prostitute (nn. 5650-52), a round apple that has little juice (nn. 5653, 5788), disgusting odour and stench (n. 5656), a grain of millet which is a tiny crystal in comparison to the sky according to medieval cosmology (n. 5654) or a grain of millet (n. 5781).

Some of his comparisons take on a more optimistic meaning as when at the end of the Lenten Course he compares the faithful to “new plants that are as full of flowers as you are of good resolutions and upright holy desires” (n. 5775). Here his vision is more positive and harmonious, having bright coloured panoramas, filled with symbols and especially cosmological metaphors like this: “When the weather is beautiful and calm, and the air is free from any clouds then lift up your eyes and look at the sky decorated with the sun, the moon and the stars and see how beautiful it is. Say: O dear! If the paradise of my Lord appears to be so beautiful and well-laid out from this unmeasurable distance … and appears so beautiful to our eyes, then, what will it be like when seen from within?’ (n. 5643). When applied to Christ the metaphor of the sun is also elegant and striking: “You see the sun which by means of its light illumines the entire world, and with its rays passes and penetrates all the distant bodies. The more translucent they are the more they penetrate.” (n. 5692).

With regard to the age of man and the human body which becomes a symbol of spiritual growth together with many other metaphorical relationships, Bernardino Ochino speaks very freely. He says that the heart and the head are the most outstanding members of the body and therefore “Christ must be like the heart and the head, because all the members of the body should exert themselves to defend the heart and the head, and your body and all that you have ought to do the same … in order not to offend the heart and the head, that is, Christ your treasure and spouse.” You should use a pair of scales for the heart to measure the weight of the love of God. “O my Christian, take a pair of scales and cut your heart in two and hold the pair of scales in the middle and see how it bends or dips to the left or the right.” (n. 5611).[59] In another place he calls the heart “a dark prison”, that is when it lacks the spirit of evangelical love. (n. 5639)

Food sustains the body which needs daily nutrition “otherwise it would not survive, and do you think that it is enough for the soul to have this once a year! This is surely shameful! “(n. 5754). For example, it is not enough that honey is sweet for some to taste. Someone needs to actually taste it. This is also true with regard to the love of God, the sweetness and gentleness of which is beyond anything the one who tastes it could know.” (cf. n. 5642). Still, the body should not be feed too much, or it will become the enemy of the spirit: “Do not keep your body in incurable state, because often the wicked body that you fatten up too much will undoubtedly kick out the spirit.” (n. 5782)

Ochino speaks of the body casting a shadow when it is lit by the sun and he derives certain significant symbols from that. “Just as a shadow has no weight without the body, so too we, who are no more or no less than shadows, can achieve nothing without divine grace.” (n. 5662) If you are bent and stooped over in the sun light, your shadow will also certainly be bent and stooping, and if you do not stand up straight, your shadow will not be straight. So too if you do not take control of yourself and become upright you will never love and edify your neighbour.” (n. 5633) “O my Christian, I do not believe that you could find anyone, since there was never even one such person in this city, no matter how proud or conceited he was, who stopped as he walked along the street in the sun light and had his shadow tarnished or diminished … The same would apply to you, O Christian, if you think of yourself as a shadow in this life …” (n. 5646)

Finally, the body can become ill. The illnesses are symbols and metaphors of sins. “In all illnesses the main thing is remove the symptoms. Even if the scales are not completely removed by ointment, what will a good doctor do? He will prescribe remedies …” (n. 5633).[60]

Adopting the images that were entertained by the men of his day, Ochino places great stress on the image of “small children”, the “little infant”, (n. 5781), the mother with child and the very caring father. The allegory of the child sucking is wonderful. “Like a child who rushes to its mother’s breast and sucks milk and embraces her breast and everything else, not stopping to see if it is red or white, it only fervently cares about tasting the milk.” This vivid image seems to be one that would be created by an artist from the renaissance. Bernardino Ochino’s oratorical art, although it had been rough before, seems to be hinting at the Virgin Mary who “is embracing with her very pure arms” the Incarnate Word. The symbolical transposition applies such motherhood to the word of God. Sacred Scripture is like a mother’s breast “a source of sweet milk”, from which the Christian ought to suck the knowledge and love of Christ. (n. 5644).

The grace “of the small child” is also used in an allegorical context which joins the image of the mirror with that of the shadow and reflected light, in darkness and in light. The allegory presents “a child who is called by his mother while in a garden and is offered a basin of water. When he looks into the basin, the simple child sees a star, and stretches his hand out to grab it but cannot do so.” (n. 5658). Similarly, a Christian cannot hold onto the things of this world, because they are fleeting shadows. There is another allegory, which comes from Plato and the classics, and has a more complex symbolical meaning. It refers “to a child, who as soon as he was born, the mother fed in a very dark prison, where he was unable to see any light or anything else until he was seven years of age. Then the mother brought in a lighted candle, and lifting the child up put it behind his shoulders. The child saw the shadow of his body and immediately believed that is was a real living thing, and being firmly convinced of this, he continued to think like this even though it was nothing more than a shadow.” (n. 5657) [61]

The other age brackets (children, youth, young women, adults) appear in various contexts that are generally sinful, and which emphasise the need for a radical reform of behaviour. The final age, the age of sunset, is mentioned frequently in the sermons and connected with the artes morendi.[62]

Ochino says that life is like a game that lasts for four or five hours. Thus, when a fever strikes there comes the hour of death and the game is over and as we came from our mother’s womb naked, and we return there naked. We are all equal, with respect to worldly possessions, wealth, nobility, glory and everything.” (n. 5659). However, we should not wait until old age or till our head is on the pillow to convert to Christ” (n. 5771) We should often recall death, “and if we happen to see some person die who shows certain behaviour – is in agony, has staring eyes, and his mouth wide open – we should pay great attention.” (n. 5789). Then, “at the moment of death “despair about your own works, and your involvement in a battle with the devil will be turned into hope and trust in the merits of Christ. (cf. n. 5668).

The“exemplum” and its typology

All of these images, symbols and allegories are only a part of narrative processes that were contained within the category of exemplum by means of which Bernardino Ochino conveyed his evangelical and reformist message using concrete images that were easy to remember. This fitted in well with his popular style of preaching. He used to say, “These examples are your documents” (n. 5658).

Identifying the examples in Ochino’s fifteen printed sermons becomes a precious opportunity to gain a better understanding of the originality of his art of presentation. Leaving aside the many examples that were taken from Sacred Scripture, that involve images, events and personages in the Old and the New Testament, we can list about fifty examples as a short sample of what the sermons contained. In the texts they are seldom introduced with any indication of their source. The traditional syntagms that started the story disappear or are reduced to a minimum by means of brief, polished and selected formulas that are slipped quickly into the discourse without any pause or hesitation. We have gathered a few here by way of providing an example.

There is only instance where the source is given at the beginning. “We read in Giovanni Cassiano about a young Roman boy who when he had been converted and left the world, went to a hermitage …’ (n. 5783) Two or three times he uses a general formula to identify a source book, especially when dealing with events or opinions that pertain to ancient Greek philosophers or stories about the saints. “I recall having read …’ (cf. nn. 5616, 5635). “We read that at the time of San Bernardino …” (n. 5790). On various occasions Ochino speaks very clearly using stereotypical phrases in order to link a specific thought to an example: “I will give you an example …” (nn. 5725, 5730) or “consider this example” (n. 5656), or, in Latin, Exempli gratia (n. 5701). Sometimes he changes this slightly: “Do you not have the example of the mirror …” (n. 5657), or “Do you not have the beautiful example of the widow …” (n. 5657), or, “This example is known: There was a sick man …” (n. 5667). Sometimes the example is to be imitated and is introduced with these phrases: “Act like this angelic woman …”, “Act like the venerable old lady from Florence …” (cf. nn. 5678, 5810), or “Act the same way that that father did …”, “However, so that you know what we should do, imaging a noblewoman , or a citizen …” (cf. n. 5711, 5775).

The following expressions appear quite frequently. They are rich in colloquial fluency and popular inquisitiveness (even because of their frequency such as Deh! Oh! Ohme! This may have been accompanied by a gesture). Here are a few instances of this: “So tell me, O my Christian, If you were a poor little one …(n. 5638), “Tell me, if you had shown yourself to a Father …”(n. 5639), “Tell me, if a prince was here …” (n. 5682), “Tell me if someone were here would we be speaking to one another with such familiarity … Tell me if you had a brother … Tell me lady If your husband was a great Lord … Tell me, if you had a dear son …yet a Christian is a dear one of yours … Do you want me to say it more clearly …? Therefore, you tell me …” etc. (cf. respectively n. 5711, 5702, 5751, 5672, 5655, 5674).

There are variations in the form of the incipit. “Thus, I come to you not as someone who is superior approaching a child” (n. 5657), “However, do you know where he comes from? Why he is coming to us like a serious gentleman …” (n. 5710); “It is certain that he is coming like one who had assassinated …” (n. 5724) or “If like a little duke … It is like what a Lord writing his last will… Like the services of a good doctor …” (nn. 5654, 5673, 5774), “As if to say one day three children went … As if, Lady, your dear spouse, wanted to go on a journey… Like a nun …” (nn. 5749, 5753,5677), and finally, “O dear me! If your carnal father had spent a thousand scudi … Thus, if the father of a family …. If he had a little girl …” etc. (nn. 5675, 5638, 5780).

This is a reflex reaction, and it carries over into the examples that he proposes, in short bursts, in rough summaries of city life that crop up in conversation with the public. Other forms, such as the medieval short story, are used in the context of what is sacred. A splendid example of this is an imaginary “conversation at court”. On this occasion it is introduced with particular care as a separate part of the sermon: “Therefore, listen to me. There was a nobleman who was wealthy, great and learned. He was surrounded by a beautiful entourage and the company of virtuous associates, abounding in pleasures. They went on a trip to amuse themselves. …” etc. This chivalrous conversation served to dramatise a series of reflections on the cause of deep spiritual joy and a peaceful state of mind. If the various reasons had been set out in the traditional scholastic way as dogmatic theological arguments the result would have been very heavy and difficult for the people. (cf. nn. 5799, 5801).

From these few four or five instances which were taken from ancient monastic literature (especially from the Vitae Patrini, the Collationes by Giovanni Cassiano, or other sources),[63] from the devout legend of the apostle Magdalene, penitent and hermit.[64] Two were taken from the hagiographical anecdotal narrative and they refer to St Bernardino of Siena (nn. 5648, 5790). Various examples were taken from classical Greek philosophers.[65]

In any case they are mainly accounts of what happened, of what he observed and autobiographical memories that were based on violent and sensual political and public life in Italian cities at the time with their towers and palaces. (cf. nn. 5655, 5656). They portray a variety of personages and their most common vices and sins. However, Ochino does not draw up a list of such sins in terms of their kind and prevalence as did the contemporary manuals for confession and for “confessors”. Indeed, he sets people on guard against this way of proceeding because he considered it to be generally counterproductive and it was better to read the book “of one’s own conscience’. (cf. n. 5677). He was more interested in real or potential sinners than he was in their sins. Because of this he went on to name particular groups or categories whether civic, parental or religious before he even named individuals. Each one ought to accept responsibility as a citizen, of Lucca or Venice, or a university student, a father or a mother, husband or wife, son, merchant, pastor or prelate or priest, or judge etc. In order to continually support the conceptual and moral statements in his sermons, he tried to cultivate an almost “physical” relationship with his audience that produced exceptional trust and persuasion.

He broke into moving and realistic dialogues and monologues that were deliberately filled full of emotion that were expressed in commands, exhortations and exclamations. He chose to use the second person either singular or plural in the form of questions which were typical of common usage giving them explicit answers with the deliberate intention of giving instruction. This became one of the most popular aspects of his preaching. One could say that his presence in front of the people was dynamic. Because of this he preferred to use stories that actually included their circumstances and applied to what was happening in their contemporary life.

A detailed examination of this aspect of his preaching helps us to know his style and the variety in his popular language. He used challenging words (for example, “Go, therefore my city …” You, my city Venice …”) [66] and directed his remarks at his audience. In Perugia he addressed “the students” directly even though his message was for everyone (cf. n. 6515) and he used expressions like these: “You know my city … my generous city” (nn. 5624, 5628). He assessed how various well-known groups were with Christ crucified particularly “the putrid, prostitutes, publicans, the ignorant and uneducated, children, women”, including young women … the uneducated, and the simple people” (cf. nn. 5628, 5624, 5642). He says the possibility of knowing the Crucified Christ was denied to proud philosophers (n. 5624), human theologians, the worldly learned and wise, public authorities, and merchants because as a social group they were confused and lacking in faith (n. 5628). This was also denied to nobles (whom he calls gentlemen) because of their hard hearts. “If such gentlemen have read about Christ how can they show such care for tethering their horses or dogs while leaving their poor brothers to die of hunger … The young man who is dedicated to laziness and always goes on wasting time because he says that he has noble blood. Oh, what a wretch! Can you not see that your claim to be of noble stock is what is making you shameful? Do you believe that your ancestors bequeathed you your noble stock through being lazy, dishonest and vice-ridden? (n. 5628).

At Lucca he mentioned specific kinds of people ad cœtum (as a group), pastors of souls or priests, princes, fathers and mothers, judges, intellectuals, magistrates …” and contrasted them with “poor little ones … those who were squalid, neglected, sick and putrid” (n. 5634). At that time there were such people who were a common sight in the cities. There were poor starving and naked people who held out their hands and they ought to be fed and clothed before going to pray or having the churches decorated with splendid works of art (n. 5638).

Vice ran rampant in the city and the taverns had become places of excessive sin: “Your flamboyance and pride have made Christ disappear and your taverns have become places where you practice and nourish all the vice in the city” (n. 5686).

In Venice he made special mention of women, whom he called “gentildonne” (well-bred women) or madonne (madams) “I wish to start with you, ladies (n. 5791); “Pay attention ladies … Tell me, ladies …” (n. 5741, 5751); “Ladies, this sermon is all for you …” “for those who are gentlewomen and noble women do not behave like women of the streets and lower class …” (n. 5809). Like St Bernard he exhorts them not to dress outlandishly as the prostitutes do but modestly (cf. n. 5707).

It is interesting to see how familiar he was with the secrets of cosmetics and how to take care of feminine beauty. In an dramatic imaginary monologue he has the convert Mary Magdalene provide a detailed and subtly ironic description of the actions of a “wealthy, young noble” lady and how she titivates and decks herself out “to be seen as being beautiful”, giving a list of the perfumes, powders and creams that were then in use. He did this to such an extent that he felt that he had to justify himself: “Lady, I know that you understand me, as these are not things beyond your experience; and you, perhaps, wonder that I know them all.” (n. 5803).

The presence of the female public at his sermons also appears in a charming incident that was recorded by an anonymous scribe in which the women, like Magdalene, “at the feet of Jesus,” always sat in the front row: “So it was that you women always insisted on being in front of the preacher, with the men at the back, but I saw men trying to take your place at the front, but you sent them back and stopped them from usurping your privilege to be there in front (n. 5805).

Giving such prominence to women seems to be shown by the frequent use of the paradigm or example of the bridegroom and the bride.[67] He also often addressed “noblemen” and, in certain cases, spoke about capital sins. “To some noblemen …, to others who are proud …avaricious …lustful…” (n. 5791). “To you women who cast [Christ Crucified] aside because of your beauty, to those who are greedy … those who are proud … the lustful … who belong to all states and circumstances….” (n. 5795).

Against the background of Italian city life and the roads that led through solitary forests various examples were developed that portrayed images of disturbances, wars, violence and moral corruption. There are very recent political assassinations, such as that of the Duke of Florence, Alessandro de’ Medici who was killed in 1537. Bernardino Ochino uses this to show that the world is treacherous.[68] There are scenes depicting executions, judgements and death sentences that reek with crude realism such as the following: “If you were to see someone, no matter how sinful, wicked and abounding in every kind of vice who was reduced to being wretched in the grip of justice which tormented him and singed him with its tentacles would you not feel great compassion for him?” (n. 5674).[69] There are some expressions that refer to poisoning: “Suppose there was a prince whose servant wanted to poison him, and the prince came to know about it … “(n. 5682). Other situations include “killings perpetrated by slaves or enemies who were hidden in the woods and other dangers that come up when travelling.”[70]

This is a tragic picture of Italy which is a world “full of gloom, torn by persistent strife, by shame, by hatred, by famine, by plague, continual wars, where you find yourself surrounded by misery; Italy experiencing a massive conflagration and an inferno of torment.” (n. 5660). “Go through poor Italy, and you will see how many have died in the space of thirty or forty years … because of wars … How many poor widows there are, how many orphans, how many cities have been ruined, how many castles brought to the ground” (n. 5686). “I look everywhere and there are no towers or cities in Italy that have not been divided or hurt” (n. 5709). However, the worldwide picture is even more desolate. “You who offend so many, many times and continue to offend by being so proud, by perpetrating so many rapes, so many profanities and so much incest, so much adultery and sodomy, among whom there are so many taverns and gaming houses, leading to so many enormous sins that the stench reaches up to heaven, so that I do not know how it twill be possible for poor Italy not to fall apart” (n. 5680).

There is a very clear and unyielding presentation of who are the basic enemies of the faith. They are the Turks, the Jews, the heretics and wicked Christians. The most prominent of these are the Turks. They continue to present the greatest threat to the West, along with the distressing problem of the redemption of Christian slaves.[71] The Muslim religion was considered to be the most permissive and licentious and most anti-Christian.[72] However when Ochino was preaching in Venice he said that it was the extremely unsure and desolate political and social environment of the city with regard to faith and morals that caused the decay in education.

I firmly maintain with certainty that if in Germany or England or among the Turks or Jews, if I had wasted the words that I have wasted, there would have been more fruit that you can see here.” (n. 5687). Oh, in my city of Venice… who would be the gentleman who had a son of ten or twelve and who would send him to Turkey or among the infidels? Now consider how that young boy could imbibe Christian conduct or be instructed in the precepts of Christ? To go on further! In this city of yours there are all kinds of people, Turks, Jews, heretics and all kinds of sinners and you think that your children will not learn all the sins in the world. If you do not want him to hear filthy, lustful words guide him yourself, because the city is full of prostitutes and young people cannot go around on the street without coming across shameful things. What can you do about teaching them? I do not know. I do not know what books to leave for you so that your children can learn about God, rather than being worse than someone from Buda [now Budapest: former capital of Kingdom of Hungary]. (n.5785).

In the variety of exampla we note how Ochino interprets the lifestyle of his contemporaries with all of its strong and harsh hues and colours. However, there are also images that are peaceful and full of kindness which are relaxing even humorous that uplift the audience, like the one about the nun who confessed to being the proudest person in the convent and later attacked the confessor “like a mad dog” because he believed what she said (cf. n. 5677). There is also one about the young bride who, while in front of the notary during the wedding ceremony, pretends to be undecided about giving consent. There is an interesting end to the story when the anonymous person who is taking the notes records the preacher as saying that the notary said, “come now, why are you smiling, get married.” (n. 5773).

The “mental image” is also dotted with confidential autobiographical memories that serve to deepen or maintain an informal link between the preacher and his audience. Thus we come to know that in 1539 he had already preached “thirty Lenten courses” (n. 5793), and that in Florence in the previous year he had met “a poor little old lady … who was not very tall, who after miraculously marrying two of her daughters to noblemen, she undertook these charitable works. In less than a year she had done this for twenty or twenty-five young women. I have now had a letter from her and she writes that now she has a big home with many children …” (n. 5810).[73] We also know that he visited the Sanctuary of Maria Maddalena, “la Beaume” near Marsalis with a companion, perhaps before becoming a Capuchin, where he celebrated Mass and paid a visit to a “small church in which there was a wooden statue of the Maddalene” (cf. nn. 5802, 5807), and that he even observed the anti-Semitism of the Christians who had overdone meditation on the Passion of Christ on Good Friday. “I have seen in certain cities that on Good Friday Jews do not leave their homes, because they would be killed” (n. 5717).

Speaking of his young days as a preacher he tells of a light hearted way “of taking licence”, that is of putting people at ease like a more experienced preacher. “When I began to preach, I went to another experienced father and I said: “Father please teach me how to speak with simplicity”. He said to me, “I will do that willingly. This is what to do. When you have finished your sermon, grab hold of your mantle, turn your shoulders and go down from the pulpit” (n. 5793).

In these personal outpourings he allows us to see his subsequent fear of being misunderstood. Some historians have stressed this as if this were a clear indication of the use of “the tactics of Nicodemus.” It is probably not that easy to make a judgement. He says in his sermons at Lucca: “Some will say: O Brother, you do not preach about fasting, penance, prayer or devotion. I reply that I do not want you to become a hypocrite….” (n. 5665). He knew how to effectively avoid subtle accusations of preaching faith without works. (n. 5666). In his sermons in Venice he responded calmly and rejected the theoretical and matter-of-fact opinions of the Protestants. (cf. n. 5793).

c) “The Master of a new way of preaching Sacred Scripture”

What was really new in his preaching was not only the structure and content of his sermons but the fact that he was “a genuine master of a new way of preaching Sacred Scripture”.[74] At the time everyone admitted this. The novelty lay in his “proclamation of the Gospel” as the Archbishop of Reggio Calabria, Agustino Gonzaga, expressed it in a letter to Isabella d’Este, Marches of Mantua, dated 12 March 1535. This document is interesting because it is the first critical judgement of Ochino’s preaching to be made at the same time as the reputation of this great preacher was beginning to shine in Rome. The text deserves to be quoted in its entirety:

For these two mornings [Vittoria Colonna] has attended the sermon in Santo Lorenzo in Damaso, where a very excellent preacher who belongs to the Capuchins of St Francis and is called Br. Bernardino da Siena, a man of very holy life and learning, delivered the sermon. His sermons were all about the proclamation of the Gospel. He was concerned about nothing but how one should travel the road to Paradise. He has wonderful fervour which is accompanied with a most perfect voice. He came across in a most excellent way. He spoke in an excellent manner about everything that should be done by his listeners to achieve salvation, touching especially on leaders, in such a way that the whole of Rome ran to hear him. The Medici attended as well as many other important people who usually went to Santo Agostino but came here in such numbers that there was not a day when a large part of the College did not attend.[75]

Justifiably the letter gives pride of place to the “evangelical” quality of his preaching, then its spiritual fervour and his ability to speak clearly, to condemn vice without respect of persons “especially the leaders”. We can gain an idea of these characteristics from the texts of his sermons except for what pertains to “his very clear voice”, and “wonderful fervour.” This becomes obvious when we consider that when a sermon is written down it becomes a naked skeleton and is not able to convey the power or vitality of the preacher in the pulpit or his gesturing, making pauses, changing tone of voice and his affect on his audience.

Another very important observation, which can be applied directly to his sermons in Venice in 1539, and to nine of the fourteen sermons that we have reproduced, comes from the fact that the one who is taking notes is accustomed to giving praise and adulation. This does not mean that he is not telling the truth. Pietro Aretino has this to say in a letter to Giustiniano Nelli dated 20 March 1539 (cf. n. 2060). First of all, he notes the “gracious way … that he opens Scripture”. How he made the place reverberate “with the organ tones of his exclamations, at times using words and at times pausing in silence, speaking with the honesty and purity of St Paul.” He explained things in detail. “How well he took up the Gospel! … With what bright and vivid chains he joined the Old and the New Testament together, always preserving their sacrosanct meaning with religious devotion!” Aretino also stressed his fervour and effectiveness in expressing concepts, reprimanding vice, in admonishing and in threatening. One final characteristic was “that all of his discourses were about mercy, salvation and remission.”

This is a detailed analysis which corresponds perfectly with the content of what had been said. If we compare it with all the sermons that were preached during the last ten years, we are able to see the novelty and difference in exegesis. Ochino does not spend too much time in citing scripture experts or books. He preferred a simple, purposeful biblical sermon (what Wycliffe called the sermo rudis or plain sermon)[76] thus showing himself to be a genuine religious reformer. We can see splendid, but not superficial, examples of this kind of simple explanation of the Gospel in n. 5685, and even more clearly in sermon 8 where he explains the Gospel set down for the Feast of the Annunciation, in sermon 12 on the washing of the feet, in sermon 13 on the Disciples at Emmaus and in sermon 15 on Magdalene. The reader can personally experience this “very modern” style which is close to becoming a homily.

To enter into the subject at great depth it is necessary to unveil something that is a characteristic of Ochino’s approach which only becomes clear after paying careful attention, and that is that there are two steps needed in reading and understanding the Gospel. This is a hermeneutical exercise that is based on the letter, the literal sense of the sacred text, as the first step for arriving at a more spiritual understanding of the Word of God. This harks back to the method of “lectio divina” of ancient spirituality or the biblical tradition making it an authentic and effective way to discover life in the spirit. In this respect it is interesting to note how the rare quotations from the Fathers or ancient and medieval sacred writers centre on the names of St Augustine, St Gregory and St Jerome.[77] These authors invited Christians to undertake the “lectio divina” before it became a practice only in monasteries and among enclosed religious communities.

Ochino wanted to revive a taste for the Word of God within people. To achieve this he is careful, even scrupulous, about following “the simple words of Christ in the Gospel,” to reading the “letter of the Holy Gospel” to gain from it ‘a more sincere and pure understanding” (nn. 5798, 5744). However, this “letter” is merely like the “rind” that should be “minutely” crushed and chewed “in order to draw out the spiritual emotions from it” (n. 5758).

The two verbs “to break” and “to chew” clearly express the process of spiritual and contemplative assimilation of the Word of God. It is particularly in sermon thirteen, which speaks about the Disciples at Emmaus, that these two words become central. “Thus, you must break and chew this rind … And then chew … Then think … There are some who study the Old and the New Testaments, but only superficially and according to the letter, thinking about nothing but the story. However, it is also necessary for you to break, split open and crack open the participants, the events and the images … You need to break bread and contemplate …” (cf. nn. 5759-5761). The perfect model for this fascinating absorbing of God’s Word is the Madonna. “However, you need to break the bread so that you can chew it and munch it and turn it over well like Mary did when she kept all these words in her heart. She pondered over other heavenly secrets” (n. 5761). It would appear that here and in other aspects of his sermon as well in its content Ochino has succumbed to the influence some of the popular features of the preaching of Bernadine of Siena.[78]

The elementary elements of dogmatic and moral theology were always passed on against the background of the Bible and the Gospel. This allows us to examine the form of transmission that he used to convey his message and, as a consequence, to assess his professional competence.

In the collection of sermons that were published in various volumes following his flight Bernardino Ochino will talk about “the system to be maintained when preaching” and explain “the meaning of evangelical preaching”.[79]

To evangelise is nothing other than to reveal to and show the world God’s great goodness, the gifts, the benefits and grace that have come from him through Christ. Therefore, evangelical preaching is not preaching about dreams, or visions, poems, fables and human inventions. It does not involve preaching about form, essence, substance, and baffling questions that serve no use and are often dangerous. One does not preach about rhetoric, logic, grammar, arithmetic, astrology, philosophy, metaphysics or other speculative sciences. One does not preach about ethics, or politics, laws, precepts, documents and moral virtues. One does not preach about decrees, decretals, councils or canons. One does not preach about the ceremonial precepts of Moses, whether juridical or moral. One does not preach about natural or written law, nor any given precept. One does not preach about prophecies, the history or figures in the Old Testament, the example of the saints or their writings. One does not preach about the life of Christ or his words.

One preaches about the Gospel, the riches, the joys, the happiness, the glory of heaven, the Angels and the good news we know about God through Christ; how God loves us through Christ with infinite, continual, eternal, perpetual, firm and gratuitous love; how he is always thinking of us and holding us before his eyes; how he chose us through Christ from eternity to be his children, heirs and to be blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly things; how all of this came about through his grace through Christ. Those who have been chosen are safe and cannot be lost because he has created and preserved them. He takes very special care of us so that everything will assist our salvation. God has laid our sins on Christ, who by means of the highest charity accepted them for us although he was supremely innocent. Upon the cross he made satisfaction for what we deserved by what he suffered. He took away the sins of the world, washed them with his blood, and gave us life by his death. He set us free from all evil, made us just, holy, at peace, filled with grace and reconciled to God. He left us dead to the world and risen in spirit, raised up to heaven, enlightened, enriched and happy. He gave us Christ, with all of his perfection, grace, virtue, gifts and treasures. Whatever he suffered or endured for thirty-three years was for us. His life, death, resurrection, ascension and glory are ours.

Now this is preaching the Gospel. To announce this and similar riches is proclaiming the good news, which had already been foretold in various places in Holy Scripture and which we have obtained through Christ.[80]

He also explains the various stages in the process of evangelisation which begins with assisting the sinner, who is similar to a sick person, to discover what he is doing that is wrong, first of all in exterior matters, which are most obvious, and then in internal matters. Thus “it is necessary to preach about the law first” and that “will enable him to discover what his sins are, as Paul wrote.” This would include “those that are the most hidden,” “bad thoughts, desires, wishes, cravings and internal sins” of the heart. However, natural enlightenment is not enough so that the Law of Moses needs to be preached together with “the moral precepts that include the natural law that has become vague in us because of sin” Indeed this ought to be done the way Christ showed us in chapter five of the Gospel according to St Matthew.” Then he goes on to show that “external works through which men become hypocrites are not enough. The moral virtues are not enough, since at the most they would make you a good philosopher, but not a good Christian. It is necessary to throw yourself on the ground … to discover what horrible vice has been within you and what beautiful virtue is” until you achieve deeper repentance “and despair about your situation” and that even if you had “the strength, the commitment, the prudence, the actions, the virtues of all the Angels put together, the character of a philosopher or saint, of Moses and the law, anything less than Christ” would not suffice and you must humbly throw yourself down before him. “Then – writes Ochino – I want you to preach the Gospel, after the law has taken effect, and show the great goodness that is in Christ, the mercy and charity of God, along with the treasures of divine grace that are to be found in the Son of God on the cross.”

Such a programme which is “a declaration” of what is in the Gospel, according to Ochino, is not to be found in the sermons of his day because they exaggerated the binding force of law and insisted on exterior works and on ceremonies that are passing and do not last.

Thus, many preachers hold up the person of Moses without presenting the figure of Christ. They always preach about law and never about grace or the Gospel. They always use threats, pointing out what people are obliged to do and their sins and failings. They do this so much that poor sinners either become desperate because they are not shown Jesus as Saviour, his grace or his Gospel, or else they become hypocritical or presumptuous, since they presume to be able to save themselves at some imaginary time (such as during Holy Week or at the hour of death) if they hold themselves back with a great effort from certain external things. Then when those few days have passed, they go back to doing evil in external and internal things; even though thy shine exteriorly for a time they have not changed because they live without Christ and without a genuine experience of the goodness of God. Thus, they always remain wicked.

Just as Christ was first crucified before he was subsequently raised up it is also necessary that the sinner should be crucified by the law so that he might be raised up by the Gospel.[81]

Even though after his flight the tenor of these sermons became anti-Catholic, and opposed to the Hierarchy and the Pope,[82] the substance of what he said remained positive. This came out repeatedly in many passages in his fourteen sermons during the time that he was a Catholic even though they were rich in sentiments that are also expressed by the promoters of the Reformation.

d) Reformist preaching

Ochino’s preaching is fundamentally reformist. He even wanted to change “anti-Christian” behaviour at the social level. Because of this he placed great emphasis on presenting and defining the “good Christian”, or even the “perfect Christian” (nn. 5630, 5633), as opposed to “the hypocritical,” the “wicked and false Christians” (nn. 5622, 5635). However, this is not easy; indeed, it is the most difficult thing to do. He repeated this in his sermons in Lucca in 1538. “False Christians manufacture a Christ according to their own liking, one who is worldly, wealthy and pompous and they do not want him to be on a cross” (n. 5676). Ochino’s programme, however, is this: “We want to change this worldly man.” He makes several very strong and concrete practical suggestions that are aimed at bringing about predominantly internal changes of spirit and conscience as opposed to cold, empty religious conformity.

The most suitable models for conveying the renewal of the vital inner spirit according to Ochino are firstly the Madonna and then Magdalene as well as his frequent references to what was done in the primitive Church.

The Virgin Mary is presented in her role of mother: “Mother of the Son of God and Spouse of the Holy Spirit” (n. 5786). She was completely humble, carried him in her womb and embraced the “sweet Lord” (n. 5643). She “admired the sacrament of the Incarnation of the Son of God” (n. 5688). She “believed and she obeyed with great humility and gave her consent” accepting the entire Paschal Mystery of the Son with the disposition of a servant or handmaid. “It was she who more perfectly and beyond any other creature contemplated Christ hanging on the cross with living faith in the same way that we ought to contemplate him” (n. 5715). She was the one who “experienced Christ’s Passion most fully” and “who was silent and suffered within herself, and like someone who conservabat omnia verba haec conferens in corde sua (kept all these words and pondered them in her heart); she mulled and chewed over this mystery”. However, “it tasted very sweet to her because she knew that thirty-three years later that body would be crucified. From the day that it was placed on the cross, I imagine that she had the thorns, the nails, and the lance as well as all the other torments continually in her heart.” (n. 5726).

This sorrowful and brilliant image, and the one that Ochino preferred, is an internal picture. The reformation of behaviour that is modelled on this image, begins with the rediscovery of inner contemplation which is well demonstrated in the life of Mary Magdalene who bursts into tears of delight as she contemplates Christ making her ‘the mirror and norm of every penitent” (n. 5807). Mary Magdalene “weeps over her sin at the feet of Christ” and “wherever she goes she weeps” (n. 5080). This is a very sweet image that was most successful in religious art. However, these are tears of love not desolation that are full of heavenly sweetness and flights of mysticism.

The reformist image of the primitive Church, which Ochino considered to have possessed “the highest degree of perfection”, is used at least five times. Each time it serves to demonstrate the decadent state of the Church in his own day which he says is due to heresy that is being imbibed from worldly knowledge, the material opulence of the Churches, vestments and sacred objects while “the poor little people” remain down trodden, the universal misuse of daily Communion and the persecution and martyrdom which was suffered by the early Christians, but who were consoled and embraced by the Church. The last piece of criticism appears to be directed towards modern persecutors. Here Ochino may be alluding to the negative judgements that were in circulation amongst his fellow Capuchins especially those that targeted other “evangelical” preachers.[83]

c) Preaching Christ Crucified

The centre point of his “Gospel”, even as understood in its reformist meaning, as we have already pointed out in his Dialogi sette,[84] is Christ Crucified. There is not a single sermon where in one way or another he does not mention Christus patiens (the suffering Christ) on the cross, during the Passion and sometimes this is joined to profound mystical insights. The semantic and structural characteristics of the word Cristo are evident here. The adjectives are sad and subtle[85] in the devout literature of the sixteenth century as is the practice of using the imagination. Ochino adopted this in developing his mystical considerations of Christ’s Passion following the medieval tradition and the devotio moderna. Devout Christians should reach the point of internalising “the immeasurable sufferings of the Redeemer” and of expressing their conformity to Christ on the cross by means of a living faith, in pure love, and also through practical actions that result from this. They should learn to contemplate him in his life and Passion adopting a genuine, not false and ambiguous way to put this into practice in their lives. Ochino offers various examples of contemplating the Crucified Christ by using a simple method that, for example, is quite like the method suggested by Bernardino da Montolmo,[86] and closely linked to the word evangelical. However, he also suggests some pious images that come from traditional Franciscan devotion and fervent use of dramatic images.[87]

Christ on the cross is the “living mirror” which reflects sins, and which captures the sigh and the joy of conversion. It is the only book that has to be studied; “the book of life” in which all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge of God are hidden (pred. 1). The nest of the cross is the place where the soul is at rest (cf. n. 5662). Jesus is our humble brother. He is lowly, sweet, kind, full of very ardent charity and a pilgrim (cf. n. 5771). His enemies are “foolish human wisdom”, people full of human wisdom, human theology, the pride of knowledge, man-made laws and statutes, that have “obscured and concealed Christ’s law”, the dead works of false Christians, the cult of “ceremonies” without the stimulation of a “good spirit and ardent charity”, the lack of justice among wealthy Pastors and Prelates, Princes, Nobles, Judges, Professors and Magistrates “who allow the poor little ones to die from hunger.”

His is a very clear and harsh in making demands that extend to the whole of Italian society (cf. n.5680) which mention specific points that apply to various states. It immediately becomes a global discourse with consequences that are essentially moral and penitential and would mean the reformation of Christian life. This is how he states his opposition to “the modern proponents of the natural sciences”, that is to those who are students of the natural sciences “who impress Aristotle on their minds and throw Christ onto the ground” (n. 5831); ecclesiastics who rob the income from benefices and politicians who practice nepotism (cf. n. 5636), when they ought to have the Franciscan courage to say that what wealthy Pastors and Prelates – along with rich lay people and nobles – have that is superfluous belongs to the poor who lack the necessities of life (cf. n. 5639). He strikes out particularly at the noble class and their “false sense of honour” (cf. n. 5710). He strongly stigmatises religious cult practices that are merely external without inner spirit (cf. nn. 5630), 5632-5633, 5666 etc.). He takes to task in a special way the “wicked preachers who preach Christ Crucified with the lips, but have no feeling for Christ’s Passion in their hearts” (cf. n. 3716), or who conceal the teachings of the Gospel by using “philosophy and fables”, (cf. n. 5687), place what is “the genuine Gospel” alongside the metaphysics of Dun Scotus (cf. n. 5623), and who follow a human theology that is not divine (cf. n. 5622).

As he did in the Dialogi sette, Ochino continually, almost to the point of it becoming annoying, comes back to Christ “hanging on the cross” and to the Gospel of faith that saves and enables us to perform good works. In this regard it is well to return to sermon 14 which was preached in Venice in 1539 at the end of the Lenten course. As we shall also see with other sermons, the last sermon in a Lenten course is very important for an understanding of the mentality and the pastoral strategy of the person who is proclaiming the Word. In this sermon Ochino leaves the people with a few “very good and exceptional thoughts and suggestions” for remembering the fruits of the sermon, and for persevering in the resolutions that were made. He also thanks everyone with moving words which are full of emotion and humility. He offers this as his greatest gift and as a reward he asks to experience the joy of seeing in them the image and grace of Christ Crucified:

I do not want to say any more, except to beg all of you who wish to take off the old garments of sin and bad conduct and put on Christ Crucified, whom I have unworthily preached about to you all this time, to remember the advantage that this would be … I ask that you grant me the favour that I beg of you, indeed that Christ asks of you, and that is, that you will always have Christ and his Passion and death fixed in your heart. Make him your mirror, your life, your happiness, your joy, your hope, your glory your love and only good so that the heart, the senses, the memory, the intellect and everything else is completely filled with Christ. (n. 5794).

Such lyrical and mystical emphasis on the Crucifix and Sacred Scripture seen as “the Word of God” was the most profound insight of the apostolic reformation of the Capuchin Reform. This was wonderfully summarised in the Constitutions of 1536 which contained a complete programme for evangelical preaching, and which also represented the feelings and pastoral experiences of various persons, showing, even in their literary structure (especially in chapter 9), the crucial and direct contribution of Bernardino Ochino. This aspect, which has already been alluded to by various scholars, deserves more detailed research.[88]

Let us stress the fact that the Capuchin Constitutions of 1536 present the “evangelical preacher” as one of the most characteristic images of a Capuchin at prayer and involved in the apostolate. “Therefore, to be able to better impress upon the hearts of the preachers the norm and method they should observe in order to announce Christ Crucified more worthily, and to preach the kingdom of God and bring about fervently the conversion and salvation of souls, by replicating it as it were and in a certain way instilling it, we enjoin and stipulate that in their preaching the preachers use the Sacred Scriptures, the New Testament in particular, and most especially the Holy Gospel, so that being evangelical preachers ourselves we may also make the people evangelical.”[89]

In the context of the Constitutions this portrait of the “evangelical preacher,” however, presupposes a deep spirituality which is based on the example of the Apostle Paul “who preached not in sublime words and human eloquence, but in the strength of the Spirit.” It is the Spirit that teaches and achieves conformity to Christ Crucified, through whom Capuchin evangelical preachers, who are repentant and pray, were exhorted “to imprint the holy Christ on the heart and allow him to take peaceful possession of themselves, so that by means of the profusion of love, he may be the one who is speaking through them, not only in word, but much more in deeds, after the example of Paul, the teacher of the nations, who did not dare to preach anything to others if Christ were not firstly at work within him.”[90]

When Christ is in a peaceful heart, the words take on the power of the Spirit, that is, they become “clear, pure, simple, humble and basic, nothing less than divine, inflamed, and filled with love,” never “abrupt, fallible and overheated,”[91] are not derived from “trivialities or gossip, poetry, stories or other vain, superfluous, odd, useless, ever dangerous information.”[92] This is why these preachers reject “all vain and useless topics and opinions, lustful songs and subtleties that can be understood only with difficulty.”[93]

The opposition to “rhetoric”, vain knowledge and human eloquence among the Capuchins was a logical consequence of the Franciscan Reform that they proposed which had no room for empty, elegant words, or the notion of style without content or frivolous and unusual esoteric outbursts which lacked the spirit of prayerfulness as Erasmus of Rotterdam had described Italian humanist culture.[94]

It is particularly in these passages of the Capuchin Constitutions that we find a clear reflection of the thought of Bernardino Ochino. He recognises, describes and presents the preacher as a man who is possessed by the love of Christ, as ardent as a Seraph and one who is “honest, evangelical and inflamed” but who is in need of periodical spiritual retreats “on the mountain of prayer and contemplation”, to nourish the flame of love, since, if it is not really hot, it will not warm others.[95] In fact – he says – “if an evangelical preacher comes to you who has Christ in his heart and who like a hot iron can kindle the flame of love in human hearts, he would inflame you and rid you of worldly things, so that you would desire nothing but to hear God’s living word and be nourished by it” (n. 5800). This is the kind of ardour that can only come about by no other love than that which looks to Christ who hung on a cross for us, and then joins in that crucified love.

The Capuchin Constitutions of 1536 convey the same message. They legislate for the entire future of the Order what is to be the basic content, substance, tone and spirit of the homily. In doing this they adopt the characteristics of Ochino’s preaching as it was based on the Gospel and the Bible, was delivered in a popular style, was devotional, inflamed and full of fervour, and was aimed at personal life, was centred on conformity to Christ and his Eucharistic presence, found its principal example in Mary, and had as its objective zeal for God’s glory and the conversion and salvation of souls.

5. The third period of Capuchin preaching and the decrees of the Tridentine reform

While Bernardino Ochino (on whom we have spent a long time in order to provide an example of the possibilities and the utility of an analysis of the text of a sermon), was giving forth from various pulpits in Italy, the evangelical movement was trying to present itself as a gentle, tactical approach to reform. However, such an approach turned out to be ambiguous because it was not inclined to make specific references to dogma or to doctrine. In an important passage in the Istruzioni ai predcatori, which came out in 1540, and which contained the clearest expression of the Italian evangelical movement, Gasparo Contarini asked that subjects like justification by faith without works be passed over in sermons, as this could excessively undervalue good works, because people might misunderstand the preaching and become “more lazy in doing good as if their works counted for nothing.”[96] In the beginning Ochino followed this line of thought. However, after becoming friends with members in the group of the followers of Valdés in Naples and the members of other “spiritual” groups he was persuaded to prefer topics, such as predestination, that were more difficult and more popular, but which were also more dangerous and suspect,[97] until the scandal of his flight to Calvinist Switzerland broke out publicly, and he continued, though feeling homesick for Italy, to secretly spread information in print which turned out to be very opposed to Rome.[98]

It was precisely in the years that came after this boisterous event, when the anxiety and fear of possible suppression had passed, that a third period opened up that was favourable to Capuchin preaching. However, it was a period of passage that involved receiving, passing on and making the decrees of the Council of Trent available to the public. In fact, we are looking at the ten years between1545 and 1555 during which many Capuchin preachers fell into line with this apostolic ministry. They were to be found in the front line of the counter reformation movement in Italy. They are also the years concerning of which little is known about the history of preaching.[99] They represent a time of gradual passage from a more “free’ style of preaching to a more “controlled” kind of preaching in the light of precise laws laid down by the Council or by the Dioceses. This was a difficult passage because the “evangelical” mindset of the Italian reformers and of the “spirituals” had to change from its leaning towards positions that were almost heretical, to a new type of evangelisation that was steeped in the pastoral strategy that followed the Council and that which was contained in the Constitutions.

We do not possess actual texts of Capuchin preaching during this period, at least not until the end of it when the institutional refurbishment of the Church was well underway, with the establishment at the official level of the concrete tools of the Catholic Reformation, such as the Catechism, setting up of parishes, the revival of the pastoral concern of bishops for the “care of souls” as “the supreme law”. The main proof of this development can be seen in the animated discussions of the Council between 1543 and 1563, and, subsequently, by what was put into practice by the bishops who became models for the Church after Trent, such as Charles Borromeo, Gabriele Paleotti, Burali, Morone, Sauli, Ippolito De Rossi and so many others.[100]

At the opening of the Council of Trent in1545 one of the problems to be faced was the role of Sacred Scripture in the Church, in the study of literature and in preaching. During the early stages of the discussion at the Council the evangelical proponents did well and had a great influence in keeping a lively debate going. The Fathers of the Council emphasised the inadequate doctrinal and moral formation of the clergy with regard to the care of souls, thus it became urgent to clearly set out the problem of the formation of the clergy and of preaching.

In Session V the second decree Super lectione et praedicatione (On lecturing and preaching) was approved in 1546. It attempted to summarise the discourse by going back most of all to the Fourth Lateran Council of Innocent III and emphasising important elements with regard to the study and teaching of Sacred Scripture (lectio Sacrae Scripturae) and preaching (praedicatio Evangelii christianae reipublicae non minus necesaria quam lectio – the preaching of the Gospel to the body of the Christians which is no less important than reading it), thus recognising a direct and official relationship between lectio and praedicatio as two elements that are connected to each other. This was already the way that Bonaventure had seen it and as it was portrayed in the Capuchin Constitutions of 1536.[101]

All of the ecclesiastical prelates, from the Bishops to the Parish Priests, – as it says in the Decree just quoted – were obliged “to teach the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ”. If they were impeded, they had to entrust this office to suitable persons. The Decree in fact copied and amplified the formula contained in the Franciscan Rule, thus showing the influence of the Franciscan prelates and delegates who were present during the time that the Council was at work.

At least on Sundays or solemn festivities, either personally or by means of other suitable persons, if they are impeded by a legitimate cause, they should nourish the people who have been entrusted to them with words pertaining to salvation according to their own ability and the capacity of the people, teaching everything that everybody ought to know for their salvation; telling them in simple words that they can easily understand about vices that they should avoid and the virtues that they should continue to practice so that they may flee from eternal punishment and obtain the glory of heaven.[102]

If this fundamental commitment is not put into practice there will be no excuses for making exemptions. No one can remain indifferent to provida pastoralis episcoporum sollicitudo (the concern of Bishops to provide pastoral care). Because of this, preachers who belong to clerical Orders should firstly be examined with regard to their vita, moribus et scientia (life, conduct and knowledge) before being approved. The Bishop ought to be aware of how to withdraw the office of preaching from those who sow errors, scandal and, most of all, heresy. However, they should do this with discernment without believing every bit of news or exaggeration.[103]

This decree contains a compromise between two different concepts of pastoral activity:- that held by the reform Bishops or “episcopalia” that gave pride of place to the authority and the jurisdiction of the Bishop also in regard to preaching, so as to restrain and remove the monopoly of the mendicant religious orders by the abolition of exemption and making the principle of the cura animarum sacrosanct; – and that of the opinion of the Friars who considered preaching to be an important aspect of the internal reform of religious orders. In practice, the final position was adopted by the Roman Curia to protect the freedom of Religious Orders and thus the authority of the Pope who had exempted them from Bishops.

The compromise consisted in the fact that the mendicants, in matters concerning preaching and Confession, were not to be examined and obtain permission to preach from the Bishops, but from their own superiors. The only thing that was reserved to Bishops was control over doctrine and discipline. Nevertheless, the room that this left for ambiguity, doctrinal uncertainty, for a style of preaching that was rich in suggestions and in innuendo, made matters even more anxious. The argument over preaching was overcome by showing a preference for theological and moral content that dealt with the foundations of the Church and Christian living.[104]

From 1550 onwards the problem was no longer about preaching with more or less sincerity, or even about cunning references to sensitive topics. The problem was about it being made obligatory to convey to the public the smallest maters that were listed in the numerous Episcopal edicts that appeared in those years. They included the Aviso which was sent to preachers in Modena in 1551 and the one sent to Novara in 1554 by Morone, in which they suggest topics such as justification and good works, free will, predestination, the Sacraments, Purgatory, the authority of the Pope, prayer to the Saints and the veneration of images, as topics that the preacher must treat following a rigid outline of what is orthodox and in line with dogmatic decrees of the Council of Trent, seen as the ultimate rules of faith.[105]

In the discussions at Trent, during the Pontificate of Pius IV, the topic of preaching resurfaced officially on 11th November1563 in Session XXIV, the last one of the Council. Canon IV of the revision describes the duty of preaching (praedicationis munus) as being the principal responsibility of Bishops and Parish Priests and of others who have been approved to preach when one of the former has been impeded from preaching. Preaching should take place saltem omnibus dominicis et solemnibus diebus festis (at least every Sunday and on solemn feasts days), but also during the times for fasting, in Advent and Lent, on all the days of the week, or at least on three of these days, and it ought to deliver a proclamation of Sacred Scripture and the law of God. The people should listen to the Verbum Dei in their Parish ubi id commodum fieri potent (where this can be done with ease). Authorisation by the Bishop is indispensable for each preacher. What is more, every Sunday and Feast they should teach the children the rudiments of the faith, obedience to God and to their parents, and bind them, if necessary, with ecclesiastical sanctions.[106]

In the seventeen years following the Decree published by Paul III a lot of water had passed under the bridge. The proponents of the evangelical movement were succeeded by a generation of Prelates who, although being open to the reform, put great emphasis on the obligation of clerics who were responsible for the care of souls to preach regularly and powerfully. They no longer spoke about the preaching that was to be carried out by religious. It was the necessity of the bishops themselves to heal the body of the Church and escalating its mission. The ideal image of the Parish Priest as set out by Trent as the model to be followed, had not been achieved. This would come after the establishment of seminaries.[107]

These are the reasons why religious, many of whom had begun to do this at the start of the movement towards reform, both as members of fresh new groups, and because they had experienced renewed spiritual sensitivity and discipline, took on preaching. In the second half of the Sixteenth Century, which was a very fruitful period, comparable only to the preaching of the Observants in the Fifteenth century, this became a phenomenon. For the first time preaching gradually became a genuine literary form. G. Pozzi says: “this was the main weapon in the cause the renewal of Christian piety and conduct, and, perhaps, the most effective force among all of those that contributed to the practical realisation of the programme of reform within the Church. It was the principal objective of the new Orders and Congregations, alongside new movements of piety and charity.”[108]

The era of a new blossoming in Capuchin preaching that is referred to in Bellintani’s chronicle, would more accurately be an account of the years between the two interventions of the Council of Trent on the subject of preaching. These were the years, as we have said, concerning which we know little but which were rich in initiatives and experiments that were at times influenced by what was fashionable, if what Eusebio d’Ancona said is true. He was re-elected Minister General of the Order in the Chapter in Fermo in 1555. As Colpetrazzo wrote, he felt obliged to issue a strong reprimand to “those preachers who, once they had abandoned the ancient way of preaching in the Congregation, shocked and scandalised the people, because they preached the old way that lacked intensity and did not use the Tuscan way of speaking, so that the people could not understand them. They only wanted to use it as something odd. They were all famous for being different, superficial and lacking in spirit. So great was the zeal of venerable preachers that it moved almost the entire Chapter to tears. The Capitulars affirmed that in their opinion nothing demonstrated better how much the Congregation was growing than the phenomenon of its preachers. It was because it had abandoned the old ways that it said that preachers could not appear anywhere without being abused and despised by the people”.[109]

Even though this comment by Colpetrazzo is significant, it cannot be supported by documentary evidence. We do not know how genuine his criticism is, but what it implies is evident. It contradicts one of the norms of the Constitutions.[110] For the same reason even the text of the Constitutions, the style of which was revised by the preacher Angelo da Savona (whom the chronicler Ruffino da Siena considered to be one of the “four columns” and on a par with St Paul),[111] was reprinted in Venice in 1552. The edition was criticised for being too contrived. It was returned to its primitive simplicity when it was reprinted in 1557, not before the addition of the reforms of the Council of Trent. In the few changes made to the literary style and content we can see how the climate had changed with the introduction of a new kind of apostolic spirit. For example, the words “predicatori evangelici” (evangelical preachers) where translated in 1552 as “operatori evagelici” (evangelical labourers) while n. 114, which repeated an Ordinance of Albacina, that exhorted the friars “to preach assiduously at least on all feast days” and not only during Advent and Lent (cf. n. 364), was completely abolished forever. In this omission it is not hard to see that the norms of Trent had been taken into account, which obliged the Bishops and Parish priests to preach on Sundays and Solemn Feasts, and this set aside the friars from preaching on these occasions.

Thus, the Council of Trent and the systematic way in which Borromeo and other reforming Bishops put its principles into practice by visiting Parishes, Synods, scrutinising the active exercise of preaching, the administration of the Sacraments and catechetical instruction brought about a gradual change in the tone of Catholic preaching. The “evangelical movement” which was the religious and cultural foundation of reformist Bishops, such as Matteo Gilberti, the Bishop of Verona, before the Council was followed by a climate of severe control of orthodoxy and minute attention to various aspects of the life of the faithful and this gave a different quality to preaching.

6. Preachers and Sermons after the Council of Trent

The years during which Paul IV Carafa was Pope (1555-1559) saw a long gap in the work of the Council that went on for ten years until 1562. They also represent a period of doctrinal intransigence, of the rigorous formation of new clerics so that they would be more dynamic, and more aware not only of fighting heresy and irreligiositas (lack of devotion) among those who were educated, but also popular superstitio. The objective was to provide people who were better prepared to become involved in the new environment of society and in new forms of ritual and liturgy, by means of the creation of a communal and “urban” spirit of devotion as it was understood in contemporary terms.[112] This doctrinal intransigence was necessary in order to create a culture and, to coin an expression, a Counter-reformation ‘flavour’, that became a characteristic of the last decades of the sixteenth century and the first decades of the seventeenth century. This is evident in the sermons, which were one of the main filters for ecclesiastical control over the evangelical education of the people.

Simple vernacular language was used along with Latin, especially in the liturgy and quotations from the Bible. It became a way to instruct the people by the use of a form of catechesis that expounded what was contained in the Gospel. This is how Vittorio Coletti puts it, “The best approach of the Italian Bishops was to try to make preaching a time of forthright and effective contact with the general public. This involved the use of simple language that they could understand which replaced other styles of speech so as to help people to accept what the preacher said. In fact, very soon, more than simple and boring catechetical preaching, this style of oratory began to become more elegant and a spectacular and refined instrument of the more modern techniques of discourse. Thus, preaching became an art and a literary style which in the seventeenth century would take its place and prominence alongside the best items in the literary tradition.”[113]

Here, in short, is the development of the exercise of preaching after the Council of Trent. In order to set out and arrange the material in a better way we shall divide it into three stages: the first taking place from the final years of the Council of Trent spanning the next ten years (about 1560-1570), the second from 1571 to the end of the sixteenth century and the third from the end of the sixteenth century to the first two or three years of the seventeenth century,

Taking even a swift glance at Capuchin preaching during the period following Trent one becomes aware of a continual, almost boring, requests from congregations in different cities for preachers to conduct Advent or Lenten courses or to preach infra annum (in Ordinary Time). Bishops and Pastors sent these requests to the Cardinal Protector, various Provincial Vicars and the Father General. In the case of the General this became one of his heaviest and burdensome duties because of the impossibility of satisfying all the requests as, for example we see in the lament that Mario da Mercato Saraceno vents to the Cardinal Protector in 1569:

My most illustrious and reverend Lord, I am very upset about these preachers and this is the greatest burden that I have to carry as a cross. This is particularly the case when I receive requests and have to make promises. Recently I was asked by more than one important person to send Father Pistoia.[114] Last year I could not send him to the Bishop of Spoleto, and he was indignant with me. He wants to have him for the coming Lent, and he wrote to me as his secretary was unwilling to do so. In addition to this, we have undertaken a solemn commitment to the city of Spoleto, (without criticising the others), which is one of the cities that is fonder of our Order than cities where we have a friary. If I do not assign him there for the coming Lent not only will the Bishop become more indignant with me but with the entire Order, and then a city that has shown so much affection for the Order will remain unrewarded. Therefore, I want to assign him to Spoleto in order to reward the city and to keep the Bishop quiet. I am afraid to allow him to go because I an anxious about another important request. Just now the Archbishop of Genoa has asked for the same Father. Thus, with regard to him and other preachers I often find myself in great turmoil.[115]

The Capuchins continually became more involved in the annual round of preaching, but they also developed an intense and very demanding pastoral activity even outside the city centres.[116]

Such itinerant Capuchin preaching had its merits but also its limits. Borromeo and Paleotti showed that they understood preaching not to be an institution that had no connection with its audience. They wanted to base its programme on “the needs of the people”, making special sermons the definitive moment in the ordinary scheme of the cura animarum (care of souls) that had been entrusted to the secular clergy. This is what Cardinal Borromeo wrote to Cardinal Paleotti:

I do not like the situation that generally prevails among all preachers, in which they preach one year in one place and another year in another place instead of remaining in the same place for a longer period of time, and that we agree with this to please people who enjoy having certain kinds of preachers. When preachers spend such a short time in a place they cannot come to know the needs of the people to whom they are preaching and how to satisfy the needs of these people and this is how it comes about that they preach with such little fruit and always deliver the same sermons that they preached last year, without taking into account the special needs of those people. I do not know how to put it properly, but in the end, I cannot see what fruitfulness a Bishop expects to result from this kind of preaching. It would seem to me that it would be much better for the Bishops to engage a person who, as well as being learned, devout and capable of inspiring the people to be pious and religious, would stay for a long time in the place and give instruction concerning sin and the faults of the people by preaching what addresses their needs. It would be preferable for such preachers to be taken from the ranks of the secular clergy rather than from the ranks of religious, since they would not be restricted by obedience to their superiors with regard to changing location, which commonly happens with religious. […].[117]

This well-known text, which is often quoted in connection with the preaching that was in vogue at the time of Trent, denounces one kind of preaching in favour of a style that proclaims its message in terms that are more closely connected to the concrete life of the people, better organised and which has a long-lasting effect so as to become a kind of enduring catechesis. To a certain extent the Capuchin preachers themselves recognised the problem. When they had to return to their friaries, they tried to set up a certain concrete piece of witness to spiritual and social commitment among the people that would prove the fruitfulness and endurance of their preaching.[118]

a) The years during the Council of Trent

By going over and analysing the texts of the Capuchin preachers that have come down to us we have the possibility of assessing the consequences of the pastoral issues that followed Trent. We have at our disposal two printed courses of sermons and two manuscript copies of Lenten courses for the years that the council was in session. The printed material is the work of two learned and popular preachers: Bernardino da Balvano and Girolamo da Pistoia. On the other hand, the manuscript copies belong to Mario da Mercato Saraceno and Giovanni Maria da Tusa, both of whom were Generals of the Order. These were shorter sermons that were simpler and humbler, but which perhaps reveal the Capuchin method and tone more clearly.

1) Bernardino da Balvano and Girolamo da Dinami

In a very rare “operetta” Bernardino da Balvano deals with the subject of predestination. At the time this was an important and much-debated topic (cf. doc. 3). He treated it in seven sermons that were in fact delivered in Messina probably in Latin as can be seen in the dedication that Don Geronimo Marullo presented to the Archbishop of Palermo, Francesco Orozcho de Arze, who was also the general inquisitor in Sicily. “My most illustrious and reverend Lord, we have the Reverend Father Fra Bernardino da Balbano, a Capuchin, who delivered eight sermons on predestination and one on the Conception of the Virgin. At the request of some friends they were written out in the vernacular.”[119]

At the request of Cardinal Giovanni Andrea Mercurio and the community at Messina, Guilio III authorised Bernardino da Balvano, who had preached the Lenten Course in 1552, to preach in the city on the two following years.[120] It was during this long spell of preaching that he composed his masterpiece Specchio di oratione, which was taken directly from what he taught the people. It must have been during this same period that his sermons on predestination were put together. They were mainly directed towards the clergy, the religious and the educated people in the city. The topic required special education which simple people lacked.

The sermons are full of doctrine and theology which is held together in an ideal way with the Gospel quotation: Vobis datum est nosse mysterium regni Dei [Lk 8:10: The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you]. Numerous quotations from Sacred Scripture, both from the Old and the New Testament, but mostly from St Paul, crop up continually throughout the text. The quotations are always in Latin and never translated into the vernacular. Perhaps this is another indication that the sermons were preached in Latin to educated people. The method used to develop the various topics is extremely doctrinal, with continual references to Patristic and Scholastic authorities that would have been incomprehensible to simple people. This is a serious treatise on predestination written by a genuine, speculative theologian, who is used to reading the volumes of the Glosses, the holy Fathers and Doctors and the Scholastic masters.[121] The internal organisation of the sermons is quite clear and systematic. The examples and moral exhortations are few and restrained. Clearly, we are dealing with a doctrinal instruction, a genuine course of study or an “ongoing formation programme” as we would say today.

After the invocation of the Madonna the introduction to each talk indicates the outline of the exposition.[122] During the sermon there was very little reference to the heretics, and even then, indirectly. It was rather filled with doctrine that was explained in detail and with precision using examples in order to clarify the theological reasoning.[123]

In the final instruction, by way of a summary of all that he had been saying, he explains how “a good preacher should not only provide reasons, forceful quotes from Scripture and the weighty opinions of saintly men as proof of his Catholic and truthful conclusions when he is serving God, working for the salvation of souls, the edification of the Church, the confounding of heretics and the exposition of the truth. He should also prudently resolve the difficulties and doubts that have cropped up in the minds of the listeners. Now so that we may not neglect this and in order to observe the apostolic precept: Parati semper ad satisfationem omni poscenti vos rationem [Always be ready to give a defence to everyone who asks you a reason] (1 Pt. 3: 15). after we have fully and abundantly provided reasons concerning predestination, how God implements predestination, who are those who are predestined, for what reason they are predestined and finally what are the advantages that we have as predestined people, how these are provided, how can it be clearly demonstrated the God has predestined us by predestination out of his generosity, and directed us to eternal life by teaching us and offering us grace and everything that is needed, in such a way that it remains within the free choice of each person to accept this from his hands, and to accept salvation, or not accept what the divine generosity has placed in our hands. The Saviour says: Regnum Dei intra vos est [The kingdom of God is within you] (Lk 17:21). Let us now look at some of the difficulties and controversies that appear to arise from the teaching of certain doctors of Scripture.” [124]

Even though it was difficult to maintain this kind of preaching, Bernardino da Balvano carried it out energetically. Some years later, another good Capuchin preacher, Girolamo da Dinami, while he was preaching in Udine in 1564, was accused of heresy by a Dominican friar because of some statement he made concerning predestination. The Patriarch of Aquileia suspended him from preaching because of this. The Procurator of the Order, Eusebio d’Ancona, asked Girolamo da Pistoia, who was the most prominent Capuchin theologian at that time to intervene on behalf of his brother from Calabria. He did not delay in taking decisive action and established that that this was “clearly calumny, deception and indeed the worst kind of blatant disrespect.”[125] He approached the Cardinal Protector and the vice-protector. The Roman Inquisition found in favour of Girolamo da Dinami who was again reinstated as a preacher in 1565.[126] In fact, that year he preached in the Church of the Santi Apostoli in Venice where he gave various talks on the Letter of St Paul to the Romans, omitting chapter eight on the subject of predestination. He took this up some months later in the Church of St Sylvester in a few doctrinal sermons that were quite popular.[127] A short time after this his lectures were circulated, without his knowledge, in a printed libretto that was also reprinted in Padua. This seemed odd to the author who complained about it when he found that it contained many errors and inaccuracies, so he rejected the work, and had it reprinted in Taranto in 1567. He personally explained the reason for the new edition in a “general notice” that was issued in December 1566:

Someone may have been struck with wonder if they had seen the tract on predestination that was set out in four chapters, when they saw this longer edition which is more richly presented than the first edition and they might have asked: why the sudden change. I reply that the first was printed in Venice without my knowledge after I had given it to a gentleman just to read. To tell the truth, you can see from its [front piece] portrait that it is a Dominican Father and no other. He should have had nothing to do with this since I am a Capuchin, and I had not corrected it before it was published which meant that it came out unrevised and was also published again in Padua. It was quite popular with many people and that is why I have made it longer and corrected it and had it printed in the city of Taranto in December 1566.[128]

The reasoning that was used was not new, but without scholastic pedantry, and by making use of a lively conversation he succeeded in treating the difficult topic and rebutting objections.[129]

2) The sermons of Girolamo Finucci da Pistoia

Once the strong pronouncement of Girolamo da Pistoia appeared, the outcome of this controversy could not have been anything different from the moment that the authority of Finucci as a theologian had been accepted beyond doubt.[130] In any case, the subject of predestination was the preferred topic in his sermons. He dedicated nine out of his twenty-two of the sermons that he preached to the subject, which were published two year later in Bologna in 1567 (cf. doc. 5).

Finucci did not believe that such difficult talks ought to be avoided because they were considered to be dangerous or too lofty or did not have a very practical application. Indeed, he maintained that “one ought to continually talk about the most extraordinary gift of predestination’ (n.5861). “Whoever is simple, devout or frightened” should not think that “he ought to discuss, preach or write about other things because they were of greater benefit to people”. We are talking about “God’s most beautiful gift, the richest and most joyful.” Along with these things we “proclaim the way to observe the divine precepts, how to follow Christ, how to be humble, how to even love our enemies …We proclaim the greatness of the divine Majesty, the greatness of the grand palace of heaven, with what it contains, as the object of our predestination, the dignity of those who have been saved and the misery of those who have finally been lost.” He concluded, “it is something worthwhile and useful to write or preach about this most divine favour” (n. 5684).

We can see here how the climate has changed. In 1530 the Dominican Tommaso Badia, Master of the Sacred Palace, made a distinction between the material that could be preached to the people and the difficilia fidei (difficulties of the faith) that were to be reserved to an elite religious audience. Cardinal Gasparo Contarini suggested the same thing. This meant that it was precisely the subject of predestination that was not suitable for preaching to the people.[131] However, now it became an indispensable question in order to enlighten the consciences of the faithful and immunise them against heterodox interpretations.

Controversial elements

In fact, Girolamo da Pistoia was a vigorous controversialist. In his sermons he exposed the contradictions of his adversaries with caustic arguments by easily taking advantage of the numerous contradictory statements of the Protestants and by basing his teaching on Scripture, patristic tradition and the history of dogma.

In this regard the “eleventh sermon” is significant. By means of a penetrating and powerful blending of points, he brings together all the most valid and perceptive arguments that separate “the true Church of Christ” from the false Church of the heretics. The sermon goes through all the subversive opinions from beyond the Alps one by one and contradicts them with the fifteen “notes”, or to use his words, “true signs” of the Church which he portrays as being a safe ship. By using this particular image, he responds to the repeated accusation that the life of prelates, priests and religious is wicked and scandalous and therefore so is the Church:

Even though there were soldiers, swindlers, murderers and prostitutes who had committed a thousand kinds of sins, I would not underestimate the strength, beauty or safety of the ship, or the mast, the anchor, the rudder, the oars, the sails, the map, the magnet, or, finally, the crew and officers on board the ship. I would not say that they are wrong. I would not throw myself overboard, if by chance, I found that I had to leave the ship. Thus, also in the Church there is much bad example that is given by the Prelates and her ministers, but I should not therefore underestimate the Church because it rests on Christ. It is the Gospel, not the ropes which provide the content of sermons. It is not the oars or the sweat of the Apostles, not their zeal but the cross It is not the sails, but the members of Christ and his martyrs. Finally, what is to be done about his ministers if they happen to be bad. I would not throw myself into the sea as the heretics have done and be cast off from the Church. This why Christ, Peter and Paul command us to obey prelates etiam (including) the bad ones. We can see this in chapter eighteen of Matthew, in Hebrews chapter thirteen and in I Peter 2.[132]

He ended the sermon, with the exception of a few odd variations, by using the same image, and, in the spirit of the Counter-reformation, by emphasising “the victory that Christ’s Church always won over her enemies.” He encouraged his listeners very fervently by emphatically reading the signs of the times as they appeared in the actual history of the Church as it was proclaimed in the spirit of the ecclesiology that followed the reform advocated at Trent that reached its highest point in the activity of Pius V Ghisieri:

Most worthy listeners, look at Christ’s providence because it will send a gift to the Church that will be like Sixtus V who changed the entire Church into having a religious spirit; will bring it peace like Innocent VIII; will make it learned like Alexander VI; will make it prepared to die if necessary like Pious III; in spite of everything someone like Julius II will come to make it formidable; someone like Leo X to make it rejoice; like Alexander VI to make it devout; like Clement VII to make it patient; like Paul III to make it beautiful; like Julius III who made it triumphant with the help of Charles V; like Paul VI who began to strip it of all that was ugly; like Pius V who called those who were learned and holy from all parts of the world to expel the heretics who had infiltrated many parts of the Church, giving everyone confidence by saying: Ite, ite vos in vineam meam [Mt 20:7: You also go into my vineyard] . You have no excuse, not to come forward as you have been so kindly invited to do by the Pastor and Vicar of Christ, following the example of those who are simple, of the many who are learned, the example of the Saints, the challenge of your own consciences. You must heed the call that bids you return to your mother’s womb from which you have come.

Indeed, you were all on board the very safe ship of our most holy mother Church, whose Captain is Christ, the second in command of which is the Pope, who Christ instructs to feed the little sheep. The crew are the Apostles to whom Christ also says: Faciam vos fieri piscatores hominum [Mt 4:19: I will make you fishers of men]. The oars are the articles of faith, which when the Prophets were rowing remained in the shadows, but, later on, came into the clear when the Apostles took the oars. The mast is the cross. The map is the Gospel. The anchor is the Holy Spirit. The rudder is Mary. The provisions are Christ’s body and blood. The sails are Christ’s blessed members who are exposed to all the wind and rain of all kinds of torment. The troops are the angels that are bound by the commands of the Father. The weapons are the prayers. The blood and bones of the martyrs who are triumphant today in heaven are calling us to stay on board and fight. They are also the blood of all the heretics who have jumped overboard and who find themselves in the depths of the ocean and are being attacked and eaten by the fish of the deep sea. The port towards which they are sailing is heaven. The cargo is the souls who are Christ’s spouses. The cries that are heard as the ship comes in are from everything that has been created or not created and the reason for the crying is the fear of being thrown overboard. Finally, Christ is calling out to us: Venite ad me omnes, qui laboratis et onerati estis, et ego reficiam vos, Matthew chapter eleven [Mt 11:28-29: Come unto me, all you that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest].[133]

With just as much zeal Finucci defends and proves the primacy of Peter and the Roman Pontiff as his successor in “the twelfth sermon”. He repeats the arguments that he had already successfully used in a talk that he gave during the Council of Trent:[134]

In a house, a school, on a ship, in an army and in a city, it is necessary that there be a person in charge who issues all the orders, statutes, precepts and laws that are to be observed by those who are subject to him. Just as nature has formed a head to be above the members of the physical, natural body and they are under its sway, there is nothing marvellous that in Christ’s mystical body its head, which is Christ, has left Peter and every Pontiff who followed him as head of the faithful.[135]

He uses the symbol of a “key” to stand for the power Christ conferred on Peter to explain the comprehensiveness of the priestly jurisdiction or power of orders when he is responding to the legal objections especially Conciliarism.[136]

His zeal for controversy and his love for the Church led him to be concerned about a whole range of enemies with ever growing anxiety. In fact in the “twentieth sermon” he lists all of Christ’s enemies, beginning with the devil, who was his first enemy in the order of time, but who was replaced by the “Jews” or “Hebrews” with the latter, in their turn, being replaced by the Pagans and the Gentiles. However, the Turks are worse than the Pagans and bad Christians are also Christ’s enemies:

Those who sell Christ for a pittance, to satisfy their own will, do something much worse than what the Turks, the Gentiles, the Jews and the devils have done, because they are the ones who sell Christ for a pittance to satisfy their wills and this is something that the Jews never did. These are the kind of people who deny him not just once as Peter did when a woman spoke but whenever it suits them. They place a veil over Christ’s face with their hypocrisy in an effort to cover their wicked life. They deny him three times when they dishonour him with their heart, their lips and their actions. They prefer him to Barabbas by honouring unworthy persons and abandoning those who are worthy. They give Christ gall when, instead of the conversion of their souls, they return to their wicked scheming again. They pass the time by inventing new vices, forms of seduction and heresy every hour. They are not moved with compassion for Christ even though in Matthew chapter 27 rocks were split when Christ died. Because they are not upse,t God created a great earthquake against the Christians when he roused the Turks to show such great severity against the Christians and act like wild animals against them. When the hearts of these false Christians were far from God and so too was their life, their families and their work, then he gave them up into the hands of the Turks.[137]

In his opinion Christ’s greatest enemies were “those who had apostatised from the faith and their Christian religion, and become Lutherans or Huguenots” because they “ betrayed all that was sacred to Christ, betraying all that was marked by Christ, the keys of Christ, Christ’s coinage, and Christ’s messages at the same time. Christ’s other enemies had not perpetrated such enormous evil.[138]

Unique characteristics

In addition to these belligerent statements which are filled with apostolic zeal,[139] which is understandable because of his friendship with Pius V, who was Pope during the reform brought about by Trent,[140] and the one who chose him to be the “apostolic theologian”, his sermons were very vigorous in thought and style. They all centred on Christ and were delivered in clear, pure Tuscan dialect. They resembled a substantial accumulation of Biblical, patristic, theological, spiritual and moral anecdotes that were set down in an orderly fashion. However, this did not follow the ordinary plan for sermons that would have required a subject that would be developed it various parts and the drawing of a conclusion.

In an introductory presentation he personally gave the reason behind this. In fact he stated that he did not want to use “in these sermons the method of approach which involved dividing them into parts as I did in the past, since the point of each one of my arguments, without any other aim, was to clarify what was the subject being discussed … It seemed to me (to be clear about this) that the present method was an easier way to hold the attention of the listener and persuade him about what was being said, in so far as the greater the simplicity of the presentation, without being concerned about the use of beautiful language, the better it explained the concepts that are so necessary for Christians today, so that no difficulties or doubts remain.”[141]

This is thus an option for “simplicity”, a desire “to work within the bounds of unpretentious prudence” and not use “an affected manner of speaking.” It is also an option to keep in line with the Capuchin vocation, since “I ought to have greater love for [a simple way of speaking] because of the profession that I have made, when I undertook to be simple in everything by adopting the kind of simplicity that we should have all learnt from Christ, who in this regard presented us with the example of a dove. Paul understood this so very well that he criticises, detests and abhors those who, when they listen to someone speaking, are only concerned with listening to what is subtle and unusual in the delivery.”[142] Because of this he did not think that it was appropriate to dedicate his little volume to any patron of the arts or distinguished person but to just offer it in general to “students of Sacred literature” which was what he said in his letter of dedication.[143]

On the other hand, every one of his sermons is divided into successive points, from a minimum of seven to a maximum of twenty-seven, which expand a collection of arguments that have a great impact on the theological and spiritual presentation of the subject. Beginning from the knowledge of God, and proceeding through the topics of predestination, the true Church and freedom and penance, he comes to the evangelical topic of conversion. There is profound logic in all of this. Notwithstanding his extensive theological education, especially his grasp of the theology of Bonaventure, and Scotus and, as a consequence, his knowledge of learned logical and erudite discourse, he succeeded in also addressing the simple people by the use of helpful comparisons and examples which were communicated with remarkable spiritual sensitivity which was a sign of and the result of his inner meditation and prayer. In the long run it is an enhanced version of the subject of penance that had always been the fruitful and cherished subject of Capuchin preaching in line with the Constitutions of the Order.[144]

However, with regard to the style of these sermons the most original aspect was the use of the literary style of a conversation. Twelve sermons were set out in the style of a conversation. This was important for contemporaries such as the Neapolitan Pietro De Stefano who in 1560 named a Capuchin as “one of the best preachers.” This was “the learned Father Girolamo of Pistoia who, when he was at Naples least year, used to preach in the form of a conversation, that women could easily understand.” (n. 2258).

This was probably the most outstanding aspect of his preaching because it captured the attention of the public very easily. He had Martha talking to Mary, Paul to the Romans, or the Galatians, or the Corinthians and he even introduced many people such as in the “third sermon” where the conversation is initiated by the Romans with Paul the Apostle responding. Later he introduced Homer. He rebuts Origen, opposes Pelagius, but accepts St Augustine with whom he discusses the Master of the Sentences, Peter Lombard who argues with Thomas Aquinas who succeeds in solving the objections of Henry the Great. However, Scotus takes on Henry and agrees with the Angelic Doctor. The last word, which the whole of humanity is waiting for, is the ideal reconciliation of all the schools of theology and this is left to St Paul. This is how he succeeds in communicating difficult and abstruse questions and doctrines to the people, with the clarity “that any woman could understand” even if she was never really a “scholar”.

He justifies this method by saying that the truth attracts reading, and conversation facilitates understanding. He calls sermons that are not delivered in the form of a conversation “homilies” that are characterised by “a lot of talk”.[145]

Whoever reads his sermons even today finds himself impressed and realises that they are richer and deeper than they might appear to be. Often the sentences appear to contain dense points that allow us to visualise a vast number of concepts and permit us to become involved in personal reflection and meditation. This is the case in the “second sermon” on predestination. Following a beautiful definition of this mystery that has been taken from St Anselm he adds:

Dwell on these words of St Anselm with the eye of your mind and devotion in your heart and they will produce great fruit in your soul. Thus, when a person considers what God knows it will force him to flee from all the filth of sin and adorn himself in all that is virtuous, clearly realising that he is seen by God. If a person then considers God’s foreknowledge this will force him to think about all of his actions so as to make no mistake and this will then make him completely ready to serve his Lord. God’s providence will show you not to live by instinct as the beasts do. If you keep your eye on God’s punishment it will make you hate worldly pleasures and even yourself. When you talk about predestination you will say: the knowledge of God is my light, and I want to have Christ as my light. I choose Christ and unite myself to the most divine Christ himself. I want to consider this change and spend my energy in dragging myself away from evil and finding rest in doing good. I was chosen before time began, and I wish to carry out the divine will, acting in line with the choice in order to bring myself to the place that my God has provided for me.

My crown has been inscribed in the book of life, and so I will be careful that nothing else takes me away from this and that I win my place. Grace will prepare you to rebuff everything that is contrary to the reception of grace, and thus make you think about your sins, and put them away in Confession with tears, and then give you strength by the nourishment of Holy Communion. Finally, think about the glory that will come about in the last days as recorded in Matthew chapter twenty-five. No one could ever acquire this without Christ as is recorded in the Second Letter to the Corinthians chapters two and twelve. This is so great that Paul, after he had been taken up into the third heaven by the One who wanted him to be a vessel of election, and he had contemplated such greatness, was not able to describe the least part of it in human terms. Therefore, he exclaimed: “I have seen the secrets of my Lord, which is not allowed to anyone in the world, because our mind is closed in the prison of the body”. Again, he says: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it ever entered the heart of man, what God has prepared for those whom he loves.” This is in the First Letter to the Corinthians chapter eight. Isaiah says the same thing in chapter sixty-four and Paul adds in chapter three to the Philippians when he expresses his wishes: “O my Philippians, may your conversation be about heaven, as we await Christ, who strengthens our weak, heavy and corruptible bodies with his strong, agile, incorruptible and completely beautiful body.”[146]

Another interesting example can be found in the “fourteenth sermon”. Providing an allegorical explanation of the episode of the fiery chariot that took the Prophet Elijah away, he writes:

The two fiery horses represent the intellect and the will, by means of which he quickly intervenes in our miseries, enduring all kinds of torments, and thus because he has become our tutor, we sigh at the foot of the cross which is the most divine throne, on which Christ is present. We sigh over and over again when we profess him to be our father. He wants us to profess him with soul and body. Indeed, he demands this because he made us and then redeemed us. He demands this aboard the chariot of Israel with the entire passion of Christ on the cross being Israel’s guide. This means that whoever desires to be with God and thus be effectively taken to be a true and good Christian takes the Holy Spirit as his guide, to prepare him for such fruitfulness. So, with every affection let us take in the voice of Christ on the cross, as our most divine tutor, not gentile teachers, or pagans, but may Christ teach us every virtue, because he said: Disce a me [Learn from me (Mt 11:29)].

Think how the Lord of the universe has taken on the form of a servant for you. He who is the Lord of bread was famished. He who was the most bubbling spring was thirsty. The light was dimmed. Strength was weakened. Life died. The Redeemer was sold in order to save mankind. He permitted himself to be condemned to the cross just to make a ladder for us and when we had obtained grace to lead us to heaven, the objective of our pilgrimage to which his kindness is leading us. Domine Miserere [Lord have mercy]. [147]

In the “tenth sermon”, at the end of the subject of predestination, Girolamo da Pistoia, writing in a splendid manner, developed the approach adopted by Paul and Bonaventure. According to this Christ is the only and “most fortunate means of our salvation”, the sole mediator, the most perfect medium possessing all that is needed to a degree beyond all others. He shows this by using arguments and examples which are always taken from and supported by biblical passages. Just as the sun lights up the heavens and the earth, “it is Christ who gives the light and so he said: I am the light” and on the mount of the Transfiguration his light shines on the Old and the New Testaments. Just as any medium has the properties of “collecting and uniting”, of giving life, setting apart and separating of sustaining and preserving and causing happiness, so too Christ “unites the divine nature with human nature and makes them like two sisters”, unites mankind, and brings pagans and Jews together and unites Angels with men. He is like the heart that gives life to all the parts of the body. Like “a loving and just shepherd he separates his sheep from the goats, the good from the bad.” He supports everything and is the column that by falling or dying on the cross kills the Philistines, that is our sins. He is the means of “preservation” and because of this he breathed the Holy Spirit into the Apostles and so they were preserved upright in everything” and defended from evil. He is the mediator standing between what is divine and what is human, giving joy to all the blessed, standing between God and the angels, making them happy and blessed.”

Then he asks why Christ always loved being among people. In fact, he was born between two animals, is to be found among the doctors, is seated between two thieves and, following the resurrection, he is in the midst of his disciples. He now lives within the Church as a very strong column, as the tree of life, as a learned teacher, as a medical doctor, a provider in his family, and all of this to lay down a rule and set an example of a fertile land, of a gushing fountain, of courage that will give heart for the battle. He stands in the middle of the blessed covered in glory where “as far as his divine nature is concerned, he is the one that causes the beatitude of those who are saved, and because of his human nature he becomes like us in his human body. We should not just desire this presence, the company and enjoyment of which we should always wish for with all our might and with the highest pleasure, (as this is the objective of our predestination), but seek to achieve and gain it with all our might”.[148]

Here we can note clearly how the traditional set up of the sermon has disappeared and has been replaced by vigorous reasoning without a trace of a superfluous word. This is filled with substance and possesses a wealth of motivation that enlightens the intellect and enflames the will.

Traditional aspects and some affinity with Ochino

One of the traditional tools that Finucci makes use of with consummate literary skill to motivate the will of the faithful is the frequent introduction of examples and comparisons. This subject needs to be analysed in detail. The preacher himself explains the reason for this. “I went ahead with using examples so that you would understand better … in doing so I was following the example of the Master, Christ the preacher, who rarely preached or spoke without enriching what he said by giving examples and making comparisons so that one might grasp his treasures more easily.”[149] However, it is understandable that “examples, comparisons and figures are not used because they fit exactly, since there would then be nothing distinctive about the examples, comparisons and figures and what they represent. Nevertheless, they are sufficiently similar to the matter for a person to understand it easily and be persuaded.”[150]

The examples are taken from what he observed and from daily life. They are quite ordinary and familiar and suitable for various kinds of people. For example, the image of a broom is used to portray what takes place in Confession and the result of doing penance (cf. n. 5868). He uses the image of a broody hen gathering her chicks under her wing, including all of her movements, as if they had been performed by Christ, to illustrate Christ’s unrequited love for the Jewish people.[151]

In order to illustrate how grace works in conjunction with the free will of man he invokes many comparisons. It is like a child who is lying in his cot and keeps on moving. It is like a staff that one is leaning on, currency that has to be added to, a mother holding out an apple to a child to entice him to come to her, like a costly garment that has been given to a poor man, like a chain come from heaven, a ship, a light, like a workman’s tool, like a hand that is held out, a doctor with a patient, a guide for a dangerous journey, like a pillar of fire and a cloud in the desert,[152] and so on. Finally, he makes use of terms taken from the art of grammar and logic to illustrate what is missing. These include verbs, adverbs, predicates, syllogisms, induction, enthymeme etc. Here he very obviously makes use of the method of casuistry to instruct people in correct moral comportment and the observance of the commandments.[153] He is really outstanding in this and shows an extraordinary capacity for teaching.

Other more traditional aspects of his preaching are its zealous moral exhortations and fervent affective prayers. In this regard we shall select two significant passages that come at the end of two different sermons. One of them is an example of an exhortation that has effective, concrete directions; the other presents us with a beautiful spontaneous prayer.

O man who has been ungrateful on one or on a thousand occasions, do you know what you ought to say now that you have committed sin: “I will confess this now and for a year?” … You might say, “O Christ you have been knocking at the door of my heart. I did not want to open it for you but come back in a year’s time I will open it.” You do not see how wrong this is, nor do you see the hurt you inflict on Christ who is the Lord of your heart. You neither see nor consider your ingratitude or the many dangers to which, in the long run, your confusion exposes you. Come, come, noble listener, generous and learned listener, for the entire week we are concerned about providing for the body and on the day of rest we look to providing for our soul. We do this by undertaking the exercises that make our soul holy. Which is the best of these, the one that makes us humbler and is more advantageous, sets the best example for our neighbour and gives the most honour to God? Offer your entire life to God each morning. At night humbly ask pardon for what you have done to offend his Majesty, promising not to offend him the next day as you did the day that has just passed. On Saturday evening go and confess everything that you did wrong during that week to God, and on the same night, or the following morning, go to your spiritual vicarious father and confess to him. Then receive Communion, if he has advised you to do so. Pay attention to the great mystery of the Mass that you will attend, being careful about the Divine Office, Be eager for the lessons and what is preached about Christ. Avoid harmful and scandalous company. Visit the sick and console those who are worried. Do this and make the feast day holy and the feast will make you holy, since throughout the entire week this beautiful exercise will put you on guard with regard to sin and make you continually mindful of God who blesses all of us. Amen.[154]

O Lord, you are the master of heaven and earth, and I am a slave who is not worthy of being your most vile creature, who deserves to remain in the flames of hell forever. I know that your kind heart, through which you have called me, does not want me to be lost. I would be acting like Pharaoh if I did not want to come back to you, or to recognise you as my Lord, by using my free will. However, I do not want to do that. My Good, my Good and my Life! I give myself to you. I offer myself to you from the depths of my heart and I only regret that my heart is not worthy of you but is a den full of filth. While you are most powerful, I am weak. You are wise and good; I am foolish and wicked. You are all good and I am imperfection itself, malicious and filled with all that is evil. I come to you and entrust myself to you. I hasten to you. My God command and I obey. May the Angels accept me as a friend! May the saints and your friends not push me away! May the heavens not be against me! May what is yours not reject me even though I deserve all that is evil and nothing that is good!

O Christian, this is how you will be turned towards the Lord, and so as to be acceptable to the Divine Father, celebrate his Son who has saved you. The Holy Spirit will help you because he will set you on fire with love. Our Mother Mary will rejoice with the Angels and everyone else because they will see you placed and set on the road that will lead directly to the Kingdom of Heaven, to which God will accompany you with his grace. Amen.[155]

A final observation is somewhat curious and is in regard to a certain affinity with Bernardino Ochino, above all, with respect to the subject of Christ crucified. However, it is privy of any Valdesian tonality that softly plays with the principle of justification by faith alone without works. Once again permit me to refer to one passage among the many splendid passages:

Christ was the world’s tutor who took all into heaven with him and this is what he said, Ego si exaltatus fuero a terra, omnia traham ad me ipsum [I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me (Jn 12:32)], because I will win the reward by means of which everyone can be saved. Thus, I shall raise up to myself all mankind, and everything that it contains according to their various kinds. Then everything will contribute to the salvation of mankind, stones, trees, animals, all of which are associated with mankind according to their rank. Christ expressed it better when he said: “I shall draw everything to myself because, O man, because when I have been placed on the cross you will see me and contemplate me with the eyes of your heart. I know that you will direct all of your emotion to me and focus your entire intellect on me. Thus, when I have been placed on the cross on your behalf, (in order to pay the cost of love) you will be able to contemplate me with all of your will, your soul and your whole might. You will throw yourself at me with your entire memory, because I will make you do so for by doing what I have done I have conferred so much goodness on you that you could never forget it again. Your eyes will gaze into mine, your hands will take mine, your feet will be on mine, your nose touch mine, your mouth will touch mine, and your heart to mine. You will cry out: “Help, help Lord, and have mercy on me wretched as I am!” For you will see that because you have not taken proper care of them, you have blindfolded my eyes [from being able to look into your eyes]. You will see that in seeking to satisfy your own mouth, you have subjected mine to drinking gall. The hardness of your heart in not loving me has opened my side. Your evil deeds have pierced my hands. Your stench has made me smell the stench of a thousand dead bodies. Your unguarded ears have made me obliged me to listen to blasphemies. You have brought death upon me, which has put life to death. Therefore, ask me what the good thief asked. It was to him and to the entire world that that I offered the kingdom of heaven as the solemn prize of my suffering and of his. Ostende ergo nobis, Domine, misericordiam tuam et salvi erimus [Show us, therefor, O Lord, your mercy and we shall be saved (cf. Ps 85:7)]. Amen.[156]

We can also observe a similarity with Bernradino Ochino in the last sermon that deals with “conversion” in which he makes use of a very beautiful conversation between Mary and Magdalene and then between Christ and the Pharisee (cf. nn. 5869-99). This may be Finucci’s best sermon as far as a piece of literature is concerned. This sermon also brings together all the arguments that he uses to help those who have been condemned to death and to persuade those who are obstinate and heretics to convert.

3) The Lenten course delivered by Mario Fabiani da Mercato Saraceno

We pass now to examining two manuscripts of sermons that were composed soon after the Council of Trent. They demonstrate some of the typical, if not unique, characteristics of Capuchin preaching. We are dealing with two friars who were among the most outstanding in the Order, Mario Fabiani da Mercato Saraceno (+ 1581) and Giovanni Maria Bruno da Tusa (+ 1584), who were Vicars General respectively from 1567 to 1573 and from 1581 to 1584.

Although Fabiani is famous in Capuchin history for his contributions to the establishment of the Order, he is not as famous as a preacher. Recently, Callisto Urbanelli has made a more detailed study on the style and content of his preaching using a Lenten manuscript, “one of a few which have just become available to us that contain the sermons of Capuchin preachers in the Marche during the fifteen hundreds.”[157] He examined it by simply reading it as furnishing an example of a sermon that followed a plan and style that displayed a form of preaching that was simple, practical and fervent. A more detailed examination has provided us with new historical and critical insights.

Since Fabiani was already involved in preaching in 1553,[158] the sermons that were contained in the manuscript must have been written before 1563 which is the year that appears on the front piece.[159]. However, it is probable that the individual texts had undergone a subsequent gradual elaboration. In fact, there are often blank pages or half pages with different additions to the introduction and the prologue which introduce changes into the different sermons.

Fifty-eight sermons are contained in the two hundred and thirty-nine pages of the manuscript without counting the numerous prologues and introductions that have been interspersed.[160] They include the whole period of Lent from Septuagint Sunday until the third day after Easter. For the most part the topics are taken from the Gospel of the day.[161] However, sometimes they include a specific mention of a subject. Thus on the Friday after the fourth Sunday of Lent in two different sermons Fabians dealt with “the preparation for Confession”.[162] On Wednesday after Passion Sunday, in addition to commenting on the Gospel of the day, he developed the subject of predestination.[163] On Tuesday after Palm Sunday he spoke on “the Most Holy Sacrament”.[164]

The structure of his sermons is fairly close to the traditional canons of internal division, having an introduction, two parts and a final peroration that was usually a spontaneous prayer with aspirations to Christ and the Virgin. The greater part of the text, as was to be expected, concerned the “Passion of our Saviour Jesus Christ”. It was divided into three parts that corresponded to three different sermons. The first went from the Last Supper to the prayer in the Garden, the second from the arrest through the whole of the trial until the condemnation and journey to Calvary, the third took the time to contemplate on the crucifixion, paying special attention to Christ’s words on the cross.[165] This sermon lasted for at least three hours and was the high point of the Lenten course. This is where Fabiani’s inspiration reached its summit and moved into verses of poetry.

His capacity for poetry was well known in the Order. This was so true that even the Conventual, Pietro Ridolfi da Tossignano said of him, in a slightly superficial way, that “he possessed little education and had been born rather to sing poems than to govern.”[166] On the other hand Girolamo da Dinami refers to him as “a great Tuscan poet, who had been praised by Caro and Roscelli; an inexhaustible spring, with great judgement who was kind to his brothers and helpful to seculars.”[167] In his Devota Historia, Bernardino da Colpetrazzo highlights his poetic capabilities: “He was a pleasant man, who was quiet by nature, and very accomplished with writing. He was gifted in vernacular poetry in which he wrote many devout and beautiful things. His sermons were inspiring …”[168]

It is at the end of the long sermon on Good Friday that he adds two passages of verse that were not known to the historians in the Order.[169] They were crafted in the style of Petrarch and Dante. The first is a simple set of rhyming octaves like the poems of the fifteen-hundreds that told of knights and that flowed on poetically. It was to be recited before the adoration of the cross. The second was a hymn consisting of twenty-two rhyming triplets following the style of Dante. It is a meditation and an affective prayer before Christ crucified and dead. Because these two works are something new we will reproduce them for the delight and devotion of the readers.

Adoration of the Holy Cross

O sacred wood that is so pleasing to heaven,
On which the pure Lamb of God offered himself,
For nothing else but to make us faithful subjects,
You suffered, languishing in cruel pain,
So that in your joyous kingdom
Each one of your elect might be with you forever.
Grant today that I may powerfully
Contemplate your great sorrow and bitter death.

Christ’s human nature died on the cross On Good Friday

Who will open my eyes so wide
That they may shed an ocean of tears, and flood the world
With my sorrow, my great pain,
My kind Lord, My joyful Lord,
Make me confess my sins to you,
My confusion, and speak about your illustrious, deep love.
Mother, I come from human seed
Which is alive, like my Son still is.
Both of us are on earth.
I have started to cry with grief
Because today he has suffered on the ruthless cross.
He who created the ends of the earth.
(Oh my people) bend your ear to my voice,
Then grieve with me and cry with me.
Death is the ancient evil and it is my wickedness that consumes me and makes me anxious.
What is the cause of this? O beauty and rejoicing
You have been conquered by sorrow that never ends or departs.
Our champion (I say) has been killed on the tree,
With his flesh torn, as we see today.
The eternal and exalted King of Paradise
Has both of his feet bound here.
As well as the hand that shaped the elements.
Through our sinfulness and lack of faith.
He who makes the Angels in heaven happy and contented
Hangs in grief in order to lead us back to port.
He has taken upon himself so many torments.
We are sorry that we chose to do this.
How great is our sin? It is horrendous.
We see this in the one who was crucified and died on the tree.
Why was the price so high?
Choose what is good and comes from good seed,
Judge the fruit before you take it.
Even if it hurts you and seems cruel.
Our nature is blind
And often takes pleasure in what is bad.
Let us not lose hope.
What appears to be good now, and what we want
Will be of no advantage to us.
Come with me! Let us go to Him, beloved child.
Cry for your own errors, iniquity and evil,
So as to appease the eternal Sun.
Come to the obvious shelter and temple.
Your piety will annul our guilt and
The damage we have done by giving bad example.
Forgive us, Lord, as you have shown us
Today by means of your boundless kindness.
In order to lead us to your dwelling on high
Pardon us (I say) for what is outrageous and disgraceful.
The open wound in your side begs for this and invites forgiveness.
Oh tell me, is each act of malice, each wound,
Each sigh true love?
Ready to help you at any time
And though the lips are closed, the tongue silent,
Yet these vulgar, yet kind wounds,
Only cry out for our pardon and peace.
Now that you are pleasing to God and almost beautiful
Come to him alone with a humble heart
He has made you pass into heaven today.
This is God’s treasure. He is the one who has given his own life and blood
To give you a share in his glory.
Come and venerate the blood-stained body,
Kiss the hands, the side and the feet,
Of him who has won for us today, by such suffering,
While at the same time purifying our faults and mine.

We do not know whether Fabiani introduced his poems into his sermons. It is certainly possible to observe the creative relationship between his poetic inspiration and his preaching, and the moral, affective and devout outpourings with which his preaching overflows. In fact, his style of speaking is very plain without any embellishments and closely associated with the Gospel passage of the day which is the subject of the meditation. This is accompanied by simple reflections that present a particular point of biblical exegesis to inspire living a Christian life. There are few references to classical sources particularly to the Fathers of the Church, as can be seen from the following two passages (nn. 5831 and 5847).

One characteristic of his style can be found in the introductions that usually begin with a quote from Paul the Apostle together with a list of titles which, when they have been collected, could make up a striking litany of praise. Here are a few examples: “the Apostle Paul, one of the first vessels of election who was full of grace”, “God’s coadjutor”.” a very precious stone in the foundations of the Church”, “a true faithful member of our God and the main star in our firmament”, “light and splendour of Christ, eternal Sun of Paradise,” etc.[171]

There is another detail in the conclusion that is always very sentimental and emotional and that produces spontaneous prayer. For example, let us see the conclusion to his Easter sermon that is typical of his simple style:

O brothers, what a precious and divine Easter this is! When they were leaving Egypt, the lamb was given to the Hebrews to serve as their Pasch and as their sacrifice. At Easter we are given the Son of God made man. What food is this! Most glorious and divine food, thoroughly sweet, filled with spiritual delight, the kind of food that warms us sweetly in a wonderful way. Indeed, the core of our hearts is warmed with the food that gives us strength for our dangerous voyage and guides us safely to the port of salvation. This food makes us beautiful and worthy to sit at the table of the Lamb. My most beloved friends, this is the blood-stained mystery that the merciful father offered on the return of his prodigal son and wanted everyone in the house to share with joy.

We are the son that was lost. We are the servants in the house of the Lord. Therefore, let us eat this sustenance in triumph. Let us no longer satisfy ourselves with acorns or pork flesh. We no longer want to fill our stomach with the old yeast of our vice ridden flesh. Let us no longer partake of the food of iniquity and malice, and a thousand other filthy errors, but enjoy this meal, in the way that Paul said: itaque epulemus in azimis sinceritatis et veritas [with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1 Cor. 5:8)]. We have died with Christ in Baptism and risen with him today in his beautiful resurrection. Thus, in the poor life through which we are passing, we are, I say, we are the sincere and true yeast in all our actions. Sincere in thought, pure of will, setting an example as we move along, just in our dealings, moderate in expenditure, faithful in marriage, avoiding quarrels, generous in almsgiving, merciful in conduct and active in good works. Epulemur itaquein azimis sinceritatis et veritats [Celebrating the festival of unleavened bread of sincerity and truth].

If we behave as I have said throughout my discourse, we can be sure to live a better life. We shall rise up from the black tomb of many faults and appear before God living and wonderfully enlivened by his grace. However, as we can do nothing on our own, let us turn with a cheerful heart to the Lord, who rose today in triumph and glory, and he will raise us up to the glorious life that we wish to live.

My Lord, how much trust and hope your glorious works give those of us on earth who are oppressed. By your cross You cancelled our fault. By your life you led us back to heaven. By dying you extinguished our death. By your resurrection you lifted up our souls to a perpetual resurrection. To cleanse our sins, you climbed onto the beautiful cross for us. To rise to sweet and desirable justification you came out from the tomb alive. By means of these holy mysteries and through a thousand other blissful works that you performed for us, I beg of you, my Lord, on behalf of the people that you have set free, redeemed and raised, to bestow yourself and your beautiful grace on them. Lord, do not say “Their hearts are too hard; they have hearts made of stone. I have forgiven them many times, but they still offend me always. I no longer want to become involved with them. I no longer want to grant them my friendship.”

O, Lord, do not talk like this! You even said through the Prophet: Auferam a vobis cor lapideum et dabo vobis cor carneum et faciam ut in praeceptis meis ambuletis [I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh and move you to follow my decrees (Ez. 36:26-27)]. Therefore, take their hardness away, enflame their hearts with the fire of your holy love. Adiuva, Domine, adiuva incredulitatem eius [Help, O Lord, help my unbelief (cf. Mk. 9:23)]. With your help they will walk in the beautiful footsteps that you have shown them on earth and, as a consequence, the beautiful treasure that you won for them on the cross will be given to them by your rising today. Following the journey of this life they will come to praise you forever. Amen.[172]

4) The Lenten and Advent Sermons of Giovanni M. da Tusa

We are also able to engage in a vibrant examination of the sermons of Giovanni M. da Tusa. In his commentary of the Rule, that “was set out like a sermon,” we already observed some distinctive novelty of thought and presentation.[173] His handwritten manuscripts also contain his Advent and Lenten sermons. They contain seven sermons for the Sundays in Advent, Christmas, the Circumcision and the Epiphany.[174] Four sermons for the first to the fourth Sundays after Easter as well as two other for Ordinary Time are also there.[175] Most important are forty-five sermons for the season of lent, as well as a sermon on the Incarnation, and a panegyric for the feast of St Joseph.[176]

We have included some of these sermons in our collection,[177] which are more than enough to gain an appreciation of the style and content of his preaching which is specifically aimed at teaching. It demonstrates a level of instruction that is quite clear and includes all the truths of Christian dogma. It might be defined as a comprehensive catechism for adults.

His technique is very traditional. The topic of the sermon is defined with precision at the outset and connected to the Gospel of the day. There are frequent cross-references from one sermon to another to preserve a logical connection between the topics. Indeed, in the last Lenten sermon, on the Tuesday following Easter, before going on to comment on the Gospel, he repeats all the questions that were dealt with in the preceding sermons (cf. nn. 5971-5981), thus borrowing from a format used in Scholastic theology (cf. n. 5982) and contemporary catechisms. Within this he displays his own proficient competence in Canon Law.

The format is comprised of two main points: the things that a Christian ought to “know” and believe, and how he ought to “act”. This brings together doctrine and practical life, orthodoxy and orthopraxy. The treatment begins with the twelve articles of the Creed and continues with the ten Commandments and the seven capital sins, which are explained to the people with detailed example of the sins and their remedies. He then begins to deal with the love of God and neighbour, the Seven Sacraments, the fourteen works of mercy, the theological and cardinal virtues, accompanied with many subtle divisions, in a simplified way that is suitable for the people. He states that this is an assortment of important questions that observe the Franciscan Rule in so far as they involve “preaching a completely Catholic doctrine according to the wishes of the holy Church” (n. 5983).

Giovanni Maria da Tusa had a very precise concept of the officium praedicationis and of what his duties were as a preacher. At the beginning of Lent, he let his listeners know this by making a solemn declaration (nn. 5935-5937) in which he proclaimed in a most concrete manner his commitment and obligation to follow in the footsteps of Christ and the Apostles, to preach vices and virtues and the faith of the Catholic church, as St Francis desired. Indicating that it almost amounted to a command in the Franciscan Rule and the Capuchin Constitutions when speaking about the brothers who are preachers.

However, it would seem that rather than following the liturgy of the day he developed the topic in a way that promoted teaching and catechesis. He did this very skilfully. For example, dealing with the Gospel story of the Canaanite woman that is read on the Thursday after the Sunday in Lent, he suggests that the story provides “an example, a technique, a method of how we ought to pray to God.” (n. 5940). He then speaks at length about prayer, pointing out its significance, necessity, importance, facility and usefulness of it for both the body and spirit, how it is structured and carried out, commenting in this perspective on the Our Father, also basing his comments upon various quotations from Scripture and the Fathers of the Church. At this point he goes back to the Gospel of the Canaanite Woman as a “example and model” of the conditions that are required for genuine prayer, which must be that it is fervent prayer, Catholic in spirit, seasoned with “the yeast of the heart”, humble, ardent and persevering, all of which aspects are demonstrated by the pagan woman.

To reassert these concepts with greater authority, he synthesises with precision everything that the code of canon law has to say on prayer, stringing together, one might say, one code after another, and then concluding with exclamations and invectives against sinners. Then appeasing it with a prayer to Christ and with a last pinpointing of the subject, by repeating several times, a verse from the gospel with a summary application, being repeated many times (cf. nn. 5938-67). It is therefore a very solid and skilful structure.

He is familiar with all the rules of rhetoric in the artes praedicandi and he uses them in a most masterly manner. It would not be difficult to analyse the rhetorical and narrative ploys that he adopts. In various parts of the sermon there are phrases that do not form part of the sermon. Thus in the introduction and after the prologue and the outline of the sermon he simply says: “I beg you to listen to me attentively and we shall begin in the name of the Lord.”[178] Elsewhere he says: “I beg you to pay full attention to me, and in the sermon we shall discuss holy faith”,[179] “I beg you to pay attention to me, and we shall begin in the name of the Lord … Listen to me and we shall go on with the discussion with the help of the Lord.”[180]

The conclusion of the first part of the sermon is always marked with an anaphora that hammers out the different applications by the use of an expression that is usually taken from the Gospel of the day, (for example n. 5951). He usually returns to the Gospel in the second part of the sermon such as, “As the Gospel says … Since the Gospel goes on to say … The Gospel text also says[181] …” etc.

The concrete applications to particular classes of society which indicates their specific sins is very effective as when he describes the dishonesty of merchants and extortion of usurers using very strong catchphrases:

Brothers, what is to be done? You can see that usury always rules. The blood of the poor is shed for ten ducats. Interest is placed on interest until his house, vineyard and everything that he possessed is lost and what is worse they are never given back, and even worse they are not maintained. Because the world is filled with so many traps it is necessary to ask the help of Jesus Christ and cry out with the Prophet David saying: Domine, emitte manum tuam de alto, eripe me et libera me de aquis multis et de manu filiorum alienorum [Ps 144:7]. [182]

These businessmen or merchants are so used to being wicked in their transactions and commerce or negations, that they suffer great loss without realising it. They are like some of the other traders that can be found in Scripture. They do the same thing as Adam who lost original justice for an apple, as Esau who gave up his birthright for lentil soup, Dinah the daughter of Jacob for wanting to see something out of curiosity lost her virginity, Judas handed Christ over for a few coins and Pilate out of friendship for Caesar perverted true justice. Now these traders are gaining the world and losing paradise.

Wretched and foolish children of Adam, why are you not practicing holy usury that would have us act within his law? Do you not know that he said that the kingdom of heaven (hoc est negotium illorum qui possessuri sunt regnum coelorum [this is the task of those who will inherit the kingdom of heaven]) consists in being known as his servants. He gives five talents to some, two to some and one to others. The one who had five worked with it and acquired another five, the one who had two gained another two, the one who had one fodit in terram et abscondit pecuniam domini sui [Mt 25:18]. He rewarded those who had made a profit. He punished the one who had hidden it. My dear brethren, the talents are the graces that the Lord gives in this life. They should be used in the service of the Lord. Just as knowledge is used to teach our neighbour, strength is to be used to help the Church, moderation is to be used to set a good example for others. Those who have five talents and gain another five are the ones who have kept custody over the bodily senses. Because of this they come to have ten talents, which represents observance of the ten precepts. Those who earn a further two are the ones who, by having control over the mind and actions, acquire the cardinal virtues. Thus, all of these will be rewarded by the great God in heaven.

However, the ones who digs a hole in the ground and bury their lord’s money are the ones who trade in worldly goods, the modern merchants who spend their talent, that is, apply their minds to earthly matters, making themselves famous in this life and devoting everything to doing business. Oculos suos statuerunt declinare in terram [Ps 17:11]. [183]

Equally effective, since they are almost photographic reproductions of contemporary behaviour, are the ways in which he lashes out against sinful gambling with games of cards or with dice. He says the same about the profane portraits in the homes of the wealthy and noble that display their own form so beautifully instead of that of the Crucified. He analyses the various expressions of educated and popular superstition. He pleads for the cause of the poor. Let us look at a few passages from various sermons that illustrate the case.

My beloved listeners, you also know that there are many people in the world who are involved in sinning with gamblers. Most noteworthy among people like this are those who when playing with someone notice that he curses when he loses. One like this plays to see his partner curse and this makes him laugh, when it should make his stop playing.

Included in these kind of people are those who provide people with dice and cards whom they know for certain only know how to curse.

These are the kind of people who take possession of a home through playing cards or dice just in order to have those people lose the house.

Included among such people are those who are legal officials who know that something is wicked and who do nothing about it. They know about the many blasphemies that have been uttered against God and they do not put a stop to them. It is worse when they allow this to take place when they are present while they remain silent quia qui tacit consentire videtur [since he who remains silent appears to be giving approval].

I say the same about someone who gives money to someone else to play on his behalf. … My brothers, I want to tell you once more that such gamblers are mad, indeed stark-raving mad, since they subject themselves to the demands of cards and dice more than submitting to God’s holy obedience. We know of saints who have given up their entire substance to do what God wanted and what was pleasing to him. We read about St Martin who ever gave half of his cloak whereas, people such as these, when they lose, give up their shirt and trousers at the whim of cards and dice. They are fools because they are acting foolishly. This is acting like a mad person who was well dressed, who strips himself naked and throws away his clothes and invites others to do the same. A gambler gambles his clothes and all that he possesses and invites others to do the same thing, not only risking their clothes, but their soul, the garment of grace and invites other people to perdition.[184]

How wonderful are the pictures that Christians have in their hall and palaces today! But what is in those pictures? They portray the image of Alexander the Great, Caesar, Pompey and kings like that. They might depict knights, such as Renaldo or Orlando. Some possess painting that the produce at exhibitions. Others portray the Battle of Gretia, the sack of Troy, the shipwreck of the Enea. Others depict Tullio Valerio the Great, Aristotle, Averroes, Plato and the like. Such people worship these paintings, showing them off by placing them in their halls so that we can consider them well-off. Would any proud person want to have David’s humility portrayed in front of him? Would an angry person want to have the meekness of Moses displayed before his eyes? Would an avaricious person want to see the poverty of Francis? Would a deceitful person want to see the steadfastness of Susanna or Joel displayed before their eyes? Would someone who feels no compassion for sinners want to see the Virgin Mary depicted as their advocate? Finally, I say, would someone who was unwilling to forgive his enemies want to see the Crucified Christ depicted before his eyes, who said: Pater, ignosce illis quia nesciunt quid faciunt [Lk 23:34]?

No, worldly minded people do not want to see this. They would much rather look at a beautiful hunt, a beautiful garden with its flowers and its ladies, a beautiful banquet. This is what they want to see and have before their eyes. Thus, they can forget about God and think about him no more … But what can I say about those who possess lurid pictures that display women taking the sun like prostitutes, and which serve no other purpose than to excite people to sin and entertain impure desires? Indeed, furthermore, there are paintings of both men and women with exposed bodies. Oh, what an abomination! Oh, how diabolical! Both those who paint them and those who display them are guilty of mortal sin because they cause a serious occasion of sin. Therefore, O Christian, I advise you, I beg of you, and, what is more, for the love you bear your soul, I oblige you to destroy the diabolical images you have in your hall and burn them and to replace them with images of the Crucified, and the saints who have been portrayed in such a way as to draw people to devotion and compunction of heart.[185]

In the second sermon that was preached on Monday of the fourth week in Lent he spoke at some length on popular and educated superstition.[186] It might be interesting to transpose the whole of it. The exhortation to love the poor is very beautiful and it says: “Tell me, my Brothers, if today you were to see the naked Christ going through the street and about to die from hunger at the corner of the road, what would you do? I am certain that each one of you would take off their own clothing to cover him and use the bread of you own mouth to sustain him. But what if the poor person was not Christ? Is the one who is starving, naked and in need not the one who redeemed you?[187]

He often concludes with a Biblical quote, applying it to different kinds of people. Here is a typical example:

Today I can declare and repeat what today’s Gospel said: Dicunt et non faciunt, they talk but do not act, because they would have said when they were baptised: Abrenuntio Sathanae et pompes eius [I do renounce Satan and his pom], and yet they have not put this into practice because they have made friends with the Devil and have continually embraced pomp.

Dicunt et non faciunt, like priests and clerics who say: Domine pars hereditatis meae [You are my inheritance, O Lord] when they continue to keep their inheritance on earth and appear to have renounced their heavenly inheritance.

Dicunt et non faciunt, like religious who vowed to observe their Rule and do not observe it.

Dicunt et not faciunt, like some of us preachers who preach about the lifestyle of a genuine servant of God and then do just the opposite.

Dicunt et non faciunt, like many women who make many vows and then do not observe them or carry them out as they are supposed to do.

Dicunt et non faciunt, like many Lords who weigh people down with many burdens and do not want to alleviate them.

Dicunt et non faciunt, like many legal officials who command that no one does evil and condemn someone who has done evil, while continually practicing extortion especially by showing favour to a relative or to gain the favour of a Lord.

Dicunt et non faciunt, when salesmen say what they are selling is good and it is not good. They tell you something as a friend and let you down. Others promise to pay you and then deceive you. The person who practices usury pretends to be showing mercy. He then repossesses your house; finally, I maintain that the entire world is fraudulent because it says one thing while having the opposite in its heart. Et idio dicunt et non faciunt. [188]

When speaking about the love of neighbour on Good Friday he presented another foreceful picture of society. He introduced it saying: just as it would be a violent thing to bite one’s own flesh or limbs, it would also be an audacious thing not to love our neighbour. You know that this is true once you have experienced the love of all being members of the same body in Christ, and members of one another. This is what the Apostle says: Omnes enim unum corpus sumus in Christo; alter alterius onera portate [We are all one body in Christ; we carry each other’s burden]… However, because our neighbour is not taken into consideration, nor given assistance, not even provided with support, but is more likely to be rebuffed, injured, killed and struck down, people who are acting like wild dogs turn on their own members. Without recalling that they are part of the mystical body they become violent. This is the cause of innumerable thefts, upsets and murders. This is why I have decided to speak about love of neighbour. So I beg of you out of charity to listen to me willingly. This embraces the entire Christian law …”[189] In the first part of the sermon he explains how we should love our neighbour, that is as Christ loved him, purely, strongly, fruitfully, freely, “intensively, ardently and with great expansive fervour, unto the end,” with zeal and in the proper way. He makes a comparison between this and his contemporary society which he says does just the opposite. He goes through the different social classes drawing comparisons that are contemporary and accurate:

Come here, Christians, let us discuss a little. Where can one find brotherly love today? Is there anyone who loves his brother as he loves himself?

If we talk about those who work in the fields, we see that they steal, ruin the vines, farms, seedlings and the possessions of their masters showing no mercy, and even kill the animals.

If we talk about craftsmen, they carry out their work in a very shameful way, making it look good when it is not good but defective and they sell you one thing saying that it is another.

If we speak of merchants, they do nothing but practice usury, sucking blood out of the poor and in the long run mercilessly repossessing everything that they have.

If we speak about officers of the law, they exact a thousand extortions. An actuary or notary writes down one thing instead of another. They know de cause scientiae that someone is the victim of calumny and do not rid him of this but make it worse.

If we speak of Lords, they act like tyrants with respect to their vassals and ruthlessly take whatever they have. They oppress the good ones and promote the bad ones.

If we speak about governors, we find that they are dishonest and do not worry about shaming a family by staining one of their children only to satisfy an inordinate desire.

If we speak about the elderly, they practice tricks. If they are servants, they steal from their masters. If they are Church people, they are greedy for profit. If they belong to the armed forces, they are rude in the way they strike. If they are women, they are ready to destroy reputations. It they belong to the court, they criticise others. If they are religious, they play their own games to discomfort one another. Thus, it is clearly evident that we cannot find this love of neighbour. [190]

He makes frequent use of examples which are skilfully developed with variations and additions. The use of a form of questioning is very valuable. It is sometimes set out as a hypothetical conversation with the people. Such a rhetorical device is effective when dealing with points involving moral applications or objections. For the most part the examples are taken from the Bible or the lives of the saints. Some also involves hypothetical human persons and the workings of natural phenomena. There references to local history and historical events. One could compose an “album of examples” for Giovanni Maria da Tusa.

It is typical of him to give examples that increase in significance. In his sermon on the Friday following Ash Wednesday, which we have already quoted, he explains the subject of how Christians ought to love and forgive their enemies. After he has offered motives taken from the bible, the liturgy and Canon Law, he suggests acts of will that might move the hearts of his listeners to granting pardon by introducing examples with expressions such as these: “Now we finally come to the example of holy people and friends of God, of many good and genuine Christians, who observed this holy and irreprehensible command to love our enemies … We read how there was a certain young man … Again we read how there was a woman (meaning your women) … Again we read … We read about Blessed Joanne Gaulberto …” Then he adds: “Let us turn to Holy Scripture for a while to find wonderful examples in both the New as well as in the Old Testament”[191] … Finally: “Let us turn to the examples of Jesus Christ, so that we are able to conclude our sermon where we find vivid love of neighbour and enemies”, then bring it all together by, as usual, breaking into a most affective prayer.[192]

Sometimes the example is a genuine parable, like the marvellous one about the hen which is applied to the subject of keeping the Sabbath holy which is accompanied by an interesting application:

Wake up and realise how many sins you commit on the Sabbath Day and see that you offend God more on that day than on workdays. I want you to understand this by giving you an example.

If by chance a lord had cooked a hen and put it on a plate on his table, with is servant seated all around. Out of courtesy and kindness the Master, took the hen, cut it up and distributed it among his servants. He gave a wing to one, a hip to another, a breast to another and after he had distributed the lot, he gave himself the hen’s head. Now was this not a great deed of charity and kindness that the Master had shown towards his servants? It certainly was. However, if, after they had eaten their parts, the servants took the hen’s head that he had kept for himself from the Master, and to show contempt for him gave it to the dogs, would this not be the greatest act of ingratitude that the servants could show towards their Master? It certainly would be. Would they not deserve very great punishment? They certainly would. O Christian you are just as ungrateful towards God when you commit so many sins on the Sabbath Day. Take note of the interpretation.

The Master is the omnipotent God. The hen is time. The portions are days. God is the master of this time and of these days, because he made everything. The servants are the men of the world. He gave them all these to take care of their body. He only reserved the head for himself and this is the Sabbath Day or Sunday, which is the head and origin of all the days in the world and this day is set aside for serving God. Now the servants, or the men of the world, are not satisfied to take the head away from the Master and eating it. They do not spend it giving honour to God. and resting their body but they give it to dogs. Men of the world do not use Sunday to benefit their body, they give it to dogs serving the devils by the grave sins that they commit on Sunday.

You do not see that all the evils in the world are being committed on Sunday. They hold balls on Sunday, parade in ornate clothing, go hunting, host banquets and make preparations on Sunday. Those who want to play cards or throw dice do it on Sunday. Finally, I say that words cannot express the sins that committed on Sunday,[193]

Giovanni Maria da Tusa’s longest sermon was preached on Good Friday and ran to thirty-two pages of text. The subject was Christ’s Passion. It commented on all the Gospel accounts in a moving and meditative manner placing particular stress on Christ’s mental sufferings. This sermon is probably the most typical representation of his oratorical style and his doctrinal and theological teaching. By the use of literary imagery, he shows the capacity to emotionally dramatise apocryphal scenes. The material has been gathered from the “Meditation on the Life of Christ” that was attributed to Bonaventure and tells how Christ said goodbye to his Mother and got her permission before going to his death on the cross. We shall quote the story since it seems marvellous even at the literary level.

Devout souls, you ought to consider the sorrow that his Mother experienced considering that leaving him was such a major thing. This was because her sorrow was based on love and the more love a person has for something the greater the sorrow that they experience. Since the Blessed Virgin’s love for her only Son was far beyond that of any other mother, it was out of such incomparable love that she gave Christ up to death. Christ experienced no less love for his dearest Mother and when he asked her for her final permission and left, he experienced the greatest sorrow. Now in the morning, when it was time to eat, Martha prepared the meal for her Master, as she usually did, He wanted them all to eat it together including herself and his disciples. At that time Judas was not at Bethania under the pretext of having to go to Jerusalem to prepare things for the feast of the Pasch. He made arrangements with the Chief Priests so that they could prepare people for him to make the betrayal the following night.

When our Saviour came to the table and began to eat with his most holy Mother and the disciple, as he began to eat, he turned pale because he was frightened of the sufferings that his most holy Mother would have to undergo because of losing him. He felt so sad that he could no longer eat. When she saw this, his most holy Mother asked him what was wrong and he began to sigh and look at his most holy Mother with a tender heart. Because his tenderness could not stop him from crying, so that he would not burst into tears in front of the others, he asked his Mother to take him into a room as he wanted to speak to her in private. The poor Mother experienced great grief and wanted to know what the meaning of the tears was and what her Son wanted to tell her. Martha and Magdalene were standing close by to see the outcome of such grief. The Lord looked at his Mother frequently sighing deeply and could not begin to speak, impeded by the tears and sighing. The poor Mother cried because she saw her Son crying but did not know why.

At last the Saviour said: “beloved and revered Mother, you know that the time has come for which I came down to earth, took flesh in your virginal womb and remained there for nine months. I was born and fed on your milk. I was subject to you. I have to die out of obedience to the Eternal Father. Thus, the time has come when I have to leave you. Consequently, be comforted, have patience, bless me and give me your permission to go and carry out the command of the Eternal Father so that you may be quickly consoled, on the third day by my glorious resurrection.”

My beloved in Christ, consider the sadness that the most holy Mother experienced when she heard this. If, as the Mother, she would have cried when she had to give her Son permission to go to a far off place, or how a father would cry when his chose to go to a dangerous place, how do you think the Virgin Mary felt about giving her Son Jesus Christ permission to go to his death? It is certain that, having understood what was to happen, she was struck senseless, overcome, tongue-tied with grief and unable to speak, tears flowed profusely from her venerable eyes, and her hands and legs began to tremble from intense sorrow. In the end, after a long space of time, she started to speak in a weak voice saying: “O my Son, what kind of story is this? What bitterness has filled my heart? How can I watch you, my Son, going to your death? I cannot endure this or face up to it. My Son, may I not have to witness such cruelty and affliction.”

At the sobs and sighs Martha and Magdalene came running and when they saw the Mother and her Son crying, they too began to cry. Once they had understood what had brought this about and that it was over the death of their Lord and Master they began to cry more intensely and throwing themselves at the feet of Jesus they said: “O dear Master, what does this mean? We thought that you wanted to comfort us on this feast, not to abandon us! To whom will you leave your beloved Mother, your wretched disciples and the whole of your beloved family? O Lord do not cause us so much bitterness. Remain, Lord, to comfort those of us who are weak and infirm.”

Hearing the noise, the disciples came running and when they came to know the reason they too began to cry saying: “O Master, if you abandon us to whom shall we go? Who will teach us? Who will comfort us? “All cried like that others and John and Peter said: Cur nos Pater deseris? Cur nos desolatos relinquis? Invadent enim gregem tuum lupi rapaces [Our Father why do this? Why leave us desolate? For ravenous wolves will attack your sheep: Antiphon for vespers of the feast of St Martin of Tours, Bishop].

The holy Mother, who was more uneasy than anyone, having somewhat recovered her composure, knelt down in front of her Son. Sighing deeply, he raised her up and made her sit down. Then she said: “My dear Son, my hope, you are omnipotent, nothing can resist what you wish for. You can set mankind free without dying. You are very wise and know every possible way in which salvation could be achieved. You are very merciful and without going through your Passion you could wipe out the sins of men and forgive them for everything. Because of this I beg of you not to die, or allow youself to suffer death, since you could easily find another way of achieving salvation. Comfort my suffering if you want to be of any help to me”.

Her Son responded to these words with tenderness: “Venerable Mother, you know that I possess the same substance as my Father, and that I am omnipotent. It is necessary for me to endure an ignominious death on a cross so that the divine omnipotence might be shown more clearly when by dying on a cross with my bare hands fixed to the wood of the cross I would wipe out the forceful tyranny of the Devil over the world. This would also manifest the divine wisdom which is part of the hidden and unknown mystery of death on a cross, which means triumph over the malice of the astute serpent, which conquered man by using a tree. It would also demonstrate the great goodness of divine love that after God had been offended and mankind had done the wrong thing, in seeking reconciliation for this God himself came to mankind to lead it back to him, restoring it to peace by a death which he suffered to make up for what had been don, and so there is no other way to do this other than by dying to achieve the salvation of human kind. Be comforted therefore Mother, and be patient.”

Once she had grasped the meaning of this, the Sorrowful Mother replied saying: “My dearest Son, if you are able to do nothing but die on the cross, I implore you to at least to lessen the punishment and not make it any worse.”

Her Son said: “Mother, I cannot do that even though my sufferings were to be more excessive than all kinds of suffering. It is necessary that I have to undergo mind-numbing fear in the garden and so much agony in prayer that it will open my veins to shed blood. It is necessary that after I have been tightly bound, kicked and struck that I be taken to the High Priest and hit, and cursed in his presence and receive cruel blows to my cheek and then be taken to Pilate, where I will be accused of deserving death and be accused of being insane, taken before Herod and clothed in a white garment and, following many insults, be brought back to the Praetorium of Pilate. It is necessary that I be stripped, scourged till blood comes out of every part of my body and be clothed in purple and crowned with thorns, struck, receive spit in my eyes and have a reed placed in my hand and be adored while my head is lowered in shame. It is necessary for me to be condemned to death by Pilate and go to Calvary with the cross on my shoulder where I will be given gall to drink and stripped naked to be put on a cross with great criminals, having two thieves beside me, and thus surrender my spirit to the Father amidst intolerable suffering since it was written in Isaiah [53:2-3], Non est species neque decor: Vidimus eum et non erat erat aspectus; et nos reputavimus eum quasi leprosum, virum doloru.. In the same book: [Is 1:6] A planta pedis usque ad verticem capitis non est in eo sanitas. Thus, it is necessary to fulfil what was foretold in the prophecies in Scripture and what they have predicted about me.”

At this point, the disconsolate Mother who was overcome with sadness, collapsed on top of her Son as if she were exhausted and almost dead. However, her sweet Son comforted her and all the others, that is Magdalene, Martha and the disciples cried without stopping.

After a while, when she had composed herself, the Virgin said tearfully: “If it is the Father’s will that you, my Son, should undergo such suffering, I beg of you, at least not to suffer alone, but let me suffer the scourging, the crown of thorns the cross and death with you, so that I can take some comfort by doing this.”

The Lord replied: “Sweetest Mother, you do not understand. You cannot have such a grace because it does not become your sanctity to be subject to such shame or to die in front of such a crowd. However, you will not be spared from suffering since according to the prophet Simeon your heart will be pierced by the sword of suffering and compassion. It is none the less still necessary for me to endure death and the suffering on my own since I have to overcome then and triumph in accord with Isaiah wrote: Torcular calcavi solus et de gentibus non est vir mecum [Is 63:3]. Therefore, my Mother, ease your suffering. Our suffering will not last long since comfort with come about in three days and then I will return from death in glory, strip hell, bind Lucifer. At that time you will perhaps be the only one keeping faith, when all the others have been shocked and left me and lost faith and then you will be the only one to give them strength.”

Then when the Most Holy Mother had calmed down and become tranquil, she said: “May your will and that of the Eternal Father be done, my most sweet Son. I am contented to drink the very bitter chalice since this is what has been decided and predestined by your divine will and that of the Eternal Father.” Her Son said: “Holy Mother, it is time to go to Jerusalem and eat the Pasch. Give me your permission and your blessing.”

Consider the grief that the Mother experienced when she realised what the kiss meant. O how her heart was beating with sorrow as she bent down and said: “O my Son, if it were only possible for me to arrange that you would not have to leave me, I would come to death together with you. Indeed, your leaving me is the same as death.”

Her Son said: “My Mother you cannot do that. It is necessary for me to go ahead and open heaven and that you then follow me. It is also necessary that you remain in the world for a while, not only to comfort and teach my disciples, but also so that your way of life be an example for the entire world. Give me your blessing because it is time to go.”

Like someone who was sending her Son to death, the Mother said with many tears: “O blessed Son, whom the angels and all creatures bless because you and my God and my Lord, you ought to bless me. However, out of the authority I have as a mother, may you be blessed by the Holy Spirit, by whose power you were formed and conceived in my womb. May you also be blessed by the Father from whom you were generated from eternity. May you be blessed by me your unworthy Mother. My Son, I bless your most pure body, your most holy soul. I bless you with the milk with which, as a small child, I fed you. I bless you with the sweat and blood with which I served you. I bless you from head to foot, my very sweet and beloved Son”.

As Jesus Christ genuflected on the ground, he received the blessing. Out of those who remained he said to Magdalene and Martha who were crying bitterly: “Comfort and assist my Mother, because she is an outsider. Do not abandon her at this time of tribulation.” They knelt down and kissed his sacred hands and withdrew overcome by sorrow and an abundance of tears. In the same way when the disciples were leaving, they asked permission from the Virgin. She gave them her blessing and asked them to remember her Son, speaking especially to Peter and John. Then they all went with their Master to Jerusalem. However, the Mother did not leave, she could not follow in the footsteps of her Son. She followed him with her eyes for as long as she was able to see him. Then sighing greatly, she went back into Martha and Magdalene, continuing to cry and lament over her Son, her life, her consolation and her joy.[194]

These are certainly intensely emotional pages. They are filled with an imaginative meditation, which is extraordinary for one whose temperament was steeped in juridical culture. Even though the geographical scope of his preaching was restricted, his sermons are a clear reflection of southern society in the fifteen hundreds and a good example of popular evangelisation according to the Franciscan and Capuchin spirit.

b) Capuchin preaching in the last decade of the sixteenth century

In the years between 1571 and the end of the sixteenth century we come to a second phase in the preaching of the Order. It is a period during which preaching appears to have become more caught up in the milieu that surrounded Trent and the frame of mind of the Counter-reformation, and, even more, in the special needs of local pastors. The preaching becoming very vibrant and itinerant, displaying marked charismatic features with the appearance of various personalities.

Alfonso Lupo adopted a method that was brand new, unique and very personal. He was a member of the Spanish Discalced Franciscans who became a Capuchin in Italy. He immediately rose to the first place among preachers because of his prophetic impetuosity. He was a contemporary of Mattia Bellintani who possible was the most sought-after preacher in Italy in the last decade of the sixteenth century.

Even if we know little about what was preached in the first period, except through the many admiring documentary reports left by contemporaries, with regard to the second phase we have at our disposal an enormous amount of the texts of sermons, both those that have been printed and those that are in manuscript form, which require a great deal of study. It is certain that what he produced over an almost uninterrupted period from 1561 to1611 raises valid questions about sacred oratory in the sixteenth century because it bears witness to the change from simple popular preaching to something that is more developed both with respect to doctrine and oratory in the seventeenth century.

We discover a connection, as well as some differences, between Alfonso Lupo and Bellintani, that is similar to the link between Giuseppe da Leonessa and Lorenzo da Brindisi, two tireless preachers who were saints, intrepid apostles, ready to do anything for the salvation of souls and the conversion of infidels and heretics. We could say that Giuseppe was a preacher in the countryside who was itinerant and fiery coming off having experienced hardship as a missionary in the Near East. Lawrence was like a deep river of oratorical wisdom. His preaching was not so obviously itinerant, moving from one Lenten Course to another in different cities, as was the preaching of so many of his fellow friars. Rather, it reflected his time in the countries beyond the Alps where there was an atmosphere of controversy and it contained serious theology and spirituality. We have abundant material for both saints in the form of manuscripts and modern editions.

The second phase came to an end with the first Capuchin Apostolic Preacher and Cardinal, Anselmo Marzati da Monopoli, some of whose sermons are contained in certain manuscripts that deserve to be better known.

1) The Reformist and Prophetic features in the preaching of Alfonso Lupo

Alfonso Lupo’s arrival in Rome in 1571 to take part in the General Chapter of the Observants as the Custos General of the Spanish Province of San Giuseppe, when he was accompanied by the Minister Provincial, Pietro di Lerez,[1] was the occasion of his first Lenten sermon in Italy. The Lenten Course was preached in S. Giovanni dei Fiorentini in 1572. Before he transferred to the Capuchins in 1574, other sermons were preached in S. Girolamo della Carità in the environment of the early followers of St Phillip Neri.

His preaching in Rome was not just as matter of creative talent. It was the fruit of lengthy apostolic experience that had already come to maturity in Spain where he had become very popular and had influenced hundreds of young university students to enter religious life.[2]

In 1571 he was about fifty years old. He was in rather delicate health and he had been a friar for about thirty years and was at the height of his priestly activity. He had a taste for spirituality and was associated with the reform of the Church. Moving away from the Observants he became a Recollect and then an Alcantarine or Discalced Friar and as such he came to Rome. He immediately came into contact with the reformist spirituality of the Oratory of St Phillip Neri and met St Felice da Cantalice and came to know the Capuchin Reform, which he regarded as being the most suitable environment in which to satisfy his aspiration for spiritual renewal. His contact with the Oratory which included his contributing to discussions and teaching, prayer and chanting aroused immediate attention and admiration, so that he was entrusted with preaching the Lenten Course.

His way of presenting the word of God must have been very close to the emotional, popular and successful style of the Oratory, minus the oratorical affectation, baroque-like decoration and vague inferences that were common in contemporary sacred oratory.[3] When St Phillip Neri wanted to gain an experience of humility he went to the friary at Araceli. After he spoke to him very personally in an informal manner he formed the opinion that he was a genuinely virtuous person and he always considered him to be a saint.[4] A priest from Pavia who was a member of the Oratory and who was giving evidence at the process for the canonisation of St Phillip Neri, declared that Father Lupo was “a genuine preacher of the word of God in our days,”[5] In the same year, 1610, while St Lorenzo da Brindisi was in Prague, as Commissary General to give the first patents for preaching to the first preachers in the Commissariat of Bohemia and Austria, when he preached he exhorted the new preachers to be zealous about regular observance, fervent in divine love, in love with the cross, holy prayer and devotion, and to achieve this he challenged them with the example of Alfonso Lupo.[6] Carlo Borromeo was also fond of him and used him in Milan for as long as possible, as we shall see.

The best image of Alfonso Lupo as a preacher can be found in the papers of Cardinal F. Borromeo. There he describes him as the ideal “evangelical preacher” because of his striking and unique way of presenting what is ascetical in a manner that includes what is scholarly, penitential and contemplative. (cf. nn. 2235-2254). Lupo did not enjoy good health. While he was preaching the Lenten Course in Milan he stayed in the Bishop’s palace as if he were in a hermit’s hut. He slept on a mat in the corner, stretching out a piece of it to act as a roof. He sat on the ground to meditate and write his sermons. When he roused himself from a state of recollection to go into the pulpit his eyes were so inflamed that they seemed to be on fire. He attached a bronze crucifix to his body as if it were a sword. This provoked heart rendering discussions.

He took his inspiration for denouncing evil from the prophets. He delighted in meditating on and reading the books of the prophets. He was well versed in the whole of Scripture. The quotations were cited in their original context, but with such clarity and simplicity that they did not appear to clutter the sermon. There was no sign of oratorical technique and the sermon did not appear to have been divided into sections, and yet it possessed incredible strength and proficiency. He said of himself how he had undertaken studies: “Following the usual courses in philosophy, but prompted perhaps by divine inspiration, I began to carefully read the books of the Old and the New Testaments. Then I began to note the passages that struck me in a special way, thinking that they might prove to be useful. I committed them to memory so that I could use them where and when I wanted to while I was preaching.” (n. 2252).

There was a choice maxim that he often repeated: the evangelical preacher did not need to do a lot of study, but needed a lot of prayer, even though the sermon required a lot of careful preparation. The aim was to warm the hearts, motivate the will and convert people to Christ. A saying that was very common at the time, provided a good description of the sacred oratory that was typical among Capuchins preachers: Toletus docet, Panigarola delectate, Lupus movet, that is, the Jesuit Toletus is the master of doctrine, the Franciscan Observant Francesco Paniggarola is the master of eloquence, but the poor Capuchin Lupus persuades, and moves hearts and changes lives by means of the fervour and ardour of the emotions. [7]

However, what was his preaching really like? Can we read one of his texts? Indeed, there were written texts. We know that St Joseph of Leonessa made use of one,[8] and that St Charles told the Oblate Pietro M. Vegezzi to transcribe his sermons.[9] However, none of this has remained with us. The few surviving manuscripts contain texts that were composed while he was still in Spain and they are all written in Spanish except a commentary on the prophet Isaiah which was written in Latin.[10] There is a collection of eight sermons in Spanish that extend from Easter to the Domenica in Albis (Second Sunday of Easter) and a commentary on the Our Father.[11] We have not seen this material and consequently the only window that was open with regard to his preaching were the notes left by an anonymous listener who was a companion of St Phillip Neri. He would have heard him preaching in Rome in 1571/72. (nn. 5900-5933).

They are only notes that have been somewhat extended by some statements that Lupo made during his sermons and which are introduced by expressions such as: “Father Lupo used to say …Father Lupo started to say …said … said …” There is no way that we can reconstruct the structure or sequence of the sermons from such notes. All that we have are fragments and passages that are closely associated with the spirituality of the Oratory, the reform of the Christian lifestyle of the laity, religious and priests and the celebration of the Sacraments, listening to God’s word, devotion to the Madonna, the spirit and practice of prayer and love of Christ and of the Church.

Yet some characteristics still stand out: a personal way of commenting on God’s word, without burdening it with other lengthy texts from Scripture or from the Fathers, while yet directly applying them to concrete living. There is also the direct and penetrating use of examples and comparisons which make his train of thought extraordinarily incisive, clear and realistic. Most of all we note his courage in defending the poor, in opposing and denouncing abuses and speculation in business and politics especially when this is perpetrated by important and powerful people, or ecclesiastical and religious authorities who give bad example to Christians and scandalise those who are not Christians. Using the logic of the Gospel he was particularly strong in his condemnation of juridical privilege and of conforming to what was wrong. In doing this he displayed a very similar attitude to Bernardino Ochino.

The message of reform in his preaching, which some saw as ethically rigorist and rebellious, was in fact the spice that attracted many people to listen to him as the clear voice and the effective defence of the rights of the poor. He did not hesitate to confront local authorities, even directly, as he did when he faced the Marquis of Ayamonte in Milan and others in Naples, Venice and elsewhere.

He always began with a passage from the Gospel of the day drawing from it parallels that were clear to the people to whom he was speaking. He often named people or groups of people, especially those who were rich and nobles who were always those who were the guiltiest of the “outrages” mentioned in his sermons. Indeed, he was forthright in exposing the most hidden defects and the many social ideologies that contravened the Gospel. He did this with subtle, cutting irony, with deep understanding of the human heart to the point that he appeared to be able to read consciences. Here is an example. He preached to the nobles in Venice in 1588 and they said among themselves: “What is it about this priest whom everyone is praising and following, that he says so many things against us and none of us dares to contradict him, or even silence him?”[12] The same could be said about the clergy “who listened to the Father in fear, because he knew their defects so well that it seemed that he knew what was in the hearts of each one of them.”[13]

His word was so forthright that he even dared to go against the current by rejecting certain Spanish and clerical Church politics while remaining a much-loved preacher who was widely sought after yet feared. This is clearly shown by his courage in rejecting the Statute of Toledo on the grounds that it contravened the Gospel. This Statute discriminated against the conversos, that is, those who had converted from the Jewish faith. He spoke out against abuse of Church benefices and simony. He criticised lack of action by the Spanish crown and some practices of imprisonment in Rome when he was forced to leave the pulpit in the Church of S. Giovanni degli Spagnoli and suspended for some months, just to please the Spanish authorities.[14]

Yet he was the beloved preacher of bishops and saints during the sixteenth century following the Council of Trent. Sant’Alessandro Sauli asked him to accompany him to Corsica in 1576. St Phillip Neri asked him to preach for two consecutive years in 1577/78 in the Chiesa Nuova, which started a practice that was officially revived by the Fathers of the Oratory at Villacenza on 27 June 1597 when, in order to please the people, they decided to recommence the Lenten Courses that had lapsed. It was laid down that “when appointing preachers, great care was to be taken to have preachers who had an excellent way of life and doctrine. Everyone would be particularly gratified to have a Capuchin” because they were “the speakers who were closest to the hearts of the people”.[15] Cardinal Gabriele Paleotti, Archbishop of Bologna, succeed in having him for the Lent of 1578 and wanted to keep him for a few more months to reap the fruits of what he had sown during Lent. Instead of that St Charles Borromeo took him to Milan, something that he had been working towards since 1576.

More than anything else the Saint [Borromeo] valued the preaching charisma of Lupo and his “zeal”, as he called it, that had lasted for almost two years between 1577 and 1580. He would have kept him longer, since he had permission from his superiors “to keep him for as long as he liked”, as he wrote to Cardinal Paleotti. Indeed, he was so anxious to make use of him as his main preacher for a longer period that he said to Monsignor Speciano, “The Lord Cardinal of Santa Severina allowed me to have Father Lupo for as long as I liked, which would be until he died or I died. I do not want him so as to introduce new practices, I want him to continue as is, without changing anything, for he gives so much satisfaction to Milan.”[16] In the meantime, however, many other bishops and cities had asked for him and he had to let him go.

All of this is well documented in an important study by Father Merelli which is the fruit of his endless research into the immense number of letters written by St Charles [Borromeo]. The letters that are contained in his study provide a detailed picture of Lupo’s style of preaching as it was set out in the notes taken in Rome. The Saint was very demanding. He wanted to have preachers of the highest quality and he ascertained whether the individual had the gifts that he wanted. In 1578 he wrote to the Bishop of Lodi, Girolamo Federici, concerning another famous Capuchin preacher: “Please give me more precise information as to whether he is firmly rooted in doctrine, is a spiritual person and whether he inspires people very much.”[17] He does the same with respect to the famous preacher Francesco Panigarola, an Observant friar, when he writes to Monsignor Speciano: “Tell me exactly and diligently whether Father Panigarola, who preached the Lenten Course, did it efficiently, whether he moved the people, whether he dealt with it in a spiritual manner or pompously, whether he pleased spiritual people, whether he accepted suggestions willingly, and whether he is genuinely a spiritual person and an Observant, far removed from currying favour and is a humble man.”[18]

He found that Alfonso Lupo possessed all of these characteristics to the highest degree, especially the proverbial “spiritual character” of his sermons, by means of which he “moved the people”, persuading them to change their way of life. To achieve this, he made great use of “special situations” which he took from the Gospel of the day, and from the Prophets, especially Isaiah and Jeremiah, and the Psalms. In doing so he was following the method that was set out by Federico Borromeo in 1579, when he preached the Lenten Course in Bologna in 1579 (cf. n. 2252). This method made a great impression on St Charles himself as is evident from his wonderful letter to Giambattista Castelli, Bishop of Rimini, in which he presented this method as a very effective style of preaching that he had adopted himself because it made a deep impression on people. He made a distinction between informal and wide-ranging sermons and those that were formal and followed the rules, those that were scriptural lessons and those “feverous exhortations” delivered on special occasions and which were brief and delivered outside Mass, for example during the Forty Hours. The text is important and deserves to have its salient points quoted:

When I regularly preach in the Cathedral at the sung morning Mass that I celebrate together with others on special Feasts in the Diocese, I usually begin quite briefly, not mentioning anything that is not connected with the subject. I do not talk about myself or anything like that as many preachers do. I frequently make use of the method which Father Lupo uses, beginning with the Gospel and explain it in a few short words. Sometimes a person from the Old Testament is introduced, or a few short passages on the subject are quoted. Sometimes I take the introduction from what is happening at the time, even that very morning. Such an introduction is more motivating and has a stronger effect. In this matter it seems to me to be a good rule not to make a firm rule or to always use the same style. […]

When I preach a short sermon outside of Mass when there are prayers, the Forty Hours or something like that, or when on visitation, I begin with the sign of the cross without saying anything else.

In addition to the introduction, I usually divide formal sermons into two parts. The short interlude that occurs at that time is very useful, not only for resting a little and encouraging recollection, but for entering into the rest with more commitment and spirit, for providing people with the opportunity to give alms to help some poor person, or to show some compassion, or to softly make some announcements urging them to pray for what they need for themselves. This can be very moving and excite emotion. Sometimes I begin the second part introducing a different personage or quote which is not different from the rest […].[19]

However, I do not wish to impose the need to have to always preach or deliver sermons in this way since that would cause real difficulties. V. S. [Your Reverence] might deliver longer or shorter sermons as you wish. […]. In order to arouse devotion or emotion, it seems to me that it is very useful to often make room for the Prophets, especially Isaiah and Jeremiah, explaining them fully and with their moral meaning […].[20]

He also advised the Bishop of Rimini to select “passages from Scripture that applied to the subject on which he wanted to speak and to deal with them well and fully,” without spending too much time on the authority of the Holy Fathers who “deal with them at length and take up a lot of time.”[21] In all of this we can clearly see the influence of Lupo.

With regard to the “essagerazioni” [forthright applications] that have been mentioned one could quote many noteworthy examples, such as the one mentioned by Nicolo Galiero, the Vicar General of Milan, in a letter to St Charles in 1579:

On the morning of the feast of San Bartolomeo [24 August] when Father Lupo had moved from Genoa because of the plague and other arrangements were underway, I took the opportunity to have him address the people on amending their way of life. This Father spoke so well that I would have liked the whole of Milan and the Diocese to have heard him. He talked about the passage in Isaiah that says: At the first time the land of Zebulon was lightly touched etc. [Is 9:1] accusing it of such ingratitude, continuing to commit the same sins, increasing in pomp and going much further. The Holy Spirit inspired him with such great thoughts that he must have moved everyone.[22]

The crowd at his sermons is continuing to grow and I hope they are producing a lot of fruit. When speaking last Sunday on the Gospel of the Day that dealt with the lady taken in adultery [Jn 8:1-11] he made us of Our Lord’s writing the sins of the bystanders on the ground and applied it to those who believed they knew and had discovered the sins of prelates and who leave the Church in the same way that the Pharisees one after the other leaving our Lord alone, just like the women of Milan are doing, when they show little respect when they go into the Churches without a veil, with such splendour and pomp and go to other Churches etc.. The same can be said of the men. On top of that they act atrociously as Isaiah says in chapter three, they have: Instead of curled hair, baldness (Is 3: 24). Then he wished that on all the women in Milan.[23]

As he usually does, last Sunday Father Lupo delivered a beautiful sermon in the Ambrosian Church in which he commented on the words of the Gospel of the Day, namely, “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low” etc. [Lk 3: 5] and went on to use this to challenge the nobles and those in power, especially the magistrates and those who are involved in the government, for not being concerned about hearing the word of God and the necessity and usefulness of it. On this he had a lot to say about those words of the Lord: “the Word of God came unto John” etc. [Lk 3:2] threatening them with great material and spiritual ruin because of their neglect. In particular he named senators, governors and judges etc.., including their friends and staff in order to make them understand that in doing this they burden their consciences with spiritual stench. On the one hand this pleased me since it is the truth. On the other hand, he may not have needed to make so obvious who he wanted to name. Yet I believe that he was moved by the Spirit of the Lord who was speaking through him. I have not yet heard that anyone was upset.[24]

One feature of Father Lupo’s preaching that is emphasised in the Annals of Boverius, and which most probably because of this Vasques considered it to be “just part of writing the life of a Saint”,[25] is its prophetic character which is typical of his “forthright applications”. This is what made such a deep impression on his listeners and amazed them so much. For example, he did this in Rome in 1577. Monsignor Speciano wrote to St Charles: “If Lupo’s outbursts do not wake us up I do not know what will. He stated from the pulpit that a great affliction was coming to the city, which would cause great anxiety (according to him),” (cf. n. 2129) and to Milan in 1579/80. “He was clearly predicting that in addition to the recent plague, God wanted another scourge to come upon Milan, and this appears to have been the death of the Cardinal. The same priest also predicted that the reform of the Church was imminent.”[26]

Finally, we have still to consider the last feature of his oratorical activity. This is perhaps what is seen most frequently in images, what impressed the people and what was a famous part of Capuchin preaching. This is the use of a crucifix. Lupo held the crucifix in his hand, spoke to it with sentiments of compunction, sometimes in very tender words and at other times in a loud raucous voice. His acclamations were filled with devout ardour and were full of sighs that made people cry and moved many sinners, particularly nobles and young people to be converted.[27]

According to Cardinal F. Borromeo, because of this Alfonso Lupo’s preaching was “new and unusual” and not according to the traditional rules of the artes praedicandi. Without wanting to do so, he adopted a very personal way of preaching that became representative of his period and many tried to imitate it, making fools of themselves or even becoming ridiculous, as Borremeo says (cf. n. 2248). Giovanni dell’Aquila, who was a Capuchin preacher from the Roman Province, says confidentially: “To do what Lupo does one would have to possess Lupo’s ardent spirit” (cf. n. 12 66).

Among the Capuchin friars his personage remains the unbeatable model of an evangelical preacher and an obligatory point of reference, especially due to his strong penitential and contemplative spirituality and his ardent love of God, which was the secret of his great success.

2. The sermons and preaching of Mattia Bellintani da Salò

Before he developed a “taste” for the preaching of Father Lupo, St Charles Borromeo employed the services of Mattia da Salò for the Lenten Course in 1571. He also tried to engage him later on, letting him go only 1582. The basic reason for this pastorally motivated preference was his certainty about the spiritual productivity of his preaching. After he had failed in making several attempts to secure Bellantini, he wrote to the Cardinal Protector, G. A. Santori, saying that he had already been engaged to preach in Bergamo “both I and my Church have been deprived of the fruitfulness that would have resulted from the sermons of this priest.”[28] His sermons had a somewhat different style from the sermons of Alfonso Lupo, but they were just as fruitful as we can see when we read and study them carefully since most of them are still preserved either in printed or manuscript form.

Following the example of his uncle, Cardinal F. Borromeo also had a great appreciation for Mattia da Salò’s preaching and he listened to him willingly. Indeed, he conceived the idea of printing them and donated abundant funds to this project.

Inventory of the published and unpublished sermons and where they were delivered

In order to gain a more precise and orderly understanding of this we will make a complete inventory of the material that is available at present. Naturally we are speaking about writings that have survived following the suppressions and various misfortunes suffered by the archives, because there were many more manuscripts as we can see from catalogue of the library in Salò that has been published by Bonari.[29]

In fact, five manuscript codices and five printed volumes of sermons have been preserved. Four codices are held in the Provincial Archives of the Lombardy Province (APCL) in Milan. They contain two complete courses of sermons for Advent and two incomplete courses for Lent and all together they contain fifty sermons. We may add to these a folder that contains thirty-four sheets that contain “Discorso della vera beatitudine sopra la parole dello Apocalisse: Beati mortui qui in Domino moriuntur.” [Discourse on genuine beatitude based on the words in the Apocalypse: Blessed are those who die in the Lord].[30]

Another manuscript which is held in Milan in the Biblioteca Francescana S. Angelo by the Friars Minor contains thirty-three sermons that were delivered between Sexagesima Sunday and Easter Monday. It is an important manuscript because it is almost completely handwritten, with dates appearing on almost all the sermons together with additional changes to the introductions and other parts of the sermons.[31]

The following volumes are available for the sermons that had been published: 1) In sermones Seraphici Doctoris S. Bonaventurae, et in Evangelia de temporae a Paschate usque ad Adventum Scripturales Introductiones, Venetila 1588, 1000 coll. + 16 pp. n.n.; 2) Della dolori di Christo Sig. Nostro. Prediche otto con alter quattro d’altre materie, In Bergomo 1598, 334 + 40 pp. n.n 3) Quattro prediche …, In Brescia 1598, 112. pp. 4) Essagerationi morali, In Salò 1622, 736 + 64pp. n.n. 5) Quadragesimale Ambrosianum duplex, in duos tomos divisum, Lugduni 1624, 2 v., 970 + 114 n.n. and 982 + 90 pp. n.n. (other items in Lyons in 1625 c a Köln in 1626 e 1681).[32] In all we can read one hundred and sixteen sermons in these one hundred and twenty-six books. Perusing these volumes makes an analysis of the nature of Mattia’s preaching possible but still complex.

We gain assistance in determining the geographical scope of Bellantini’s preaching from annals composed after 1611 by his younger brother Father Giovanni da Salò, who was also a Capuchin (cf. nn. 6025-6047). We know that at the age of twenty-six, fresh from his priestly ordination, after preaching in the friary church in 1561 Bellantini delivered his first sermon to the people in the church of the friary at Foligno and then preached in various places in Umbria until1567. From 1568 to 1570, at the invitation of St Charles Borromeo, he preached in Milan. From 1576 to 1578 he was in France and then until 1602 (except for 1594-96 and 1599 because of illness and other pastor needs) he preached in various districts in the north of Italy, from Liguria to Venice, also going to Bologna in 1580, Messina in 1583, Umbria in 1584, and Lucca in 1590. In the three years from 1603 and 1605 he preached in Prague in Bohemia and from 1606 until his death he returned to preaching in various cities in Lombardy.[33]

To his extraordinary activity in Advent and Lent, Bellintani added many other activities that were more or less connected to each other. He delivered instructions and propagated the Forty Hours. We put this aside for the moment and will treat it elsewhere.[34] He established or revived many confraternities in different cities, primarily to promote religious sentiment but also to bring people together. He provided courses about Scripture for the people that, for example, dealt with the Book Tobias and the Psalms, the prophet Ezekiel, Genesis, the Apocalypses etc. He was entrusted with establishing the Order in France as well as in Bohemia. He undertook ecclesiastical diplomatic and peacemaking missions. He delivered lectures to students within the Order. Together with all of this he was an insatiable reader, deep thinker and spiritual writer.

The first published collection of sermons and its significance

Having the temperament of a scholar, his sermons were the result of a vast personal doctrinal and scriptural preparation, preserved in a prodigious memory that enabled him to write down instinctively what he subsequently proclaimed from the pulpit. At the same time, he knew how to extemporise on any biblical subjects because he was such a very prolific spiritual thinker and author (cf. n. 6035).

His teachers had been such great preachers as Francesco Arconi da Milano, known as Meazza (S 1583), who had been a pupil of Giuseppe Piantanida da Ferno from whom he learnt Philosophy, Girolamo Finucci from whom he learnt Theology in Naples, and Girolamo da Montefiore (cf. nn. 6025-26). This can account in part for the nature of the preaching of Mattia da Salò who, nonetheless, immediately adopted his own style even as an author. In fact, in 1588 in a letter to Orazio Mancini, who at the time the secretary of Cardinal Atonio Carafa, he revealed one of the secrets of his inspiration as the doctrine and spirituality of St Bonaventure as well as Biblical phraseology. Here are his words:

While I was still in Perugia I began to prepare a Lenten Course. At the time there was little that I could do in the way of reading. When I came back to my province, I occupied myself with commenting on St Bonaventure, doing as much work as I could on the first part. As I was doing this, a printer who was a friend of mine, in fact a relative, asked me if I would illustrate some old sermons that belonged to St Bonaventure so that they could be reprinted. I thought of doing this in the summer but because of the heat I occupied myself with something that was more important, setting the pen aside (for I was incessantly taken up with study). I created what you have here. V. S. (Your Lordship) can see, and as I later believed, that it was through God’s providence, that as I had never written good Latin, the style in which I wrote the Lenten Course turned out to be incoherent and mixed up, with the pen running on by itself while the hours slipped by until the book was finished. Because of this I had to rework everything that I had done on the Lenten Course. This is not the kind of work that anyone else can do, because what I say embraces Scripture in a way that would not be easy for others.

Therefore, I ask V. S. (Your Lordship) to accept the first part the way it is, and when you have assessed it, I ask you to let me know what you think so that in future I will try to correct my mistakes. I do not dare to present this to the Lord Cardinal because I think that would be presumptuous. When I have to give it to him, I want it to be dedicated to his Most Illustrious Person, since I have dedicated the Lenten Course to him in my heart […].[35]

We can deduce from this evidence that up until 1584, when he was made General Lector in the new friary in Perugia, Bellantini started to write his Lenten Courses in Latin, which he continued to do after the Lenten Course that he preached in Venice in 1586. Thus “he was assigned to the friary in Salò” and published an “iintroductio scriptualis” to some of the “sermoni vecchi” of St Bonaventure.[36]

It was his first attempt at publishing in Latin for the benefit of the entire Order, that was expanding throughout Europe. The objective was to familiarise friars with St Bonaventure’s teaching and spirituality (at the General Chapter in 1578 he had been acknowledged to be “Doctore da privilegiarsi”(the preferred Doctor) in theological, ascetical and mystical studies.[37] It also acknowledged how he had adapted the Saint’s texts to the modern way of preaching so that they could still be used as they were in ministry. It was a well-adjusted selection that would have a direct influence on his preaching method and its objective. It also influenced the general approach to studies and a strict correlation between Capuchin spirituality and practice and between initial formation and evangelisation.

Another aspect that was fundamental for Bellintani was that the style of oratory ought to conform to Sacred Scripture in that it simply announced the Verbum Dei. Barely hiding an attitude of what was almost religious jealousy, he considered this to be special a personal gift: “This is something that no one else can perform, since the manner in which I speak embraces Scripture in a way that would not come easily to others.” This characteristic was very clear to F. Borromeo who described it as a “new way to use Scripture.” (cf. n. 2255).

We need to study this aspect at depth to understand how Bellintani renewed sacred oratory by going back to Scripture as its main source. In fact, quotations from Scripture were incessantly interwoven into allegorical and mystical terms of speech and they brought about a unique quality of discourse. He endeavoured to carry out what the Tridentine Church wanted, not only by the use of the first person when preaching the holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ, after having made “diligent preparation and devising incredible applications”, and giving examples of a poor and austere way of life, but also by means of the doctrinal and moral constructs in which he cast his talks.

As we now flick through and read over his “scriptural introductions” to Bonaventure’s sermons we can appreciate his method which is classical and traditional in its structure. In practice the “introductions” make up a course of 39 sermons per annum, from the Domenica in Albis to the twenty fourth Sunday after Pentecost, which was from the middle of April until the end of November. They were based on Gospel passages that were taken from the readings on that day and, after some introductory comments, they were developed and expounded in the first and second parts of the talk with both parts ending with moral and practical applications.

Up to this point there is nothing that is particularly interesting except that when he uses thoughts that he has taken from Bonaventure, and which come from Bonaventure’s three part structure of the sermon, he makes a note of this in the margin referring to them as the “first”, “second” and “third’ points. Distelbrink says that we are dealing with short references of a “tenuous nature”.[38] The sermon is entirely personal. The thoughts unfold following a precise scheme that is developed in a succession of sentences and points that is full of Sacred Scripture with continual explicit and implicit commentary. This is done in a way that is quite natural and spontaneous. This is where he puts his “vigour”, his “capacity to be inventive” together with his “enormous memory” to good use in order to fill his discourse with inferences, words and images from the Bible. Thus, we can understand how he could say: “my talk embraces Scripture.”

He simply wanted to preach the Word of God. He usually expounded the Gospel passage in its literal and historical meaning while trying to lead his listeners to a deep, spiritual and mystical understanding of the passage but not as something that had been invented in his imagination. He brought everything back to what Christ and the Evangelist intended. This is always the underlying objective which is sometimes clearly stated: “See the clear message contained in today’s reading. It is just history plain and simple … now covered word and hidden manna. Its meaning is mystical. When he speaks the Lord of Truth unveils the meaning of what was contained in history etc.”[39] “let us first open the truth and the food that we are to taste…”. In the second part of the sermon he explains the spiritual meaning: “Having dealt with the literal meaning, let us talk about the mystical meaning which was the primary intention of Christ and of the Evangelist.”[40]

In order to make the meaning of his exposition more exact and complete, when he quoted the Latin Vulgate he often put the Hebrew word (hebraica lectio) beside it. When he added the moral application, he indulged in an abundance of exclamations. He reprimanded vices and praised virtues using personal terms, providing surprisingly true-to-life and vividly realistic descriptions of sinful situations as well as of the precise kinds of people involved. He would give many examples, as we can see when we read the sermon for the twenty third Sunday after Pentecost.[41] Another example can be found in his sermon for the eighth Sunday after Pentecost where his description of the circumstances is almost like a novel.[42]

(Translation note: these Latin examples from these sermons are omitted here but included within the text by Fr Costanzo).

There are many other “essagerazioni” (forthright applications) that constitute an important part of the structure of Mattia da Salò’s sermons. For the most part his preaching had a moral tone that presented the ideal of perfection for the individual as well as for society and rebuked vice in line with austere ascetical ideals of the Capuchins. Lack of mortification of the flesh, which was regarded as being the main causes of sin, a negative concept of women (which was one of the limitations of preaching at the time) were joined to the struggle against self-love and detachment from the world as topics that were typical of all the ascetical literature in the sixteenth century, which emphasised the unworthiness and debase character of human nature, and they were frequently mentioned in Mattia da Salò’s sermons. He lingered over such moral applications, letting his imagination run wild and this made an impression on young preachers who were not used to this kind of oratory. “Let us pay attention to vice –he used to say – not to people. Christ did so when he spoke. When you stress vice, it will bring about repentance.”[43]

A range of “forceful applications” for preachers

Mattia da Salò was so concerned about the formation of good preachers (we know of some of the excellent preachers from his school including Giovanni da Narni, Paolo da Cesena, Arcangelo de Bergamo and others) that he even wrote a collection of one hundred and sixteen “forthright moral applications” that his brother Giovanni da Salò publish in 1622 after Mattia had died. Giovanni understood that this was what his older brother had intended when he made a list of such items quite separately from the rest of the work. They appear to be short sermons that might help preachers.[44] In fact they deal with the part of the sermon that was considered to be the most difficult and important, promoting its objective and its fruit. The other parts which include the introduction, the logical development of the topics and the division of concepts as they were associated to the Word of God, were presumed to be more easily accessible. In doing this we see at least an indirect continuation of Father Lupo’s style that provided ample opportunity for “motivation” and persuasion.

In undertaking this publication, Giovanni da Salò has left us with magnificent evidence of his brother’s preaching. He wrote: “My bother Father Brother Mattia in addition to the fact that he was an exceptional preacher in his day, whom few if any could match anywhere, was most eloquent, very proficient in Sacred Scripture, very learned in Scholastic theology, very ingenious in inventiveness, and most affable in the way he presented himself and acted. However, what was above everything else of his most extraordinary accomplishment was the clarity of his thinking, the vigour of his actions and his ability to stimulate emotion. He shifted and changed moods at will and he caused the same thing to happen to his audience. This not only meant that he led them wherever he wanted but also when he raised his voice to call for mercy, to accuse sinners, to condemn vice, to reconcile enemies in public in the Church, the sermon ended very productively. This was evident in the most famous cities in Italy. Although this was not always sufficiently appreciated, it was because of this (since he was both the sponsor and teachers of others) that the most devout celebration of the Forty Hours had its beginning and came to an end with devout people in tears because the preaching had provoked tears.” [45]

We have chosen two typical examples from this volume. We have taken one from the Feast of the Assumption of Mary (nn. 6078-86), “his beloved” as he calls her since it was the equivalent of the “baptism” of his preaching (cf. n. 6027). The other example provides the reasons for the great importance and need for the teachings contained in the catechism (nn. 6087-97). The remainder of what is contained touches on the entire Christian way of life, “the vices and the virtues, punishment and glory.”[46]

If there was a call to preach about vices and virtues along with speaking about the last things, there was an even stronger invitation from the Church at that time to teach the people what they were to believe according to the precise dogmatic definitions that Trent had defined in opposition to the Protestants. Although he does not admit to being argumentative or controversial, Bellintani regularly speaks about such “Tredentine” topics as freewill, the necessity of works, theological research, the practice of the Sacraments, especially Confession and the Eucharist, devotion to the saints and the Madonna, the use of sacred images, indulgences and relics. He prescribes religious practices such as fasting, doing penance, and almsgiving that seem to pertain to a kind of external religious activity that is in line with the general practice. If on the one hand such religious activity as it was spread by the Capuchins and promoted in their preaching appears to be in conformity with Council teaching, by its very nature it tendered towards leading souls to having an emotionally contemplative and spiritual experience. In doing so it brought about an ideal link with the Catholic reform climate the existed before Trent (devotion moderna, Oratori del Divino Amore, Evangelism).[47]

Features of sermons held in unpublished manuscripts

The sermons that are contained in handwritten manuscripts in the small codex in the Biblioteca Francescana of the Friars Minor at S. Angelo serve the same purpose. We are almost sure that these sermons were actually preached in the pulpit and still contain traces of the way in which they were originally written. The study of these sermons would take up a great deal of space. Many problems arise concerning the way that they were copied and their date. However, we cannot deal with them here.[48]

When we read the sermon for Passion Sunday, which was preached in Milan on 1st April 1582 on the Gospel of the day that dealt with the raising of Lazarus (which we have chosen as an example) one comes to appreciate the professional manner in which the sermon was put together. The call of Christ that brought Lazarus back to life from the grave was interpreted by Bellintani as a strong invitation to prayer. Beginning from this he gives a short explanation of the salient points of the Gospel passage and passes on immediately to the spiritual meaning filling what he is saying with Biblical passages that provide a bird’s eye view of the universal power of prayer and its features, concluding with practical applications based on the image of the grave: “Come, come O Christian to Christ’s grave.” In this way he contemplates the various ways in which the Eternal Word is humbly present: in our human nature, in the stable at Bethlehem, on the cross, in the new grave, in the Eucharist “here, here on earth, in a crumb of bread,” thus joining Communion to prayer. (cf. nn. 6098-6114).

The text of the sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Advent that we have presented, and which was copied from another manuscript was not written in his own hand, yet it still shows the biblical, theological and pastoral potency of his preaching.

Beginning, as he always did, with the Gospel of the day, when commenting on the solemn words in Luke 3:1-2. Mattia comments on the extensive preparation that God made for the Incarnation of the Word and explains it briefly using biblical examples taken from the Old Testament. These preparations increased as the fullness of time approached. Thus he meditates on how John the Baptist prepared to welcome Christ reflecting on the baptism of Christ and the meaning of the mystical features in the symbol of the water, the Spirit and the word, connecting all of these to the spiritual interaction suggested in Scripture, while bringing the first part to a conclusion with practical moral applications.

In the second part he deals with our preparation for the coming of the word as well as for the Sacraments by fasting, by reading sacred subjects and by hearing sacred preaching. However, he stresses meditation of the grandeur of God and the inadequacy of human nature when preparing for Eucharistic Communion. It is here that he introduces the subject of humility and purity of heart suggesting an “examination of conscience, sorrow for sin, integral confession and good works.” He finishes with a “forthright application” against those who are distracted or superficial and encourages them to be contrite and make a humble confession and to be devout in dong penance and in meditating on Christ’s Passion, plunging into his wounded heart in order to discover his infinite love and then he breaks out into an ardent prayer. (cf. nn. 6115-47).

We see here that Bellintani’s ultimate objective was to lead people to an inner experience of faith through mental prayer especially through meditation on Christ’s Passion contemplated in the Eucharist as the essential door to total union with God as this is emotionally relived with the mind and heart before receiving Communion.

In order to understand this type of preaching it is necessary to emphasise the times for meditation that abound in the text of his sermons. This involves recalling the cross, or better still Christ Crucified which is the centre and climax of Capuchin preaching. The vivid imagination of the nails, the blood, and the thorns is not only a means of arousing the emotions of the faithful, but also an attempt to unveil a religious relationship by forcing God’s goodness to show itself.[49]

Even when he is speaking about the cult of the saints, another matter that was being debated, adhering to Catholic teaching, he insists on their role as intercessors and intermediaries, who were able to help people to cross the gulf that separated them from God. During the Counter-reformation this was graphically expressed in the pictures in which the devout person at prayer was depicted as being separated from Christ and the Virgin by a patch of cloud, with the saints remaining outside the supernatural zone, close to the one at prayer though having a share in the encounter with God.[50]

In Lucca in 1590 Bellintani dedicated two sermons specifically to the subject of sacred images.[51] In these sermons he followed the rule of St Basil, which the Council of Trent had adopted as the basis for the veneration of sacred images: “Honor imagines refertur ad prototypum [The veneration of images is paid to whom they represent].He also goes back to the decree for the more important role that images play in in relation to the three faculties of the soul: memory, intellect and will. In fact, he wrote: “They bring Christ’s mysteries back before our eyes. They place us at his birth, his life and his death …, there is almost nothing in Sacred Scripture or in our faith that cannot be recalled, represented and revived and almost relived by the imagination. When a simple person looks at the images, he learns what he did not know; an intelligent person remembers what was not in his mind. Because of what is made vividly present when they do this, both of them become aroused with sacred emotions … He sees Christ being born. He is moved to devotion. He sees him preaching. He is moved to watch him. He sees him acting in a saintly manner and he is moved to imitate him. He sees him dying and he is moved to having compassion.”[52]

The ascetical suggestions, the proposals that he makes in his teaching and the Christian lifestyle that Bellintani puts forward to the Christian people in his Lenten Courses can all be gathered together into one under the heading of the following and imitation of Christ. This is to be achieved by performing devotional practices and carrying out practical penitential exercises at the level of an intimate spiritual life in conformity to the Crucified Christ. This involves a person, no matter what his social status may be, in sharing Christ’s Passion, cross and death. This attitude towards the Crucified Christ is due to the influence of the spirituality of Bonaventure and the Spirituals especially Pietro di Giovanni Olivi, Angelo Clareno and Ubertino da Casale. It is interesting to see how he takes leave of the people at the end of a Lenten Course, leaving each social state with some spiritual thought that is in accord with their status, their gifts and yet is theologically profound and pastorally productive. This final sermon that comes from the handwritten codex has no date attached to it, which might not be unusual.[53] The text is so typical that we shall reproduce it here in full:

At the end of preaching it is good to make certain suggestions. In order to be brief, I wish to make only one. I recommend Christ to you. Obey, serve and honour him, in the first place as he is in heaven, then as he is in the Most Holy Sacrament, where you can honour him by praying to him with devotion, by accompanying him when he is taken out and by coming to him in Communion. Show respect for the places and the persons. They represent Christ on earth and take his place. Let them be respected appropriately. Let prelates, pastors, priests and spiritual fathers receive the respect that is due to vicars of Christ since that is who they are. May the poor, and those who are embarrassed in any way, because they represent God in this world, be given help, especially in religious places where assistance is offered and in hospitals run by religious men and women. Let Christ be welcome in your very selves and held in honour in your soul.

It remains for me to thank you for the kind attention that you have given me. I regret that I have not preached with the kind of spirit that is required in such a ministry. I ask God’s forgiveness as well as yours.

I will not put off giving you some relics that I have put aside for you as I have told you to obey the saying: Et sumens reliquias dedit eis [And bringing out some relics he gave them to them]. This will be in acknowledgement of your heart-warming attention. It is something that I ought to copy. So get ready to receive these holy relics. They are very important, so you ought to receive them with great devotion since they are relics of the Holy Cross. They are not only from Christ’s cross but also the crosses of others. They are indeed fragments of Christ’s cross, the cross of St Andrew, of St Peter and also St Phillip, St Simeon and St Francis, the Good Thief and some other ten thousand crosses.

Share them out so each one of you has something to touch. Let the priests stand to one side and the Masters to the other, so that the virgins, the widows, those who are married, the religious, the penitents, the children, the male servants and the maids will have their own places. Finally, there are also those who are unrepentant. Such a split up is required so that the priests may receive the cross of Christ, the Masters that of St Andrew, the Virgins that of St Peter the widows that of St Phillip, those who are married that of St Simeon, the religious that of St Francis, the penitents that of the Good Thief, the children, male servants and maids some of the ten thousand crosses. Thus, each one will have their cross. This would not be a material cross but a spiritual cross. The crosses that I want to give will bear much greater fruit than the cross to which Christ was fastened since even though that was the instrument of our salvation, it could not save the individual. Therefore, Christ did not command us to carry his cross but our cross. Did you not hear? Qui vult venire post me, abneget semetipsum et tollat crucem sum et sequatur me [He who wants to come after me, must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me].

He said this so that you would know that the whole life of a Christian must be lived on the cross. The flesh has desires, as St Paul said and as we experience, that are against the spirit and fights against it. The flesh longs for peace, seeks pleasures, flees from suffering, avoids toil, shakes off the Lord’s yoke, hates having to restrain itself. Whoever follows his appetites will go straight to damnation because he does not want to be saved. It requires strength to resist our inclinations, to forego pleasure, mount resistance and obey the spirit and what is God’s law. What is this but taking up the cross? He who is imitating Christ is a Christian. Therefore, a Christian way of life consists in following the example set by Christ. Christ was crucified. It is also our duty to become crucified and to carry our cross and be fixed to it.

What does St Paul have to say? Verbum crucis pereuntibus stultitia est [To carry the cross is foolishness]. Worldly people think that the cross is madness, and this is a sure indication of their damnation. Therefore, whoever wants to be saved must embrace the cross. Have I not told you that so that you would not forget Christ? You have to carve him into your hands the way that he did for you? He carved us into himself when he allowed himself to be crucified. Therefore, we ought to carve Christ into our hands by being fixed to the cross, by embracing suffering out of love for him and by pressing ahead by obeying his law and following his example. This is crucifying the old man as St Paul put it: Vetus homo noster simul crucifixus est ut destruatur corpus peccati [That our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with]. This is to crucify the flesh with its vices and concupiscence, concerning which the same Apostle said: Qui Christi sunt carnem suam crucifixerunt cum vitiis et concupiscentiis [And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts]. This is carrying the death of Christ in our body, concerning which he said: Semper mortificationem Jesu in corpore nostro circumferentes [always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus]. This is the act of being crucified with Christ which the Vessel of Election is talking about: Christo confixus sum cruci [I have been crucified with Christ]. This is being crucified to the world as the great Apostle puts is so magnificently: Mihi absit gloriari nisi in cruce Domini nostri Jesu Christi, per quem mihi mundus crucifixus est et ego mundo [Forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world]. This is carrying the stigmata and wounds of Christ in our body. Paul boasts about this so humbly, saying: Ego stigmata Domini in corpore meo porto [I bear in my body the marks of the Lord]. This is engraving Christ in our hands so that we too can also say to him: Non obliviscar tui; ecce enim in manibus meis descripsi te I will not forget you; I have inscribed you on the palm of my hand]. This is imitating our Divine Model the way that God intended it when he said: Inspice et fac secundum exemplum quod tibi in monte monstratum est [And see that you make them according to the pattern for them, which is being shown you on the mountain].

My dearest ones, let each one of us take up, take up his cross and follow Christ. Rise up and commit yourselves, each in your own way, to what I have put before you. Let holy priests, as those who are taking the place of Christ on earth, take up Christ’s cross and be fixed to it with three nails. Reverend Fathers, chastity is one of these nails: Sciat unusquisque vestrum vas sum possidere in sanctificatione et honore [1 Thess 4:4 that each one of you know how to control your own body in holiness and honor]. Poverty is another: Ut habentes alimenta et quibus tegamur, his contenti simus [1 Tim 6:8 but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these]. The third is the reverential fear that you should have about sacred matters, since David sang: Confige timore tuo carnes meas [Ps 119:120 My flesh trembles in fear of you]. These are the virtues that ought to shine out in priests. They ought to practise chastity because what is divine should not be handled by those who are unclean. They ought to practice poverty so as not to become involved in worldly affairs that go against God. They should have reverence for sacred things so that familiarity does not breed contempt. In doing this they will make an offering of themselves on the altar of the cross as a holy offering to God. Masters should do what St Paul said: Obsecro vos, per misericordiam Dei ut exhibeatis corpora vestra hostiam viventem, sanctam, Deo placentem rationabilile obsequium vestrum [Rm 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship].

The cross of St Andrew is the cross for Masters, Judges and Fathers of families. He was nailed to his cross with four nails, two of which held his hands to one beam of the cross while another two held his feet to another beam … There are four nails that hold us on the cross. These nails are the four cardinal virtues, prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. First of all, you should be prudent, holy and discerning because otherwise you will not be able to govern and judge others. Thus the wise man says: Iudex sapiens iudicabit populum sum et principatus sensati stabulis erit. Rex insipiens perdet populum sum [A wise magistrate educates his people, and the rule of an intelligent person is well ordered. An undisciplined king ruins his people] (Sir 10:1, 3a). You should not have the prudence of the flesh or the wisdom of the world which are God’s enemies and thus condemned and rejected by him. Prudence of spirit brings life and peace with it as St Paul says: Prudentia spiritus vita et pax [Rm 8:6 The spirit of prudence is life and peace]. The light of God should always come first in our actions. According to the Wise Man there is a need for justice and special strength when judgements are being made. Diligite iustitiam qui iudicatis terram [Love justice you who rule the earth Dante, Paridisio 18]. In order to be just it is not enough to simply have good intentions. It is necessary to also be strong, because if a judge is not firm there is the fear that there could be a travesty of justice as happened in the case of Pilate.Therefore the Wise Man said: Noli quaerere fieri iudex, nisi valeas virtuteirrumpere iniquitates, ne forte extimescas faciem potentis et ponas scandalum in agilitate tua [Do not seek to become a judge,or you may be unable to root out injustice; you may be partial to the powerful, and so mar your integrity] (Sir 7:6). However, we need to have temperance along with fortitude so as not to lose all love and hope, for we can find in many places in Scripture what the Wise Man said: Xenia et dona excaecant oculos iudicum, et quasi mutus in ore avertit correptiones eorum [Better are those who hide their folly than those who hide their wisdom (Sir 20:31).

St Peter’s cross on which he was crucified upside down is given to virgins because, like the Queen of virgins, the more chaste they are the more humble they ought to be. Docet enim (Ambrose says) ut quanto castior virgo, tanto humilior sit [He teaches that more chaste a virgin is, the more humble she will be] (Ambrose, Homilia super Reg virginum Maria). This is what is symbolised in having his head down low. She ought to have her feet of emotion and thought up above so that they are not attached to anything on the earth but attached to Christ alone as St Paul said: Mulier inupta et virgo cogitate quae Domini sunt [the unmarried and the virgin are anxious about the affairs of the Lord (1 Cor. 7:34). Let virgins be bound to their cross by the fifteen chains mentioned by St Paul: Charitas patiens est, benigna est, charitas non aemulatur, no agit perpera, non inflator, non est ambituosa, non quaerit quae sua sunt, non irritator, non cogitate malum, non gaudet iniquitate, congaudet autem veritate, omnia suffert, omnia credit, omnia sperat [Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth] (1 Cor. 13:4-6). It is only fitting that in virgins the love of God and neighbour would make them more admirable than a sumptuous or fashionable dress.

The cross of St Phillip is the cross of the widows. They ought to be bound to that cross by a rope that cannot be easily undone or broken. Therefore, it must be of double strength for the Wise Man says: Fasciculus triplex difficile rumpitur Eccl 4:12 A threefold cord is not quickly broken]. There are three precepts that widows have to observe if they want to live out an honourable Christian lifestyle in their state. The first one is to flee the occasion of sin, being careful not to gossip, not to parade through squares or pose at windows, dress provocatively, waste time or be talkative. This is what Paul had to say when speaking about young widows: sunt ociosae discunt circuire domos; non solum otiosae, sed et verbosae et curiose, loquentes quae non oportet [they learn to be idle, gadding about from house to house; and they are not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not say] (1 Tim. 5:13). Doing the opposite means chastising the flesh by fasting, praying and keeping vigils. Listen to Paul once again: Quae vere vidua est et desolata, speret in Deum, et instet obsecrationibus et orationibus die ac nocte. Nam quae in deliciis est, vivens mortua est. Et hoc praecipe ut irreprehensibiles sint [The real widow, left alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day; but the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. Give these commands as well, so that they may be above reproach] (1 Tim. 5:5-7). The third precept is that they should always be occupied in some good work, looking after the house, raising children, visiting the sick, comforting the afflicted. The same Apostle has this to say: Vidua eligitur in operibus bonis testimonium habens, si filios educavit, si hospitio recipit, si sanctorum pedes lavit, si tribulationem patientibus subministravit, si omnes opus bonum subsecuta est [Let a widow be put on the list if she is not less than sixty years old and has been married only once; she must be well attested for her good works, as one who has brought up children, shown hospitality, washed the saints’ feet, helped the afflicted, and devoted herself to doing good in every way] (1 Tim. 5:9-10). St Paul is presuming that they chose to serve the Church. If widows observe these precepts, they will actually be carrying a spiritual cross.

Those who are married carry the cross of St Simeon, who was Bishop of Jerusalem and was placed on a cross when he was very old. If married men and women face the burdens of marriage in a worthy manner, they too will be carrying a cross. Your nails will be sharing love and trust that implies loving each other and being faithful. St Paul said: Viri debent diligere uxores suas ut corpora sua et mulieres viris suis subditae sint, sicut Domino [In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself] (cf. Eph. 5:28, 22). You should raise your children gently setting them a good example. St Paul said: Patres nolite ad iracundiam provocare filios vestros, sed educate illos in disciplina et correptione Domini [Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord] (Eph. 6:4). The other nail consists in observing another of St Paul’s precepts: Honorabile connubium in omnibus et thorus immaculatus. Formicatores enim et adulteros iudicabit Deus [Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers. (Heb. 13:4).

Religious carry the cross of St Francis to whom a Seraph appeared on a cross. The Seraph had six wings. Two of them stretched up above his head, two covered his body and two served for flight. They represent the six virtues that pertain to religious. Obedience and humility are represented by the wings that stretch above the head. Poverty and chastity are represented by the wings that cover the body. The wings that serve for flight represent prayer and fraternal charity that raise them to God and to help their neighbour.

Because they endure penance, are contrite and go to Confession and make restitution the cross of the Good Thief, because he set such a good example of being penitent, is the cross that belongs to penitents. The multitude of ten thousand crosses belongs to children who have to obey their parents, endure punishment in order to learn virtue and to keep away from bad company.

Male servants and maids are nailed by being loyal and reverent and taking care of their own souls realising that serving others must not prejudice their own salvation. Finally, everyone who wants to be saved must take up his cross and remain attached to it by means of faith, hope and charity which are the three essential nails. This is the sharing out of the crosses.

What can we say about those who do not repent? I do not want to pretend that there are not some people who do not repent, or at least who do not think about repenting. However, when there is someone like this what are we to do about it? I would do nothing except tell them what they had come to through their own fault. What might this be? Nothing but a cross: the cross of the obstinate thief who died without repenting. Their situation is full of people who have been crucified and together with whom they will remain crucified forever. The piercing nails that will afflict them continually are remorse of conscience, the judgement of God that has come upon them and the devil whom they chose who will torment them and the wish that they will not want other wretches to come down to this crucifixion.

Come, come, poor little ones, to do penance. Redite prevaricators ad cor [Is 46:8 recall it to mind, you transgressors], so that together with others you may become crucified with Christ so that you may hope in your heart to come to glory with him. Ask him to grant grace to everyone and to bless us. Let the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit bless your soul, your body, all the we undertake, and be with you always, at home and abroad, when you are at rest or at work, night and day, and, in the end, lead you to his heavenly home where in company with his saints we may eternally enjoy his happiness, to whom be honour and glory now and forever and ever. Amen.[54]

“The Sufferings of Christ,” the masterpiece that contains Mattia da Salò’s sermons

The cross was the centrepiece and the hub of all of Mattia da Salò’s preaching and it overflowed into all of his writings and meditations. He interpreted the history of the Church, of the Franciscan Order and of the Capuchin reform against the background of the sufferings and death of the Crucified.[55]

He interrupted the Lenten Courses in 1594 because of illness. He spoke about the crisis in the charisma of his preaching in a letter to Cardinal F. Borromeo in 1598. He always felt very indebted to the Cardinal because the Cardinal had helped him to return to the ministry of preaching. Bellintani sent him a letter in which he said: “in spite of the favours that I received this year, I have spent time in bed doing nothing since I have been ill and thought I was going die.”[56] Instead, when Borromeo, who recognised the fervour of spirit that the Lord had given Mattia,[57] called him back to ministry, he preached the Lent in Milan in 1597 with the help of another friar.

These sermons, which were part of the Ambrosian Rite, were what prompted the Cardinal to publish “at his own expense” [58] the sermons on the sufferings of Christ that the Capuchin had preached on the eight Fridays during the Lenten Course. What resulted was a masterpiece of spirituality, a book of more than three hundred pages, of genuine contemplation from the pulpit that penetrated into the mental and inner suffering of Christ, stressing various happenings and aspects of Christ’s Passion and treating with extraordinary mystical sensitivity, involving many Biblical personages and symbols, that were delivered in compassionate, lyrical and melodious words which left a deep impression.

They are sermons which while still adopting the usual structure and division of parts, maintain the unique feature of resembling a book of meditations, or a treatise on Christ’s sufferings in which one can both experience the mystery of the Passion and the joy of the Holy Spirit (cf. n. 5067). Christ’s sufferings produced results. They were acts of love that had to happen. Because of them we were brought to birth when the Word of God became man through the working of the Holy Spirit and kissed sinful human nature; he made everything that is good and virtuous burst forth in it.[59] This is a mental picture of human history which while cosmic and divine is steeped in suffering.[60] Christ actually suffered as man and as God and this, as Bellintani says, sets us on fire with his love, and introduces us into the secrets of his Passion where we can rejoice and celebrate while the world remains bitter.[61]

Such sufferings are sacred, virtuous and innocent. To explain them one has to make use of an inspired love song such as the Canticle of Canticles. This is the real explanation of Christ’s Passion as Bellintani portrays it in a passage which reveals the secret of his exegetical and contemplative inspiration:

O Milan, I beg you not to be amazed when I try to interpret the obscure passages of the very obscure Book of Solomon. It was never my custom to misuse the beautiful divine writings by making them fit into my own way of thinking. I have tried to see to it that what I am proposing follows them and is closely in line with what they say, conforms to Church teaching and is within the limits and rules of the Roman faith. However I still believe, as you know (being familiar with those who are learned) that beneath the words of Sacred Scripture there lies many varied meanings and truthful propositions that the author intended to convey and that this is why he speaks in a veiled manner using words that can mean many different things. Now I feel that I am being inspired. The opening words of this book are: Osculetur me osculo oris sui [Let him kiss me on my lips]. They show that he carries his love out in front of him and thus is completely loving. Let no one doubt that the beloved, who is named frequently, is other than Christ the Son of God, who by means of his incarnation came to be united to human nature and wedded it to his heavenly Church. In his Passion he showed a kind of love that is greater than any other love. This is very clearly shown in many places in Sacred Scripture. Therefore, who is there that will not find Christ’s Passion in the book that has as its subject, content and objective the excess of love for his spouse as it was demonstrated in his death? Therefore, note that he sets the scene by using the image of a Shepherd or at other times that of a King. Was the highest excellence of the Good Shepherd nothing else than that he gave his life for his sheep? Was not the title under which our Good Shepherd died that of King? This was written above the cross. Thus the highest kind of love is represented under the titles of shepherd and king. Christ fulfilled this when he died.[62]

Christ suffered out of love for us enduring the interior sorrows of fear and sadness with deference and infinite intensity so that we might be free and have peace. Our souls are precious and beautiful because of the deformity of Christ’s martyred body on the cross that underwent suffering willingly in loving obedience to the Father who is the source of all the virtues.[63] The immensity of his suffering is displayed in its duration and intensity. It shows that these sufferings lasted for a long time and were as extreme “as the ocean that extends over the entire earth, not just covering it superficially, but reaching down to great depths.”[64] He suffered in his soul, his spirit and in his mind. Here he is making use of a classification that can be found in the letters of St Paul and which is slightly different to the classification made by Philosophers. He says: “this is the classification made in Scripture, even if it is also proposed by philosophers and seen in nature. I do not think that we should take the credits away from Sacred Scripture and give it to philosophical teachings since we can know the same thing from Scripture.” He goes on to explain the terminology. “The soul includes the living body and the exterior senses. The spirit is the inner faculty and is the lower part of our soul. The soul is the noblest part which without the assistance of the body or material mechanisms performs its work by itself in a way that does not involve matter. Christ suffered in all of these functions, because, in order to help us, he had come to save everything that was human, and this included every aspect of human nature as we possess it.”[65] He suffered from the very beginning because Christ soul accepted suffering before he was united to a body. This is one of Bonaventure’s concepts that Bellintani took up as his own.[66] He suffered out of zeal for the honour of God, out of compassion for mankind and his people, out of hatred and displeasure for sin.

The greatest sufferings are those that are interior and spiritual. His mental suffering was continual, while his bodily and spiritual sufferings were frequent. When Christ wanted to suffer in spirit, then he suffered as he did when he prayed during the agony in the garden of Olives. He would also have suffered greatly during his other solitary prayers. Because of this we hear Christ, who loved solitude, cry out to his Father “concerning “the bitterness of the sufferings that he endured in his heart and spirit”.[67]

Christ continues to suffer even after his Passion up to the end of the world in the Church through the apostolic labours of evangelisation and the blood of her martyrs, who as members of a body bringing the suffering of the head to completion.[68] There are many reasons why Christ’s sufferings are so magnificent for he was such an outstanding intermediary and what he suffered as God is in direct proportion to God’s infinite love. In fact, the capacity of the vessel that contains these sufferings means that they are infinite because Christ as a human being and a creature possessed the greatest capacity to have grace and virtue and also to undergo suffering. Therefore, his sufferings overflowed the top of the cup and became the sufferings of the Church and her special members.[69] Thus to suffer makes us like Christ. At this point Mattia da Salò speaks out against worldly pomp and those who are wealthy because Christ was always dressed in very poor clothes and even appeared more glorious when he was naked on the cross. Here we note that he is reviving the theologia crucis as it was proposed by Luther and Bernardino Ochino.

In addition to sanctity of soul, virtue of spirit and certainty about his resurrection, Christ was given the grace of suffering since this was his destiny.[70] There were three factors that brought on the suffering: God, Christ himself, mankind and the devil. From the outset the devil persecuted the Lord. It was men, especially Judas, the judges and others, who caused him to suffer. St Bonaventure says that we should think of God in a most exalted way. Mattia da Salò applies this to the Passion and says that it should be understood in the same way. It was Christ’s charity that caused Christ’s mental suffering. He prayed to the Father saying: Clarifica Filium tuum [Glorify your Son]. The glory was the cross and through it the Son honoured his Father.[71] There is a mysterious consensus in all of this between God and creatures in causing Christ to suffer.[72] He also explains the enormity of these sufferings using a multitude and variety of items that symbolise distress. They fall into three categories: mental, spiritual and corporal. They are based on the Biblical divisions of the temple following a sequence from high to low starting from the atrium, to the first tabernacle and ending with the Holy of Holies. It is a comprehensive sacrifice, a holocaust of sufferings in which the faculties exchange with one another the instruments and consequences of the sufferings. The suffering of one part affects all of the other parts moving from the spirit to the soul with continually increasing intensity.[73]

As St Paul said we ought to experience what Christ experienced. The extent of his suffering can be seen in the physical torments that afflicted all of his limbs and their parts to the highest intensity in a sequence that only God could understand. His spirit also suffered in many ways. Throughout his life Christ suffered from being exiled and feeling anxiety. He was always uneasy because of his desire to suffer and yet his fear of suffering. If his body suffered only once, Christ’s spirit and soul suffered and lived through his Passion many times.

Different kinds of sorrow affect the different parts of man, his body spirit and soul “all together they cause a general feeling of suffering. This is just like music in which a sweet voice charms all the faculties.”[74] However it was in his soul that Christ suffered the most. Sin, which he loathed infinitely, caused him infinite suffering. What about the countless sins of the world? He experienced the infinite offense this gave to God. He also felt infinite compassion for the whole of sinful mankind and such infinite compassion pierced him to the heart to an infinite degree. In the light of his compassion he assessed all his suffering. These sufferings in his soul were the deepest ones and the least recognised because all were looking at the exterior aspects of the cross with few contemplating the internal suffering.[75]

Christ’s sorrow for just one sin was greater than all the combined sorrow of all mankind. It amounts to such a massive amount of sorrow that the human mind cannot fathom it. Always mindful of the masterpiece of spirituality that was composed by Blessed Camilla Battista Varano, Bellintani adds that the ultimate sorrow in Christ’s soul was for our ingratitude concerning which Mattis complained saying: O Judas in our temple … O ungrateful people, who crucified Christ, traitors, wicked people, prosecutors, people who scourge, people who persecute! O what more immense ingratitude could there be than not to remember these things?[76]

He wanted to instil love and sensitivity for Christ’s sufferings in the hearts of his listeners. In order to do this, before going into the events and details of the Passion he sent this inspirational prayer up to Christ:

O my most sweet Lord, who on the bed of the cross endured the harsh sleep of death, and who wanted your spouse to join you to be like you in suffering, and to join you in that, accept this sinful soul who is coming to repent. Make room for her on the cross or rather gather her up into your arms since you are holding them wide apart in order to embrace her. Clasp her to your breast and let her feel your holy love, the shining flames that which are your sufferings, so that she will love only you, lie down on you and sleep and be at rest on your breast so that she can drink the milk, that is sweeter than wine, from your breast. Quia meliora sunt ubera tua vino [For your breasts are sweeter that wine]. The sufferings that are bitter for you, my Saviour, are very sweet to us. So why can I not taste them and savour them? O good Jesus, make me feel what you felt, so that I may join you in feeling that way, never more to separate myself from you by sinning, but live and reign with you forever. Amen.[77]

The first seven sermons were just a methodological and exegetical introduction to speaking about the Passion. The last one that was delivered on Good Friday, and which went for at least three hours, was the sermon on the “sacred Passion” that was dwelt upon with “ponderous thoughts and many tears”. It was considered to be a “vast field” in spring dotted with many flowers of different colours that represented the sufferings of the Lord that were brought to life in a heart full of pity (cf. nn. 6071-77). Beginning with the moment when Jesus Christ first experienced spiritual suffering and going on to when he endured physical suffering, Bellintani chose to follow a sequence of moments that kept to that order. He developed it by first speaking about Christ’s internal suffering in four stages: what he suffered when he entered Jerusalem in triumph, and his heart was troubled; what he suffered during the Last Supper when he thought about his imminent Passion and the betrayal of Judas; what he experienced in the Garden of Olives before he prayed in the company of three disciples; and, finally, his indescribable sorrow when he prayed alone in the Garden and was in agony and sweated blood. There were other times when Christ was upset as we see in the Gospels.[78]

In the second part of the sermon he deals with physical sufferings conceiving the Passion to be a large tree with five branches on which the fruit are the external sufferings, the flowers are the internal sufferings and the leaves the process of the Passion itself. The branches correspond to the five situations where the Passion took place. The first branch represents when Jesus was arrested in the Garden, put on trial and abandoned by the disciples. The second branch represents when he endured insulting words in the house of the High Priest and was maltreated for the whole night. The third branch represents the disgraceful journey of Jesus from Pilate to Herod. The fourth branch represents the Pretoria of Pilate when the Lord was scourged. The scourging is a mystery concerning which the Evangelists spend just a single word because (as Mattia da Salò explains) we hesitate about contemplating it. It involved nudity, which upset Christ, as well as his loving surrender to being flogged, which forges an indissoluble link between internal and external suffering.[79]

In the third part of the sermon he adds the crowing with thorns, the Ecce Homo, the sentencing to death, the journey to Calvary, the meeting with his sorrowful Mother and the words of consolation that he offered to the holy women, to what is represented by the four branches of the Passion. This gives Bellintani the chance to pour out the depth of his feelings as he describes the intimate suffering within the hearts of Jesus and Mary by means of delicate, tearful images:

[The Mother] waited for him at a corner, and when he arrived in front of her, he saw that she was very distressed and gripped with spasms of grief and this increased his torment and made him experience more suffering. Within his heart he experienced the ocean of sorrow that he knew was in his Mother’s heart. O heart of my Lord Jesus, I know that you were very full of sorrow, but did this not add to it? Then how did the additional ocean of heartache that came from your Mother’s heart pierce you? O, I am incapable of understanding such mysteries of sorrow. O Mary, if you were to embrace your Son externally, would you not feel something more even within? Are not both your hearts so closely joined that one can feel what the other is experiencing? Then, then together they share their sorrows. O what an increase of sorrow! O what an additional cross! O what kind of suffering that is hidden from us, written in ink on paper, but written in blood in the hearts of Mary and of her Son!

The Mother’s eyes were fixed on those of Christ, both were weeping; both were suffering together, both penetrated into each other. What they saw with their eyes penetrated deeply into each other’s soul. O my soul, why are you unworthy of the glance of your spouse? Peter recognised it and cried bitterly over his fault, but you do not cry about the Lord, planctu quasi super unigenitum [crying as if for an only child]? The Mother did this, because he was actually her only child. You should do it, and repeat it over and over: quasi super unigenitum. If such sorrow united their hearts that they never wanted to be separated, what must have been the pain suffered by the Mother, who set aside hatred for the Jews and embraced the love of Christ, yet could not set aside his death? O what suffering on top of suffering for you, blessed Mother! Meeting your Son opened your heart and made you receive greater waves of bitterness. Being forced to leave him broke your heart to the point that there could not be any more sorrow, for sorrow had consumed you. Women of Jerusalem come to cry, because if Mary were to cry her tears there would be blood just as her Son’s sweat had turned to blood.[80]

Finally, the fifth branch represents what took place on Calvary. Jesus was crucified up high so that everyone could see him. At this point the sermons becomes a prayer and a loving conversation so that the nails crucify Christ and also crucify his love to our hearts, for by his cross he has changed our hearts of stone into flesh. The angels too are invoked as a support to the telling of the story. The entire scene of the crucifixion is narrated in minute detail and imprinted on our imagination. We can almost hear the blows of the hammer and see the nails that penetrate and make “the one cross of wood and of Christ crucified.” Mattia da Salò, being overcome by fatigue and sorrow, suddenly stops the sermon with the image of Christ raised up and presented for the adoration of the faithful:

Since my strength has failed, my heart stopped and my tears dried, come to my help by means of the visible image and sign of the holy cross and crucifixion of Jesus. In addition to what my words have described, for words are also signs, let another sign, which is the object of the eyes, as words are of the ears, draw the picture. I mean the sign of the true cross, which is the sign of love and the memorial of Christ crucified. O Lord, who wanted to be adored and worshiped in front of the ark, even though it was only wood covered in gold, allow us to adore and worship you here as had always been done in your Church. As you are raised up on high, O good and crucified Jesus, offer yourself to the Father for our sins. Unlike the animals of old that were first killed and then placed on the altar, you were first placed on the altar and died there, since you are the sacrifice and the priest, hanging there is the midst of suffering and torment. Suffering was the instrument of our salvation. You wanted to carry this to the extreme and have it bring about your death when you could not sustain life any longer. O what sorrow was placed in the great vessel of the Son of God! Now that all your strength has been spent in the crucifixion, in afflictions, in torment, begin to share the fruits of this. Fill our souls with compassion, compunction and contrition.

Let our soul suffer with you, O good Jesus, suffering what you suffered. Let us suffer because our sins were the cause of what you had to suffer. Let us suffer, being sorry that we have sinned and beg your forgiveness and favour. Jesus our Redeemer, we thank you for having suffered so much for us and suppliantly ask that your suffering may bear fruit. Therefore, give us true sorrow for our sins and forgive them. As you have taught us to pray: Dimitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus debitores nostris, grant us pardon of our iniquities, and, following your example, help us to forgive. O divine example! It is clear that you should ask your Father to forgive us and pray for those who offend you. Do this so that at least by suffering something small for Christ, and accompanying him in his Passion, you may finally receive his consolation. Amen.[81]

This style of exalted and profound preaching that was actually contemplation from the pulpit, as we have said, was offered to the educated and as well the simple people in Milan. All of them burst into tears, as they usually did also in other places, for example in 1571 at Perugia (cf. n.6030).

It is possible to observe here in Bellintani’s meditation all that is implied in Bonaventure’s Vitis mystica with the image of the tree with five branches. That was taken up in a very personal way. This was probably the highpoint Mattia da Salò’s oratory.

The success of a posthumous Lenten Course

In the closing days of his life Bellintani undertook his final literary work. At the time his mind was taken up with meditating on the Apocalypse concerning which he was preparing a profound commentary.[82] His final piece of writing was the outline of an “Ambrosian Lenten Course” in Latin. St Charles had wanted to have this for some time and Cardinal F. Borromeo had also encouraged and supported it. From the sermons that have been collected it is now possible to follow the editorial development of this piece by means of the many letters that passed between Mattia and the Cardinal.[83]

The first draft was prepared during the first half of 1608. Mattia continued preaching tirelessly and during the breaks he went on with writing.[84] The method that he followed when he was writing a book was to set out a general outline and then develop it into a more complete treatment. The Cardinal encouraged him to do this and provided him with someone to help him write. However, it was not such a simple work because Bellintani himself says that he “instinctively wrote in a chaotic manner”, going at it very swiftly, sometimes before thinking it over, in a handwriting that was not easy to read. Nevertheless he decided “to spend a week writing sermons” and then have them forwarded onto Milan where someone would copy them and send them to the Cardinal to review and make comments and suggestions.[85] He did this and sent them with a person whom he trusted because “they were very heated,” “almost continuously” exaggerating and mocking the defects in the style in which there were written. He also expected that there would be objections to the way in which he had only quoted Sacred Scripture and never the Fathers or the Doctors.[86]

The first thing that F. Borromeo did was to reassure Mattia. The sermons, the Cardinal said “were as good, forthright and helpful as all the other sermons of the Saintly Father which makes it worthwhile to continue with the work.”[87] He carried on with the work and would have wanted to be free from Lenten sermons in 1609 in order to finish the draft of the Lenten Course as he had already written half of it. Instead he had to go ahead with preaching at Maderno di Riviera. After the celebration of the Provincial Chapter he was transferred as definitor to the friary of Brescia and here he took up the pen once more. On 16th September he wrote to the Cardinal: “I went ahead and came to the week following Lazarus Sunday, and entered into the Gospels about the Passion, concerning which you want to say something.”[88]

Three months later he was able to say very joyfully that he had come to the end: “When the Easter festivals were over and my head was clearer than now I felt like singing Alleluia. I went ahead slowly … Now my pen needs to work the vineyard and trim the hedge.”[89]

He continued like this revising the texts until the beginning of 1611 when he was ready to produce sermons that were well revised and that had been transcribed by someone. He sent these immediately to the Cardinal. By now it was time to preach the sermon for the Friday “after the blind man”, or after the Fourth Sunday in Lent in the Ambrosian rite. Federico Borromeo was satisfied and was prepared, once the work had been completed, to furnish it with an introductory letter.[90] While the old Capuchin was reviewing the text of the sermon for the Gospel of Palm Sunday, he fell ill and died on 20th July 1611.Three days later his brother Giovanni Bellintani wrote to the Cardinal: “Before he died my brother Father Fra Mattia gave me all of his writings telling me to do my duty. He particularly insisted that I should write to Your Lordship. He asked me to let you know that he had been unable to deliver the last sermon of the Ambrosian Lent, or the one for Good Friday. However, the last one has disappeared, and I still cannot find it. For Good Friday I am sending you one of the sermons on the Passion that he wrote four years ago. In his revision he reached Palm Sunday, but he was ill when he did this.”[91]

His brother went on with preparing the sermons to be printed with the encouragement of F. Borromeo who was still prepared to pay the person who transcribed them and read them over again quickly and to “add his letter to them”.[92] However, the loss of the letters between 1614 and 1622 makes it impossible for us to know what happened at that time. In the meantime other people and editors became involved in working on the printing of the work which came out just ten years later in 1624 in Lyons in France, in two volumes that were dedicated to the recently elected Cardinal Antonio Barberini (+ 1646), who was an austere Capuchin, the brother of Pope Urban VIII. We hear nothing more about Cardinal F. Borromeo. This edition of the Quadragesimale Ambrosianum had the good fortune to be reprinted a number of times throughout almost the entire seventeenth century,[93] in spite of the massive number of sermons that were published in Europe at that time.

The reasons for this no doubt lie in the intrinsic value of the work and not only in the fact that it contained a dedication supplied by a member of the prestigious Barberini family. One could add to that the clever ploy of Mattia’s brother Giovanni da Salò in adapting the sermons to the Advent and Lenten seasons in the Roman rite which made the sermons useful in two liturgical rites. Because they were written in simple Latin that was well set out, they possessed the traditional and established structure of the “introductiones scripturales” of 1588, together with a text that oozed with Sacred Scripture. Almost all the Books in the Bible appear in the list of Biblical quotes and references that is given at the back of the book. Apart from the books of the New Testament those that are mentioned most frequently are Genesis, Deuteronomy, Ecclesiastics (Sirach), and most of all the Psalms and Proverbs. Mattia quoted scripture more often than that, but because so much of what he said was expressed in Biblical terminology Giovanni da Salò was forced to omit many Biblical references.[94]

The content of the sermons, beginning from the Gospel of the liturgy of the day, goes on to develop a mixture of Christian teaching, Biblical exegesis, and ascetical and moral applications to suit every kind of person. There are two sermons for each day of the week, excepting Saturday, so that the volume contains seventy-five texts of sermons. It would require a special study to examine such a perfusion of sermons in detail. These summary indications suffice for now in giving an initial first glance at Mattia da Salò. He may truthfully be compared to an eagle with respect to the sensitivity of his meditations and to a lion for his doggedness.[95]

3. Itinerant and Rural Preaching of St Joseph of Leonessa

While Mattia da Salò was preaching the Lenten Course in the Cathedral of Milan in the presence of Charles Borromeo in 1582 and Alfonso Lupo was thundering out in Naples, in the south part of the Marches in the valley of Nera a young Capuchin priest was preaching his first Lenten Course in Visso. A band of bandits had come down from the mountains of Arquata del Tronto and they attacked the farming community the following year in the surrounding area.[96] The young friar was Joseph of Leonessa who had been ordained just two years previously and was aflame with the love of God and the desire to save souls. He did so in complete submission to the magisterium of the Church and was also prepared to suffer martyrdom for the Catholic faith.[97]

In contrast to the famous preachers mentioned above who occupied the great city pulpits, he made a deliberate personal choice to carry out his preaching activity in the humble villages of Umbria and the Abruzzi, in the presence of humble, simple, country people who lived in the hills and valleys, in this way becoming the perfect model of the evangelical preacher as was portrayed in the Constitutions of the Order.

We do not precisely know who taught him to perform this ministry. In the study of theology one of his professors was probably Silvestro Bini d’Assisi.[98] He treasured all of this and greedily collected material for his sermons so that all that he learnt was directed towards his preaching. Many of his manuscripts that we have today bear witness to this, to his style of preaching and the way he collected useful material. When speaking to Mons. Faloci Pulignani about Joseph of Leonessa, Edoardo d’Alencon referred to him as being “a fine saint who collected in his manuscripts all that might be helpful for preaching”.[99]

We know from a detailed description that these are codices that are not more than 1.5 cm long and 11cm wide, written in the smallest, fine handwriting that they contain sermons for various feasts and Sundays as well as for feasts of Saints, Lenten Courses and Marian feasts. They contain notes, drafts and transcriptions of sermons, thoughts from the Fathers of the Church writers, doctors, theologians, canonists and some profane authors. Of the thirty-seven that are listed at least twenty-one concern the topic of preaching.[100] We also know that in his early years the Saint wrote out the full sermon. Later on, he was satisfied to make drafts and notes.

He says that some of the sermons were transcribed by other authors such as Thoma, Sarteano and Maldonado. Others were “collected’ and placed with his own, but not with those that belonged to the Saint who usually wrote in Italian and split the text into two sections so that they would be simpler, shorter and more spontaneous, more personal and practical and closer to his style of preaching that prevailed in the process.[101] Even when he uses thoughts that are not his own, he changes, adapts and develops them while commenting: “Put it this way, … apply it, … develop it this way”. This is how he shows that he is reworking it personally to make it fit in with his approach making the moral lesson more uninhibited and personal.

He was well aware of how to select his sources and he dealt with and examined the difficulties of Christian life with clarity. He used a variety of sources that can be easily traced. As we have already hinted, in addition to what he gleaned from the Fathers, the Doctors and theologians, he drew on some of the revelations of St Gertrude, the sermons of Bernardino de Bustis as well as on some contemporary authors such as Girolamo da Pistoia, Alfonso Lupo, the Observant Francesco Canofilo and others.[102] He also used to make notes of the thoughts and outlines of the preachers that he listened to personally. He did this with Giovanni Maria da Tusa in 1582 when he came to Perugia on the occasion of the Provincial Chapter of the Marches and spoke to the friars about the Rule of St Francis and the Saint copied it all into his notebooks.[103] He received his patents for preaching from the same Minister General on 21 May 1581.[104]

With regard to the structure of his sermons we are able to vouch for certain texts which have been transcribed and recently published.[105] We have a text dating from 1582 from which it is possible to establish the method that he used in the first years of his apostolate of evangelisation. This sermon is a commentary on the feast of the Annunciation. Following the introduction, Joseph of Leonessa presents an outline of the sermon dividing the text of the Gospel into three points that treat of the angel who made the announcement, the objective of his announcement and the exemplary response given by Mary. Each of the three points is dived into two sections that are introduced with the formulary: “Let us pause for a moment to be attentive because we need listen to her response for a little while”. Such a formulary also serves as an introduction to the next point. The second concludes with a description of souls who are rejoicing and with a loving invocation of the Virgin.[106]

There is another very beautiful sermon for the feast of the Assumption. It described the gentle meeting of Martha and Mary of Bethania who have waited on the Lord in an active and a contemplative manner. It also tells of how the Virgin clasped him to her breast receiving him with an active and a contemplative spirit. He contrasts this to worldly grandeur, which amounts to nothing, and the grandeur of God which must be meditated upon in order to comprehend how Mary was exalted.

In expounding the first part of the sermon he presents the features of God’s grandeur that were shared with Christ, and through Christ, reached the Virgin: “Now think about this! When Christ entered the Virgin think about what took place within the Virgin. When someone who is stronger than any castle or fortress in the world arrived, what came to Mary was the grandeur of God: Christ Jesus. There is no doubt that Martha acted out of charity when she received Christ, who is the grandeur of God, into her home, recipit illum in domum suum (Lk 10:38). Believe me the Blessed Virgin received Christ into her womb with greater charity than Mary or a thousand Marthas who received him into their home.” “The proof of this” is contained the Madonna’s own words: Fecit mihi magna qui potens est [The that is mighty has done great things in me]. This is how he interprets “the great things” done by God in Mary in order to go on to explain how we ought to carry out our active and contemplative service, allowing it to be filled by the Holy Spirit in imitation of Martha who was: circa frequens misterium Christi (Lk 10:40), and like Mary “who was concerned circa verbum illius” with the prospect of receiving Mary’s help: “O how the Blessed Virgin loves us and wants to make us great if we are careful about serving her as Martha was careful about serving Christ – and Magdalene – let us serve and contemplate the Blessed Virgin Queen of heaven and our Mother.”

In the second part he goes on with discussing the grandeur of God and once more he applies it to the Madonna ending with and expression from the same Gospel passage that praises the contemplative choice that Mary of Bethania made: the unum necessarium “is nothing but our union with Christ through which we are saved”. “The Virgin Mary was joined in this union, since she possessed all of Christ’s grandeur together with Christ, it was fitting that she also possessed the grandeur of such union” which was of various kinds: the union of grace, of matter, of the active life, of the contemplative life and today she possesses the great union of the glory of the Saints in body and soul.” He finishes by speaking about the Apostles gathered around the Virgin’s empty tomb, “filled with great happiness” over Mary’s glory.[107]

The three sermons that we included in our collection may also show the logic in the structure that the Saint used. A text that deals with the feast of the Birth of the Madonna unfolds the Gospel of the day in three points by commenting on a passage in Matthew’s Gospel that says: Liber generationis Jesu Christi, filii David, explaining that this book follows the sequence of the life of God as signified in predestination, Sacred Scripture, Christ’s Passion and death, the Church Militant and eternal death, “that are all books about life”. The text is further divided into two parts with a precise description of the topic at the beginning of the second part: “Seeing that in what we have said in the first part we occupied our minds with the external birth and spiritual birth of the Blessed Virgin, in the next part it remains to describe her blessed and happy birth in time, and what was its importance and sublime character as set out in the Gospel itself.” (n. 6159). Once again, the conclusion consists in a prayer to the Virgin.

The sermon that was preached on the feast of St Joseph, the spouse of the Virgin Mary, has a more complex structure. It is very wide ranging and, like the full sermons that the Saint wrote, it belongs to the early years of the Saint’s preaching. The image of the holy Patriarch is presented making use of his “outstanding deeds, graces and virtues,” to provide an interpretation of the epithet “a just man” that was conferred on him in the Gospel, and showing his practice of the three theological virtues and the four cardinal virtues and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, then proceeding to comment on his virginal marriage to the Most Holy Mary. The conclusion contains practical examples, forthright applications and exhortations (cf. nn. 6164-6192).

The last text, on Christ’s twelve appearances after his resurrection, on the other hand contains much that has been taken from other authors and adapted, but not directly copied. This is especially evident in the prologue, the practical applications and the epilogue (cf. nn. 6191-6215).

However, it is difficult to find a text that adequately reproduces the style and vigour of his preaching. This is because after the initial scholastic propositions that follow the norms of the artes praedicandi, his applications become more like something that has been hastily brought to mind and set out to suit the environment of the local community and make a variety of quick moral statements. Perhaps a good example of the way he used to write down his thoughts and then develop them in the pulpit, after mulling them over in prayer and personal meditation, can be found in the homily on the temptations of Jesus in the desert, that was discovered a few years back amongst the uncatalogued papers, in the Saint’s own handwriting, in the Archives of the Cathedral in Rieti. It had initially formed part of a manuscript copy of the Lenten Course given by Venerable Francesco da Precetto.[108] It had notes by the same brother,[109] who used it for his preaching. The thoughts that are to be developed, collected or taken from individual passages or words in the Gospel or other parts of the Bible are marked. They demonstrate the highest scriptural and theological preparation. Patristic sources that comment on these passages are also recorded. Without doubt these have been taken from his personal “Patristic collection”, that was a kind of “forest” in which the Saint had noted in alphabetical order many sayings of the saintly Fathers concerning various matters that could be suitable for preaching.[110]

According to Girolamo Pulcini da Leonessa, who was the Postulator for the Cause of Beatification, in the first three or four years of his apostolate the Saint fell into the temptation of using a “dry, terse” style since this was what was “natural to his delicate temperament”. However, when he saw that this yielded very little pastoral fruit and after he had a vision he was converted to preaching in an evangelical manner. After that “he dedicated himself to preaching in spiritu et virtute. He put aside his “quadragesimale” and other writings which he had composed with so much toil and industry, and in their place, he took up a cross that he always placed on his chest … He raised it up at the appropriate time in the sermon, holding it in his hand, using plain words without any other human craftiness, as if he were being moved by the impetuous strength of the Holy Spirit, and he preached Christ Crucified and this produced wonderful fruit. During Lent he prayed much and, studied for a short time and read and meditated on little more than Sacred Scripture and the homilies and sermons that the Church used in the Divine Office for the night before the sermon.”[111]

Amidst all the superabundant richness of his life, his preaching appeared in a unique way to be the central moment in a vast range of apostolic initiatives that were tireless, filled with courage, tenacity and heroic sacrifice. Without going into a lot of rhetorical questions, he was able to recognise that every situation had its own needs that could be met only by closely listening to people and their concrete problems, their anxieties, difficulties, suffering, poverty and confusion. When he was speaking about the Lent of 1585 at Arquara del Tronto, during the Process for Canonisation, Serafino da Arquara accurately described features of the Saint’s sermons: “I observed that he was tireless in preaching the word of God. He worked hard. At the end of his sermons he moved the people to tears.”[112]

Here too, what was of greatest value were the rousing endings, the moral exhortations, the emotional applications that “moved” people to contrition, or as the ancient author Manzini put it, the aim was “to provide a representation that would move and rouse.”[113] Thus the strength of his preaching lay in the ardour of his final “forthright applications”. It does not end there. The Saint’s vocation was that of an itinerant missionary. He could not stay locked in a cell studying and praying until the next sermon as some of his other brother preachers did in other cities. During the day he visited homes and regions on the side of the mountains around Vettore and the Valley of Tronto. Weather permitting, he did this barefoot, “and where he could not go by foot he climbed on hands and knees.” When they got to know about this his companions gave him the nickname “scortica compagni” (one who likes scratches) or “predicatore delli spini) (one who preaches to wild bushes). They did this because of the great privations that accompanied the lifestyle of the Saint. The people had been forewarned about “God’s dolphins” as the heralds were called. He always carried a water clock with him so that he could be on time at the place where he was to preach. He arrived at the place, preached and immediately left for another village, refusing all invitations to stay in a home. He was satisfied with a hard piece of bread dipped in water.[114]

It was a genuinely apostolic form of preaching that was free and fast moving in order to reach as many people as possible. He made the most out of his evangelical oratory by speaking in a plain and simple manner to deliver a message that was full of examples, exhortations and catechesis.

Perhaps there is not a more brilliant appraisal of the features of this preaching than that contained in an interesting page by Manzoni that we have already referred to: “His preaching was delivered from the heart and not with a hammer. It was made up of “distilled Gospel”, not of “extracted Gospel”. David not Homer provided the food for the journey of this Alexander who took up arms to engage in battle and not for show. When he encountered obstinate and unrepentant sinners, (who thundered and flashed like Pericles) he was very gentle, affectionate and meek in his preaching. He used plain reasoning; truth came from his mouth, not eloquence. He possessed so much love, so much charity that he entered into things not so much by using arguments but by action. If he did not succeed by doing this either because of their hardness or frigidity, to soften the hearts of the listeners (like the actor in the tragedy who when he wanted to rouse the audience, had the corpse of his recently deceased son brought on stage) he would take the one he loved who had been crucified off his chest, the God of his heart and beating the figure he would contemplate it, stroke it from head to foot, clasp it strongly to his breast, as if singing it to sleep, and when the listeners heard this he began to preach.” The emotions that were conveyed in this exchange struck his audience so deeply that –adds Manzoni – “on most occasions it roused and stirred the audience more than anything else. The effect was so strong that the audience was dumfounded rather than persuaded and they pined away not being able to cope.”[115] In doing this Joseph of Leonessa was repeating a successful gesture of Alfonso Lupo. The Crucifix meant everything to him. It was the preparation for preaching, the actual sermon and what came after the sermon. This was the source of his tireless zeal, not only of his bitter acts of penance and continual apostolic meandering but also the “forthright applications” in his preaching. His objective was not only to provide a deeper understanding of the truths of the faith, but to convert hearts to Christ, to prepare them for the worthy reception of the Sacraments and bring about a renewal in their spiritual life. What came out of his preaching, so to speak, was a picture of his society. He was not one to eulogize his audience. He spoke in words that were caustic, colourful and he spared nobody. Indeed, he took particular aim at the wealthy, the noble and the powerful. His moral applications were ominous. Here are a few examples:

Today I can certainly say to you what Christ said to the judges: Nemo ex vobis… none of you observe the laws and commandments of God, because he commanded you to recognise that God is above everything and that you should show him honour and reverence… you ignore him, do not honour him and blaspheme, you crucify him again, you bring about his death again, and open his side.

Nemo ex vobis … because God commanded you to observe the feasts … but you behave worse on those days than on other days … you spend time playing all kinds of games, engaged in idle talk, drinking, getting drunk, being lustful, being dishonest and doing all kinds of evil, not being concerned about work or spiritual exercises.

Nemo ex vobis … because God commanded you to honour your father and mother … you who are cursed, perverse and children of the devil, you beat them, leave them to die of hunger, thirst and cold, not willing to help them with what they need. The dog licks its own kind, but you are more vicious than dogs, crueller than tigers, bears, snakes and dragons.

Nemo ex vobis … because God commanded you not to take revenge on your enemies, not to kill, you try to kill, being unwilling to forgive them, being always full of hate and anger.

Nemo ex vobis … because God commanded you to flee from lust, not to be with the wife of another man, not to be with another person out of lust, dishonesty, adultery, incest, fornication and sodomy.

Nemo ex vobis … because God commanded you not to take what belonged to another, non furtum facere, you engage in usury, assassinate the poor, hide things, sell at a higher price than you should, sell what is defective as if it were good, making a thousand false guarantees. O what judgement God has prepared for you! O how very quickly will the time come for you to suffer punishment for your serious errors![116]

O what great nonsense they talk those who deny the existence of God, dixit insipiens in corde suo; non est Deus. How many heretics, how many schismatic people, excommunicated people, sacrilegious people, tyrants, traitors, liars, deceitful people, tricksters, tale bearers, usurers and thieves are there? O how many betray God, themselves and their neighbour? How many proud people, greedy people, jealous people, angry people, murderers and blasphemers are there! How many people are lustful, fornicators, sodomites, adulterers, wicked and superstitious! How many people practice hypocrisy, practice false religion, simony, do so little for the Church, going in and out without reverence! How many procurators, lawyers, judges and chancellors are there who at times, either for favours or out of anger, do not dispense true justice! How many other Christians, who have little fear of God, live as if they had no fear of being excommunicated and do not receive Communion even once a year! Such villains oppress, hurt and grind down the poor …[117]

God reproved the children of Israel who made friends with the Canaanites so that they would not be seduced and adopt their evil practices and customs. But, O, what are we to say today about fathers and mothers who do not take care of their children and adopt wicked practices? Indeed, what is worse, they provide an opportunity for those who are depressed to take the wrong path that will end badly. How many mothers are there who break their own child’s neck! O great God of Israel, how can you endure such serious excesses? Why do you not open the earth to swallow them alive, who while they are alive are on the way to hell, because they are causing such great ruin?[118]

His favourite topics were the last things, hatred for sin, contempt for the world, penance and fasting, devotion to the Madonna, love for the Eucharist and the imitation of Christ crucified, justice and social peace. His “forthright applications” in this field were lively and successful, as we can see in the following:

Where can we find greed, pride or frenzied lust? Are they perhaps not at home among the rich, the nobles and the powerful? Should people not be called thieves when they take goods from the poor with violence, tred them down and kill them taking away what belongs to them and what they need to live? O, these people, there is much more to reproach them about than just saying that they only took what was superfluous. In this case the excess is squeezed out of the blood of the poor who being naked die of the cold. They build palaces and grand houses to make people admire them while their subjects collapse in the squares. They host dinners and sumptuous feasts while their subjects are dying of hunger.

Blessed souls, Christ is still hungry today, because his poor ones are suffering from hunger and thirst, are dying of the cold, and at night have nowhere to shelter from the rain and the snow. They are disgraced. They are not respected. Because they cannot pay as the judges, the prosecutors and the notaries do to make a case for the poor widows and little children who have no one to defend them and do not obtain a favourable judgement as in the cases of the rich, the nobles and those who are powerful. O how cruel! How ungrateful! Christ is dying of hunger, and you do not want to admit this! Christ needs defending and you do not want to represent him! O, such cruelty does not deserve being pardoned!”[119]

The statements for the defence are so detailed in describing the fight that St Joseph of Leonessa waged in seeking justice for the poor who were defenceless and oppressed.[120] They also contain picturesque descriptions of his style of preaching. Let us cite one out of many to show how his way of preaching was practical and concrete as opposed to being theoretical and abstract. “I know what St Joseph of Leonessa used to preach. He exhorted the people to cultivate strong faith, explained the articles of faith and taught points of the faith when he spoke in the Churches. He taught how to go to Confession and receive the Most Holy sacrament. He preached with so much fervour as to yield wonderful fruit. As he held the Crucifix in his hand, he moved his audience to tears. I saw him and heard him many times here in the Church of S. Maria di Leonessa.”[121]

He presented his choice of an austere way of life as a sign of salvation and mercy, rarely mentioning his own life in his sermons. “Why do you think that a little while ago you saw me dressed in rough and despicable clothes, covered in sackcloth and ashes? For what reason do you think that young men are leaving the world today and whatever they possess to live in such an austere way and do penance in this holy Order, if it is not to avoid eternal punishment? Why do you think that I, an ungrateful sinner, have dedicated my life to follow the rule of such a penitent Father, if it were not to save my soul?”[122]

However, his secret motive was his passionate love for Christ. His contemplative charisma is what made him leave this biographical note: “Whoever loves the life of contemplation has a serious duty to go into the world to preach especially as the ideas of men are very confused and iniquity abounds on earth.”[123]

4. Biblical and Sapiential Preaching of St Lawrence of Brindisi

The year 1582 was not only the year in which the preaching activity St Joseph of Leinessa began in the south west of the Marches. It also marked the first appearance of the twenty-three-year-old Capuchin Deacon St Lawrence of Brindisi. He was not well known when he preached in the Church of S. Giovanni Nuovo, close to the Piazza San Marco in Venice, but he was destined to become a giant in learning and sanctity within the Church. After this magnificent proof of his ability to preach he was ordained a priest and immediately engaged to preach a second Lenten Course in the same Church in Venice for the following year, 1583. From that time on his life was filled with preaching.

He was to preach at least about twenty Lenten Courses. He preached five in Venice. In addition to the two already mentioned, he preached one in the Church of Santi Apostoli (1595), another in the Church of S. Geremia (1596) and a third in the Basilica of S. Marco. He then preached at Bassano in 1588, Cosenza the following year and in Venice in 1698. During his trips outside Italy he preached in Prague in 1600, Vienna in 1601 and in the Sanctuary at Loretto in 1602. After he was elected Vicar General, he visited all the Provinces of the Order on foot. He preached another Lenten Course in the Church of the Spirito Santo in Naples in 1605, preaching twice each day in the morning and in the evening, with the evening sermon being dedicated to the Madonna. In 1606 he preached at Aversa and in 1607 and 1608 he preached in Prague, speaking at the Archdiocesan hospital three days a week. He conducted another Lenten Course in Monaco in Bavaria in 1613 in the friary church. The next year he mounted the pulpit in Genoa and in1615 he spoke from the pulpit in Mantova. In 1617 he preached in Verona and delivered his last Lenten Course, his swansong, in Milan in 1618. In addition to these official Lenten and Advent Courses he returned to preach to the soldiers, to those who were sick and to those who had contracted the plague.[124]

He prepared his sermons in writing during the breaks in in his sacred ministry and the pauses in his travels in Europe. In doing this he produced a great number of manuscripts containing preaching material that fell into the hands of the friars and which became a hidden treasure for another three and a half centuries. This was the situation right up to our own time when they were finally collected and printed in the fifteen volumes of the Opera omnia which appeared when he was declared Saint and Doctor (Doctor Apostolicis) of the Church in 1959.

They are volumes that deal predominantly with rhetoric and controversy, as they were part of his apostolate. Among them more than ten treat of material suitable for preaching. There are at least four Lenten Courses that contain sermons that are almost complete for each day of the week. They add up to about one hundred sermons. These are further divided into seven to ten sermons for each day, excluding Saturdays. In addition to these there are two other complete Lenten Courses spread over three weeks including sermons for the Paschal feasts, as well as another two Lenten Courses in Italian.[125] To the three hundred Lenten sermons we need to also add at least about fifty sermons for the Sundays in Advent and other feasts and Sundays until the beginning of Lent.[126] There are another seventy seven Sunday homilies, two for each Sunday, and seventy six short sermons.[127] There are fifty six sermons in the Sanctorale dedicated to various Saints and Christian mysteries, together with thirteen other sermons and the fragments of other talks.[128] Finally the Saint consecrated eighty nine sermons to the Madonna, fifty nine in the Mariale, twenty seven spread throughout other codices and three other sermons in the Mariale in which he applies the Gospels for the Saturday following Ash Wednesday, and the First and Third Sundays in Lent to the Madonna by way of accommodation.[129].

The last written sermons are short outlines of homilies and sermons. Indeed, Arturo de Carmignano, the most recent biographer of Lawrence of Brindisi claims that in the final years, after 1613, the Saint no longer wrote anything.[130] In an overview of this mass of material he distinguishes three groups of sermons. The first group of sermons contains those that were delivered in Italian when he was a young man.[131] They are normal texts consisting of an introduction, outline and delivery and they could be described as “sermons on a subject”.[132]

The second group is made up of sermons in Latin, that are structured in the same way but adhere more closely to the Gospel passage even if there is still the tendency to make the passage fit the chosen subject.[133] This is why they might be classified as sermons that are a mixture of sermons on a subject and traditional homilies.

The last group consists of genuine homilies. There is a progressive disinterest in formality. The Saint gives himself over completely to the Gospel text. He responds very strongly to the text, meditates on it, drinks it in slowly, contemplates it, becomes absorbed in all the thought and enlightenment that in on the page without being concerned about this going on over several pages or about its logical sequence. Thus, it happens that as he comes up with new reflections, he leaves a blank space on the page in order to be able to add further reflections as they come to mind.

He certainly did not take into the pulpit all the biblical insights that he wrote in his manuscripts. The variety of the texts for every day in Lent shows that he never simply repeated what he wrote but that he basically used the same material, knew how to change, adapt and rework it with extraordinary versatility. He was able to do this because in the strong and tireless doctrinal preparation that characterised his time as a teacher and thinker (he had been a lecturer in the sacred sciences for many years) he had already taught, in plain Latin, material that was suitable for preaching, set it out clearly in a chain of concepts that had a clear division and explanation of the arguments. He did not have to be concerned about writing out a sermon before delivering it because he usually preached in Italian. The enormous amount of material that he wrote in Latin, gives magnificent witness to his command of sacred studies and to his commitment as a scholar even with respect to preaching. This written material is probably not the most faithful mirror of the way in which he preached. Today what he wrote in connection with preaching provides us with an important instrument for evaluating the topics and doctrinal content of what he said. However, in my opinion, it is not enough to put together all the features of his actual preaching activity.

When we compare the statements of witness at the Process of Canonisation with other documents on the Saint’s life, we form the idea that his preaching must have been very diverse and varied, especially in the introductory sections and the conclusions that he changed to suit the circumstances of the place and the needs of his audience. He was only concerned about making sense out of the words in the Gospel passage that he was expounding. What is more, the testimony of various witnesses is unanimous is emphasising the “charismatic” element of his preaching that came rather from long hours of prayer on his knees than from the books he paged through or read at his desk. “When he preached, he relied mostly on his memory and his commitment to prayer. On one occasion when talking about this … Giovanni da Fossombrone said … that when he asked him whether he could preach without studying he replied: “When I begin to preach, my mind and my memory open up.” He said no more, but with a gesture of his hand he indicated that what he preached was the same as if you were reading a book.”[134] When he was absorbed in a surge of missionary conquests, many activities and ministerial works in European countries, it would have been humanly impossible for him to find the peace and quiet for daily systematic study, while also keeping pace with the contemporary cultural confusion, the various Biblical and theological controversies, the content of the books that he loved and read so avidly, even though he was endowed with the gift of a rare intelligence and a prodigious memory.

Another witness, Andrea da Venezia adds that “Father Lorenzo did not study any book other than the Bible, and he always did this while kneeling before an image of the Blessed Virgin, crying and sobbing, so that it appeared that he was praying rather than studying. Depending on how God inspired him, he remained on his knees, writing down the thoughts that he subsequently preached, without studying any other book.”[135] In fact, being very conscious of what was said in the Constitutions of the Order, he understood that preaching was a dynamic prayer, a effusion of the power of the Spirit: “The words of a sermon are useless and ineffective unless they are set on fire by prayer and by the furnace of divine charity (cf. In meditatione mea exardescet ignis (Ps 38:4)). For prayer is the soul of preaching. It is like a fireball that is hurled in battle. Without it, all is useless.[136] Indeed I am now convinced, Brothers, that if each one of the ministers of God’s Word were to preach the Gospel motivated by an apostolic spirit this would be fruitful. The Apostle said to the Thessalonians: Evalgelium nostrum non fuit ad vos in sermone tantum, sed in virtute et Spiritu Sancto (1 Thes. 1:5). At the moment because many preach the Gospel only in word and eloquence, but not in the power of the Holy Spirit, evangelical preaching is yielding little fruit.”[137]

Another detail that was mentioned in the Canonisation Process was the almost ecstatic concentration of the Saint during the sermon which made it seem that he had been transported outside himself.[138] At that time “he was recollected and very fervent” so he told his companion to tell him “if he had reached the end, the middle or the conclusion of the sermon,” not only “by tugging on the mantle he was wearing over his habit, as they usually did for others”, but to do something more forceful.[139]

Biblical preaching

Because he continually made adjustment to the outlines of his sermons adding new thoughts, or abbreviating previous explanations, we are unable to arrive at an absolutely adequate concept of the rhetorical flair of the Saint. However, it must have been extraordinarily rich and polished. He retained a mine of biblical concepts and reflections in his prodigious memory. It is from this that he drew what was constructive in different situations as he preached under the influence and the needs of the moment, without being concerned about what he had written before. He continually went back to the Gospel and other sacred books. One might say that each line contained a reference to Scripture. His exposition was a mosaic of Biblical texts that were arranged in proper order and sequence. In his soul and in his memory every word, phrase or Biblical event echoed with many meanings which led to other parallel passages and events. The whole flavour of his discourse was Biblical, even when it contained no direct quotes. The sacred text was always on his mind, shaping his thought, intensifying the mood in which he moved, thought and worked.

Lawrence of Brindisi always kept the Latin and Hebrew Bibles with him in his cell even when he was on a journey. One of the witnesses testified that “he had one or the other in his hand almost continually.”[140] In reality, Scripture was the main source, perhaps the only source, of these discourses. He drew almost all of his examples, his images and arguments from the symbolical interpretation of people, objects, proper names and the mystical meaning of numbers from Scripture. He recognised in Scripture “an immense ocean of secret mystical meanings”[141] He said that the preacher ought to be “a disciple of the Sacred Book,”[142] in which God’s works of salvation are described in their fundamental features which are love and mercy. Naturally this required knowledge of the original languages of the Bible. It also implied an understanding of the literal and the other various senses of the Bible that is basic for understanding the text. It included a grasp of the mystical meaning of passages as it is hidden beneath the literal meaning yet placed there by the Holy Spirit. It included an analysis of the tropological, allegorical and anagogical senses and an interpretation that was filled with much piety and sobriety.[143]

The Saint had a most exalted concept of the dignity of preaching. It was part of a divine mission. The preacher ought to be convinced of this and make himself worthy of the grace.[144] The mission, passion and suitability of the preacher were the authentic signs of one who was the minister of God’s Word. Thus he saw preaching as being munus propheticum.[145] It was a sacred activity since it dealt with Sacred Scripture and promoted the spiritual renewal of the whole of mankind persuading them to imitate Christ.[146] For him the preaching of penance was inspired by the most holy and very harsh life of St John the Baptist in the desert.[147] He was destined to proclaim this with authority saying that it was a choice between eternal reward and eternal punishment.

In his text for preaching he uses very few quotes from profane authors, who were being misused at the time. On the few occasions when he does use them, they appear incidentally.[148] Quotations from the Fathers are also rare. However, proverbs and the saying of Philosophers crop up from time to time. His aim is to persuade and not only to rouse the heart, but to also convince the intellect to embrace the works of virtue with greater consistency and courage. When he does this, he does not wander off into digressions. He develops it gradually, deepening the thought and widening the vision with respect to the principles and consequences that are involved.

His eloquence might not have seemed to be as picturesque, emotional or colourful as that of some of his contemporary brothers. It might be useful to compare it with the eloquence of Girolamo Finucci da Pistoia, or Giuseppe da Leonessa, or Alfonso Lupo or especially Bellintani da Salò and Giacinto da Casale. He presented his thoughts in a vibrant way and his arguments with exceptional vigour. He possessed mystical feeling that forced his audience to reflect and persuaded them to listen to his admonitions. The effect that this had in bringing about human determination was amazing.

His favourite subjects were the observance of the divine commandments and the law of the Gospel, the necessity of performing good works, the practice of the Christian virtues, especially faith and charity, flight from sin, prayer and the imitation of Jesus Christ. He almost always interpreted the daily Gospels as providing the reason for undertaking the proper way of living a Christian life.[149]

Marian and Controversial Preaching

When dealing with the preaching of St Lawrence of Brindisi in addition to dealing with is fundamentally biblical character, we cannot forget two other important features, namely his Marian preaching and the adversarial elements in his preaching. His masterpiece is the Mariale. It is the pearl in the Opera omnia. It contains eighty four discourses, sixteen on the phrase Missus est, ten on the Ave Maria, ten on the Magnificat, five on the expression of the woman in the Gospel Beatus venter, six on the Salve Regina, eleven on the Immaculate Conception, six on the words in the Psalm Fundamenta eius in montibus sanctis, two for the Feast of the Madonna della Neve and three for the Annunciation. They form one of the most rich and complete collections of sermons on Mary’s titles, privileges and feasts. He wrote about Mary from the perspective of an artist, a theologian and a mystic. Without doubt he was one of those saints who had a deep love for Mary, and who was inspired and enlightened by the mystery that surrounded her, which he described as the miraculum magnum[150] of the Mother of God. In these sermons the lyrical chorus explodes uncontrollably and pervades every word. The principles that he accepts are: Mary is the infinite light of grace, true ark of divinity, city of God, second temple of God, God’s room, the holiest of the saints, Spouse of the Holy Spirit and pure water. Here are a few of his accolades concerning Mary that give just a faint idea of his splendid preaching:

Mary heaven’s gate, Christ heaven’s gate! Mary is the gate through which God comes to us. Christ is the gate through which we go to God. Christ is the gate as the mediator between God and mankind. He is the God who is man. Mary is the gate because she is the mediatrix between Christ and the faithful. Just as Christ, the Mediator between God and mankind possessed God’s nature, so Mary, Christ’s mediatrix, possessed Christ’s sanctity, in as much as she was pure and immaculate like Christ.[151]

In her the Creator became a creature, God became man, a father was born of a daughter and an architect was born in the building which he had designed and built from its foundations.[152]

God sent Gabriel, the most powerful being in heaven, to beg for a Spouse and Mother for his Only Son. The Virgin Mary is Christ’s mother, spouse, sister and most sweet daughter. Just as Christ is God, Mary is daughter and spouse and as a human being sister and mother.[153]

Ave Maria. She is like a large ocean into which all the rivers of grace and are consumed. Gratia plena, Dominus recum, benedicta tu in mulieribus, ocean of grace, ocean of divine goodness, ocean of divine blessings. Brothers, who could ever doubt, unless he was totally demented, that the water of a river would end up in the ocean? Thus, when we go to Mary how could we have the slightest doubt about grace or mercy since she is the Mother of grace, the mother of mercy, mother most clement, abyss of goodness, lake of kindness.[154]

These are phrases of someone who is in love, and together with many others like them they embellish his Marian sermons. He pours out his devotion to Mary in these wonderful sermons. We know that he was also offered the privilege of celebrating the Mass for the feasts of the Madonna and that at the end of his tiresome journeys on foot he used to sing “a hymn to the Virgin Mary especially the Vergine bella, Stabat mater or the Lauretan Litany ‘with so much feeling that often he appeared to have moved outside himself”.[155] He let no chance to preach on Mary’s glory or devotion to Mary pass by.[156]

The other feature is that which treats of controversies. This is more evident in his writings that do not deal with preaching, but with theological debates with Protestants and discussions with Jews.[157] These were two fields of his admirable apostolate in which he could display his superabundant knowledge of the Bible, philosophy and the history of dogma. In dealing with what was controversial he placed great importance also on Tradition and the Fathers, but rather than accumulating quotations and opinions, he preferred to rely on the evidence itself and its dogmatic value.[158] In all of this he emphasised the unity of Christ’s Church and obedience to the See of Peter as a sign of the true believers. As far as he was concerned the distinctive trait of heretics and of Christ’s enemies was hatred for the Pope and disrespect for the Church of Rome.[159] As Gianmaria da Monteforte testified, the Saint “was very zealous about the Catholic faith, the Holy Roman Church and the Supreme Pontiff, and when the occasion presented itself he spoke and preached about these things with so much zeal that it was amazing.”[160]

If we want to look for controversial matters in his written sermons we should read the sermons that are contained in volume X of the Opera omnia since they demonstrate the frank, fearless and relentless character of his style of debating.[161] His battle against every kind of error led him into public debates about philosophy and to the unmasking the invasion of the teachings of Aristotle, Avveroes and Alexander into the University of Padova even from the pulpit when there were all kinds of faithful in the audience. This is another important aspect of his preaching that needs to be investigated more deeply. It shows his opposition to Aristotle as it was revealed in his preaching.[162] There is a phrase that he wrote in his Explanatio in Genesim that is clearly autobiographical, and which says much about his character. “I am sensitive about truth because I love it. I seek it every time I study or do research since it is an infinite treasure.”[163]

Does an unpublished Lenten Course provide us with a better insight into the preaching of Lawrence of Brindisi?

If it was his passionate love for truth that made him study and delve into research without becoming exhausted. It is odd that his writings were never published. Why did the only work that he composed for publication, the Lutheranismi Hypotyposis, never reach port? As the Jesuit Father Mondrone accurately observes, Lawrence of Brindisi “sacrificed himself for the Catholic cause, and in order to serve it more faithfully to the end of his life, he chose to preach openly and to subject himself to the many diplomatic missions that were entrusted to him and which he considered to be a burden, rather than to seek the legitimate and sacred satisfaction of putting into print the teaching that he strenuously proclaimed from the rostrum, the pulpit and in many debates.”[164]

There is a great difference between what we have just seen and the publication of the sermons of Mattia da Salò. Mattia’s brother Giovanni published his manuscripts. Yet we can see an interesting analogy between the two preachers with respect to their style and to the structure of their sermons. Both make extensive use of the Bible even though there are differences in their practical applications of the passages, their “forthright applications” and, consequently, in their relationship with the audience.

Let us look at what was the impact of St Lawrence’s erudite and profound preaching on his audience. With regard to Bellintani we know that his preaching was fruitful because of its practical applications, forthright moral statements and his method of delivery which was rich in oratory and emotion in line with the baroque contearmpory environment. On the other hand, with regard to Lawrence of Brindisi the humanitarian and scholastics aspects of the culture appear to predominate. There seems to be a passion for the truth which comes from the enlightenment that is derived from the Gospel and from the whole of revelation. He focuses more on the intelligence than on the heart, more on convincing than on arousing.[165] He moves away from a long analysis of the behaviour of the day and concrete applications to the various kinds of people, to insist on pastoral objectives. Stanislao da Campagnola says he “makes a parenthetical and convincing comment on a passage or on a truth and in doing so makes use of all the appropriate grammatical, philological, rhetorical and historical features, in a simple but colourful manner that derives its inspiration from scripture and the Fathers, while making full use of the allegorical sense of the passage. By using this “humanistic” and scholastic methodology these elements are brought together and merge. This shows what a vast knowledge of languages (Greek, Hebrew, Chaldaic, etc.) Lawrence of Brindisi possessed. This was an indispensable preparation for a critique of the texts and the ancient authors, who from the beginning of the sixteenth century had begun to attract scholars (humanists and philologists)”.[166]

This is not to say that there were not concrete and “popular”” elements in his sermons, but that they were rare or not greatly developed. It is also true that his written sermons have come down to us in one form, namely in Latin, which does not correspond, as we have already pointed out, to his actual apostolic activity. From this point of view his most significant sermons are the ones that are written in Italian but there are very few of them. There are fragments of the Lenten Course preached in Venice in 1582/83 and they are among the first written by the Saint when he was a young man. The rest are “forests” of sermons.

Even if the comparison of his Latin sermons with his Italian sermons is not as disappointing as Cantini would claim when he says that the Saint had changed his style of preaching,[167] it still remains that the only Lenten Course which is very characteristic, and therefore the most historically important for appreciating his real style was, oddly enough, not included in the Opera omnia. This happened in spite of the fact that one scholar who studied it at depth heaped praise on it and by using weighty arguments established that it belonged to Lawrence.[168]

This Lenten Course, which is held in the Provincial Archives of the Capuchins in Milan, is written in Italian, but not in his handwriting. Because of this the editors did not include it in the Opera omnia. However, it is an important work in the history of preaching because it is a text that was taken down while the Saint was speaking in Prague in 1607. Therefore, it belongs in the reportatus category of texts and we know for example that the vernacular sermons at the Campo di Siena in 1427 which were preached by san Bernardino are very important documents for both history and linguistics. In these documents we have genuine evidence of the relationship between the preacher and his audience, of his actual style, his passion and emotion, his zeal and ardour, and his ‘forthright applications, his treatment of vice and praise of virtue as well as his impact on the people, when he emphasised the spiritual content of the Gospel passages, not forgetting the concrete history of the circumstances and the magnificence of the oratory. It is from these features that we can gain an understanding of Lawrence’s manner of preaching in a way that is less theoretical and closer to history.

This is why we have presented the last three sermons of the Lenten Course in the way that they were delivered to the public. It is interesting to see how he developed his message throughout the entire course of sermons, and what were the “thoughts” he slipped in that provide spiritual nourishment because these give us an unedited glimpse into the life of the Saint that was full of humility and charity (cf. nn. 5257 and 6299). This Lenten Course requires a full study which we cannot perform here. It would reveal many interesting authentic aspects of Lawrence’s preaching. This is an invitation to some willing researcher and the expression of a wish that the results would be published.

5) “Apostolic” preaching of Anselmo Marzati da Monopoli and one of his unpublished Lenten Courses

When Clement III chose Anselmo Marzati da Monopoli, who was the Procurator General of the Order, to be a Cardinal with the title of S. Pietro in Montorio, St Lawrence of Brindisi very quickly issued an official communiqué to all the Provinces. This date marks an important and almost definitive change in the development of the Order, such that some “spiritual” friars thought of it as a step backwards and a rejection of the traditional spirit of humility and simplicity.[1] Among those who were displeased with such an appointment was Mattia Bellintani da Salò who under the influence of an austere, “spiritualist” concept of the Order did not approve of a poor Capuchin being raised to the dignified position of being a Cardinal and he asked whether such an event made any sense in the history of a Franciscan reform? He said as much in a letter to Cardinal F. Borromeo dated 19th July 1604.

Is St Francis asleep or awake? I was certain that, as we were his sons, he would have kept us as humble and poor as he had taught. However, am I wrong to have doubts about such a glorious inheritance? As I have taken the middle path, being committed to following his example as I found it there … I have no wish to delve into the deep secrets of divine providence, which laid the foundations of the building long ago or to go into what he proposed by way of punishment, but looking back at the first stones it seems to me that what is happening is not fitting and quite appalling. I recall the statement of our Father St Francis that the Minors will produce fruit by being [humble]. I do not know now whether in our day with all the changes that have come about that [they will provide us with a new and holy way to renew the world and Christianity].[2]

The thoughts of Bellintani, who always interpreted every event as a sign of providence as it guided the Church to continually reforming itself,[3] came about because important friars had taken on “new activities” that were not exactly in line with the humility of poor Capuchins. The promotion of Monopoli to being a Cardinal was not the first thing that was new. In 1595, for the first time in Capuchin history, the same Anselmo da Monopli had been appointed Apostolic Preacher in which capacity he delivered sermons to the Pope and the Cardinals for nine years.[4]

The popularity and contemporary assessment of his preaching

This topic was chosen because of his reputation as a preacher. He displayed great gifts from the time that he was a cleric and deacon and preached in the friaries first at Fermo and then at Proceno. After he had been ordained and received his patents for preaching, he was asked once again to preach the Lenten Course at Proceno, and after that at Alatri, Cittaducale, Viterbo, Lucca and in the Church of S. Giovanni dei Fiorentini in Rome. However, it is difficult to establish the exact times of these sermons. We know what was year that he spent in the Noviciate. Marzati says that this took place at the friary in Ruggie in 1574. In a letter dated the twenty-second of July 1617 that was sent to the official chronicler of the Order, Paolo Vitelleschi da Foligno, Salvator da Todi stated that the Lenten Curse that he preached in Rome took place during the sixth year of his preaching apostolate. However, as we do not know the date of his Ordination, we cannot be sure about this.[5]

The first sermons followed on in the 1580’s and they had an immediate effect in the Roman Court. Especially the Lenten Course that was delivered at S. Giovanni dei Fiorentini, a place that was alive with the early experiments of the community of the Oratory of St Phillip Neri. In the space of a few years Anselmo da Monopoli had removed all that stood before him in Rome and would have become Vicar General of the Order at the Chapter in 1602 had not the Pope announced that he would soon be elevated to becoming a Cardinal. In any case apart from a few entries in Roman diaries concerning events at the Papal ceremonies, in the travel diary of Cardinal P. Aldobrandini and in the Memories of Cardinal G. Bentivoglio, we have no more accurate accounts of his preaching in the Papal Household.[6]

In a recent study I. Vázquez endeavoured to approach the Saint’s character more deeply by making a comparison between his style of preaching and that of other preachers against the background of the Council of Trent. The results are clear. Referring back to the already cited letter of Salvatore da Todi, Vázquez is inclined to interpret the evidence that he discovered in a different way to the interpretation proposed by Marzati. Marzati said that he carried out his studies in the friary at Fermo “under the Spaniard”, the title that he gave to Alfonso Lobo, and not under the former Jesuit Pietro Trigoso.[7] Because of this he noted the difference between Br. Lobo and Marazati. The result was that he criticised the former and praised the latter. Here are his very important words: “By his example and penance Br Alfonso contributed to the edification of the young cleric whom he met at the friary in Rome. However, this was the limit of his influence. Anselmo did not teach him to love and study theology since, as Br. Gaspar de Uceda testifies, Anselm did not have these gifts. He had even less influence on his style of preaching since Anselm did not use “forthright applications”. I think that one might say that Anselmo was a different kind of preacher not under the influence of Trent. Alfonso wanted to imitate the Prophets, whereas, on the other hand, Anselm followed the norms of the Church. Therefore, the Italian “disciple” owed little to the “Spaniard”. I think that this is clear.”[8]

We have rejected this opinion elsewhere as it undervalues the personality and preaching of Alfonso Lupo.[9] Here we intend to analyse the preaching of the Italian friar in a more direct and concrete manner seeing it in a more favourable way than our Franciscan brother Marzati did. We shall go back to those who kept diaries of events between 1595 and 1601. We have no evidence for the years that went before this.

When the Master of Ceremonies Mucazio jotted down notes in his diary about the first “concio” (sermon) of the new Apostolic Preacher, which was delivered in the hall of Costantino on the tenth of February 1595, he described the Capuchin as “of solid doctrine who was well-suited to the office of preaching.” He noted that the sermons were delivered every Friday in Lent and that this sometimes dictated their topic and division. Concerning the sermon that was preached on the third of March 1596 he wrote: “His Holiness … heard a sermon delivered by Father Monopulo … in which he spoke about the words of the Gospel of the day Hominem non habeo”. On Sunday the twenty fifth of October 1598, when the Papal Court was at Ferrara, he noted that the brother “preached … about the Gospel of the day and in the first part he explained the words in Matthew 8 , Et ecce leprosus veniens … In like manner in the second part he expounded words such as: Et extendens manum. All who were present listened to him and praised him.”

On the twenty eighth of October 1598 Anselmo da Monopoli preached on the Gospel for the feast of Sts. Simon and Jude: Haec mando vobis ut diligatis invicem, “in the first part exhorting those present to show charity to all Christians, especially prelates and leaders. In the second he explained the Sequence: Si mundus vos odit …”. He gives a more detailed account of the sermon delivered on the fourth of November 1598. “He preached on the Saints and in the first part he explained the words of Psalm 67: Mirabilis Deus in sanctis suis. What a wonderful teaching and how wonderfully it sets out the fourteen wonderful things about which I shall speak. God showed his wonders in the Saints in that he made them holy, in that he made them so holy, in that he made Saints, in the strength and works of his Saints, in the glory and honour of the Saints. In the second part he expounded the words for the Gospel of the day taking up Matthew 5: Gaudete et exultate …”

Other diaries that deal with the trip to Florence and France with the Roman Court in the company of Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini, make mention of Marzati who on the twenty-fourth of October 1600, during the Forty Hour Devotions in the Cathedral of Tortona “made a brief and wonderful comment on what the Gospel proposed that moved almost everyone to tears.” There is a diary entry also about what happened at Chambéry the following November when after the solemn Mass, that was celebrated by the Cardinal, in the presence of the Duke of Savoy and the King of France and their respective Courts, “Father Monopoli delivered a sermon on the Gospel of the day that contained his usual effective and wise teachings. The French Lords who were not accustomed to seeing their preachers move around in the pulpit, laughed at the actions of the priest, especially at the face that he pulled when he wanted to emphasise a point. However, the King himself who was staunch and attentive and who in the end praised the priest said that he had clearly understood him even though many words escaped him”.

Eight days later during the celebration of the Forty Hours in the Church of St Francis in Chambéry, “Father Monopoli delivered a short but very pertinent commentary that was more like a meditation or conversation”. Then on Sunday the twenty-sixth of November 1600, “he preached after the Mass on the Gospel gratifying everyone and delighting the French people and impressing everyone as he spoke about Princes.” There was another speaker who followed Cardinal Aldobrandini. This was Don Paolo Tolosa, a Theatine who was also held in high regard. Indeed, according to whoever wrote the diary, “when the King of France was talking with his companions it emerged that the latter was the best, but the diary concluded that both were equal, being similar in some things and dissimilar in other things. One (Tolosa) excelled in the art of speech and eloquence and the other (Monopoli) in the teaching that he dealt with in the short time.”[10]

In his Memorie Cardinal G. Bentivoglio has left a more accurate account of his preaching. The Cardinal knew him during the years that he frequented the Palace of the Aldobrandi in the Papal Court. He wrote “even though he did not live there, he had easy access to the lodgings of Father Anselmo, a Capuchin and the Papal Preacher, who was known as Father Monopoli because he had been born in the Kingdom of Naples. He carried out his office in a manner that was highly approved of by the Roman Court. His teaching was truly efficacious, his way of life was austere and by means of his apostolic zeal which was acknowledged, he freely admonished and challenged the Court. They accepted his sermons giving him great praise and receiving great benefit. His delivery was neither cultivated nor polished. He made up for this by his teaching which was filled with Scripture and the Fathers from whom he passed on the meaning rather than the words. In short, he was totally preoccupied with substance, not ornamentation.”[11]

These observations and judgements give us some idea of the preaching of Marzati. It was closely linked to the Gospel of the day, full of Biblical and Patristic citations, successful in imparting doctrine, well set out, openly courageous in reprimanding Princes, members of the Court, nobles and prelates, even without using “forthright applications”, seeking rather to “pack substance and doctrine into a short space of time” leaving aside ornamental eloquence. Thus, it was a style of evangelical preaching in line with the penitential, austere lifestyle of the Capuchins.

A comparison between a sermon and a Lenten Course

Father Vázques tested these judgements by examining whether they could be applied to an unpublished sermon that Marzati preached on Christ’s Passion on the twentieth of March 1595, the Monday in Holy Week, in the presence of the Pope and twenty-eight Cardinals. We published this sermon in full because it is the only surviving example of his sermons as Apostolic Preacher (cf. nn. 6300-6318). The result of this assessment confirmed the precision of the observations made in the Pontifical diaries and, most of all, what was said by Cardinal G. Bentivoglio. The sermon is outstanding in its structure and the clarity of its logic and methodology. A very brief introduction outlines the topic and divides it into a precise scheme.

The topic is based on the words: Passio Domini Jesu Christi. Thus the sermon has a precise topic. He examines the two words: Passion and Christ, which are “two things that are as contradictory as one might imagine,” just the same as are suffering and glory. He divides the first part into three sections and analyses the two words. He portrays the nature of the Passion by using adjectives such as effortless, deliberate and inescapable, and then as natural, spiritual and physical and finally as destructive, yet providing perfection and instruction. In the second part he talks about love as being Christ’s sole attribute that was not “eclipsed” by his Passion, the one quality “that unites the two things that appear to be incompatible”. This reveals the true style of Anselmo da Monopoli as he uses short, packed phrases, multiple scripture quotes that are not heavy, and a few brief quotes from the Fathers in order to produce proposals and moral applications.

However, the text of this sermon is not enough and does not suffice to let us grasp the whole method and oratorical style of Marzati. His sermons as Apostolic Preacher have not been preserved or have not yet been discovered. Nevertheless, we do have at our disposal an entire Lenten Course in manuscript form which was already known to E. d’Alençon a century ago, but which has not yet been studied seriously. From the title that appears on the Vatican codex that contains this manuscript it would appear that the sermon was preached in Rome at the Basilica of S. Giovanni dei Fiorentini. A printing error in E. d’Alençon’s article prevented Vásquez from finding the manuscript among the Latin codices.[12]

The Lenten Course deserves to be read because it makes available a thorough and profound understanding of Marzati’s preaching. In addition to this, the fact that the text is probably in his own writing, both because of his abbreviated way of quoting Biblical passage, and because it is an accumulation of notes, it leaves open the possibility that it was to be expanded with moral and practical applications as well as the addition of more arguments.

The writing is that of a hand which is firm and steady. The biblical quotations and other relevant notes appear in the margin, as was the custom at the time, where sometimes the notes are written in a different hand which is not as firm. These notations might refer to different topics or to various categories of people, for example, prelates, priests, judges, princes, the wealthy, religious or the poor etc. It is probable, in our opinion, that this Lenten Course was adopted by another preacher for his own use.

The codex goes on for 150 pages and it contains about forty talks or Lenten sermons, including five “discussions’ for the Fridays in May, which means that Marzati preached every Friday, in the morning and in the evening, on the Gospel of the day. The last sermon, which is for Tuesday after Easter, is incomplete, some pages are missing, and something is blocked out at the beginning of the second part. This is unfortunate as it probably contained the conclusion of the Lenten Course where we could find the notes on the proposals for the people that are always important for coming to know the character of the preacher. The most striking sermons are those for Wednesday of the First Week of Lent, Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent and the sermons for each Saturday, with the exception of the sermon for Saturday in Passion Week that dealt with the Annunciation.

If the sequence of days is accurate it is possible that the Course was preached in1580 because in that year the Feast of the Annunciation fell on the Saturday before Palm Sunday.[13] Therefore, if we are to believe the letter written by Fr Salvatore da Todi that was quoted above in which he said that this Lenten Course which was preached in Rome at S. Giovanni dei Fiorentini was the sixth that was preached by Marzati, it would mean that the first Course preached by Marzati, while he was a deacon, in Proceno took place in 1584.

The first impression that we get from the texts of these sermons is in fact modern and pleasing. They are brief, use short sentences, to the point, meaningful, concise, very colourful, sometimes witty, deal with facts without wandering off into sentimentality, very popular in that they used personal examples and they had a crucial effect on the people and the atmosphere of the city. They had an organised structure that consisted of a preface or pithy introduction that was something substantial, clear and short and each part of the sermon was marked with a conclusion which was often a summary. Only the final sermon on Good Friday was divided into four parts, so that, with the proper pauses, it would last for at least three hours or even more. It was the only occasion on which the introduction was prolonged.[14]

The conclusion of the first part of the sermon was always accompanied by an exhortation to give abundant alms to the poor that was couched in subtle phrases and often skilfully connected with the topic as can be seen in the following examples: “If they say that they will perform charity, and they do not do it, let them do it at least this morning, while I take a breath, because I am begging you” (cf. n. 6335); “So that you may not be condemned, give them a good gift, while I take a breath” (cf. n.6348); “In every battle against the enemy you should arm yourself with a shield, weapons and a suit of armour My Lords, these weapons are holy almsgiving”; [15] “Today you have the chance to do this because the poor who approach you are in real need.” [16]

The various themes in the introductions to the sermons

As we have already said the themes have been taken directly from the Gospel of the day. They are presented with very brief quotations that are the key points in the “ragionamento” (discourse), which was the term that he usually employed to describe the sermon. They contained the same expressions with little variation in these prologues. They served to separate the introduction from the first part of the sermon. Later on, we shall give various examples of these introductions. As we have said above they show the unique features that predominate in Marzati’s style and demonstrate his way of speaking in a more detailed manner and also how he gently forged a connection between his theme and the Gospel without forcing the issue, yet always letting the event in the Gospel or the Gospel passage dominate:

Today mercy and misery are contrasted against each other in the Gospel. Mercy is God’s activity and misery is what mankind experiences. Mercy goes hand in hand with generosity, while misery is accompanied by trust. Listen to this, Cum introisset Jesus Capharnaum, behold mercy: Accesit ad eum centurio who brings misery with him. The one is accompanied by generosity and promise: Ego veniam et curabo eum. The other one comes with humble trust: Domine, non sum dignus. Let it please you Lord for our misery to rouse your divine mercy and that we also experience the fruit of your spiritual healing. Be aware that this person is both very humble and very overjoyed.[17]

Great paradoxes can be seen in Christ’s teaching. On the one hand we see hatred, war and discord, on the other peace, love and concord. In Mark’s Gospel Christ says Veni mittere gladium et non pacem. In St Luke’s Gospel he says Ignem veni etc. By way of contrast he commands us today to love our enemies. Ego autem etc. Everything is peace and war, hatred and love, concord and enmity. War, loathing, hatred of those who obstruct our journey to heaven: si quis venit ad me, St Luke adds: et non odit patrem [and does not hate his father] etc. Nevertheless, today he commands us to love our enemies, with love and friendship: Ego autem etc. speaks about such love etc.[18]

Today the Church presents us with a vision of death and life. She shows two dead people and both of them are brought back to life, one in the book of the Prophet and the other in the Gospel; one is the son of the Samaritan widow, the other of a woman in the Gospel; one being raised by Elisha, the other by Christ, the head of the Prophets. Therefore, let us think about death and life, since the Gospel had something to say about the one and the other. How many dead people there are in this audience! My Lord, let is please you to raise them all, or at least two of them, just as two were raised, one in the Gospel and the other in the Reading. Well then, pay attention then.[19]

How men think is quite different from the way God thinks. Thus Christ who is the Son of God thinks about his Passion and death whereas men think about ambition, receiving honours and status. Christ speaks about suffering, sweat and toil, while men muse about being at peace, resting and being comfortable. Christ speaks about cleansing our sin, while men heap sin upon sin. Look at the example set out in the Gospel where it says that Christ summoned the Apostles to explain to them the mystery of the Passion. Ecce ascendimus etc. However, in a similar context, men go looking for a woman and how to command when seated to the right hand or the left. Dic ut sedeat etc. Let us think about the benefit that can be derived from the Passion and death of Jesus Christ, Our Lord.[20]

I think that there are two persons in each one of us, one that is inner and the other that is exterior. In line with this I consider that there are two ways of living, one spiritual and the other physical. Consequently, we discover two kinds of death, one, the death of the soul, the other, the death of the body. St John the Evangelist wrote about both of these in the Apocalypse: Qui vicerit non laedetur a morte secunda. Whoever has conquered, and whoever has overcome all the traps that the devil has placed before him in this world and in the flesh, will not be harmed by the second death of the soul. Yesterday while looking at the death of the widow’s son we were speaking about the death of the body. Today when the Gospel is speaking about Lazarus it is referring to the death of the soul. Therefore, pay attention.[21]

We find two very famous roads in Scripture, one is wide and the other narrow, one filled with delights, one filled with sufferings, one that leads to perdition, the other that leads to life. Concerning the first Christ says; Lata est via etc. With respect to the second he says: Arcta est via. These two roads are portrayed for us by the two men in today’s Gospel, one is rich, the other poor, one dressed in purple, the other covered with ulcers and sores, one possessing great abundance, the other living in destitution and willing to eat the crumbs that fall from the rich man’s table. Behold success: Homo quidem erat dives. What follows upon this? Mortuus est autem et dives etc. Et erat quidam mendicus. Then this is what comes next: factum est autem ut moreretur mendicus. Our discussion will be about the rich and the poor, as we hear words of complaint from the first and words of praise from the second. Listen.[22]

There are two main points that come through in today’s Gospel: Christ’s generosity and man’s malice. His generosity can be seen in Christ’s gift of his water and of his grace as he calls everyone to drink: Si quis sitit etc. Man’s malice can be seen in that he does not accept the water; indeed he refuses it sending the Chief Priests and the Pharisees to arrest Christ. Miserunt Principes etc. So, we shall discuss Christ’s generosity and our malice. Listen.[23]

The world has always persecuted Christ, and Christ the world, indeed Christ cannot be at one with the world, nor the world with Christ. Christ was in Judea and the Jews were trying to kill him. Christ went to Galilee and the people chased him out. Christ returned to Judea and look at how the world began to pass judgement on Christ. Some said that he was good because he was telling the truth; others said he was bad because he seduced the crowd. Some said that he was good because he cast our devils, others said that he was bad because he did so in the name of Beelzebub. Some said that he was good because he lived a good way of life; others said that he was bad because he was a friend of sinners and publicans. However, they did not dare to say this in public. Nemo tamen palam. This is what John’s Gospel is saying today and, with the help of God, we shall speak about it again.[24]

From these passages we can see that he always divided his topic into two parts to make it easy and simpler to remember. It was a method that had direct connections with the contrast between wretchedness and mercy, hatred and love, the thoughts of God and the thoughts of men, those of the rich man who walked the wide road and the poor man who followed the narrow road, life and death, the spiritual life and the material life, the inward looking man and the man of superficiality, God’s generosity and man’s malice, Christ and the world.[25]

On other occasions he dealt with whole topics without making contrasts. Then there was no mention of a twofold division in the introduction. The topic was simply stated though always in connection with the Gospel at hand.

Just as light is needed in the world, so it is necessary for a person to know the object of his love since the will cannot love what it does not know. The holy theologians say: Voluntas non fertur nisi in bonum cognitum. St Augustine used to say: Invisa in diligere possimus, incognita autem nequaquam. If we want to love holy Christ it is necessary to get to know him today. We shall be speaking about this kind of knowledge this morning since it is contained in the story in the Gospel. Quis est hic etc. Listen because the discourse will be lofty, but helpful and the cause of delight.[26]

Let us speak about glory since our Saviour speaks about it in this part of the Gospel. Even though the mysteries are lofty, nevertheless I will try to simplify them so that everyone will be able to understand.[27]

A painting that possesses neither beauty nor depth appears ugly, defective and lacklustre no matter how you look at it, up close or from a distance, from the back or from the front. It is the same with the monster of sin which is the enemy of grace and just the opposite of glory, however you look at it. It is ugly from beginning to end. To commit sin is to do something ugly. To persevere in sin is uglier and it is even worse to die in sin. This is the sentence that today Christ threatens will fall on the Scribes and the Pharisees and also on obstinate sinners who involve themselves in worldly delights. Ego vado etc. This is a sentence and a proposition that could break stones, melt diamonds to water and motivate hardened and obstinate sinners to do penance. This morning I want to speak about such a sentence that is so terrifying, so menacing and so disturbing to see whether for once I can induce someone to give up sin and embrace virtue.[28]

Christ could not have spoken in a better way about his generosity and our malice and the punishment that we deserve because of our sins, or explained it more clearly than he did by the use of this mystifying parable. Here he tells how the father of a family planted a vineyard, fenced it, built a tower and constructed a wine press to press the grapes and sent the first workers who failed and then sent others. In the end he sent his Son. When the servants maltreated and killed his Son, he said in an angry voice, Quid facier etc. This is what we are going to speak about.[29]

In the Book of Exodus God wished and commanded that the curtains in the Temple should be hung in such a way that they were joined to one another so that one could support the other if the wind shook one of them and made it fall, then the others would hold it in place and support it. In addition to this blessed Christ wanted and commanded in the law of the Gospel that the same should happen in his Church so that its members would always be united, as the people who defend the tabernacle of the Church. If these curtains and these people were to be buffeted by the wind of temptation and unfortunately fall to the ground through committing sin, he commands that the other curtains or other people take care of them, raise them up, support them and assist them. Christ commands all of this in today’s Gospel: Si peccaverit etc. This very important and helpful precept will be the topic of our discussion today. Listen.[30]

Blessed Jesus is very diligent in repairing our wretchedness and infirmity as he prays for the whole night and during the day goes into the temple to teach. During the day he performs miracles. After midday he goes through the town preaching the Kingdom of heaven and in the evening, he heals all who are sick. All of this can be clearly found in the daily Gospel: Surgens Jesus de Sinagoga where he had been teaching, introivit. Behold today’s miracle. As the sun was setting, cum sol autem occubuisset, he does not stop performing miracles: omnesqui habebant infirmos. Morning breaks and he does not rest because he wants to go to another city, quia et aliis. This is how he went about preaching in all of the Synagogues in Galilee: Et erat praedicans in Galileae. Because of Christ’s concern all kinds of sick, weak and aged people came. Socrus autem etc. We shall see that all of these ills come from paying too much attention to the flesh, and this shall be the topic of our discussion.[31]

The different ways of developing the topic helps to place greater emphasis on the topic or Gospel passage by drawing attention specifically to events in the Biblical narrative so that developing the theme becomes like reading a homily or a mystical treatise.

It is a miracle that when gall, which hurts eyes so much, is applied to them in the Book of Tobias they are healed. However, even more wonderful than this, today the holy Christ uses a medicine that would hurt the eyes to heal a man born blind. He spat on the ground, made mud and by spreading it on the eye he made the man see. According to St John he gave it to the man: Expuit in terram etc. Let us consider the great mysteries that Christ has demonstrated when restoring sight to this man who had been born blind. How miraculous was this unusual medicine that was made by spitting on the ground! So listen.[32]

The lamb that God said had to be sacrificed on the mountain during the fourteenth moon following the deliverance of the Jewish people from their captivity in Egypt was kept in the house until the tenth moon so that as they heard it bleating it would remind them of the gifts that they had received from God and they would thank him for their freedom. Who is Christ but a sacrificial Lamb who set us free, not from slavery to Pharaoh, but from slavery to the devil and hell? What are these chants and dirges that the Church is singing today but many cries of the Lamb who wants to turn the forgiveness that is conferred by grace into repentance? Behold today the Lamb is beginning to cry out: Quis ex vobis etc. Today we shall speak about the innocence of Christ, his teaching, the way the Jews cursed him and about their cruelty, which went so far that they took up stones to hurl at him, and finally how he fled and hid because this is all contained in St John’s Gospel.[33]

There are two reasons that would explain why Christ comes to us: one is his great majesty and the other our lowliness. When the holy Patriarch Abraham was speaking about this he said: Loquar ad Dominum cum sim pulvis et cinis? In order to make both of them possible, God came down and took up our flesh so that everyone would have the confidence to approach him. This is how he deals with everyone with familiarity, especially as we shall see today in the Gospel where this is made clear: Rogabat Jesus. We see in today’s Gospel how he makes the second thing possible when he receives a very great sinner so gently: Et ecce mulier quae erat etc. Gentlemen what did you expect? Ladies what did you expect? Sinners what did you expect? Today our discourse will be about the very kind welcome given to Magdalene.[34]

Humankind’s perversity is so great that it never gets sick of doing what is evil and adding one iniquity to another, one sin to another. On the other hand, in his great kindness God never ceases to do what is good and to add favour to favour, grace to grace. In today’s Gospel we see humanity’s perversity and God’s kindness. There is opposition to Christ in the Council. Indeed, the condemnation concludes: expedit etc. We shall speak about both of the issues, firstly about human perversity and them about God’s kindness. Listen to both so that you may derive spiritual profit.[35].

Christ, under the title of the Kingdom of Heaven in the Gospel, is compared to a grain of wheat, both because this grain is smaller than any other, and because the more it is chewed the more tasty it seems to be. Thus at first what Christ is doing appears to be only small, and then, just like a plant that grows, the wonder of what he is doing increases, and the more you think about this and turn it over the more there is to taste and admire. Although we have said something about Christ’s death this morning, there is still a lot that could be said, and the more that we say, the more fruit we shall derive from such a sweet meditation. Let us talk about this while there is breath in the body: Et inclinato capite emisit spiritum. At the moment the Holy Church presents us with the dead Christ. Therefore, we ought to think of him as he was when he was dead. Think of this in silence for the love of Christ as I begin in his holy name.[36]

The last passage just quoted is the introduction to the fifth and final ‘discourse” that was delivered on the Fridays in March and it was delivered to the people in the evening. These “discourses” consisted in short sermons with many pauses which were meant to complete the morning sermon and were based on Christ’s Passion and death. During this Lent the first “discourse” had been about Mary at the foot of the cross. We quote it here as an example (cf. nn. 6319-6327). The second one deals with Christ’s thirst on the cross and of “the complete abundance and overflowing abundance of the water that he has”. It links Christ’s cry, Sitio,[37] with what was said in the Gospel passage about the Samaritan woman: Mulier da mihi bibere. The “short discourse” spoke about how, when he was on the cross, “Christ was abandoned by the Father.” This is associated with the Gospel of the day as it was expounded in the sermon in the morning which dealt with the resurrection of Lazarus.[38] The fourth discourse analyses Christ’s words: Consummatum est, and it went as follows:

Consummatum est. Such an event is said to have come to an end in three ways. When it is terminated, when the termination is made public and when what was meant to happen has been executed. We could say that the work of our redemption and Christ’s Passion and death were consummated three times: the first when ab aeterno the idea was formed in the divine mind, secondly when it was determined in the gathering in the Synagogue, thirdly when it came to an end with his death on the cross. Consummatum est. This evening we shall speak about the execution or fulfilment.[39]

What we are able to gain from all these examples of the introductions to his Lenten Courses is an overview of the topics he chose. They are a genuine Biblical and Gospel catechesis, centred on the humble, crucified Christ as the teacher. However, they are not set out according to a preconceived plan that would follow scholastic theology or a moral programme such as, for example, the sermons of Giovanni M. da Tusa. The subjects seem to be closer to the topics that were close to the heart of Bernardino Ochino and the evangelism of the early sixteenth century, but with doctrinal and moral details that leaves no room for ambiguity, for example, with respect to the tenets regarding justification by faith without works that were still being debated.[40] On the other hand these sermons portray a perfectly traditional image the “evangelical preacher” as it was set out in Capuchin legislation and practice, which had no oratorical embellishment or touches of worldly oratory (as was adopted by his contemporaries, especially Cardinal G. Bentivoglio). It was also loyal to the Council of Trent. Father Vázquez was quite right when he said that “some of his sermons not only give us a picture of Brother Anselmo, but shed a new light on the Catholic Reformation.”[41]

The image of the preacher as revealed in Marzati

Anselmo da Monopoli had a very glowing idea or concept of the preacher that regarded him as almost being a prophet or hero. He thought the same way about sacred oratory or the officium praedicationis. He used a range of images and metaphors to represent and define his ministry. This shone out in many of his sermons. In fact, it became the subject of the introduction in the Lenten Course on Ash Wednesday when he explained his method of preaching and what he intended to do:

The whole art of oratory consists in a way of praying as much as it is made up of what you are speaking about. This is what God taught Isaiah when he commanded him to preach: Clama, ne cesses, quasi tuba exalta vocem tuam, annuntia etc. This is the way. Our method of preaching will be to shout and to condemn vice in so far as God gives us the strength. The subject that will be dealt with will be in line with opportunity afforded to by the holy Evangelists in their Gospels each day during the sacred time of Lent. Today we shall be speaking about three things: the first will be about contradicting worldly pride, the second about opposing concupiscence of the flesh and lust, and the third about opposing greed. With respect to the first, which is worldly pride, the remedy is Memento quia cinis etc. Fasting is the remedy for concupiscence of the flesh: Cum ieiunatis etc. The third which is greed is defeated by generosity: Nolite thesaurizare etc. It is well that the Gospel shows the remedy for these three things because all that is the ruin of Christianity comes about through them as St John said: Omne quod est in mundo etc. This is what we should discuss. Pay attention.[42]

Therefore, the preacher ought to “shout and condemn vice” doing the same thing as “the holy Evangelists did in their Gospels”. In this way Sacred Scripture was his guide, his point of departure, the deep essence of what he said and what prompted his theme as he developed it in a modern context. The battle against the capital sins, “that were the complete ruination of Christianity”, was based on God’s word and the strength given by God.

All the images that were used to prove the preacher’s responsibility to his audience were taken from Scripture. They are like the two silver trumpets that God commanded to summon the leaders and the people to battle (Num. 10). Using the interpretation that had been given by the Abbot Rupert and others, Marzati explained “that these silver trumpets … were to be interpreted as preachers who ought to be truly like the silver trumpets in their bodily purity, cleanness of heart and brilliance before the people so that they may deserve to be likened to the trumpets. Just as they made no sound unless someone blew into them, so the preacher should not preach unless he has first received the breath of the Holy Spirit. God complained about some preachers who preached without his command or knowledge. Non mittebam prophetas.” [43]

The metaphor of the two trumpets that sounded just once to summon the leaders and to bring people from far away offered him the opportunity to give a harsh reprimand: “Now, my Lord, that times have changed everything is just the opposite because vile and base people willingly obey your commands and readily listen to your word, whereas the Lords and masters have no fear, do not obey, and do not come to sermons. There is a need to sound and to sound again. Thus when preachers ought to reprove leaders, they have to shout out loudly where as a severe admonition is enough for ordinary people.”[44] This demonstrates another characteristic of his preaching that was recognised by his contemporaries and this is, to use an expression coined by Alfonso Chácon (Ciacconio), vox sonora, et vocalis in dicendo libertas. [45] In addition to this, since the trumpets that God commanded Moses to produce had to be beaten out by hammers, “the preacher should have a face that shines like a diamond so as to shine before everyone when reproving the wickedness of the Lords and the leaders, and he should also “reprove them for being slack in serving God, encourage them to spend their energy in times of trial. This is what the Apostle taught.”[46]

The preacher is also compared to an angel since he ought to “say words that are pure and filled with holiness”.[47] The metaphor of the angel is more accurately applied in his sermon for the First Sunday in Lent where the subject is the universal judgement as it is introduced by the passage in the Apocalypse: Vidi alium angelum etc. (cf. Rev. 7: 2).

In order to preach on this subject, you would have to be an angel because no human could explain the terror or anxiety of judgement day. If he were not an angel by nature he ought to be pure, holy and wise. If he lacks purity, he must still carry out the office conferred on him. He has to be someone sent by God, entirely heavenly and divine: volantem per medium coeli, someone who is not touching the earth, not involved in worldly affairs, who has come on earth to preach judgement, and who instantly returns to heaven, someone who has the Gospel engraved on his heart and mind. He should be a man of the Gospel who can preach to the entire world. Timete Dominum etc. My Lord, I cannot be called an angel, nor am I pure or holy or wise, but I have been called and obliged to preach to these souls. Give me the vigour, the strength and the capability that in doing so I may become an angel, so that I may convert some soul to you. You, my Lords, listen to me in such a way that if you did not know any Gospel passage but this one, you will have learnt how to live a Christian way of life.[48]

By the use of such a suggestive and vivid image this passage describes the concept of an “evangelical preacher” as it is set down in the Capuchin Constitutions.[49] This subject is also taken up in another context where the image of the preacher appears to be hidden and almost invisible.[50]

When he is in the pulpit the preacher is also compared to a watchman keeping watch on a tower to stop the enemy from coming into the vineyard in the context of the parable of the wicked vinedressers which speaks of the master who planted the vineyard, hedged it with a fence, dug a winepress, built a tower and leased it to vinedressers. (Mt 21: 33).

The tower is the pulpit, because just as a tower has watchmen to cry out to the people when there is danger from enemies, so preachers have to cry out and warn the people. After calling out, the watchman fires a sling to make them hear more clearly. A preacher should do the same thing. He should first draw breath from the Holy Spirit and cry out against adultery, fornication. When he has done this, he should arm himself with a sling and preach about judgement and the fire of hell. The stone or rock that comes from the sling is the horrible sentence passed on the damned as it comes from Christ’s lips.[51]

At this point Anselmo da Monopoli lashes out against preachers who do not have the courage to reproach vice and sin and are unclear in what they say, dress up what they say and try to appear as if they were virtuous.

Behold this is completely wrong. The watchmen at this vineyard are blind, they are not paying attention and they are asleep with their eyes closed. Oh, where are preachers who shout, raise their voices to instil terror and make people run away out of fear? Oh, the Prophet said that this is not what happens, since sunt canes muti. And do not cry out but remain silent like mute dogs when the wolves come in the form of sins, lust, they do not cry out but remain silent and blind. They are blind to imperfections and appear to be talking about a dream. They accommodate what is vanity and appear to be clean in the public pulpit. The Apostle Paul said: Vae mihi si non evangelizavero! This is what he taught Timothy his disciple: Opus fac evangelistae. Woe to preachers who do not warn and reprove as they should![52]

The responsibility to preach should always prevail. To do this is to imitate Christ who never ceased to evangelise, even when he drew no response from his audience. This is how he begun the sermon for Monday of the Third Week in lent:

This morning I was undecided and uncertain about preaching. I wondered whether I ought to preach or remain silent. Today’s Gospel persuaded me to preach when I heard that when Christ the Word and wisdom of the Father preached it yielded no fruit, indeed his words aroused anger and cruelty in the hearts of the Jews to such an extent that they tried to throw him from the top of a mountain for no other reason than that he spoke the truth. I was moved to preach when I saw that although what Christ said yielded no fruit, he went ahead with preaching. Why, then, should I desert the office that had been entrusted to me? Look at it however you will, I want to preach whether it bears fruit or not. So then let us consider why Christ did not work miracles in Nazareth, his hometown, and why he was not accepted when he preached. The Gospel has something to say about both issues, Pay attention.[53]

A sermon can fail because the preacher is bad, but also, and most likely, because of the way people listen to the word. Here he introduces the image of the preacher as being a prophet who is announcing the truth to each and everyone, which they should not apply to someone else:

What if today God were to send a Prophet into a Prince’s house to tell him that today the Turks will come into your home and kill your children and bind and take you off to Turkey and give you hardly anything to eat; how upset you would be! You would spend the entire night thinking to yourself; What if I become a slave to the Turk, fed on bread and water, losing all my wealth? What if the Prophet were to come back to tell you: However, I want to let you know that you can avoid this disaster by doing a little penance, how many heartfelt sighs you would breathe, how much you would weep, how much penance you would perform, how much fasting, how many alms you would give! I tell you my Lords, in the name of God, if you do not change your way of life death will overtake you, and you will not be in Babylon, or Turkey but in the depths of hell, where you will be bound forever, and not given a little piece bread or water, but remain in eternal fire and never-ending torment. …

From this, my Lords, I conclude that a sermon is not fruitful when the preacher says something and one says: “He was talking about priests.” and another says: “He was talking about learned people” and yet another: “He was talking about usurers.” Tell me, has he been saying nothing about you? Oh, no, you ought to apply everything to yourself. St Anthony heard it said: Si vis perfectus esse, vade etc. He then says immediately: This was meant for me. Was it not meant to be fruitful? Yes, what does he do? He immediately acts upon it. St Francis understood: Nolite portare sacculum etc. He stripped himself of all that he had. All who hear the sermon have to do the same and apply everything to their own circumstances. They should not say: this and that were said but they apply to someone else. …[54]

Using another metaphor, he likens the preacher to a man who is riding a horse and who “strikes and spurs the horse gradually guiding him by using the bridle.” At first the preacher should gain control of the sinner through grace and the use of the bridle of discretion. Later he will use shouts, threats and rebukes to put the sinner onto the road of the Lord and make him run towards heaven by the practice of virtue.”[55] He also likens him to a fisherman who casts his hook covered in bait into the sea, because the preacher “must cover the hook of doctrine with words of love and desire in order to catch his prey.” He should also be careful of what he says and how he says it. “The sacrifices that they have to make at the beginning have to be firstly cleaned and cooked and then seasoned with salt in order to demonstrate that the preachers have been careful with their choice of words and washed them in the water of diffidence, put them into the fire of charity and then seasoned them with the salt of prudence.’[56]

For certain, the preacher must be coherent. Marzati says the “he should have three tongues – one in his heart, one in his mouth and a third in his hands to act with. The third bears more fruit than the other two.” Woe to those “preachers who teach doctrine to others and do not to observe it. They want to be cooks while remaining uncooked themselves. They want to be guides without carrying the burden.” Instead “they should be both like Elias who erat currus et auriga, both the coach to carry and the coachman to steer” (n. 6334). Those who are listening are also at fault when “they listen to the word of God, but do not observe it, and everything is lost in words. Preachers speak and they do nothing. Lay people listen but do not act and so everything just goes past them” (n. 6335). When commenting on the Gospel for the Transfiguration he said: “Preachers celebrate the transfiguration and while they want to look like saints on the outside, within they are full of faults and sins. They are like painters who when they draw a beautiful figure try to make it have beautiful limbs that are in proportion to the body, but are not concerned about the heart or the stomach etc. Preachers can be like that.”[57]

Here Marzati is revealing the worst evils of his day, laying the blame at the feet of theological preachers and the confessors at Court who caress the consciences of Princes by justifying political ambiguities and not judging souls clearly. Indeed, they put them into a deeper sleep by being too easy in confession creating a “feather bed” for them. These are clear revelations and they are very brave considering that they are being expressed before the very temperamental Roman public:

How our times make you cry as we consider that preachers and confessors are the ones who are inviting the Princes to commit sin. Hosea the prophet says that in militia sua laetificaverunt regem etc. By definition a Prince is still good when he is thinking about whether to do something or not. A theologian comes along and says that he can do it without any scruple. In malatia sua etc. Though he had doubts he is happy now that he has been told that he can do it without scruple. Listen to the Prophet Isaiah as he issues threats about the punishment that God will give: Et dsperdet Dominus ab Israel caput etc. and he declares longevus et honorabilis. Who is this leader? You have seen his identity longevus et honorabilis. We need to face the truth from the beginning. Do not be frightened, have no fear, God will help you. However, perhaps there are some who do worse things than the Princes and who often fail. Listen to Jeremiah the Prophet: Sacerdotes non dixerunt ubi est Dominus etc. If those who are keeping the law do not interpret it like the theologians what can be said about the Princes? Hosea says about such people as these: Peccata populi mei comedent etc. They eat the sins of the people and invite the Princes to commit sin. Whoever eats enjoys it. They are delighted to see someone sin, indeed they invite them to do it wanting others to become as bad as they are. What happens in the end? Et erit sicut populus sic sacerdos. Everything will end in confusion. Priests will end up being no different to lay prople, no difference between confessor and penitent, between the preacher and those who are listening to him. See what it says in the Gospel: Miserunt principes etc. The priests are as wicked and cruel as the Princes, but who will send them? Ministros, ministers, depraved people, vile people! Perhaps they will think that they are being ordered to do this! [58]

all those who have forfeited the promptings of conscience are being taken away to be buried. It is a fact that a person cannot bury themselves. Someone else has to do that. Similarly, no one takes remorse away from their own conscience. Someone else has to help them to do this and this is the confessor. A merchant might go to Confession and tell a long story about theft and the resulting damage this has caused. What does the confessor do? He helps him to put this to rest and says: If things are what you say they are, you can certainly go ahead without worrying. Someone who nourishes hatred goes to Confession and says: I do not have hatred in me. The confessor says, Oh that is enough. He absolves him and so helps him to lay it to rest. A vain lady goes to Confession and says: Father, I dress up, but to tell the truth before God I do not do it with anything bad in mind. Then the confessor says to her, “just say an Our Father and a Hail Mary” and thus helps her to lay it to rest. Listen to Ezekiel the Prophet speaking in the name of God: Vae qui consuunt pulvillos etc. The Prophet is speaking about the confessor who strokes the cheek of those who are sleeping. When someone is asleep with their head in your hand, this is sign that they do not intend to be asleep for a long time. However, if you stroke their cheek, good night! Thus, the penitent will gain the impression of not needing to be forgiven, not having to stop usury or vanity and their mind will soon be corrupted. However, if the confessor does not arouse their concern and strokes their cheek with a feather how can they wake up from the sleep of sin?[59]

Here we have a picture and an idea of the austere, righteous preaching that promoted the reform of the Church and also of the highest ranks of society.

Society and the public in the Lenten Courses of Anselmo da Monopoli

Whoever reads Marzati’s sermons with attention cannot miss the continual references to the audience and the social environment since it was this that shaped the content of his discourse. It is a kind of preaching that feeds on the problems that harass a society like the Roman society at the time which was marked with a capitalistic spirit where the greed and avarice of the wealthy and noble, the power of Princes, the pride, comfort and social climbing of lazy Prelates, the superstition of women, the injustice of magistrates, the slovenliness of priests in their liturgical cult and behaviour ran riot. On the margins there was the constant shadow of the poor, who had become critical of the Princes, nobles and the wealthy. This prompted growth in the Christian love of the suffering and crucified Christ.

In the sermon for Ash Wednesday we already see a strong indignation against Roman usurers:

Hypocrisy is not being reproved in Rome because where gold abounds alchemy is forbidden. When gold abounds, it is not outlawed. I say that in Rome upright living is of no account, virtue is not appreciated and no one even practices the farce of appearing to be good. Instead, those who offend God the most are regarded as the best people, so that a sinner is regarded as being valiant, qui laetantur cum male fecerint etc. Therefore hypocrisy cannot be reproved, nor usury, nor giving false dividends because Rome does not care about the interests of one’s neighbour. Listen to the Gospel: Nolite thesauizare etc.[60]

In spite of the bloodshed of so many ancient martyrs, the deafness of Roman society to the word of God is inconsistent when compared with the reverse attitude in the “lower class”, country people, shepherds and even the pagans:

The garden which was cultivated so carefully, watered by saints, enlarged by the blood of martyrs does not produce any good results or fruit. There is fruit in the forest, among the thorns, in India and the Antipodes where the word has been sown more effectively than in Rome.[61]

The word of God is not heard in the big cities where there is abundance. However, where can we find Christ? He is to be found In campis sylvae, in the woods, in the fields, among the country people, among sinners, among the common people, because there is more fruit in places like these.[62]

Wealthy and noble Romans no longer contribute to building Churches, but spend the filthy money that they had accumulated in a wicked manner:

O wealthy and noble people listen to an example. Listen to what St Luke said: Et synagogam ipse aedificavit nobis. He had built them a church. Does this imply that today there are churches being built the way things used happen in olden days? Take a look around Rome. The reason for this is that the person who used to give something to Christ to build a temple now spends it on gambling, on dogs, on prostitutes and this is happening because such wealth has been acquired in the wrong way and is being spent in the wrong way. Listen to Isaiah the Prophet: Vae qui praedaris etc. [63]

Such lovers of wealth, greedy people like these, accumulate money as others accumulate relics. They protect it as if it were the Most Holy Sacrament. That is why St Paul the Apostle called them idolaters.[64]

He stigmatised the aestheticism and materialistic hedonism that had become the normal thing in Rome recommending as a remedy the practice of a monastic way of life and following the example of the saints, sobriety, prayer, doing penance, a solitary way of life, spending vigils in prayer and fasting:

Blessed Christ came to earth to reform his Church and the Christian religion. Where did he set its foundations, Father? In the desert, in fasting, vigils, in being tempted, and the reason that he did this was because a large building needs large foundation, great austerity, much fasting, much penance, great persecutions, long vigils and much prayer. What great sufferings the Apostles endured after Christ’s resurrection! How many persecutions, how many insults, how much abuse, how much vilification! My Lords remember the amount of abstinence formed the basis of religion! Benedict, Basil, Romuald, Dominic and Francis fasted and did penance. Read the life of St Jerome or St John Climacus and see how much austerity, penance and discipline is involved.

These days the mind is fixed on comfort and the spirit and the flesh become blurred into one. When a city is besieged things become scarce, there is a need to fast, to be watchful and to pray. Listen to what St Peter says: Fratres sobrii estate. Therefore, the antidote against the enemy is to act with moderation and to pray because the spiritual life is based on austerity and prayer which are the fortification against our enemies. When a dog takes a lamb, if the shepherd is not close to get it out of the dog’s mouth, the dog will eat it. However, when a dog comes across a prickly hedgehog, when he goes up to eat it, the hedgehog will stick up its spikes and the dog will not dare touch it. Thus, when the devil comes across a hare, a delicate person, a person who is addicted to gambling and pleasure, such as a Roman Knight, he will eat him. Devour him. However, when he comes and he finds a spikey hedgehog, a spiritual person who lifts up the spikes of prayer and fasting like many thorns, he will run away in confusion without claiming victory.[65]

My Lord, the Romans want to think of you as beautiful, wealthy and powerful. They do not want to think of you as nailed to the cross. They would look for wealth, honours, grandeur and not thorns, lances or nails. Come, O Christian, the road to heaven is the cross.[66] However, the Romans want to live amidst pleasures and delights as if there were no heaven, and then to die like the blessed or the saints.[67]

His vision of the citizens and of the society of his day is not biased. Every class of person has its own faults and responsibilities in relation to those of the same class and those above or below that. This is what brings them together and shapes them. It involves the leaders, princes and prelates, priests and religious, who ought to be a mirror and model, whereas they are the source of the troubles. Even if the reality is somewhat exaggerated in the style of the oratory, which follows traditional medieval ways of speaking, the analysis is not insignificant from the point of view of history and historical record. On the Thursday following Ash Wednesday when expounding the Gospel of the healing of the Centurion’s servant he said: “at present Princes carry their dignity on their shoulders wishing to appear to be great and to live like Lords. They accept what comes with status but when something becomes a bother, they put their status beneath their feet not wanting to accept the responsibility that comes with that status. They ought to treat their subjects with love, doing what is good for their servants … and when they fall ill not just send them off to the hospital as Princes do today.”[68] Thus the Centurion becomes a model for the responsibility of the hierarchy, for subjects and superiors, for religious and lay people and for women:

Sub potestate constitutus: everyone is subject to God. The man who works in the fields is subject to the one who lives in the town, the man who lives in town is subject to the magistrate, the magistrate is subject to the governor, the governor is subject to the legate, the legate is subject to the Pope, the Pope is subject to God, and it is necessary that each one is subject to the one above him if he in turn wants to be obeyed. Religious may also harvest fruit from this olive tree, this thicket. In the first chapter of the second book of his Collations, Cassian says that religious ought to imitate the faith and actions of the Centurion because religious perfection consists in obedience … Lay people learn from the Centurion to show respect for priests as being more worthy to beg grace from Christ. Today they are held in such little respect that they are openly talked about and forgiven for nothing. Women, learn from the good Centurion who today turned to Christ in his misfortune, whereas you turn to the Jew, the devil or the fortune teller.[69]

The analysis of the socio-economic situation and the religious environment in Rome induces the preacher to condemn the capitalistic system as a whole. This, he claims, is where the noble knights and powerful and privileged prelates triumph and propagate in gentlemen and even priests a mentality of being someone great that ascensions disposuerunt in corde suo. However, what is the purpose of this?

When a prelate falls into mortal sin he is lost because there is nobody that can deal with such a serious case. Nobody dares correct him. Nobody admonishes him. Everyone is frightened. However, when a subject sins he is easily put right. Such a small case is dealt with comfortably because a prelate corrects him, prays for him so that he is quickly reconciled with Christ … O Christian, if you are comfortable at home, and have something to eat and have clothing, do not long for a prelature, do not tempt God, because I can tell you that the greater you become the more danger you are exposed to, and the more you will thirst after greatness and if you become an abbot you will want to be a bishop and once a bishop …[70]

Ambition knows no terminus, end or degree. It is never satisfied. A gentleman sees a knight who is carrying a cross and he also wants to do everything possible to have one. Someone else sees somebody who has a big cross and he too wants to have it. Then he wants to be a marquess and when he has become a marquess he wants to become a duke, and when he has become a duke, he wants to become a prince, a king and it never ends. So too a priest wants to become a canon and when he becomes a canon, he wants to become an archdeacon, and then a vicar and nothing is enough. If he is made a bishop he is not satisfied, he should be a cardinal and the pope and only when he cannot go any further up he might rest.[71]

In the sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Lent he said: “How is it that someone who has 2000, 4000, 10000 or 20000 units of income that this is not enough and he is always in debt? He is never happy with his situation or his conditions. A farm worker begins to live like a city dweller, a city dweller like a noble, a noble like a count, a count like a marquess, a marquess like a duke, a duke like a king and a king like an emperor” (n. 6332).

It is because of ambition that there is no harmony in the Church between prelates and subjects, between preachers and those who are listening, between religious and lay people. There is discord and lack of harmony in the Holy Church that ought to be like “a choir of many voices” in which the prelates take the part of alto, the subjects that of basso, the preachers are the tenors, the listeners, religious and lay people the choir that accompanies them in harmony (nn. 6328).

This subject is developed in a splendid manner in the sermon for Tuesday after the Second Sunday in Lent which we transcribed (nn.6328-6340). It places emphasis on the duties of prelates who should not become tired or take rest. According to the decrees of the Council of Trent they should live on site, know their own sheep like good shepherds do, set a good example and then instruct them. Subjects too should stop complaining and murmuring. Marzati speaks about such meddling on the part of the people with very appropriate words. “When the prelate hands down a judgement they say immediately that he is being too rigorous and forgives nobody. When he reserves judgement they say that he is like Saturn. When the prelate is strict, they say that he is miserable. When he is easy, they say that he is too liberal. When the prelate holds a conversation, they say that he is being too friendly. However, listen to what God has to say when speaking through David: Nolite tangere chistos meos etc.” (n. 6333).

This lively picture provides us with us a photograph that his audience would easily recognise of concrete situations in the city, of its princes and nobles with their palaces and their train of court followers:

The modern overlords place burden after burden on their poor vassals … they put aside their subjects to give themselves up to lust, gambling … when they ought to protect the road from bandits, they do just the opposite because they are associated with thieves … If they place a toll, the poor are the first to pay, and the nobles, who make out that they support the city, go off to waste time and to have a good time. They are like the statues that stand around the town on pillars that look like they are reigning over everything but are nothing more than ornaments to beautify the city whereas they are in fact oppressing the poor and the people. Have you not seen the lions on the spire of St Peters which appear to be supporting everything? In fact, they are not doing anything. This is what these people are like. They talk, act and speak, they observe this, and they observe that. Yet they are doing nothing. (n. 6336).

They are disturbing descriptions of an ailing atmosphere of injustice that has penetrated into social relationships in which the poor suffer without being able to defend themselves because the masters “give no respite to their servants. The do not allow them to attend Mass and when they ought to put things right at court, they do not chase the dogs, pursue the fools or fix what is wrong. They do not provide for their servants and skimp on their wages. These days they withhold a workman’s wages for up to an entire year. What can I say? A father served a master for his entire life. The son will do the same without ever asking for a salary and if they ask, they will be dismissed, threatened, beaten. O what cruelty! Remember that this is the kind of outcry with respect to withholding wages from workers and servants that demands revenge in the sight of God.” (n. 6337).

This topic returns frequently also in other sermons such as that on Monday of the Forth Week in Lent in which Marzati is dealing with social justice as it is represented in the statue of Nebuchadnezzar:

Justice is like the statue of Nebuchadnezzar that had a head made out of gold that represented the prelates, the arms and the chest made out of silver that represented the lords, a stomach made out of bronze, that represented the teachers, legs made out of iron, that represented the nobles and feet made out of clay, that represented the poor. Justice is like that! What happens when a prelate commits a fault? Be aware that he is a prelate, do not punish him, and respect him. The same happens with a teacher etc. What happens if a poor person commits a fault? He is brought to court immediately so that he will be detained and go to prison. In the temple Moses set up two Cherubim to guard the propitiatory. Solomon made two more, but they faced the door. Whoever administers justice should keep his eye on God and not on the door. However today they are looking towards the door and their own interests. A judge says: “If I favour the prelate at the hearing, he will do the same for me and so he does not condemn him. However, Christ did not have respect for persons but eiecit (threw) everyone out of the temple, both the poor and the rich.[72]

In the sermon for Friday of the Second Week in Lent we read a strong invective against the Roman prelates who do nothing and enjoy themselves:

There are some prelates who want to eat the grape and drink the wine but do not want to work in the vineyard or pick the fruit or sow the seed. How many prelates are good at reaping the income, but do not want the toil and the burden that they should share. They only think about reaping the spoils without a thought about what they should be doing. God said to the Prophet Zechariah: Pasce pecora occisionis. Go, God said to Zechariah, spare a thought for the sheep since those who own them will kill them and not even feel sad about it. They will sell them and thank God about becoming rich. This is what the prelates who have the care of souls do. They ruin them and do not care. They say Benedicite Dominum, divites facti sumus. This year the harvest was good, and the grain was sold for so much. My Church, my benefice made so much profit. No one took care of the souls who are Christ’s sheep.[73]

Comparisons with the poor come up continually to show the extent of the radical injustice of the situation in which the nobles, the wealthy and prelates stock up great amounts while the poor are starving:

While he is alive a prelate is esteemed, showered with favours, shown honour and respect. However, once he dies, he begins to have a bad smell as far as his servants are concerned. One says: I worked for him for twenty years and he has left me nothing. Another says: He has left me in misery. In short, everyone is complaining to a nauseating degree. However, while a poor person is wretched and shunned by all while he is alive, when he dies, he is esteemed because everyone is moved to feeling compassion for him as he had offended or complained about nobody.[74]

When the ancient Romans had a meal, they sounded a trumpet so that the poor would come around to be given what was left over. However, at present, the poor do not share in their meals anymore. The trumpets are kept in the Marketplace for big events (n. 6348). Today when there is a feast or some worldly amusements it is forbidden to speak about these excesses and forbidden to speak about the Passion of Christ, to mention death. Hence the saying: “do not talk about death at table.” Listen to Amos the Prophet: Bibentes vinum in phialis etc. They eat, drink but have no compassion for the poor. See if today a beggar could enter where there is a banquet in progress or where there is a feast or amusement![75]

The preacher also zealously reports the sad circumstances of many poor people who died of hunger during the famine that broke out in Rome in the spring of 1589 as a result of many poor harvests that struck most of southern Europe:[76]

I do not know if you confessed a sin that was committed last year. I want you to confess it now. How many poor people died in the streets because of the shortage that year![77] Who caused their deaths? It was some wealthy person who could have helped them. Listen to an example. There was a father who entrusted his son to a wet-nurse. Each day he sent her food from his well-stacked table so that it would be easier for her to provide milk for the boy. Instead of providing the milk the wet-nurse made him suck blood from her breast and gave the milk to the dogs and cats. O God! What punishment did such a wicked woman deserve? You decide. In the same way God has provided wealth to rich people and has provided it in abundance for no other reason than for them to help the poor. If instead of helping them they suck their blood, betray them, kill them and give their wealth to dogs and cats, prostitutes and fools you tell me what punishment they deserve.[78]

The reference to Rome appears to be stronger and specific when Marzati points to the wicked behaviour of the Congregazione dell’Abbondanza, that was set up by Sixtus V in 1587, and which should have taken care of providing for the poor and alleviating their needs:

There is a congregation that is responsible for providing. What is it called? The merchants that are involved look to making a profit set their own price on the grain and commit a thousand sins. They are like the fish that St Peter caught which had a coin in his mouth. (n. 6337).

Each one makes excuses. They spend an entire night listening to performances but find it very difficult to spend a quarter of an hour in prayer. They spend a treasure on a woman but find is repulsive to give alms of a coin.[79]

Some say that they cannot give alms because they want to make a vestment. No, you should not dress the priests and let poor people go naked![80]

In this context priests too are insensitive to their pastoral and priestly responsibilities since their churches “have become dens of thieves”:

Thus, in the Churches that priests have turned into dens of thieves you can see nothing but filth and dirt. The columns contain the nests of swallows. The chalices look old and appear to be in need of repair, scratched, dirty and uncared for. The corporals smell so much and are black. The cloths are crumpled, full of dust. The tablecloths in a tavern would be cleaner than the altar cloths. They are only changed once a week. Those on other altars remain there for an entire year. Today priests say nothing. What does it matter if the altar is dirty or clean? They reply by their actions in allowing the chasubles to be quite soiled, decrepit and old. The glasses are cleaner than the chalices, more beautiful and freer from the deposits and withdrawals of debitors and creditors than is the missal. Handkerchiefs are whiter than the purifiers.[81]

In spite of this Marzati cried out from the pulpit with genuine zeal and Franciscan spirit that priests were not to be despised by the laity or seculars: “Therefore when a priest or prelate scandalises you leave him alone and do not start to murmur or take away his good name … priests carry Christ’s honour in their hands. Whoever brings shame on a priest brings shame on Christ.” (n. 6340).

He portrayed his vision of the world and the society of his day in a powerful and dramatic image that took its inspiration from the parable in the Gospel that told the story of the wealthy gourmet and the poor man called Lazarus in which justice was achieved definitively in the next life. In his sermon for Thursday after the Second Sunday in Lent Marzati deals specifically with the rich and the poor and says that the world is like a “farce”, a “cage full of madmen”, in which the prince maintains and lavishly feeds the sparrow-hawk only to provide himself with amusement when hunting, while he just feeds crumbs to the hen. However, in the long run the situation is reversed. The sparrow-hawk takes ill and dies and is thrown away, while the hen is cooked and brought on a silver plate to the prince. The same thing will happen on the one hand to princes, masters and nobles, and on the other hand to poor people, those who are unfortunate and who belong to the lower classes. The world is like a game of chess. Here is how he dramatically and splendidly expounds this metaphor:

What is this world? I think of it as being a game. What game? I imagine it to be a game of chess in which the king and queen are set down in the middle of various pieces such as the castles, the horses and the rooks. The pawns are in front of them. They are the smallest pieces and the pieces of the least value. They are always in front in all the moves and are in much more danger of being taken out that the other pieces. The king and queen hold their position with dignity and majesty move around slowly standing in the middle of the other pieces in a very methodical way. However, what happens when the game is finished? O, God! In putting the chess pieces back into the box or container no kind of order is maintained, nobody pays any attention to the king or the queen, Indeed it often happens that when the pieces are taken off the board and thrown into the box because the king and queen are the biggest and heaviest pieces that they go to the bottom and are pressed down by the other pieces and the pawns which were cast aside in the beginning end up on top because they are light.

The world is like that. The lords sit at table with majesty and dignity, in prominent places, surrounded by many gentlemen, courtiers and pages that make them fake crowns, provide them with guards who sit astride good steeds holding banners. When there is a hint of plague or war they retreat to their castles or their fortresses, and the never move. If they happen to go out, they stay in their carriages. The pawns are still on the board and they are the poor, those in need, the common people. They are always ahead of all the other parties. When war breaks out, they are at the front. They are always battered, hit, always placed in danger of being killed or taken prisoner. They are despised, denigrated trodden on, cast aside as if they were invisible. O poor pawns! But listen to how it ends.

When the game is over and all the pieces have been put back into the box of this life by dying what will happen? Because the wealthy and the great lords have heavy purses that are loaded with iniquity, with criminality and cruelty they will go down to hell. They will be put back into the box of the darkest prison and there they will be trodden down, overpowered and kicked by all. But the pawns, the poor little people, those who have been persecuted and burdened, because they are less weighed down with faults will fly up to heaven and remain on high. This is clearly exemplified in the Gospel.[82]

The crucified Christ as the first and last resort

The dramatic social and religious contrasts that were obvious in his day stimulated Marzati to undertake a passionate proclamation of the Gospel and the person of the Crucified Christ as the only way to bring harmony into these “discordant voices (n. 6228). This is the most obvious characteristic of Capuchin preachers in general who never lost sight of what the Constitutions said about only preaching Christ crucified who was “naked and humble” so as “to carve the blessed Christ on our heart” through preaching repentance”.[83] This quality has been noted in almost all of the Capuchin preachers that we have analysed before and it is a characteristic hallmark of Capuchin spirituality.

In an environment of social poverty that was due to the inflation that came about through the increased cost of producing agricultural goods and commerce in the grain industry, as well as a significant increase in population and the increased practice among the nobles of hiding behind their privileges,[84] who would blame a preacher for thundering against those who held monopolies and those who were usurers, for speaking honestly and with evangelical freedom to those in power, lords, wealthy prelates, to those responsible for justice and for defending the rights of the poor and to call upon the faithful to be more “Christian”? We do not possess, or at least have not found, the sermons that Anselmo da Monopoli preached at the Papal court for almost nine years from 1595 to 1604. However, after reading the Lenten Course that he preached in S. Giovanni del Fiorentino we can appreciate how much emphasis he placed on topics such as social justice and the charity that should be exercised especially by prelates and other Church people as well as by lords, nobles and leaders.

As he concluded his talk he used to draw the attention of members of all social classes to the cross, the Passion, the wounds and Christ’s side. In doing so he consoled the poor, encouraged them to hope and opened their hearts to hope. Thus, during his sermon on the Fourth Sunday in Lent he ended his preaching saying: “Come you poor orphans, come you who have been abandoned by the world and rest in my sacred wounds” (n.6354)! He invited everyone to come to the Crucified while making a firm promise to be converted without making excuses:

I want to say something, and I do not know if you want me to say it. There are many sacraments in the Church, many graces, many gifts of the Holy Spirit and yet the Christian is always fasting from them and nobody becomes intoxicated by these gifts. Will you taste them now and place your lips on Christ’s wounds? There can be an excuse for someone not drinking while the grape is on the vine, but there is no excuse for someone not drinking after the grape has been harvested and been put through the winepress. [85]

Anselmo produces an example that is steeped in what was the culture of Rome at the end of the Sixteenth Century. It was a city made up of nobles and Church leaders who displayed their wealth and wasted their riches on sumptuous palaces and princely endowments. It was also a city of beggars and prostitutes, devout priests and pilgrims and apathetic tourists, a city that lived off donations from Catholic Europe, the contributions from ecclesiastical benefices and revenue from Church lands. Anselmo da Monopoli struck the consciences of his audience and never tired of repeating his message of reform through love of the Crucified:

If someone came to Rome and as he was going through the gate somebody asked him what have you come to do in Rome? He would say: to see the holy places, to go around the stations, to visit the Churches, to climb the holy stairs. Do you know how those who postpone performing something that is good act? They are like a person who is standing on the bank of a river and who wants to go over but who is frightened of water and says that he wants to wait until the water goes away and when this water passes more water comes and never ceases coming so that he never goes across but stays there always wishing. It is the same with a Christian who experiences some upset or trouble and says: When the trouble is over, I want to behave properly, confess frequently and never blaspheme. When this persecution has passed another comes along and they never cease coming. The river would have to become a puddle, the difficulties of the world would have to be crushed, the person should go to Christ or else the night of death would come. Devout Christians, lift up your eyes to the tree of the cross and see how your Lord, your Christ, your Master is nailed, crowned with thorns, wounded, bleeding. Oh, my Lord, I am really blind but not a nativitate because you have given me the light of faith, permitted me to be baptised, but I have become blind through my wickedness.[86]

As he was perfectly aware of the frequent intrigues and shady dealings within the Papal Court with regard to the conferring of ecclesiastical benefices he contrasted this common occurrence within the Papal sphere to the glory that is conferred on Christians when they acquire the gift of Christ Crucified:

The Pope appoints a candidate and gives him the opportunity to receive a benefice. Then he says: When a good benefice comes to hand let me know because I want to give you a reward. A benefice comes up that is worth a thousand scudi and it is given to a cleric in court, one worth two thousand becomes vacant and it is given to a Canon. However, when one worth five thousand becomes vacant it is conferred on someone who deserves it and who has worked hard for the Church. At last one worth ten or twenty thousand becomes vacant and the candidate goes to the Pope and says to him: It is time to give me my reward. Thus, the Pope willingly confers the large benefice on him.

In the same way Christ was the candidate sent by God to hand out all the benefices and graces in the world. A title becomes vacant and Herod grasps the chance to kill him with a knife. The candidate says: Holy Father this vacancy is not for me, give it to John the Baptist and all the other martyrs. The opportunity arises for him to be stoned when the Jews tulerunt lapides etc. He does not want this, so what does he do? Jesus autem abscondit se etc. He says: I want this benefice to be given to Stephen the protomartyr. Today the people of Nazareth want to cast him down when duxerunt etc. He does not want this benefice because it is small and what does he do? Jesus autem transiens etc. However, he gives it to James the first Bishop of Jerusalem. However, when he saw the Jews who did not believe turn against him and cry out for his blood he said: Oh my Holy Father the hour has come for recompense and he turned to God who had sent him and said: Pater, venit hora clarifica etc. It is time; the hour has come, the time of the great reckoning, now I am ready to die. First all clarifica. Christ’s glory consists in suffering on the cross, in those wounds. Yet, mankind sees glory in what are worldly vanities. A noblewoman’s glory consists in having dresses, shawls, rings, necklaces, jewels, diamonds, pendants and a thousand other things. However, Christ’s glory consists in being crucified, mocked, despised and dying. St Paul and St Peter’s glory consisted in martyrdom. St Francis and St Dominic’s glory consisted in mortification, fasting, discipline, abstinence and obedience. It could even be said that it consisted in wearing coarse clothing. Well then, my dear Christian, your entire glory should consist in the cross. Cling to the cross; embrace it, to obtain forgiveness for your sins and the glory of paradise.[87]

7. Capuchin sermons and preachers in the early seventeenth century

In the preceding collection of Capuchin preachers, we have already alluded to how they were not only the chronological ancestors of early sacred oratory but also a bridge over which ideas came into the new century. This was the case, for example, with Mattia Bellintani da Salò, Anselmo Marzati da Monopoli, St Joseph of Leonessa and St Lawrence of Brindisi. However, the transmission did not go as far as to impose the use of exotic phrases and metaphors which was the strong feature of the “famous” Prediche quaresimali by Emmanuele Orchi da Como which was published posthumously in 1650, a year after his death, by Benedetto da Milano. Only a few other Capuchin preachers used this style such as Lodovico da Galatina, Mario Bignoni da Venezia (+1660) and the Sicilian Felice Brandimarte da Castelvetrano (+1685), whose Panegirici sacri (Palermo 1677) was placed on the Index in 1678. In effect that year signalled the extinction of the fortune of “concettismo” (use of conceits or euphuisms) in Capuchin oratory.[88]

We now want to complete the collection by means of a closer examination of other preachers who lived during the first decades of the Seventeenth Century. Even here a detailed treatment is not always possible. We are unable to access, enquire into or interpret them all. We can list a lot of names, but the texts of their sermons are not always available or able to be found. Though we have not been able to study all manuscripts that have come down to us, or even all the preaching material that has been printed, we have at least tried to record the names of those who left some amount of traceable material.

Thus we know, for example, that the Biblioteca Comunale di Bitonto holds the first volume of the manuscript copy of the Quadresimale of Giacomo da Molfetta junior that dates from 1610 which contains the texts of the sermons of Ash Wednesday to the Fourth Sunday in Lent as well as seven talks on the Passion.[89] In the Comunale di Forlí there are some manuscript volumes of Girolamo Paolucci dei Caboli da Forlí (+ 1620), the apostle of the crowing of Mary. This resource has more than 170 sermons on various subjects and Biblical passages together with Marian sermons (for example 15 tracts on the Salve Regina).[90] At Foggia the APC holds manuscripts containing the early sermons of the Servant of God Matteo d’Agnone, and also a collection of the sermons of his disciple Giovanni Battista da Guglionesi.[91] The Biblioteca Comunale di Foligno holds autograph manuscript copies in four separate codices of the sermons of Paolo Vitelleschi da Foligno (+ 1638) that were composed in the years 1610-1614 and which include a collection of “Sermoni regolari a sacre vergini” as well as a complete Lenten Course. [92]

Concerning other preachers such as Arcangelo Ferrari da Bergamo, Michelangelo da Venezia, Cristoforo Facciardi da Verucchio, Paolo da Cesena, Paolo M. d’Asti and others, even after much research, we do not have first-hand access to the manuscripts.[93] We can only guess the various features of the printed spiritual works of Verucchno and Micheangelo da Venezia which have been analysed in the previous section.[94] Instead the sermons of Giacinto Natta da Casale Monferrato and Girolamo Mautini da Narni are of special interest, especially from a literary point of view. We shall discuss them later when we have the printed texts at our disposal.

a) “Capuchin school of preaching”

One thing that should not be forgotten in regard to these preachers is the way that their influence resounded even outside Italy and their contribution to the development of a Capuchin “style” of preaching. This is true of Mattia da Salò, Lawrence of Brindisi, Giacinto da Casale and many other Italian preachers who were called upon to implant the new reform in various European countries.[95] This style is continually mentioned in the official legal documents of the Order at the general, provincial and local level. It produces a kind of “Capuchin school of preaching” which without it being an organised tutoring in a formal method since it depended most of all on individual preachers or lectors, who injected unmistakable features into the general culture of Catholic preaching.

We have already noted how there were many, especially within the Order, who copied well-known preachers such as Bernardino Ochino, Giuseppe Piantanida da Fermo, Girolamo Finucci da Pistoia, Mattia de Salò, Girolamo Mautini da Narni. These friars were linked in an uninterrupted chain of fruitful teaching and tutoring from the early Sixteenth to the early Seventeenth Century. [96] The inimitable Alfonso Lobo and Ochino were also models of preaching because of their austerity, prayer, penance, zeal, fervour, impetuosity and emotion. They became the ones who passed on Capuchin preaching tout court.

A domestic school already existed where the students studied. It usually took place in the presence of a lector who was also a preacher. In the spirit of the Constitutions and aided by his experience in pulpits he knew how to combine dry scholastic philosophical and theological debate with preaching texts that he found in other preachers’ manuscript or printed editions. To compose a sermon was not as important as the skill required to deliver it. This is what provided the definitive test of whether the friar was ready for the ministry of preaching. The test was always carried out in the refectory (which was the chapter room of the Capuchins), in the presence of the entire community, the superiors and lectors together with the students. It almost always took place during the visitations of the Minister Provincial or Minister General or some other Visitor or Commissary or at the time of the Local Chapter.

This method had its roots in the ancient customs of the Franciscan Order where it started and gradually became established by means of an innovation that was a distinctive feature of the Capuchin reform when it first sprung up in Rome at the time of Bernardino d’Asti. Mario da Mercato Saraceno speaks about this in an interesting page of his chronicle where it is also possible to note the influence of the style of the Oratory of Philip Neri. He wrote:

When they had come together to eat in silence, after having already prepared himself, one of them would stand up on a rostrum in the refectory and deliver a beautiful sermon. In the early days this took place particularly in Rome. In other places … only the prelate spoke at table, very often to deliver a sermon. This was not only to remind the friars of what had to be done around the place but also to have them listen to a sermon for their salvation, about the saints or a ferverino. However, in Rome this was delivered by one or two others, as the prelate commanded. When he (the Guardian or Vicar General as the case may be) gave the sermon he sat at table, whereas others stood in the pulpit. It was not only priests who exercised this office but also lay brothers who had the spirit and the ability. This took place not only at mealtime, but also at another time of day, especially on feasts, after having already celebrated in Church.[97]

The subjects reflected the improvisation of the speaker since “in different sermons they took up different issues that appealed them. One might discuss humility, another poverty, another faith and hope in God, another charity and obedience. Others spoke on the imitation of Christ urging the listeners to imitate their Father, who right up to his death was an imitator of Christ. Others spoke about strength of soul and others about something else according to what they wanted to discuss more closely. Those who saw the different ones said that this was not just a Company of fraticelli, but a competent and learned Academy of educated people, who carried out what they taught, and so provided help for themselves as well as assisting the entire world.[98]

The description goes on emphasising the details of this “way of preaching” which was deliver in various styles of oratory according to the gifts and temperament of each speaker. There were some who preferred “the way of speaking and of conducting themselves that Captains and Generals usually adopt when they address their soldiers as they are about to scale the walls of an important site”. Sometimes it is more like a “concione” (speech) than a real sermon. Others produce “quotes from authority and examples from Sacred Scripture or from past Saints who have fought valiantly and conquered well”. They speak “with a very forceful spirit, with inestimable fervour and end up in tears and by their moving expressions reduce those who are listening to tears.” They appear to be “masters of their art” because “their diction and words were as sweet” as if the Spirit of Christ was speaking through them.[99]

While Fabbiani was composing this page, St Philip Neri and his first companions had started and put into practice an affective and popular style of oratorical “discourse” based on a method of improvisation that was accompanied by good delivery that was eloquent and fluid, though always careful not to descend into what was banal, it was more focused on developing “exhortations and fervent expressions that were more affective than intellectual,” and on developing the discourse “more through stirring devotion than through discussing compunction or moral matters that provoke ornate language.” It was a discourse in spiritu et veritate et simplicitate cordis that provided scope for the Holy Spirit to infuse his strength into the lips of the speaker without him having to undertake long premeditated study, research in books, looking up scholastics and scripture scholars like professors at the Sorbonne.”[100]

To a certain extent the early Capuchins adopted this method and became accustomed to speaking with feeling and devotion. Even the preaches who were quoted the most adapted themselves to this simple style, which was popular, imaginative and almost picturesque. This is what happened at the beginning, but later on simplicity of exposition was left aside and preaching passed over into the norms ser down in the artes praedicandi with the arrival of the preacher who was also a lector who was drawing on his personal experience.

The exercise of preaching in the refectory became the general custom in the Capuchin Order at the beginning of the Seventeenth Century. It was no longer carried out as a kind of improvisation but something that was well prepared. Improvisation was the prerogative of the lay brothers who had been requested or commanded to do preach by their superior. They were often required to speak ex abundantia cordis. For example, when obliged under obedience saint Serafino da Montegranaro, after saying a few words, struck his small brass crucifix and spoke in such an inspired and emotional manner that he made everybody cry, indirectly reminding preachers of what should be the authentic approach of a sacred preacher who intends to adopt the Capuchin style.[101]

A letter that was written by the Minister Provincial of Switzerland, Alessandro Bucklin di Altdorf, on 13 April 1619 provides us with information about preaching in the refectory. The letter was addressed to Giovanni Battista di Polonia, a professor of theology, on the occasion of sending him the patents of preaching for his students:

Reverende Pater, Pax!

I am sending Your Reverence the obediences for preaching for your students. I beg of you to explain to them gravi admonitione how much humility they should possess when carrying out this great ministry so as to teach by word and example how to be great in the sight of God, so that qui fecerit et docuerit, hic magnus vocabitur in regno coelorum. What is more let them know that they have to maintain profound humility, because it is certain that a preacher who is proud cannot bring forth fruit.

Their sermons ought to be composed in prayer to God, be developed with humility and brought to a conclusion cum gratiarum actione. Now, more than ever, from the moment that they were raised to a higher status becoming the teachers of others, they are obliged to become saints. No one should preach in public before he has tried out a sermon in the refectory in the presence of the brothers and heard from you what he should include or leave out with respect to the explanation, tone of voice and gestures. In particular when they are about to conclude, they should put forward something from Christ’s life or Passion and mention the last things so that the entire sermon will pierce the hearts of the listeners. Therefore, before they go up into the pulpit, they ought to enflame themselves with the love of God and souls by means of holy prayer. If they want to be fruitful, they should not become too familiar with lay people, otherwise they will forfeit all fruitfulness. To sum up, you know very well what has to be done.

I send greetings to the Guardian and to the students to whom I send my best wishes.

Written in Freburg in Breisgau, 13 August 1619.

Frater et servus in Christo

Fr. Alexander Provincialis.[102]

The closer the Capuchin students came to the end of their curriculum and to the reception of sacred orders the more time they devoted to collecting material for preaching so that they would be prepared for this ministry as soon as they received the approval of their superiors.

It is interesting to see what Gregorio da Napoli has to say about this in his 1589 commentary on the Franciscan Rule, when he accuses some Superiors and Guardians of deceiving the students and “out of false zeal for taking things away from them or something like that”, they presumed “to take away the sermons … that they had written down … to humiliate them. The students did not want to give them up”. This was a justified refusal and not disobedience because the student had implicit permission from the major superiors and the sanction of the General Chapter to keep their own sermons. Because of this the Provincial and General superiors had continually “made provisions against such deceitfulness which amounted to stealing the hard work of one or other of the students and abusing and dishonouring their authority as superiors.”[103] This would lead us to think that the students often complained about being robbed of the work they had put into study. This is similar to what happens today when contemporary university professors impose long hours of hard work on students and then use the results for their own publications.

This shows how preaching became the fundamental objective of the Capuchin apostolate and the aim of the initial theological formation of the clerics to such an extent that students often took time out of their studies in philosophy and theology to write sermons and collect material for preaching, copying out various sources and adapting them. These sources included manuscripts and the texts of the sermons of both living and deceased preachers and avidly reading printed books of sermons and homilies.

The General Chapters and the Major Superiors were forced to intervene frequently to slow down a feverish activity that was undermining theological formation. In 1637 it was laid down that “during the time of study, students were not allowed to occupy themselves in copying literature for preaching.”[104] This was repeated more forcefully and in more detail in 1678: “We command the students to study and do not allow them to compose sermons, except those they preach during the time when they are studying, at the end of the fifth year of their studies. Whoever acts in a different way will be forthwith removed from studies.”[105]

On the other hand, to preserve and safeguard manuscripts that contained material for preaching it was laid down in 1656 that “the writings of preachers are to be kept in the friary where the preacher died, the Father Provincial shall not send them to other friaries, much less send them outside the Order or give them to a particular preacher within the Order for a limited time on the condition that he return them to the same friary.”[106] Leaving aside the disaster of the suppression, the fate of many manuscripts that contained sermons allows us to conclude that this precept was not observed perfectly.

b) The preaching of Matteo d’Agnone in a collection of unpublished sermons

We are in possession of a concrete example of the composition of a sermon or Lenten Course during the apprenticeship of a young preacher. It is a text that still takes the shape of a first draft but which was meant to be the preparation for a specific kind of sermon on Christ’s Passion and death that would last for many hours on Good Friday and be the culmination of a Lenten Course. What we have is a manuscript collection with the title: Fasciculus Myrrhae hinc inde collectus. It is dated “Bononiae, in aedibus Montis Calvarii …, 1594.” The author is Matteo Lolli d’Agnone (+ 1616).[1] We have copied the lengthy sermon “predica della Passione” from this collection.

In about 1583 while he was still young, Matteo d’Agnone was sent by his Provincial, the famous Silvestro da Rossano, to complete his theological formation in the Studio Generale di Bologna under the tutorship of Giovanni Diotallevi da Rimini (+1610) and then under the famous Pietro da Calatayud. The year 1594 which appears on the cover of the codex of sermons probably coincides with Matteo’s second year of priesthood since Matteo noted in a diary that he preached the Advent in the Church of S. Maria Maggiore at Bologna and the Lent at Castellonuovo diTerzi.[2] In any case, as Girolomo da Napoli wrote in his Notamenti, he would have begun quite soon “to begin preaching before becoming a priest since he had obtained his doctorate in sacred theology in Bologna and preached a Lenten Course that aroused wonder at the wisdom of his great spirit and fervour.”[3] Thus he was still a Deacon when he completed his first course of sermons just the same as St Lawrence of Brindisi and others had been. It is probable that this collection of manuscripts comes from the time when he was young even if he improved the sermons soon after. Thus, it would appear that the year 1594 was the date of the final rendition of the sermons.

The content varies and appears to be more a collection of material for preaching than a collection of well-prepared sermons even though some sermons seem to be the finished item and well drafted into different parts (introduction, first and second parts and conclusion). We find titles like these in the Index: Annotationes aliquae de Passions Domini, Annotationes aliae de Passione Domini, Dubia circa transfiguratione Domini, De Passione Domini lectiones, De verbis a Christo in cruce prolatis sermones, De his quae evenerunt post mortem Christi sermones. Sermo de Crucifixo, Sermo de Passione Domini ad moniales, Sermo de utilitate meditationis Passionis Christi. However, there are also talks on the Annunciation and another two on the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, two sermons on St Thomas the Apostle and one on Sts Philip and James and the Ascension of the Lord. Beside these there are sermons associated with the Lenten Course that ran from Quinquagesima Sunday to Palm Sunday and finally a series of sermons about contrition and confession and the spiritual struggle (=Exhortatio ad spirituale bellum).

It is evident that the main topic is Christ’s Passion. This is why the codex is headed Fasciculus myrrhae. It also gives us to understand that we are dealing with material that has been gathered from different sources. The pastoral objective is to move the souls of the listeners to accept Christ’s grace of conversion through the Sacrament of Confession in order to celebrate a good Easter. It is thus very traditional. The points that he makes on the Passion, which we have noted as examples of his unctuous way of preaching are the result of his reading spiritual writers, the Saints, the Fathers, the Doctors, medieval and modern authors and mystics as much as they are the result of his own meditation.

1) “Sermo de Crucifixo”- an example of an unstructured sermon

In fact, the content is quite unstructured. It begins with a genuine sermon that is “on the subject” which leads into a discussion on the Passion in general as a kind of preamble to set the scene. In the Index this sermon is given the title: Sermo da Crucifixo. It follows on from the liturgical celebration of Good Friday during which the cross is uncovered in adoration by the faithful.

Matteo d’Agnone calls the image of Christ the book of life which the preacher should read carefully. This image had already been mentioned in the Constitutions of the Order.[4] He begins precisely with the theme: Christ’s Passion is the book of life, and because of this it is also food (cf. nn. 6365-6379). We can but admire the way that he sets out the topic and his capacity for summarising because of which it is easy for us to see the sweetness of the “sweet as honey” Doctor St Bernard associated with the affective approach of the Seraphic St Bonaventure. This also explains the title of the whole codex: Fasciculus myrrhae which goes back to the famous expression of St Bernard in his sermons on the Canticle of Canticles. The style is also very concise, clear and steeped in contemplation. The discourse is interspersed with a number of Biblical quotations, illustrated by apt, gentle homely examples, such as the one of “the mother with the son” (n. 6371), the “young man” (n. 6374) and “the dog who was gazing at the master’s table” or the “cat who was looking at the fish who was suspended in the air” (n. 6377) or the spices (n. 6379).

After presenting the general picture of the Crucifixion as an open book and nutritious food, Matteo d’Agnone begins the story of the Passion with the episode of the washing of the feet. There are a few Latin notes that we have left out of the text that we copied, but which are interesting as examples of his style. It is clear that the young preacher is reading the Gospel of St John and that he has taken some notes for his own use.

Only John relates this washing. He was anxious to relate the things that were done to help a neighbour, such as is the work of Christ. Note the beautiful way in which John introduces what Christ did. Firstly, he says that love was what caused this so that he can show more clearly why he did this at the end of his life; he did not turn away from sadness or imminent death, nor from the joy of his imminent passing to the Father. True love does not become cold in adversity or prosperity. Secondly, in the introduction, John sets out what Christ did. First, he says: Cena facta while he was seated; Christ’s charity moved him to get up from the sumptuous meal and carry out such a debasing act. Second, He emphasises the presence of the traitor which adds to Christ’s humility (he explains). Thirdly, he emphasises Christ’s divinity and heavenly qualities of which Christ himself is well aware. When writing to the Philippians Paul does the same thing in chapter two: Qui enim in forms Dei esset, non rapinam aritratus est esse se aequalem Deo etc.[5]

It is a genuine meditation on the words of the Gospel with simple reflections that divide the material and structure it so that it can penetrate the heart as it becomes a fruitful and fervent proclamation. In fact, the reading or meditation continues firstly with a careful study of the meaning of the words and then by revealing their mystical significance: “Pay attention to the way in which he is washing and not each word … What is mystical is to be understood like this …” He makes reference to the interpretations of the sacred Father with admirable brevity.[6] He then goes on in Italian [the above quotes are from the Latin original] and, this time in the form of a sermon, speaks about the prayer of Jesus in the garden. However, it has not yet become a completely formal sermon even though it has a certain amount of structure in which the first part contains the scene of the prayer, the arrest in the garden as well as the flight of the disciples, while the second part tells of the trial of Jesus, the scourging and the crowning with thorns (cf. nn. 6368-6408). The breaking point comes when Christ spends the final hours of the night in prison before his trial and then the preacher exclaims: “Poor me! Christ has no rest, neither does his Mother and I am forced to take rest now” (n. 6387).

Because of the addition of Latin reflections, notes on examples of moral life and “forthright applications” that at times are briefly developed and at other times simply mentioned, we can see that the text was not as yet complete. For example, after Christ went into the garden, he makes use of the image of David when David was persecuted by his son, and he adds: “Note how well this fits in with the circumstances”. Then he explains, in Latin, the different similarities. After the arrest of Jesus in the garden he invokes a few “forthright applications” against sinners whom he names as “those who are proud minded, lustful young people, greedy gluttons, vain women and those who gossip” (cf. nn. 6183-84). In other places he notes other kinds of people: “here one might admonish judges and witnesses to beware of making judgements or giving testimony that is motivated by greed or hatred … Here one might note how every sinner asks for the release of Barabbas and for Christ to be killed. You could also insert many other people …” (nn. 6390, 6398).

This is actually a re-write based on the story of the Passion.[7] This was expressed with the usual emotional responses being enlightened by words from the Bible that were often framed in prophetic imagery or figures,[8] in parts of conversations with persons during events,[9] in loving conversations with Christ,[10] in personal inner reflections,[11] in imaginative descriptions, that were at times very colourful and realistic,[12] and various rhetorical questions.[13]

The meditation continues with the episode of Ecce homo, the condemnation, and the journey to Calvary with the cross. The crucifixion is described with a brief note: “Concerning Christ’s crucifixion as it happened etc.” which actually refers the reader to other pages and texts. On the other hand, the conclusion and culmination of Good Friday is marked by Pilate’s Ecce homo and “displaying the cross to the people”, with strong challenges concerning conversion, prayer and penance and the final blessing. With all the vitality of the story, the style is not reverberating or unusual. It sticks to the Gospel text and to simple spontaneous emotions that are filled with the intensity of love and the enthusiasm of what is gentle and popular.

2) The interesting influence of seventeenth century “concettismo” (use of conceits or euphuisms)

Although the sermon on the Passion does not display the characteristic features of seventeenth century sacred oratory or complex syntactical structures, other sermons contain more complex and polished examples of style. This is the case, for example, in the first sermon for the Feast of the Annunciation where from the very first points in the introduction we meet ornate and elegant turns of phrase:

Since the strength of mother nature is so great that when within this base element she mixes drops that fall from heaven in with the dust of earth and by the activity of the sun generates every day solid marble, hardest porphyry with very diverse and elegant veins in order to make us richer in infinite kinds of jewels and precious stones, it is not beyond belief that the Author of nature, who is God, by mixing today the sweet dew and the water of the Holy Spirit in with the blessed earth and blood of the Virgin Mary’s womb produced the shining marble, strong porphyry with different elements that was the priceless jewel of Christ’s humanity without any human intervention. Today the Omnipotent changed his name, from the God of vengeance and called himself the Saviour. Today the fiery seraph with the sword, who prevented all from entering, was taken away. Today death itself which had gained entry through a guilty and wicked woman was cast out by a holy Virgin. Today God made peace with mankind, and man was set at peace with God. Finally, today God provided his Son Jesus with the beautiful garment of our human nature. Thus the Jordan, the Red Sea and the Lake of Gennesaret sung with joy. The shepherds on the hills around Bethlehem began to sing happier songs and the loving villagers responded. The Angels rejoiced, men celebrated, but most of all, the most joyful Virgin waited for all of us to invoke her with the new greeting. Ave Maria.[1]

This introduction, which is quite polished, only serves to prepare the listeners to adopt a festive mood, but without giving an outline of the sermon which, instead, is developed gradually in the first part of the sermon following several reflections that make extensive use of the imagination aimed at stimulating the listeners to becoming impatient to hear the good news from the heavenly messenger. “Why do you not run to the joyful house of Joseph where the courier has dismounted so that you could see what is taking place, open the packages, “read the letters that he has brought, the news that he is proclaiming? This is the despatch-rider speaking: “Missus est Angelus, etc. This is the city: In civitatem Galileae Nazareth. This is where he has come to a halt: Ad Virginem desponsitam Joseph …” [2] He continues like a “little boy” who has to show other people a big canvas that has been painted by a great artist, but that has been crushed and badly stained, thus ruining and spoiling the masterpiece:

O God, it is very painful being unable to speak and not knowing what to say, yet this is how I feel today. My Lords, you know how I have been commissioned today to read out these letters and proclaim the news that they contain and to speak to you about the Incarnation. I do not know to put it as I should. It is just like what happened to the “little boy”, who although he was small, was commanded to take the big canvas that a great painter had painted and show it to people. Because the canvas was very high and wide his arms were not long enough to hold it. Obviously, it was torn and crumpled from top to bottom so that much of its beauty was lost. I feel certain that it the same for me today, because I am only very small but the Church has given me the measureless canvas of the history of the Incarnation to show you. It contains heavenly dimensions, divine shadings, angelic shades of glory, the perspectives of the Holy Spirit, depicting when God became a little boy in a moment in time. How can I show you this without spoiling it?[3]

Next Matteo d’Agnone lists the spiritual shades of meaning that surround various aspects of the mystery of the Incarnation. He arrives at these spiritual shades of meaning from ten episodes or personalities taken from the Bible to show that it is impossible to penetrate the depths of this mystery. When sorting through the various kinds of images, he chose that last on his list of metaphorical figures which involved the human garment of the Word as being represented by the coat of many colours that, when he had grown old, Jacob made for this beloved son Joseph. He gradually developed this metaphor during the sermon:

How do you expect me to explain this today? Shall I say that it is like the amount of grain that was stored in Joseph’s silo that could not satisfy the thirst for what is eternal? Like the manna that was placed in the golden vessel? Like the ark that was placed in the tabernacle of peace? Like the bread that was placed on the table under the sky? Like the priest Melchizedek who had no father or mother, no father on earth and no father in heaven? Like Elias who consecrated the temple of Solomon? Like the king who sat himself on the royal throne? Like the temple built in the land of the Jebusites in Jerusalem? Like the sign of peace that hung in the homes? Like the bush that was on fire but did not burn? Like how God clad the Word in human flesh, which was just like how the aged Jacob who, out of tender love, clothed Joseph in a coat of many colours? My Lord this is impossible. However, you still want me to say something. I shall obey by saying that it is your fault for obliging me under obedience. I put all of these mysteries under one heading to make it easier for you and for me. Today I cut the whole list down to one thing. God made a garment for his Word, who up until then had nothing to strip off for he was naked of anything that was ours, so that today we can understand what St Paul said about the Word: In similitudine hominum factus est et habitu inventus ut homo. [4]

This was a typical method in the seventeenth century. It left the listeners hanging on several images with the expectation of development until the speaker, as if by way of improvisation, revealed his choice, creating wonder and amazement in line with the rules of Baroque literature which aimed at shocking and surprising. (Many preachers who spoke in the late sixteenth or early seventeenth centuries regarded preaching as poetry delivered as prose from the pulpit.) This is evident in the famous verses of the Neopolitan Giambattista Marino:

The aim of the poet is to create wonder,
I speak of what is excellent, not foolish
Whoever does not know how to create astonishment ought to be given curry.

At this point Matteo d’Agnone offers an explanation. He applies many allegorical meanings to the divine Word taken from the episode of how Jacob, who loved Joseph more than his other sons, made him a tunic with long sleeves (cf. Gen. 37:3). After a lengthy explanation of this mystery he goes back to the introductory images to end the first part of the sermon with an exhortation to conversion and an invitation to give alms to the poor:

Note, my brothers, in the mixture of stone and porphyry things that are so different in their composition are combined together in the soil of Mary ever Virgin. Brothers, I have nothing to tell you apart from what was contained in the dispatch delivered by the Archangel Gabriel. This is the little that I have understood. Here we see peace, victory, abundance, and freedom. God, forgive me because I have crumpled the canvas and ruined the figure. I asked for your forgiveness at the beginning and told you that my arms were too short. Here is the little bit that I can tell you concerning the manna in the vase, the grain in the silo, the bread on the table, the priest Melchizedek, Elias, the temple, the sign of peace in the home, the burning bush that was not consumed, the tunic that the aged Jacob made for Joseph because he loved him. Because God had generated him from eternity, and loved us, during the days of the old Synagogue, he made a tunic out of our flesh, so that he could give us more help, for he willed that the tunic would improve and become new, and that he could suffer a little to revive so many gifts and make us strong.

So, sing joyfully because of this. Cry out: Canite tuba. Cantate canticum novum quia mirabilia fecit …Oh God, Oh God, how many despise you and do not count the cost! Today how many of you have thanked God for the gifts that you have received? This is a disgrace etc. How many of you have been to Confession and Communion today? A few! This is disrespect on the day that the bread was cooked and made etc. How many thousands of sins have been committed today by those who perform the Stations and recite the Office etc.? Quomodo effugiemus etc. How many of you have arranged banquets today etc.? I do not understand why you do not turn back to God; perform good works rather than bad works. A few days ago in the Church I preached about judgement and you were not moved by fear to do penance. Now I am preaching about the Incarnation and you are not moved to do penance out of love. What does this show? Lack of faith! St Ambrose said: Praedicat vobis Ecclesia regnum coelestem. Quomodo effugiemus si tantam neglezerimus salutem? Arouse yourself with great happiness and at least give decent alms to the poor.[5]

Snippets of words from the Gospel for the Annunciation appear in the second part of the sermon. The words are presented one by one with intuitive references to themes, concepts and reflections. This displays the spontaneity of the way Matteo d’Agnone preaches. It is simple, unpremeditated and popular with frequent picturesque examples from country life:

Missus est Angelus etc. A most loving master provided a meal for his workers when they were exhausted after working for many days. These poor little workers had been working strenuously with the hoe in the field with nothing but bread and water and a few herbs to sustain them. In order to give them refreshment and restore their strength for working on to the end, one morning he brought them a meal of choice meat, a good assortment of salad, fruit and cheese. Our loving God is doing the same for us today since we have been hoeing in his vineyard of Lent for many days doing penance by afflicting our body and have become exhausted. Today he has laid out a banquet of the most splendid heavenly nourishment and of the flesh of his Incarnate Son. The flesh was taken from the Virgin Mary, seasoned by the Holy Spirit, roasted by the fire of charity and served with ripe divine fruit: Benedictus fructus ventris tui so that we might run the rest of the way more easily. Come then, my dear people, inebriamini. Venite epulemur. This is the larder from which we obtain the Gospel.

Missus est etc. How can I explain to you the texture of God’s tunic when I am tired this morning, very tired because of the length of Lent? It is certainly difficult. Such tiredness does not only strike honourable cavaliers and grooms. Indeed any messenger bird, because of all the days that he has travelled above many mountain regions and tiring valleys, becomes very tired and exhausted and when he discovers a large field, or a very smooth road, he regathers his strength somewhat, and when he has recovered his strength he starts flying very swiftly once more. Similarly, although I am very tired because of the desert of Lent, I have come to this Gospel. In this story I take St Bernard as my guide velut amenissima planities est as if he were a large field for I cannot run or go on.[6]

In addition to this, other examples provide detailed pictures of the life and mentality of that time:

Et ingressus: The Word in his second generation wanted to be conceived into a family. Therefore, he acted like the gentleman, who being motivated by devotion and charity, wanted to look after sick people in a hospital. Before he began to care for them, he would undoubtedly go into a private room in the hospital and change his clothes and come out to serve them without being recognised. This is how it happened. God came into the world. The entire earth was a hospital full of sick people because a planta pedis usque etc. tumor et livor plaga etc. yet he came to serve, quia venit ministrare at first hiding in the private room of Mary, where the evil of sin was not to be seen, He put on Adam’s clothes, in similitudinem hominum factus. Then he came out to support, to serve and to minister, et animam suam ponere …

Et ait Angelus … Then as we go on in this very sweet meditation the Angel begins to say that she is a chosen person. O what could have been going on in her heart! Especially as she did not understand! She was to conceive without losing her virginity. Thus she was very disturbed. Tell me, if while someone was meditating on the happiness that the Pope felt about being the head of the world and of the Church and someone came and said to him: you have been chosen as Pope, what would go on in his heart? This is much more than that.[7]

He continues pausing over each word in this passage to reach the final climax for which the world was waiting and that was Mary’s response and consent. He then repeats the Biblical symbols and figures that were mentioned at the beginning. In an unexpected manner he calls a halt in the sermon with these images leaving everyone thrilled in a state of admiration and wonder:

Now the most holy mouth speaks. Hear this you heavens, listen Angels, listen mankind, pay attention the dead in Limbo and be happy, she has said yes: Ecce ancilla etc. Here, here is the servant of the Lord, be it done to me according to your will. Osculetur me osculo oris sui, because this is what you want, this is what your handmaid desires, may your will be done. Oh God, who can explain what took place at that moment? Here in a moment of time Joseph’s silo was filled with grain, Abraham’s great tent was filled with blessings, the table covered with the bread of proposition, the golden vase with manna, the sacred ark with mystery, Gideon’s skin with dew, the temple of Elias, and God became man in a moment, formed and made complete by the working of the Holy Spirit. Think of how she felt when she realised that the Eternal Word was within her, her sweetness, her happiness, her consolation, her rapture and her ecstasy. If I do not know why I cannot understand, I do know that this is the song that the Angels began to sing: Benedixisti Domine terram tuam etc. Misericordia et veritas obviaverunt sibi etc.

What are you doing in the midst of such happiness? Oh, why do you not run to this lady? Here, here is Mary who has the jewel. Oh, come and take hold of it. Here is the porphyry, the intermingling of elements. Here is Rebecca who has chosen the Lamb.[8]

However the use of Seventeenth Century rules of sacred oratory, that had been influenced by “concettualismo” (the use of conceits or euphuisms) is more obvious in the “Predica dell’inventione della Croce” that has been preserved for us by the “love and devotion” of one of Matteo d’Agnone’s disciples, Giovanni Battista da Guglionesi.[9] He copied it in neat writing during a break in the Advent Course at S. Severo in 1629 and put it into a collection of his sermons.[10]

The “introduction” is a mass of metaphoric and symbolic images, allusions that have been taken mainly from the Bible or the liturgy and expressed in polished language filled with assonance:

Here is a tree that was never seen again with the eye, never again spoken about with the mouth, never more listened to with the ear, never more written about with the pen and perhaps never seen again by the human imagination. It is the tree that was seen for the first-time during sleep and which was described to us in the story of Nebuchadnezzar and the Prophet Daniel. He speaks about it in chapter four of his account. It was a tree of rare quality in its immense height and in where it was situated. Its position was remarkable since it was at the centre of the earth: Videbam, et ecce arbor in medio terrae. It was remarkable because of its height because it reached up to heaven: Proceritas eius usque ad terminus universae terrae. It was even more remarkably strong: Magna arbor et fortis, its leaves were beautiful: Folia eis pulcherrima and its fruit was abundant: Et fructus eius nimus.

The tree that is to be found in the world today and which the Church puts before us is like this only it is bigger, better, more extraordinary and more beloved. I have come into the pulpit to tell you about it and you can admire it at your ease in this sacred temple. It is the victorious cross of the Crucified about which we sing: Crux fidelis inter omnes arbor una nobilis. It is situated precisely at the centre of the earth: Operatus est salutem in medio terrae. It reaches up to heaven: Hoc signum crucis erit in coelo. All rejoice over what it achieved for the world: Si exaltatus fuero a terra, omnia traham. This is the power that conquers everything: In hoc signo vinces. It is so beautiful that every heart falls in love with it: Mihi absit gloriari, nisi in cruce. It is so full that it can nourish everyone: Et fructus eius dulcis gutturi meo. The animals of the earth took shelter in the shade of Daniel’s tree: Subter eam habitabant animalia et bestiae. The birds of the air flew to its branches: In ramis eius conversabantur volucres coeli. On the cross the animals and birds stand for Angels and people, both those who are active and those who are contemplative.

Indeed, it is not only those who are good but also those who are bad, not only the faithful but also infidels who find nourishment, refuge, help and freedom there. According to St Jerome in chapter nine of Ezekiel those who are good include those who are repentant. According to a modern author in Exodus chapter eleven the Angel defended the Hebrews with the cross. According to the Angelic Doctor in Genesis chapter forty-seven, Jacob blessed his descendants with the cross. As they are going off to heaven many ask Christ to bless their descendants just the same as described in the first chapter of Acts. Speaking about some who are evil, some say that Cain, who was wicked, was protected from death by the cross. In chapter twenty of his eighteenth book Nicephorus tells how when the same cross mounted on iron was brought to the Turks by the King of Persia to the Emperor Mauritius even the infidels themselves were freed from the cruel plague.

O what a tree, O what a tree. At one time Abraham said to the three persons who visited him: Laventur pedes vestri et requiescite sub arbore. I say the same thing to those of you who often come to listen to me: Laventur pedes vestri, wash your feet from inner emotions; et requiescite sub arbore, and by quietening the air by means of inner silence in peace and quiet enjoy the sight of the miraculous cross that I have come to show you. Let us begin.[11]

In the first part of the sermon he lists the fourteen possible ways of approaching the theme of the cross continually using the support of biblical or liturgical citations:

As you must know some are based on the observation of (1) plants, others on (2) what is exalted, others (3) on what is strong, others (4) on blessing, others (5) on what is produced, others (6) on sweetness, others (7) on beatitude, others (8) on decorum, others (9) on radiance, others (10) on ornamentation, others (11) on choices, others (12) on height, others (13) on dignity and finally others (14) on nobility.

In chapter seventeen Ezekiel speaks about being exalted and about plants. With respect to exaltation he begins: (1) Exaltavi lignum humile. With regard to plants he says: (2) Et frondere feci lignum aridum.

Chapter fourteen of the Book of Wisdom speaks about what is strong and about blessing. With respect to what is strong it says that what saves souls is said to be strong: (3) Exiguo ligno credunt homines animas suas, et transeuntes mare per ratem liberati sunt. With respect to blessing it adds that it consists in whatever saves us: (4) Benedictum lignum in quo fit iustitia.

In chapter two Joel speaks about what is produced and he says: (5) Lignum attulit fructum sum. The Church now can taste the sweetness and she sings: (7) Beata, cuius brachiis secli pependit praetium. Then he speaks about decorum, radiance and greets them: (8) Abor decora, (9) et fulgida. Then he speaks about ornamentation and says: (10) Ornata regis purpura. Then he speaks about choice and adds: (11) Electa digno stipite tam sancta membra tangere. Next he speaks about height and adds: (12) Flecte ramos arbor alta. Then he speaks about dignity and concludes: (13) Sola digna tu fuisti ferre secli praetium. Lastly, he speaks about nobility and ends: (14) Crux fidelis inter omnes arbor uns nobilis.[12]

However, the preacher chose the theme of “inventione” (his deeds) which contains many components. These take place in four settings “with different people, at different times and places, and for various reasons which are either factual or mystical. On the first occasion this is backed up by a piece of divine advice, on the second by human behaviour, on the third by a woman and on the fourth by a man. The human behaviour consisted in not showing honour to God. The woman was mentioned for growth in faith and the man for wanting to reform the world. Oh, what deeds, oh what deeds! They deserve to be heard by a thousand ears and to be proclaimed by a thousand preachers who should cry out as the Prophet did in ancient times: Notas facite in Populis adinventiones eius!”[13]

To explain the four points he produces a procession of Biblical scholarship and quotations from the Fathers and theologians together with a most complicated collection of thoughts and images, metaphors and contrasts set out in an orderly manner so as to form a mathematical pattern of comparisons that enabled him to propose, with almost geometrical precision, links between the words in the biblical quote and the words in his table. He plays with the number fourteen in conjunction with the fourteen features that he had linked with the cross at the beginning of his first sermon. After claiming that all the attributes of God could be found in the cross, he develops what he says about the Divine supremacy in terms of fourteen events in the history of salvation:

Do you want to understand what divine supremacy is? Listen to what the divine Prophet has to say in Psalm seventy-six: Notam fecisti in populis virtutem tuam, redemisti in brachio tuo populum tuum … (1) Oh how great was God’s anger according to the Prophet: Tu terribilis es et quis resistet tibi? (2) How extensive was the flood of original sin as everyone had fallen ill and were forced to cry out: In peccatis concepit me mater mea. (3) How strongly bound were the gates of Paradise, where mystically the Cherubim stood guard with a flaming sword: Collocavit ante Paradisum voluptatis Cherubim et flammeum gladium versatilem. (4) How terribly angry the Angels appeared to be, who appeared to Daniel so peacefully. They made him almost tremble so that he said: In visione tua dissolutae sunt compages meae, et nihil remansit in me virium. (5) How miserable was the man who was locked out of Paradise when he sighed: Hei mihi, quia incolatus meus prolongatus est. How horrible was hell, which was called the place of eternal suffering: Ubi nullus ordo, vel sempiternus horror inhabitas. (7) How dreadful was death, concerning which the wise man says: Ultimum terribilium est mors. (8) How strong was the devil concerning whom it was said: Non est potestas super terram quae comparetur ei. (9) How terribly bent is the world which was said to be impenetrable solitude and a place of horror: In loco horroris et vastae solitudinis. (10) How idolatry, which was represented in the huge statue of Nebuchadnezzar, had grown tremendously. Concerning this we read: Statua illa magna et statua sublimis stabat contra te, et intuitus eius erat terribilis. (11) How tenaciously rooted and intrenched was useless philosophy in the hearts of humankind. Inexplicably they: Iurabant in verba Magistri. (12) How proud the realm of the Gentiles had grown so as to take up the entire earth. At one time exit edictum a Cesare Augusto, ut describeretur universum orbis. (13) Wickedness had become so vast that it startled Gentile into saying: Praeter culpam et peccatum nihil homini accidere potest, quod sit terribile atquae pertimescendum. (14) Finally, how tedious it is to hear the refrain that they cry out: Miseremini mei, miseremini mei, quia manus Domini tetigit me. [14]

Then by placing each of God’s attributes on the cross he presents fourteen symmetrical images that pass from the top to the bottom with complex correlations and interaction. Here is the text which has interesting structural aspects that clearly demonstrate the complexities of the seventeenth century baroque style which was not used by other preachers in this collection:

You tell me, what is the greatest quality that is to be found in the cross? It contains every kind of scorn, of violence, of what is worthwhile, and of what is strong, what is powerful, of what provides drive, of what stirs horror, of what gives courage, dread and fright. All of these things come together at the same time and bewilder, strike and depress, alarm, defeat and, at the same time, bring peace. Oh cross, oh cross, what are you? To put it better, what are you not? To what can I compare you on this your solemn feast? What name can I give you on this glorious occasion? Are you heaven, or the sword? Are you perhaps the key, or the ladder? Are you the chariot or the desert? Are you perhaps the barrier or the cane stake? Are you perhaps the arco (bow) or the arca (ark)? Are you perhaps the flagstaff or perhaps the flag? Are you perhaps the scales (on which something is weighed) or the scaffold? Let us settle this now and sum it all up in one word and come to the conclusion that the cross is at the same time:

1. heaven 5. chariot 9. bow 13 scale
2. sword 6. desert 10. ark 14. scaffold
3. key 7. barrier 11. flagstaff
4. ladder 8. cane stake
14 scaffold of the thieves 7. defence wall of combatants
13. scales of creditors 6.desert of unknown animals
12.imperial flag 3. royal chariot
11. rod of Moses 4. Jacob’s ladder
10. ark of the Covenant 3. key to the house of David
9. the hunter’s bow 2 the warrior’s sword
8. the fisherman’s rod 1. the red sky

14. If the cross is a scaffold for thieves it takes punishment away.

13. If it is the scales of creditors, it cancels the debt.

12. If it is the imperial flag, it conquers the Empire.

11. If it is the rod of Moses, it confounds proud philosophers.

10. If is the Covenant, it destroys idolatry.

9. If is the hunter’s bow, it dispatches the devil.

8. If it is the fisherman’s rod, it catches the world.

7. If it is the defence wall of the combatants, it kills death.

6. If it is the desert full of unknown animals, it destroys hell.

5. If is the royal chariot, it brings mankind back from exile.

4. If it is Jacob’s ladder, it overcomes the fall of the Angels.

3. If it is the house of David, it opens the gates of Paradise.

2. If it is the warrior’s sword, it protects the Virgin Mary from original sin.

1. If it is the red sky, in it, through it and with it the relentless anger of the Eternal Father is placated. O what great, omnipotent and infinite power![15]

Beginning with the last image, he proceeds to explain, with the use of interesting and imaginative reflections that are based on Biblical persons and events, the following:

Starting from here is like going up into the sky. If the shy is very high, so is the cross: Flecte ramos arbor alta. Heaven is God’s throne: Coelum mihi sedes est; and the cross is also God’s throne. God thunders from heaven and teaches: Intonuit de coelo Dominus, Altissimus dedit vocem suam. Christ also taught and spoke from the cross where he used seven words. These are reported once in the Holy Gospel: Facto vesperi, dicitis: Serenum erit, rubicundum est enim coelum. My Lords, perhaps what he meant to infer by saying facto vesperi, was that when the evening of the end of your life has come, the blood of this cross will make the sky red, et rubicundum erit coelum. Then it can be said that peace will follow: Dictis: Serenum erit: and the sad face of an angry God, a terrifying God, the God of armies, a God who was called on two occasions a God of vengeance: Deus ultionum Dominus, Deus ultionum, will become peaceful, kind, joyful and loving and he should be called the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation: Pater misericordiarum et Deus totius consolationis.

If you want to pass over from God the Father of Christ to Mary the Mother of Christ you will be changing from referring to the cross of Christ as the red sky to calling it the warrior’s sword. From this perspective it happened in chapter forty-eight of Genesis that when the very contented father of the twelve patriarchs was dying, he turned to his beloved Joseph and said: En morior et do tibi partem unam extra fraters tuos, quam tuli de manu Amorrhaei in gladio meo. Now, my dear Son, that I am about to die I give you something more than the others and that is the land of Sichem which I took out of the hand of the Amorrite with my sword. Oh what a precious mystery! Whatever does the sword, the land of Sichem, the Amorrite, Joseph and Jacob mean? I think that the sword represents the cross, the land of Sichem the Blessed Virgin, the Amorrite the devil, Joseph, John the Evangelist and Jacob, Christ. Thus, if Jacob had twelve sons, Christ had twelve apostles. If Jacob loved Joseph more than his other sons: Diligebit autem Israel Ioseph. Christ also loved John more than the other Apostles: Discipulus ille, quem diligebat Iesus. He had a good reason for doing this. At the time of his Passion all the other Apostles deserted Christ when he was dying. Only John followed him very bravely to the death and then as he was dying Christ left him the mystical land of Sichem, namely the Blessed Mother saying: Ecce Mater tua. However, what is significant is what Jacob said about the Promised Land: quam tuli de manu Amorrhaei in gladio meo. What this means to me is that, O my Christ, when the diabolical Amorrite was about to take possession of the sacred land which was your holy Mother, from that moment you fought with the holy sword of your holy cross and chased the devil away and set your Mother free. This is how through the foreseen merits of the cross the Blessed Virgin was preserved from original sin. Et ex morte eiusdem Filii sui praevisa, eam ab omni labe praeservavit. The power of the holy cross does not end here. It also opens the gates of Paradise, repairs the fall of the Angels and reinstates mankind in heaven and releases the souls of the holy fathers in Limbo.[16]

He continues on like this explaining all the images and brings the first part of the sermon to a conclusion by means of a few examples and “forthright applications” against vices. In the second part he resumes what he said in the first part and once again takes up the four different “invenzioni” (acts) pertaining to the cross:

Whereas the Divine Counsel chose the cross out of love for mankind, humankind plotted to turn that very cross against God out of hatred, malice and contempt. This took place when the ungrateful Synagogue cried out: Venite mittamus lignum in panem eius et eradamus eum de terra vivientium, et nomen eius non memoretur amplius. Blessed Christ’s body is flesh and bread: Ego sum panis vivus qui de coelo descendi. His most holy body is flesh and food. Caro mea vere est cibus. This is the same as saying: Mittamus etc., which is equivalent to saying, Come let us throw him onto the wood of the cross. Let us crucify him on a gibbet. After mentioning the first and second actions that pertain to the cross we go on to their real and spiritual significance. [17]

The genuine rediscovery of the cross was told in the famous legend of St Elena. Matteo d’Agnone tells it in a creative manner. However, the spiritual rediscovery of the cross is something that took place through St Francis of Assisi. It is interesting to see how Francis is presented as being entirely immersed in the mystery of the cross by drawing on ancient Franciscan spirituality and adopting the same interpretation as St Bonaventure:

The world had completely forgotten about the cross of Christ. It no longer retraced the footsteps of the cross. Indeed, it hardly thought about the cross. If you wish I can tell you that St Paul said with tears in his eyes, that the world was the enemy of the cross itself: Saepe dicebam vobis, et nunc flens dico: Inimici crucis Christi quorum Deus venter est, et quorum finis interitus. Then, O great act of God’s providence, O indescribable gift of Christianity, O great miracle for mankind, a man arose among those who were pure, who when he saw that the traces of the cross and the remembrance of the Crucified had been obliterated, was so sad that he sighed so exceedingly and cried so very much that in the end he was given the precious cross, not carved in gold or silver, or painted on canvass or silk, but traced in his own limbs, in the flesh of this remarkable person. Oh, reverend Fathers and Brothers, this remarkable person was my Seraphic Father and your Seraphic Father.

On one occasion the Prophet Daniel said: In mari viae tuae, semitae tuae in aquis multis, vestigia tua non cognoscentur. He said this as a prophesy about Christ. However, this was also his way of saying what would come about in his Church. Oh, most precious Redeemer, I foresee that in the course of your life you will continually travel the bitterest ocean of anxiety and sorrow. In mari viae tuae, in the end you will find yourself encircled by the raging flood of your many sufferings. Semitae tuae in aquis multis. However, I am also aware that like a ship that is ploughing through waves your footsteps will leave no trace, so that a time will come when they are almost unknown: Vestigia tua non cognoscentur. So that it will be like when the incredulous Synagogue asked the Redeemer: Magister volumus a te signum videre. So too every faithful soul expects you to reply: Magister etc. Oh, dear Master who is also our true and living God, deign to show the world the vision of your cross once again as if God had restored to its place once again. Ecce dabit Dominus ipse nobis signum. When the banner of the cross was engraved on St Francis the promise was fulfilled and the footsteps of your Gospel life appeared again in the world.

It is true that God is glorified in all of his Saints: Mirabilis Deus in sanctis suis, as the Psalmist and St Paul say. I do not want to make foolish comparisons this morning. All the same I would like to suggest that the predestination, the vocation, the salvation, exaltation and glorification of my beloved Father St Francis was very special in as much as he was predestined to rediscover the cross, called upon from the cross and after he was converted made an effort to find out about the cross and was made great by the cross and among all the other Blessed in Paradise, he glorified by way of the cross.

This is clear in the prophetic pronouncement concerning him and in the image of him that was drawn by the Abbot Joachim a hundred years earlier. Perhaps this was the idea that was the inspiration for the mosaic of St Francis with the Stigmata and the inscription, Veniet homo insignitus characteribus Jesu Christi, as one sees today in the Church of St Mark in Venice.

He was called by the cross since from the cross that he heard a voice saying that he should get ready to rebuild the Church: Cuius vox hunc alloquitur ter dicens: Tu Praepara, Vade Francisce, ripara domum meum, quae labitur.[18]

Then he compares the Poverello of Assisi to Moses, to St Paul, to the protomartyr St Stephen, to St Lawrence, to Saints Anthony, Basil, Augustine and all the Saints with regard to their love of the cross and makes Francis the most outstanding by using interesting arguments such as the following:

Moses was famous among the Hebrews and God appeared to him on Mount Sinai in the midst of terrifying smoke, claps of thunder, lightning flashes and startling sounds, and he received the law written on stone, but Francis was greater since the Crucified appeared to him on Mount Laverna in the midst of a thousand flashes and flames of fire that were enkindled by seraphic love and he received Christ himself, the author of the law, engraved on his very limbs.

At the very beginning of the infant Church the Apostle Paul boasted about having his body pierced with the precious wounds of Christ his Lord and he said: Ego autem stigmata Domini mei Jesu Christi in corpore meo porto. However, neither tradition, nor Scripture nor the authentic memories of the ancients testify to this Apostle having the actual, bodily stigmata in his body. Oh, my most favoured Father, you can say very honestly: Ego stigmata Domini mei Jesu Christi in corpore meo porto, because you were actually, truly and physically adorned with the living signs of the beloved cross of the Crucified.

In the third chapter of the Book of Daniel we see four persons who are released and walk freely through the flames of the furnace in Babylon without being hurt or touched by the fire: Ecce ego video quatuor viros solutos et ambulantes in medio ignis et nihil corruptionis in eis. The fourth was like the Son of God, et species quarti similis Filio Dei. I think of the furnace in Babylon as being this world which is entirely enflamed with concupiscence. The four persons who are delivered and set free from the furnace of this world without injury or harm are the four founders of Religious Orders. They include the famous Anthony in Thebes, Basil who was sublime in the grace that he received, Augustine who was famous and awe-inspiring in Africa and in Italy Francis who is even more sublime and famous than they are because by receiving the stigmata he was nailed to the cross like the Son of God: et quartus similis Filio Dei…

Yes, yes, Francis emerges as someone who is greater than human because he rediscovered the cross. Mystically he is the Angel of the Apocalypse signed with sign of the living God: Vidi alterum Angelum ascendentem ab ortu solis, habentem signum Dei vivi.[19]

By way of conclusion, Matteo d’Agnone’s preaching, as we have read it in these texts, if, on the one hand, it adopted the style of delivery that was spreading through Italy, on the other hand, it preserved very faithfully what was the Capuchin tradition, especially in its fervour, devotion, love of the Crucified and of the Virgin Mary.

c) The Order speaks out against preaching that is “curiosa” (“out of the ordinary”) and the “nuove inventioni” (“new innovations”)

Preaching that was flowery and out of the ordinary did not have a long and easy life among the Capuchins even if some of them did not immediately succeed in abandoning this way of preaching. It lasted longer in sacred oratory than in other forms of literature. This placed it in direct opposition to the “apostolic” method of preaching that was the official aspiration and practice of the Order. Legislative and disciplinary interventions on the part of the Order against this kind of preaching became more frequent, especially in the latter part of the seventeenth century. For the first time, at an official level, the General Chapter of 1656 condemned preaching that was “concettista” (the use of conceits or euphuisms) commanding preachers to observe “the Constitutions inviolably and preach Christ crucified without the use of unusual language. Whoever did so should not be allowed to preach. Students who intend to walk the road of what is unusual or vainglorious are to be removed from studies forthwith.”[20] In this way the formation of the students was guaranteed to be in line with the norms of the Constitutions which set a higher value on the spiritual dimension of preaching than on what was purely a matter of style.

However, in the seventeenth century a preacher was no longer satisfied to have just a few books. In order to read the “book of life” of Christ Crucified, he had to have many more books so that he either collected them in his cell or had a companion following him carrying “many writings” so that sometimes “a layperson had to accompany them.” This ordinance can also be found in the Ordinances of 1656.[21] At the end of the seventeenth century and during the eighteenth century the General Chapters of the Order stressed and issued specific prohibitions concerning these matters insisting particularly on the need “to proclaim penance with a clear voice”, because the ones who were preaching “could not make an impact concerning the love of Jesus Christ on those who were listening if they were not on fire with heavenly, divine ardour. Therefore, they shall try to set an example that corresponds to the exalted nature of what they were proclaiming and bring about the salvation of souls by means of fervent and ardent words. Let us absolutely dismiss whoever does not do this. We also command that students who are inclined to tend towards what is vain and unusual in speech rather than to what will yield solid and substantial fruit be removed from studies.”[22]

However, the one who intervened with particular effectiveness, exactitude and authority to put a brake on “unusual” preaching was the Minister General Stefano Chiaramonti da Cesena (+1678) in a circular letter of 4th October 1671 in which he combined the reputation of the Order, fidelity to the Constitutions and the experience and the method of the ancient fathers:

As it is very true that one of the greatest evils that the devils, being envious of the high regard that the holy Church has had for our Order since its inception, introduced change into the Order by persuading our preachers that to preach firmly, in a manly and apostolic manner, as our ancient Father taught and practiced, was not the right way to convert souls to God and to fill repentant sinners with the sustenance of the holy Church. They persuaded them to carry out the ministry to gain the applause for filling their sermons with concise words and empty discourse, useless gossip, embellishment, fairy-tales and tittle-tattle. This brings about irreparable damage to souls and deplorable prejudice against the Order that leaves people with no trust to the extent that whereas once then thronged with eagerness to hear Capuchin preachers, now they have no wish to hear them and feel sick to the stomach as they listen.

However, if we want to cure such a damaging plague by applying a healthy antidote let us urge the preachers to follow in the footsteps of our fervent and apostolic Fathers in observing the precepts of our holy Constitutions making them aware that this kind of empty and fruitless preaching is not fulfilling what they are obliged to do; indeed, take away the role of preaching from them and remove them from the pulpit as soon as possible. Let us command the Provincials to identify their subjects who love themselves and do not care about the greater glory of God.

We beg them to see to it that the students in their Provinces walk the royal road of apostolic preaching. We wish that as they have faith in their vita et moribus, they will also trust in their being fruitful not empty preachers. Otherwise they should not grant them the privilege of being preachers.[23]

A preacher, who is “firm, manly and apostolic” and trained in the tradition of the Order, should not be happy with sermons that are full of “concise words and empty discourse, useless gossip, embellishment, fairy-tales and tittle-tattle.” Gregorio da Napoli also made a brilliant observation: “One ought to leave aside any empty or useless questions, opinion or subtleness that few will understand and follow the example of John the Baptist when he preached: Poenitentiam agite, appropinquabit enim regum coelorum. This is what the early Capuchins did when they preached in Italy. They preached with simplicity. Today many take pleasure in making use of gossip and ornamental language when they are preaching.”[24]

The “Capuchin school of preaching” understood as a way of life and a method of proclaiming was a critical characteristic of the Order. In 1641, the Minister General Giovanni da Moncalieri insisted on the revival of the “apostolic spirit” that in the past had guided preachers towards achieving “such outstanding transformation and conversion in the world”, but which preachers seemed to have lost in his own day: “We observe with the greatest feelings of discontent that some of our preachers lack and continue to lack with the passing of each day the seraphic spirit that edified the world so much”. Because of this he laid down that “Provincials and Definitors should ardently admonish the preachers in their Provinces when they noticed a decline in the above-mentioned manner of preaching. We declare absolutely that no preacher is to be assigned if his preaching is not genuinely the Capuchin way of preaching.” [25]

“To preach in the Capuchin way” was an expression that signified a style and a way of presence among the people of God, a way of proclaiming the Gospel message. This was also expressed in other phrases such as “apostolic preaching” or “preaching filled with the apostolic spirit.” This was not a continuation but an improvement on the original “evangelical preaching” of Ochino and the first decades of the Capuchins in the sixteenth century.

If we come across daring modulations of style in Matteo d’Agnone, side by side with a simpler style, it might be possible to find other examples that are developing in the seventeenth century. However, that would be going beyond out time scale. Instead with respect to the texts of the sermons that we have already examined we need to admit that the seventeenth century examples taken from Matteo d’Agnone are really the exception with nothing else like them. For example, Giacomo da Molfetta’s sermons[26] which we have quoted are very emotional and simple. Thus, his Sermones da Passione Domini faciendi are based on the traditional words of the Bible with reflections that can easily be traced back to the popular pocket editions of meditations on Christ’s Passion that we examined in the previous section. The first sermon weaves in devout considerations of phrases that are repeated as a chorus. They are taken from the Song of Songs and from St Paul: Egredimini et videte fili Sion Regem Sal omonem in diademate conoratum, quo coronavit eum mater sua; Hoc enim sentite in vobis quod et in Christo Iesu. The conclusion is a prayer that contains the usual emotional adages that were a part of Capuchin spiritual sensitivity:

Oh, my Lord, if I were not lukewarm, with what a great fire would I be animated? Lord you were wounded for me. I was not wounded for you. You bore the wounds, not me. I was the sinner and I did not suffer. You were the innocent one and yet you suffered. Oh, give me these wounds, pass them on to me, Lord, since they ought to be mine, so that it does not look like I am innocent and holy and because you are wounded it looks like you did something wrong. If you do not hand the wounds on to me, at least share them with me and make my heart feel really wounded in union with your sweet loving wounds for otherwise I shall never believe that your likeness on the cross has been engraved on me and carved into my heart if I do not experience the wounds and the blood. Therefore, Lord, in these days, during these sermons, give me devotion that is comparable to what has happened, love that is apportioned to the event and the kind of sorrow that I should feel.[27]

The superiors of the Order not only noted the “forthright verbal expressions” but also gestures that they called “new inventions” which they regarded as stage effects for Lent. It was powerful and dramatic choreography that suited the time. It was put to skilful use by fervent Capuchin preachers not just as a new apostolic strategy but also as a wonderful reflection of their life of penance and austerity. It was mainly in the context of the Forty Hours devotion that, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, many Capuchin preachers excelled themselves in displaying their personalities while setting aside some of the restrictive regulations. This topic will be taken up specifically later on in section II/2. It allows us a greater insight into the style of a little-known, but much sought-after Paolo Maria d’Asti (+1640) and, most of all, to account for some of the concrete and stylistic features of the famous Giacinto Natta da Casale Monteferrato (+1627).

d) An unpublished document containing the sermons of Paolo M. Pergamano d’Asti

As we have already said, we do not possess the texts of Paolo d’Asti’s sermons. We have already mentioned what the historians said about him.[1] However we do possess some information which is contained in an important document that was written by a man who was his companion for twenty-six years that tells us about all of his nonstop preaching and apostolic activity. The document furnishes a quite detailed outline of his life because it was written by Dalmazio da Corgniento at the request of the Minister General Giovanni da Mancalieri (+ 1654) immediately following the death of Paolo M. d’Asti that occurred on 29th January 1640.[2] We have extracted from this document the most interesting facts that concern his preaching.

He was born in Asti, being the third child of Petrino Pergamo who was a Doctor of Law. At the age of sixteen he entered the Canons Regular of the Lateran and became Abbot of Lanciano and later of Asti. However, as he wanted to live a life more in keeping with the spirit of reform he asked and obtained permission to become a Capuchin. He entered the Noviciate at Alessandria in 1608 under Fr Giovanni da Fossombrone as his Novice Master. He began preaching in 1610 and continued until he died. His companion wrote: “he preached thirty Lenten Courses in the habit of a Capuchin and never stopped preaching except for two sessions in Cesena because of ill health. He preached eleven Advent Courses in various cities in Italy.”[3]

The principal cities in Italy were in competition with each other for his services. His reputation spread quite quickly and already by the time of his third Lenten Course, which was delivered in 1612 in the Church of S. Silvestro in Torino, in the presence of the Duke of Savia, Carlo Emmanuele, and of the Court and all the nobility of Torin, he was considered to be the most quoted preacher of his day. Because of this he was summoned to Rome in the same year to preach in the Church of S. Lorenzo in Damaso “during the year and at Advent and to preach on the feast of St Lucy in the Vatican Aula in the presence of Pope Paul V and twenty two Cardinals, Bishops and other Prelates from various Orders who had come together in a greater number than usual. In that sermon he excelled himself and his name spread throughout the whole of Italy.”[4]

His preaching itinerary stretched across the main regions of Italy from Piemonte to Naples. He preached in the most famous pulpits especially those in S. Lorenzo in Damaso in Rome, in Santi Apostoli in Venice and in the SS. Annunziata in Naples, all of which at the time were considered to be the principal pulpits in Italy. During twenty out of the thirty Lenten Courses that he preached he also preached the Forty Hours Devotion.[5]

His companion also wrote “the zeal that this priest had for the salvation of souls appeared to be incredible. It was so great that to indulge it he spared himself no effort or exposure to harm. With respect to the effort that he put into this we note that he preached continually in the non-metropolitan areas and in the cities not only to laypeople but also to religious, monks and nuns, and not only in Cathedrals but in the afternoon he also preached in the Churches of particular religious Orders and Associations of men and women. He used to tell me: “You can say to anyone who is looking for me; you will find him either going from place to place, preaching or in bed sick.” He was not satisfied with preaching one Lenten Course and setting aside other things. On the same day that he preached to nuns and was tired and exhausted, after an hour he would be preparing for more work. Beginning at nine in the evening of Palm Sunday he worked through until five in the afternoon of Wednesday in Holy Week. In this period of time he preached forty-two sermons in front of the Blessed Sacrament with each lasting thirty minutes. With all this hard work he did not set aside his strict form of fasting or the recitation of the Divine Office.”[6]

During the Forty Hours Devotions preach by Father Asti (this is how he became known) processions and dramatic practices of penance took place. This is the same as what we have seen during the preaching of Mattia da Salò, Giacinto da Casale, Fedele da S. Germano and many others.[7] With a few variations his method followed the practice of other Capuchin preachers. This is how his biographer describes it:

Father carried out the following procedure. When he arrived in the Parish he had a hymn played on the organ, then he appeared on a platform with a long rope around his neck, with bare feet and kneeling in front of the Blessed Sacrament with nothing on his head and then he began the sermon set down for that time and which dealt with one of the seven words that the Son of God spoke from the cross and was aimed at the conversion of the sinner. It was delivered with such fervour that in the middle of what he was saying the people cried out: Have Mercy! The amount of tears they shed was incredible and it was the work of God. When the people saw how the Father was ready, they asked him if their sins could be forgiven. He replied yes as long as they wanted to abandon them and become good Christians. They answered, yes. Would they forgive their enemies and be reconciled with them? They said, yes. Then he took a cross into his hand and spoke about it and about sinners. I cannot even write down the least part of the good effect that this activity had.

When he had finish the sermon, he departed for another parish. Then certain devout persons who saw the fruit of what the Father said in the souls of people came up and said to him: “Father, just now I saw a knight who was reconciled with his enemy. I saw two enemies walking together like good friends. There was someone who had not been to confession for years and I saw him at the feet of a Confessor. After listening to your sermons for a short time, a certain person who gave scandal in the city developed great compunction. Someone who was the main prostitute has converted.”

Who could comprehend the pleasure that this gave the Father when he heard the news? This news meant that at that time he did not experience being tired, or disturbed about wasting time, for having to spend three hours before eating that night, or about always being on his knees when he was preaching, or at having to preach fourteen sermons each day with each lasting of half an hour while never neglecting the Divine Office. At night some priests and confessors would come and say to him: “Kind soul, reverend preacher, today I absolved so many people who had grown old in sin and who had gone for many years without going to Confession. There were others who were deadly enemies who embraced in public in the square, giving a great deal of example to the entire city. There were others who related similar happenings and this pleased him.

He preached the first sermon to the clerics in the presence of the Archbishop together with the Canons of the Cathedral and of San Lorenzo. The topic was Hululate pastores quia rorem etc, c. 25. He preached the last sermon to converted sinners on the topic: Egredimini, egredimini, et videte filiae Sion Regem Salamonem in diademente, quo coronavit illum Mater sua. Song of Songs c. 2. Following the sermon, he placed a large cross on his shoulder and in bare feet led a procession in which there were groups of penitents, Capuchins and other religious together with the clergy and the illustrious Archbishop who carried the Blessed Sacrament and who was followed by an countless number of people.

Anyone who had not seen this would find it incredible to appreciate the fruit that God produced by means of the Forty Hour Devotion that was so at odds with the devil. Wherever Father suggested doing this he found that it was not only the authorities in the city, but even more, the Church authorities who opposed it. This is what happened in Rome and Naples where he was unable to do it. There were also substantial difficulties in Lucca, Brescia, Venice and Mondovi but these were overcome by means of his prudence and humility.[8]

The success of his sermons was not due only to his “charming presence” but also to their solid and substantial content which was always closely associated with the Gospel. The secret of such success could also be found in other Capuchin preachers. It consisted most of all in the “forceful applications” and moral examples that he was able to develop and present in a convincing manner without becoming involved in the abstruse style of those who used “conceits or euphuisms”. He spoke with clarity and vigour, with knowledge and from the heart and that is why the appraisals that were made about him as a preacher were so pleasing and flattering:

This Father was endowed with special gifts for preaching. First of all, he was a person with “charming presence”, of imposing build, with a long tanned face, a long beard and a clear and resounding voice. He never found a church that did not suit his voice. His preaching was outstanding, without affectation. At the beginning of the sermon he indicated what was the teaching and the subject to be dealt with, giving a short explanation. At the end of the first and second parts of the sermon he presented such vivid and convincing moral examples that his audience went home astounded. He never departed from the Gospel. He hated preachers who quibbled over the Gospel as well as those who made people laugh.

The Bishop of Grosseto called him the Apostle of Siena because he was so well-received in the city. The Grand Duke of Tuscany at the time of Father Asti said without offering anything further: “I want to hear him”. The Serene Duke of Modona said: “Father Asti is the genuine preacher for Princes.” His Royal Highness Carlo Emanuel called him: “a horse of many saddles, because, he said he excelled in preaching and in governing.” The most serene Princess Margarita of Mantova, who is now Queen of Portugal, said: “Father Pergamo’s preaching comes from the heart.” Cardinal Ubaldino, Legate of Bologna, said: “The Capuchin preacher produced more fruit in a sermon delivered during the Forty Hours than did all of the preachers put together during the Lent in Bologna.”

In Ravenna and in Brescia the leaders said: “It is impossible to listen to the preaching of Father Asti and remain in sin.” In Rome, after hearing him preach, Cardinal Belarmino told the other Cardinals: “This is how to preach.”[9]

When he used to preach the Forty Hours Devotion as part of his Lenten Course one aspect of his programme of mortification that cannot be overlooked was the practice of self-whipping that was carried out as a community exercise. Following in the footsteps of other preachers, especially Mattia da Salò, Saint Giuseppe da Leonessa and Giacinto da Casale, he had it performed by massive crowds of the faithful according to a ritual that, in part, followed what the Capuchins were doing with special adaptations for a lay audience. Paolo M. d’Asti prepared this exercise very carefully, recognising its psychological and spiritual effect it produced in the souls of those who were young and people of his time, without letting it become a mysterious rite of initiation, a contrived ceremony or just something that was a physical symbol.

As soon as he arrived at the place of his Lenten Course he immediately sought out a spacious church that could accommodate these gatherings of “Flagellants”. He assigned the task of getting the church ready to six discrete and devout persons whom he called piscatores hominium. They also had to gather as many people as possible, especially those who had strayed from the practice of religion and those who created the most scandal. When night fell and it became dark the “fishers of men” informed the Father about the kind of people who were present so the he could work out a suitable inspirational few words. The little sermon was short lasting about fifteen minutes. Then they sang the Litany of the Madonna while the whips were being handed out and, when the lamps had been extinguished, all began to whip themselves to the sad tune of the Miserere.

Next the preacher would break into the hushed silence of the whipping from time to time with emotional words about the scourging of Christ in order to stimulate contrition, devotion and conversion. When the whipping was finished, and the lamps were lit he would conclude by offering some suggestions regarding concrete choices for an improved way of life.

The description and explanation of this penitential practice which has been left by his companion as a direct testimony is so interesting that it deserves to be repeated here:

During the days in Lent he never preached without offering his scourged body to God. He derived so much from this exercise that he decided to propose it to others who feared God in the hope that by means of this many sinners would be caught up in the net of penance. Even though this severely chastised his body that was already very tired and tormented because of other things, his thirst for converting souls to God was so strong that nothing made him feel discomfort. Since out of all the preachers only he and Giacinto da Cassale (who knew him) performed this exercise with such success, and because I have seen and heard them doing it, I thought that I would describe it here so that other zealous preachers could make use of it for the greater glory of God.

When the priest had arrived in the city where he was to preach during lent, before he began to preach, he sought out people who were prudent and knew the people and asked whether there was a church near the lodgings of the preacher that could accommodate a thousand people. He then visited the place and asked the one in charge if he was happy to provide him with the opportunity to carry out this disciplinary exercise. Then he sought six men who feared God and who were held in high regard by the people and, like St Charles, he called these men Piscatores hominum. He told them to look over the Church and see whether the windows and doors were well sealed so that the Church could be made dark. Furthermore he asked four of them to stand at the Church doors and prevent women or children from entering. Furthermore, he asked them to bring as many men as possible to the assembly especially those who were the biggest rogues and those who had grown old in sins of animosity, promiscuity, usury and gambling. In addition, he warned them not to allow those who had brawled with one another to sit together. They were to tell the Father what kind of sinners had come into the Church so that he could address his words to those who needed them the most.

At the end of twenty-four hours he moved to the designated Church where the exercise was to be performed waiting there for those who had their hearts touched by our Lord and it was filled in a short time. (He did not talk about this exercise from the pulpit because he knew that it would be cursed by lazy and vicious people. He left it to the Lord to publicise it.) As the news of it spread such a crowd of men came to the designated Church that it was not able to contain them. In the beginning some came filled with the spirit, some out of curiosity, some to jeer at it, and some to derive fruit. However in the long run all were caught in the net of penance, like the most illustrious secretary of the Bishop of Brescia who was a man of the cloth who came to see what was involved, and his nephew who came to see what was going on and what kind of exercise this was. When the whipping began, he was so contrite that as he had nothing with which to whip himself, he began to strike his cheeks and to cry so bitterly that next day his face was all inflamed.

In Bergamo Count Giovanni Girolomo, Albano’s brother, came out of curiosity to the exercise, his holsters full of pistols, and when the exercise started, because he had nothing with which to strike himself, he took the gun belts which were iron clad straps and began to strike himself, shedding tears and uttering sighs that could be heard in the street. This was a way by which the Lord showed how important the exercise was to him. He wanted them to put their pistols aside so that they would not spoil the whipping. Although they probably did not think much about it, what happened next was the work of the devil. (And I suspect that this is very likely, since in his sermon Father said that the soul of the sinner was the devil’s food, and that he dined on this, and when he heard this in the sermon the devil was most displeased). Two of the pistols caught fire but did not explode, thanks be to God, for if they had done so many would have been killed or injured since the crowd of people was so large that people could not move in the Church and it was necessary for many to go out of the Church into an enclosure to perform the exercise there.

As night fell, when the ushers advised him of the number of men present, he told them to close the doors at which the officials were standing and he went up to the altar where a chair had been prepared and began to deliver his sermon in which he usually dealt with the filth of sin or the fruitfulness and strength of penance. The sermon did not usually last longer than a quarter of an hour with more time being spent on what was to follow.

When the sermon was finished the Litanies of the Most Holy Virgin were sung. While this was going on a good number of scourges were distributed to those who wanted them. When this had been done he gave the signal for the lights to be extinguished and when they were extinguished he said; Aprendite [sic] disciplinam, ne quando irascatur Donibus et peratis de via iusta; (Take up the scourge and walk the path of justice so that God may not be angry) and then he intoned the Psalm Miserere using the distinctive tone that the Capuchin Fathers used during Holy Week.

When the Miserere was finished and those listening had carried out the whipping in silence, he simply briefly said: “Oh my God, oh Jesus, how much did you suffer for me, and for all other sinners!” He then paused for the space of an Ave and began by saying: “Your shoulders show well how much you have suffered.” Then he spent a little while in silence. Then he began again and said: “Yet, O good Jesus, it is true that you even suffered for those who remained obstinate in their hostility and life of the flesh. O what a dreadful sin that is!” He began again and said: “O brothers, is there perhaps anyone here for whom unfortunately the Son of God has not died? Who could be so stupid as to think that he would be saved when engaged in cupidity or while carrying arms to kill his enemy? My God you tell them, whom will be saved? Pay attention, obstinate sinner, Si vis ad vitam ingredi, serva mandato.”(If you want to enter into life, observe what has been commanded.)

Finally, he said: “Wake up, brothers, does not everyone want to enter paradise? Will you please say that there is no one who does not want to enter Paradise? I am more that certain that everyone wants to enter paradise. If this is the case, I warn you that whoever does not love his enemy, who does not abandon concubinage and who does not observe the precepts of God and of Holy Church will not go to heaven. Furthermore, is there anyone in the Church who is not in need of God’s mercy?” Then they would respond in tears: “Father, I need the mercy of God.” Father would answer: “What, brothers? Why does not everyone say this? For someone who practices concubinage or does not forgive his enemy, he would tell them that it is written: They will receive judgement without mercy the same as those who show no mercy. O brothers, please give a series of stern rebukes to such as these.” He then went on: “Tell me, brothers, do you not want to have done with sin once and for all?” They would respond. “Yes, Father!” “Do you want to forgive your enemy for the love of God, abandon concubinage, and restore what you have stolen without too much fuss? They would reply, “Yes.” “Then if this is the case, as a sign that you forgive your brother who is your enemy, let each one of you embrace the brother who is your enemy if he is nearby with a firm proposal of carrying out what you have proposed as soon as you meet that enemy.”

He then halted the whipping and exhorted them once again to give up sin, gave them some reading material and warned them that as soon as they had left the Church to return home in silence, and when they had arrived home to go to their rooms, if they could, and before going to bed to say with heart and lips, kneeling on the ground in front of some image: “Who knows whether tonight God will call me to give an account for the time that he left me to do penance for my sins? My soul, tell me, how would you respond?” O how many were caught in the net of penitence by means of these effective practices![10]

When he was preaching in Rome in the presence of the Pope, he was esteemed more than other famous preachers such as Father Francesco Nevi da Genova and Francesco Giugiula d’ Ancona.[11] Word went round that he was to be the next Papal preacher, but he defused this enthusiasm by refusing the opportunity as “he hoped to gain more fruit for souls by preaching in towns and villages than being confined to Rome to preach only eleven times in a year.”[12] Father Asti had refused the responsibilities of being a superior preferring to be continually occupied in preaching annual Lenten and Advent Courses. However, when the Province of Piemonte was separated from the Province of Genova in 1618, after being chosen as Guardian of Monte di Torino, he was elected Provincial in 1621 and again in 1627.

On his apostolic journeys he always took a crucifix with him. “This had been made by Pietro Tacca from Florence, who was famous for casting statues, and Paul V, the Supreme Pontiff, applied the indulgences granted to Father Lawrence of Brindisi to this cross and to the miraculous wooden cross of our Father St Francis.”[13] He made use of this cross at appropriate moments during his sermon as a means of arousing the emotion of his audience.

Father Asti was one of the so-called “predicatori generali” (general preachers). This meant that he was one of the more famous preachers that the General chose to use as he wished, following requests made by the leading Dukes and important prelates. This group of preachers who were directly subject to the Minister General were also subject to the Ministers Provincial to lessen the impossible burden placed on the General. To achieve this Giovanni da Moncalieri issued a circular letter in 1431 to all the Provinces in the Order to have them organise the many requests for preaching in a better manner:

To this effect, and to maintain the spirit, we strongly desire that the challenging swarm of requests for preachers that requires the General to supply preachers for every pulpit and which means that preachers are forced to preach in other Provinces as well as in their own should be reduced. Therefore, we command the Ministers Provincial to make the prelates and the communities of their Provinces aware that they should not ask for preachers from outside the Province since we will only provide preachers from within the Province itself, except for some of the most eminent preachers. In cases like that the Provincial and his Definitors are to be informed of the request so that they may respond to the request in the most suitable manner and thus put an end to a lot of unnecessary wandering while adequately attending to the needs of those who have made the request.[14]

This is an important page that reveals the distribution of authority in the context of the history of Capuchin preaching. The Ministers Provincial acquired more power in their own Provinces, while only the “imminent” preachers remained at the disposition of the General. Father Paolo M. d’Asti was one of the “eminent” few, alongside the very many less well-known preachers, who only worked within the Province and who did not “stand astride” the prestigious pulpits in the cities. However, they maintained a presence in small towns and in places in the country and the mountains. For example, this was the case with Giuseppe da Leonessa and Matteo d’Agnone.

The history of this preaching by “less imminent” is very problematical because it is unknown and unrecorded, with little or nothing being documented. It is only today that we are coming across some flashes, a cry of joy from a Bishop or Parish Priest or a local historian or a statement in private correspondence. Yet a better understanding of truly official preaching is necessary. Even though Father d’Asti did preach in the countryside, he did more of his preaching in the towns, often to an aristocratic audience. Even though he appealed to the heart, the manner in which he preached was adequately prudent and refined, in accord with his audience. He did not get carried away his audience by using outlandish or theatrical gestures. He was very moderate, and his language was very temperate. In this he differed from his more famous contemporary Giacinto Natta da Casale Monferrato.

He too was a “general preacher” who knew how to preach in a refined manner using language that suited educated people, politicians and courtesans, princes and prelates. However, he was much more popular than Paolo M. d’Asti. His gestures were much more dramatic, his “forceful expressions” were almost irresistible invectives that moved and aroused the people and alarmed politicians. “Prophetic” utterances that were inspired threats about the future often fell from his lips and they made a deep impression on the popular conscience especially when they contained a warning about an ominous outcome.

This was also mentioned by Paolo M. d’Asti’s companion when, in the manuscript we have quoted, he described Giaconto da Casale as a “very apostolic preacher who yielded much fruit as he put fear into the sinner by making certain threats that would come about “whether they wanted them or not”. Consequently, as Father Dalmazio wrote, for example, some people in Brescia continued to act badly “as if they had not seen or experienced the punishments that the preacher had predicted”.[15] These were forms of communication and expressions that were conveyed in various ways by the use of literary structures, gestures, by creating imaginary scenes and employing penitential symbols. However, there is one way in which he was exceptional. He was tactful. He had studied in the famous Universities of Pavia, Salamanca and Bologna and experienced life in the court of the palace of the Duke of Mantova.

The basic chronology of his preaching

He became a Capuchin in 1600. Following various problems during his Noviciate he was professed in Bassano on 28/2/1602. Four years later, while he was still a cleric, he preached a Lenten Course in Venice and demonstrated that he was a fervent and exceptional preacher. As we read in an old biography: “his way of speaking was not like that of other preachers of his day who were caught up in banality, in useless metaphors and ridiculous comparisons”. His language was “terse, plain and reinforced with logic and the strength of argumentation so that he drew his audience along by stirring up emotion.”[16] He preached in Montiglio in 1607, which was a large city in Casale, and then followed San Lorenzo da Brindisi to Germany where he displayed exceptional ability in confrontations with and in giving conferences against heretical errors. Similar to other preachers in the Reformation he always took indulgenced cross with him as well as some relics. They were gifts from Paul V. When he returned to Italy, he preached in Rome in 1610 and 1611 and later on he preached in Genova. In 1612, he delivered a Lenten Course in Bergamo and an Advent Course in Pavia. The following year he delivered another in Milan. His preaching of the Forty Hours here was remarkable. This is described in contemporary reports.[17]

In 1613 he preached the Advent Course at Loreto and he remained there until the beginning of Lent, after which he preached for the third time in Rome in the Church of san Lorenzo in Damaso where he had great spiritual success as he himself told the Bishop of Casale, Mons. Tullio Caretti: “During the Forty Hours the Lord granted me more fruitfulness than I had expected, and perhaps no less than the previous year. Perhaps the external signs were not as evident because, as your most Illustrious Grace would know, Rome is not like other cities.”[18] In 1614 he preached the Advent Course in Venice, where he stayed on for the entire month of January. He then went to Brescia where his preaching of the Lenten Course and the Forty Hours caused a great sensation.[19] He stayed in Brescia because of the fruit it yielded and he told his friend Nicolò Paoli, who was an Oratorian, that “in Brescia the fruit was more than in Milan and if Mons. Caretti had been there he would have supported what he said about Milan yielding the most fruit. O how much greater was this! God is powerful. I preached here after Easter even during the working days.” He said in another letter: “I have never seen anything like what the Most Sweet Jesus showed me in the city of Brescia. It improved each day, and this was a continual miracle.”[20]

In 1616 he preached the Lenten Course in Ravenna and the Advent Course in Venice. He was engaged to preach in Venice in 1617, but this was cancelled, and he was ordered to preach in Piacenza. A vibrant contemporary account was printed concerning these sermons.[21] In 1618 he preached the Lenten Course in Cesena and the Advent Course in Pistoia. In 1619 he preached another Lenten Course in Bologna and then spent the year in Siena where he preached the Advent Course. In 1620 he preached in Luca. Indeed, the cities were in competition with each other. During Advent he preached every day during the four weeks beginning from the Feast of All Saints.[22] In the same year of 1620 he preached the Advent Course in Casale where someone reported that the same thing happened to him as happened to Lorenzo da Brindisi when he was celebrating the Eucharist, when he suffered from gout in his foot and could not move and had to be carried to the foot of the pulpit. There his leg became agile and he was able to move freely. When the sermon had ended the fit of gout returned and he had to be carried to his room. He often fell seriously ill and we cannot understand how he managed to undertake so many journeys, apostolic works, fasts and penances.

In 1621 he preached a Lenten Course in Cremona and here too there was a repetition of the wonderful results that had happened in Milan, Brescia and Piacenza. Prospero da Casale, his companion, in a letter dated April 9 to his friend Nicolò Paoli, who was an Oratorian, wrote: “If Your Reverences had been here for the Forty Hours I guarantee that you would have shed fountains of tears. O what sighing! How great was the sound of mercy! How great were the blows with which people beat their breasts! How many times did the citizens of Cremona slap themselves! They were no longer like those who had lived an evil life in the past. You could not count the number of those who had not been to Confession for years who went to Confession, or who were reconciled or who made restitution as soon as the sermon was over. Who would have thought through a man who was nothing but angry and outspoken, so to speak, and almost dead on his feet, God would have provided the skill to move these citizens? If Your Reverences had only seen how the citizens were enchanted, how they danced and were overcome with wonder and went to Confession to a degree that had never happened in Cremona. O how many there were! What a crowd I saw in the Cathedral! So many people had gathered that you could not place a grain between them. I saw it and every day I see something that is stupendous. Laudamus Dominum. Te Deum laudamus”. He went on to say that when the Lenten Course was over what remained to be done was to achieve peace among families that had been divided, to promote reconciliation and to support and console poor sinners.[23]

The time of his preaching in Italy finished in 1621 and five years of international activity began. Pope Gregory XV appointed him Extraordinary Apostolic Nuncio to Germany. This is how his diplomatic travels to various European Catholic Courts began and it lasted until 1625. This did not involve the complete abandonment of his ministry of evangelisation, whenever this was possible. This occurred in Madrid in 1622, Regensburg in 1621 and in Brussels in 1623/24 as well as in other places. In Brussels he preached the Advent and Lenten Courses, the Forty Hours and established the Confraternity of the Knights of the Passion.[24]

He returned to Italy, where, after spending some time in Rome he suffered at the hands of certain rival confreres who accused him of being too closely associated with life of the Courts, he was sent to preach the Lenten Course in Naples and this was a seal of approval on his apostolic activity. The crowd that assembled was huge. It included not only the simple people but also those who were educated and well-read, and there many such people in that city. However, this latter group expected to hear a preacher who adopted an elegant style, used refined concepts based on erudition, and who chose polished language. Instead they were confused and unhappy when what they heard were indeed ardent words but simple talk that was charismatic and more suited to moving hearts to compunction than to pleasing the ear or conveying novelty. The people complained to Father Bernardo delle Groto, who was the Capuchin Guardian, saying that this was an insult to the cultural standard of the city and that in Naples it was necessary to preach in a different way than in Torrechio di Toscana or in other places in the countryside. This Brother told Giacinto but he defended his method and the apostolic style that he had used from the beginning, speaking about the abundant fruit that it yielded. In fact, the response of people had been impressive particularly during the Lenten Course that had been conducted in the same style as those in Milan, Brescia, Piacenza and Brussels. He himself, in a friendly letter to Nicolò Paolo, the Oratorian, said: “We conducted the Forty Hours which yielded as much fruit and edification to the people than in Milan, or even more. Forty Princes dressed in sackcloth led the crowd and the people from the Parishes. I departed from Naples feeling that I was the happiest man in the world.”[25]

His preaching ended finally on August 28th, 1626 with a sermon on St Augustine and then he fell ill while travelling to Piacenza on his way to Vienna where the Pope had recalled him to continue his diplomatic activity. He was taken to Casale where he died a few months later on January 17th, 1627 at the age of fifty-two.

His diplomatic work made him famous throughout all the Courts in Europe, although preaching to the people was his favourite activity. There is one event that is significant and almost symbolic among the things that have been recalled about him. He was returning from Rome following one of his Lenten Courses when while crossing a flooded river his companion almost drowned and Father Gianto’s manuscript volume was swept away in the water. Natta prayed to St Anthony and “the flow of the water brought the volume to them and almost placed it in Father Giacinto’s hands, and he grabbed it. He was amazed that the sermons were almost dry, and the pages of the book were only slightly damp and damaged.”[26] This is a story that is connected to a tropos (style) of writing the lives of saints which resembles the miracle concerning the writings of St Dominic. The point it makes is obvious: Giacinto Natta’s reputation as an apostolic preaches would never be lost.

We could well use a similar miracle today so as to find the manuscripts that contain his sermons for there must be many of them since his biographer says that among the unpublished works there are “Lenten Courses together with sermons for the Forty Hours”, “sermons throughout the year and Advent Courses” as well as “fragments of sermons.”[27] Immediately following Natti’s death Cardinal Barberini ordered that all of Natti’s manuscripts were to be collected. He had them meticulously brought to Rome and they were then distributed and have now been lost.[28] How can we come to know and reconstruct what was the impact of his preaching without comparing it with the original texts of his sermons? Leaving this aside we at least have the opportunity to page through a precious manuscript of sermons and to read some printed editions that are directly connected with his apostolic ministry.

Marginal notes in the “Sermon XL on the Passion”

There is a codex that contains many pages, that are bound with cardboard and leather, in the Biblioteca Vallicelliana that contains forty sermons on the Lord’s Passion. This manuscript was already noted and summarily described by Fr Giovanni da Cittadella in 1948.[29] However when we looked at it we found that it was not written in his personal handwriting but was a copy that was written in various hands. In fact, on the front and back of the first leaf there was a marginal note that had been half crossed out with a pen with the exception of a few words that were the name of Fr Giacinto da Casale. After carefully inspecting the words beneath what the pen had cancelled we were able to read other words that said: “This work is an original copy … the author was Br Iaccinthus from Casale Montis Ferrati, himself a Capuchin …” Therefore it is clear that we are dealing with a copy not an original.[30]

We suspect that someone from the Oratory of St Phillip in Rome, while Natta was preaching in the Chiese Nuova in Vallicella in 1610, took down notes and copied them onto the manuscript. The sermons had already been used in Venice in 1606. They come from a Lenten Course that was preached in Venice when that Republic had Natta banished because he defended the Papal interdict involving Venice. In fact the opening sentences of the manuscript in Vallicella remove any doubt because they give us to understand that we are dealing with a Lenten Course, that was eventually used again for the Forty Hours and which were both based on the history of the Passion: “A story full of tears, a sad subject, and insightful thoughts is what I have to offer you, O Venice, not just today, but for the forty sermons during the whole of Lent.”[31]

The sermons, which are outstanding examples of meditative preaching, or better still genuinely affective meditations on the Passion, were always introduced with a Gospel passage taken from the story of the Passion that introduced the topic. They are set out very clearly having different sections even though this might not be immediately evident because the text runs on uninterruptedly. The division is mentioned in the prologue and the conclusion, when the preacher, using much imagery and spontaneous comments, without disrupting the narrative, exhorts the people to give alms to the poor. He says: “Go in search”. He brings this in cleverly. For example, when Jesus is comforted by angels, he says that this is the same as when children go through the audience seeking alms for the poor; they represent the angels trying to comfort Christ in his agony. Making use of devout or apocryphal stories, which say that the stones became soft as wax beneath the feet of Jesus as he went along; “Listen – he exclaimed – if you are something other than stone, have mercy and show it in practice. Go in search. Hurry after grace by searching among the people around you so that I can see that you already come prepared.”[32] He also implored them with this improvised exhortation: “Oh then, quid dormitis when it is time to change? Behold the banker who notes what is due in his book. How many poor people are working for you! Do not be asleep. Do not be asleep. Accumulate good credit for the next life.”[33]

It is a colourful way of speaking that is full of imagery, emotion, dramatic exclamations, and accounts of the actions, movements and words of the suffering Christ that encourages sharing in an emotional experience through involving people in using their imagination. This usually takes place when he offers examples which are often taken from daily life and sometimes from the life at Court. Here is one of them which is of particular interest because of its “impressionable” style which is quite vivid and makes a person experience the sufferings of the Passion in a dramatic way:

Oh my poor Lord! How did you feel when, just like a person who is in prison waiting day after day for the execution of the sentence, you finally heard more people than usual at the door of the prison? Pay attention. Venice, all of us are locked in this Church as in a prison and are condemned to death, and some Jesuit Fathers, who are the guards, together with some members of the company of St Fantino, come with the news that we should get ready to die. We now leave the Church and are in the street, have arrived at the corner where the assembly place is and gone through the big gate and the guard or the one who has the key has already begun to put it in the lock and is beginning to unlock it and the door opens and there is a man who is completely dressed in black with clothes reaching to his feet and a veil on his face, with a cross in one hand. How would each one of us feel? How would this have an effect on our whole life …!”[34]

Sometimes this way of communicating with people and of conversing effectively by the use of examples and images taken from real life became quite judgemental and forceful when it involved the concrete circumstances of the audience in order to launch strong exhortations to practice a virtuous way of life and to warn women about “the devil’s nets” or the allurement of the flesh, the world and the devil:

Venice, I am quite well impressed by your class of nobles. It would seem that they are not as irreverent in the Church as they are in other places. I think it is because here they dress modestly without putting on a show, and not taking pride in displaying that they have so many servants and pages following on behind. It must be said that this is acting very modestly. God is pleased when what the purse contains is not now displayed on the sleeves, which is to say that the pride that is so evident in others externally is hidden within you. In front of God this would be a great evil and very displeasing since he has a great hatred for hypocrites. Externally they are modest, chaste, reverent, but within they are full of a flock of other things, of lust and impatience. They are angels externally, but wolves within. I am referring to men who admire the exterior appearance of women but disrespect their inner self. I cannot understand, nor could I ever understand, how women can come into the Church without a veil over their head. Does not the Apostle expressly command them to wear a veil? Then there are those who are wealthy, and some lay people who hardly conceal the snares, the devil’s very cunning nets that hide what is underneath. Oh the devil’s nets! See, Noble Ladies, the more weak they are the more they resemble the devil, because this is not the way that it is. The net that the devil uses to conceal what lies beneath are strong, and this can be recognised more easily when they are more subtle. Oh, for the love of Christ who lay prostrate on the ground out of love for you, bow your head inside and outside yourself. Break the nets so that they cannot hold anything and bend your knee and your heart. No longer be proud or ambitious. Bow down completely, because our Christ did not only go down on his knees, positis genibus, but also threw himself on the ground, procidit in terram, not just his body but also his face, in faciam suam.[35]

Oh the flesh, the world and the devil! … These are three merchants who promise great things such as pleasure, delight, wealth, honours, dignity, prelacies, satisfaction, and comfort, omnia regna. … Each of them has something that you might not do worse than to bargain with. The first one is not valuable. What could be less valuable than the flesh, et quid potest tibi dare? It is born naked and dies naked. As soon as it is born it begs for milk from the wet-nurse, food from the earth and wine from the vine. Oh miserable body, et quod potes mihi dare? It promises delightful flavours. But wait awhile, what is not living is dead. It is neither healthy nor sick. What becomes yellow is not red. Whatever begins to give off a stench is not fresh. Oh body, oh body! The second is wealth but the world is deceitful … The third is madness. What is more insane than to have a throne in the sky …![36]

The character of these sermons was predominantly pastoral: to instil a hatred of sin in the people by recalling the time when God had punished his Son so severely. “To see what he suffered in person, in his associates, his Mother and disciples, with respect to his reputation, his honour, in the clothes that were stripped off, the agony of soul, the wounds of the nails in his body, the thorns in his head, the nails in his hands and feet and the lance in his side. His whole body was naked and scourged mercilessly. He was given gall and vinegar when thirsty. He received spit in the eye, saw who was mocking him and even more who was crying over him. The blasphemies echoed in his ears. From all of this it is evident that he was virum dolorum etc. Is. 53. He knew everything about the greatest suffering, and was an expert in hardship and suffering.”[37] All of this ought to serve to bring people to sincere penance and to the Sacrament of reconciliation: “Pay the price, put the money in your hand. Behold the bankers who are the confessors. This is the bank, the Sacrament of penance. Christ has paid the price of redemption and bought the soul back from the devil. O Christian, hurry if you belong to Christ. Do not delay. Start to prepare the coinage. Put your hand into the purse of your conscience, open it, and empty it, and start to examine it and go on being sorry. Oh my Christ, my sins are as hard as what you had to endure.”[38]

This “dramatic” presentation is the fruit of an extremely sensitive and emotional temperament and also the consequence of an ardent and dynamic missionary apostolate that grew in his heart as a response to what he had experienced of the diplomatic trials and problems of European politics. He often confided to his companion Fr Prospero da Casale: “Oh, I often said to God: this is enough; how often I have willingly danced from village to village, city to city, Province to Province with the crucifix in my hand to preach repentance to the world and to turn everyone to the worship and love of God.”[39] Although he was very active and tireless, and attentive to the plotting in the European Courts, as well as being bound to the writing of letters, he never gave up his mental composure or time for recollection. He considered that prayer and meditation were one, following the example of the Apostle: Nos vero orationi et ministerio Verbi instantes. (Acts 6: 4). He never, for any reason, omitted the daily two hours of meditation prescribed in the Capuchin Constitutions. “One can pray in any place and at any time. It suffices that he wants to be united with God. He said this in a way well-suited to his hot-blooded character.[40]

It was from this inner wealth that was nourished continually by meditation and union with the Crucified that he derived his profound commitment to the Gospel that he preached. He did not hide this from his public. Indeed, he almost imposed it and frequently revealed his torment of heart over wanting to promote the salvation of souls, convert hearts to Christ and spend his entire life for the Church to the point of martyrdom. In fact, he expressed as much, in his own very personal way, from the first sentences of his forty sermons when he explained his intentions to the faithful:

My most dear listeners, nihil aliud praedicamus nisi Jesum Christum et hunc Crucifixum, aliis quidem from using odd concepts and exquisite phrases that are a too delicate scandalium, or at least stultitiam, nobis autem, do not want to put on a spectacle, be vain or obtain worldly glory but to instil into your hearts the love of the Crucified and to save your souls to achieve, gloriam et honorum. Oh, my Venice, I promise you, on my word, that I have nothing else in view or no other vision. May my most sweet Jesus help me, as, out of love for him and for your salvation and strengthened by his grace, I have taken on this load which is beyond my strength. Oh dear treasure, aperi os meum, so that the words that please you may come out of my mouth, words that breathe the Cross and Passion and bring tears everywhere. Impress your most sweet image on my soul, grasp my heart, crucify me with you. Achieve in me what I should give to others.[41]

In other sermons he increased the intensity of the degree of the will to sacrifice himself. He did so not simply to produce rhetorical effects but out of conviction:

I would willingly shed blood from one of my veins for each one of those who are listening to me. I would be ready to endure whatever I had to endure and to sit through half a night (as I have already done a few days ago) or even the entire night if that would help you. It seems to me (oh my dear Lord), that if I were able to be of assistance as an instrument or as the ultimate cause of the conversion of just one soul today, that it would make me happier, to put it that way, than if I were in heaven. Oh Christians, if only you knew the value of a soul! Therefore let all of you say with me a Pater noster and an Ave Maria so that God would grant the grace for one of your souls that is the most obstinate to be converted to His Majesty.[42]

He also reprimanded himself publicly using expressions that clearly reveal thoughts and emotions that come from profound meditations and show their ardent effects:

O Capuchins, O Capuchins, who are responsible for these souls, erubesce, erubesce (blush) because you are not treating them as you should. Perhaps if someone else had the responsibility that you have, they would not have ended up as they are. Therefore, quid dormis? Therefore, quid dormis? Oh, my Jesus, you know only too well, Lord, how willingly I would cast aside this life and shed my blood and throw it on the ground just to save one soul out of the many who listen me. I would do this for your honour, omnia detrimentum feci etc. If threats became necessary, non timerem potestatem principatus to put me to death. However, with regard to Venice, Father, it is enough if out of love they keep vigil with you for the salvation of their souls. It is enough if out of love they become more concerned and vigilant concerning your honour and that of your Holy Church.[43]

He wanted everyone to carry the Cross of Christ in their heart, and so “to share a little particle’ of his suffering. For this reason he strongly advocated the ascetical exercise of the discipline or whipping that he carried out personally in accordance with the customs of the Order and the injunction of the Capuchin Constitutions, and in which he involved the congregation during his preaching especially at the time of the Forty Hours.[44]

Dearest Brother, if I were convinced that all of you shared the same ideas as me, and that you were really gathered here to feel and experience a tiny fragment of the Passion of our adorable King, I would say that to understand and meditate on the most bitter flogging that was given to him at the pillar, and live through each individual stroke, let us close the door, extinguish the lights, close the curtains. Whoever has not brought a chain or discipline with him should take whatever he has in his hand and while singing the Miserere with tears and sighs rather than song, whip and beat himself firmly. May you each try to do what St Paul said, Hoc enim sentite in vobis quod et in Christo Jesu, so as to experience a little of the flogging of our God.[45]

The direct effect and popularity of Giacinto da Casale’s preaching meant that it had extraordinary social consequences. He knew how to reach all kinds of people who came from all classes of society. If he succeeded in making a strong impression on the higher ranks of society and involving them in exercises of penance and devotion, the impression he made on ordinary people was even stronger. Perhaps it was his ability to be in touch with what it meant to be involved in the social service or the activities of work that impressed people. This is documented in an interesting book that was printed more than once after 1615 that set out the most salient points of the actual sermones ad status which Natta included in his preaching.

The religious reformation of Italian society in the book: “Avvisi d diversi stati e gradi di persone”

This pocket edition deserves special attention because it allows us to come to know the social and religious massage that was delivered to various ranks of society by a Capuchin preacher. It is like a mirror that reflects Italian society in the early sixteen-hundreds. Because he was very aware of public and private life Giacinto da Casale put together an infinite number of subtle and astute observations on the conduct of Italians. He tried to give a Christian perspective and a religious and supernatural meaning to all of the activities of the men of his time, practically involving them in a serious examination of conscience or review of life that coincided with the mentality and education of each individual. Adopting the monastic method of examination of conscience that went through our obligations to God, ourselves and others, he singled out the personal mind-set of each age-group and social class against the background of ample Biblical references that were interpreted in an appropriate way, and supported with references to Patristic, Scholastic and juridical authorities.[46]

The objective of these “admonitions” is achieved through penance that undertakes all human activities in the light of faith, for the love Christ, while being sorry for sin and proposing amendment of life.[47] Suggestions such as these reflected the specific circumstances of Brescia in 1615. They were derived from his preaching at Brescia in 1615 and meant so much to a listener that he took them down. However, their application was developed in subsequent new editions of the notes so as to be more general. It was probably especially during the Lenten Course that Giacinto da Casale, finding himself confronted by various groups of different kinds of people, who came to adoration in procession, redirected these particular sermons ad status to being part of a popular mission. One could say that no class of people escaped from the analysis. Thus thirty two “states and grades of people” were listed and often joined together to signify the social links in what they did.

It might appear to be like a type of moral casuistry in which the responsibilities of each state were set out according to what was the tradition. Actually Natta, who was an expert in ascetical dynamics, presented a manual of Christian perfection, or at least of suggestions or ascetical practices towards achieving this, that advocated means that were typical of Tridentine spirituality and the Counter-reformation. All Christians of whatever state or situation were to be involved in this.

The reform of the upper classes of the common people

It began with those who were at the top of the social ladder, that is, political leaders and Princes whom he also called “the fathers of the fatherland”. These were put together with judges and magistrates in the context of being officials of “social justice”. Based on the Gospel criterion that “political and earthly happiness” came about through seeking the honour and glory of God and what was real spiritual happiness, he exhorted the leaders to pray for at least half an hour every morning so as to be prepared to judge and govern. He invited them to attend Mass each day and to give alms. Each one ought to love justice as a “husband loves his wife.” Because of this a judge “to whom, one might say, justice has been given in marriage, if he is in love with it will not put it up for sale, manipulate it, distort it, spoil it or allow it to be adulterated by favouritism because that is its rich and powerful rival.” Most of all they ought to be on guard against avarice which is “the lively enemy of justice”, which tears law to pieces, not the pages on which the law is written, but what is the essence of law.” Thus “there is no end to this shameful way of acting. It goes on and on, piece by piece, getting bigger until some poor person is torn apart. To mend that person would require walking over thorns and shedding blood. Oh the schemes! What corrupt times!”

They should not say that “someone is innocent or guilty as it pleases them” as was taught “in Pilate’s evil school”. They should follow “the school of the children of the Gospel.” When a Prince or Judge is unjust, he does more damage to people than the criminals do.

Giacinto da Casale saw the history of individual nations from a supernatural perspective and regarded normal political administration as a symbol of the history of the nations. “When an ordinary judge does not deliver justice, what do princes do? They send a superior judge, who proceeds more strictly.” So too God sends: “disaster, plague, famine, wars and other punishments from heaven.”

Another important measure for safeguarding offices is the exclusion of all preferential appointment of persons. “Offices and positions are open to each and every one, according to their merit, not according to their influence. Let everyone be content with their limits, without appropriating to themselves what does not belong to them, without mixing up jurisdictions.”[48]

After princes and judges come “the great ones of the world”, that is the Gentlemen and Lords, Nobles, “Knights”, the ruling class and those who are specially privileged. He puts them together in terms of performing a service to God measured by how “they wished to be served by those who were in their service.” Did they expect them to work “for a miserable basic wage, have them work day and night, keeping alert, hurrying, sweating, and extending themselves, grinding their teeth, dead on their feet, dying of cold and torn with hunger.” They should do even more for God because “they are then working for a salary from an eternal kingdom” and to serve God means to reign. Following this Gospel logic, they ought to support the Church, protect, respect and revere holy places, objects and people out of respect for God.

Giacinto da Casale encouraged them to overcome what was the prevailing prejudice because it was “unworthy, base and vile for persons of high rank to occupy themselves with exercises of Christian piety because these devotions had been intended for simple little children, or to visit hospitals out of sympathy for the aged, or to teach Christian doctrines to the common folk, or to provide Confession and Communion for those who were afraid. Now understand, and pay attention – he shouted – you Knights, anyone who thinks like this is very mistaken. If you want to be sincere, real, evangelical Christians and perform something honourable in line with the Gospel learn how to do all of this from the simple folk. If you want to be among who show leadership, (as you are actually bound to be by the oath you swore at Baptism), nothing more needs to be said. The Gospel is clear. At least do not be worse than the simple folk.”

He adds a number of exhortations that reflect a sharp knowledge of the environment among the nobles and at court. “Stay away from card games and having fraud enter your home. … Do not take pleasure in having or in making available books that are dishonest, prohibited or which treat of magic. Do not possess statues, drawings or images of what is impure or nonsense. Most of all stay away from villains and cut-throats. …” He also said: “Live a peaceful life. Do not take sides, for this sometimes causes much discord within a city.” In order to do this, avoid being lazy, which is “the plague of the world”. He recommends that wealthy Nobles and Lords should take up “the patronage and the service of some pious work or place because this would involve spending much of their time in a saintly and honourable way.”

They should not illtreat those who are dependent on them, treating them “like dogs and beasts of burden, remembering that they are Christians just the same as they are Christians.” At this point he lists a series of “prodezze” (acts of prowess) or “braverie” (acts of bullying) that were common amongst the “soldiers of fortune,” who could be found in the environment of a decadent Spanish culture around the world. They profited from their success and good fortune, threating and being tyrannical to force some people to do the wrong thing, or impeding what was good, going along with thieves, and shady and rough people, arguing with those who were the weakest “to cast them down and stealthily force them to agree to what was not just”. This would amount to ‘the assassination of knighthood”. They tried to win arguments by telling lies in collaboration with bandits. “Under various pretexts they appropriated what belonged to someone else”. They ruined fields that belonged to others by going hunting through them. “They ruined homes, stealing the virginity of poor children and violating marriages.” “They forced consent from those who were married.” “It is contrary to every human or divine law when a child is taken against her own will and that of her family to serve the needs of some friend, or member of the family.” “It is wrong to support the dishonest misappropriation of funds by ignoring it or falsifying the accounts or by allowing intolerable debts to accumulate and then obliging the heirs to pay.”

This is a ruthless accusation and virulent attack on nobles who abused their authority and economic prosperity and considered it honourable to carry out implacable vendetta. Natta prescribes a cure or medicine for each of the evils that often are a disgrace to society. The cure involves “the love of Christ” and “Christ’s Passion” and the “wounds of Christ”. He often ends his warnings with a sentence from St Augustine such as, “Keep in mind, you who are rich and noble, that there are two roads that lead to heaven, according to St Augustine: one is penance and the other mercy and it is necessary to walk one of them. If that appears to be bitter and difficult do it for love of God to whom you will have to render a strict account when you die, so that the devil will not prevent you from doing it in one of two ways: by means of avarice or harshness towards the poor, or by making you too weak to make an effort to perform works of mercy. Lack of effort is no excuse when what is vice ridden is the cause. If you are not determined to walk by one road, or if you are too weak to walk by the other road, you will readily find that it will be said to your face: Et clausa est ianua.”[49]

The members of one important class in society who exercise a “dangerous” occupation are the magistrates, procurators or notaries. This is the so-called borghesia di toga (profession of the silk). Giacinto da Casale takes them apart without having any human respect and strips their unjust conduct naked in order to bring about their reformation, so that before God’s judgement seat “neither Bartolo, nor Baldo, nor the wiles of Claro would prevail, but the testimony of a good, upright and unstained conscience.” Because of this they should pray every morning and go to Mass. In order to move them within and stir them psychologically to change their way of life he taught them a particular method that probably became easy for them after they had repeated it a few times in different contexts. “When you are on your own, say to yourself: Lord God, what will become of me if I continue living as I have been in this world? Repeat these words a few times until you feel moved within, continuing to raise your eyes a little and beating your breast more strongly, if you can do that comfortably.”

He ridiculed their gross ignorance of religion by citing an example:

One also needs to cry over the foolishness of some who, who are well-educated in all kinds of literature, non solum se ipsos nesciunt (but yet do not know themselves). This is very great ignorance. They cannot even say the names of what are mortal sins or recite the Ten Commandments. I was once told about a well-educated man who went to Confession at Easter, more out of conformity to what others were doing, than because he was persuaded about doing this. After he knelt down, he began to say the Pater noster and the Ave Maria. The Confessor asked him what he wanted, and he replied: “I want to go to Confession, Father.” The priest said: “Then begin.” However, as the learned man did not know what to do, and remained silent and confused, the Confessor said; “Then, Sir, is it possible that a man of fifty years of age who is well-educated does not know how to go to Confession?” The poor man replied: “Father, I have other things besides such trifles on my mind.” He got up and went away from there. Oh what a great blasphemy! Oh what a travesty of Christianity! What stark-raving madness! How many are there in the poor house of San Vincenzo in Milan, or the poor house of Pazzerelli in Rome who are less well off than he! Yet they are better off because they know how to make a good Confession.[50]

He begged of them most of all to be charitable to the poor, helping them generously. He did this by giving another lively exemplum that must have sounded very pleasing to the poor because it highlighted one of the most common abuses in the history of the Bar.

Willingly listen to the poor as if you were listening to Christ himself. Support them with charity because, because when there is no public lawyer or protector to do it ex officio, when it is a question of life or something very important you are obliged under pain of mortal sin to do so because a rich man is bound by this kind of obligation when his neighbour is in great need. There are many who do not do this because those who are poor cannot grease their palms. One needs to take care of people like this by doing what a farmer did. He took what he had written to a professional person and although he approached him many times, he was unable to get anything from him. He asked the advice of a friend who said: “My brother, go and grease his palms to make him hurry up.” So the farmer went to his house and took a big piece of lard and went and saw the professional man. Taking him firmly by the hand, without saying a word, he began to anoint him well without stopping until he had done this over and over.[51]

According to Natta another bad practice among lawyers is that they get together to “skin clients”. Once again he uses witty, popular language to convey a provocative homely exemplum:

When you are eating from two plates, as you usually do, and you get other professionals to skin clients [it would be a sin]. This happened in a city in Lombardy. There were two brothers who were enemies and who were arguing with each other. One of them went in search of a famous professional asking him to defend him. He accepted the case. Soon the other brother came and did the same. The professional realised that he could not serve both of them and excused himself saying: “I shall refer you to a great friend of mine who will look after you just as I would.” He gave him a letter of recommendation to that gentleman. When the man left the house, he became curious to see what had been written in the letter and opened it and saw that it said: “Most excellent Sir, I have met two goats that you can skin. I cannot represent more than one of them. Therefore, I am sending the other one to you so that you can skin him in the same way that I intend to skin my client. Then we can rejoice together.” When he had seen the contents, being amazed at the deception, he resolved to go to his brother’s house and speak to him. He showed him the letter and they decided that neither one of them would be skinned by anyone and they made peace with one another. They poked their fingers up the noses of those astute wolves, rather, those gluttonous wolves.[52]

In no uncertain terms he showed the notaries their “mortal sins.”[53] Most of all he rebuked the evil custom of discrediting other notaries in order to increase their own clientele:

Do not use your tongue to discredit those who work in your own field or hold a position like your position, so that the whole world will flock to you since one might then ask: Numquid habitatis vos soli super terram? When would you ever have the opportunity to make restitution for what your tongue has sometime taken from your companion? Inter pares est invidia. This is how mors intravit in mundum. We see this every day in injuries, wounds, stabbings, bashings, attacks, famous libel suits and other diabolical actions. Expect great repercussions in your own households.”[54]

Another group of persons that he later turned on were the class of intellectuals that included doctors and surgeons. When doing so he quoted a page from Hypocrites and cited the example of Jewish doctors to embarrass Christian doctors,[55] who were often greedy, prolonged the process and teamed up with “specialists and barbers” in order to “prescribe many medicines and to order more than was necessary for the sick person,” took on a greater number of sick persons than they could care for, attended to illnesses concerning which they did not have the proper knowledge or experience, gave unsafe medicines as an experiment or medicines about which they knew nothing. He unequivocally condemned the procuring of abortion: “ “When you administer poison, and use procedures that make women abort you commit mortal sin and do not deserve to be called doctors, but executioners, and are committing greater assassinations that would happen on the street.”[56] Once again he exhorted them to willingly show charity towards poor sick people were unable to pay: “Oh, what little charity some of you have. Like the lawyers and procurators, if they do not grease your palms you will not go back to the poor person’s house as if you were afraid that he would fall on his head. What do you expect a poor person to give you? Do you expect him to grease your palm? It is rather he that has the greater need of being greased, as the Noble Samaritan did to the man who was almost killed by thieves. Is it necessary for him to be able to pay you?”[57]

“The members of the court and the servants of those who were great” were accused of being idolaters, because they placed the desires of a prince, a friend or a family member before what was pleasing and gave honour to God. “Poor Courtesans – he exclaimed as someone who was well acquainted with the group and the environment – How many of you are idolaters without knowing? This is the idolatry of many unfortunate courtesans. By denying and abandoning what is true, in order to please their Lords, they embrace falsehood and adulation and serve a human mortal with greater love and affection than God himself who created them.” This is “moral and internal” idolatry as it is described by the Prophet Ezekiel. An example that is taken from the Bible is applied with appropriate realism:

The Lord led the Prophet Ezekiel in spirit to the Temple. He found an idol at the door of the Temple and many people who were adoring it. He went in further and discovered some old people who were offering incense to beasts and animals and painted images. He went in further and found women who were crying to Adonis. Finally, there were some who had turned their backs on the Temple and adored the rising sun. The dreams were so frequent and strange that he was beside himself. What a beautiful image of the Court! At times it is a holy temple. The courtesans make a show of religion and Christian piety. However, whoever breaks down the wall and comes in how many will he find who are adoring the idol of indiscrete zeal for their master’s interests, the affairs of state and the majesty of those whom they frequently put ahead of God? How many will there be who are incensing beasts and animals, looking up to vicious and perverse men, wicked women, just to gain a favour or advancement? How many will there be who offer their services, their labour and loyalty through the sacrifices that they make to Venus or Adonis? How many turn their backs on God to go after favours that bring about good fortune…?”[58]

However, there is also a kind of external idolatry by means of which these courtesans, instead of imitating Christ, “are so given over to imitating their earthly princes, that if their master had only one eye, many of them would cut out one of their own to imitate him”. He summarises, making use of terrifying irony, that he himself has seen going on at court:

In a certain court the Prince was a great hunter. The courtesans took care of the dogs, the nets, the undergrowth, the beasts, the horses so that nothing would be left unfinished when midday came round, thinking that the morning air would be too dangerous for hunting. When they found out that this was not so, there was never a dawn that broke when they were not to be found on horseback with the whip in their hand and the horn at their side. When the same prince began to paint and each of the courtesans took a brush into his hand without thinking and without doing anything else. However, this is even more remarkable. In a certain court the prince had a large fat nose. When his servant rose in the morning and went outside, he could be seen with a stick in his hand, sticking it up his nose, so that he might adjust it to resemble the nose of the master. In so many places if today the master dresses like a Spaniard, will you not see the courtesans immediately going to buy Spanish clothing, wearing short hair, drawing in their waist and speaking in a different way? What if tomorrow he dresses like a Frenchman or appears in a wig with long hair? The court will change, and everyone will be wearing a wig, and have a long wig hanging down to their shoulder, beat the feet on the ground and swinging their heads endlessly.”[59]

He goes on dealing with the meaning of idolatry comparing it with a command given by a prince. The courtesans are more concerned about being obedient to a prince since: “at the slightest sound of the bell they race against one another and respond before the sound is hardly finished. Listen to me gentlemen! On the other hand, because God only nudges and gives a light touch rather than calling out and calling again, (oh my Jesus, how many words and how much bell ringing), no one responds especially among those at court.” However, the graphic description of the adulation that takes place at court, and the comparison between God and the prince is developed in terms of a process that is expanding continually to the point where it becomes almost mocking:

We should adore God above anyone else. In Church the courtesans usually go down on only one knee in front of the Blessed Sacrament, (unless the master goes down on two knees). Apparently, they are imitating him and if he had forty knees, they would go down on forty knees. When he was present in the place where the prince was dining where he had never been before what someone did was amazing. He saw pageboys coming in with lighted torches in their hands, and a gentleman was following them, with his head uncovered, with a covered gold cup in his hand. He instantly fell on his knees out of great reverence and began to beat his breast, as if the man was bringing Viaticum to the master. In God’s house, which is the Church, there are courtesans with their caps on, walking up and down, gossiping, looking at the wives of other men. In the master’s room they appear without their caps, without being afraid of any harm from the air at night, in silence, with mortified eyes, standing up, paying attention and being alert. For the love of God, could you not fast for a day, spend a half an hour in prayer, go in procession in the open air, leave your home for a whole day when you are ready to run after the master from one end of the world to the other, without eating or drinking, or stay in a room for a whole month without sleep or rest! If the master were to take part in a procession, he would suffer no hurt from either the air or the sun.

God wants to be praised, and, for this reason, the courtesans often carry in their hands a long set of rosary beads that has a chain with half a dozen medals attached. However, what is strange is that they stop after every couple of steps and recite the Pater noster with their lips while having putredine dicunt: Pater meus es tu. This is not all. If something bad happens to them when they have the rosary beads in their hands, they often become impatient and swear and what were supposed to be words of blessing become curses. How clever is that! What overindulgence! Fabricatores mendacii the Holy Spirit would call them. Great perpetrators of falsehood etc. Such an unambiguous and unequivocal title could be attached to them, if no new ones can be found, without any exaggeration. I am about to introduce His Excellency Christallina, (Splendor) His Excellency Stellata (Starry), His Excellancy Luna (Moon), His Excellency Lactea (Milky). Do not laugh because adulation has reached such heights that the zodiac would not contain enough heavenly bodies to represent the vanity of those who are ambitious. These are things that would make you cry tears of blood and ever more so when those who engage in such adulation and who are liars are the most favoured ones, the dear ones and the ones who are loyal, the parasites and fools who are held close and embraced while it said of those who are virtuous and good: Povera e nuda vai Filosofia.[60]

There are many detailed proposals against the vices that exist at court. However, the final proposal is always the same: “In future be more devout than what you have been in the past. Go to Confession and Communion at least once a month. From your heart pledge yourself to God every morning and pray to him to grant you the grace of not being at court at the time of your death”.[61]

There are also reprimands and suggestions for soldiers regarding how to make their conduct more devout and faithful.[62] However, he is very hard on false reasons of state requirements that justify the evils of war and he threatens this with God’s judgement. “One day you will have to pay for this when you least expect it … the longer God delays, the more he will require.”[63]

With respect to “school teachers, guardians and those who are responsible for children,” whom he defines as being people “who provide nourishment for the soul”, he develops a discussion that is based on devotion, which is the first thing that ought to be taught to children and young people. “David prayed: Bonitatem et disciplinam et scientiam doce me. First there comes integrity, then the moral principles that create good conduct and finally knowledge. The source of wisdom is the fear of God., Other than Mass, they should attend feasts, and recite together in Choir (when they are able) the Office of the Mother of God. They should take care that they go to Confession once a month without fail, finding a good Confessor who is a spiritual man. They should willingly attend spiritual pageants and the sacred place of good mortified religious rather than going into squares, to plays or “Cerettani” or something similarly offensive.”[64].

He also lays down certain norms for teaching as he recalls his personal experiences and gives some exquisite pictures of education at the time. He asserts the need to sometimes have recourse to punishment if it is carried out reasonably and fairly.[65] A teacher needs to be trained, or else, in conscience, he should not undertake this important work. He should be aware of the different circumstances that exist in his day including that there are children who cannot read and are uneducated, because:

…many of the women who teach children do not know how to read or work and after spending months and years at this work they have wasted much of that time. In the villages many take the children and leave them on their own for most of the day, without giving them instruction or supervision. They do not teach them anything but how to sing a responsorial psalm for the dead, to look after the candles and to take up the offertory in the Church. Therefore, children being children, they behave like someone who has nothing to do and frolic and play with one another, as did Isaac and Ishmael. They turn out being lazy, obstinate and naughty and although their parents thought it would make men out of them and that they would learn something, they discovered that they have many little demons in the house who did not know how to read.[66]

In line with the needs of each child, a teacher should combine reward with punishment and see to it that each one is studying the prescribed scholastic lesson. In an odd way he recalls “that the situation should not be like what happened with a friend of his. Who would willingly read Palmerino d’Oliva, Don Floriscello and similar useless works filled with what is diabolical. At the same time, he kept a copy of Cicero open together with the book that was reading. He placed Palmerino on top of Cicero. When he heard the teacher coming, he immediately covered Palmerino with Cicero so that it would appear that he was studying the prescribed lesson. When the teacher went away, he uncovered Palmerino and completed the trick.[67]

The conclusion is full of profound Franciscan spirituality:

In his Testament our great Father St Francis begs whoever finds scraps of paper or writings, which contain the Lord’s name or the names of saints or other sacred things, on the ground or in unfitting places to pick them up and put them in a suitable place and he promised his blessing to the one who does it. It is really embarrassing that the Turks do not burn any piece of paper that has writing on it, even if that is not about something that is sacred, because (according to them) is must surely contain the letters that make up the name of God. Monsignor Breves, who spent seven years as the Christian Ambassador in Constantinople, told me that the Christians throw down sacred printed documents on the street, out of their windows and onto dung-heaps. Therefore, I beg of you, for the love of God, to teach children what is the right thing to do, so that you will not be ashamed at what they do but be able to reward them for what they do.[68]

The reform of the Middle Class, the Proletariat and of family and religious life

Giacinto da Casale then moves on from middle class people who dress in silk and people who are intellectuals, to people who are not part of “the nobility”. He begins by dealing with the middle class which is made up of those who are involved in a trade or in business. He directs his comments to those who were members of guilds of craftsmen or merchants. He begins with businessmen. These are members of a way of life that is difficult to reform because it is based on accumulating and making a profit. His condemnation of them is strong and pessimistic. He ends up dealing with the thousands of transactions that they carry out by using an ironic play on words to describe the shades of difference between exchange and lending with interest and other ways of gaining an unjust advantage:

Oh you merchants, in the old days what did you call the process when you made a loan? Was it not Mutuum (Giving in exchange)? It was said to be Muttum because meumfacio tuum (because I exchanged what belonged to me for what belonged to you). I gave you what was mine for a period of time. That meant that an arrangement was being made so that what might help could be provided to someone else ad alterius commodum dare (to help another). However, since greed has become the merchant’s god the word has changed its meaning. Mutuum has come to mean muem facio quod est tuum (I make mine what belongs to you). Now the arrangement is ad proprium commodum dare (to provide something for one’s personal profit), since although under the pretext of helping a friend and giving him a loan you are imposing interest so that in a short time what belonged to him will belong to you thus increasing your holdings in the world in a very short time.[69]

The antidote that is offered on this occasion is quite appropriate. Natta shows that he is a capable and persuasive master when it comes to putting fear into the hearts of merchants making them consider being devoted to the poor and loving them, which is a point to which he returns continually. “Each morning see to it that you spend a short time in front of a Crucifix, raise your eyes and fix your gaze on the naked body of the Crucified body that looks like a poor person who is asking for alms. Put your hand into your purse and offer some alms as if you were giving this to Christ himself who is begging for it here on earth. Place the money back in your purse with the firm resolution to give it to the first poor person that you meet that day.”[70]

The brief mention of “arts and crafts” that we have made in our commentary (cf. nn. 6430-6473) covered a great number of situations and offered a number of suggestions. Even here we can see the imaginative astuteness in which the material was put together and his appreciation of the weak spots in human nature. He wants to promote the spirit of devotion while being sensitive to the individual person. “Oh brothers, brothers, remember that you are human, Christian men, who were Baptised, and are one of the faithful and will die in the future. Do not put such little value on your soul; do not think that the price was only small when you consider the value of the blood of the Son of God.” (n. 6450)

Labourers and tradesmen of different kinds who made up the proletariat of the city and the countryside passed before him one after the other as scenes in a slideshow with their features and circumstances well described so that each occupation became a symbol depicting a part of the spiritual or supernatural life. The turn of phrase was extremely simple and colourful, sometimes cast in the form of a conversation, filled with popular proverbs, spiced with humour that was surprising considering that the objections and justifications that came from some workers were sometimes almost grotesque, but perfectly in line with the way people were thinking at that time.

They are the most authentic and beautiful pictures of daily life as it was so strenuously and laboriously endured by the poor who were often forced to accept half pay or other compromises and who were uneducated and who pleaded with the Father: “Oh Father, what poverty! We have to do what we do day and night to support the family and still it is not enough. How can we take care of our souls?” (n. 6442) “Father, to tell the truth, we shall die of hunger both ourselves and all the others if we do not get help.” (n. 6447) However he would not tolerate compromises and where there was poverty he encouraged honesty and justice. “My dear brothers, earlier I said to those who work at the mill and now I am telling all you workers and other poor people who live by the sweat of your brow, that I maintain that your indifference and lack of faith is the cause of you always being miserable, downtrodden and having no time or energy and eventually losing touch with God. Tell me, if God wanted you to spend all you time looking after the body while spending no time on caring for your soul, do you think that he would have given you such an amount of time?” (n. 6442) It would be a great blasphemy to say that God would abandon a just man because he acted justly. Indeed, it is because you do not always act justly that you are always poor and wretched, that the devil’s flour has invaded everything.” (n.6447)

When he turned to the farm workers he highlighted a situation full of great poverty, pilfering, superstition, ignorance of Christian doctrine, abandonment of the Sacraments and Sunday Mass and he opened their hearts to trust in Providence by reminding them of Christ’s poverty:

If you are suffering from the lack of something that you need or because you are poor, endure it with patience and as penance for your sins out of love for the Lord. Never offend God in order to get what you need because this would be like selling your horse to avoid buying hay. Know that if he knew providing you with wealth and abundance would bring about your salvation, he would know how to do that. You need to realise that through the frugality and poverty that you endure willingly he wants to bring about your salvation. He was also poor in this world and was often without food and had to satisfy his hunger with what he could find in the field. Think of the many wealthy gentlemen who have become poor and who live very frugally in religious communities. Trust in God and you will see that you never want for anything that you need when you trust in him. Show that you trust him by being more ready to die than to offend him. If he provides food for the Turks, and existence and life to the devils who are his enemies how will he not give it to you, even though you are people with little faith, when you are his friends and have patience? [71]

The last group of people to whom Giacinto da Casale addressed warm words in a direct manner were those who were married, children, adolescents, those who were engaged and widows.

He advocates for those who are married a type of rigorous conjugal spirituality that follows the suggestions that were proposed by the Council of Trent and sees value in their journey towards perfection so that “married men and women should not think that Paradise was only made for religious and those who are continent, or that they too are not obliged to achieve Christian perfection by following their vocation, because the state of marriage is something sacred.”[72] He unequivocally condemns living together before being married, saying that it is the cause of many evils.[73] He also condemns the practice of many noble families of either impeding or imposing religious vocations,[74] and, most of all, the practice of not being willing to have children, as something that is wicked and diabolical.[75] He invited many to practice the domestic virtues such as patience, living peacefully, showing mercy, exercising prudence in spending, making corrections, being just “with poor servants and workers.” He added special injunctions with regard to the raising and sharing in the education of children. Among other thing it is interesting to see the proposal that was made to “gentlemen”, the nobles and the wealthy to foster the educational formation of their children in academies and foreign universities in the same way that he had experienced it when he was an adolescent.[76]

He drew up a plan for young people and adolescents for a devout spiritual life. It included frequent Confession and Communion, attentive and humble attendance at Mass, reading “attentively a good, spiritual, devout or moral book every day in God’s honour”. He moved them to have special devotion to their Guardian Angel and he made other concrete suggestions while pointing out, with admirable psychological insight, other sinful circumstances that were common at their age:

Have devotion to the Guardian Angel: Pray to him from your heart immediately you rise each morning, so that he will accompany and defend you from all danger during the day, especially from the temptation of the evil spirits, sorcery and witchcraft, that unfortunately so many indulge in.[77]

Young men stay calm! Do not say everything that comes into your mouth. Do not talk about everything that you see or hear. Respect those who are old and let them speak before you speak. Do not speak to those who are worse than you especially if they are impertinent. Avoid being overbearing without necessity. Do not carry arms without it being necessary. Do not go about with groups just for the sake of company unless you first know where they are going, because if it is somewhere that is offensive to God and you become an accomplice you will also become a partner in the punishment. From the outset remove yourself from the obligation of serving a friend if that is to lead you into something bad. Nobody is bound to serve a friend if serving him means losing something better. If you are not offending God, you can justifiably follow your friend. However, what if an offense is involved? In malis promissis rescinde fidem. Be careful if you do not want to end up in deaths and unhappy disasters over and over again. Who knows? Perhaps you will win your friend over into fearing God. Perhaps he will come to his senses. Once you become men who fear God and serve him, you will be loved and valued once again.[78]

For girls who were of the age at which they could become engaged he had something to say that was incredibly strong and demanding and was delivered in order to create in them a great admiration for virginity, which should not be sacrificed to the first one who wins their heart with consequences that destroy the balance and sanctity of married life. The tone of his discourse is very moving, almost disturbing as he knows from pastoral experience the sad situation of many young brides:

Oh, for the sake of the wounds of Christ, for the sake of the virginity of his most pure Mother and her beloved husband St Joseph, listen to this advice, my children. Before you make the decision to give to another one what you could not recover with all the tears of the Angels, if that were possible, think it over well for a day, a week, a month. Because, if you went ahead outside marriage, it would have been better if you had endured anything even death instead of forfeiting your integrity. Oh what is a noble kind of marriage! If you go ahead within marriage, St Paul said: si nupserit virgo non peccat, if she marries, she does not sin, tribulationem tamen carnis habebunt huiusmodi. What does the Apostle mean? That they will not miss out on woe and tribulation and will start to have regrets only a few days after the wedding and find that they have lost both the great treasure of virginity and the good time that they expected to have after marriage. From my heart I say, these poor young women do not want to believe this, until they have experienced it when there is no other remedy. They do not believe what their parents told them, not because it was untrue, but because they did not want to hand over the dowry.

I warn you and beg of you that if you do not believe your family ask anyone that you like as long as they are prepared to tell you the truth. Would it not be best to ask someone who has personal experience? It could be someone who has come to grief after being married, who cannot live in the house because of the mother-in-law, sister-in-law, or because of the bad behaviour of those who live in the house. Perhaps it could be someone who has a sick husband, who feels out of place, who is jealous, who cannot stand children. Perhaps it could be someone who did not get the husband that she wanted, but one who can neither understand nor listen, and with whom she has to stay until death. Perhaps it could be one who has to live in great poverty with little companionship. Perhaps it could be one who is being treated badly. Perhaps it could be one who although not having taken religious vows might as well be living in an enclosure. Perhaps it could be one who has been locked up without having committed any crime. Perhaps it could be someone who is living a mortified life without any reward. Perhaps it could be someone who if they have children, they are breaking their heart or if they have died are living in torment. It might be someone who sighs by day and cries all night. Wails over her plight, is upset, angry, curses and finally, poor wretch, does not know what she wants. May God enlighten you![79]

It is in this practical advice that one can see how capable Giacinto da Casale is capable of uncovering the more subtle aspects of vain feminine psychology and the behaviour of many young women in the seventeenth century. By the addition of an example that was brilliant, and foolish as well as sad, he gives us a lot to think about:

You think that by making love you gain something that is good, have you never heard the proverb: What is gained by love is messed up by anger? You do not look for virtue or the welfare of young people but for what is eccentric and capricious for them and for you, and the devil will often make you cling to what is worse for you in order to lead you into depression.

How many of you think it is good to stand at the window, to pose in doorways, and in the street, and to wear colours like parrots, to laugh, joke about and mock those who are passing by, to make a thousand gestures and actions that are like those produced by evil spirits. Many have the hair done up, put makeup on their face, ask their mother to take them to devotions, penitential services and work for the Church and for sacred things to cover up their stupidity.

A few of you have told me that if somebody looks at you more than once that this means that he would be willing to die for you, and you become proud and believe that you are more beautiful than anyone else. You prance around like peacocks. You delight in being wooed and adored (to put it that way) by many people. If you show affection towards someone, he will become quite awkward, more dangerous and contemptable. Cursed be the day that you do not see him, at night you will become angry. It will seem to be a thousand years since you saw him. Without there being the need of any teacher or other company the devil will teach you how to commit many sins of thought. … O daughters, for the love of God beware of how love begins so that it does not drive you mad.

Do not read books about knights who are in love, profane poetry or other similar nonsense. Your family should not encourage this under the pretext that you will learn more about how to talk about things and be up to date. Do you know what you will learn? You will learn what is written there with approval and is a joke.

I know of a daughter from a very illustrious household who was an angel before one of these books fell into her hands. When she had the misfortune to start reading it, she began to experience the result, becoming weak and vulnerable. She (poor thing) fell in love with a servant whom she called Mirtillo. She applied all the verses that she learnt to her imaginary Mirtillo so that others would not recognise who he was. What happened in the long run was that once she realised that it was impossible for him to become her husband, she unfortunately became ill. She fell into such a fit of rage and depression that it brought her to the point of death. The Confessor came to her, various friends came to her and exhorted her to go to Confession and prepare for death. She began to sing: “Oh Mirtillo, Mirtillo my soul!” They touched her with little sparks from fire to bring her back to her senses. That did not work and was of no help. Her mother admonished her: “Call upon Jesus, my daughter.” Nothing happened. “Entrust yourself to the Blessed Virgin.” The daughter sang a song that she knew. In the end singing like this and being upset, instead of calling on Jesus or Maria, she gave up her unfortunate soul. God knows where it went.[80]

This picture of womanhood in the sixteen hundreds provides accurate evidence that their religious formation which constituted the main part of the education of women dealt more with what pertained to their emotions than to their intellect. Even here it placed more importance on cult and practices of piety. As the heart and centre of the family, a woman should be above all a good Christian.

The advice that was given to widows recognised the value of this condition as it had been admired in the primitive Church. Giacinto added the example of St Elizabeth of Hungary:

The specific and special function of a good widow is to pray … frequent the Sacraments and not to miss out on such a heavenly and favourable opportunity if she does not want to be caught crying when it is time to die. Let her rejoice that God has set her free, as the great widow Elizabeth who was the daughter of the King of Hungary said, to attend to these things more easily. I say, let her frequent the Sacraments, in which she is no longer united to an earthly but to a heavenly spouse. Let her select a mature Confessor and, as St Bernardine says, let her not be engaged in long conversations with him after Confession. We should not be surprised at this advice, nor that it was a Saint who gave it, since St Paul said to Timothy: Adolescentiores autem viduas devita, keep away from widows, especially those who are young. I do not think that any of us Confessors regard ourselves as being more holy or strong than this Bishop who was a disciple of the Apostle and the apple of his eye or think that we are more privileged than he was. He was so mortified that he did not drink water and had a sickness of the stomach from doing too much penance: et habebat frequentes infirmitates. Oh, if only today the widows wanted to maintain themselves in a better way so as to be like those in the early Church when practically all of them were saints.[81]

My dear sisters, I sincerely beg of you, do me this favour; read the life of St Elizabeth at least once a month and look upon her with devotion as your advocate and as a mirror to be imitated.[82]

As he had travelled internationally to many Courts on diplomatic missions, Natta was well aware of the stupidity of many widows, but also of the sanctity and virtue of many others of whom he spoke about with admiration. He had many personal memories like the following:

I knew two young widows; one of them had an only son and the other an only daughter. The last one asked me to pray to the Lord and ask him to release her from the hindrance (that is what she called her daughter) and you can see why she said this. She placed her daughter in a school in a monastery and was satisfied to see her once a year at Easter, to see if she was making spiritual progress. She was a lady with a title from a famous household. The other widow was not so well situated but was a woman with a good reputation. She placed her son with an uncle and was satisfied to see him at Christmas and at Easter to examine him about Christian doctrine and to see if he was still receiving Communion. I spoke with them for months and for years, but the subject of their children never arose in these conversations. It was as if they never existed. When the subject came up on one occasion one of them said: “What does it matter, Father, if my son earns five or fifty scudi a year more than anyone else in comparison to what I could give him by the way I care for him. However, what upsets me is what if he let slip many acts of the love of God and that he did not break his heart because he was not detached from worldly activities and affections? Do you not know that one such act is of more value than a thousand worlds and would be more profitable to my son and would mean infinitely more to my soul and my body than anything I could do for him? In another city I knew two other women who had a similar outlook to these, and I hope to meet all of them in paradise standing perhaps in a higher place than many religious and virgins who wore the holy habit and tonsure. These are the true widows who are worthy of honour.[83]

I also knew three great Princesses two of whom were widows who when someone visited them they were always busy with the needle.[84]

On the other hand, he dwelt on the defects and sins of widows using descriptions and psychological analysis that was worthy of a novel. He used this to make ascetical and mystical observations in order to describe “poor widows” who were dead and buried with Christ, in contrast to others that he portrays in their restlessness and eccentric superficiality, at times using language that is very picturesque and often gently ironical and spicy:

Mulierem quis inveniet? Oh widows be strong and watchful against the three usual enemies. The first one, that is the devil, attacks you, my dearest ones, using your own faculties particularly your imagination through which you recall things that are passed, things that are present and those that you desire in future. He attacks you through your imagination and assails you. When one of you is thinking about marrying a young man who is wealthy, handsome, noble and chivalrous, even though you are at home, in your mind you immediately think about dancing, laughing, singing and eating and say to yourself : “If something like that happened to me, what a blessing that your be!” Do you understand what is attacking and deceiving you? The thought that you would be blessed if that happened is deceiving you.

Many cures are given for such unrelenting attacks. If you can take advantage of the fire of God’s love, that will make your heart boil and look up to heaven and then such thoughts will cause you no damage! When a jug of water or oil is on the boil, the flies will not bother it, they will stay away, but when it cools off they come back easily and attack everything.

Oh my sisters, know that if you want to remain strong in fighting against the world, I say, avoid its pleasures and vanity. Widows who live in pleasure and comfort are dead. Those who are lazy without being active in anything, who do not take the needle into their hands are dead. Those who go around visiting and revisiting homes without even spending a single day in their own home, discunt circuire domos, discunt, develop the practice of doing this. This practice has its own rules: today you visit my home, tomorrow you go to another home, the next day you go somewhere else, the next day you go to another home, in each of them discunt otios; without gaining anything and losing the greatest treasure in the world which is time. What does this mean? It means non solum otiosae which would not be that bad, but verbosae et curiosae, loquenter quae non oportet. They always want to know everything that is going on without having respect for anything. They go everywhere to talk without having any regard for what is sacred. They never feel that they ought to stop at talking pleasantly, laughing or being playful; loquentes qu non oportet, talking, if you like, about what is fat and dripping or about anything that comes into their mouth, which is a clear sign of what lies within them, if what Christ said is true, the mouth speaks from the abundance of the heart. Oh what a shame for the feminine sex!

Another example! When the young turtledove loses her companion, she goes off into cold places during the summer because she cannot stand the heat, and stays in a nest. When you are young and running hot seek for what will cool you down. Escape from certain circumstances, eating food that is delicate and fine and from very restless sleep. According to St Bernardine, healthy widows should sleep on straw. Then when winter comes when their hair fades and they become pale; they should stay in their nest so as not to seek the things that they can neither have nor desire legitimately. Give good example to those in the nest who are young, that is in the side of the Crucified. Et turtur invenit sibi nidem. Sigh for the next life, towards which you are getting closer. Allow yourself to expect little and only what is in the Church or some other sacred place.

Do not wear perfume. Let honesty and modest behaviour be your perfume. Do not take pleasure in wearing useless glitzy ornaments, underneath which snakes in the grass are frequently hidden.[85]

Giacinto da Casale places nuns, Ursulines and religious women in the last place. These pages are full of profound spirituality that is expressed in plain but substantial language. Indeed, he was a great preacher and a great reformer with respect to the monasteries of nuns. At Casale he had a monastery built for Capuchin sisters and, at the request of the Cardinal Orazio Spinola, he was very active in the reformation of monasteries of nuns in Genoa. To do this he wrote Tratto della povertà religiosa which was subsequently printed at Mantova in 1622.

The adulation of virginity even among the laity that he promoted when he was the champion of the “Company of the Purity of the Virgin,” that had been founded by Father Michelangelo da Vinizia to develop the love of chastity among young people, received very sensitive and powerful treatment when he was speaking to people who were consecrated. In these “admonitions” we come across many of the thought-provoking sentences by means of which we can admire how he succeeds in reducing so much about the spiritual life into a few words, but also how he displays an expert knowledge of the less praiseworthy customs of the sisters and religious. Here too he insists on a life of piety and devotion which should take pride of place among the commitments of religious. Because of this, he says, “among the millions of strategies, of prayer, or withdrawals, of silence and of mortification of your own small appetites, I have found that an outstanding strategy is to take part in works of charity towards your neighbour, especially those who are in the greatest need … Believe me, daughters of God.”[86] He proves this by citing St Francis:

Our Father St Francis did not begin to experience God until he had shown charity towards lepers. I recall that there was a religious who was asked by a very wealthy Princess who was strict with the poor and repulsed by them: “Father, what would say about the fact that I spend two hours a day in mental prayer, I meditate on the Passion, say the Divine Office, attend three or four Masses and yet I am still quite dry and lacking in devotion, and feeling for spiritual things?” He replied (and correctly as far as I am concerned): Madame, the way that you are treating the poor, those who are sick or in distress, is the same way that God is treating you. If you were to be generous and loving towards them God would be generous and loving towards you. If you had been generous to others from the abundance that you possess, God would have given you from his abundance and you would lack nothing.”[87]

He insists on them being prudent and on them loving God because sisters ought to act with prudence in everything except in loving God: “Oh you who are the beloved of Christ, practice custody of the eyes, of the tongue, of your hands and of your feet, in eating food, in what you allow yourself to look at, in your conversation with those who are nearest and dearest to you, in your spiritual exercises and corporal penance, especially when these are heavy and should not be undertaken without permission of the superiors. Indeed, be careful about everything and always act with prudence and discretion just as all the ancient sacrifices were always offered with a bit of salt. Be temperate in everything except the love of God because modus diligendi Deo est sine modo diligere. The way to love God is to love him without measure.”[88] He devotes an entire talk to living the common life because “it is the true way for religious to live an apostolic and faith filled life that will truly and honestly lead to eternal life.”[89] This topic is systematically dealt with in Trattato della povertà religiosa.[90]

By using very sweet expressions he urges the Ursuline sisters to live the life of virginity together with Christ their spouse. He praises their state, placing them on guard with respect to the risk of becoming “foolish virgins”:

Because their state is very exalted it is dangerous for anyone who is not careful and on guard. Sicut lilium inter spinas. A lily that is growing among thorns pierces whoever touches it. But even more to the point, when a lily that is growing among thorns moves even a fraction, it pierces itself. While the lily is untouched it is beautiful to look at, gives off a pleasant odour and is delightful and agreeable. However, if it is handled it quickly begins to reek, to wilt and become a pest. Virginal purity is something that is delicate. It is an angelic and heavenly flower. It is extremely pleasant and pleasing to the eyes and the feelings of the divine spouse, qui pascit inter lilia. However, … amusements, gaining rewards, profane books and very little things are the thorns. In fact, chastity needs to be managed well, or else it either begins to fade or go rotten.

Above all give your heart to the Son of the Virgin. Be proud of the prerogative of being spouses of the great Lord and meditate day and night on the life, Passion and death of your Lord, who defaced himself to make you beautiful, became sick to cure you and died to give you life. Be satisfied with the ornaments that St Augusting spoke about: Et sanguis eius ornavit genas meas et auribus meis tradidit inestimabiles magaritas …

Oh daughters of God, remember those foolish virgins who relied on their virginity while not taking care to have the oil of charity and the love of God in their lamps and who remained outside the door. Bodily virginity is of little value. It was symbolised by the lamps that were contained in glass vases. The glow shone out, but they were fragile, and the impure oil represented impure desires and thoughts. The veil and the habit that religious wear does not mean much if underneath the blessed veil and habit by day and night you have attitudes that betray your vanity, because this can even happen to women who are wearing the habit of the Madonna on the outside, while beneath the Madonna’s habit there lives a sinner. The leather belt that you wear is of little value if it does not restrain your emotions through mortification. There is little value in visiting Churches frequently if the body is in front of the altar and the heart is elsewhere. Tears, tender feelings and a taste for what is spiritual is of little value to someone who is not resigned and ready to surrender their own will more than anything else. Their frequent reception of the Sacraments is of little value if either out of shame or groundless fear a person does not make a full confession.[91]

In addition to any scathing or bitter criticism of various social classes, that might often appear to be a reproach or undue condemnation, it was the intention of the zealous preacher to bring about, by means of a clear conscience, the reformation of society in all of its dimensions and to endower it with the glow of faith and devotion. He also realised that to touch people there was a need to communicate this not only in simple plain images that touched the imagination and were taken from daily life, but there was also the need to promote practices of piety that were different from Quietism, which was in full force, different from stage spectacles and external signs which were well presented at the time and which conveyed what we might call the baroque spirituality of that time.

In conclusion we can say in fact that his “admonitions” brought together certain elements of the devotional and spiritual renewal for various classes of society. He said that the Christian should “fall on his knees when he is not being observed, whether in his home or outside, and while beating his chest, ask for God’s mercy …, and kiss the floor …”[92] When the clock strikes he should become accustomed to recalling and blessing with heartfelt devotion the hour when Christ died on the cross. He should have Masses said for the most forgotten souls in Purgatory, remain in church in fear and reverence, praise God in times of upset and sorrow, “carry a sacred object on his person, an Agnus Dei, a holy picture, copies of prayers that have been approved by the Church,” while being careful that they are not “superstitious objects”, and avoid “even for amusement, reading prohibited books and wanting to see what is curious… when there is the possibility that they are diabolical,” and never omit listening to the word of God. Furthermore, a Christian should not “caress the body too much” because this would be “the greatest madness in the world”. For the love of the Mother of God he ought to observe abstinence one day a week or at least on Saturday or else “visit a sacred shrine, or church, or someone who is sick or go to a hospital.”[93]

It would be terrible to return to the vomit after someone had received the grace of conversion. He exclaimed it would be better for Brecia, for Milan etc if there had never been sackcloth, ropes, chains, hairshirts, skulls, Forty Hour processions, whips, singing, tears, sermons, talks than that they turn back after having had all of these.[94]

Therefore, the essential message, stripped of what was educated or erudite, but rich in the wisdom of the cross, was to always preach penance and conversion, like St John the Baptist, as suggested in the Constitutions of the Order. This should make up the substance of Capuchin preaching in imitation of Christ Crucified and St Paul. It is not by chance that the image of Father Giacinto Natta da Casale that has come down to us in the Vita manuscript contains the austere face of St John the Baptist and that this corresponds perfectly to what Giusto Sadeler engraved there in 1623 during his stay in Belgium: “He was taller than average, had bright eyes, slightly red lips, not very wide cheeks, well-shaped nose, black hair and beard and was of stern appearance. He looked like a second John the Baptist.”[95]

f) Girolomo Mautini da Narni’s apostolic preaching and the art of speech

In regard to the variety in the make-up of Capuchin preaching that developed during the entire sixteen hundreds and at the beginning of the seventeen hundreds, there still remains the need to comment on a special individual who in some way may be considered as representing the culmination of the powerful expression of the evangelical movement. This individual is Girolomo da Narni. As far as Capuchin history is concerned, he may be considered to be at the apex of apostolic preaching, including its literary style. However, in addition to the early assessments of preaching that were passed by Cardinal Robert Bellamine, who said that Narni was a second St Paul, and of Paolo Segneri who saw him as the perfect model for all the preachers in the world, [96] it is possible to form a more balanced and dispassionate judgement today by reading through his very famous Prediche fatte nel palazzo apostolico. At the request of Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi, the Protector of the Order, Narni collected these sermons near the end of his life to have them printed and they were published in Rome following his death in 1632. They were dedicated to Urban VIII.

The importance and fame of this edition, which had many reprints,[97] must have contributed to the reputation of the author as well as making him a classical example of sacred eloquence. However, it might be helpful to recall a few events the occurred in his life before he gathered these sermons, which are more like the climax of his activity.

The biographical and chronological aspects of his preaching

In our opinion, the authentic and profound character of Girolomo da Narni’s preaching is based on two fundamental things that formed part of his life: his relationship with his family and the fact that he had Mattia Bellintani da Salò as his teacher. His father, Pietro Mautini, was a lawyer and a famous magistrate in Narni and throughout the Province. He had a challenging manner and an austere and incorruptible character. He was devoted to legal justice and passed this trait on to his son, who was born in 1563, just as the Council of Trent was coming to an end.

The ancient biographies speak of the boy’s precocious wisdom and sanctity. Along with other activities he developed the habit of getting his school companions together to address them as if he were a preacher. His father was very strict with him and did not spare him from the regrettable consequences that ensued when he came home late from school. His father did not know that the boy had been secretly at prayer in church. His vocation to the Capuchins was also precocious. He wanted to enter the Order as early as when he was twelve years of age but had to wait until he was fifteen when he secretly ran away from home and was received into the friary at Romita di Terni in 1578. He did his Noviciate in the friary at Amelia. His father, who did not share in the decision that his son had made, did everything in his power to stop his vocation, including seeking the assistance of prestigious religious authorities. However, his efforts were overcome little by little by the gentle and tenacious disposition of his son, who was very sensitive and deeply distressed by this opposition. In the end the two of them were reconciled. We think that his conflict with his father made a deep impression on the psychology and unyielding character of Girolomo da Narni.

The second important factor was the tutoring of Mattia Bellintani, concerning which Mautini has left us an abundance of touching testimony.[98] However, according to the chronology of his life, Bellintani only spent two years as general lector in the newly established friary in Perugia in 1584 after preaching the Lent in Terni. He stayed there until the Epiphany of 1586 except while preaching another Lent in Venice in 1585.[99] Notwithstanding this brief space of time, that was interspersed with continuous preaching, Girolamo da Narni, experienced noteworthy spiritual and cultural intuitions.

Mautini’s first biographer was Marcelino De Pise da Màcon (+ 1656), who composed a chronicle about the Order. In a biography that was full of quotations from the sacred Fathers, and references to classical Greek and Roman authors which concealed a few historical notes as if they were hidden in a forest,[100] the document contained a comparison which said that as a disciple he was like St Thomas Aquinas and as a teacher he was like St Albert the Great. It showed the impact of Bellintani’s way of thinking regarding the formation of candidates in that its objective should be to produce perfect religious rather than scholars.[101] This was the way of thinking that was contained in the Capuchin Constitutions and he was instilling it into the minds of his young pupils in line with his radical approach which had been slightly influenced with the way of thinking of the spiritualistic movement.

We also get a small glimpse of this in the enlightening pages of De Pise. He states that Mautini was heavily involved in humble manual work: “”Hanc normam, non a magistro tantum didicerat, sed et audierat fuisse beati Bonaventurae, qui orationi vacans et studio virtutum, doctor evasit omnibus laureatis suis sodalibus.”[102] Undoubtedly the example of St Bonaventure had been suggested by Bellintani himself who at that very time was putting together a collection of sermons that would become the “structural introduction” to the sermons of the Seraphic Doctor that he would publish at a later time. He was one of the most enthusiastic proponents of the Order and of the teaching and spirituality of the Saint.[103] Now, as we shall see later, the influence of Bonaventure that became part of Bellintani’s teaching and lively preaching came through in Girolomo da Narni, among other things, in the division of his sermons into three parts as well as in the meditative injection of emotional highlights that were features of his apostolic preaching.

Another aspect of Bellintani’s influence can be seen in his taste for theological and biblical analysis, as well as in the metaphorical images and the mystical interpretations that he uses. What the pupil had learnt at the feet of a versatile master prepared him to preach with a gift for interpreting the Bible and for popular devotion.[104] This was so obvious that Bellintani himself, against what was the normal practice, assigned him, while he was still a cleric, as a lector in Philosophy which scandalised and amazed certain friars who were scrupulous about matters of law.[105] However, this was not the first time that this “terrible person”, as many friars thought him to be, had taken the initiative in going against the current. However, Bellintani had had looked at Mautini long and hard, and overcame all the doubts of the priggish.[106]

Mautini also developed his preaching ability through teaching. When he began the Lenten Courses in different cities in Umbria the same thing happened as in Terni, Foligno and Todi, people flocked from the neighbouring Provinces to hear this new great apostle. He made such a big impression that when the sermon had ended instead of leaving the church in the usual boisterous chaos, (as had happened at Foligno), the people remained motionless, silent and sighing. Even the friars from the local friary who had come to hear him went home in silence and were full of emotion for the entire day.[107]

He also preached in Rome in the Church of S. Luigi Francese, in S. Lorenzo in Damaso and in the Chiesa Nuova where many Cardinals and Prelates heard him. His reputation induced Pope Paul V to appoint him as Apostolic Preacher. This appointment was reconfirmed by his successors Gregory XV and Urban VIII.

If what he wrote in a letter to Cardinal Ludovici from Todi on 29.10.1530 is true he did not spend many years as Apostolic Preacher. This letter appears at the beginning of his 59 Prediche which contains five Advent Courses and five Lenten Courses: “What I must tell Your Eminence as I send you this book is that the sermons that I am sending you are the exact ones that I preached in the Apostolic Palaces at the Vatican and the Quirinale in the presence of the Supreme Pontiffs Paul V and Gregory XV and of the eminent Cardinals and a great number of Bishops and Prelates who often come together in such places as in a great ecclesiastical theatre.” However elsewhere he says that he had omitted a large number of other sermons that he would include in a future volume.[108]

It would appear that the fifty-nine sermons that were preached in Rome are only a part, the main part, of his sermons. In fact, going by the documents that we have at our disposal and which are primarily based on the diaries of Pontifical officials at the ceremonies, we can establish with a certain amount of precision just how often Mautini preached in the Apostolic Palace. It turns out that he preached there for only seven years, four under Paul V and three under Gregory XV.

He started in the Advent of 1608, following the death of Father Pietro della Madre di Dio, who was a Discalced Carmelite, who died on 26th August, when Mautini preached for the entire week as we know from notes left by Master of Ceremonies.[109] In 1609 he preached eleven sermons during the Lenten and Advent Courses plus giving a “talk” on Holy Thursday at the table of the poor that the Popes provided. Normally during that event from 1609 to 1616 the Apostolic Preachers delivered a short sermon.[110] Once again in 1610 he delivered the Lenten and Advent Courses giving eleven sermons.[111] In 1611 he did the same thing and in 1612 he preached the Lenten Course that involved another eighteen sermons. A note made by the Master of Ceremonies informs us that the sermon that he preached on Friday 13th April 1612 was not delivered in the Constantine Hall but in a larger hall that had been built by Paul V in the Quirinale Palace specifically for that purpose.[112] There is no mention in Mautini’s diaries of the Advent Course that was delivered in 1612. It was delivered in the apostolic palace. When he fell ill he was able to go back to his Province in Umbria. Various other Capuchins took his place as preachers.[113]

Beginning in 1613 various other preachers from Religious Orders preached in the apostolic palace for almost nine years, until Gregory XV recalled Girolomo da Narni from Umbria in 1621. He did not arrive in time to preach on the first Friday in Lent, which fell on 26th February, and his place was taken by another Capuchin, whose name is not known.[114] However, he preached on the other appointed days, namely 5th, 12th and 19th March, and then on April 2nd and 6th. He did not preach on Friday 26th March because the Pope and the Cardinals went to the Lateran Basilica to celebrate the Jubilee Indulgence.[115] He also preached the four sermons of the Advent Course.[116] In 1622 he completed all the Lenten and Advent courses, with the exception of Friday 11th February when he suffered an attack of fever.[117] In 1623 he only preached on the first three Fridays of Lent (3rd, 10th and 17th March). He did not preach on the other days because Pope Gregory XV was suffering from severe constipation and catarrh as we read in the Diary of the Master of Ceremonies; “Non fuit concio neque descensus ad S. Petrum ob invalituninem Papae gravedinis, id est cararri,”[118] After the Pope died on 8th July, Mautini stopped preaching. Thus in the three years from 1621 to 1623 he preached twenty-one sermons in the Apostolic Palace which when added to the forty-four sermons that he delivered between 1621 and 1612 come to sixty-five sermons, in addition to the three or four talks given on Holy Thursday during the table for the poor.

Urban VIII sought in vain to have him come back as a preacher. He called him back to Rome from Umbria where for ten years, up until he died (13th September 1632), he performed valuable work for the government of the Order as a Definitor and then as Vicar General. However, because he was ill, he could no longer preach for the Pope. Therefore, to summarise, he preached precisely six Advent Courses and six and a half Lenten Courses even though the printed version of the Prediche contains five Advent Courses and as many Lenten Courses. However, it is very difficult to assign dates on the individual texts of the sermons. When the author himself sent this off to “certain friars” and sent a copy which he had printed previously to Cardinal I. Ludovisi in 1630, [119] he did not place them in the order in which they were delivered but in a rather confused sequence. We have been able to establish the date of some of these printed sermons and it appears, for example, that the sermon that was preached “on Monday in the Fourth Week of Advent, when the office celebrated the feast of St Thomas the Apostle, was changed to suit the Sunday”, that fell on 22nd December 1608, [120] the year in which Mautini began his apostolic preaching. However, in the printed version this sermon is presented as delivered on the “Third Sunday in Advent”. [121] In the same way a sermon on the “Annunciation of the Virgin” was moved to the “Third Week in Lent” for the following reason: “Because this sermon would come about on a Friday, and the usual sermon in the Palace could be delivered, because of the Zitelle wedding, His Holiness Paul V wanted it to be preached on the following Friday.” [122] The sermon was delivered on 25th March 1611. [123] Then on another occasion, during the fifth week of Lent, the sermon that was booked for 2nd March 1612 was delivered on “the Friday in Sexagesima week as this was the Friday in March when, following the sermon, the Pope always went down with the Sacred College of Cardinals to celebrate the Stational Mass in St Peters.”[124]

Although it is not possible to put an exact date on each one of the printed sermons, [125] it is possible, however, and this is more interesting now, to undertake, firstly, a critical appraisal of the material on the basis of the interesting, accurate and priceless testimony of contemporary witnesses, and then to flick through the pages of the Prediche, keeping in mind Mautini’s personal method of composition, which, as a part of Capuchin history, and this represents the oldest ars praedicandi ever to be composed by a Capuchin friar that has come down to us.

The craft and the spirituality of the “Sermons that were preached in the Apostolic Palace”

On account of his bashful disposition, which was made more severe by his continuous practice of austerity and humility, Girolomo da Narni considered that the sermons that “he had delivered spontaneously in the Sacred Palace” to be a past and unrepeatable performance that could not be put into print. He believed that “what had once been done live in the pulpit”, ought to remain “in the dark, in their infant cot”, or enclosed in “the chamber where they had been born” that was their “cradle and their grave.”[126] Now when he had to go over them again in preparation for their publication he set himself to the task and clearly presented their purpose and content as he outlined their underlying objective: “These sermons often dealt at length with church prelates, their tasks and obligations, the frame of mind and zeal that they should have, the human weaknesses that develop in that state and sometimes corrupt it. I do this so that Christian Prelates can approach this book as if it were a mirror in which they could see reflected what they are and what they ought to be, which is more divine than human, if they wish to carry the load, that would be a formidable burden for Angels, of holy governing fruitfully without falling under the weight.” He says that he is not dealing with the defects and sins of “the ecclesiastical authorities of our day” but speaking “in general” in fulfilment of the Capuchin Constitutions.[127]

In the advantageous circumstances that had been afforded to “a poor unshod brother dressed in rags” to preach “to Christian Prelates face to face”, with “the Christian freedom that came together with Gospel truth.” He saw a very strong opportunity “to edify the faithful and to shut the insolent mouths of the adversaries of religion, who by the use of false calumny maintain that Prelates hate to hear what is true and only love the praise of those who offer them false flattery.”[128] In saying this he displayed the fighting spirit that was a characteristic feature of the Counter Reformation as well as an attitude that reflected the environment of the atmosphere of reform that came after Trent and which was cultivated by the Roman Pontiffs.

In reality a simple cursory reading of what he preached is enough to make one realise that this is an important aspect of what Girolomo da Narni had to say. If the tone of his voice, his gestures and appearance were quite majestic, and the feeling that he instilled into those who were listening to him amounted to terror,[129] his eloquence was not only complemented by his serious demeanour, but also by his every day, simple, humble sincerity which was able to put a lesson across and to link his thought to the religious and social problems that were directly connected with the reality, culture and environment of the day.

He had the ability to establish an intuitive link with his well-educated and privileged audience. However, in the pulpit he felt the need to speak plainly, not coverup or gloss over the problems and the duty to correct and exhort and he always did this by using expressions that were very humble and respectful but strong at the same time. This usually took place during the last remarks in the sermon when he expanded and explained the reason for his choice of subject, always adding quotations from the Fathers and Church authors or citing examples from ancient Greek or Roman literature. To keep the iron hot he broke out into ardent prayers or exhortations directed at the Prelates using these words: “So going down on my knees, I beg all holy Prelates.” “Christian Prelates, my Lords, this morning I beg of you, while casting myself most humbly at your feet, that you would consider …” “Holy Prelates, luminaries of the world, Lords of the earth, torchbearers of the Church and my masters I beg of you with the great humility that is befitting to my state and to your great eminence that you take care …” “Thus fathers and Pastors of the people, falling at your feet I beg you most humbly, to turn your every thought towards the peace and tranquillity of the Church”, etc.[130]

Some contemporary critiques and testimonials

Even at the time his contemporaries noted the character of his pronouncements that were majestic and heated when opposing vice yet sweet when pleading for virtue. Thus Nicola Riccardi, the Master of the Sacred palace, who was a Dominican, said that “he thought that he had been listening to the the lightening of the third son of thunder.”[131]

When Felice Brandimarte da Castelvetrano published Tractatus scholasticus de arte sacra concionandi in 1667, which was the first treatise on sacred oratory to be published by a Capuchin in Italy, [132] he took Girolomo da Narni as the model and example of the method of presenting strong expressions and exhortations to superiors and Prelates: “Inter caeteros autem tamquam ducem et praeceptorem elegimus ex nostris celeberrimum patrem Hieronymum Narniensem, cum in coperto sit apud omnes ipsum de hoc scientiam et experientiam habuisse, qiuppe cum trium summorum Pontificium, videdelicet Pauli V, Gregorii XV et Urbani VIII, praedicator extitisset, ea polluit venustate dicendi, ea enituit commovendi efficacitate, ut nullus unquam interfuit aliquando dicenti, qui insolita robustaque et ad animam usque pertingente hominis eloquentia, captum se esse non senserit”.[133]

Even the great Franciscan historian Luke Wadding, who was commissioned by Riccardi to examine Mautini’s sermons, left a report dated 28th November 1630 at the Irish College of S. Isidoro in Rome which passes an impressive judgement on his preaching that emphasises the same features:

I cannot but praise his prudence and Christian freedom in rebuking and correcting the abuses that were going on at Court and which usually thrived among those in power. He did this this with astute prudence and religious modesty, always showing due respect and deference for such a sacred audience. His style is serious, thoughtful and eloquent. His teaching is in line with the Gospel, based on the sacred Fathers and quite erudite. To cut it back to one word, I contend that these are truly apostolic sermons that deserve the name because of where they were delivered, because of their doctrinal content and because of the person who preached them. Therefore, I believe that he allowed them to be printed for the greater glory and honour of God, for the welfare of souls and for the good of holy Church which in all seasons produces these kinds of evangelical preachers and Christian orators like Cicero. [134]

The one who succeeded more accurately in understanding Mautini’s human qualities and the different attributes of his preaching was a keen nameless listener who never let a word escape him and who after listening to him for four years wanted to share his enthusiasm and observations with the Bishop of Novara, Carlo Bascapè by writing to him from Rome on 21st March 1611.[135]

Using a florid style that is typical of the sixteen hundreds, but one that is vivid and perceptive, this educated listener, who was perhaps a secretary who worked at the Curia or was employed by a Cardinal, wrote about Girolomo da Narni:

He gave divine pleasure … When he broke off the angelic way he spoke in the beginning and began to deal with human issues, people felt like what someone would experience if he had a dream about finding a treasure and then awoke to find himself in wretched poverty. Indeed, in what was being discussed they had found a real treasure that they could take to heart because it has been set out clearly. He had a ringing voice that was different from anyone else in that it reverberated sweetly and sounded more like silver than bronze and it pierced the air from a distance scattering all distractions like sweet thunder that trills as it blasts. He told the most wonderful stories in a most attractive and meaningful way. He chose the most colourful and refreshingly original words, which he wove into the most magnificent forms of speech that an intelligent person could produce. However, this is nothing when compared to the way he delivered them. He silent pauses spoke as much as his words. His every movement or glance produced an effect … His gestures were animated and dignified. He made one perspire when he issued reprimands and rejoice when he held out hope. Just the rolling of his eye, the lifting of his hood, the raising or lowering his whole body when it accompanied what he was saying disturbed people more that they wanted to be disturbed. When he aroused them by admonishing them, it came out from the little pulpit like the racket and thunder of a military machine. He did not care if what he said made people sad or if it brought them comfort. In short, his presence, his words and his gestures were sublime and penetrating and at the same time sweet, charming and friendly. He presented himself with the majesty of a Prince and with monastic and virginal poise. This is how he won his way into the hearts of people and opened, swept and cleansed the road in a manner that they could not resist.[136]

The contrasting features or forcefulness and sweetness are evident in the polished testimony of this witness. However, what might be more interesting are the details regarding his tone of voice, pronunciation, turn of phrase and gestures. It is not that this expression of admiration came about through blind love of his style. It came through comparing him with other preachers. It came about because of what Mautini had achieved through continual untiring study and development. This reveals an important aspect of the daily activity of the great orator and is suggestive of a life of hidden contemplation. This would explain many aspects of his character as well as of his health. This is how the witness continued his story:

I admit, reluctantly, that his most important traits may also be found in other spiritual and learned people. The Church has many such people. However, to have all of them in the one person, in an interconnected manner, giving life and soul to his voice, as well as his gestures, does not come from nature which does not produce the gifts that he enjoyed. His background was good, but he improved it through study, by developing his way of speaking, keeping his mouth moist and by speaking loudly. He preferred to speak plainly so that he could be heard so that what he was saying would make sense with one thing leading to the next. Because he made sure of this in a period of four years of work, he did not make a mistake in his timing, gestures or pronunciation. Rather the treasure of his serious and polished style was such that the venerable old people who spoke the Tuscan dialect admired the perfection with which he had developed his sublime style in such an easy and comfortable way that was natural to him.

He treated the Fathers very gently, not rushing through them too quickly, but reflecting on the topic and pausing in a way that was quite different from what others did. On his lips twenty words from a Prophet or from St Paul portrayed the mysteries of the third heaven. Who could describe the impression that his challenging statements made? How much of the style of Quintilian or one of the Greek or Latin ancient authors was woven into what he said even though he was drawing out a different lesson?

God took him by the hand through a remarkable world that was enriched in a wonderful manner. By means of his continual application to study he had grown in a way that could not be restrained any longer. His continual study was only interrupted when he left his cell to celebrate Mass or go to eat. He not only closed his door but his window as well and contemplated or studied continuously by the light of a lamp that one might call an everlasting lamp. Consequently, since he did not care about the light or the day, he appeared in public as if he were still in the dark clothed in a dishevelled state which added greatly to his venerable appearance. However, there was one disadvantage and that was that such strict seclusion might increase his natural melancholic disposition. Such anxiety can affect the body and if one does not take care of the body it can cause sicknesses such as sciatica that affects the sacrum; it was as though he had to drag the lower half of his body behind him; But when he went up into the public gathering, he was of such substance that superior half of his person was not impeded, such that it could give spirit and meaning to those things that were insensitive and lifeless.[137]

In his analysis of Mautini’s preaching the unknown author also succeeded in penetrating the structure of his style, examining internal divisions, the “evangelical temperance” that prevented him from using the elegant words or artificial gestures which popular preachers used to move people and make them cry. He highlights the wonderful linguistic style, which was always “arresting and magnificent”, but never affected to the point of becoming “ornate or florid”. He used metaphors that were “tasteful” and “plain” and above all, he used concepts that suited the environment and the audience, which enlightened the mind and captured the truth:

His sermons are short and clear. They are divided into no more than two or three parts. Each section contains a given number of spiritual points and not more that he considered necessary in order to make a point. He did not like to spread things out or break them up. He did not want to go into too much excessive or useless detail. His style was to bring things together so as to make an impression. I heard other people say: “I do not think that this is worth talking about”. I do not agree because I think it is something new and very important. However, if one does not believe that he did not use reproaches, warnings and other effective strategies to make ordinary people cry, one would have to suppose that, once he realised that the Sacred College was a different place to the Areopagus, where a great curtain concealed the face and actions of the speaker from the judges, the Sacred College provided a place to observe the bare face of truth and would not prevent those present from showing external emotions or stop them from crying, when he roused his audience to do so. When he entered this place that was no less sombre with evangelical discretion, he showed that he knew how to recognise the difference between an ordinary audience and this gathering which possessed both education and exemplary conduct.

Therefore, do not put aside questions about him, but do not question his objective. Do not question his emotions but the thoughts that they had. Like a valiant knight he left the smaller and weaker squares and went to engage the more entrenched troops and to attack the rock of human nature. That was his objective. He attacked this and fought it with such gallant arguments that they made a lasting impression on some and filled them with the uplifting fear mentioned above. When the higher faculties had been cleansed by the truths that he had strongly proclaimed they in turn influenced the lower faculties. They were overcome suddenly by the grandeur of the object. However, their confusion was quite delightful. This meant that human nature, which had been the battlefield and the scene of victory, had been defeated on the outside but filled with consolation within.

It was not his intention to dim the affections but to enlighten the mind. He did this so well that not the slightest detail escaped his careful consideration … He did not throw words to the wind, nor could a letter be added or subtracted from his explanation. He never made a wasted gesture, speaking from well considered personal experience. He weighed up everything with an absolutely natural touch. Nobody could arouse people better than he did. No one could have more control over what he was saying, adapt the impact and align it with the subject than he did. He was not carried away by quotations or by figures of speech. The horse was willing but always controlled with a bridle. His style became more excellent, and he avoided anything that was affectatious, flattering or ornate and he spoke in an engaging and magnificent manner. He used a style that was natural to him. He always used wonderful expressions and explained things with detailed, interweaving words and facts in a way that produced delight. However, while using all this style he was always on the watch for molle atque facetum.

I do not how to describe his stately metaphors that were taken from appropriate images, that were clear and did not need much explaining and which touched the imagination even when they were not of his own composition. Some were adapted from other images. What can I say about his choice of words, or even more about his choice of concepts? He fitted these into the proper place, and they fitted into his way of speaking so well, that they followed the run of the discourse so as to be no distraction so that nobody could image that what he said could be put in any other way.[138]

One feature that the unknown author does not explain is how a man who is living so far from the world and life at court was able to “touch on many events” with the precision and with the proficiency of an expert. He thinks that this was derived from an evangelically “purified eye” as well as from spiritual and pastoral prudence and wisdom which implied that his whole purpose was not only to persuade the mind, but to move the will of the audience to change their way of life and embrace the truth:

By means of her [= genuine prudence] he achieved excellence in the way that he applied a spiritual or practical interpretation to his subject. For example, he easily cut short all the business matters in the Definitory. I am sure that he governed the Order in a serious, resolute and safe way that would have pleased the severe critics. With clear juridical insight he perceived things that others did not see. Before he finished one topic in the sermon, he started to raise many others. When speaking about Concilium facerunt (They began to plot) [Mt 24: 4] he made four points, one stronger than the other, and although he passed from one to the other, he once more took up certain things that Job had said about being meek when governing, and made wonderful use of them to examine the conduct of the elders in government and to also make many suggestions for young people. Such heartfelt preaching, which was not just a ceremony or something vague, brought out serious issues that involved consequences and touched on many contemporary affairs. Even though he cut himself off from the Court and the world he was not speaking in the abstract or metaphysically about these things when he dwelt with them to show what could happen.

He spoke about matters that pertained to the Confessional in a careful and moderate manner. When he took up this matter some people who knew little about it thought that it turned out to be nothing but wearisome persistence, or even impudence. However, he dealt with the matter with such exquisite good judgement that what he said enlightened people who not only were informed by what he said by were filled with admiration and love of the way that he said it. He based his arguments on evidence provided by facts. Towards the end, gathering all of this together, he made certain points that flowed like a river so that everyone could see which path was the right way. His objective was to convince the mind and enlighten it with the truth, to enflame the will to embrace it. His reasoning was directed towards this, as were also the arrows of his polished logic. I can say from my heart that he banished inappropriate thoughts. Everything was of substance and nothing was stated just for show. As a consequence, what he said made a great impact on Bishops. For example, he obliged them to stay where they were immediately following the sermon so that they could think things over before leaving the church.[139]

Relying once again on the letter of the unknown author to Bishop Bascapè, we can see that the secret of this majestic and potent preaching lay in the exemplary way of life that prepared for it, accompanied it and followed it. These sermons are a photograph of Mautini’s spirituality of seclusion and almost self-abandonment that shunned being prominent, that wished “to be unknown to the friars themselves”. He prepared for preaching by living like a hermit. Afterwards he ran away, taking leave of the Papal Court immediately to return to the humility and poverty of his cell like a true Angel or Apostle:

He can really be called an Angel because of his innocence and authenticity of his life. He flew so high on the wings of the spirit that he regarded as nothing what lay below. He did not let things upset him. As a true disciple of St Francis, he was strict with himself and meek towards others and the Order was the love of his heart. He spent his time away from the world doing his work. Out of humility he did not seek to know others nor want to be known to others. Motivated by a profound sense of his inferiority he climbed up mountains to small friaries where he remained unknown to the friars themselves (he lived like this except at the time of the Chapter). He withdrew from every kind of activity so that he could become involved exclusively in contemplation.

It would be nice to know the main things that Our Lord wanted him to do in the Order. He told them secretly to Cardinal Montalo,[140] the Protector of the Order. On one occasion the Pope wanted to find out about this from the Prelate. [141] The reply was ambiguous but friendly. He subsequently gave a short version at Chapter. Subsequently on three occasions cardinal Borghese gently asked him to give some information, but he said nothing more.

When the sermon was over he did not stay to eat something in the Palace, but went to the monastery and had something as he moved off then wiped his brow with a napkin because he had worked so much. As soon as he could, he wanted to move off, excusing himself by saying that he had received a command from Our Lord and saying that the important part of the work of an Apostolic Preacher was to set an example. The night before he was to preach, he spent it at the home of his uncle Lungara, where he went to bed and rose at midnight to remain in prayer until morning when he went to the Palace at the appointed time. When the sermon was over, he came back there. He was never seen in Court, or in the company of the Courtesans, nor did he know those who were important or their servants either by sight or by name. He enjoyed inner peace, much detachment and genuine innocence … lofty but simple thoughts, and uncrowned reverence for the crown of Borromea which is known as Humility, his special virtue. Thus, although I have compared him to an Angel I might also have compared him to an Apostle.[142]

Finally, when making comparisons, the unknown person who wrote the letter said that Mautini resembled the great ancient orators, such as Demosthenes and Cicero, except that he was more gifted. He made reference to a famous saying of Cardinal Bellarmino, who was well-known in Rome at the time, that described him as being “the picture and symbolic representation” of the ardent preaching of St Paul. In order to make a better comparison, he added emphatically that he considered that his way of preaching was the perfect execution of what he, that is St Charles Borromeo, thought the preaching ministry ought to be:

I believe that there has never been a more authentic preacher, neither Demosthenes, who was often heard in Athens, nor Cicero, who often spoke in Rome. This is because his exceptional dignity and decorum went further than these qualities did in either one of them. He was more proficient than both of them put together. I am certain and would be lying if I were to say that his words were anything but incense. Am I exaggerating? Let anyone who does not believe me come and listen to him and see the truth of what I am saying. I am avoiding what is extreme in order to convey what is the truth. Do say that I am exaggerating when I am telling the truth. It is true that sometimes he delved headlong into human behaviour. However in a situation like this he considered it to be more blameworthy as well as more ungrateful not to acknowledge God’s free choices in dealing with the present world, and lifting the mind to consider the beauty of Paradise by dwelling of the pronouncements of mercy and aspects of what gave strength and healing, nourished and affected both the internal and external faculties.[143]

Rejoice with those of us who were in the audience of Father Girolomo da Narni and with the whole of Rome which was his theatre. I think of this as having a particularly special place in our time. St Augustine said that it was his impossible wish to see three things: Christ’s human conversation, the triumph of Rome and St Paul’s preaching. Now we are enjoying these things symbolically by means of important events, the foremost of which Cardinal Bellarmino described as the greatest event since the time of St Paul. This occurred when as Apostolic Preacher Girolomo started proclaiming the Word of God in a more authoritative way, with gentler refinement and with greater power of persuasion, and the audience responded and while experiencing their personal emotions offered praise and admiration. It was like listening to St Paul, whom he resembled so closely. One might say that Rome had triumphed by means of his voice that had conquered the devil and through the intervention of Christ had enlightened our minds with grace and spoken to us.

If the glorious St Charles had been alive, there is no doubt that this majestic, powerful and heroic way of speaking would have fulfilled the dreams of this wonderful man. If Your Eminence had been able to hear him, I am sure that in thinking the same way you would have agreed with him. However, the speaker made up for what was lacking because of the physical absence of St Charles when he often spoke with exquisite majesty yet with proper dignity.[144]

This exquisite and refined assessment is probably the best interpretation and evaluation of Girolomo da Narni’s oratorical style and his apostolic preaching as we shall now prove by going through the volume containing his sermons.

Reappraisal of Mautini’s “Prediche” especially his method of composing a sermon

Every preacher adopts a method of composing a sermon that he has developed and perfected by his pastoral experience. In the first hundred years of their history the Capuchin friars developed a method of preaching that they passed on by word of mouth, example and practice. Even when they occasionally put this down on paper, as did St Lawrence of Brindisi, these written versions have now been lost. Perhaps the first Capuchin to leave a written copy of a method was Girolomo da Narni. An unidentified writer, who we have already mentioned, has left us an interesting comment on this work: “Notes that were written in one hand have been found and they provide information concerning the place, time, duration and the method of preaching and show how this great preacher thought.”[1] This document, which was discovered and published more than thirty years ago, and which we have reproduced (cf. nn. 6531-6543), gives us a sure guide as we investigate Mautini’s preaching method and presents us with an ideal picture of what he established and persistently maintained. In fact, following the teaching of the Council of Trent and the example of St Charles (two things that are often mentioned in his sermons), he strongly urged the Bishops and Ecclesiastical Pastors to adopt evangelical preaching. He criticised their apathy, challenged them concerning their serious obligations, crushed all their objections and cried out with zeal. He did just this in a sermon on Wednesday following the Third Sunday in Advent: “Christian Prelates, my Lords, Christian Prelates, Fathers, Teachers and my Lords, I wish and desire ardently to see you as great people in the Kingdom of heaven, the same as you are in the Church and in the world. If you want to make my wish come true and be really great, giving off the perfume of Christ: Preach, preach and act.”[2]

As a model of the serious duty of preaching that fell on the Pastors of the Church, he proposed the figure of the “evangelical preacher” which, because it coincided with the Capuchin style as it was prescribed in chapter nine of the Constitutions, Mautini’s was a clear copy of this style. This appeared especially in his sermon on 22nd December 1608, which was Monday in the Fourth Week of Advent, which we reprinted (cf. nn. 6474-6500) because it clearly expresses the prophetic character of the evangelical preacher whose mission it is to preach penance and conversion with the ardour of John the Baptist, while knowing how to live within the flock in the solitude of a hermit, “by turning most of the soul into a hovel or cave,” (n. 6481), and loving the desert “where the preacher can turn to penance” (n. 6478). Therefore, he ought to flee from the Squares, the “turbulence of the Court, the “crowds in the city”, and live “a withdrawn life in his monastery in fasting and prayer” (nn. 6479, 6481). In fact, he should not be “admired and looked upon as if he were part of the house or the family, but be like an unknown stranger who alarmed anyone who met him” (n. 6479). This is exactly what Girolomo da Narni did so that he could preach penance freely “like a trumpet” not “whispering” but shouting “in a loud voice as John had done.” This subject was of particular importance to “great people” who resemble “a clock that has been placed on a mountain to monitor with its movements all the activities, behaviour and comings and goings of the subjects.” (n. 4689).

He displays a vivid awareness of his ministry in many other sermons, such as when in his is dealing with the Gospel parable of the workers in the vineyard, he says to Prelates with humble insistence: “I, who am dust and ashes, and the vilest worm on earth, would not dare to speak if I were not the servant of the Father of the family when performing this ministry. However, as I am that, I am not afraid, I shall not be silent and not speak up as I carry out what is my duty. I am not afraid, because to announce the divine word brings freedom and heartfelt truth with it: Loquere regibus Iuda, princibus eius et sacerdotibus, et populo terrae, nec enim timere te faciam vultum eorum (Gen 1: 17-18). I shall not remain silent so that I will not hear canes muti non valentes latrare (Is 56: 10) nor to say: Vae mihi quia tacui (Is 6:5). I shall neither shout out nor whisper because I am speaking to labourers who can hear well and who do not stop paying the rent. Therefore, I am only begging of you, pleading with you, as one who is anxious to pay back what he owes to God as part the fulfilment of his duty as a Christian preacher.”[3]

The final trait that completes the picture of the evangelical preacher is his missionary vocation. This is commended in a most superb manner in the sermon for Friday in the Third Week of Lent which appears in the “fifth Lenten Course”. In our opinion it is one of the most wonderful of Mautini’s sermons and we selected it (cf. nn. 6501-6530) since, together with the missionary incentive issued to Prelates and Church Pastors to become missionaries, other strong stimuli are provided to “apostolic labourers” who, while wearing the badge of evangelical preachers, derive support from “the book and the staff, the book for preaching and the pilgrim’s staff for travelling” (n. 6516). Let them go out from “the lairs of their monasteries”: “yes out, way out, to the fields and villages to the crowds!” They should do this so that the crops that are ready for harvest do not wither, because there were no reapers in the field. … O, holy Religious, who go out to harvest souls at the proper time in the ship of the Holy See, go out joyfully with the breath of the Holy Spirit in your sails, with the compass of the Most Holy Virgin, with the Angels as crew and Christ as the pilot, who will teach you how to read the map and avoid the shallows of hell that will give you trouble and stir up storms that could ruin your voyages.” (nn. 6511-6518). They should take Christ with them in order to bring Christians back (cf. n. 6517) under the guidance and direction of the Church. One cannot read this text without being moved even now and experiencing all of the ancient spirituality that motivated the propagation of the faith.

Mautini wanted to pass on this deep awareness of the authentic ministry of the apostolic preacher in an almost technical manner by means of a series of norms that made up his personal ars praedicandi. He adopted the “modern style” of preaching that passed over the introduction and began immediately with quotations from the Bible which was the reason why he quoted the passage from the Bible that he was going to explain. This is why the fifty-nine sermons have a solemn Latin title that was usually taken from the Gospel of the day that sets the context for what is to be examined either literally or mystically as we have already seen with other preachers. These introductions are very solemn, but substantially reflect the method that Anselmo Marzati da Monopoli was using already. Without any doubt Mautini must have had this in mind and followed it in part in composing his sermons. The internal parts were reduced to their proper limits and they always portrayed close harmony and logical connections.

The division of the topic into three parts (sometimes two parts) which can be seen in the “logical reasoning”, was set out schematically in the introduction. It followed the literal or mystical interpretation that was adopted. This method of setting out or assigning numbers in the opening remarks was something new that he had introduced.[4] It shows the probable influence of Bonaventure and later on it was adopted by Bonaventura da Becanti, whereas other famous preachers, such as Paolo Segneri or Casini preferred to set out the topic in short introductory sentences.

The central part consists in the explanation of the points raised in the Gospel and the sermon. The development of the argument (which he called “discorso”), followed the points that had been made and developed the first two points in the first part, while the third part contained the conclusion and the exhortation. It was a very simple format that was the result of intense study and experience. Because the objective of preaching was the reformation of conduct, the moral meaning had to come through in every part of what was said, particularly by the use of forceful expressions regarding vice and virtue. This was the main aim of the sermon. Mautini called this “ripensione” (rethinking). It was the indispensable means of striking a person’s conscience and of moving his will to reform his conduct.

Here Mattia da Salò’s influence as a teacher is clearly evident. He has placed great emphasis on “forceful expressions” and “morality” (regarding which he was the consummate authority, as we have seen above). He thought of this as being the most important and difficult part of the sermon in which it was easy for the discourse to become unbalanced and, thus less fruitful. However, the disciple probably outdid the master in dramatic impact as well as in being gentle and sweet in the way he expressed things. This is where hostility needs to be joined to charisma. One needs to be hostile in attacking vice and sin, by making special use of the words of “the Gospel, the Prophets and the Holy Spirit” explained in detail and sweet in order to win over souls. This is using something that is appealing in order to inspire virtue.

According to Girolomo da Narni, at this point it is necessary to raise one’s voice, “even to use one’s whole voice, so as to penetrate hearts.” It would then be good to go up to the Cross, embracing it, touching the wounds, and on important occasions, for example when trying to convert prostitutes, or making peace between enemies, to take the Cross out of its place and for the period of the entire scolding to hold it in your hand in front of everyone” (n. 6538). This is the gesture that is typical of an evangelical preached who mounts the pulpit as “uomo nuovo” (the “new man”) who is humble and unknown to his audience. He starts off using a moderate voice using a tone that pronounces his words reverently. He then reflects on his subject using subtle reasoning and dwells on points that are always taken from the Gospel without seeking “to please” but to inform the public.

He uses various methods when explaining the points. He frames the “principal subject”[5] in well-chosen sentences. He takes individual words and goes on to expand their meaning to present a general picture that represents the entire Church, including Pastors, Prelates and Christians. The different passages are often introduced in a natural manner by the use of questions,[6] interjections or conditional phrases that have been linked with exempla taken from the Bible, the Fathers, the history of the Church, sacred writers, classical culture, nature and contemporary history together with events gathered from life in Roman society. His emotional outbursts, strong pronouncements, invectives, moral applications, conclusions and strong spiritual emotions follow spontaneously from these things.

We are able to distinguish various groups in the Prediche. Some pertain to feasts of the Saints or of the Madonna (the Immaculate Conception, Annunciation, St Andrew, St Thomas the Apostle and St Ambrose), some to the season of Lent (the Fridays in Lent), sermons on the Passion, which were delivered on Holy Thursday, as was the custom in the Sacred Palace and other short “ragionamenti” (discourses) that were delivered on Holy Thursday. The choice of the phrase that indicated the topic was most scrupulously linked to the liturgy and the Gospel of the day. Mautini always added a second verse to the verse that specified the topic and this verse indicated the interpretation he was about to provide. Let us give a practical example and examine the structure of an entire sermon to illustrate his scrupulous fidelity when providing an application.

In the sermon for the feast of the Immaculate Conception the proposed theme is contained in the Gospel verse: De qua natus est Iesus, qui vocatur Christus. (Mt 1:16). He adds to this a passage from the Song of Songs: Quae est ista, quae acsendit de deserto deliciis affluens, innixa supra Dilectum summum? (Cant. 8:5). The introduction is developed by means of the image of Queen Esther, who represents the Virgin. She, accompanied by two maids, “one of whom she is leaning on because she is weak” and the other is a symbol of intellectual human nature, approached the King and was favourably received by him. Maria also “by the gift of grace went up to heaven from the desert of the world, leaning on her beloved Son”. She was destined for this from the first moment of her conception. This “mystical meaning” was used to interpret the Gospel of the day and was stated in the verse that indicated the topic or “principal subject” and it offered the possibility of presenting Mary’s privilege in the three points that were taken from the inner meaning of the theme:

It would appear that in today’s Gospel by placing the name of Jesus at the beginning and the end, the Evangelist has portrayed the mystical meaning of the position of the Virgin, the help and support that she received as the result of her being embraced by the merits of her Son. The Gospel begins, Liber generationis Iesu Christi and ends, De qua natus est Iesus qui vocatur Christus in order to convey, in the terms of a mystery, that the Virgin was surrounded entirely by God, completely fortified on every side by the divine presence. She was raised up with Christ by Christ at his conception, in His life, death, merits, grace, and glory; endowed with his virtues and all of the prerogatives of divine grandeur. This is what we see in today’s Gospel when we think about the union between the Virgin and Christ who were Mother and Son and consider it from the point of its being: I. predestined; II. constituting her Queen of the Kingdom; and III. giving her the office of advocate.[7]

He goes on to prove and explain the three points by first undertaking a “subtle and ingenious” reading of the Gospel passage. He points out how in the succession of the generations all of them “are always connected and linked to each other, “father to son.” However, the link is broken when the Virgin arrives. She “is introduced as being embraced by the Son, as being something heavenly, without a father or mother being named.” This observation provides him with the chance to explain, by means of theological reasoning, the predestination of Mary which is placed immediately beside that of Christ through the introduction of a passage from the Letter to the Romans: Qui factus est et ex semine David secundum carnem (Rom 1:3) etc. presented within a quote from St Thomas Aquinas and clarified by considerations taken from St Bernardine of Siena. The deeper meaning of the text is brought out by the use of a passage from the Book of Proverbs: Dominus possedit me in itio viarum suarum (Prov 8:22) with each word being analysed using the opinions of the Fathers concluding with a strong summary that embraces the predestination of Christ and of Mary and linking all of this with the original verse that stated the topic:

Here the divine Persons were at work ad extra as they created the world of which Christ and the Virgin were the Alfa and Omega. In this work Adam and his descendants formed the line that produced Mary. The patriarchs, the prophets, the kings and all the just people who lived in the Old Testament made their contribution to the exalted work through the propagation of the royal line, through prophesy, through being figures, through their prayers and their holy longings, until in the end it came to the very happy day of the Immaculate Conception. After this the sacred dwelling of the Holy Spirit was complete. The building of the temple where the infinite majesty of the Incarnate Word was to live for nine months was finished and the ark would float above the filthy waters of original sin that had flooded the world. All of this took place because the Virgin had embraced Christ, by becoming the Mother of Christ, because she had been predestined with Christ, and because she was completely filled with Christ’s grace and merits. Innixa supra Dilectum sum. De qua natus est Iesus, qui vocatur Christus. Let us take a break.[8]

Up to this point Girolomo da Narni had only explained the first point. In doing so he is allowing himself to take some freedom since what he usually did, according to his method of composing sermons, was to establish the first two points in the first part of the sermon and briefly deal with the third point in the second part of the sermon when the audience was more worn-out (cf. n. 6536). Because of this after the break[9] as he began the second part he offered an implicit apology and cut short what remained to be said, restructuring the entire sermon: “If because of its lofty nature the predestination of the Virgin and its exalted nature has taken up more time than usual, we shall deal with her Reign, which is more important, and her responsibility as advocate, which we experience more intimately, with greater brevity in what follows.” Then he goes on to explain the second point using a passage from the same Gospel of Matthew which, to a certain extent, becomes the subject of this part of the sermon: Iesse autem genuit David regem, David autem rex genuit Salomonem (Mk 1:5-6).

Here too the development of the explanation follows the same method. Firstly, he makes an “inspired reflection” on the words in the Bible saying: “Oh listeners, it was not by accident that in the long list of Kings no one is given the title of king except David. This happens on two occasions that are so closely linked that if it was not a mystery some would think that it was nonsense.”[10] He makes this subtle point by quoting St Paul: Qui factus est ei ex semine David etc. whom he had quoted already in the first part commenting on what St Thomas had said about this. He then begins to deal with the origin of the kingdom of David, citing a passage from the First Book of Samuel where it says that “and everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt and everyone who was discontented gathered to him. So he became captain over them” (Sam 22:2). That is to say that as David’s kingdom had been formed from “those who had failed, those who were poor and from a people who were discontented and miserable”, so too had Christ’s Kingdom which grew from the “misery and need of poor sinners who had erred, were unhappy, unfortunate who lived in bitterness surrounded by diabolical circumstances and who owed God ten thousand talents without any hope of paying it back.”[11]

He supports this with a few Biblical passages, one being a prophesy and the other taken from history: Spiritum Domini super me, … ut inederer contritis corde (Is 61:1-2) etc. where Christ’s spiritual anointing as King is aimed at making him “the leader among the afflicted”. In fact, as soon as he came into the world, he issued a public edict that said: “Venite ad me vos omnes qui laboratis (Mt 11:28) etc. Because of this all those who were troubled ran to him from all sides, those who were blind, those who were crippled, those who were possessed, paralytic, publicans, sinners, and he healed and embraced them all.” [12] Therefore, he became known as the “Son of David:” Fili David, Miserere mei (Mt 15:22).

The same thing applies to Mary, who is not only the Queen and Mistress of the Angels, but also “for a very special reason” the Queen of sinners, “without being which she would not have been Christ’s Mother.” This statement was based on a passage in the Song of Songs: Veni de Libano (Cant. 4:8) etc. interpreted in an allegorical sense with the help of St Victor and brought to a conclusion with phrase from St Bernard.

Finally, he introduces the third and last point with a question: “Now if Christ bestowed the dignity of being Queen on Mary, how was it that he still did not give her the office of advocate?” He substantiates this firstly by having recourse to the Gospel of the day and thus to his main topic: “This is another reason why in today’s Gospel at first Christ and Mary are called children of David, a sinner who came from Abraham the Just. In this same history many kings are said to be idolaters and many women are said to be sinners, gentiles, adulteresses, incestuous and prostitutes, because as everyone knows Christ and Mary were born from sinners and are who they are in order to save sinners and defend sinners.”[13] To provide a better explanation of how Mary is an advocate he says later on “St Ambrose said something very special” concerning a passage in the Book of Sirach: Gyrum coeli circuivi sola (Ecclesiasticus 24:8), applying it to the Virgin as advocate because she is like “someone who is turning around, looking around, turning things upside down in the House of Paradise, like the woman who was searching for the lost coin.”[14]

He adds two comparisons and an exemplum to the passage from the Bible in order to provide a better understanding of Mary’s work as an advocate. The first comparison is based on the ancient cosmology of the heavens. Mary “is like the prime mover in the heavenly atmosphere … that draws after it the other lesser heavenly bodies.” The second comparison is with an act of court etiquette. “How much good breeding would be shown if when the Queen went down on her knees before the King to ask him for a favour, powerful people, such as the Barons and the Princes who were present also went down on their knees out of respect and kneeling down joined in the Queen’s request?”

The exemplum also pertains to what takes place in the main courts and it is combined with similar Biblical examples: “What I meant to say is that I had also read that when Princes really love somebody, as they say, with love of the highest rank, they usually want to present them with a ring that bears the royal crest, as Ahasuerus did to Haman and to Mordecai, or give them many signed documents or blank forms to help them obtain whatever they are asking for.” He follows this with a detailed application to the Virgin: “Therefore, when we approach God to ask for his gifts and do not appear to be receiving them, and then after approaching Mary we do receive them and are heard, let us imagine that she stamped the king’s crest to the page, or signed the documents with God’s signature. God approves and ratifies all the graces that he either denies or grants through the Blessed Virgin. This is not because the Virgin is more powerful (would not this be absurd?), but because God wants everyone to know that there is no grace, no matter how hard to acquire, that a human being can receive, that cannot be obtained through her. She is the divine channel and aqueduct that conveys all the waters of heavenly grace from above to the world below”[15]

At this point, after he has completed his elucidation, Mautini introduces the final part which combines the bitter reproof of vice and the sweet encouragement of virtue, skilfully interwoven with each other. Making the best use of his strong oratory, which struck and impressed his audience, he launched into a way of speaking that was emotionally arousing and brought all that had been said back to the original quotes:

When we see as Christians that God is so enraged that he is challenging the Church with the sword of disasters, famine, wars, pestilence, heresy, discord that has no end and is not opening his ears to the many prayers that are being offered continually, let us turn to the Virgin and beg at the gate of the advocate of the world and ask that she bring about a surgical operation and save the ship of Peter that is endanger by many reefs and buffeted by the winds of many visible and invisible enemies. She is able to do this because she is powerful, and she will do it because she is the Star of the Sea… Respice stellam, voca Mariam, cogita Mariam (St Bernard exclaimed). Oh, holy Church, Christ’s spouse, our Mother and ship that can save the world as it is about to sink in the storms of temptation, gaze up into the Polar Star who is the beacon for your voyage and your sure pilot: Respice stellam, Voca Mariam … When your very children, acting like enemies within your house, cause you anxiety; when evil Christians disturb you because of the enormity of their sins, because of affairs of state, because they take over sacred jurisdiction, having little respect for your laws trying to destroy you and insult you, respice stella, voca Mariam, cogita Mariam … Holy Mary Look on us as your most humble vassals, in this kingdom that is at war as you are the Queen of the world. Look on us in this bitter fight for salvation that we wage with the devils who are our enemies, because you are the advocate of sinners. Look on us as we are living amongst a thousand dangers because you were predestined and exalted above mere creatures to the heights of Paradise. Finally, look on us in this valley of tears, because you are deliciis affluens innixa supra Dilectum tuum. Qua de te, quia de te natus est Iesus, qui vocatur Christus.[16]

From this example one gains an understanding of the unity and internal coherence of the whole texture and structure of Girolomo da Narni’s sermon and the skilful manner in which he develops the parts that appear to be substantially simple and the result of revision and study.

All of his sermons demonstrate the balance of “pastoral and maternal love” that ought to the substance of the life of Church Pastors. When speaking about what Prelates ought to be doing he continually repeats that this “perfect kind of love, multiplied three times over, should not remain inactive but ought to assist the shoulders of Prelates to carry the load, to be watchful and to visit, to preach, to be concerned, to advise and to make every effort in loving zeal to carry out the difficult task of winning souls back to God.”[17]

This subject, together with the rich and very concrete applications followed by countless exhortations and reproofs would deserve a special analysis. This would show Mautini’s extraordinary energy and cunning when he complains about Prelates who change the workplace of the vineyard into a garden of pleasure and revenue, or when he describes the “art of the apostolic preacher”, when he challenges them about their attentiveness or residence in their dioceses and their responsibility regarding pastoral visitation, or exhorts them to be generous in giving alms to the poor, to be on guard against heresies, to be prudent and not to immediately use censures, and not to be attached to those of royal blood and to adulation etc. This would be an endless topic that would fill an entire volume.[18]

Mautini applies to perfection each one of the rules of his method of preaching, with a great command of apostolic sentiments, with forceful logic and solid doctrine as well as “authentic magnificence and a solemn style.”[19] This led a leading modern scholar to comment on the sacred oratory of the seventeenth century that the Prediche did not have “a trace of over-romanticizing” even if at times they broke out into well-used metaphors and contrasts and the display and luxury of erudition. However, what followed was more conventional, the texts were dealt with and well-explained, and “the layout of the sermon, which contained the teaching and the scholastic distinctions and subdistinctions, created organic unity.”[20]

Another author, who published a Storia della predicazione at the end of the last century, praised Mautini because he knew how to “deliver an uncommonly powerful discourse with simplicity”. He put it quite precisely: “To tell the truth there was not a lot of emotional content in what he said and it lacked vigorous eloquence but it contained clarity of mind and a certain seriousness that was well in accord with his piety and humility and this saved the day, if not from all errors certainly from many of the errors of the day and made him a better preacher than many others. He usually divided the sermon into two or three parts moving on to the proofs in an orderly manner not without raising some paradoxes and providing some clever descriptions.”[21]

Girolomo da Narni was a child of his times with his quite profound and precise style. At times images appeared that were somewhat strange. He wrote in his “Modo di comporre prediche” that it was necessary “to abstain from all kinds of “everyday concepts” but to use beautiful concepts that are uncommon and personal, but not affectatious (cf. n. 6537). There was a traditional tendency in Church oratory and literature in general to use colourful images as shining examples. Actually, he did not do this. He just asserts his religious zeal and his personal temperament by using exaggeration, hyperbole, metaphysical language and audacious antitheses as spontaneous psychological instruments that were carefully thought out to produce effective images and inner feelings.

In the Prediche there are a few, but not many, examples of “a thought that could be used in a sermon”, that is “a shrewd observation presented as a metaphor, taken from Sacred Scripture”. Here is a typical case in point that was contained in the sermon for Friday of the Third Week in Lent:

What did God do to plant the vineyard of the Church in Christ? He adopted the same method as farmers when they are planting their vineyards. First, they turn the soil over and break up the ground so that the roots can spread out and take root. They will then develop long deep furrows that indicate where the vine has been planted. Ultimately, they will make lines in the soil where the vines have been planted, which will grow longer and yield wonderful fruit in proportion to the depth at which they were planted.

Listen to the Prophet David who presented the Redeemer in a Psalm using a metaphorical expression. He said: Supra dorsum meum fabricaverunt peccatores, prolongaverunt iniquitatem suam. (Ps 128:3). I think of this as being said of Christ’s back and shoulders, as if they were a field in which the vineyard of the Church had been planted. The executioners, who are called sinners here, represent the ploughmen or thieves, who are turning over or ploughing the sacred soil of Christ’s flesh … When you plough or turn soil over one side is turned upward and the other downward, so that the entire field looks like it has been ploughed and lined with furrows. Because of the scourging Christ’s flesh was also marked with gashes that either made it swell up or sink down to the very bone where is had been struck, so much so that it looked like his flesh had been ploughed leaving deep furrows. In the flesh of the Incarnate Word, which was so broken, furrowed, cut and covered with blood, the father of the family planted the beautiful vineyard of the Church. Homo erat Paterfamilias, qui plantavit vineam. (Mt 22:33).

Oh Rome, when he wanted to plant the capital city that would make laws for the entire world, your own Romulo dug a furrow and marked the site with a plough. Among the ancients it was the custom that when they wanted to plant a vineyard or establish a city to first mark its boarders: Interea Aeneas urbem designat aratro.[22] Christ’s Church ought to be a vineyard or city on a mountain, and because of the Sevenfold Spirit it could be the city with seven hills and because you eternal glory it is known as the Roman Church and its head the Roman Pontiff. How wonderful is that! It was not only planned but planted by the Father of the Family, in the furrow and with the plough of the cross in the very precious soil of Christ’s Humanity?[23]

The bitter tone that was a part of profane literature was certainly not lacking from his personal oratorical style. He made use of contrasts, hyperbole, phonetic jungles, play on words, an abundance of epithets and many other opportune expressions. We could analyse the more significant aspects of his articulation and examine the various constructs of the period at depth, but it would require a lengthy chapter. The unknown person who wrote to Bishop Bascapè had this to say:

I did not intend to speak about his works which you ought to see at some time even though he, being humble three times over, would not want this either because he thought that they were of no value or because he did not want them spread about. I only wish to speak about the delivery. Because this was so outstanding, some say that what he wrote was a comedown. Others disagree. I agree with the person who wrote the life of Virgil when he said: Pronuciabat maxima cum suavitate et lenociniis miris. Iulius Montanus Poeta volebat dicere vi ablaturum se quardam Virgilio, si et vocem posset, et os et hypodrisin. Eosdem enim versus, eo pronunciante, bene sonare; sine illo manescere quasi mutos. I end with this example conceding that once Mautini’s Prediche left his mouth they were like Virgil’s verses. However, I also say that just as Virgil’s words when they were written down represent Virgil’s style, so too when Mautini’s words were written down they represent his style. Some will disagree. Therefore, the debate will continue.[24]

Such “a lengthy debate” can be applied to all great orators, since a written text is no longer a live presentation with all the magnetism of a living style and the use of charismatic words. All the same as far as history is concerned Girolomo da Narni will remain a great model, “a great image of apostolic preaching” as, some ten years later, one of his successors in the Apostolic Palace, Giovan Paolo Oliva, said.[25] He will remain an almost heroic image as he was presented by the unknown witness: “This unforgettable man, of pleasing appearance and dignified manner, who had commanding eyes, a strong and sad facial expression, a disposition that was at once stern and sweet, who was introverted, with an authoritative gaze that suited all his actions, a flash of the eyelash that was so dignified and so modest yet most serious and gentle and endowed with a range of gestures that exceeded what the ancient orators had..”[26]

This is a character sketch that reflected once more the spiritual features of the ardent, penitential and prophetic image of Christ’s predecessor St John the Baptist who was like a light ardens et lucens (Jn 3:35), a topic that his Dominican friend Nicola Ricardi, the Master of the Sacred Palace, had developed in a memorable obituary.[27] The words were so close to his temperament and character as well to his evangelical and Capuchin style of preaching and the mission of the Church.

  1. Cf. See the first two volumes for the brilliant and highly critical treatment by Stanislao de Campagnola, La predicazione cappuccino come progammazione religiosa e culturale nel Cinquecento italiano. (I Frati Cappuccini – Sussidi per la lettura dei documenti e testimonianze del I secolo, 8), Roma 1989, 33 pp.; id., L’esempio della predicazione presso I cappuccini nel loro primo secolo di esperienza. (I Frati Cappuccini.., Susidi…, 9)) Roma 1989, 28, pp.
  2. Exemplary research on this method can be seen in the volume by Herve Martino, Le metier de prédicatetur en France septentrianale å la fin du Mayen Age (1350-1520), Paris 1988 (con scelta bibliog.. retrospettiva), together with the older, but still valid works of G. Delcorno, Giordano da Pisa e l’prattica predicazione volgare, Firenzw 1975, and that by A. Godin, Spiritualité franciscaine en Flandre au XVI siècle, L’homéliaire de Jean Vitrier, Texte, etude thémalique et sé miantique, Genève 1971.
  3. This is the word that was used by Salvatore Rasari da Rivolta. Cf. n. 3424
  4. The chroniclers say that this is “a new way of preaching”. Cf. representative of all MHOC III, 95.
  5. See the preceding section that deals with spiritual, ascetical and mystical literature. With regard to Capuchin catechisms see below sections II/3, pp. 3165-3401.
  6. For example, this is the case with some of the sermons by Mattia da Salò. Cf. below doc. 10, pp. 2529-2546.
  7. Such as the twelve sermons by Mattia da Salò that he preached in Milan in 1597. Cf. doc. 9 pp. 2507-2529
  8. Such as, the sermons on Predestination by Bernardino da Balvano. Cf. doc. 3, p. 2306ss
  9. Such as, the sermons by Giacinto da Casale. Cf, infr doc. 17, pp. 2808-2825.
  10. There is also a collection, ms. of 28 sermons by Innocenzo degli Orsilaghi da Pisa, dating from 1564, that we have not examined. Cf. Manoscritti Incunabili Cinquecentine. Catalogo di cura di P. Pietro Landi (Comune di Lucca – Biblioteca di Cappuccini di Monte S. Quirico Lucca). Lucca [1986], 34, n. 3.
  11. See below in connection with notes 127-129.
  12. See section I doc. 16 pp. 1085-1190
  13. Regarding this important personage in the Order we have nothing. See below.
  14. Cf. for example, Brother Lodovico da Foligno who “on the lower side of his habit he had stitched a piece of cloth where he carried a book of sermons in the vernacular and he did this because he had no pockets.” MHOCIII, 287); “At Chapter time, when they left their places and went on a journey, no one at the time had pockets, except the preachers, some of whom had a pocket for small books, however, there were only a few of them.” (MHOC IV, 38)
  15. See below on this matter in conjunction with note 45.
  16. The title of the book was Prediche overo quaresimale del p. Matteo da Corigliano dei Minori Cappuccini di S. Francesco … Dedicate a D. Nicolò Bernardino Sanserverino, principe di Bisignano, duca di Corigliano ecc. In Cosenza, appreso Andrea Riccio, MDXCIV [1594]. Cf. F. Russo, I frati minori cappuccino della provincial di Coscenza dale origini ai nostril giorni Napoli 1965, 106.
  17. Cf. Stanislao da Campagnola, Un Cinquecento francescano che contesta “novella, posie, historie e il prurienti canti”, in San Francesco e il francescanesimo nella lettatura italiana del Rinascemento al Romanticismo. Atti del convegno nazionale (Assisi, 18-20 maggio 1989), a cura di Silvio Pasquazi, Roma 1990, 68s (the whole article 57-89).
  18. Cf. Tommasino de’ Bianchi, ditto de’ Lancellotti, Cronica Modenese, vol. V, Paris 1867, 102.
  19. Cf. MHOC V, 98
  20. Cf. MOCH I. 36, 192
  21. Colpetrazzo proposed this division into periods. Cf. MHOC II, 259.
  22. Following the apostasy of Ochino Paul III suspended all Capuchins from preaching for almost two years.
  23. Cf. MOCH VI, 179
  24. Cf. MHOC II188s
  25. Ibid., 248
  26. Cf. MHOC I, 226.
  27. Informatione del reverendo M. Gioseffo Zarlino da Chioggia, in MHOC I, 499s.
  28. Cf. MHOC III, 330
  29. Ibid., 95
  30. Cf. MHOC V, 201.
  31. Cf. MHOC III, 64. – The sermons used by Bernardino da Montolono (and many other preachers) have been collected by the Dominican Giovanni Herolt, Sermones discipuli detempore et sanctis, et quadrgesimsle eiusdem cum promptuario ac diversis tabulis perquam necessariis, Lugduni 1529: this book had many editions: cf. J. Qetif-J. Richard, Scriptores Ordinis Praedicatorum I, Lutetiae Parisiorum 1719, 762.
  32. Cf. MHOC VI, 228.
  33. Ibid 392.
  34. Cf. Tommassino de’ Blanchi, ditto de’ Lancellotti, Cronaca modenese, vol. V, Parma 1867, 486, see n. 2161. With regard to the preaching of Piantanida the other comments of the chronicler that follow are also interesting.
  35. Cf. MHOC III, 161s. For Giovanni da Fano ibid, 96. Someexpressions come from Fabiani, MHOC, I 298s.
  36. Tommassino da Bianchi, ditto de’ Lancellotti, Cronaca modenese, vol. III, Parma 1865, 19
  37. Ibid, 24, 28, 34.
  38. Ibid, 34
  39. For the full text see Ibid. vol. IV Parma 1866, 181.
  40. Ibid, III, 34
  41. Ibid, 36
  42. Ibid, 43s. [Tuesday 19 April 1530]
  43. Cf. MHOC III, 99
  44. Cf. H. Martin, Le métier de prédicateur cit., 52-57.
  45. Cf. ASV, Barb. Lat. 5697, f. 170r.
  46. Cf. [Giovanni da Fano] Dialogo de la saluts tra el frate stimulato et el frate rationabile circa la regula de li fratu Minori etsue dechiatione per stimulate, Ancona 1527: ediz. Seconda a cura del P. Bernardino da Lapedona dei Minori Cappuccini, Idola Del Liri 1933, 97s (cf. FC 9 [1934] 581s).
  47. See Vol. I, 705-707, nn 662-664.
  48. Delio Cantimorti says that Ochino’s personality and works offer the best explanation “for the condition of our religious thinking at the outbreak of the reform movement. He is perhaps the most important of the Italian reformers and as such he combines all the characteristics of this group of men.” Cf. D. Cantimorti, Bernardino Ochino uomo del Rinascimento e rifirmatore, Pisa 1929, 5.
  49. Cf. R. Rusconi, Predicazione e vita religiosa nella società itakiana, Torino 1981, 258
  50. The booklets of sermons ran to many editions. The most complete edition, which was published in five volumes by Basilica in 1562, contained 295 sermons.
  51. Cf. Paolo Simoncelli, Evangelismo italiano del Cinquecento. Questione religiosa e nicodemismo, Roma 1979. B. Nicolini, Il pensiero di Bernardino Ochino, Napoli 1939. Ph. Mcnair –J Tedeschi. New Light on Ochino, in Bibl. Humanisme et Renaissance 35 (1973) 289-301.
  52. He explicitly quotes St Paul at least about fifty times in the course of the fifteen sermons.
  53. On this subject cf. Th. M. Charland, Artes predicandi. Contribution à l’histoire de la rhétorique au Moyen Age, Paris 1936; C. Delcorno, Giordano da Pisa e l’antica predicazione volgare, Firenze 1975; L. longère, La predication mèdièvale, Paris 1983.
  54. For similar expressions see nn. 5633, 5640, 5649, 5667.
  55. Se also n. 5700.
  56. See for example sermon 12 and sermon 13.
  57. See sermon 12.
  58. Cf. for example in n. 5696 (“venne”), or again in n. 5702 (“ma se tu mi dicessi”), or in n. 5719-21, where he repeats the expression “Se io ti contemplo” and then “Ti vedo”, or in n. 5735 (“la legge di natura”). The most beautiful example is in sermon 7 where he emphasises the Gospel expression: “Christ hid himself and left the temple” (n. 5686).
  59. The symbol of a pair of scales is used in other contexts. “You need to take a pair of scales and place the continual blessings of God on one side and your ingratitude on the other side … (n. 5679). “Whoever takes a pair of scales and places on one side all the torment and suffering of Christ on the cross, and all the martyrdoms of all the elect, and on the other side just one mortal sin will experience more grief and torment over the sin …” (n. 5727)
  60. See also i nn. 5774 and 5787.
  61. This image is also used in n. 5684. “It seems to me that at night a little candle that I hold in my hand gives me more light than a big body behind my shoulders.”
  62. On this subject see below in the general introduction to the section in II/4, pp. 3411-3448.
  63. Cf. n. 5783: “We read about a young Roman in Giovanni Cassia …” n. 5677: “What a monk did to show that he was humble and good …” n. 5730; “I will give you an example … There once was a hermit who lived in a desert …” N. 4749: “They say that one day when three children were going to prayer … an elderly nun saw a beautiful young child about ten years of age, who was as beautiful as a flower …”
  64. Ochino presents the image of Mary Magdalene exactly as it is in legend, tradition and art which mixes her devotion with her sensuality. “On a rock … we see a naked lady covered by her hair and alone in the place known as the Bauma near Marsalis … she was a sinner who had become a penitent … she had been the most lustful sinner and the most sensual woman in the world, but now … she is the model and norm for every penitent after being in Bauma for thirty years … a place that is as full of devotion as I have ever seen. … Magdalene remained here in so much penance that she had no concern about any food except weeping and contemplating God. She was lifted up in spirit with the angels seven times a day.” (cf. nn. 5802, 5807, 5808). On this subject see Baudouin de Gaiffier, Iconographie de Marie Magdaleine. A propos d’une série de tableaux du XVe ou XVIe siècle, Bruxelles 1980; La Maddalena tra sacro e profane, a cura di Marilena Mosco, Milano 1986; Salvatore Ussia, Ik tema letterario della Maddalena nelll’età della Controriforma, in Riv. Di Storia e Letteratura religiosa, 24 (1988) 385-424.
  65. The most common was Plato (about eight times), then Aristotle (four times), Democritus (three times), Socrates, Diogenes and Theophrastus (twice), and Archytas, Apollonius, Heraclitus, Miletus, Pythagoras, Hippocrates, Themistius, Dementicus only once.
  66. Cf. nn. 5661, 5687 etc.
  67. For example, in n. 5711, where he gives the example of a father who had a son who loved a “scoundrel” of a woman and who reproved him harshly and succeeded in correcting him and making him fall in love with another “beautiful child” who subsequently became his wife. Then in n. 5751: “If your husband was a great Lord and he was in France, or indeed in Spain and he loved you more than anything else;” or in n. 5753: “If your dear husband, Madame, wanted to go on a journey, and so that your would always remember him, he gave you a beautiful gem or ring …,” or in n. 5775: “Imagine a noblewoman, or woman from the city whose father wanted to give her in marriage, and when they were all in agreement he came to his child and summoned a notary and the man whom she was to marry …” etc.
  68. Cf. n. 5652: “Do you want to have an example of its treacherous nature and inconstancy? In the case of the Duke of Florence all was full of the promise of good fortune, wealth, honours, position, happiness, pleasure, possessions, hope, health, security! Never the less in an instant he lost everything.
  69. Other examples: in n. 5701: “
  70. See n. 5711: “If someone comes to you saying: I have to tell you that someone, who is carrying an unsheathed sword, has been deliberately sent by a certain party to kill you, and he is already on his way …”. See also n. 5724: “He comes to us like someone who kills someone on the road in a forest, like one who was hidden so that no one but the Emperor knew…. See also n. 5725 where he gives the example of a woman who has been condemned to death and in order to save herself has to choose the right road when she finds herself at a fork in the road: “There were two roads, one was beautiful and pleasing, with a beautiful inn, but it was very dangerous …; the other was narrow, thorny, ran through an overgrown forest , but was very safe…”
  71. Cf. n. 5702: “If you had a brother in Turkey who was a prisoner and it became necessary to give a thousand scudi to redeem him …” (n. 5672); “If a son was redeemed from the hands of the Turks and was redeemed by his good father paying a high price …” (n 5675); “If your carnal father had spent a thousand scudi to redeem or pay for you to be free from the hands of the Turks or the Moors, if a quarter or a coin had been missing from the amount do you think that he would not have to pay it for you to be free?”
  72. Cf. n. 5734: “The sect of Muhammad appears to have no laws and few binding precepts. However, it seems to me that this makes the poor souls commit great evil and permits them to fall into all kinds of vice, into all kinds of sensuality and laxity so that there is nothing that might be called laws but just lawlessness that promotes all kinds if sin.” Almost ten years later Mattia Bellintani wrote that because of their expansion by means of a “Holy War” the followers of Muhammad became the slyest antichristian presence of that time, Cf. C. Cargnoni, Riforma della Chiesa, profesia e Apocalisse in Mattia Bellintani da Salò, in Laurent. 26 (1958) 559s.
  73. This is an example that features an actual concrete fact and that asked the noblewomen of Venice to do the same thing. We have not been able to identify this charitable woman.
  74. Cf. MHOC II, 429
  75. Cf. Eduardus Alenconiensis, Tribulationes, 6 nota4.
  76. Cf. nn. 5798, 5758, 5747.
  77. St Augustine is cited seven times (cf. nn. 5641, 5643, 5647, 45685, 5700, 5798), St Gregory twice (nn. 5655, 5798), St Jerome (n. 5782) and St Anselm (n. 5700) once each.
  78. Cf. Giovanni Claudio Bottini, La “scorza” e la “mindola” della Biblia secondo san Bernardino da Siena, in Frate Francesco 47 (1980) 216-224: see also Carlo Delcorno, L’ “exemplum” nella predicazione di Bernardino da Siena, in Bernardino predicatore nella società del suo tempo, Todi 1976, 73-107; Id., L’ “ars predicandi” di Bernardino da Siena, in Letture Italiane (Firenze) 32 (1980) 441-475; Id., La narrative di san Bernardino da Siena. Poetica della voce e arte del racconto nelle prediche di san B da S, in Vita Pens. 63 (1980) 325-335; Id., “Ars praedicandi” e “ars memorativa” nell’esperienza di san B. da S., in Bull. Dep. Abruzzese Stor. Patria 70 (1980) I, 77-162; Piero Sollazzi, Espressività del parlato bernardiniano, in Studi Franc. 77 (1980) 285-324; Id., Meccanismi allocutivi nelle prediche di san Bernardino (Corso senese del 1427) in MF 80 (1980) 385-424; Giovanni Battista Bronzini, Pubblico e predicazione populare di B. da S. in Lares 44 (1978) 3-31.
  79. Taken from sermons 23 and 24 in La seconda parte delle prediche di mess. Bernardino Ochino Senese, [Genevra 1562], n.n. However, there are other earlier editions.
  80. Cf. pred. XXIV ibid. f. nn-nn2.
  81. Pred. 23; ibid., f. mm 5/1rv.
  82. Obviously, here we have not taken into account the opposition to Rome that was evident in his sermons as a Protestant.
  83. These important references to the primitive Church can be seen in nn. 5621, 5635, 5638, 5729, 5754.
  84. See above pp. 445-539, nn. 4013-4111.
  85. The adjectives which occur most frequently with the name of Jesus Christ are: sweet, loving, kind, gentle, pleasing, humble, merciful, blessed, beloved, very poor, abject, naked, and crucified. The title Jesus Christ or others such as Redeemer, Saviour, and Word of God are repeated frequently. In the fifteen reportationes (notes taken) the word “Cristo” is repeated almost 500 times.
  86. See above, pp. 530-540, nn. 4112-4123.
  87. Cf. Pred 10; nn. 5808 and 5801 and the moving lyrical finale in n. 5723.
  88. See vol. I of I frati cappuccino, pp. 406-430, the notes to cap. IX in the Constitutions in Rome S. Eufenia 1536, where a few texts from Ochino and other authors are mentioned. Recently the topic was the subject of a Doctoral Dissertation at the University of Chieti that was submitted by Bernardi Alessandria, Il contributo di Bernardino Ochino alle constituzioni cappuccino del 1536, Chieti anno accademico 1987-88.
  89. Cf. Const. 1536, n. 117 (n. 371).
  90. Ibid. n. 112 (n. 363).
  91. Ibid, … note the play on words with the adjectives “infocate” and “focate”
  92. Ibid, n. 111 (n. 562).
  93. Ibid, n. 118 (n. 372). With regard to the individual words see V. V. Ricci, Spigolature di esponenti lessicali e concettuali da documenti cappuccino del Cinque-Seicento, in Convivium 37 (1969) 649-663.
  94. Erasmus wrote in his Ciceronianus that “Italians have more literary skill than piety.” Cf. Lionello Sozzi, Retorica e umanrsimo, in Storia d’Italia. Annali IV: Intellettuali e potere, a cura di Corrado Vinanti, Torino 1981, 52s, the whole article 47-78.
  95. This concept can be found in Const. 1536, n. 120 (n. 574).
  96. Cf. F. Dittrich, Regesten und Briefe des Kardinals Gaspero Contarini, Braunsberg 1881, 308.
  97. Cf. Rita Belladonna, Alcune osservazioni intorno al sunto di una predica sconosciuta di Bernardino Ochino, in Critica Storica, 14 (1977), 149-154. See also R. Rusconi, Predicazione e vita religiosa nella Socità italiana, Torino, 1981, 267s.
  98. Cf. Delio Cantimori, Eretici italiani del Cinquecento. Ricerche storiche, Firenze 1967, 120-127. R. Rusconi, Predicazione e vita religiosa cit., 271-274.
  99. Stanislao da Campagnola has made the accurate observation that Italian religious history prior to and after the Council of Trent is fundamental ‘for the study of the “informal efforts” at religious reform which preceded the promptings of Trent and for those that followed the norms and the authority of the Council”. There are – he wrote – “two strong periods, that are marked – in the history of Capuchin preaching – by a profound pause that was mainly due to the twenty years of confusion between 1542 and 1562. During these twenty years, much is left up to guesswork.” Cf., Stanislao da Campagnola, La predicazione cappuccino come progammazione religiosa e culturale nel Cinquecento italiano, cit., Roma 1989, 20s.
  100. Cf. G. Alberigo, Studi e problemi relative all’applicazione del Concilio di Trento in Italia (1545-1558), in Rin. Stor. Ital. 70 (1958) 239-298; id. Carlo Borromeo come modello di vescovo della Chiesa post-tridentina, ibid., 79 (1967) 1031-1052; id., L’episcopato nel cattolicesimo post-tridentino, in Cristanessimo nella Storia 6 (1985) 71-91; Paolo Prodi, Il cardinal Gabriele Paleotti (1522-1597) II, Roma 1967, 75-136 (= Predicazione e vita religiosa), Virginio Luigi Bernorio, La Chiesa di Pavia nel secolo XVI e l’azione pastorale del cardinal Ippolito de Rossi 1560-1591), Pavia 1971; F. Molinari, Il card. Teatino beato Paolo Burali e la riforma tridentina a Piacenza (1568-1576), Roma 1957; in general, see IH. Jedin, Il tipo ideale di vescovo secondo la rifirma cattolica, Brescia, 1950.
  101. Cf. the text of the decree of the Council in Conc, Oecumenicorum Decreta, Bologna 1962, 643ss. For the Constitutions of 1536 see n. 122 (n. 380).
  102. Conc. Oecum. Decreta cit., 645, n. 11: see also R. Russconi, Praedicazione e vita religiosa cti.. 302s.
  103. Conc. Oecum. Decreta, 645s.
  104. Cf. R. Rusconi, Predicazione e vita religiosa cit., 283.
  105. Cf. C. S. Peyronel, Speranze e crisi nel Cinauecento modernese. Testimoni religiose e vita cittadina ai tempi di G. Morone, Milano 1979, 227-229. – See also the observations of Gilberti which were placed in a work under the title of: Istruzioni per predicatori; (Verona1540), in J. M. Gilberti, Opera, Hostiliae 1740, 50=53; the regulations of G. Paleotti, Avvertimenti d’alcune cose che si desidero siano ricordate al popolo secondo l’occorrenza dalla reverendi padri predicatori, bologna 1569, which repeat the prescriptions of Trent to the letter. (cf. P. Prodi, Il cardinale Gabriele Paleotti, II, Roma 1967, 79) and the Instrucitiones praedicationis Verbi Dei by san Carlo Borromeo. (Cf. C. Cargoni, La perdicazione dei frati cappuccino nell opera di riforma promossa dal concilio di Trento, Roma 1984, 24-29.
  106. Cf. Conc. Oecum. Decreta
  107. Cf. Rusconi, Predicazione e vita religiosa, cit., 286s. With regard to the image of the Parish Priest cf. Luciano Allegra, Il parraco: un mediatore fra alta e bassa cultura, in Storia d’Italia Annali IV: Intellettuali e potere, Torino 1981, 895-947.
  108. Cf. Giovanni Pozzi, Intorno alla predicazione del Panigarola, in Problemi di vita religiosa in Italia nel Cinquecento, Padova 1960, 316, 318.
  109. Cf. MHOC IV, 134.
  110. See the exposition of the lexical meaning of “curioso – curiosità in Ricci, Spigolature cit., in Convivium 37 (1969) 651s.
  111. Cf. n. 3110.
  112. Cf. Alberto Aubert, Alle origini della controriforma: studi e problemi su Paolo IV, in Riv. Di Storia e Lett. Relig. 22 (1986) 303-355.
  113. Vittorio Coletti, Parole del pulpito. Chiesa e movimenti religiosi tra latino e volgare nell’Italia del Medioevo e del Rinascimento, Casale Monferrato 1983, 221.
  114. This is Girolomeo Finucia da Pistoia concerning whom see later pp. 1822-1832.
  115. Cf. C. Urbanelli, Storia 1/3, 320, doc. 320.
  116. With regard to the years up to1609 see C. Urbanelli, Storia, I/2, 503-520; for the years 1573-1605 see also MHOC XVIII, 32-34; XIX, 16-18.
  117. The text is taken from Paolo Prodi, Il cardinale Gabriele Pale otti [1522-1597] II, Roma 1967, 91s.
  118. Cf. above note 28. C. Cargnoni, L’apostolato dei cappuccino come “redundantia di amore” in IF 53 (1978) 588s, the whole article 559-593.
  119. Cf. Operetta nuova nella quale si contengono otto prediche della predestinatione et una della Concettione della Vergine, predicato e composte per il reverendo padre fra Bernardino Balbano cappuccino predicatore catolico, in Messina per Pietro Spira nell’anno della salute M. D. LXI [1561], f. 2r.
  120. Cf. The brief Dudum sub datum of 25.5.1553 (BC III, 48).
  121. To gain some idea of the cultural background of Bernardino da Balvano we counted about thirty passages taken from St Augustine, whom he calls “the light of the Church”, 20 from St Jerome, 14 from “the holy Bishop Ambrose”, 13 from “Blessed” Anselm and the “Glossa di Lyra”, 8 from “seraphic Bonaventure”, the Angelic Doctor, St Thomas, Chrysostom and the Code of Canon Law which he calls “the sacred decree”. There are another 6 quotations from “Catholic Athanasius”, 4 from “devout Bernard”, and Origen, 3 from “Blessed Gregory”, 2 from “the enlightened Doctor Francis”, that is Francesco Meyronnes (Maron), from Gregory Nazianzen and from the “Teacher”, that is Peter Lombard, and just one from Duns Scotus, Bede, Sedulio and Teofilato.
  122. Here are a few examples of how the preachers begin. “We ask (or beg) that the most sweet Madonna grant us the supreme grace” (in the second, third and sixth sermons cf. .ff. 14r, 25r, 60r); “Let us all first ask most devoutly for the grace of the Holy Spirit, through the Queen of Heaven, the Virgin Mary” (sermon four, f. 35r); “However, let us first devoutly offer prayer to our very sweet Mother so that she may grant us her holy grace. Hail etc.” (sermon five, f. 48v); “Help me by your prayers to the Mother of mercy to obtain the grace of the Holy Spirit” (sermon seven, f. 73v).
  123. For example, see nn. 3812, 3821. There are many examples in other sermons that are often introduced with the words: “Here is an example”, “Take this example”, “Here is a clear example”, etc.
  124. Cf. Operetta nuova …, f. 74rv. To have a clearer idea of this course of sermons we now give the original titles of the sermons: 1st Della etimologia ecc. (cf. n. 5811; 2nd Del primo significato della predestinatione, cioè di predestinante, che cosa è Iddio come predestine, quando e perchè ; 3rd Del secondo significato della predestinatione, cioè della cosa predestinata, che cosa è esser predestinato, quanti sono predestinati, come sono per la predestinatione, che differenza è fra loro; 4th Della predestinatione eccellente e particolare degli soggetti nobilissimi, et huomini heroici della Chiesa, che cosa sia questa predestination, singolare, quail siano con essi predestinati, per che ragione, in che convnga, e in che non con l’universale,e se per questa particolare si diminisca alla universale cosa alcuna; 5th Del fine, tertio significato della predestinatione, che è, e qual cosa ci giova particolarmente ad acquistarlo, e che utilità si cavano d’esso; 6th Del quarto et ultimo significato della predestinatione, cioè delli mezi d’essa predestinatione, quali sono e quanto necessari co’l modo d’haverli; 7th Degli dubii che si potriano essere nelle Scritture, e fra gli dottori con loro risolutione e concordanze.
  125. Taken from a letter from Eusebio d’Ancona to Cardinal Giulio della Rovere, Roma 29.1.1565. Cf. Urbanelli, Storia, I/3, 197, doc. 200.
  126. This episode is reported in detail in Storia I/2, 289-285.
  127. This is the same Capuchin from Calabria who reported these details in the preface to the first edition of his sermons on predestination. “To the Reverend Piovano di San Silvestro and to his magnificent fellow countrymen, Fra Girolamo, a Capuchin from Calabria, sends greetings and peace in Christ Jesus. Having begun last summer to read the Epistle of St Paul the Apostle to the Romans, and having omitted chapter eight, for a reasonable cause, the Majesty of Christ wanted me to begin from the point where I left off. Since the fourth chapter and what follows deals with predestination, I wanted not only to write about it but also, together with Scripture, to deal with this arduous and difficult subject as briefly and clearly as possible, so as to please the Superiors who, alongside yourself, exercise authority in this matter…. In the same Church 28th December 1565.” Cf. Tratto della divina predestinatione … In Venetia (1565), f. 3rv n, n.
  128. Cf. Arthur Lauria, Le premier lieve imptimé à Tarente 1576, Paris 1964 – To be exact, note that the title of the first edition which came out in Venice is: Trattato della / divina predestinatione, / Ristretto in quarto / Capitoli, da Fra Girolamo / Dinami Calabrese / Cappuccino di San / Francesco, predicando et leggendo, in /Venetia in San Silvestro, a utilità / et contentezza de’ semplici et l’studiosi di Cristo. // in Venetia, per Domenico et Alvisse zio fratelli [1565]. 15x 10 cm., 19 ii, n.n. –The second edition (reprinted) in Padua copies of which can be found in Milan in the Bibl. di Breta and the Nationale di Firenze. The third edition is the most authentic. There is a very rare copy in the British Museum with the following title: Divina / Predestinatione / Ristretta in cinque Capitoli. / Dal R. P. fra Girolamo Dinami / calabrese Cappuccino, predicando e leg. / gendo in Venetia, a Sante / Apostolo ne l’anno /1565 / E dal medesimo in molti luoghi / ampliata, e con migliore deligentia / ristampata in Taranto. // Colophon: In Taranto per Quinitiliano Campo nel primo del mese di marzo [1576]. 14×8 cm, 34 ff.
  129. Here are the titles of the chapters: 1st In che cosa convengano i Dottori in questa material; 2nd, In che discordano gli Dottori in questa difficilissima material; 3rd, Confutation delle prefate openioni; 4th, Resolutione e confirmatione della vera e pia openione; and in the Taranto edition of 1567 a fifth chapter was added: Si l’ uomo può conoscere s’egli è predestinato o reprobate.
  130. He had taken part in the Council of Trent and given several addresses and the Council Fathers considered him to have been inspired by the Holy Spirit. Cf. A. Brignoli, P. Girolamo da Pistoia …, in CF 35 (1965) 398.
  131. Here are the two texts. “Difficilia fidei catholicae non esse tratenda rudi populo: Evidently predestination was included among the subjects that were the more difficult in the Christian religion, and which were thus not suitable in sermons to the people, the majority of whom were uneducated and ignorant,” Cf. B. Fontana, Documenti vaticani contro l’eresia luterana in Italia. In Arch. Soc. Romana di Storia patria 15 (1892) 132. – Non si predichi al popolo queste questione di predestinatione et prescientia Dei, maxime a questo modo che induce li homeni a pazzia aperta … “ Cf. A. Stella, La lettera del Cardinale Contarini sulla predestinazione, in RSCI 15 (1961) 441; seeo H. Jedin, Ein Streit um den Augustinismus vor dem Tridentinum (1537-1543), in Römische Quartalschrift 35 (1927) 351-68; V. Coletti, Parole dal pulpito cit., 215.
  132. Cf. Della Prediche cit. f. 163r.
  133. Ibid., ff. 178r-179r.
  134. For the address that he gave to the Council Fathers on the hierarchy and the priesthood in the Church cf. P. Paolino da Casacalenda, I cappuccini nel concilio di Trento, in CF 3 (1933) 575s. The Council Fathers wanted him to preach to them on 18th October 1562, which was the XXII Sunday after Pentecost. The sermon was even printed but so far it has not been found. Cf. Concio habita in Concilio Tridentino …, domenica 22 post Pentecosten, Brixiae 1562; Louvanii 1567.
  135. Delle prediche cit., f. 179v
  136. Cf. ibid., ff. 179r-195r
  137. Ibid., f. 302rv.
  138. Ibid., 303r. All is proved at length in the course of the sermon using apocalyptic language.
  139. After he has given a list of the points in his sermon he writes that it is only zeal for the Church, “ the spouse of Christ and our mother, that led me (as you can see) to undertake the present work, as this is a book about both aspects of man’s life, in which we learn to know God by his real name; how he calls us all to be saved; the cause of this, the means and the objective of divine predestination; how Christ is our mediator; which is the true and false Church; the head of the Church of Christ; what is the invincible freedom of mankind, divine confession; how man should make no delay in making this confession, since he has sinned; what declares to be mine and his; how the Lutherans are the greatest enemies of the Church, out of all her enemies; how necessary it is to carry the cross, if we wish to rejoice with Christ in heaven, given that Christ carried it for us; how once he knows that the God-Man has called him to himself he should not delay to convert himself to Christ; the way to get to heaven and in short, you can learn from this book all that is required of a Christian to save himself, and that it is not enough to rebuff the arguments of the heretics, but to be converted to the true light, which they have lost. I wish you every happiness!” Cf. Delle prediche cit. f. 4v, n.n.
  140. This expression was used by H. Jedin, Pio V, il papa della riforma tridentina, in Vita e cultura a Mondovi nell’età del vescovo Michele Ghislieri (S. Pio V), Torino 1967, 7-29.
  141. This is what he said in the introductory letter that was written in Bologna on 1st March 1567. Cf. Delle prediche cit., f. 3r n. n.
  142. Ibid., f, 3r n. n.
  143. “I have moved away from the beautiful, artificial and exalted style that is so popular today, and in sending this small offering I was afraid that my simple style might offend the beautiful and educated spirits of my most watchful gentlemen whom I wished to serve in all humility.” (Ibid., f. 4r n.n.). Note that he is already predicting what preaching will be like in the seventeenth century as a literary from and work of art.
  144. Cf. Cost, 1536, n. 118.
  145. “This section will be divided into two parts conversations and homilies, both because this mixture holds the attention of the readers, and because when the subject presents difficulties it is explained more easily by means of conversation. Furthermore, when there are problems the best way to deal with them and make them clear seems to be by using conversation. If the subject matter is not too difficult for this, the plain language of the homely may appear to be better. Plato and many other learned people speak about both and provide examples.” Cf. Delle prediche cit., f. 2v n. n.
  146. Dalle prediche cit., ff. 31r-32r.
  147. Ibid., f. 223v-224r.
  148. Ibid., ff. 141r 153r,
  149. Ibid., f. 214v
  150. Ibid., f. 216rv
  151. Cf. The “thirteenth sermon” ibid., ff. 208r-290r
  152. Cf. The “fourteenth sermon” ibid., ff. 214v -218r
  153. Cf. The “nineteenth sermon” ibid., FF. 293r-295v.
  154. Ibid., 280rv (The eighteenth sermon”).
  155. Ibid., f. 99rv (The “sixth sermon.)
  156. Ibid., ff. 111v-112v.
  157. Cf. C. Urbanelli, Storia cit. I/2 Ancona 1978, 486-493, I/3, Documenti, Ancona 1984, 664s. – Melchiorre da Pobladura, who made a deep study of the life and writing of Fabiani did not know about this, even though what he said was based on evidence taken from the eighteenth century. Cf. De vita et scriptis P. Marii Fabiani a Foro Sarsinio, O.M.Cap, in CF 6 (1936) 586, the whole article 552-594. See also MHOC I, LXXIX.
  158. Cf, C. Urbanelli, Storia I/3; Documenti n. 123
  159. Cf further ahead, doc. 4, immediately before n. 5828,
  160. For example, in ff. 5r-6r there are nine pieces of introduction and an “outburst” against the vice of avarice, and a further thirteen examples of various versions of introductions to sermons can be found on ff. 67r,70v, 78v, 129v-130v, 141v, 145v, 149r, 153v, 207r 238r.
  161. Usually the titles of the sermons refer to the liturgical day with corresponding Gospel quotes such as: “The first Sunday of Lent on the Gospel”, “Tuesday after the third Sunday, on the Gospel,” etc.
  162. Cf. Quadragesimale, f. 141v – 145v
  163. Ibid., ff. 122r-176r
  164. Ibid., ff. 195r-202v.
  165. Ibid., ff. 208r-223v.
  166. See the exact words I Latin in vol II, 165, 1995,
  167. Ibid., 1327, n.3024.
  168. Cf. MHOC IV, 136. – Mattia da Salò on the other hand stresses his devotion to the Madonna, for whom “with the help of some theologians within the Order, including F. Girolamo da Pistoia, he composed his Litanies that contained twelve lines that are recited today in the Capuchin Order following Compline.” (MCOH VI, 310). However, it seems that these litanies are not the same ones that are published in AO 16 (1900) 312s and copied from Breviarum Chronologicum by p. Claudio da Bourges, since they do not contain the “twelve lines” mentioned by Bellintani. Ruffino Poeti da Siena who also wrote in his Croniche that Fabiani “had a strong desire to compose verses in the vulgate that were filled with great devotion.” (Cf. vol. II 1406, n. 3124).
  169. Cf. Norberto Mancini, Un Poemetto Mariano di P. Mario Fabiani?, in IF 9 (1934) 195-208; P. Melchior a Pobladora, De vita et scriptis cit., 587-89; MHOC I, LXXX-LXXXII, Sisto da Pisa, Poemetti del Padre Mario Fabiani Generale dei Cappuccini, ibid. 12 (1937) 315-325, 409-414; 13 (1938) 27-32, 418-423; C. Urbanelli, Storia I/2, 470-72; Stanislao da Campagnola, Un Cinquecento francescano che contesta a “novella, poesie, historie e li pruienti canti” in San Francesco e il francescanessimo nella letteratura italana dal Rinascimento al Romanticismo, a cura di Silvio Pasquazi, Roma 1990, 78-81.
  170. Cf. Quadragesimale cit., ff. 223v-224v.
  171. Cf. Ibid., ff. 70v, 78r, 129v.
  172. Ibid., ff. 228v-229r; also see another example in nn. 5841-43 and 5855- 56.
  173. Cf. I frati cappuccini, vol. II, 801s.
  174. Cf. Manuale, ff. 1r-33v, 42r-63v.
  175. One of these is on “Canonical election” (choice of a candidate for an office); and the other is about “Preaching with a short word”.
  176. Cf. Quadragesimale, ff. 1v-422r
  177. See below nn. 3938-6024
  178. Cf. Quadragesimale, f. 2r.
  179. Cf. Ibid., f. 11r.
  180. Ibid., ff. 27r, 61r.
  181. Cf. ibid., 65s
  182. Ibid., f. 44v, sermon 5.
  183. Ibid., f. 60rv, sermon 7.
  184. Ibid., ff. 110r -111r, sermon 13.
  185. Ibid., ff. 123r-124r, sermon 15.
  186. Cf. ibid., ff. 225r-228v, sermon 27.
  187. Ibid., f. 218v, sermon 26.
  188. Ibid., f. 116v-117r, sermon 14.
  189. Ibid., f. 19r, sermon 3.
  190. Ibid., f. 20v, 21v.
  191. Ibid., ff. 24r-25v.
  192. Ibid., f. 26v.
  193. Ibid., ff. 83rv, sermon 10.
  194. Ibid., ff. 346v-348v, sermon 42.
  195. Cf. AIA 17 (1922), 167; Vásquez Janeiro, Conciencia ecclesial e interpretación de la regal franciscana, in Antonianum 57 (1982) 460 note 197; id., El cardinal capuchino Anselmo Marzati de Montpoli (+ 1607), Aproximación a su vida y edición de su ‘Votum’ sobre el culto debido a los siervos de Dios, ibid., 61 (1986) 625.
  196. Yves Magistri asserts this in his book Bibliothèque Vergier et jardin des âmes désolées et esgarées, (Bourges 1584, 415) where he wrote that, “This Friar Minor, while preaching at the University of Salamanca caused more than five hundred students to enter various religious orders.” Cf. F. Merelli, Alfonso Lupo cappuccino e san Carlo Borromeo, in IF 64 (1989). This study is fundamental, and it contains most of the documentation.
  197. Cf. A. Cistellini, San Filippo Neri, l’Oratorio e la congregazione oratoriana. Storia e spiritualità, I, Brescia 1989, 85-89.
  198. Cf. Il primo processo per san Filippo Neri nel codice Vaticano latino 3798 e in altri esemplari dell’Archivio dell’Oratorio di Roma, edito e annotato da Giovanni Incisa della Rocchetta e Nello Vian con la collaborzione del P. Carlo Gasbarri d, O., vol. II: Testimonianze dell’inchiesta romana: 1596-1609, Città del Vaticano 1958, 134.
  199. Il primo processo, cit., vol. III: Testimonianze dell’inchiesta romana: 1610; Testimonianze “extra urbem”: 1595-1599; Città del Vaticano 1960, 146.
  200. Cf. Arturo M. da Carmignano di Brenta, San Lorenzo da Brindisi, Dottore della Chiesa universale (1559-1619), vol. IV/2, Venezia Mestre 1963, 422, doc. 1184; ‘ … locolentissima oratione, uberrimus irrrigatus, lachrymarum profluviis, eos ad regularis observantiae studium, ad divinum amorem, ad sanctae crucis amplexum, ac denique ad sanctae orationis et devotionis cultum, ad ducto reverendi patris Lupi in seraphica religione quondam religiosissmi viri esemplo, vehemenenter est adhortatus, eosque in concionatorum religionis adoptavit numerum.”
  201. This saying is attributed to Gregory XIII. Cf. Avvisi di Roma from 23/3/1575: BAV, Urb. Lat. 1045, f. 256.
  202. Cf. G. Chiaretti, Archivio Leonesiano, Roma 1965, 481.
  203. Cf. F. Merelli, P. Alfonso Lupi cit., 267s, doc. 126.
  204. Cf, ibid., 347 nota 33: the manuscript is held in the Bibl. Ambrosiana di Milano under the catalogues reference H143 inf. under the title Fr Lupus in Isaiam Prophetam. It contains 384 folios, and is written in Latin but not in his handwriting, see also AO 41 (1025) 32.
  205. These manuscripts are held in the Bibl. Naz. Di Madrid, ms. 6078. Cf. ibid., 31s.
  206. This text comes from the chronicle of Mattia da Padova. Cf. F. Merelli, P. Alfonso Lupo cappuccino cit., 324.
  207. Ibid., 127.
  208. Ibid., 183
  209. Cf. A. Cistellini, San Pilippo Neri cit., II Brescia 1989. Later on, we also read that “the Lent that the Capuchins preached at the Chiesa Nuova will last throughout the following years and will continue to affect many beyond the middle of the eighteenth century.”
  210. Cf. F. Merelli, P. Alfonso Lupo cit., 259, 269.
  211. Lettera del 2.4. 1578; ibid., 179.
  212. Lettera del 2.4.1578; Cf. C. Marcora, I funebri per il Card. Carlo Borromeo nel IV centenario della morte 1584/1984, Milano 1984, 14; F. Merelli, P. Alfonso Lupo, 289s, nota 462.
  213. Minuta da Brescia, marzo 1580; F. Merelli, P. Alfonzo Lupo, 264ss.
  214. Minuta del 18 maggio 1580, ibid., 165. The italics have been added.
  215. Minuta scritta in giorno del 1580; ibid, 266.
  216. Lettera del 27 agusto 1579; ibid., 236s.
  217. Lett. Del 15 ottobre 1579; ibid., 243
  218. Lett. Del 26 novembre 1579: ibid., 252. You can find other examples of his “essagerazioni” [forceful applications] in reports of his preaching in Vicenza in 1586 and in Venice in 1588, where we read: “He often objected to those who did not want to sell corn when famine was very severe, and this meant that the poor were suffering in a special way and even dying of hunger. These people prevented the city officials from providing for the needs of the poor. The result of such preaching was so good that all who had corn to sell brought the keys of their barns to the Podestá offering all their corn to help the poor.” (Francesco Barbarano De Mironi da Vicenza 1653, 83s); “One time when he preached in Venice he severely rebuked the nobility and the masters because they had bought corn outside the city and were selling it at a high price to the poor. He also rebuked them for doing similar things using severe “essagerazioni” [forceful applications], not sparing the senators themselves who wondered among themselves at how he dared to go that far. … Father mounted the pulpit in the hall and began to quote Christ’s words in a loud voice: You are the light of the world, the salt of the earth, a light set on a mountain etc. (Mt 5: 13-15) which he always applied to all holy priests with great reverence and devotion as those who are consecrated to God etc. He praised them at first and exalted them up to heaven reckoning their priestly dignity to be above that of the angels. He then reprimanded those who abused such a high status and severely reproved all kinds of faults within the Church, especially the three main ones, simony, greed and dishonesty. He did this with such fever of spirit and ardent charity that the congregation burst into tears out of concern, and at the end of the sermon all remained comforted and pleased by what the Father said” (From the Chronicle by Mattia da Padova which contains the Vita del Padre Alfonso Luppi, predicatore cappuccino, ff. 73r, 75v-75r). Cf. F. Merelli cit. 323, 324, 327.
  219. We have already noted Vasques’ opinion in the second volume of our collection and we consider it to be too negative as it considers Lupo’s preaching to lack prophetic and ecclesiastical spirit. Cf. vol. II, 496, note 1. If the dear author had known about the documents that have been published by F. Merelli he would probably have changed his opinion.
  220. This is the testimony of Girolamo Rabia, quoted by F. Merelli, 241 note 215.
  221. Cf. F. Merelli, P. Alfonso Lupo, 212-214.
  222. Minuta del 19.1.1581. Cf. F. Merelli, S Carlo Borromeo e P. Mattia da Salò cappuccino, Epistolario, in CF 54 (1984) 290.
  223. Cf. V. Bonari, I conventi ed I cappuccino bresciani. Memorie storiche, Milano 1891, 243s. There are fifty-five titles, thirty-three of which deal with preaching.
  224. Cf. Milano, APCL, Codd. A 122 (12 sermons for Advent, 125 ff.); A 123 (13 sermons for Lent, 105 ff.): the dimensions of all of these codices are 16,5 x 22,5cm; A 121, 34 ff., 20,3 x 15,5. There is another copy of the last sermon at Modena, Bibl. Estense, Manoscritti Campori, n. 133: Discorso della vera beatitudine. II Cata logo del codd, mss. Posseduti dal march. Giuseppe Campori, compilato da Luigi Lodi, parte II (sec. XVII), Modena s.d., 100, which is described: “Cod. Cart 8, cc/ 12, sec. XVI (anonimo)” All of these manuscripts are original copies, not autography.
  225. Cf. Milano, Bibl. Franc. S. Angelo, Cod. T IV 11: Bellintani Prediche Quadrag., cod, cart., rileg. Cart., 280 ff n.n., 14,3 x 10. 5 cm., scrittura fittissima e sottilissima. We wish to thank F. Merelli who is the director of APCL for making it possible to consult this manuscript.
  226. With regard to these volumes see Illarino da Milano, Biblioteca dei Frati Minori Cappuccini di Lombardia (1535-1900), Firenze 1937, 241 (nn. 1283-84), 243s (nn. 1300-1303) 255-57 (nn. 1368-74)
  227. However e know from other sources that this list , even though it is accurate and precise is bot complete because it only mentions the official Lenten and Advent Courses. For example he often preached in various cities during the year, such as Rome in the Chiesa Nuova dis. Maria in Vallicella which was administered by the Oratorians. Cf. A. Cistellini, San Pilippo Neri cit., I, Brescia 1989, 256.
  228. See further ahead in section 11/2, nn. 6565-6610 which contains important interesting documentation concerning the nature of Mattia”s preaching during the Lenten Courses.
  229. Cf. Perugia, Arch.Congr. dell’Oratorio, Lettere e scritture di O. Mancini; Lettera di Mattia da Salò (Salò 24.9.1588), autogr.
  230. With regard to the content of this volume cf. B. Distelbrink, Bonaeventurae scripta authentica, dubia vel spuria critice recenta, Roma 1973, 70-72.
  231. Cf. AO 75 (1859) 335, n. 4; Balduinus ab Amsterdam, Sanctus Bonaventura “magister” proprius a superibus Ordinis Capuccinis designatus, in Laurent. 2 (1961) 83 and nota 20.
  232. Cf. B. Distelbrink, Bonaventurae scripta cit., 72,
  233. Cf. In sermons Seraphici Doctoris … scripturales introductions cit., col. 450 (Dom IV post Pent.)
  234. Ibid., col. 460
  235. Ibid., coll. 693-95.
  236. Ibid., 560-62
  237. Ibid., 261. On Pentecost Sunday.
  238. Cf. Essagerationi morali del M. R. P. Mattia Bellintani da Salò, Thelogo e Predicatore dell’Ordine de’ Minori di S. Francesco Capuccini, nelle quali con concetti morali, theologici e scritturali si mostra la brutezza de’ vittii per modo di riprensione, e la bellezza delle virtú per modo di essortatione, utili non solo a’ predicatori che studiano con frutto predicare la parola di Dio, ma anco a qualunque christiano che desidera far vita ben’aggiustata,, In Salò 1622.
  239. Ibid., Alli benigni Lettori Fra Giovanni da Salò predicatore, p. nn.
  240. One can read many examples of “essagerazioni” and invectives against vice in a variety of Bellintani’s sermons in P. Arsenio d’Ascoli, La predicazione dei cappuccino nel Cinquecento in Italia, Loreto 1956. 528-536.
  241. Cf. Maria Teresa Gentilini, Predicazione e pastorale nell’etá della Controriforma in alcuni inediti di P. Mattia Bellintani (1534-1511), Milano 1982 (testi di Laurea alla Cattolica).
  242. For example, some dates do not coincide with the annals of Mattias da Salò’s preaching that were composed by his brother Giovanni. Thus on f. 66r the sermon for Friday following the First Sunday in Lent is dated 1585 in Ancona and the same appears on f. 120 for the sermon on Monday following the Third Sunday in Lent. We now know that in 1585 Bellintani preached the Lent in Venice. We are probably faced with the date of the place of composition rather than of preaching (cf. n. 6038). The same thing could be said regarding date on f. 144r at the beginning of the sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Lent given in Rome (1583) since we know that in 1583 he preached in Messina. Another problem is that the writing on some pages is not his handwriting (cf. ff. 14r-19v: the sermon I on Ash Wednesday; ff. 50r-65; sermon for the First Sunday in Lent, concerning the Devil; sermon for Wednesday during the First Week in Lent, on the Presence and Annoyance of Spirits; ff. 106r-116v: sermon for the Third Sunday in Lent, concerning Witches. All of these sermons were delivered in Brescia in 1589, ff. 162v-170r, on Passion Sunday at S. Gioseffo, concerning Innocence (not dated). We believe that the writing is clearly that of Giovanni da Salò with the text always belonging to Bellintani.
  243. In his sermon on Easter Monday he said: “Accept, accept Brescia the cross; carve the Passion and death of the Lord into your heart; think of the sorrows that he suffered for you; think of the trials that he endured for you; experience the bitterness suffered for you; inside and outside yourself endure the pains and toil that he bore for your salvation. The weight of the cross, the restraint of the bonds, the lashes of the whip, the wounds of the nails, the penetration of the thorns …, the abundance of blood that was shed, the warmth of the tears, the severity of the internal suffering.” (APCL, Cod. A 125, ff. 28v-29r.)
  244. Cf. A. Vecchi, L’iconografia aulica veneziana nell’età della Controriforma, in Studi veneziani, 17-18 (1975-76) 262.
  245. Cf. APCL, Cod. A 125, Pred. VI: Predica fatta in Lucca per il Crocifisso o Volto Santo fatto da Nicodemo, che si conserva in quella città: pred. VII: Della B. Vergine, in giorno della festa e processione per la miracolosa Imagine sua in Lucca.
  246. Ibid., ff. 46v-47r (pred. VI), a passage that is clearly copied from the Decree of Trent.
  247. Nevertheless, it must have come from the 1580’s since all the handwritten sermons were put together between 1582 and 1589. To be more precise it was at the end of the Lent in Milan in 1582. This was delivered in the presence of St Charles, who died two years later. It had such an effect on the people that he had to conduct the Forty Hours Devotion twice. Cf. n. 6037.
  248. Cf. Milano, Bibil. Franc. S. Angelo, Col. T IV 11: Bellintani Prediche Quadrag,; ff. 267v-271v.
  249. Cf. C. Cargnoni, Riforma della Chiesa, profezia e Apocalisse in Mattia Bellintani da Salò, in Laurent. 26 (1985) 497-569.
  250. Let. Da Brescia, 23. 2. 1589, da F. Merelli, Carteggio di Mattia e Giovanni Bellintani da Salò con il card. Frederico Borromeo, in CF 56 (1986) 65. – Mattia repeated the same thought in the dedication in the volume Delli dolori di Christo (Bergamo 1598) “These are the eight sermons on the Sufferings of Christ that I preached in your presence Most Illustrious and Reverend Lordship in the metropolitan Church in Milan last Lent (1597). Because my tongue has been reduced to silence, I now take up the pen in order to speak. I thought that I would die during that silence.” (Brescia 10 March 1598).
  251. “I hope that by doing this he will have the peace of mind to undertake his preaching with the spirit of fervour that God has given him.” (Lett del 20, 12. 1597. F. Merelli Carteggio di Mattia e Giovanni Bellintani cit. 62s).
  252. Lett. 18. 3. 1598: F. Merelli Carteggio cit. 67.
  253. Cf. pred. II, parte II: Delli dolori di Christo cit. 49-43.
  254. “O Milan, the divine wisdom, which is very rich in itself, full of infinite treasures, as he looked down from heaven to earth saw something that he did not have and could not have there. His divine eyes fixed on the gem and very precious pearl of suffering and it gave him infinite pleasure so that he was overtaken by such a longing to hold it in his heart that he decided to come down below from the infinite delights that were his in paradise and take possession of suffering, claiming it for himself, completely immersing himself in it and enriching himself with the treasure that can only be discovered down here. Because he could not have it in heaven, he decided to spend many years down here in order to enjoy what he esteemed and valued with greater fondness for a longer time. He wanted to do what was impossible in heaven although it was the basis and the objective of what he was doing in heaven, namely making all the elect holy. Consequently, there are loving and affectionate voices that when filled and aroused by divine wisdom cry out loudly: Osculetur me oscuolo oris sui [Let him kiss me with the kiss of his mouth]. Oh what exalted secrets! With the mouth we both speak and kiss. By speaking with the mouth, the soul asks to be kissed by God’s mouth. Both God and the Word kiss … He wants the Word to come with both love and suffering. … O holy, O fruitful, O necessary suffering! … Suffering is our seed. Suffering is the milk that feeds us. Meliora sunt ubera tua vino. Emitte vinum et lac [Your breasts are better than wine. Put forth wine and milk]. What is the milk that comes from Christ’s side which was produced when he died? Exivit sanguis et aqua [Blood and water flowed out]. The blood is the milk, since he gave birth to us by means of blood. The blood is suffering, having been born in pain we are fed on suffering. No one is born unless there is pain. Whoever does not experience suffering is not alive. Therefore, whoever refuses the most holy milk of the suffering of Christ is dead because he has no food. When Jesus, who is our merciful mother, gave birth with blood and suffering, it was not water and blood that came out. It was pure blood, simply suffering. Do you not see that when he called out Sitio [I thirst] that they did not give him water but bitter, sour vinegar? What poured from his side for us was water and blood. Exivit sanguis et aqua [Blood and water flowed out], because he did not change it, or sweeten it or make it easy to drink. Meliora sunt ubera tua vino [Better than your wine]. Yet, why do we not want to drink the holy milk. the precious blood, this sweet suffering? (Ibid.)
  255. Ibid. 53s. “ O if only we had once entered the cellars of which it was said: Introduxit me in celaria sua, (The king took me into his cellar) the hidden places, the secret rooms of Christ’s Passion where he keeps the most sacred wine of his suffering … All our love should be for Christ. All that we desire should be to find him there and to stay with him forever. … Let us say with the Apostle: Mihi absit gloriari nisi in cruce Domini nostri Jesu Christi, per quem mihi mundus crucifixus est et ego mundo. [Far be it from me to glory in anything except the cross of Jesus Christ by means of which I am crucified to the world and the world to me]. When we have experienced a solid and lasting resolve, or at least made a firm commitment, we will recognise that worldly pleasures are bitter. If Christ’s sufferings are joyful then worldly delights are sorrowful. If we find happiness in the cross of Christ, then earthly pleasures will appear to be destructive. This is why it is said the world is crucified, fixed to a cross and sorrowful no matter how many pleasures it enjoys. We will also be crucified if when we see Christ on the holy cross we mock him, thinking that he has tricked us in light of what we are experiencing. O most sweet cross, O gentle suffering, O happiness of the soul who because of Christ’s wounds and the sufferings on the cross were brought into the cellar and saw the divine secrets of the loving sufferings of Christ!”
  256. Ibid., 64s (pred. III, parte I)
  257. Ibid., 101s (pred. III, parte II).
  258. Ibid., III (pred. IV, parte II).
  259. Ibid., 112s (pred. IV, parte I).
  260. Ibid.,122s (pred. IV, parte I).
  261. Ibid., 136-139: “Although it does not always say so, in this case the Gospel narrative says that Christ often withdrew into the mountains and lonely places to pray: Et egressus ibat secundum consuetudinem in montem Olivarium …During this prayer, before the Passion took place, the thought of it crucified his mind. Can we not think, indeed should we not think, that on other occasions when he withdrew and departed from the crowd to pray, that he was not afflicted by the most atrocious thoughts regarding his sacred Passion? His thoughts were only natural. Even if he did not want it the vision of his approaching death attacked and oppressed him. These thoughts were deliberate, virtuous and fabricated by him out of love and he became sad… Just as a bucket is thrown into the well, Jesus Christ immersed himself in prayer about his Passion and suffering in order to ask for grace. He did not do this simply by thinking about it but by experiencing vivid, penetrating emotions. It was not like an exercise that the saints would perform. When they pray, they have to make an effort to become as emotional as possible about Christ’s suffering arousing themselves by the use of strong arguments to provoke God to hear them. In order to know for sure, it is enough to have just one experience that the shape of a flame of fire is that of a tongue and that it is accompanied by light and heat. After that whenever you see that shape you know that light and heat are also there. Why do we not do the same with the Saviour and recognise that prayer, solitude and the Passion are all connected? The Gospel assures us that at one time they were all connected. It would make no difference if this had happened three times instead of the one time that is mentioned in the Gospel. Perhaps the most likely cause would be that he hid himself when he was in this condition not wanting people to know the pain that he suffered when he was praying. There were no more than three of his disciples in the garden. In the presence of people, he toiled at preaching, walking and suffering persecution. In the presence of God, he personally acknowledged the hidden suffering he endured and accepted for our salvation. I believe that this was the greatest weight on his sacred body and emotions to the extent that his exterior efforts were almost like repose. This meant that when he came down from the mountains or out of the forests to take up everyday conversation that was also hard work, it became like peace and quiet, an opportunity to catch a breath away from the burdensome secrets of the hidden hours. It seems to me that there was only one occasion when he withheld bitter tears. The Apostle wrote about this: Qui in diebus carnis suae preces supplicationesque ect [Who in the days of his flesh when he had offered up prayers and supplications …]. This is the same as saying that in the days of his flesh …What can the days of his flesh mean other than the time of his death and suffering which are features of the flesh? The expression cum clamore valido [uttering a loud cry] seems to refer to what he did on the cross. Would it not be more likely rather to say that he prayed in the desert so that he could cry out without being heard?” (pred. IV, parte II).
  262. Ibid., 140s (pred. IV, parte II).
  263. Ibid., 174s (pred. V, parte II)
  264. “Each one of our graces comes from the font of his highest grace. Thus the grace of what we have to suffer is sacred. Therefore it was by the grace of God that Christ suffered for us. Grace is a gift. Thus his suffering was a grace. Grace prepared him for suffering, gave him the inclination to undergo it and showed him the reason for his suffering. It was through grace that his suffering took effect. It was grace that aroused his emotions and his reactions that prepared his for it so that his suffering was a virtue and an extraordinary grace. Among those who have the faith some are receive the grace of preaching, others of praying and other of performing miracles. Because Christ had the grace of doing everything, he had the special grace of suffering, since this was his duty, his purpose, his objective in coming into the world. This is how he was to save mankind and conquer the devil. Thus he stripped the world and filled heaven, appeased God, and arrived at his glory. Thus the Scriptures are full of this. This is how it had to be. This was his duty: Opportebat Christum pati [Christ had to suffer] … this was the special grace of suffering that pertained to the man of suffering. Vidimus eum despectum, novissimum virorum, virum dolorum, et scientem infiritatem [We see him despised and rejected, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief]. What does “man of sorrows” mean, if not a man who had been destined to experience suffering? This is a man who is in a continual state of suffering. This is a man whose duty it is to suffer greatly. In short, this is a man who accepted all kinds of suffering. This is a man who is full of suffering and whose appearance shows that he is suffering. This is a man who is so connected with suffering that he appears to be mad compared with those who are calm and fortunate.” (Ibid., 187s, pred. VI, parte I).
  265. “The Son’s obedience gave honour to the Father. How did he do this? Certainly in no other way than by achieving our salvation which he brought about by living, teaching and dying. Whatever he did in this way gave honour to the Father. What was the main work? Everyone knows that it was his death, by means of which he obeyed: Factus obediens usque ad mortem, mortem autem crucis [He became obedient even unto death, death on the cross]. Thus by dying he gave honour to the Father in a very special way.” (Ibid., 215, pred. VI, parte II).
  266. “O Milan, consider the causes of the great sufferings of Christ! Heaven, earth and hell took up arms against him to make him suffer. Everything, God, the devil, the angels, mankind, both the good and the bad, and no one more than himself, came together to torment him. It was bitter and (if I can say this) merciless, yet it was all done simply out of pity and kindness towards us. O ocean of sorrows, lake of torments which has no end or bed. The God of heaven, the devil in hell, the angels in heaven, men on earth, the wicked when sinning, the good when at prayer, the sky, the elements and what they contain, everything combined to cause our Christ to suffer. Yet it is he himself that gave all that you have of virtue, grace and whatever you have. He endowed you with intellect, will, memory, mind, spirit and soul, with body and all its operations and limbs. He gave you time, life, work, prayer, speech, toil. He gave himself nothing but toil and suffering. O virum dolorum et sitientem infirmiatum [O man who is totally sorrowful. O vessel full of God’s anger that contains all of this so that you may cast and shower down mercy and grace]. Ibid., 219s, pred. VI, parte I).
  267. Cf. Ibid., 228-231 (pred. VII, parte I)
  268. Ibid., 260s (Pred. VII, parte II).
  269. “When he saw the offences against God he was wounded with love for God. His zealous love could not tolerate the suffering as he hung on a cross that was made of matter, attached by nails that were not physical but the nails of indescribable suffering. He had the same kind of love for men when he saw their extreme countless woes, and so his whole soul was moved with compassion. If the love of God nailed the right hand of the soul, the love of mankind nailed its left hand. I cannot see how compassion itself would not have pierced his right foot, and truthfulness, because of which he hated sin, would not have pierced his right foot, since he suffered equally from one and the other. When he who was so upright and holy saw the great evil of sin and the infinite number of them that had been committed, his soul must have been pierced with incomprehensible disgust. The Saviour’s sacred heart was so wounded by those of his own household that he could say: “His plagatus sum in dome eorum, qui diligebant me [I was wounded in the home of those who loved me]. He was struck by other things as if they had been scourges, thorns or other torments as well as nails and what could be described by what is called a sword in the words of the Prophet: Framea suscitare super pastorem meum et super virum cohaerentem mihi [Awake, O sword, against the Shepherd, against the Man who is my companion]. He is saying that at the first stroke of the sword the Apostles will take to flight. Therefore the prophesy that follows this says: Percute pastorem et dispergentur oves gregis [Strike the Shepherd and the sheep will be scattered]. O cross and Passion of Jesus Christ you are more bitter and harder than you appear to be in human eyes.” (ibid., 235s, pred VII, parte I).
  270. Ibid., 271 (pred. VII, parte II)
  271. Ibid., 273 (pred. VII, parte II).
  272. Ibid., 280-294 (pred. VIII, parte I)
  273. Ibid., 295-317 (pred. VIII, parte II)
  274. Ibid., 327s (pred. VIII, parte III)
  275. Ibid., 332-34 (pred. VIII, parte III)
  276. With regard to this matter cf. C. Cargnoni: Riforma della Chiesa, cit. (npte 249).
  277. This precious collection of letters has been edited by F. Merelli, Carteggio di Mattia e Giovani Bellintani da Salò con il cardinale Federico Borromeo, in CF 56 (1986) 56 (1986) 57-108.
  278. “I attempted to preach to the poor people in the normal way as I usually did. I used some periods of time to write a draft of an Ambrosian Lenten Course using terms that I did not need to draw from books.” (lett. Al card. F. Borromeo, Salò 24.6.1508: F. Merelli, Carteggio cit., 87)
  279. Lettera del 17.10. 1608: ibid., 88.
  280. Cf. lett. da Salò, 21.12.1608: ibid., 89.
  281. Ibid., 90.
  282. Ibid., 91.
  283. Lettera da Brescia, 4.12.1609, ibid.,92.
  284. Cf. lettera da Brescia, 2.1. 1611: ibid., 95.
  285. Lettera da Brescia, 24.2 1611: ibid., 98.
  286. Cf. various letters from 28.91612 to8. 2. 1614: ibid., 100-104.
  287. Cf. various letters from 28.9.1612 to 8.2. 1614; ibid., 100-104.
  288. “Ea vero quae discurrendo solum ab Autore tanguntur, data opera sunt omissa, cum pene sint innumera.” Cf. Quadragesimale Ambrosianum: “index locorum omnium S. Scripturae”, p.n.n.
  289. Cf. Epist. Dedicatoria: “Vir erat tot tantarumque virtutum splendoribus illustratus, ut acumine meditationis aquilam, dulcedine praedicationis cygnum operisque Constantia leonem prae se ferret”. In Quadragesimale Ambrosianum, Coloniae Agrippinae 1626; f. 2v.
  290. Cf. below section III, doc. 4, deposition n. 11.
  291. These thoughts were expressed in an emotion prayer that he wrote just before his priestly ordination on 24.9.1580. He also mentioned the influence of St Aloysius Gonzaga as he freely made use of the Act of Consecration to the Madonna which the young Jesuit had composed. The original text of this prayer which the Saint called Oratio sive protextus, was published by P. Bonaventura da Mehr, Inventario dei manoscritti di san Giuseppe da Leonessa, esistenti nell’Archivio della Postulazione Generale dell’Ordine dei Frati Cappuccini a Roma, in CF 18 (1948) 270s, the whole article 259-272. See also an Italian translation of the Saint’s life edited by Gianmaria da Spirano, Dio lo manò tra i poveri. Vita di san Giuseppe da Leonessa. 1968, 54s.
  292. Cf. Fransesco da Vienza, Date memoriale della vita di san Giusrppe da Leonessa, in IF 28 (1953) 247s.
  293. Lettera a Faloci Pulignani, Roma 31.1. 1897. Cf. Luisa Palpacelli, Corrispondenti francesi di Michele Faloci Pulignani:I L’epistulario di Edouard d’Alencon, in Boll. Stor. Città di Foligio8 (1989) 499.
  294. Cf. P. Bonavenrura da Mehr, Inventario cit. in CF 18 (1948) 259=272; and now most of all Maurizio da Cartosio, San Giuseppe da Leonessa, predicatore e apostolo sociale dell’Umbria e dell’Abruzzo (1556-11612), Roma 1985, 88-109 (Doctoral Thesis at the Gregorian). This fundamental has not yey been published in print. This study owes much to the excellent bibliography by Gianmaria da Spirano. In recent years the local periodical Leonessa e il suo Santo has published some of the pages of these texts. Especially for the Saint’s writings see ibid., 24-n. 131 (1987) 5s; n. 132 p. 5s; n, 133, p. 33s-n. 137 (1988) 9s.
  295. See below in section III, doc. 4, nn. 8397, 8433, 8458s and throughout the depositions.
  296. Cf. G. Chiaretti, Archivio leonessano. Documenti riguardanti la vita e il culto di san Giuseppe da Leonessa, Roma 1965, 481s; Bonaventura da Mehr, Inventario cit., and most of all, an excellent analysis of the sources by P. Balduinus ab Amsterdam, Doctrina de Immaculata Conceptione B. Mariae Virginis in scrpitis ineditis S. Josephi a Leonessa. In regina Immaculata. Studia a sodalibus capuccinis scripta …, Romae 1955, 322-376.
  297. These notes for preaching are contained in cod. N. 22: Collectanea varia, ff. 116r-122v (= Sermo supra regulam Fratrum Minorum; Expositio regulae). Cf. Bonaventura da Mehr, Inventario, 267; Balduinus ab Amstedam, Doctrina de Immaculata Conceptione cit., 374s, note 239-240. see also vol II of this anthology pp. 506-513, 801-803 and nn. 772-869. unfortunately, we were unable to see the text with the Saint’s notes.
  298. The document for this is missing from our copy of the documents regarding preaching (cf. vol. I, 1639-1642, nn. 1638-1662). It is available in the document on Leonessa e il suo Santo 23 (1986) 176.
  299. There is a list in Balduinus ab Amsterdam, Doctrina da Immaculata Conceptione cit., 327s, note 23. To those listed there we need to add the sermon preached on the Immaculate Conception that has been edited by the same author (ibid., 378-396) and the one published by Vincenzo Di Flavio, Una predica sconosciuta e inedita di S. Giuseppe da Leonessa, in Leonessa e il suo Santo 21 – n. 114 (1984) 91-97. At present a complete edition of the manuscripts pertaining to the saint is being prepared.
  300. Cf. Balduimus ab Amsterdam, Doctrina de Immaculata Conceptione cit., 378-396.
  301. This beautiful sermon was published by Bonaventura da Mehr, Predica di S. Giuseppe da Leonessa (S 1620) per la festa dell’Assunzione di Maria. Testo inedit in CF 20 (1050) 367-378.o
  302. With regard to this saintly religious who died in 1645 and who imitated St Joseph of Leonessa, Cf. C. Cargnoni, Il venerabile Francesco da Precetto, anacoretta e apostolo cortese, in Santi e santità nell’Ordine cappuccino, I: Il Cinque e il Seicento, a cura di Mariano D’Alatri, Roma 1980, 281-299.
  303. Cf. Vincenzo Di Flavio, Una predica sconosciuta (cf. above, note 299).
  304. Cf. P. Bonaventura da Mehr, Inventario cit., 264,
  305. This assessment was made by Pulcini in 1639. Cf. G. Chiaretti, Profilio cronistorico di san Giuseppe da Leonessa (1556-1612), in Leonessa e il suo Santo. Numero speciale, Leonessa 1981, 12.
  306. Cf. in section III, doc. 4, n. 9.
  307. Cf. Historia della vita, morte et azioni illustri di F. Giuseppe da Leonessa Capuccino, descritta dal Commend. D. Giovanni Battista Manzini, in Bologna 1647, “L’Autore a chi lege”, n. n.
  308. Se the interesting information in sec. III, doc. 4, ad es. Nn. 8447-48 etc.
  309. Historia della vita, morte et azioni illustri cit., 208-211.
  310. Cf. Fragm. Quadr., Cod. 6, f. 126r-v: Feria 3 dom. IV.
  311. Cf. Cod. 18, f. 59r.
  312. Fragm. Quadr., Cod. 6, f. 51r: Dom. I Quadr. For these quotations see Maurizio da Cartosio, San Giuseppe da Leonessa cit., in Leonessa e il suo Santo, 23-n.125 (1986) 42-44.
  313. Cf. Cod. F. 112r; Cod. 6, f. 54v; many other examples are related by Gianmaria da Spirano, Dio lo mandò tra I poveri cit., 121-135.
  314. Cf. below in section III, doc. 4, nn. 8402, 8409, 8434 tec.
  315. This is the testimony of Giovanni Battista Ercolani da Leonessa. Cf. sez. III, doc. 4, deposizione n. 16.
  316. Cf. Fragm. Quadr., Cod. 6, f. 214r; Cod. 19, f. 54v.
  317. Cod. 4, f. 27v.
  318. These details have been taken from M. de Carmignano di Brenta, San Lorenzo da Brindisi, Dottore della Chiesa universale (1559-1619), I-IV/2, Venezia-Mestre 1960-1963: vol. I (pp. 574), II (pp. 749) and III (pp. 824) the first two appeared in 1960 and the third, in 1962. They contain a very complete biography. Volumes IV/1 (pp. 715) and IV/2 (pp.701) which appeared in 1963 contain copious documentation (1219 documents).
  319. Cf. S. Laurentii a Brundusio, Quadragesimale primum, in Opera omnia IV, Patavii 1936; Quadragesimale secundum, ibid., V/1-3, Patavii 1938-1940; Quadragesimale tertium, ibid., VI, Patavii 1941; Quadragesimale quartum, ibid., X/1, Patavii 1954. For the Italian sermons see note 325.
  320. Cf, Id., Adventus, ibid., VIII, patavii 1942.
  321. Cf. id., Domenicalia, ibid., VIII, Patavii 1943; Sermones de tempore, ibid., X/2 Patavii 1956.
  322. Cf. id., Sanctorale, ibid., IX Patavii 1944.
  323. Cf. id., Mariale, ibid., I Patavii 1928; Quade. Sibid., V/1, 106=13, 433-42; V/2, 286-90.
  324. Cf. Arturo M. da Carmignano di Brenta, San Lorenzo da Brindisi cit., I, 223 nota 126.
  325. Cf. Sanctoralecit., 501-586.
  326. Cf. Arturo da Carmignano di Brenta, San Lorenzo da Brindisi cit., I, 224.
  327. Ibid., 235.
  328. Cf. below in section III, doc. 5, n. 3.
  329. See this witness statement below in section III, doc. 5, n. 13.
  330. Cf. S. Laurentii a Brundusino, Quadragesimale primum, in Opera omnia IV, 361s, see also id., Dominicalia, ibid. VIII, 533, id., Adventus, ibid.VII, 321, 325.
  331. Cf. Quadragesimale II/1, in Opera omnia V/1, 22-24.
  332. Cf. Arturo M. da Carmignano di Brenta, San Lorenzo da Brindisi cit., I, 204 note 79.
  333. Cf. The Process testimony of Giambattista da Squillace below in section III, doc. 5, n. 17.
  334. This is the testimony of Fr Giovanni da Fossombrone, a Capuchin preacher. Cf. also Filippo da Cagliari, Le ctiazioni bibliche latine nella “Explanatio in Genesim” de S. Lorenzo da Brindisi, in Laurent, 10 (1969) 380 note 4. The whole article 379-400.
  335. Cf. Opera omnia III, 38s.
  336. Ibid. II/2, 355; III, 382
  337. Cf. Gentile Duse, S. Scrittura e predicazione in San Lorenzo da Brindisi, in La Sacra Scritttura e i Francescani, Roma 1973, 165-172.
  338. “It is required that preachers of the word of God live a holy life, have divine eloquence, deliver heavenly teaching and be made Apostles by the Holy Spirit.” (Quadrag. Tertium cit., 481).
  339. Cf. Opera omnia II/1, 387s; X/2 257.
  340. Ibid. V/3, 429; IX, 589.
  341. Ibid., 149; II/2, 357.
  342. Cf. P. Anselmo de Legarda, Vestigios clásicos en san Lorenzo de Brindis, in Est. Franc. 61 (1960) 389-430. See also the fundamental study by P. Silvestro da Valsanzibio, Filosofia e predicazione in S. Lorenzo da Brindisi, in MF 56 (1965) 152-178.
  343. Cf. Gaetano Stano, L’ “Opera omnia” di S. Lorenzo da Brindisi, in MF 37 (1937)
  344. Cf. Mariale, 13s.
  345. Ibid., 493.
  346. Ibid., 365.
  347. Ibid., 69, Sermo III. SuperMissus est.
  348. Ibid., 186.
  349. Cf. Arturo M. Carmignano di Brenta, San Lorenzo da Brindisi “Dottore Apostolico”, in Santi e santitá I, 143.
  350. Concerning his teaching on Mary see G. Roschini, La mariologia di San Lorenzo da Brindisi, in S. Lorenzo da Brindisi in S. Lorenzo da Brindisi. Studi. Conferenze commemorative dell’edizione “Opera omnia”, Roma 8-15 maggio 1949, Padova 1951, 141-179; Antonio Giordano, Un aspetto della mariologia di San Lorenzo da Brindisi: Maria Madre della Chiesa, in Laurent. 9 (1968) 267-278 (with bibliography).
  351. Cf. S. Laurentii a Brundusio, Lutheranismi Hypotyposis, in Opera omnia II/1-3, Patavi 1930-1931 and 1933; id., Explanatio in Genesim, idid., III, Patavii 1935.
  352. Cf. Pierluigi da Venezia, Il metodo polemico nei controversisti del sec .XVIie in San Lorenzo da Brindisi, in La Scuola Catt. 88 (1960) 202-216; Gaetano M. Stano, S. Lorenzo da Brindisi controverisista, in S. Lorenzo da Brindisi Studi cit. 95-139.
  353. Cf. Arturo M. da Carmignano di Brenta, San Lorenzo da Brindisi, vol III 169s.
  354. Cf. below in section III doc. 5, n. 1.
  355. Cf. Arturo da Carmignano di Brenta, San Lorenzo da Brindisi II, 110 note 3.
  356. Cf. Silvestro da Valsanzibio, Aristotele e l’aristotelismo nel giudizio di san Lorenzo da Brindisi, in Sophia 22 (1954) 82-103. With regard to the Philosophy of the Saint see the fundamental study of H. Borak, Introductio in philosophiam S. Laurenti Brundusini, in Antonianum 35 (1960) 215-292.
  357. Explanatio in Genesim 6.
  358. Cf. D. Mondrone, “Lutheranismi Hypotyposis”, in Civ. Catt 85/I (1934) 263-76.
  359. Cf. F. Spedalieri, Gli scritti di san Lorenzo da Brindisi, in CF 29, (1959) 145-65.
  360. Cf. Stanislauo da Campagnola, San Lorenzo da Brindisi (1559-1619) e il rinnovamento cattolico prostridentino. A proposito di una recente biografia, in Laurent.5 (1964) 415, the whole article 403-420.
  361. Cf. G. Cantini, S. Lorenzo da Brindisi predicatore, in S. Lorenzo da Brindisi. Studi cit. 86.
  362. Cf. Silvestro da Valsanzibio, Un Qearesimale italiano inedito di S. Lorenzo da Brindisi, in CF 24 (1954) 136-158. The same author said “the sermons in this codex also contain a certain variety of presentation, even though they are all comments on the Gospel passages of feasts or Sundays the same as happens in the Latin sermons of the printed Lenten Courses. However, in general, they are usually on the topic, the theme taken from the passage, and the same as in many cases on the Latin sermons containing passages on the parables or events, they are made up of evident divisions into two parts: quoad factum and quoad mysterium. Also, in these cases the philosophical structure that denotes the category or cause of the events is obvious which follows the usual method used in the Latin sermons.” Cf. id. Filosofia e predicazione in S. Lorenzo da Brindisi, in MF 56 (1956) 477 note 321. This study appeared in two issues (ibid., 103-178, 428-489). It is perhaps the most important structural examination and analysis to be carried out on the Saint’s sermons, where the reader can discover many other facts including the influence of contemporary oratory. What had a greater influence on the Saint than the Modo di comporre una predica by Fr. Francesco Panigarola (Rome 1583) or the Modus concionandi (Venice 1584) by Diego Estella was the De predicatore Verbi Dei (Paris 1585) by Giovanni Botero, the De rhetorica divina (Venice 1596) and the De officio oratoris (Venice 1596) by Ludovico Carbonte, the Rhetorica ecclesiastica (Paris 1575 by Agostino Valler, the Bishop of Verona, but most of all, in conjunction with St Charles Borromeo, the work by the Dominican Ludovico di Granata, Eccliesiasticae Rhetoricae sive de ratione concionandi libri sex (Venice 1578) ibid., 475-486.
  363. We note the anonymous “prophetic” message that was sent to the Pope himself: “We have heard the news that Your Holiness wants to make Father Monopoli a Cardinal. We are informing you that this will ruin the Capuchin Order and telling you to be aware of God’s anger and that of St Francis. I write this in the name of God …” It was signed “a poor Capuchin friar.” (Cf. ASV, Borghese III, 59 C, f. 308r: Bibliogr. Franc. XI, 704, n. 2647).
  364. Cf. F. Merelli, Carteggio di Mattia e Giovanni Bellintani da Salò con il cardinale Frederico Borromeo, in CF 56 (1986) 78.
  365. Cf. C. Cargnoni, Riforma della Chiesa, profezia e apocalisse n Mattia Bellintani da Salò, in Laurent. 26 (1985) 479-569.
  366. With regard to Anselmo da Monopoli as Apostolic Preacher see Mauro da Leonessa, Il predicatore apostolico. Note storiche, Isola del Liri 1929, 62-68. However there is no serious study on this topic. For now see note 396.
  367. This letter was published in AO 9 (1893) 191, in Eco di S. Francesco 21 (1893) 575s and in CF 26 (1956) 42s.
  368. For these documents see below.
  369. Cf. I. Vázques Janeiro, El cardinal capuchino Anselmo Marzati de Monopoli († 1607). Aproximación a su vida y edició de su “Votum” sobre el culto debido a los siervos de Dios, in Antomianum 61 (1986) 600-625, the whole article 598-658. See also C. Urbanelli, Storia I/2, 461.
  370. I. Vázquez, El cardinal cit., 631
  371. Cf. above note 219.
  372. All of the quotes from a diary were taken from an article by Edoardo d’Alençon, Il cardinale Monopolitano, in Eco di S. Francesco 23 (1895) 64-69.
  373. Cf. Memorie del cardinal Guido Bentivoglio con correzioni e varianti dell’edizione d’Amsterdam del 1648. Aggiontevi cinquantotto lettere inedite tratte dall’Archivio del cav. Carlo Morbio Biblioteca rara pubblicata da G. Daelli, vol. XXXI), vol. I, Milano 1864, 124s; nel cap. 3 del libro II delle stesse Memorie, G. Bentivoglio, accennando al viaggio in Francia del card. P. Aldobrandini, ricorda che costui “volle condur seco anco due religiosi eminenti, che furono il Monopoli cappuccino, del quale io parlai di sopra, e il padre don Paolo Tolosa, dell’ordine teatino. Erano però molto differenti, e quasi del tutto contrari fra loro questi due predicatori nella professione del predicare. Il Monopoli, come allora toccai, mostravasi tutto ausero e d’abito e di faccia e di voce e di parole e di azioni, e purché egli apparisse dotto, non si curava d’apparire eloquente. All’incontro il vestir del Tolosa poco variava dall’abito ecclesiastico piú commune. Era egli dotato di nobile e gratissimo aspetto, e corrispondeva all’aspetto la voce e ‘l gesto, e al gesto ogni altra azione ch’egli faceva nel pulpito; e benché valesse molto nella dottrina, vedevasi nondimeno che il suo talento maggiore consisteva nell’eloquenza”. Memorie cit., vol. II, Milano 1864, 28.
  374. In the article in the Eco di S. Francesco 23 (1893) 64 because of a typographical error the Vatican codex was labelled n. 6392 instead of 7392. We went to the personal notes on E. d’Alençon that are held in the Library of the Capuchin Historical Institute and discovered the error. Cf. I. Váquez, El Cardinal cit., 610s.
  375. Cf. A. Cappelli, Cronologia, cronografia e calendario perpetuo, Milan 1930, 58.
  376. Cf. BAV, Vat. Lat. 7329, ff. 142v-151r
  377. Good Friday, f. 22v
  378. Thursday of the Second Week in Lent f. 62v.
  379. Thursday in Holy Week, f. 10r. The Gospel is the cure of the Centurion’s servant (Mt 8: 5-15).
  380. Good Friday, f. 16ve with the Gospel of Mt 5: 43-48, and the quotes Mt 10: 34; Lk 12: 49; 14:26.
  381. Thursday of the Fourth Week in Lent f. 104r, with the Gospel of Luke 2: 11-17.
  382. Tuesday of the Second Week in Lent f. 55rv, on the Gospel of Mt 20:17-18.
  383. Friday of the Foourth Week in Lent f. 105rv.
  384. Thursday of the Second Week in Lent from the Gospel of the rich glutton, Lk 16: 19-31 with quotes from Mt 7: 13-14.
  385. Monday of Passion Week, f. 148r, on the Gospel of Jn 7: 32-53.
  386. Tuesday after Passion Sunday f. 122r.
  387. See also n. 6328.
  388. Wednesday of the First Week in Lent f. 28rv on the Gospel passage Mt 21: 10-11.
  389. Second Sunday in Lent, f. 42v on the Gospe of Chrit’s Transfiguration.
  390. Monday of the Second Week in Lent f. 47rv, together with a passage fromJn 8: 21ss.
  391. Friday of the Second Week in Lent on the parable of the murderous workers in the vineyard.
  392. Tuesday of the Third Week in Lent f. 76v on the Gospel passage Mt 18: 15-18.
  393. Wednesday of the Fourth Week in Lent f. 100r.
  394. Wednesday after the Fourth Sunday in Lent, f. 100r.
  395. Passion Sunday f. 114r.
  396. Thursday after Passion Sunday f.128v concerning the anointing at Bethania according to Mt 26: 6-13.
  397. Friday after Passion Sunday f. 133r, on St John’s Gospel 11: 42-53.
  398. Discourse V f. 140v-141r
  399. Cf. ibid., ff. 37v-40s
  400. “We spoke about the abandonment of Lazarus this morning. We shall speak briefly about the abandonment of Christ this evening.” Ibid., ff. 40r-42r.
  401. Ibid., f. 139r.
  402. On the Thursday after Ash Wednesday he insisted on the principle that faith alone was not enough, works were also needed and he proved it by taking a ship as an example, for if it is to reach port “the sailors have to use their eyes and their hands. They need to use their eyes to watch for a reef, to watch the compass, to look at the map, to navigate, watch for a storm. They also have to use their hands to haul the ropes, to change the sails, to handle the timber to keep them off a reef, to control the rudder. What advantage is there for a sailor to have eyes but not to have hands or to have hands without eyes. Thus it is necessary to have eyes which means faith that gazes towards distant paradise and the reward that Christ has prepared. It is also necessary to have the hands for works otherwise we cannot sail the ship of the soul to the port of heaven,” (cf. f. 15r).Then in the sermon of Passion Sunday he went on to challenge those faithful “who listen to the word of God but do not observe God’s commandments. The difference between such people and heretics is that these people believe and heretics do not. Heretics say that a person can be saved without works and that faith is sufficient of itself. Christians believe that a person cannot be saved without works (ibid., f. 117r). So be on your guard against hidden heretics. This is what he said in the sermon on the Friday after the second Sunday of Lent: “I have no doubt that neither Calvin nor Luther will come among us to preach, since we would stop them immediately. However, we should be afraid of hidden heretics who continually want to taste this vine,” Therefore, capite vobis? (ibid., f. 66v).
  403. I. Vázquez, El Cardinal cit., 623.
  404. Ibid., f. 8r.
  405. Ibid., f. 8rv.
  406. Ibid., f. 9r.
  407. Cf. A. Chácon, Vitae et res gestae Pontificum Romanorum et S.R.E. Cardinalium, IV, Romae 1677, 362.
  408. Quadragesimale cit., f. 8v, where Marzati also compared Paul to the Prophets.
  409. Ibid.
  410. Ibid., f. 24v.
  411. Cf. Const. 1536, nn. 114 and 120 (nn. 365, 374).
  412. We read in the sermon for Monday of the Third Week in Lent that the preacher “ought to flee from conversation and remain withdrawn, indeed he ought to place himself in a tomb so as not to be seen by men, for it would be better for him to preach without being seen.” (Ibid., f. 75v).
  413. Friday of the Second Sunday in Lent, f. 66v.
  414. Ibid., ff. 66v-67r.
  415. Ibid., f. 73r.
  416. Thursday of the Fourth Sunday in Lent, ff. 106v, 108r.
  417. Friday of the Seconf Week in Lent, f. 65v.
  418. Ibid.
  419. Second Sunday in Lent f. 46v
  420. Thursday after Passion Sunday f. 121rv.
  421. Friday of the Fourth Week in Lent, f. 110rv
  422. Ibid., f. 9r.
  423. Thursday after Ash Wednesday, f. 13r
  424. Monday in Passion Week, f. 121v.
  425. Thursday after Ash Wednesday, f. 16r.
  426. Thursday of the Second Sunday in Lent, f. 64v.
  427. Friday following Ash Wednesday, f. 22v-23r.
  428. The Second Sunday in Lent, f. 47r.
  429. Monday after the Second Sunday in lent, f. 50r.
  430. Ibid., f. 15v-16r.
  431. Ibid., f. 16r.
  432. Friday after Ash Wednesday, f. 24r.
  433. Wednesday of the Second Week in Lent, f. 58v-59r.
  434. Ibid., f. 97v-98r.
  435. Ibid., f. 68r.
  436. Friday after the Fourth Sunday in Lent, f. 113v-114r.
  437. Second Sunday in Lent, f. 45r.
  438. Cf. L. von Pastor, Storia dei Papi, vol. X, Roma 1928, 76.
  439. From what is said here we have another piece of evidence for dating the manuscript that contains the Lent that was preached in S. Giovanni del Fiorentini. If the text refers to the famine in Rome in 1589, then we would have to say that the sermon was delivered the following year in 1590, and can thus speak about a sin committed “last year”. However, it might also be 1588 because the “shortage that year” refers to the preceding summer months and not the following winter, because the most probable year appears to be 1589. Also see above note 375.
  440. Thursday after the Second Sunday, f. 60v-61r.
  441. Friday of the Fourth Week in Lent. F. 113v
  442. Wednesday of the Third Week in Lent, f. 82v.
  443. Monday of the Fourth Week in lent, f. 98v-99r.
  444. Ibid., f. 62v-63r.
  445. Cf. Const.1536, nn. 111-112, 116 and 118.
  446. Cf. H. G. Koenigsberger – G. I. Mosse, L’Europa del Cinquecento, Bari 1969, 39-73.
  447. Friday of the Second Week in Lent f. 67r.
  448. Wednesday of the Fourth Week in Lent, f. 101v-104r.
  449. Monday of the Third Week in Lent, f. 76v.
  450. Cf. Bonaventura a Mehr, De historia praedicationis, praesertim in Ord. Fr. Min. Capuccinorum, scientifica pervestigatione, in CF 11 (1941) 420s; and most of all the classical monograph by P. Giovanni [Pozzi] da Locarno, Saggio sullo stile dell’oratoria sacra nel Seicento esemplificata sul P. Emmanuele Orchi, Roma 1954, 13-17.
  451. Cf. Antonio Amico [P. Rosario Capp.], L’antica Biblioteca dei Cappuccini di Bitonto. (Tentativo di ricostruzione), Bari-S. Fara 1985, 25, 185.
  452. Cf. IF 8 (1933) 161s, nota 6.
  453. Cf. Foggia, APC, ms. E. 32: Fasciculus myrrhae etc. (cf. below in the introduction to doc. 14 and n, 6364s).
  454. A description of these manuscripts can be found in MHOC VII, XLIXs. This preaching material has never been studied and deserves a detailed analysis.
  455. Concerning Paolo da Cesena (+1638) the Biblioteca di Porto Maurizio holds manuscripts of “Prediche quaresimali recitate a Roma nella chiesa di S. Lorenzo in Damaso in occasione del Giubileo dell 1600 sotto Clemente VIII”. We have not assessed this yet. Concerning the others, we have already indicated documentary sources. Cf. nn. 2198, 2204-2206, 2210, 2216-17, 2227-28.
  456. Cf. above section I. 1085-1214, nn. 4855-5013; 1264-1355, nn. 5063-5185.
  457. With respect to this subject see vol IV of our documentary collection.
  458. In fact, Piantanida and Finucci taught Bellintani and he taught Mautini.
  459. Cf. MHOC I, 393.
  460. Ibid., 393s.
  461. Ibid., 395.
  462. The phrases in inverted comas refer to a document of the Congregazione dell’Oratorio del 1567, as well as to some Ricordi by F. M. Tarugi and a letter to Tarugi dated 1588. Cf. A. Cistellini, San Filippo Neri, l’Oratorio e la Congregazione oraroriana. Storia e spiritualità, vol. I, Brescia 1989, 85-90.
  463. Cf. below section III, doc. 3, n. 8361.
  464. Here is the original German text: “Allhier schiche ich Eurer Ehrwürden die Oboedienzen zum predigen für Ihre Studenten, mit der βitte, woollen ihnen gravi admonitione zusprechen, mit welchererDemut sie sich in diecem vortrefflichen Amte zuverhalten haben damit sie mit Worten und [durch] Exempel lehren, aut daβ sie gro sein vor Gott, denn: Qui fecerit et docuerit, hic magnusvocabitur in regno coelorum. Ferner, daβ sie sich in gröβerer Demut erhalten; da es einmal gewiβ ist, daβoffàrtiger Prediger viel Frucht schaffer kann. Ihre Prediggten sollen mit schaffen kann. Ihre Prediger viel sollen mit Gott im Gebete componiert, in der Demut vollbracht und gratiarum actione vollendet warden. Sie sind [jetar] mehr schuldig, fromm zu leben als zuvor, dieweil sie in einen hoheren Stand aufgestiegen und für Andere Lehrergeworden sind. Kelner soll dem Volke predigen, wenn er nichtzuvor solche Predigr im Refectorio vor den Brüdern vorgetragen hat und von Eurer Ehrwürden unterwiesen worden ist, wo etwas zuzutun oder auszulasen sei sowohl in der Lehre und in der Stimme als in den Gebärden. Und sonderlich warm sie den Schluβ machen, sollen sie etwas aus dem Leben oder der Passion Christi oder von den vier lerzten, Digen [her]anzieken und so die ganze. Predigi dem Herzen der Zühret [tiefer] einprägen . Bevor sie aber aut die Kanzel gehen, sollen sie sich vorerst im hl. Gebet entzürden zur LAIEBE Gottes und des Nächsten. Auch dürfen sie, wenn sie Frucht schaffen woollen, nicht viel mit Welttlichen umgeben, viel dadurchalle Frucht verschüttet wird in summa Eure Ehrwürden wird sich zu halten wisen. Wollen Sie mir P. Gguardian grüβen , we auch Ihre Studenten denen ich Glück wünsche. Gegeben in Freiburg im Breisgau, den 15 August 1619” Cf. Ein Brief des P. Alexander Bucklin von Altdorf übr das Predigtant, in Collectania Helvetica Franciscana. Srudien und Beiträce zur Geschichte der Schweizer. Kapuzinerprovinz II (1937-1942) 328.
  465. Cf. I frati Cappuccini. Documenti e testimonianze del primo secolo,vol. I, Perugia [1988], 981s, n. 958.
  466. Cf. AQ 6 (1890), 173.
  467. Cf. AO 7 (1891) 134.
  468. Cf. ibid., 20, n. 41.
  469. Cf. ibid, doc. 15, nn. 6364ss.
  470. Cf. ibid., n. 6364.
  471. Cf. Notamenti di vita e gesti di cappuccino della Provincia di S. Angelo 1613-1649. Introduction and reproduction edited by M. Iasenzaniro and R. Bonaccino, Foggia 1987, 256.
  472. Cf. Const. 1536, nn. 116-121.
  473. Cf. Fasciculus myrrhae cit. f. 48.
  474. Cf. ibid., f. 49.
  475. This is also clear in these significant expressions: “Now I invite you holy souls, to contemplate on the movements of our sweet Redeemer with inner emotions of compassion and love … Now, my soul, contemplate, with a devout spirit, with how much love and charity the most sweet Jesus accepted the cross when it was handed to him …” (nn. 6395, 6412).
  476. Christ is represented by David (n. 6368), Jonah (n. 6381), Job (nn.6387,6403-04). Joseph and Naboth (n. 6390-92), Abel (n. 6414) and Samson (n. 6383).
  477. Her are a few extracts from conversations: “O ungrateful people what are you doing? Is this how you repay your Lord for so many gifts? … “O night, O night, which is made darker by the brightness of my beautiful sun of justice … O dear Mother, where have I lost sight of your memory up to now… O poor Mother where are you? …etc. (cf. nn. 6382, 6386-87, 6402).
  478. For example: “O poor Christ, how will you escape from wicked councils, from the hands of the ministers of Satan?” (n. 6390); “O Christ this is the reason why ungrateful people want to give you up to death” (n. 6394); “My most sweet Lord, give me today such a heart and spirit, and give my words such strength that I will be able to move your faithful to have compassion for your sufferings …” (n. 6399).
  479. For example, “My soul, if you have any compassion …” (n. 6399)
  480. Here are some examples: “Here I seem to see the poor evangelists …” (n. 6381); “Here I seem to see the Lord alone in solitude, covered with abundant tears because of what he is suffering …” (n. 6385); “So my soul, contemplate being placed in the middle of an army surrounded by soldiers … I seem to see him so lost and weak that he is unable to stand on his feet … Imagine seeing him with his face drained of colour, pale the colour of death, swollen because of the blows and covered in blood with his hair dishevelled …” (n. 6395); “The blows can be heard from a distance as if his body were a marble or bronze statue” (n. 6401); “Imagine seeing that body with the skin torn, having skin and flesh mixed together and perhaps with the bones exposed; on the ground you can see a lake of blood which has stained the clothes of the executioners as it does butchers” (n. 6402).
  481. For example: “O sinners, do you know why the Lord allowed your eyes to be veiled?” (n. 6384); “Who will give me the voice and the words to explain such a dreadful spectacle to the Christian people?” (n. 6399); “O heaven, O stars, O sun why do you not halt your course …” (n. 6401), “O Daniel, truthful judge, defender of the innocent, why can you not hear this?” (n. 6392); “O Pilot, what are you doing?” (n. 6408) etc.
  482. Cf. Fasciculus myrrhae cit. f. 162. The whole sermon ff. 162-168.
  483. Ibid.
  484. Ibid., f. 163.
  485. Ibid.
  486. Ibid., f. 166s.
  487. Ibid., f. 167.
  488. Ibid., f. 169.
  489. Ibid., f. 170. Matteo added to the text: Finis Deo gratias et Beatae Virginis.
  490. We have no more information about this religious who lived in the first decades of the Seventeenth Century. The Necrologio dei Frati Minori Cappuccini della provincial religiosa di Foggia (1530-1968) Foggia 1969, 437, mentions him without giving any biographical details. This is only because his name appears in a marginal note in the Cronichetta by Girolamo da Napoli.
  491. Cf. Foggia, APC, Ms. E, 31, f. 257-289: “Predica dell’Inventione della Croce, composta e fatta dal R. P. Fra Matteo d’Agnone Predicatore Capuccino della Provincia di Sant’Angelo, et per suo amore e devotione copiata da me Fra Gio[vanni] Batista da Goglionisi, suo Discepolo, predicando in San Severo l’Avvento del 1629.”
  492. Ibid., 257s.
  493. Ibid., 259.
  494. Ibid., 260.
  495. Ibid., 266s
  496. Ibid., 267-269.
  497. Ibid., 260s.
  498. Ibid., 282.
  499. Ibid., 283s
  500. Ibid., 286, 288s.
  501. Cf. AO 7 (1891) 20, n. 39.
  502. Ibid., 20, n. 40.
  503. Cf. Ord. Gen. 1671, n. 29: AO 7 (1891) 115s. – For further references see Bonaventura von Mehr, Des Predigtwesen in der Kölnischen und Rheinischen Kapuziner – provinz im 17. und 18. Jahrbundert, Roma 1945, 72s.
  504. Cf. MHOC VIII, 121s. See also Bonaventura von Mehr, Das Predigtwesen cit., 411s.
  505. Cf. in vol. II n. 971. The following are very important articles on this subject: V. Ricci, A proposito di oratoria sacra del Seicento: la “Predica a concetto”, in Convivium 34 (1966) 624-632; Spigolature di esponenti lessicali e concettuali da documenti cappuccino dei Cinque-Seicento, ibid. 37 (1969) 649-663; Per una lettura degli interventi di S. Alfonso sulla predicazione apostolica. Il concetto di “Predicatore Apostolico” tra i Cappuccini dale loro origini al Settecento, in Spicil. Hist. C.SS.R. 20 (1972) 54-70.
  506. Cf. MHOC VIII, 71. This circular was issued at Loreto on 19th Feb 1641.
  507. We do not know the date of the death of this religious who was a contemporary of Matteo d’Agnone, but as we read in the Necrologia he was “famous for his knowledge and integrity. He was a superior on various occasions and was elected Provincial during the Chapter at Bari in 1611 and elected again at Bisceglie and Adria in 11612 and 1613,” Cf. Antonio da Stigliano, Necrologio dei Fr. Capp. Di Puglia, Bari 1943, 110, 19 aprile.
  508. Cf. Quadragesimale del P[ad]re fra Giacomo da Molfetta cit., f. 277v, the entire sermon ff. 221r -227v
  509. Cf. I Frati Cappuccini, vol II, 481s, nn. 2216-17; 458, n. 2223.
  510. This is a paper codex bound in leather that containe 158 leaves. It is held in Milan in the Arch. Di Stato, Religione 6503/4, and is headed Vita, costume et opera del rev. P.re fra Paolo Maria d’Asti predicatore cappuccino, racolta per ordine del M.R. P.re Generale, p.re fra Giovanni da Moncaglieri, da me fra Dalmatio da Corgniento sacerdote del medesimo ordine, che li fu copagno vinti sei anni, et nella mente mia diligente osservatore di tutti le sue attioni. Giovanni da Moncalieri’s letter was written in Madrid on 12th June 1640. Among other things this letter says: “Because he was very good and was so faithful and devoted to the Order and as I was his companion from start to finish, I wish to call to memory all his activities, virtues, spiritual practices, mortification, hard work and other things so that they may be readily acknowledged, concerning his birth, adolescence and what I could learn from the President who was his brother while I was conveniently in Asti. The President and I were friends at the time of his death …” (cf. Milano, Arch. Di Stato, Religione 6509 f. 20). As he says in the introduction P. Dalmazio asked him to forward, “an account of whatever I could dig out of my memory. He then completed the story ae we have it in this codex which he finished on 6th August 1641 less hurriedly in the friary at Canzo and sent it to the superiors of the Peovince.
  511. Cf. Dalmazio da Corgnierito, Vita, costume et opers cit., 32s.
  512. Ibid., 29s.
  513. Here is a detailed chronological list of his principal sermons in which the first mentioned is a Lenten Course with Forty Hours Devotion in italics while the one mentioned in second place is an Advent Course. 1610 Lanzo, 1611 Chiavari-Casale Monferrato, 1612 Torino-Rome (S. Lorenzo in Damaso), 1613 Macerata – Siena, 1614 Pisa-Colle di Val d’Elsa, 1615 Firenze-Ravenna, 1616 Luca-Siena, 1617 Roma (S Lorenzo in Damaso) – Naples, 1818 Ravenna Modena, 1619 Brescia– Torin, 1620 Torin, 1621 Venezia, 1622 Udine, 1626 Saluzzo, 1627 Cuneo, 1628 Mondoví, 1629 Savigliano-Fossano, 1630 Asti, 1631 Fossano, 1632 Brescia, 1633 Naples, 1634 Rome (Chiesa Nova), 1635 Rome (S. Giovanni de’ Fiorentini)-Assisi, 1636 Cesena, 1637 Biella, 1638 Verona, 1639 Imola. In the manuscript cited on pp. 30-34 these sermons are listed in more detail.
  514. Ibid., 34s.
  515. Concerning the involvement of the city during the Forty Hours Devotion see below in section II/2 which deals with the Forty Hours specifically and in detail.
  516. Ibid., 41-43.
  517. Ibid., 65s.
  518. Ibid., 61-65.
  519. Regarding this see the manuscript we have quoted. “In the year 1612 when the preacher Reverend Father Girolamo da Narni who had been invited to preach before the Pope in San Paolo by Reverend Cardinal Belarmino took sick the Pope ordered the General to provide another preacher for that pulpit. The General obeyed and considered presenting one of the two preachers whom he liked very much namely Father Francesco da Genova, who was known as Father Novi, and Father Francesco d’Ancona, who was known as Father Giugiula, both of whom were famous men”. (Ibid., 67s).
  520. Ibid., 70.
  521. Ibid., 98.
  522. Cf. MHOC VIII, 71.
  523. Cf. Vita, costume et opera cit. 43s.
  524. Cf. Venanzio da Lago Santo, Apostolo e diplmatico, o il P. Giacinto dei Conti Natta da Casale Monferrato, cappuccino, Milano 1886, 14; – Unfortunately so far there is no critical monograph on the person and activity of Narra. There is a bibliographical note in Lexicon cap. 777s.
  525. Cf. below in section II/2, nn. 6681-6694. – AGO, cart. MM (H) contains a long letter written by Fr. Antonioda Merete, a Capuchin, that was addressed to the historian Fr. Giacomo da Salò dated Milan 3/4/1613. It deals with the Forty Hours. See also nn. 2229=2232.
  526. Venanzio da Lago Santo, Apostolo e diplomatico cit. 92. The letter is dated Good Friday 1614.
  527. Cf. below nn. 6695-6706.
  528. These letters are dated 26/4 and 15/5 1615. Venanzio da Lago Santo, Apostolo e diplomatico, 105.
  529. Cf. below in section II/2, nn. 6707-6735.
  530. Cf. Venanzio da Lago Santo, Apostolo e diplimatico, 164.
  531. Ibid. 173s.
  532. Cf. Hildebrandt [de Hogledel],
  533. The letter is dated in Naples during the month of April 1626. cf. Venanzio de Lago Santo, Apostolo e diplomatico, 386s.
  534. Ibid., 451s.
  535. Ibid., 425.
  536. In 1872 Father Rocco da Cesinale complained about the loss of these important manuscripts that belonged to Father Giacinto. He quoted the ancient Vita del P. Giacinto Natta da Casal, cappuccino. That was held in the friary at Casale and later at Tortona. He had made use of this documentary source and introduced it with these words: “It would require many volumes if one were to relate in detail what is to be found in these authentic manuscripts both concerning religious and the noble Natta family, the Oratory at Casale and thereabouts where Father Giacinto’s diaries, letters, replies and other writings are held. We have only quoted excerpts so as not to drag out the narrative.” In Father Rocco da Casale’s personal notes, which are still held in ACOG, cart. MM (II) we read the comment: “A sad Notice! As other documents could have told us more.”
  537. Cf. P. G. Crisostomo da Cittadella, P. Giacinto conte Natti da Casale, O. Min. Cap. Nella sua predicazione, Verona, [1948] 16 pp.
  538. Instead P. Giovanni Crisostomo da Citadella maintained that we were dealing with an original on grounds that we believe to be unfounded. He wrote “if this were a copy there would have been no additions, cancellations, whole blank pages or leaves, with the writing being smaller in parts, the lines narrower and flowing over into the margin. Anyone who had made a copy would have been careful not to do this.” (P. Giacinto canto Natta cit., VIII). In fact, we can clearly see three different hands that are different from Natta’s handwriting. What has been added or cancelled or introduced into the writing might have been caused by various things such the difficulty in reading the handwriting, carelessness etc. At least we could hypothesise that these sermons were transcribed by a brother who was his companion while he was preaching. This would also account for the different kinds of handwriting.
  539. Cf. Sermoni XL, sopra la Passione, f. 4r.
  540. Ibid., f. 96r: Sermo XVIII.
  541. Ibid., f. 59r: Sermo XI.
  542. Ibid., f. 41v: Sermo VIII.
  543. Ibid., f. 33rv: Sermo VI.
  544. Ibid., f. 64r: Sermo XII
  545. Ibid., f. 11r: Sermo I
  546. Ibid., f. 66r: Sermo XII
  547. Taken from an ancient Vita ms. F. 166v which was quoted in the notes of Fr Rocco da Cesinale (cf. note 536)
  548. Vita ms., 168 from the notes of Rocco da Cesinale as already quoted.
  549. Cf. Sermoni cit., f. 4r: Sermo I.
  550. Ibid., f. 31v: Sermo V
  551. Ibid., f. 60rv: Sermo XI
  552. Cf. below, sez. II/2, doc. 8/1 nn. 6685-86; doc. 8/3, n.6712.
  553. Cf. Sermoni cit., f. 157r: Sermo XXVII
  554. Those who are quoted the most are St Augustine (8 times), St Jerome (4 times), St Francis (8 times), Saints Ambrose, John, Chrysostom, Gregory the Great and Isidor (twice), St Antonino, St Bernardino and the Carthusian (once). Among the theologians, moral theologians and canonists, Martin of Azpilcuera is mentioned (13 times), Emmanuel Rodriguez (11 times), St Thomas (twice), Scotus and Cajetan (once), Silvester Prierias (5 times). There are also some classical authors such as Cicero, Plato and Aristotle, Hypothetus, Severinus and others. The Council of Trent is quoted at least three times, and the Code of Canon Law four times.
  555. In fact, the book concludes with two prayer formulas for an act of contrition. (ibid., 257-60) and with many practices aimed at conquering sin and breaking bad habits (ibid., 225-255 and nn. 6468-6473).
  556. Cf. Avvisi importanti e neccesarii a’ principi, giudici e magistrate, in Avvisi a diversi stati cit., 7-19.
  557. Fof these quotations see, Avvisi per li gentil’huomini e signori principali (ibid., 20-35).
  558. Ibid., 38s
  559. Ibid., 41.
  560. Ibid., 42s.
  561. Cf. ibid., 44s: “When they do not reveal what they are obliged to reveal or when they delay in revealing it and as a consequence a third party is hurt; when they do not reveal something to someone who does not know about it, or deny that they know about it or they hide something, lose it or falsify the documents; when they leave out a necessary clause or item; when they do not study difficult passages and do not consult with someone who knows, then they, are just like the lawyers and prosecutors; when they write down something different from what the guilty person said or overlook a necessary detail; when they give false testimony, or know that a contract contains what amounts to usury, injustice, and still, when requested write it down;, when they do not give advice about the most binding matters; when they deny giving documents to the poor because they do not have the means to pay them, they commit mortal sin.”
  562. Ibid., 45s. For all of the other quotes see Avvisi per li avvocati, procuratori e notari (ibid., 36-47)
  563. “A Jewish doctor in the city of Mantova (as if the example taken from Hypocrites was not enough) was so religiously-minded and strict with regard to this (among the other good practices that a Christian doctor would have inherited from Rome) that he would not have made a second or third visit without telling the sick person that God would pay the debt. Ideo ipsi iudices vestri erunt. Oh Christian, both Hypocrites and the Jew condemn you.” (ibid., 49s).
  564. Ibid., 53.
  565. Ibid., 54 Cf. Avvisi per li medici e chirugici, 47-54.
  566. Ibid., 59s.
  567. Ibid., 61s
  568. Ibid., 64-67.
  569. Ibid., 69 – Cf. Avvisi per il cortiggiani e servitori de’grandi, 64-69.
  570. “If a soldier is satisfied with his pay, has patience, attends Mass, he should place himself each day under the protection of God, the Blessed Virgin and his Guardian Angel. He should not be a gambler, and should restrain his tongue and his hands, have respect for women, obeys his superiors. I do not know that there is a surer road to salvation” (ibid., 75s).
  571. Cf. Avvisi per I soldati, 75, 82.
  572. Ibid., 83. “Cerettani” are shows that present false gossip.
  573. “My teacher, Stefano Ruffa, was strict. He was a good teacher quem honoris et grati animi causa nomino. There was no one like him in this work. He was upright, inspired, sincere and exquisitely creative. I have never known him to chastise a child without being very fair and temperate.” (Ibid., 84).
  574. Ibid., 84s
  575. Ibid., 88, Palmerino d’Oliva and Don Florisello were novels about knights.
  576. Ibid.,89s.
  577. Ibid., 96.
  578. Ibid., 92s.
  579. Ibid. 133.
  580. Cf. Avvisi per li huomini e donne maritate, 138
  581. “Let them know that not waiting for the proper time angers God who will not give them favours for the rest of their lives, indeed he will allow them to incur serious misfortune in regard to health, wealth, parenthood and mutual love, quarrels will arise, jealousy, disrespect and hopelessness. It will come to pass that their wives will seem to be prostitutes rather than wives. In fact, whoever says that they are such is telling the truth. To conclude, if they conceive children in sin, what fruit can a plant produce if its root is so bitter? What good outcome can something have that began by offending God?” (Ibid. 139s).
  582. “Let them beware not to incur excommunication by forcing their children to enter religious communities, or removing vocations by means of threats or violence, when someone has been called by God. Let them know that it is dangerous that other children will leave, and very great misfortune will come upon their home.” (Ibid. 141s)
  583. “Whoever wishes to be continent in order to serve God is doing something sacred. Wanting to be continent so as not to have children (when there is no good reason), is something that is evil. However, not wanting to remain continent as well as not wanting to have children is worse, wicked and diabolical.” (Ibid. 143)
  584. “The best decision that you could make, my most beloved brothers, would be for gentlemen and others who can afford it, to send their son to an academy or other place that is abroad for one year to undertake some good occupation in accord with their ability. This would be a remedy I say, (if you can believe someone who loves you most tenderly in the heart of Christ), especially for the many cancerous sores that come about naturally or even by means of heredity in the milk they drink as their nourishment.” (Ibid.) 147.
  585. Ibid., 151.
  586. Cf. Avvisi per li figliuoli di famiglia, 156. The entire text is from 149-157.
  587. Ibid., 160s.
  588. Ibid., 162-65.
  589. Ibid., 169s
  590. Ibid., 172.
  591. Ibid., 171s
  592. Ibid., 179.
  593. Ibid., 173-81
  594. Ibid., 185s
  595. Ibid., 187.
  596. Ibid., 189s.
  597. Ibid., 191.
  598. This is quite clear in the full title of the tract: Trattato della povrtà religiosa … nel quale a pieno si dimostra l’obligo che tengono I prelate d’introdurre et mantenere la vita commune et i sudditi di accettarla. Opera utilissima ai religiosi et religiose per fuggire il detestabile et mortal vitio della proprietà, Mantova 1622.
  599. Ibid., 204s
  600. Cf. Diversi avvisi servirarino a tutti in generale, 225s.
  601. Ibid., 225-235.
  602. Ibid., 245s.
  603. Cf. Rocco da Cesinale, Storia del la missioni dei Cappuccini, vol. II, Roma 1872, 630 note 1; Davide M. da Portogruaro, Il Giacinto dei conti Natta cit.,Venezia 1928, 224 note 2.
  604. Cf. Rocca da Cestinale, Storoia del le missioni dei Cappuccini, vol. II, Roma 1872, 630 note 1; Davide M. Portogruaro, Il Giacinto dei conti Natta cit., Venezia 1928, 223, note 2.
  605. The Prediche were republished in 1634 and 1639 in Rome and in 1637 and 1639 (the last one in two different editions, by Giunta and by Fr Baglioni) in Venice. They were also translated into French and published in Paris in 1637.
  606. In fact forty years later, in 1628/29, when giving testimony at the Process in Todi on the virtues of Br Raniero da Borgo San Sepolcro (cf. section III, doc. 2) Girolomo da Narni referred to the manuscript of a Vita that had been “composed and written in his own hand by Professor Father Brother Mattia da Salò, who taught me theology and who was a contemporary of Raniero and who often had long familiar talks with him. We may know that Father Mattia is trustworthy because of the high reputation of his person, since in his day he was one of the leading Fathers in our Order, because he had written many works that the world enjoys today, and because he was a famous preacher (as we can read in the two eulogies that were printed and read out on the death of the Father) for the space of fifty continuous years and worked with untiring zeal for the love of God, the salvation of souls and the spread of Holy Church. He preached during all the seasons of God’s Church, in the most famous pulpits in the world. To his credit and with great profit to the Order he was often the general lector of theology in different Provinces. He was eminent for his prudence as he carried out the various heavy tasks involved in government. In addition to having been Provincial in different Provinces and being Definitor General, he was also Commissary General in the Provinces of Venice, Sicily, Switzerland, Bohemia and others, especially France, where he was the first one to establish our Order, and build the main friaries in that area, imparting on them a deep spirit and regular observance. The best witness to this is the progress they have made. Thus Henry III, as he was called, and the Queen Mother, who was alive at that time, because of this and the great virtues of this Father, felt such great love and devotion towards him that it seemed that there was nothing better in the world than to talk to him and be his friend, and the King revealed his most hidden secrets to him. As a sign of the love he had for them he gave them special relics which were accepted in a religious manner by the Parliament of that antichristian country. He was so holy that he was so abstemious that while he was preaching, he fasted on bread and water for the entire Lent. With regard to prayer he was very prudent when he published the books that he wrote on the subject. A devout religious said that he has seen him place a dove on his head while he was at prayer … In the end after a few years this Father left aside the Istoria Capuccina that he was writing and returned to a better way of life in the friary at Brescia with such a reputation for sanctity that when he died a great crowd of people gathered and two of his habits were torn up as well as his entire beard and when his grave was opened after a few years his whole body was found to be corrupt except for the tongue and the head, which were the instruments that he had used when contemplating and writing and which were preserved incorrupt. When the doctors examined this, they concluded that there was no explanation except that it was a miracle, since in the course of nature these things should have been corrupted. Because of this they are preserved today with proper reverence in the friary in Brescia where he passed on to be with the Lord. Because a Father such as this has written the life of Br Raniero in his personal handwriting, as I know very well because I knew his character, I know that what he wrote is faithful to the truth and that he would not have written anything that was not true.” Cf. Tudestina. Beatificationis et canonizationis ven. Servi Dei Raynerii a Burgo S. Sepulchri, Positio …, Romae 1858, 13s.r
  607. Cf. n. 6038
  608. This biography was composed, following the death of Mautini, by the official Capuchin chronicler at the request of Nicola Riccardi who was a Dominican and Master of the Sacred Palace, and by Feluciano da Milano, who was the Procurator General at the time. The Minister Provincial of Umbria had given orders for biographical material to be gathered from twenty-three sources that were held by many friars. This documentary material was used by the chronicler in his biography that was written in Latin on the orders of Cardinal Ludovisi and had the following title: Vita R. P. Hieronymi Narniensis totius Ordinis Capucinorum Vicarii Generalis, et Sacri Palatij Concionatoris Apostolici, Romae 1647, 440 pp.
  609. Cf. Vita cit. 156, 158. “Quid ergo Hieronymus Naeniensis tantum profecerit in comparandis scientiis, illud fere totum adscribo solertiae praelati patris Mathiae, qui discipulos suos volebat esse suispiritus aemulos et imitators cultus, quem in oratione iugi Deo sedulus exhibebat. Natumque potissimum stadium praeelectoris erat, animo versare sacra salutis nostrae mysteria, in quae pias meditationes subdidit praelo. Hieronymus Nariensis ex praescripto sui magistri compositus, its sum animum liberis applicuit, ut orationi primas dederit semper, ne praeposterus ordo, sua literarum studia gloriolae inanis vitio temeraret…. In has [that is in piety and in virtue] non impegit cautes Hieronymus, praeeunte sibi lectore probo et virtutis emeritae, cuius factis magis attendebat, quam scripta vel sermones; sicquae potest ille probus discipulus optimi sui magistri lectiones et doctrinam, potius oculis et manibus, in praxim compositis, quam avidis ad discendendum auribus ebibisset.” With regard to the impact and almost Spartan severity and effectiveness of Bellintani’s formation teaching see also vol I, n. 1191.
  610. Marcellinus De Pise, Vita cit. 156s.
  611. Cf. above note 231.
  612. When Mattia da Salò came to Umbria as the general lector, he had only recently returned from France where he had firmly implanted the Capuchin reform, as Mautini himself recognised. He continued to preach Lenten and Advent Courses. However, during the course of the year his charming manner and willingness to explain the Gospel, that had stirred the interest of both teachers and students in the University in Perugia (n. 6038), together with the way he taught theology, must have undoubtedly made an impression on Girolomo da Narni.
  613. “A magno illo viro didicit omnes partes optimi praeceptoris. Unde sui ipsius magistri iudicio invenis et invitus Hieronymus Narniensis praefectus est in lectorem, immature sacerdotio aetate magister effectus, exemplo forsan hactenus inaudito. Itaque delecto Mathiae Bellintani, Hieronymus studio philosophiae praeficitur, ut utramque scientiam, vitae scilicet et sermonis alios edoceret. … Non defuere Momi carpentes Mathiam Bellintani, quod inaspecto exemplo curasset, studio philosophiae praefici hominem, cui iunior aetas erat iniuria.” (Vita cit., 160, 162).
  614. Mattia personally revealed this odd occurrence in a letter to the Oratorian O. Mancini that he sent from Genoa on 26/1/1595. “thus I have never shaken off the title of “terrible’ (Cf. Perugia, Arch. Dell’Oratorio, Corrispondenza O. Mancini).
  615. “Illa demum concione finite fervore quo coeperat, populus ut solebat, non recessit tumultuans et incondito clamore strepens, subito egressus cavens alios a tergo instantes. Sed tota illa corona populi ingentis immota stettit et velut interdicta loqui, vitae retroacyae seriem omnem suspiriis, atquae erebris fletibus expiabat. Ipsi fraters capucini, qui singulis quibusque diebus duodeni confluebant ad concessum illum numerosum, et peracta concione visebant patrem Hieronymum, illa die sese recepere taciti in sum coenobium, pertaesi omnia, quae sunt mundi huius, et ad coelestia duntaxat votis omnibus anhelantes.” (Ibid., 166s.)
  616. “There are many more that need my attention and which I hope that I can include in a second edition, when I get around to having it printed and his Majesty gives me the grace of putting my hand to it.” (Lerrera cit.). However, these sermons never saw the light and are now lost.
  617. “Die 22 decembris, feria secunda, fuit concio in aula Constantini coram Pontifice et cardinalibus per rev. fratrem Hieronymum Maucium (sic) Cappuccinum loco r. p. f. Pietri Discalciati Ordinis Carmelitarum superioribus diebus defuncti, quae concio hoc tempore adventus singulis hebdomadis per eundem Capuccinum habita fuit.” (ASV, Borgh. I 722, f. 50: da P. Mauro da Leonessa, Il predicatore apostolico. Note storiche, Isola Del Liri 1929, 72). In all there were four sermons that were delivered once a week on Saturday. They usually fell on the feasts of S. Andrea, the Immaculate Conception, S. Lucia and S. Tommaso Apostolo. In the Prediche by Mautini, Wednesday of the Third Week in Advent replaces the feast of S. Lucia.
  618. Cf. Mario da Leonessa, Il predicatore apostolico cit., 31 and note 2 where it is said that the first one to do this was Fr. Pietro della Madre di Dio. Three of these “talks” were published in the Prediche by Mautini.
  619. A note made by the Master of Ceremonies says that the hall of Constantine in the Vatican, where Girolomo da Narni was preaching, was not big enough to accommodate all of the Cardinals, Prelates and Officials of the Curia. “Die 12 eiusdem mensis, martii 1610 feria sexta fuit concio P. Hieronymi Mautini in Aula Constantini, papa sub bussola et 22 cardinalibus audientibus qui totam aulam et etiam quadraturam ante Cardinales impleverunt.” (ASV, Borgh I 722, f. 151: P. Mauro da Leonessa, Il predicatore apostolico, cit., 42).
  620. “Die 13 eiusdem mensis Aprilis 1612, feria sexta fui concio patris Hieromymi Mautini Capuccini in Palatio Quirinali in prima et majori aula novi appartamenti nuper a sanctissimo domino nostro constructi, quae capacitor et commodior visa fuit quam sit aula Constantini in Palatio Vaticano. Papa audivit concionem sub bussola fabricata prope portam ingressus in secundam aulam a sinistris ingredientium.” (ASV, Borg, I, 722, f. 353: ibid.).
  621. See above, note 519.
  622. “Feria sexta quadragesimae die 26 februarii 1621 fuit concio in aula Constantini apud S. Petrum in Palatio Apostolico, quam habuit unus frater Capuccinorum Ordinis S. Francisci, loco fratris Narniae Capuccini, qui in tempore non advenit …”; BVA, Vat. Lat. 12296, f. 397v.
  623. Cf. M. H. Laurent, Marginalia de P. Hieronymo a Narni, O.F.M.Cap., in CF 26 (1956) 280, note 4.
  624. Ibid., 280, note 5.
  625. The Master of Ceremonies, Paolo Alaleone wrote: “There was no sermon because the preacher had fallen ill suffering an attack of fever during the night.” Ibid., 280 and notes 6-7.
  626. Ibid., 280, notes 8-9.
  627. Girolamo da Narni’s letter of 29th October 1630 to Cardinal Lodovisi, which has already been quoted, and which served as an introduction to the publication, speaks about the Cardinal’s insistent request as it was conveyed both in conversation and by letter:: “You told me in Rome that you wanted to have a copy of the sermons that I preached in the Apostolic Palace in your hands and to have them printed. …” Cf. AGO. Cod. AB, 120, p. 119.
  628. Cf. A. Cappelli, Cronologia, cronografia e calendario perpetuo, Milano 19302, 67.
  629. Cf. Prediche fatte nel Palazzo Apostolico, Roma 1632, 257, 291-302.
  630. Cf. Prediche cit. 362-379; In the “Index of subjects the deal with sermons” which is at the beginning of the volume we find a better explanation: “The sermon for the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin (by order of his Holiness Pope Paul V this was preached on Friday before Passion Sunday because the normal sermon could not be preached in the Palace on the preceding Friday because of the crowd coming to the Zetelle wedding of at Minerva) …” Ibid., 23 n.n.
  631. Cf, A. Cappelli, Cronologia cit., 60.
  632. Ibid., 98; Prediche cit., 564-574.
  633. Even the scholarly Dominican, M. –H. Laurent found it impossible to establish the dates of these sermons: “Quibus temporibus tamen hotum Pontificium (Paolo V e Gregorio XV) tribuendae sint, parum comperimus.” (Marginella cit., in CF 26 (1956) note 10).
  634. This is what he said in his letter to Cardinal I. Ludovisi, which was printed in the Introduction to the Prediche which we have already quoted.
  635. Ibid.,
  636. Ibid.
  637. For example, it was said that Cardinal Faranese used to say that as soon as he saw Mautini start to speak in the pulpit he immediately felt struck by a kind of terror that was mixed with the greatest respect and reverence. The same thing happened to many other Prelates. Cf. Annali dell’Ordine de’ Frati Minori Cappuccini. Parte Terza del Tomo Terzo, descritta dal Padre Fr. Massimo Bertani da Valenza, Milano 1714, 591. In an interesting document that was composed by an anonymous listener, which we shall deal with later, the impact of his preaching on the Pope, the Cardinals and other Prelates was described as: “When Father Pietro Scalzo died, the Lord Pope chose him to occupy the pulpit in the Palace, from where being raised up a little from the ground he delivered his thoughts, taught with great ability, moved with more than natural strength and delighted all with heavenly sweetness. On the day the people gathered to fill the hall. They stood in among the crowd as best they could, one on top of the other, and outside the doors where his terse words arrived over a long distance. They were so attentive that they did not bat an eye, without a breath coming from such a great number. If anyone touched another’s ear he was immediately stopped in an authoritative way and told to be quiet. The Ambassadors of Kings gathered at an upper window of the building to listen to him. The Cardinals were crushed up together. I saw a young Prelate faint, and nobody move to help him, except for the two people who were immediately next to him. Sometimes when the sermon was finished, the people remained motionless. Some had been overcome with delight, others raised their heads in wonder and others were thinking over their own thoughts. They competed with one another in making comments without waiting for each other saying: “Treasures both of nature and art came from those lips. Did you hear his tone? You have witnessed a river flowing with gold. O what a building of such rare beauty made of precious material and displaying superb architecture, and other such expressions. Somebody said to me: “He did not use words but flying weapons.” Another, “Every word is a sermon.” Others: “Have you heard God speaking?” What sticks in my mind is that I experienced rapture, feeling transported beyond myself and being lifted up from the earth.” (BAV, Barb. Lat. 4508, 2v-3r).
  638. Cf. Prediche fatten el Palazzo Apostolico cit., 88a, 186a. 313a, 433b.
  639. Cf. Annali cit., 584, 621.
  640. The original title is much longer and more like something from the sixteen hundreds: Sapientiae tubae scientia, idest Tractatus scholasticus de arte sacra concionandi, in quo sex distinctionibus omnia comprebendduntur, quae sacris sunt necessaria concionatoribus pro concionibis dicendis, simul et componendis, additis exemplis … Opus proficiuum studiosis, sed novitiis praedicationibus apprime necessarium, Panormi 1667.
  641. Ibid., 267.
  642. This appraisal was reprinted in Mautini’s Prediche F. n.n.
  643. This letter was already known to scholars who had written about Girolomo da Narni. However, it was only parts of it that were used perhaps because it is difficult to read because the manuscript is stained with ink. A copy is preserved with other letters concerning Mautini in BAV, Barb. Lat. 4508, ff. 1r-8v. Cf. Mauro da Leonessa, Padre Girolomo da Narni, in IF 1 (1926) 119-130; id., Il predicatore apostolico cit., 82s; Donato da S. Giovanni in Persiceto, Instuzione inedita del P. Girolomo da Narni sull’oratoria sacra, Bologna 1959.
  644. BAV, Barb, Lat. 4508, ff. 2v, 3rv.
  645. Ibid., ff. 4r-5r. – In another letter that was addressed to Fr. Giuseppe della Bastia (+ 1665/66), a Capuchin, the unknown author wrote about the “eremitical” style of Mautini. The letter is dated Rome 1.9.1632 which was the day before the death of Girolomo da Narni. He says in the opening lines: “How I cried and moaned yesterday over the death of the great Father Nani … He did not come out of his cell for anything, not taking a step for his health or for a walk. If he had done so I do not think that he would have died. For years he always lived beside a lamp. For months he kept away from conversation with the Friars. He did not accept visits from lay people, and never wanted to have contact. Did anyone see him going about? Did ever any even once see him at Court even thought he had preached at court? …” (Ibid., ff. 14r, 16r).
  646. Ibid., ff. 5r-6r.
  647. Inid., ff. 6v-7r. – A little later we shall see how deep, technically precise reflection was, and how it formed part of Mautini’s method.
  648. Montalo This is an addition in the margin written by another hand.
  649. Prelato. This is an interlinear correction by a different hand.
  650. Ibid., ff. 7v-8v.
  651. Ibid., ff. 3v-4r.
  652. Ibid., f. 1rv.
  653. Ibid., f. 5v
  654. Cf. Prediche gate nel Palazzo Apostolico, 290b. This topic comes up often in his sermons, for example, Ibid., 210-216, 289s.
  655. Ibid., in the sermon for “Friday of the Third Week in Lent.”
  656. Cf. Paolino Carlini, Francesco Maria Casini cit., 183; also Father Ottaviano da Savona in his Lezioni di sacra aloquenze dettate a’ suoi aluni (vol I, Milano 18573, 352s), says that in reading the sermons of Mautini he found that clear divisions had been set down (and that Narni was the first one to introduce this), as a normal and useful method, filled with Gospel freedom as well as religious observance. If you were to read some of Narni’s sermons they would put you in touch with some of the ideas that inspired them, with the forcefulness with which they were delivered and the tone of his voice as he delivered them. In our opinion this would strongly convince you to esteem evangelical preaching which subsequently started the reform that was completed by Casini and Giacco.”
  657. Cf. Prediche fatte nel Palazzo Apostolico cit., 69a.
  658. For example: “Where was the heavenly Father’s vineyard planted? How did God plant the vineyard of the Church of Christ? What kind of fruit is this? Listen to the Holy Spirit …” (Ibid., 70b, 71a etc.)
  659. Ibid., 10a: The entire sermon 9a-19b.
  660. Ibid., 15ab.
  661. The more or less stereotypical sentences with which he ends the first part of the sermon are set down like this: “I shall rush onto the rest with four words and regain my breath.” (502); “Let us take a break … Let us take a break and then I will go on quickly.” (514b, 451b). “Let us pause for a while and briefly consider the depth of thought in this mystery.” (140b) “I shall regain my breath and shortly go on with the rest – (310b), “This is enough. Let us go on with the rest and regain our breath” (441b) “So as not to hold you back with the bitterness of penance, I will go on to the sweetness of greeting God and regain my breath”. (298b) “I will hasten out of the sea with four more words and come to port.” (262b) etc.
  662. Ibid., 15a.
  663. Ibid., 16a.
  664. Ibid., 16b.
  665. Ibid., 17b
  666. Ibid., 18a.
  667. Ibid., 16b-19a.
  668. Ibid., 19ab
  669. Ibid., 169b; from the sermon for the Feast of St Thomas the Apostle.
  670. The topic has received very little attention in past studies such as that of G. B. Brasci, Idea del pulpito mitrato, Roma 1725, 302-312, where the author collected various “Sentimenti espressi nelle sue prediche [di Girolomo da Narni] concernenti l’obligo dei vescovi de farsi sentire sorvente ai loro popoli”; for more recent studies see Il dovere della cooperazione missionaria nel pensiero del P. Gerolamo da Nani, in Annuario missionario italiano (1936) 93-99, and most of all an unpublished work by Fr Maurizio Roso da Cartosio, Il Prelato in cura d’anime nelle Prediche al Palazzo Apostolico di P. Girolamo da Narni, Roma 1954.
  671. Cf. AnnaliPart III of volume III by Fr. Massimo Bertani da Valenza, Mlano 1714, 591.
  672. Cf. Sebastiano Vento, Le condizioni della oratiria sacra del Seicento. Ricerche e critica, Milano-Roma-Napoli 1916 443,446s.
  673. Cf. P. Zanotto, Storia della predicazione, Modena 1899, 231.
  674. This verse is taken from the Aeneid by Virgil.
  675. Cf. Prediche fatten el Palazzo Apostolico cit., 71b-72a.
  676. Cf. BAV, Barb. Lat. 4508, f. 8v.
  677. Cf. Gianpaolo Oliva, Prediche dette al Palazzo Apostolico, vol I, Roma 1673, 42.
  678. Cf. Letter to the Bishop of Novara C. Bascapè, Roma 21/3/1611: BAV, Barb. Lat. 4308 f. 3r.
  679. Cf. Marcellinus De Pise da Macon, Vita R. P. F. Hieronymus Narniensis, Roma 1647, 191: “Illic aderat reverendissimus Magister sacri palatii, inclyti ordinis Praedicatorum suo saeculo maximum ornamentum. Is erat Pater Nicolaus Ricardius, in quem multa charismata coelitus influxerant … Ut erat affectu intimo iunctus Hieronymo, ite et voluit in gratiam eius ad populum orationem texere funeralem. Toto contextu lugubris illius argumenti comparavit Hieronymum cum Ioanne Baptista, dicens cum fuisse lucernam lucentem et ardentem. Urgente amore seipsum vicit ille encomiastes, qui ut in praedicando fuit semper magnus, illa die maximus extitit, et id ad stuporem suorum omnium auditorium. Profecto fuit funebris haec oratio, utpote tota madens fletu, quo sermo desudans omnium adstantium lacrymaex citavit.”