Critical Introduction to Early Capuchin Preaching

in I Frati CappucciniCostanzo Cargnoni, Edizioni Frate Indovino, Perugia, 1991, III/1, pages 1751-1813.

Translated by Patrick Colbourne O.F.M.Cap

A partial translation of Br Constanzo Cargnoni’s

CRITICAL INTRODUCTION TO EARLY CAPUCHIN PREACHING

Translator’s note:

This translation is based on the introduction, text and footnotes which were published by P. Costanzo Cargnoni O.F.M.Cap. in I Frati Cappuccini: Documenti e testimonianze dell primo secolo, Edizioni Frate Indovino, Perugia, vol III/1, pp.1751-1813. The only additions to the notes made by the translator are references to Francis of Assisi: The Early Documents, edited by Regis Armstrong, O.F.M. Cap., J. A. Wayne Hellmann, O.F.M. and William J. Short O.F.M. Conv., New York City Press, New York, London, Manila, for an English version of quotations from the Writings or Biographies of St Francis.

Table of Contents


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

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.

Sorrowful 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. [170]

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.

  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.