Saint Joseph Vaz
canonized January 14, 2015
beatified January 16, 1995
See Global News for the Text of Pope Francis’ Homily from the Canonization Mass on January 14, 2015
Joseph Vaz was born at Benaulim, Goa, April 21,1651. The third of six children born to Christopher Vaz and Maria de Miranda. His parents were devout Catholics who tirelessly endeavored to raise their children in the love of God.
Young Joseph was kind and loving towards the poor and zealous in his Catholic faith. Early on he declared his desire to serve God as a priest. His family made many sacrifices to ensure the best possible education in support of Joseph’s vocation. He was ordained at 25 years of age in 1676.
During the years of his formation, the Dutch ousted the Portuguese from Ceylon and in so doing, suppressed the Catholic faith that had prospered there. Priests were expelled or remained under pain of death, as did those who harbored them. Ceylonese who would not abandon the faith fled to the Kandyan Kingdom or lived in abject poverty as the Dutch government prevented Catholics from holding public office or prospering in business. This left multitudes of believers displaced and impoverished, without priests or access to the sacraments.
When Fr.Vaz, just five years ordained, learned of the suffering of Catholics in Ceylon he offered to go there as a missionary. Instead, he was sent to Kanara, India, which also had been without priests for a long time. During his three years in Kanara, Joseph learned first hand the plight of the spiritually deprived and discovered how most effectively to minister to their many needs.
Returning to Goa when his mission was completed, he was certain his future lay in Ceylon. The Holy Spirit led him to a group of three priests, living together in seclusion with no fast rules or constitutions. He joined them with the hope that God would use this group to one day restore the Catholic faith in Ceylon. Joseph organized this small band into an Oratory of St. Philip Neri, which served the faithful of Goa for the next 150 years.
Fr. Vaz lived and ministered with the Oratory community until 1686 when he set off for Ceylon. He set aside clerical dress so as to go unnoticed in public and passed as one of the laborers working for the Dutch. He wore a rosary around his neck as he begged for food from house to house to help him discover the hidden Catholics.
Fr. Vaz began to celebrate the sacraments, teach the faith, promote prayer and Catholic identity. At times hunted and even jailed, his holiness and love of God’s people seemed to overcome the obstacles of the law and decades of suppression. Led by the Holy Spirit, Fr. Vaz – teacher, empowerer of the laity and worker of miracles— helped the people of Ceylon to once again live the Catholic faith without fear.
On January 16, 1711 having served with fervor and undying devotion the diverse peoples of modern day Sri Lanka, Fr. Vaz received the sacraments for the last time and speaking the name of Jesus entered eternal life.
Blessed Juvenal Ancina
Feast Day: August 30
Born in Fossano, Piedmont, John Juvenal Ancina showed great promise in academic pursuits as a young man and was sent by his father to study medicine at the University of Montpellier. He continued his studies at Modovi in Savoy and ultimately completed them at the University of Turin earning doctorates in both philosophy and medicine at the age of 24. He remained at Turin where he taught medicine as well as ran a private practice, which included extensive work among the people whom he treated gratis. Though up to this point he led a devout life marked by a sincere and deep commitment to serving the poor, Juvenal never displayed any attraction to religious life. However, this changed when while attending Mass, the singing of the Dies Irae struck him in a particularly profound way. As a result of this intense religious experience, Juvenal was determined to live the Gospel more deliberately, and when the opportunity came to move to Rome to serve as personal physician to Count Frederick Madrucci, the Savoyard ambassador to the Holy See, he jumped at it.
Shortly after his arrival in Rome in 1575, he became acquainted with Baronius and thus St. Philip Neri. He soon began regularly attending the exercises at the Oratory and placed himself under the spiritual direction of St. Philip who dissuaded him from entering a religious order. Eventually, along with his brother John Matthew, Juvenal was formally received into the Oratory on October 1, 1578 and ordained in June 1582.
Four years later Juvenal was among the first to move to Naples to set up an Oratory in that city. He quickly won the hearts and minds of the Neapolitans with his preaching skills, and he put great care into the music used at the liturgies, which also won favor with the city’s inhabitants. While here, Juvenal also became known for his concern for the city’s sick and poor and gave much of his income to their support.
Given his reputation, it is not surprising that the fathers of the Roman Oratory called him to return to lead their house upon the promotion of Baronius to the rank of cardinal in 1596. Though Juvenal was still struggling with the idea of embracing an even more strict religious observance and entering a monastery, he acceded to their entreaties. Not long after returning to Rome rumors began to fly that given Juvenal’s reputation for personal holiness and ability as a religious superior, the pope would tap him for an episcopal see. Fearing this, Juvenal fled Rome and began wandering the Italian countryside. He eventually returned to the Oratory when the danger of promotion seemed to have subsided. However, in 1602, despite his personal displeasure, he accepted the command of Pope Clement VIII to become the bishop of Saluzzo, a city not far from his birthplace.
While as bishop, Juvenal brought many of the reforms and energy of the Catholic Reformation to this part of northern Italy, and spent much time making pastoral visitations and the promoting works of charity. However, not long after he had begun his tenure as bishop, he was forced to censure an errant mendicant for his less than holy advances on a cloistered nun. The Franciscan became enraged at Juvenal’s correction, and when the opportunity arose, added poison to a glass of wine the new bishop drank on a visit to a Franciscan convent. Juvenal quickly grew ill and died on August 31, 1604, eleven days after the poisoning.
Despite his relatively brief time as bishop, devotion to him arose almost immediately in the people, and the cause for his beatification was introduced in Rome in 1624. However, it would not be almost two and a half more centuries that the church would act on this, and Juvenal was finally declared blessed by Pope Pius IX at the opening of First Vatican Council in 1869.
Blessed Juvenal Ancina on St. Philip Neri
The following is excerpted from a letter written by Blessed Juvenal to his brother John Matthew, who became, like himself, a member of the Congregation.
“For some time past, I have been going to the Oratory of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, where they deliver every day most beautiful discourses on the Gospel, or on the virtues and vices or the lives of the saints. There are four or five who preach every day, and bishops, prelates, and other persons of distinction go to hear them. At the conclusion, there is a little music to console and recreate the mind, which is fatigued by the preceding discourse. They have gone through the life of the glorious St. Francis and those of his first disciples, and of St Anthony of Padua. I assure you it is a most consoling and edifying thing….You must know too that those who deliver the discourses are men of distinction, in holy orders, and of most exemplary and spiritual lives. Their superior is a certain Fr. Philip, an old man of sixty, but wonderful in many respects and especially for holiness of life and for his astonishing prudence and skill in inventing and promoting spiritual exercises….They say he is an oracle not only in Rome but in the most distant parts of Italy and in France and Spain, so that many come to him for counsel; in a word, he is another Ruysbroeck or Thomas a Kempis or Tauler.”
Antonio Grassi December 15
Chronicler of Saints and Martyrs
A priest of the Roman Oratory and devoted disciple St. Philip Neri, Antonio Gallonio was a close companion to him and witness to many of the miraculous and mystical experiences surrounding St. Philip. Fr. Gallonio recounts his personal testimony along with fellow members of the Roman Oratory and the broader community in his work The Life of St. Philip—the first account of our holy Founder’s life. Fr. Jerome Bertram of the Oxford Oratory has made this treatment of the life of St. Philip available to the English-speaking public through translation from the Latin. (Published by Family Publications, Oxford in 2005 it is available in the U.S. through Ignatius Press). This work is not only a demonstration of Fr. Gallonio’s affection for St. Philip, providing key testimony useful in the process of the holy Father’s canonization, but also underscores St. Philip as yet another in the long procession of those who have given their lives for the gospel. Throughout the life story, Fr. Gallonio depicts St. Philip as a man single hearted for God and pouring himself out for others: the poor, the lost, those sick in body and those sick at heart. He writes in a way that invites us to follow along the path of Philip and to join in the procession of sanctity that is his life.
Under the direction of St. Philip, who encouraged his followers to make friends of the saints as they traveled the spiritual path, Fr. Gallonio wrote a number of treatises on the saints and martyrs of antiquity along with those who suffered and died at the hands of the Protestant reformers in England, France and Belgium. Among these works are Fr. Gallonio’s first writings published in Italian in 1591 and in Latin in 1594: Historie delle ss. vergini romane (History of the Roman Virgins) and Tratto degli instrumenti di martirio e delle varie maniere de martirizare (Treatise on instruments used to torture Christian martyrs). This latter work is available in English (Feral House), having been translated by A.R. Allison and first published in Paris in 1903. This edition however, significantly edits or omits most of the prayers and reflections included by Fr. Gallonio as tools to reflect upon the suffering of the saints and martyrs across the centuries.
In 1597 Historia della vita e martirio de’gloriosi santi Flavia Domitilla vergine, Nereo, et Acchilleo, e piu altri, con alcune vite brevi de’santi parenti di S. Flavia Domitilla, et alcune annotationi (The History of the Life and Martyrdom of Flavia Domitilla, Nereus and Achilleus) was published. The importance of this treatise lies in the fact that Fr.Cesar Baronius of the Roman Oratory, having been elevated to the College of Cardinals in 1596, chose as his titular Church the dilapidated Basilica of Sts. Nereus and Achilleus. He started an elaborate restoration of the building, which included extensive depictions of the martyrs and their sufferings. The restoration of this basilica provides an architectural manifestation of the many illustrated folios of Fr. Gallonio’s works thus reminding the viewer of the cost and the glory of Christian fidelity.
Basing his writing on patristic and classical literary sources, Fr. Gallonio presents and reflects upon the complexity of human history containing within itself sacred history. Fr. Gallonio portrays the histories of saints and martyrs as a cyclical pattern of the transforming work of Christ, repeated over the centuries, until his own time when contemporaries across Europe gave their lives in fidelity to the Catholic faith. These writings on the sufferings of the saints and martyrs are neither borne out of some grotesque fascination with pain nor out of obsession with the macabre. Indeed, Fr. Gallonio was unable to remain for St. Philip’s autopsy, feeling himself ill as the process began. Rather it is the aim of his writings to make the past present in a way that is both evocative and empowering; to call forth a confident response so that the readers might dare to continue on the way to the Kingdom come what may by way of trials and difficulty. “Since the coming of Christ, worldly glory has been paralleled by Christian glory. Human history has coexisted with divine permanence. It was not simply compassion or indignation Gallonio wanted to inspire. At the same time he offered the public the possibility to participate. ” (Jetze Touber conference lecture, Past in the Present 2003)
May Antonio Gallonio’s writing and vibrant faith continue to inspire this possibility to participate in the way of Christ in our own day and time.
St. Luigi Scrosoppi October 5
He worked to reestablish the Udine Oratory and against anti-clericalism in Italy. He was canonized on June 10, 2001.
Bl. Sebastian Valfrè
Born in Italy and a member of the Turin Oratory, Bl. Sebastian was ordained a Priest in 1652. He faithfully fulfilled the Corporal Works of Mercy, known for his care of the sick and the celebration of the Sacrament of Penance. Hw was beatified in 1834.
Blessed Salvio Huix Miralpeix
Born in Sancta Margarida de Vellors, Spain, he was a member of the Vic Oratory. Ordained a Priest in 1903; and consecrated to the Episcopacy in 1928 he excelled in charity and in both preaching and as a confessor. He is honored as the first Oratorian martyr having been martyred during the Spanish Civil War for his adherence to the Catholic Faith. Beatified in 2013.
Ven. Caesar Baronius
An original disciple of S. Philip, he assisted in the formation of the Congregation and was deeply involved in the day to day life of the naicent Congregation. His kitchen duties seemed to come so frequently that he inscribed above the kitchen chimney “Baronius coquus perpetuus”. Following his ordination to priesthood he was directed to write the History of the Church by S. Philip in response to the Lutheran Historia Ecclesiae Christi (History of the Church of Christ), his exhaustive work covered the first 12 centuries of the Church. Published under the name Annales Ecclesiastici, he had access to the Vatican libraries and documents previously unused or unknown to other writers. He was created a cardinal in 1596 and appointed Librarian of the Vatican in 1597. Following his death in 1607, he was buried beneath the Chiesa Nuova.
Ven. Francesco M. Tarugi
Born in Montepulciano, Italy in 1525 – he was an early member of the Roman Oratory and original disciple of S. Philip Neri. He entered the Oratory in 1565 as a lay brother and was instrumental in the development of the Congregation which was erected in 1575. He was ordained and served in the Congregation until he was elected to the See of Avignon. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Naples Oratory and was created a Cardinal in 1596. He subsequently served as Bishop of Siena but left that office in 1607 and returned to Rome where he died in 1608. He is buried beneath the Chiesa Nuova.