Letter 6 - Spiritual Progress and Christian Service
Cremona, October 8, 1538
To the Reverend Father and brother in Christ,
Mr. Bartolomeo Ferrari.82
To the Reformed.
MY DEAR BROTHER IN CHRIST,
Why do you entertain any doubt? Haven’t you experienced in this undertaking that you never lacked the necessary means to help those in need? Nothing is more certain and reliable than experience. Those who love you do not possess the wealth either of a Paul or of a Magdalene; they do, however, trust in the One who enriched them both. Thus, as a result of both your faith and theirs, God will provide for any person under your care.
You can be sure that, before you speak and in the very moment of speaking, Jesus Crucified will anticipate and accompany, not only every word of yours, but your every holy intention. St. Paul said that he would push forward but stay within the limits of the work that Christ had set for him.92 As for you, Jesus Crucified has also set a limit when he promised that you would get enough strength to pierce to their marrow the hearts of people.93 Don’t you see that He Himself has opened the doors for you with His own hands? Who, then, will hinder you from entering those hearts and from changing them so completely as to renew them and beautify them with holy virtues? Nobody, of course—neither the devil nor any other creature.94
And don’t let any weakening that you may experience in your preaching and in your pastoral work stop you; for just as through constant school exercises, ignorance is dispelled and iron is kept shiny the more it is used, so it is with Christian asceticism. At the beginning, Paul was not what he became afterward. So it is with everybody else. You can be assured then that on the foundation of Paul, you are going to build not structures made of hay or wood but of gold and precious stones;95 and the heavens with their treasures will be opened to you and to the souls entrusted to you.96
Sweet hearts of my heart, I embrace you, as I am certain you will grow perfect according to your interior dispositions. Oh! Were you only here with me, nothing in the world could prevent me from embracing and covering you with endless signs of affection. But You, dear Jesus, embrace them on my behalf.
Dear saintly son, the project in which you are now engaged is also my responsibility, as you probably have noticed. I could not help but be with you, for nowhere else is my heart than with yours. Therefore, may the ample freedom, which I have always given you, be for you a sure guarantee that your undertakings will conclude happily with profit to all.
Good Mother Prioress, don’t waste your time in personal trifles. Even if you might consider yourself a devil, worthy of being submerged not only in muddy water but also in a cesspool, and you were utterly convinced of it, don’t worry about it. Instead, give yourself totally to serving those people who have already been entrusted to your care, and who will continue to be entrusted to you by Jesus Crucified in the future.
Oh, you who are the very mirror of my life, remember that you are generous and that Jesus Crucified has always been abundantly generous with you; how then can they who love you as they love themselves fail to be at your side to help you?
And you, Franceschina,97 if you acknowledge that you have derived benefit from evil—not, of course, through your own efforts but through the efforts of those who strive to give you life in Christ—be convinced that you owe them, in sheer gratitude, what you are already giving them: I mean your diligence in pleasing them by undertaking the works which they have entrusted to you. Do make progress, and help the others make progress as well.
And all of you do the same.
I do not recommend our Sylvestrines to you because they are indeed very much recommended as they are already yours. Please, tell them on my behalf, when and how you think it convenient, generally and in particular, whatever you wish.
As to those who are outside our community, if you think it fit to write something to them on my behalf, it is up to you, for you know better than I do what is to be said to them. Besides, overburdened as I am with other cares, I am quite limited; so much so that I am unable to respond to the needs of those to whom I am bound to attend and for whom indeed I feel obligated.
Now I would like to write to my sweet Paolina,98 but I do not find the time. Likewise, it would be a pleasure to write to my faithful Donna Lucrezia,99 but I can’t. Please, tell her that I would like her to be like me by trying not only to progress in her own life—a small achievement after all—but also to help the others on the same road.
Again, tell my Doyenne100 that I think of her and her sister as well. Tell my sweet Donna Faustina101 that I do not forget her—how could I?—and that she can count on my promise.
Finally, you can assure them all that I am theirs, and that Jesus Crucified makes me love them very much indeed, because they are generous.
To our amiable Fra Bono102 and Master Castellino,103 priest, lots of greetings in Christ; kiss them for me. To them too, I would have liked to write, but as I really can’t, present them with my apology. Particularly let our worthy Father Abbot104 be assured that he is among brothers, and that it is a temptation from the evil one to have him withdraw from them. The devil is afraid lest what he dislikes should come true, and, in fact, he knows by experience that our friend’s simplicity has always borne fruit, and that every time he has cast the net, he has always caught large and good fish.
As for my saintly priest Castellino, I wish to see him, and I would like him not to deprive me of his presence, for I am about to begin negotiations for St. Barnabas,105 and I do not want him to miss the inaugural benediction. I would never do this without his presence. Besides, I want you to send him as your delegate to the conclusion of the transaction. I know that you will miss his presence, but, as I am aware of your being always ready to satisfy the wishes of others before your own, I beg you to endure his absence and to send him to me. Be so kind as to remember me to him and entreat him to come soon, so that we may be together for this enterprise.
Remember me to our beloved ones: Mr. Lodovico,106 Mr. Antonio,107 my faithful Franceschi’s,108 my host Mr. Andrea,109 and all the others. A kiss to all from me.
Greetings also to Count Brunoro,110 Giulio,111 the barber and his wife, the Reverend Fathers Alessandro, Luigi, and Antonio.112 I would like everyone to know the self-sacrificing devotion of our Fra Bono113 because then the Forty Hours Devotion and the other apostolic works would indeed make progress. Suggest to Madonna Maddalena114 that she get acquainted with him. Remember me to her. If you dismiss Donna Giovanna,115 let me know.
As for Gerolamo,116 I really do not know what to say; it is not my concern.
My dearly beloved one, if I have left out anyone or anything, since I am quite tired, you take care of it. May Christ bless you one by one in the depth of your hearts, and give you His own Spirit.
From Cremona, October 8, 1538.
If Madonna117 has not yet taken care of your brother,118 have no misgiving because today or tomorrow I will be going to Guastalla, and I will take care of the matter, along with Paola Antonia119 who has already written to her about it.
May Christ make you holy.
Yours in Christ,
Father Anthony Mary, Priest
and Mother A[ngelic] P[aola] A[ntonia Negri]120
If you like the letters which I had Mr. Camillo [Negri]121 write, give them to the addressees.
Christ crucified provides for all the needs of his disciples, even before they ask, anticipating their intentions.
Christ crucified invigorates our feeble energies so that we can reach out to the hearts of those who are entrusted to us. Therefore, we should not let our inadequacies discourage us.
Not even unreasonable scruples should stop us from doing good to our neighbor.
We must be grateful to those who help us in our weakness with hard work and sacrifice.
Have I so much familiarity with Jesus that I can talk to him as if he were visibly present, fully confident that he listens to me and will take care of me at the proper time?
Have I ever tried with confidence to entrust others to God, certain that he will do more than I, a poor fellow, can do?
Do I know that perfectionism, an exaggerated analysis of my behavior, and consequently rejection of my human and spiritual giftedness can hinder me from doing the good that I can do?
Do I already get into the habit of thanking those who help me in my difficulties?
82. See Letter II, Introduction.
83. See Letter V, Introduction.
84. See Giuseppe M. Cagni, “In missione col S. Fondatore.” Quaderni di Vita Barnabitica 8 (1989) 122–123. 85See n. 103.
86. See n. 16.
87. See Letter V, Introduction.
88 See n. 63.
89. See Cagni “In missione col. S. Fondatore,” 124.
90. See Battista Soresina, Appendix I. P. Anacleto Secco, De Clericorum Regularium S. Pauli Congregatione et Parentibus Synopsis (Milan: Francesco Vigono, 1862). “In missione col. S. Fondatore,” 126.
91. See Cagni “In missione col. S. Fondatore,” 127
92. 2 Cor 10:13.
93. Heb 4:12.
94. Rom 8:39.
95. 1 Cor 3:12.
96. Acts 7:55.
97. Franceschina Conforti Adriani. See Introduction of this letter.
98. Paolina Muzzani: a Sylvestrine in Vicenza.
99. Lucrezia Angariani: a Sylvestrine in Vicenza.
100. Probably Felicita Muzzani, sister of Paolina, or of Fosca, all Sylvestrines in Vicenza.
101. From Cologne, Germany. A Sylvestrine in Vicenza.
102. See n. 16
103. Lorenzo (Paolo) Davidico, called Castellino (1523–1574), talented but quixotic character, who was a member of the mission band in Vicenza and Verona (1536–1545), and was dismissed from the Congregation in 1547 by Fr. Besozzi (see n. 181) because he finally proved to be unsuitable for community life. However, he remained in excellent relationship with the Barnabites. He had a degree in Civil and Canon Law, and published many ascetical works.
104. See n. 16.
105. The acquisition and furnishing of the historical mother house of the Barnabites (1545), a house and the church of St. Barnabas. Originally called Sons of St. Paul by their Founder, they became known as Barnabites after they moved to St. Barnabas. This popular name, Barnabites, later acquired official status in addition to the name of Clerics Regular of St. Paul, an appellation first used in the Bull of Julius III (August 11, 1550) which, among other things, authorized the solemn profession of vows (see Premoli, Storia 500).
106. A member of the Third Family, the Laity of St. Paul, from Vicenza.
107. A member of the Third Family, from Vicenza.
108. A member of the Third Family, from Vicenza.
109. Possibly fromVerona. He lodged Anthony Mary and his missionaries in Vicenza.
110. Brunoro Da Porto, a member of a noble and influential family of Vicenza, and a military leader at the service of the republic of Venice. 111. Giulio Da Porto, Brunoro’s brother.
112. Priests from Vicenza.
113. See n. 16.
114. Maddalena Valmarana (d. 1569). See Introduction of this letter.
115. A Sylvestrine.
117. Countess Ludovica Paola Torelli. See n . 12.
118. Basilio Ferrari (1493–1574) Bartolomeo’s brother, who resided in Rome since 1521, as papal secretary of Clement VII and Paul III. As such he was able to secure the approval of the Barnabites (see n. 25) and the Angelics (see Letter V, Introduction). In the church of St. Barnabas in Milan, he commissioned the chapel of Sts. Bartholomew and Francis. Basilio’s name is the eighth on a list of forty-five early benefactors, or rather de facto affiliates, of the Barnabite Congregation. In the words of Fr. Geralamo Marta, fourth Superior General (1551–1554, 1556–1558, 1559–1566), Basilio’s soul was “through Divine Providence glued, as it were, to our souls as Jonathan’s soul to David’s.”
119. See n. 59.
120. See n. 59.
121. Camillo Negri (1509–1544): brother of Angela, Porzia, and Virginia (Paola Antonia) Negri. One of Anthony Mary’s first eight companions (see n. 25). See also Letter 10.