Friday, August 24, 2018

Blessed Dominic Barberi and England

I'll be speaking to Annie Mitchell on the Son Rise Morning Show this morning in anticipation of the memorial of Blessed Dominic Barberi (observed in England). Listen live about 7:35 a.m. Central/8:35 a.m. Eastern: the Son Rise Morning Show will repeat the segment during the EWTN hour on Monday, August 27.

Although Blessed Dominic is best known for receiving Blessed John Henry Newman into the Catholic Church on October 8, 1854, there is much more to this holy man, whose cause for canonization is very active in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, England and in the Passionist Order:

The first thing to highlight is that he was born in Italy during Napoleonic rule, meaning that he grew up in milieu of anti-clericalism and irreligion. His large peasant family placed him with an uncle to live and work as a shepherd. Young Dominic became attracted to the Passionist Order and joined them as a novice in 1814, after restrictions against religious orders were removed. He took the name in religion of Dominic of the Mother of God.

Secondly, although his English language skills were never that strong (which probably gave some the impression he was not that bright), he was a tremendous theologian and scholar for the Passionist order. He was entrusted with greater and greater responsibility in their schools.

Thirdly, he received a special call to serve the people of England and receive converts. He waited for years to begin a mission in England and finally went to England in 1841. I believe he heard that call because John Henry Newman would need him soon. As Newman was living in Littlemore after the suppression of the Oxford Movement he was as he said on his deathbed as an Anglican--but he was not yet ready to recover and become a Catholic. The example of Father Barbari, enduring ridicule for his poor English, being stoned in the streets and yet persevering to bring Christ to the people--leading the Corpus Christi processions in England in spite of the danger--impressed Newman. 

As he had written, "If they [Catholic religious] want to convert England let them go barefooted into our manufacturing towns-let them preach to the people like St. Francis Xavier-let them be pelted and trampled on-and I will admit that they can do what we cannot…What a day it will be when God will make arise among their Communion saintly men such as Bernard and the Borromeo’s…The English will never be favorably inclined to a party of conspirators and instigators; only faith and sanctity are irresistible.” Since Father Barberi offered exactly that witness to Newman, he chose him as the Catholic priest to receive him into the Church.

Father Barberi said,  "What a spectacle it was for me to see Newman at my feet! All that I have suffered since I left Italy has been well compensated by this event. I hope the effects of such a conversion may be great." In Littlemore, the Catholic church is dedicated to Blessed Dominic Barberi.

Beyond this great event, Father Dominic worked very hard while in England, establishing churches, preaching and teaching. He suffered a heart attack and died in Reading on August 27, 1849. He is buried in St. Anne's church, St. Helens, Merseyside, alongside Father Ignatius Spencer, an Anglican convert and Passionist, and Elizabeth Prout, another Anglican convert and the foundress of the Institute of the Holy Family. You can watch this interesting interview of Blessed Dominic, portrayed by Kevin O'Brien on EWTN's The Journey Home.

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