Thursday 25 August 2016

Blessed Dominic Barberi, 26 August

Dominic Barberi (22 June 1792 - 27 August 1849) was born near Viterbo to a poor family of Italian farmers.  His parents died while Dominic was still a small boy, and he was raised by his maternal uncle Bartolomeo. As a boy he was employed to take care of sheep but was taught to write by a Capuchin Priest and learned to read from a country lad of his own age; although he read all the books he could obtain, he had no regular education.  Dominic Barberi was one of the few men of his locality not chosen for military conscription and he felt it was a sign from God that he should enter a religious community. He was received into the Congregation of the Passion, in 1814 after the re-establishment of the religious orders in the Papal States Initially Dominic was accepted as a lay brother, but once his extraordinary gifts were revealed his status was changed to that of a clerical novice. He was ordained priest on 1 March 1818, teaching philosophy and theology to the students of the congregation.  It was during this time that he produced his many theological and philosophical works. In the summer of 1830 he was asked to aid an English convert to Catholicism, Sir Henry Trelawney. Through this meeting Dominic made the acquaintance of a number of influential English Catholics; the first step in the long journey leading to England with his hopes for the bringing back of England to the Roman Catholic Faith

In January 1840 negotiations were completed for a Passionist foundation at Ere in Belgium; the superiors, in spite of his age and ill health, sent Dominic to be superior of the Belgian mission. In September Dominic received a letter from Bishop Wiseman, the head of the English mission, inviting Dominic to make a Passionist foundation in England at Aston Hall. Dominic, with the permission of the Passionist General, visited the site in November 1840 and finally set out for England in October 1841 where the reception of the Passionists was less than welcoming. Opposition to Dominic was also present here where on his journeys to the Mass centre; local youths would throw rocks as Dominic, though two youths took to the decision to become Catholics when they were greatly edified to see Dominic kiss each rock that hit him and place it in his pocket.  One of his arguments with the Protestant clergy was: “Jesus says "This is my body" you say "No. It is not his body!" Who then am I to believe? I prefer to believe Jesus Christ."

In October 1841 Dominic visited Littlemore where Newman made his confession to him. Newman relates in his "Apologia" of how Dominic arrived soaked from the rain and as he was drying himself by the fire Newman knelt and asked to be received into the Catholic Church.  This event is marked by a sculpture in the Catholic Church of Blessed Dominic Barberi at Littlemore.(See photo) Two of Newman's companions at Littlemore were also received and Dominic celebrated Mass for them the following morning.  Barberi is best remembered for his part in Newman's conversion, but is also commemorated for his work in the efforts to return England to the Catholic faith in the 19th century. In his years in England Dominic established three churches, several chapels and preached innumerable missions and received hundreds of converts.

Barberi was beatified by Pope Paul VI in 1963, during the Second Vatican Council.


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