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Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Text: Fr David Myers at Rosmini anniversary Mass
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 Fr David Myers gave the following homily for the Anniversary Mass of Blessed Antonio Rosmini at Westminster Cathedral on 1 July. More than a thousand people attended. On behalf of the 'Rosminian Family' I would like to welcome you to Westminster Cathedral, a Cathedral dedicated to the most Precious Blood, a devotion very dear to the heart of Father Founder. In 1855, the Feast of the Precious Blood was celebrated on 1st July. On that day, Antonio Rosmini died. Today we celebrate the Mass of Blessed Antonio Rosmini. This afternoon we are honoured with the presence of Archbishop Faustino, the Apostolic Nuncio and we thank him for accepting the invitation to be Chief Celebrant at this Mass. We thank Bishop John Arnold and the many diocesan clergy and religious who are also concelebrating. We are privileged to have with us, Francis Campbell, The British Ambassador to the Holy See and we look forward to his address at the end of Mass. Among our many other distinguished guests we welcome Lord St John of Fawsley and the Rt Honourable Paul Murphy, Secretary of State for Wales. We also thank Cardinal Murphy O'Connor and Canon Christopher Tuckwell for very kindly allowing us to celebrate this Mass in the Cathedral. I would also like to thank the choir and all who have helped in the preparation of this celebration. A few months ago when I was faced with the daunting prospect of having to say a few words on this occasion, I got the stepladder out and climbed to the top of the shelves in my office to take down dusty old copies of The Tablet. I wanted to find out what had been written about Antonio Rosmini on his death, so I turned to July 1855. There I found, for example: that on 7th July there was the record of the death of Lord Raglan. Many column inches were given over to his life and his death. The next week there was even a detailed record of Prize Day at Ratcliffe College. As I turned over the pages of the subsequent editions I looked in vain, even for a mention, of the name Antonio Rosmini. I did, however, read that when some Mormons had been baptised by total immersion in Belfast, the women had stripped down to their underwear and the men had gone even further! The indignant Editor wrote that "the authorities" must make sure that this must never happen again! This silence about Rosmini at his death was, in its own little way, significant. Many of his time found it very hard to come to a judgement about him. His many and varied talents made it very difficult for most people to categorise him, or as we might say today, "to know where he was coming from". Rosmini had played a significant part in the spiritual, intellectual and political life of Italy. Just seven years before his death he was about to be made Cardinal Secretary of State by Pius lX. He had been a friend of several of the previous Popes who had encouraged him as a writer. They also supported his foundation of both 'The Institute of Charity' and the 'Sisters of Providence'. In 1849 Rosmini's life changed dramatically. He no longer had, as it were, 'A seat at the top table' and for the last seven years of his life he became a figure on the margins of the Church and a figure of suspicion. And except for the loyalty and companionship of the Brethren and friends, he became more isolated. But, even if 'the goings on' of the church in Italy were of little interest to our parochial vision, the silence of 'The Tablet' is nevertheless strange. Rosmini, in 1835 had sent Luigi Gentili and some of his ablest men to the small Catholic community in England who lacked vitality and felt very much a defeated minority. In the subsequent twenty years however, the landscape was transformed completely. Gentili and his companions converted thousands to the Catholic faith and ministered to the multitudes of the poor Irish Catholics in the new industrial towns. They started Missions in the Midlands, South Wales and London. They opened many schools and the children from some of these schools are here today. I am not suggesting for one moment that the 'Second Spring' was due solely to the new Italian missionaries. The Oxford movement and the restoration of the hierarchy were more important. But the work of the Italian missionaries, begun by Gentili and his companions, should not be forgotten. Rosmini, in 1843, sent Sisters of Providence to Loughborough. They faced much hostility, as did the priests and brothers. A cartoon in 'Punch' lambasted the Italian Mission as Barbarians, Pagans and Gentiles a 'play' on the three names of Barbari, Pagani and Gentili. Gentili had introduced into these islands the warmth of the Catholic piety and devotions of Italy. When he died in Dublin of cholera in 1848, The Tablet wrote in his obituary that, 'Gentili had exercised an influence to have been enjoyed by no other preacher in this country of our time, or as far back as our enquiries extend', and he likened Gentili to St Augustine who had been sent by St Gregory the Great. Many of these great missionaries had been formed by Antonio Rosmini. They had become Apostles of Charity. Rosmini had given much to these islands in manpower and money, especially during the Irish famine, yet he was denied recognition by many on his death. Truly great men are rarely appreciated in their own time. That is why it is almost inevitable that they are misunderstood. Two of Rosmini's books in June 1849, had been put on the Index and it was an 'open secret' that his writings were under suspicion. Alas, what was not generally known was that Pope Pius IX and the Holy Office had cleared all Rosmini's writings of error. This Decree however, had not been made public so Rosmini remained 'under a cloud of suspicion' and it was under this cloud of suspicion that Rosmini died. His last words were, 'Be silent, adore and rejoice'. Then in 1887, many years after Rosmini's death, the cloud darkened with the condemnation of the 'Forty Propositions'. This suspicion was to last for more than a hundred years. During the last 150 years the Church has wavered from condemnation to approval. However, with the election of John XXIII in 1958, the Church began to see Rosmini in a more positive light. Rosmini now is even quoted in encyclicals! John Paul II, in 'Faith and Reason', wrote that Rosmini was one of the thinkers who could guide the Church in the twenty first century. With time, Rosmini's greatness and holiness have finally been recognised. Benedict XVI in his Apostolic Letter, called Rosmini Blessed and decreed that his feast may be celebrated every year on 1st July. On the day of Rosmini's Beatification, in his Angelus Address in St Peter's Square, Benedict XVI said: "This afternoon Antonio Rosmini will be beatified, a great priestly figure and illustrious man of culture, inspired by a fervent love for God and the Church". The Pope went on to say that Rosmini "witnessed the virtue of charity in all its dimensions but what made him most famous was 'intellectual charity', which means the reconciliation of reason with faith." His Holiness concluded by saying, "May Rosmini's example help the Church. to grow in the awareness that the light of human reason and that of Grace, when they journey together, become a source of blessing for the human person and for society." As the wonderful Bishop of Novara said on the occasion of the beatification, "We must pray and look forward to the day Blessed Antonio Rosmini will be declared a Saint and a Doctor of the Church".
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