A Charism for a religious community is usually understood as that special grace, and way of life and service of the Church – lived by the Founder/Foundress and early members, and eventually codified in a booklet of Constitutions.
For Fr. Bertoni, this was abandonment to the Trinity and Apostolic Availability to the Church. This is daily nourished by receiving the Eucharist, pondering Sacred Scripture, and the Stigmatine Devotions: the Sacred Stigmata of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spouses, Mary and Joseph.
St. Gaspar Bertoni and his devotion to the Holy Spouses
January 23rd: Every year, on this date, the Stigmatines observe their “Patronal Feast”, the Holy Spouses, Mary and Joseph – as they also celebrate their marriage, their Holy Espousals. While the Founder most rarely ever mentioned this Feast in his writings, it is clear that the Feast was observed from the beginning of the foundation on 1816. It is an old Franciscan – and is observed by Stigmatines as a spiritual understanding of their commitment to their Apostolic Mission. As a man marries his spouse, so the Stigmatine is called to be joined ever more to Jesus Christ, and to commit himself always more intensely and competently to the progress of the Church.
St. Gaspar Bertoni and the Stigmata of Jesus Christ
However, there were severely painful incidents in his life that profoundly affected him and his personal spirituality. It enabled him to draw more closely to the Wounds of Christ as the years went by, putting on the mind of Christ Jesus [cf. Ph 2:5, ff.]. These would be:
- the deaths of his loved ones, with whom he shared his childhood years – particularly, perhaps his 3 years old sister, Matilda;
- the separation of his mother and father;
- some apostolic fear – as his teaching catechism with the Bishop present; or his assignment to help bring wayward priests back to their mission;
- life-long extended illnesses and repeated painful lancing of leg ulcerations;
- the lack of development in the early Congregation.
Perhaps like St. Paul, St. Gaspar also experienced solidarity with Christ, and something of a type of the stigmata of the Lord, bearing faithfully the “brand-marks of Jesus” [cf. Ga 6:17; 1 Co 4:11, ff.], “the sting of the flesh”.
St. Gaspar certainly lived his “thorn” throughout his life [cf. 2 Co 12:7], constantly making up for what was lacking in the sufferings of Christ [cf. Col 1:24] for the Church of his time. We shall live with Him in the power of God [2 Co 13:4], and this is how the Stigmatine Founder made an oblation [obsequium] to God’s Mercy [cf. Rm 12:1] of his sufferings, with those of Jesus Christ.
[By Rev. Joseph Henchey, CSS]
The Stigmatine Seal
The history of the origin and the meaning of the Stigmatine ‘Seal’ [or, ‘Coat of Arms’] – can be found in the 1923 issue of the BERTONIANO, a review reserved for Stigmatines. Fr. John B. Zaupa was elected to the first of his three terms as Fr. General the year before. He authorized a Professor Joseph Trecca of Verona, who provided the first rendition of it. He was an expert in Italian heraldry – and his work was then modified somewhat by Professor Charles Someda de Marco.
The upper blue background for the stars signifies Faith. The five stars in the form of a Cross represent the Five Wounds, or the Sacred Stigmata, of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The red background behind the lilies represents Charity. The two lilies, united by the Motto, Euntes Docete! [Go forth and teach! – Mt 28:19] represent the Holy Spouses, our Patrons, the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph. The silver band, embellished then with the palm branches uniting the upper and lower halves stands for the Peace and Harmony meant to be lived and shared apostolically by the Confreres.
|The Stigmatine Seal|
St. Gaspar Bertoni: Biblical and Theological Reflections on his Devotions, the Holy Espousals and the Sacred Stigmata
|St. Gaspar Bertoni: Biblical and Theological Reflections on his Devotions, the Holy Espousals and the Sacred Stigmata|
This present effort presented here is only one attempt – using the very words of those who are more competent in different areas of study – to suggest some thoughts, from a variety of sources, concerning the Stigmatine Devotions, and principally, the Holy Spouses and the Sacred Stigmata.
Elements of the Stigmatine Charism in the Prayer to the Virgin Mary by St. Gaspar Bertoni
|Elements of the Stigmatine Charism in the Prayer to the Virgin Mary by St. Gaspar Bertoni|
This Reflection is a study on St. Gaspar Bertoni’s Spirituality, using as our launching pad his mysterious prayer of Abandonment in honor of our Lady’s Immaculate Conception, which was defined in 1854. The prayer may be found in his Spiritual Diary [Memoriale Privato], and seems to have been copied from some unknown source.
This present study reflects on St. Ignatius’ Prayer, the Suscipe [cf. his Spiritual Exercises, n. 234] – and the most modern Prayer of Abandonment attributed to Charles de Foucauld. Fr. Bertoni’s Charism flows from the Self-Giving within the Trinity – the distribution of the Holy Eucharist – and the Holy Spirit coming as “Gift”.
It seems that, from these biblical sources and traditional Church teaching, one can much better understand the spirit behind Fr. Bertoni’s high ideal for the Stigmatines: Missionarii Apostolici in Obsequium Episcoporum.
Paluch Lecture at Mundelein Seminary on April, 2008
|Stigmatine Devotions [Paluch Lecture at Mundelein Seminary on April, 2008]|
The devotions of St. Gaspar Bertoni are basically that to the Holy Spouses, Mary and Joseph, and their Espousals. In his earlier studies, the Stigmatine historian Father Giuseppe Stofella ordered a good explanation of the choice of his devotion for the Stigmatine community. Historical reasons may be simply that the painting of the Holy Espousals that hung over its main altar, depicting from an earlier Franciscan devotion, and that his might have inspired the Founder. It might also have been in that St. Gaspar did not have a happy home: his Father abandoned the family, leaving St. Gaspar [the only surviving child of his parent’s marriage].
Whatever the reason, a good insight to the principles that motivated St. Joseph is the ‘Fiat’ of Mary to God’s Word and St. Joseph’s response to the Angel of God in the night [so beautifully developed by St. John Paul IInd, in his Exhortation Redemptoris Cussos]. This is the Patronal Feast of the Stigmatines [celebrated January 23rd].
As for the integral devotion to the Sacred Stigmata – the Sorrowful Wounds of Good Friday, and the Glorious Wounds of Easter Sunday [cf. Jn 20], sending the Apostles on showing them His Sacred Stigmata as He sent them on His Apostolic Mission. While St. Gaspar was not a ‘stigmatist’ in the formal sense, he lived the sufferings of the Merciful Lord in the deaths of his loved ones in early life; the separation of his parents; the life-long poor health that he endured, and the lack of fulfillment of some of his sublime hopes. This is the Titular Feast of the Stigmatine Congregation. It is celebrated the week of ‘Mercy Sunday’, with a special commemoration on Friday of that week.
[By Rev. Joseph Henchey, CSS]
|St. Catherine of Siena: A Historical and Prophetic Synthesis of the Consecrated Life
A Lived Experience of the Espousals with Jesus Christ and His Sacred Stigmata.
Extracted from the Acts of the International Congress of Catherinian Studies. Siena – Rome: April 24 – 29, 1980. Roma: Curia Generalizia OP, 1981 [pp. 632 – 652].
|Human Suffering and the Wisdom of the Cross: The Healing Wounds of Jesus Christ - Hope for the Afflicted/a>|
Extracted from the Acts of the IInd International Congress of La Sapienza della Croce oggi. Torino LDC 1985 [pp. 1 – 22]. Italian translation by Fr. Lodovico Nicolodi, CSS.
|The Stigmata of Jesus Christ and the Integral Liberation through Mercy. Mercy and Liberation, Redemption as Healing|
Cf. Portare Cristo all’Uomo. Congresso del Ventennio dal Concilio Vaticano IIo. Pontificia Universitá Urbaniana 1985, pp. 651-667.
|Gaspar Bertoni: Priest of Verona, Founder of the Stigmatines. His Devotions and Service of the Church: The Sacred Stigmata of the Lord, the Espousals of Mary and Joseph and the Sacred Heart|
Extracted from Symposium held for the Canonization of the Stigmatine Founder. October 28, 1989. Rome: Angelicum pp. 143-160.
|Growth in Holiness: Antidote to Contraceptive Mentality in Family Life, and Lack of Totality in Religious Life - Humanae Vitae 1968: - and Sustained Hope for Growth in Holiness|
Conference given at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary – Mundelein IL – 25th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae – Easter 1993.
|The Consecrated Life: A Share in the Total Gift of the Holy Spirit|
An Oblation to the Father, of the Kenosis of the Son, in the Total Gift of the Holy Spirit – in the recent Magisterial teaching.
|Cellibacy for the Reign of God - Christ as Spouse|
Cf. Giampietro DePaoli, CSS, Spiritualitá del Presbítero. Reflessione sul Pastoris Dabo Vobis. June 12, 1993, pp. 39-56 – translated and given as Conference, by Rev. Joseph C. Henchey, CSS, North American College, May 1999.
|Stigmatine Devotions: the Espousals and the Stigmata -in the Apocalypse|
In the Stigmatine world, we often thought about our Devotions to the Sacred Stigmata both Sorrowful and Glorious – and the Espousals of Mary and Joseph as to stem from the fact that St. Gaspar Bertoni was a life-long invalid, very capable Confessor – and that he came from a broken home, his father abandoning the family unfaithfully pursuing his own personal interests.
But there is a deeper reason: in Fr. Raymond Brown’s classical treatment of the 4th Gospel, the author has presented Jon’s Book of Signs [J 1-112] as centered around liturgical festivals: the Sabbath; the Passover [Jn 5-6]; and the Feast of Ingathering, the Harvest, Tents, Tabernacles in the fall of the year [Jn 7-8]. In the spring-time, there was the Festival of Blood and the sacrificial Lamb – in the autumn of life, all returned to the Sheep-pen to hunker down during the winter rains.
|The Nuptial Theme in the Spiritual Life - by Rev. Joseph Henchey, CSS|
|São Gaspar Bertoni: O Tema Nupcial na Vida Espiritual - Reflexões Teológicas. Tradução para a língua Portuguesa por Tereza Lopes [leiga Estigmatina]|
In the long history of the Church, many devotions have come and gone, and some of these reappear with some popularity with the passing of time. The immediate occasion of the Stigmatine observance of the Feast of the Holy Spouses, Mary and Joseph, on January 23rd each year, could easily have stemmed from the fact that St. Gaspar Bertoni [October 9, 1777- June 12, 1853] found the classical painting of the Holy Spouses hanging over the main altar, of a little Church in Verona, Italy, dedicated to the Stigmata of St. Francis. The Marriage of Mary and Joseph, in the Franciscan tradition, was a festival that inspired much devotion, also due to St. Francis’ commitment to his ‘marriage’ with Lady Poverty.
|The Holy Spouses Mary and Joseph: the Two Lilies of Winter|
In the Stigmatine Seal, there are two lilies, representing Mary and Joseph. They are found under the five stars in the field of a blue sky and sea, representing the Sacred Stigmata. The lilies flourish in the part of the seal colored red: the liturgical color for the Holy Spirit, the Apostles, martyrs and may be reminiscent of charity.
|The Sacred Stigmata: A Mystery to be Believed - A Feast to be Celebrated - A Devotion to be Lived|
In one of his early Encyclicals, Sacramentum Caritatis, Pope Benedict XVI presents the Eucharist as a Mystery of Faith, a Liturgy to be celebrated and a life to be lived. By an ‘analogy of faith’, an application might be made of this formulation to the Devotion to the Five Wounds of our Lord Jesus Christ. As one of the blood ancestors of Jesus Christ in Joshua, Rahab hung out her window a prophetic scarlet sign for her future redemption.
|The "Espousals Principle"|
Fr. Bertoni offers a graduated, progressive approach to the various ways in which one might follow Jesus Christ: “very many” follow Christ for the reward [cf. Mt 6:2]; “many” follow Christ as slaves, but the slave does not know what the Master does [cf. Jn 15:15]; “some” follow Jesus as sons, but they are more interested in the inheritance [cf. Is 1:2]. “A few” may follow Jesus as friends, and base their whole relationship on the communication of Goods, but not be willing to share in His hardships, as the Apostles at first [cf. Mt 26:56; Ph 2:21].
Then, the Stigmatine Founder adds: “Very, very few follow Him as lovers, who in their youthful fire of their tender love follow Christ wherever He might go, either to Thabor, or on Calvary. But, the Spouse, the adult in the school of love, is not drawn by the pleasant odor, but is drawn by the right hand of the Spouse: ‘Draw me’ [cf. Sgs 1:3], and, by his strong arm, they are embraced and find support from His strength, so that they keep pace with Him, and do not merely run with Him, but even fly…’. Who is this, leaning on Her beloved? [cf. Sgs 8:5].
|A Few Reflections of the Feast of the Sacred Stigmata|
|Tradução para a língua Portuguesa por Tereza Lopes [leiga Estigmatina]|
Reflections on the four lessons from the Feast of the Sacred Stigmata – the Stigmatine title feast. Christ’s sacrifice is the supreme Gift of Mercy. The Mystery of the Sacred Stigmata opens up for us these clefts in the Rock from which the Church and her Sacraments are born; the Wound in the Side is seen to be the opening of the Tabernacle of the Most Holy Trinity.
The Cross of San Damiano
|The Cross of San Damiano [with insights of St. Gaspar Bertoni] - Paluch Lecture by Rev. Joseph Henchey, CSS |
This is the Icon that much – inspired St. Francis of Assisi, inviting him to go, to repair the Church founded by Christ in His sufferings, death, resurrection and ascension – and on Pentecost. This Church is constantly in need of renewal. This Icon is an invitation to pray beginning with the bottom of the scene, to its implication of the Ascension – noting Christ taking a step upward into the Heavenly Choir. This is a contemplation in color of the source of eternal life.