Abelly: Book 2/Chapter 01/Section 04

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Missions Given in the State of Genoa

We know of no better way to introduce the topic of the missions in Genoa than to cite the letter written by the worthy archbishop of Genoa, Cardinal Durazzo, to Monsieur Vincent, in August 1645: [1]

This past month, Monsieur N. [Bernard Codoing] passed through here. I learned he was a member of the Congregation of the Mission. I prevailed upon him to exercise his ministry in several parts of my diocese. He did so with much success and blessings for the service of God, the salvation of souls, and to my personal satisfaction. When he told me he was obliged to return to Paris by orders of his superior, I agreed, since you have sent other priests to continue the work he so happily began. [2] We hope to establish a similar institute here, for the greater glory of his divine Majesty. I wanted you to know how encouraged we have been in this regard. [3]

To appreciate the effects of grace on these missions, we will cite several of the letters written by the missionaries sent by Monsieur Vincent.

A priest of the Mission of Genoa wrote to his superior to tell him what had happened on the mission:

God blessed our mission, particularly the last one at a place called Chiavari, for besides the reconciliations of many individuals, three entire parishes which previously had been divided against each other came together in peace.

The superior of the Mission of Genoa reported the success of another mission he did not name, in a letter to Monsieur Vincent in July 1646.

We had up to eighteen confessors, and more than three thousand general confessions, and a large number of reconciliations of major importance. These ended animosities which had caused twenty-four or twenty-five murders. Most of those involved, having obtained the pardon in writing of those offended, were able to obtain a favorable verdict from the prince and have since returned to full favor in the town. [4]

The same superior, in another letter to Monsieur Vincent written around the same time, mentions a detail which deserves mention:

When I last wrote about our mission, I forgot to tell you of what we do to instruct the people and help the confessors. We have two young priests who, other than during the catechism time, go over the principal mysteries of religion for those who wish to go to confession. When they are sufficiently instructed, they are given a note which they present to their confessor. This notice assures him that the penitent knows enough necessary Christian doctrine, and thus does not have to be questioned. This allows the confessors to move more quickly, so those waiting to go to confession do not have to wait so. [5]

In a letter dated May 6, 1647, this same superior wrote again.

We have just returned from the mission at N., involving five parishes besides the rest of the area. We were able to bring about a large number of conversions and general confessions despite the obstinacy of the people who are so hard to influence that we almost lost courage at the beginning of the mission. But our Lord consoled us at the end by letting us see hardened hearts moved, and poured his grace upon these people to such an extent that those who did not even want to listen to us, came around to not wanting to see us go. On the day of our leaving, we went to the church to receive the pastor's blessing. All the people gathered, weeping and pleading, as though in leaving we were taking away their very lives. We had great difficulty in getting away.

Many of the nobility came here from Genoa to attend the mission, at which they were most edified. The archbishop of Genoa came to give the sacrament of confirmation. Afterward, at a reception for him and some gentlemen who had accompanied him, he presented a gift from a noble of the region, but this was declined when he learned that the missionaries never take anything for their services. [6]

In a letter of December 16, 1647, this same superior wrote of another mission in which seven brigands had been converted. Also, a Turkish servant of one of the gentlemen of the region had asked for baptism. This was granted only after he was well instructed, and had his faith carefully examined. [7]

In a later mission several other brigands likewise were converted after being pardoned by the relatives of those they had killed. Several of these bandits threw themselves at the feet of those they had harmed, only to be accepted with great charity and emotion from both parties. This mission took place in the town of Sestri. After they had attended the mission with such care and diligence, the people did not want to see them leave. Hearing they were about to depart, they surrounded their house in a sort of siege for two or three days, forcing these good missionaries to slip away under cover of darkness.

By a letter of December 10, 1648, he reported on a mission in Avagne at which several brigands were converted, being restored to grace and forgiveness. [8]

In another mission given in January 1650, although the people were very poor, they willingly accepted the suggestion of establishing a Confraternity of Charity for the sick poor in their parish. They made such sacrifices to contribute to this enterprise that five hundred livres in cash was collected, not to mention seven hundred additional livres in pledges.

Another confraternity or company for men was set up, called the Company for Christian Doctrine. Its aim was to teach the Our Father and Hail Mary and the principal mysteries of the faith to those needing this instruction. Another task was to round up children to attend the catechism lessons given in the town. One of the older priests of the Congregation, on a trip from Paris to Italy, stopped at a mission being given at Castiglione in December 1650. He wrote to Monsieur Vincent about his experiences.

I have seen the exercises of the mission given in this parish, and eight or nine others in the vicinity. The people are careful to attend the sermon and catechism lessons, and keep the confessors busy. I must say the people here are in no way inferior to those of other countries, and even surpass them in some respects. Two persons living in adultery publicly admitted their sin in church during the sermon, in the presence of a large congregation. Several usurers agreed in writing before notaries to restore what they had unjustly exacted from some poor people who had borrowed money from them. The Confraternity of Charity has been set up in this parish and the others mentioned above. The superior of the mission gives a conference each Monday to ten or twelve of the local pastors. I attended one of these, and all went well, giving hope that much benefit will come to these priests and to their people. [9]

In a letter which the superior of the Mission at Genoa wrote to Monsieur Vincent on February 6, 1659, he said:

We have just finished two small missions which God has blessed, especially the last. The parish has but two hundred forty members, in a remote location, and nevertheless at the general communion there were more than seven hundred here, who had come from all the surrounding area.

Among the reconciliations effected here, a notable one concerned a father whose eldest son had been killed in his sleep just a short time before. Several important people of the area tried to persuade the father to forgive those murderers, and the day before he had refused me when I had made this same request to him. In fact, he asked me never to speak of it to him again. But God by his grace did what man could not do by his recriminations and exhortations. The following day I took the chance of again urging him, with prayers and tears, to bestow his pardon and peace on these murderers, for the love of our Lord. All at once he changed, and granted what I asked, with such Christian sentiments it drew tears from all those present. [10]

In another mission in the same year, a man was reconciled whose seventy-year-old father had been murdered. During the mission he could not surmount the violent feelings of revenge he felt, to forgive the one responsible for the murder. After the mission and the departure of the priests, however, the seed of the word of God sown in his heart during the sermons and exhortations took effect, and finally produced their fruit. Although this came a little late, it was soon enough to show the magnitude of God's mercy toward him.

  1. Stefano Durazzo belonged to an illustrious Venetian family which had provided many doges to Venice and prelates to the Church. He was closely associated with the work of the missionaries, and followed their rule in his own personal life. He was a holy and energetic bishop for whom Vincent had a profound veneration.
  2. Four priests and a brother. Etienne Blatiron was superior of this mission.
  3. CED II:544.
  4. CED II:609.>
  5. CED II:609-10.
  6. CED III:186-87.
  7. CED III:257.
  8. CED III:393.
  9. CED IV:117-18.
  10. CED VII:450-51.

This page:
Abelly: Book Two/Chapter One/Section Four: Missions Given in the State of Genoa

Index of this chapter:
Abelly: Book Two/Chapter One/Index: The Missions of Monsieur Vincent

Index of:
Abelly: Book Two