Did you hear those church bells ringing at noon on the Fourth of July – the Birthday of the Independence of our Nation? Our monastery bells rang loud and clear. This was just one of the points suggested to follow during the Fortnight for Freedom.
We are so grateful for those days…almost a week now since the Fortnight ended! We were able to take advantage of time for further reflection, education, prayer and penance for the intention of Religious Freedom for our nation.We delighted in talks from Archbishop Naumann at the Topeka, Kansas Rally and the homily given by Archbishop Chaput at the closing Mass for the Fortnight for Freedom. THANK GOD for EWTN and the continuous coverage of these events and other news of our nation and abroad.
Our Sr. Cecilia Maria treated us each evening of the Fortnight with a reading from a summary of the sobering history of our “baby” congregation during the harrowing days of the Napoleonic suppression during the early 19th century.
I will share with you a bit of that which pertains directly to our nuns. Read Sister Cecilia Maria’s full summary or go to the source for the entire story see History of the Passionists Volume II/2 by Fr. Fabiano Giorgini, C.P., translated into English in 2004.
Learning from Our Passionist Forebears
Religious Freedom and the Napoleonic Suppression
notes from History of the Passionists Volume II/2 ”
by Fr. Fabiano Giorgini, CP
“As an absolute arbiter, Napoleon did not accept anyone escaping his control and, perhaps, feared … that religious would foment the maxims of Rome in the people, that is, fidelity to the Church’s doctrine and to the directives of the Pope.”
Napoleon was also interested in taking over “the goods of religious in order to pay for the great economic debt caused by the war, lodging soldiers, the increase of bureaucrats and for completing public works.”
The Passionist Situation
The Passionist Congregation had been in existence for ninety years…. When the suppression began in Tuscany in 1808, there were seventeen Passionist communities. At the end of 1810, all the communities were disbanded and the retreats became state property. When the monasteries were put up for sale or for rent, some houses were rented to friends who sublet them to the Passionists as ordinary citizens…. This solution, where possible, allowed at least one Passionist as custodian. Thus he was able to see that the house did not fall into greater ruin, but he was not able to prevent the emptying of its contents.
The Passionist Nuns had been in existence for only 39 years and only had the one monastery at Corneto (later the town was renamed Tarquinia). When they had to leave the monastery in June 1810, there were twenty-seven nuns: nineteen choir nuns, seven lay nuns, and one novice.
The Nuns’ Way of the Cross
On June 6, 1810, the nuns’ confessor Fr. Angelo Galassi read the imperial decree of suppression to all twenty-seven religious, gathered in the sacristy. On hearing that they would have to leave by June 15, the Sister chronicler records:
The good religious, after calming down, accepted the fact and prayed to God, truly from their hearts, that he would not permit them to return to the world, since they had abandoned it for love of him. But this time, for his own just ends, he did not answer their prayer.
On Friday, June 15, the day the Passionist nuns dedicate to spending time with Jesus in his Passion, they had to drink from his own bitter chalice as they were unjustly forced from their monastery.
- Eight nuns were natives of Corneto and could remain in the city, along with four foreigners who were also allowed to remain in Corneto because of ill health. These nuns sustained their religious life by meeting in groups of four in the houses of families who had taken them in.
- The other fifteen foreigners dispersed to their native cities.
- On January 14, 1811, the monastery was auctioned off for 35 francs.
- The monastery was assigned to the Maestre Pie, to be used as a school, an orphanage, and a clinic for sick women.
Although allowed to reunite by the papal rescript of June 30, 1814, the nuns faced significant practical and canonical obstacles to resuming their religious observance. The monastery had to be cleaned and disinfected, and a new place to be found for the Maestre Pie. Sustaining funds for the monastery and the nuns’ life had been discontinued by the French government, so new funding had to be found before the monastery could be canonically re-erected. Furthermore, a number of the nuns who wished to return were no longer able to live the observance because of infirmity.
Nevertheless, on December 23, 1814, fifteen nuns and the novice who had all returned resumed wearing their Passionist habit and renewed their religious profession in the hands of the Vicar General of the Diocese, Bishop Garrigos. Soon, five more nuns rejoined the group. Four religious had died during the suppression, one had disappeared, and one had requested exclaustration to care for her aged mother.
“The Suppression had been very hard on them, but the nuns had survived well.” The chronicler writes that, when they returned, “all took up the regular observance with readiness of spirit, as if it had never been interrupted.” In 1815, two novices were vested with the habit, and in 1816, eight novices were vested – a beautiful sign of the Resurrection for the community after their profound sharing in Our Lord’s Passion. The Divine Bridegroom is ever faithful to His faithful brides!
Advice from a letter of Sr. Magdalene Calzelli, CP:
Pray constantly to the Lord to free the entire State from our enemies. New evils have come upon us, but God can liberate us, if he wishes…. Trust in Mary Most Holy.