THE MIRACULOUS IMAGE OF OUR INFANT SAVIOR AT BARI, KINGDOM OF NAPLES, ITALY Part 1
This nineteenth century, being destined by God to form an epoch in the Catholic Church, is pre-eminently the age of prodigies. In the foregoing pages we have already noticed many of them and more will be found in what follows. Were we not circumscribed within the hallowed circle of the Crown of Thorns, we could fill an entire volume with prodigious events of different kinds, that have illustrated the Christian chronicles of the present century. The learned, judicious and devout author of the Voix Prophetiques (Prophetical Voices) Rev. I. M Curicque, in two large volumes of above 1,500 pages 12mo. has collected, especially in the first volume, a great number of them, which we trust will soon appear in an English dress. For our present object, in connection with the Crown of Thorns, we compile the following facts from the 1st volume, chapter V.
1. Many weak Christians are not only surprised, but also somewhat scandalized, in beholding the present degraded condition of Italy, from a civil and religious point of view. Might seems to have prevailed against right. Cunning, duplicity, and hypocrisy persecute and oppress truth, candor, and honesty. Impiety, vice, corruption and sacrilege boldly stalk in the usurped states of the Church, domineer in the capital of the Christian world, and like the monstrous beast prefigured in the thirteenth chapter of the Apocalypse, partaking of the nature of the leopard, of the bear, lion and dragon, blaspheming against Jesus Christ, and holding his Vicar a prisoner in the Vatican. But to the eyes of enlightened faith these are some of the scandals that the impiety and malice of wicked men have rendered inevitable in these evil days. Woe, however, to them by whom such scandals come. Christian faith should enable us to see and to feel that the revolution, or, apostasy as it is better termed in the Apocalypse is dominant all over the face of the earth. Hence, why should we be surprised, and much less, why should anyone be scandalized in seeing it rear its impious and defiant head in Italy, the only country that after receiving the light and life of Faith from the apostles of our Lord, all the might of Pagan persecution, heretical perfidy and human impiety, could never succeed in extinguishing it from the mind and heart of that Catholic people? If old paganism warred against Palestine, the land of promise, and the chosen country for God's true worshippers; what wonder is it that revived paganism, in these latter days, aims its most deadly blows against Italy, the Palestine of Christianity, and especially against Papal Rome, the center and fountain-head of Catholicity, the divinely chosen seat of the infallible head of Christ's Holy Church? The Papacy is the only irremoveable rock and insurmountable barrier, that checks the ever surging billows of Satan's fury and of human impiety. Rendered proud and bold, by their success in almost every part of the world, these emissaries of Satan are becoming mad at the resistance offered to their impious designs and desperate efforts, by the venerable octogenerian sitting calmly and hopefully in St. Peter's chair in the Vatican, who by his powerful words and inspired messages of wisdom and warning, makes the revolution tremble, like Attila in its apparently victorious career against the seat of his universal government. The Pope fully and firmly relies upon the infallible promise of Him whom he represents upon earth. For he said: "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Mt. 16:18) Let us be calm and hopeful, in fervent prayer, and we shall soon see the present Crown of Thorns transformed into a brilliant crown of universal glory and triumph for the whole Catholic Church. We have a guarantee for our hope, in the manifold, frequent and extraordinary prodigies, manifested in different parts of the world, but especially in Christian France and Papal Italy.
The general ignorance of the Italian language, and the comparatively few Americans who travel in Italy, and who feel any interest in visiting the more secluded portions of that classical land, the affected ignorance and studied silence of the secular and Protestant press in relation to Catholic events, and last, but not least, the habitual caution, and almost extreme reserve of Italian writers, in giving publicity to the prodigies so frequently
occurring in that country of faith, deprive the Christian reader of many most interesting and edifying facts, and cause some weak-minded Catholics to suppose that God has almost forsaken that privileged people. We are desirous of supplying this omission, as far as circumstances will permit, and correcting, if possible, the mistake. Let us then proceed to examine another extraordinary event connected with a chain of prodigies intertwined with the mystic Crown of Thorns.
From time immemorial, but more especially since the twelfth century, stimulated by the devotion and zeal of the seraphic Patriarch, St. Francis of Assisi, and by his fervent religious of both sexes, veneration for our Infant Savior has ever been a peculiar feature in the devotions of Italian Catholics. It is now nearly a century since a most beautiful figure of the Divine Infant, made of the purest virgin wax, has been religiously preserved in some pious families in the archiepiscopal city of Bari as an object of domestic devotion. It is intended to represent our Infant Savior in the cradle. About twenty years ago, this beautiful figure fell by inheritance into the Providential possession of two very pious middle-aged sisters, surnamed Parlavecchia. They are now far advanced in years, the elder being nearly seventy years old, the other only a few years less. The Christian name of this latter is Maria Gaetana. During many years, both have been most exemplary members of the Third Order of St. Francis, which is very numerous in Italy, and especially in the kingdom of Naples. These pious maidens lead a secluded life at home. They have been remarkable for their strict exactness in the observance of their simple and holy rule of life, and are justly regarded as models of general edification in their native city, on account of their exemplary conduct, their fervor, persevering prudent zeal and active charity. They are respected by all as faithful living copies of the two privileged sisters, Mary and Martha, mentioned in the Gospel. The elder sister represents the activity of Martha, whilst the younger, Maria Gaetana, has chosen with Mary the better part, of sweet contemplation. Being satisfied with the bare necessaries of life, they live upon a small income derived from a moderate house rent. They scarcely ever consent to receive any visitor, except a saintly and venerable old priest, a near relative, the Rev. Laurence Lapedota, and some other ecclesiastic and devout lay person, when no other conversation is permitted, except upon pious and edifying subjects. In short, their conversation, as St. Paul says, is in heaven. This will be better understood when we state that Maria Gaetana is so favored by our Lord as to have been for many years impressed with the miraculous stigmata of the five wounds, in her hands, feet and side. These facts are well known in the city of Bari.
The devotion of these saintly sisters towards our Infant Savior is universally admired. By ecclesiastical authority, they have been allowed to transform a large room in the upper story of their house, contiguous to their humble cell, into a chapel, with a beautiful altar, on which the cherished object of their devotion is preserved. In fervent acts of devotion, prayer and meditation they spend some hours of the day, and many more during the night, imploring the mercy of God, for the conversion of sinners, the perseverance of the just, and for the speedy triumph of our holy religion. Pious Catholics have free access to this domestic chapel for motives of devotion. But they find it very difficult to enter into conversation with the two sisters, or to be admitted into their private rooms. God has rewarded their faith and devotion with a number of extraordinary prodigies, through the sacred image of their cherished Santo Bambino. These may be classified in the following five categories:
1. Since the 19th day of March, feast of St. Joseph, 1866, being Monday in Passion Week, and a short time after the exile of the learned Archbishop of Bari, Monsignor Pedicini, by the so-called Italian, but in reality Freemason and anti-Christian Government, the sacred wax image of our Infant Savior, reclining in a beautiful cradle, was observed to exude a miraculous sweat in such abundance that being carefully collected in clean linen cloths and pressed into a vessel, several small glass bottles have been filled with it, and are religiously preserved. This prodigious sweat has been the means of many other miracles, one of which is its frequent multiplication.
2. The sacred figure often times sweats blood. This miraculous blood— fresh, lively and rosy—exudes in such abundance, sometimes from one side, then from another, varying with the different feasts in the year, that being carefully collected in clean linen placed under and over the sacred image, several vials have been filled with it, and are devoutly treasured up as precious relics, by means of which numerous prodigies have been and are wrought at the present time.
3. A sweet and most agreeable odor exhales from the little cradle wherein the sacred image is kept, that can be perceived at some considerable distance from it, and is observed, not only through the sense of smell, but it wonderfully affects the souls of the faithful, inspiring heavenly sentiments of piety and devotion in all those who visit this privileged chapel with true Christian dispositions of mind and heart.
4. Though the sacred wax figure is, by order of ecclesiastical authority, kept under a glass shade, fixed with seals, so that it cannot be reached by human hands, or by any other instrumentality, yet it has been occasionally observed moving from one position to another, from right to left, from left to right, sitting up or standing upon its feet, exactly like a living child, two or three years old.
5. Lastly, what is still more wonderful, and more deserving our consideration, are the bloody impressions produced over or communicated in an instant, to the linen, to engravings, or pictures and other objects placed, with due permission, over or in contact with the sacred image of the Divine Infant, il Santo Bambino, of Bari. As a general rule, these miraculous impressions exhibit symbols expressive of mysterious and prophetic signification, as we shall have soon to remark. We proceed now to explain more fully, and in greater detail, these five prodigious events. The following facts are faithfully translated from the official account given of these prodigies by the very Rev. Father Bruni, a member of the congregation of the mission of St. Vincent de Paul, more generally known as the Lazzarist Fathers, from the original title of their mother house in Paris where their general superior resides. Very Rev. Father Bruni, when commissioned by the Archbishop of Bari, Mgr. Pedicini, to investigate and report these facts, was superior or president of the ecclesiastical seminary in that city. But since, like other religious in Italy, he has been banished from the seminary and from his religious establishment by the impious and persecuting government of Victor Emmanuel.
These facts were first published in France in Le Rosier de Marie, "the Rosary of Mary," an excellent weekly periodical, very ably edited by the French Dominican Fathers. The account may be read in the number of Saturday, 19th of August, 1871, page 647.