NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local parish, who professes faith and loyalty to the Church. This ministry - my "little work" - is strictly a personal expression of that faith and loyalty, and not an officially recognized ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu. ~ Peter

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Saint of the Month - October 2015: Saint Gaetano Errico

St. Gaetano Errico
A Missionary of the Sacred Hearts ~ Feast: October 29th

A representative portrait of St. Gaetano
On October 19, 1871, the little town of Secondigliano, Italy, was privileged to witness in its midst a tremendous spiritual light - the birth of a future priest and Saint.  He was the second of nine children born to a pasta maker and a rug weaver; Gaetano Errico was his name and he was deeply pious from his childhood.  In fact, at the age of 14, he sought admission into two illustrious, hallowed institutions - the Franciscans and the Redemptorists - but they politely declined him due to his youth.  However, the persistent young man was not to be deterred.  Two years later he applied with the Diocese of Naples and was accepted as a candidate for the priesthood.  He was ordained on September 23, 1815, in the Cathedral of Naples.

Following his ordination, the young priest was assigned as a teacher, as well as, the pastor of the parish church of St. Damian and Cosmas.  He was highly successful in both roles, imparting solid knowledge and faith to his students and parishioners.  This was Fr. Gaetano's life for twenty years until the year 1818, when his life took a dramatic turn.

While on his annual spiritual retreat with the Redemptorists in Salerno, in 1818, Fr. Gaetano experienced a life-changing vision of St. Alphonsus Liguori (d. 1787), the founder of the Redemptorist Congregation.  The Saint informed him that it was God's will for him to found a new congregation of priests and to also erect a new sanctuary dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows in his hometown of Secondigliano. Fr. Gaetano immediately set about fulfilling the mission entrusted to him, but he was met with resistance from some of his fellow townsmen.  Encouraged by several visions of the Blessed Virgin, he forged through with his goal and the church was eventually completed and inaugurated in December 1830.  To this day, the sanctuary continues to draw devotees from all over Italy, who come to the shrine to venerate the lovely statue of the Sorrowful Virgin, which was carved according to the description of Fr. Gaetano's visions of Mary (see below).

St. Gaetano receiving his life-changing vision of St. Alphonsus Liguori.

Fr. Gaetano took up residence in an adjoining cell built next to the new church and from there began his establishment of the congregation asked of him by God.  He received further revelations instructing him to dedicate his work to the hearts of Jesus and Mary, which he did; the new congregation would be called, the Missionaries of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, and its emblem incorporates the dual-hearts, side-by-side.  What started with just eight novices in October 1836 quickly grew and spread throughout southern Italy; the new congregation received final, official approval from Rome on August 7, 1846, and Fr. Gaetano served as the Superior General for the rest of his life.

The founder died on October 29, 1860, at the age of 69-years-old.  Fr. Gaetano had spent his life conscientiously fulfilling the requests Heaven had made of him, all the while exercising his priestly ministries among the Faithful, with special solicitude towards the poor and the sick.  In regards to his spiritual life, which wasn't widely disclosed during his lifetime, it was reported that the priest was secretly an ascetic who practiced voluntary mortification on behalf of sinners - daily prayer, extended bread/water fasts, and self-flagellation.  Fr. Gaetano's mystical gifts were not limited to visions of St. Alphonsus and the Blessed Virgin, but he was frequently witnessed in ecstasy; experienced the gift of tears, which he shed abundantly for sinners; and was said to have bilocated on several occasions in order to minister in distance places.

A statue of the Virgin of Sorrows, carved under the direction of St. Gaetano... and the reliquary that
encloses his remains.  Both are located in the Sanctuary built by St. Gaetano in Secondigliano, Italy.

The Church Beatified Fr. Gaetano Errico in April 2002, and declared him a Saint on October 12, 2008.  His relics are enshrined in a chapel within the church he built to Our Lady in Secondigliano.  From his place in Heaven, may St. Gaetano pray for our personal needs and the needs of the entire Church.

A Reflection
"Let us kindle the love of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in the hearts of all people."  
~ Words of St. Gaetano Errico

A Short Prayer
Most Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, we love you.  Be our strength, hope, and our help as we walk our paths in life.  Lead us to salvation.  Amen.

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