Tag Archive: biography


A New Direction

important_announcement

It has been a wonderful adventure posting on Catholic With A vengeance, getting fired up for the faith and defending her to the last. The support of my readers has been a gift of encouragement and strength to me. Sharing my views and insights has been an incredible joy. It is with a heavy heart I inform you that Catholic W/ Vengeance will be ending.

For a while now, I’ve noticed a gradual move into a new direction, away from apologetics and more towards more contemplative, spiritual and biographical writings. In order to retain the purity of the goal of Catholic W/ Vengeance, I’ve created an entirely new blog. I’m not going away- only moving! Catholic W/ Vengeance will not be deleted. It is here to stay. Forever. There will just not be any new content added.

Here is the address for my new blog:
http://drawmeafter.wordpress.com/
Trahe Me Post Te, is Latin for “Draw me after you.” taken from the Song of Songs 1:4 and a perfect description of God’s relentless quest for my love. You will notice that some older posts from Catholic W/ Vengeance have been moved there. This is because they fit the new blog better than this one. There is a more interior side of my faith that God is calling me to explore, a deeper aspect of my relationship with Him. I desire to share with you and it’s my sincere hope you will accompany me on this new journey. God is working on me and making inroads into my steely cold heart. Please be companions with me along this process, this arduous and long road to sainthood.

Returning from Mass around 5:30 in the evening, I set down my car-keys and checked the mailbox. Nothing was there. A sinking feeling came into my heart as I realized it wouldn’t be until Monday that my newly ordered, 4 volume set of breviaries arrived. Not that the wait particularly bothered me as I currently had an old crinkled volume IV from the church’s library in my custody. Still, anticipation boiled within me. I longed to feel the weight of each volume in my hands and smell the newly printed pages while chanting the psalms. 

All day, I believed that my breviaries awaited me on Monday. I made dinner, said my Legion of Mary prayers and began surfing the internet. Finally a thought came to mind. I forgot to feed that cats! My mother entrusted me with this duty before embarking on a trip with her sisters. The poor babies were probably starving by now. Curse my negligence! Stealing into my mother’s empty room, I turned the light on and saw a rectangular cardboard box sitting on her bed, two envelopes on top of it.
Excitement surged forth as I read “Amazon.com” on the sides and saw the curved arrow on the logo. I cried out “It’s them! They’re here!” Like a child on Christmas morning who just sited the biggest shiniest gift box with their name on it, I seized the box. My brother, Kevin came in the room wondering what all the shouting was about. All I said was “My books are here! They’re here!”


My fingers trembled as I retrieved a pair of scissors yet Kevin easily tore the box’s lid with his finger. He pulled out a smaller, white box, paused for a moment, then handed it to me saying, “You should be the one to open it.”
In black letters, the words were written across the white box: “Liturgy of the Hours” Without a doubt, they had arrived! Blue, red, brown and green, they lined up inside the box, waiting to be freed by my anxious hands. Carefully, so as not to hurt them, I turned them to the side and let them slide out onto the couch. One by one, I investigated them. They were perfect! At once, I felt unified with the entire Church, enrolled in the camaraderie of countless priests, seminarians, monks, nuns and lay people. God’s hand was in my hand. He gently led me to a piece of tilled land, the fruit of which I was yet to discover.

(By the way, I later discovered that my father fed the cats at 5:30.)

The glistening tabernacle silently greeted me, sending forth an arch of gold, yellow and bronze light. I sat down and opened my book of hours. Nothing could be heard, no birdsong outside nor distant lawnmowers roaring,-not even the shuffle of feet as others entered the church. Periodically I glanced up at the abode of my Lord, perhaps nervously but more likely, full of thoughts. Sally, one of our sacristans, approached. Her neatly cropped hair and white shirt shone like silver beneath the bluish stained-glass window. Seeing me paused, with the open book, she said:
“Sing.”
And so I began chanting as she slowly opened the tabernacle, retrieved a golden container of already consecrated hosts. Beside it, was placed a small silver monstrance holding a larger, exposed host. She knelt down in reverence before closing the tabernacle and bringing the container to the sacristy. Immediately, I realized that a priest wasn’t available to say Mass today, that we would be holding a communion service led by the deacon instead. Anxiety gripped my heart as I thought of our parish priest and the sickness in his family that kept him away at this time. Ringing out the psalms, I asked God to watch over him. A thought suddenly came to mind. I stopped chanting and turned to Sally who now sat behind me. My heart thudded. The odd request lingered on my lips. Nervously, I asked:
“If it is allowed, can you open the tabernacle so that we can adore the host?”

~ ~ ~

“We can do that as long as I’m here,” Sally answered.
I didn’t check the expression on her face, whether it was joyful, eager- or baffled but gladly knelt down when the heavy metal doors were opened again, revealing the silent little host in its silver casing. Feelings of littleness and aggravation at my sins hit me full force. I really was no one and nothing compared to Our Almighty God who deigned to descend from heaven and dwell with us. I finished my prayers and remained kneeling on the floor for several minutes as love gently emanated from the small host, washing over everything like the sunlight, making cold places grow warm again. And at that moment, love was enough. He was enough.
Shuffling emerged behind us and glancing over my shoulder, I saw a man with sparse hair, glasses over his bright eyes and a white collar. Slung over his arm was a long, white garment. A priest! Rather flustered, he asked about the time of the Mass, explaining he got lost on the way to the church. Sally instantly sprang up to help him and followed him down the aisle. Hurriedly, not considering propriety, I closed the tabernacle, dropped upon one knee and said farewell to my Jesus, knowing I would see him again in just a few moments. My mind leaped and ran in circles as I absentmindedly followed them into the sacristy.
“Is there anything I can do?” I blurted out.
The priest was already throwing on vestments and I eyed the floor, worried I’d interrupted him somehow. I always worried about this. However, relief flooded my heart as Sally answered,
“Yes, you can take these hosts, put them in the tabernacle, lock it and bring me the key.”
As she placed the round, golden container in my outstretched hands, I bowed down and closed my eyes like a samurai receiving his sword in some epic movie. I walked gingerly, like a chemist carrying concentrated acid. I shivered expectantly, like a young, virgin girl pregnant with the Savior of the world. The thing in my hands was infinitely more precious than gold, jewels, the finest spices, more weighty than the universe. Every instinct in me wanted to loudly start singing: “Pange lingua gloriosi.” I sang it in my heart instead.

ciborium

The day after my ill-fated encounter with the lady spiritual director, I went to visit another one. You could say I am pretty serious about this spiritual direction thing. I have realized I am the type of person who learns best by example. Regrettably, few people set a good Christian example in my life. Around the age of 13, I learned by example that Christians were better people than everyone else, they were holier, richer and nicer- and by nicer, I mean they had nicer things.  All too soon, I learned I couldn’t be that way, for I was sinful, poor and lacked nice things… No shiny car with a “Jesus” bumper sticker on it, pretty dress to wear on Easter or blonde hair shot with “good-girl” highlights. I remember being told that if I suffered- or was sad, I possessed little faith and this sent me running to the altar-call basically every Sunday.

Fast forward about 10 years and I am Catholic. I am Catholic because I was shown Christians were people just like everyone else but they TRIED to be holy. They could be rich or poor and the nicest “things” were virtues and sacraments, given as gifts from God. Three people figured majorly in my conversion to faith: Brad Poole, Father (now Monsignor) Stanley Deptula and Father Brian Brownsy.

Brad was my first Catholic friend- my first real Christian friend too. He was first to tell me that if I were the only person on earth, Jesus would have still died for me. I learned from Brad that suffering didn’t mean a lack of faith; it meant God loved you and wanted you closer to Him. God desires our hearts and being Christian isn’t just going to church on Sunday, it is a life journey.

Father Stanley taught me about the mercy of Christ. Instead of shunning my idiosyncrasies, he saw a soul that hungered for God. In his office, I had my first confession and though I was terrified, he remained patient and even allowed his two dogs to sit nearby, because they gave me peace. This powerful sacrament and kindly gesture showed forth forgiveness- and a God who gives second-chances.

Father Brownsy was my first Christian teacher. His Masses were the first I attended. He revealed the Sacred Scriptures, how they instruct us day-by-day, and showed me a beautiful world of prayer and liturgy. To these three people, through whom God’s grace so brilliantly shined, I am forever indebted.

It has been five years since my entry into the ancient, beautiful world of Catholic Christianity and I’m still in great need of examples. Left on my own for so long, I have grown dull, stunted and confused. Yes, I study the faith constantly and perhaps know more doctrine, Scripture and history than your average Catholic, but without a stability of spirit, it means little. Thus, spiritual direction!

I sat down with this new spiritual director and spoke to him and he spoke to me.  He was far removed from the lady I met yesterday, expressing gentle love instead of harsh condescension. In short time, he revealed two issues: First, my true happiness would come only if I depended wholly on God- and His will for me. Second, people aren’t naturally capable of love- they must be taught how to love. I must learn how to love so that others could in turn, see love within me. …and this guy didn’t even know about my dysfunctional childhood issues! See the problem is that I want what I want. I wish to choose my life, to become better- often independently of God’s will. I can’t save myself- and this scares the living heck out of me!

There is a realization that I haven’t been taught how to truly love, I mean I think I’ve been taught how to truly love but I really haven’t. This is because I keep resisting it. I keep expecting everything to change around me instead of changing myself. Moreso, my problem is I like myself but I don’t love myself. My life and my existence must be seen with God’s eyes and not man’s eyes whose perception of truth changes every day. So there you have it: two issues brought before the light. They hang on my heart like twin weights of pride and fear, begging to be loosed. As I set these goals and continue seeking spiritual direction, please, if you read this, pray for me.

That is what we Christians do.

These characters are more obscure in the series however they are no less interesting!!

 

 

Lord Lamberto D’Costanza II

                                                           (Royal pain-in-the-you-know-what)

The firstborn son of Lamberto D’Costanza I, Duke of Tuscany. His birthdate is remarkably close to his father’s on Feb, 23rd, 1798. Lamberto II was adored and spoiled from his youth. Though the Duke of Tuscany and his wife, Catherina, are fairly devout Catholics, Lamberto disdains religiosity and pious discipline. He instead seeks happiness, excitement and pleasure at every turn.

When Lamberto II was merely 15, he landed in trouble with the parish priest and preacher of the royal household when he began secretly courting a young woman.  This sort of thing was frowned upon as it created high risk for “loss of virtue”.  Ironically, little time passed before Lamberto II actually misplaced his virtue.

Irately, his father tried to reign in Lamberto II and sent him to a monastery school. It didn’t avail. Out of rebellion, Lamberto II escaped the monastery confines and shortly found himself at a rich party in Lucca. Eventually, the weary duke tired of disciplining his son. He bestowed upon Lamberto II a large amount of wealth and told him to live his own life elsewhere.

One year later, Lamberto II experienced a brief moment of repentance, returned home and courted a virtuous woman. When the royal priest noticed Lamberto’s wavering faithfulness, he attempted reproach only to be thrown in prison! Upon this, the cardinal of Lucca petitioned for his release. Instead of obeying, Lamberto sent the cardinal a letter in which he insinuated: “His Eminence is but dim-witted with nothing else better to do.” He was promptly excommunicated.

 

 

Cardinal Montilo

(Pretty and power-hungry)

Antonio Montilo, born in 1774, was a child of privilege. Though religious, his parents ingrained an elevated self-worth in him. When Antonio was 17, he went into a church to escape hot, summer sun and experienced what he deemed “the presence of God.”

Antonio’s father organized his entrance into Italy’s greatest seminary, the Pontifical Canonry of Rome. Antonio at first paid diligent attention to studying Scripture and faith but in the end, his enthusiasm waned. He went home, petitioning his father to pull more strings and have him quickly ordained.

After two years of half-hearted devotion, Antonio was ordained by a bishop who had been friends with his father. Though he made sweeping reforms of liturgy and practice in his parish church, Antonio harbored selfishness. He then sought the lofty office of bishop, doing whatever necessary to gain recognition and skill. After becoming a bishop at age 40, he actually put effort into disciplining the lax clergy beneath him. Continued focus on this ministry earned him the honor of being made a cardinal.

Antonio of course, took this graciously. He spends much time organizing and admonishing those around him for things ranging from falling asleep during Mass to disorderly appearance. Antonio himself maintains splendid decorum and a constant, condescending demeanor.  His greatest aspiration is to one day, attain the highest rank possible in Christendom: the papacy.

 

 

Philomena Angela Fratelli

(Fallen-away dream-girl)

Youngest daughter of Francine Fratelli and Rudolfo Ariani. Philomena was born in April, 1799. Young and fragile-natured, she became the treasure of the Fratelli family. Philomena’s mother lavished attention on her, gave her many nice things and promised that a wonderful man would marry her.

When Philomena turned 20, she stopped attending church and Mass, feeling very restricted by Catholic dogma’s and disciplines. She especially felt that the church restricted women. After a year, she revealed these feelings to her mother. Shocked, Francine immediately “banished” Philomena to caring for Burt, her elderly, blind grandfather. At Burt’s residence, she actually spent her days in pleasantness, socializing with other wealthy ladies and keeping look out for eligible men.

Philomena’s overwhelming beauty and her way of manipulating people, for reasons both kind and selfish, have become a fascination amongst the men of Lucca.

 

 

Pope Gregory XVI

(His Holy Catholic-ness)

Pope during Feb, 2nd, 1831-  June 1846, born Bartolomeo Alberto Cappellari, his parents were from a small village named Pesariis. Not much is detailed about his life in “The Misadventures of Cardinal Fratelli”.  All we know is that this man was sick of people imposing modernistic ideals on the Church, he hates unhindered democracy and railroads… and that he deemed Father Fratelli’s preaching skill as sufficient reason to make him a cardinal.

His Holiness, Gregory XVI is a simple, pious man who’s sense of humor only becomes surpassed by his apostolic authority.

Ernesto Di’Cosi

    (Mysterious constable, good-guy)

Born to Maria and Francesco Fratelli on Jan, 16th, 1797, Ernesto had been given up for adoption to avoid the shame of his unmarried parents. Though deeply loving their son, his parents belonged to wealthy, traditional, Italian society and felt this action was best. Ernesto got adopted by well-off farmers Cecile and Anna Di’Cosi. He spent childhood doing household chores, fishing and walking amongst nature. At age 9 he first rode a horse and when 12, his father taught him to shoot a rifle.

Ernesto’s parents were religious. In addition to attending Mass every Sunday, they taught him about godly living and emphasized a strong sense of honesty and justice.

Ernesto decided not to court or marry but instead trained to join Lucca’s law-enforcement. He excelled in training, proving skill with both weapons and reading people. Fellow-officers and even his overseer mocked Ernesto, calling him a “bastard nobody” yet became deeply impressed when he alone chased down and caught a stage-coach robber on horseback. By unanimous election, Ernesto soon was chosen as Lucca’s constable.

Ernesto knows all of the city’s residents; including Carlo, the shy vintner, and the outgoing, prized-butcher, Luigi. He scouts the streets and roadways at night, when crime is most-rampant.

His relationship with new-found brother, Cardinal Fratelli is awkward and uneasy. Fratelli is wealthy, naïve and delicate while he is a commoner, wizened and strong.

 

 

Monsignor Barolo

(That rollicking, worldly priest everyone knows)

Lino Vincent Barolo II was born in 1765, on a stormy June night. His parents weren’t originally wealthy but worked up to high status by their sheer business sense. His father, Lino Vincent Barolo I, was a shop-keep who invented new types of luggage which made travel easy and light-weight. After several affluent coach companies endorsed him generously, Lino’s father entered well-to-do society and married Vanessa Nona, a noblewoman.

From a young age, Lino was encouraged to enter the clergy by his father. He received top-notch schooling and classes in Church history and Latin. One fateful day, Lino’s father gave away his entire estate to the bishop of Lucca so that his son would be instructed then ordained into priesthood. As an adult, Lino would always view this act with mixed admiration and bitterness.

Thus, he put forth his entire effort into ministry, working long periods and tiring himself with the affairs of parishioners. Upon his 40th birthday, Lino Barolo was granted the honorary position of Monsignor. This sudden, high rank changed him and he soon began using it to accumulate wealth and experience worldly pleasure. Though Barolo remains true to his clerical vows, he does what is least required while seeking the most reward.

 

 

Dina

(Maid-of-the-year)

The eldest of four sisters and three brothers, Dina La’Grange was born on Sept, 10th, 1792. Her middle-class family saw many struggles and from an early age, Dina learned to care for her younger siblings and cook meals while their parents were away at work.

Having little time to attend Mass, netherless regular school, Dina learned from second-hand books and read the tattered family Bible. Finally when she was 21, her older brother, Leonardo, found very gainful employment as a butler for some noble family. He sent earnings back to Dina until she saved enough to move and work alongside him as a private cook. During her stay there, she acquired tremendous skills in etiquette, politics and culinary arts.

Brashly, the mistress of the house offered her good money to devise a special pastry dessert which would never be made for any other person. When the newly-appointed cardinal of Lucca was invited to dine at their house, she accidently prepared the dish. Dina’s unfortunate, angry dismissal followed. However, the rather satisfied bishop offered her employment.

She moved from one nice home to another but soon grew endeared to the cardinal, seeing him like a younger brother. She isn’t bothered by his demanding neediness but finds it rather amusing.

 

 

Father Rodrigo

(Your stereotypical parish priest)

The youngest of three sons, Rodrigo Santini, was born in 1788. His deeply devout parents encouraged Rodrigo and his brothers to seek God continuously. As a consequence, Rodrigo’s older brother Franco entered the priesthood first and urged him to follow. Readily, he accepted holy orders then was sent to a rough hamlet outside of Lucca where crime and poverty prevailed. Working against these problems, he soon became so overwhelmed that he considered leaving unannounced.

While praying at night in a chapel, Rodrigo thought he heard God’s voice telling him to stay. Thus, he obeyed. Afterwards, the townspeople surprisingly began to turn around, attend Mass and frequent confession.

Rodrigo always desired a quiet, holy life. Understandably, he found the new bishop of Lucca’s request for his service as secretary unnerving. At first, Rodrigo behaved resentfully hoping the bishop would send him back however, he realized how greatly he was needed there.

Francine Leona Fratelli

(Aunt, bossy Italian matriarch)

Born in 1779 on Oct, 22nd. Native sister to Francesco Fratelli and sister-in-law to Maria Lucia. Early on, she bonded closely with the Lucia family even though they were slightly less wealthy than the Fratellis. It is very likely that Francine set up her brother with young, comely Maria, suggesting their courtship and subtly acquainting them to each other over a period of 7 years.

Controlling and assertive in temperament, she purchased a house for the newlyweds and named their first child, Angelo. Unbeknownst to her, Francesco and Maria had already produced another son before their marriage but it didn’t matter for she took utmost pride in naming this “first son”.

Francine married Rudolfo Ariani one year after her own sister’s wedding but kept the Fratelli name. She bore three daughters: Iona, Francesca and Philomena. Her husband, already quite aged, died 5 years after Philomena’s birth. Often, she spent long afternoons watching Angelo in addition to her own children. Though harsh and domineering, Francine worked well with children, teaching things ranging from local geography to the proper manner of addressing nobility.

She continually made decisions for the Fratelli family, managing their wealth, hiring those who worked for them and providing burial for their parents. When Maria fell ill, she brought upon herself the task of taking Angelo to daily Mass and instructing him in etiquette. During these instructions she was utmost strict. After Francesco died in 1817, Francine prepared to take their son in when he entered seminary instead of moving with her. Since, she has felt slighted by this deliberate act of independence and renunciation of marriage.

Inheriting much wealth from the Fratelli family, Francine funded Angelo’s priestly education, though still opposed to it, and bought a fine villa for herself in the city of Lucca.

Her behavior towards Angelo, as a grown man and priest, hasn’t changed much from how she treated him as a child. He is always a little boy in her eyes. After her three daughters were wed to respectable men, she tried convincing Angelo to forsake holy orders and embrace family life. Needless to say, this failed.

 

Michele Dominici

(Proverbial maiden-fair)

Born on a fair, May morning in 1803, Michele Dominici was the daughter of a lawyer and seamstress. Her father, Damiano Dominici put her though the highest-ranking schools. A majority of her fine dresses were made by her own mother Anabella Quentino. During her childhood years, Michele lived nest to the bustling Fratelli house. She played with Angelo every afternoon following school and sometimes joined Francine’s daughters in their games. The girls playacted fairy-tales and fantasies, which always revolved around meeting a handsome prince.

Michele’s family wasn’t incredibly religious. Although faithful Catholics who attended Sunday Mass, her parents taught that a good heart was more important than good religion. They also encouraged her to read books and see numerous plays. Soon, she favored these more than school. As a consequence of her idyllic childhood, Michele spent most days yearning after fantasies and basking in earthly beauty.

At age 18, she left the boardinghouse for girls where she’d been voluntarily placed and lived with a young artist in Lucca. Their relationship was chaste and friendly. At 21, Michele traveled to Florence and spent all her money on visiting museums, purchasing art and dining. Then she lived with her parents.

Well into adulthood, Michele still believes herself somewhat to be a child or fragile damsel waiting upon rescue and adoration. She remains unmarried because, in her view, no man has proved himself worthy of her affections.

Angelo Fratelli

(Awkward Prince of the Church, blushing virgin, unseemly hero)

The son of Maria and Francesco Fratelli, Angelo was born on April, 6, 1801. He knew nothing of his older brother, preceding him by 4 years nor did his parents ever disclose this. Named “Angelo”, after the angel who appeared in Luke’s Gospel by his aunt Francine, he grew up in a nearly perfect home. He had many childhood friends. Dearest to him were: Francesca, his own cousin, Gino, a boy who eventually joined the military, and of course, Michele, the girl next door.

Angelo’s parents attended Mass daily at Lucca’s local church and instilled within him deep piety. He tried joining the boys’ choir at age 10 but lacked a skilled voice and so became an altar server. A wealthy child who indulged in fine sweets, Angelo was overweight thus subjected to torment by other boys. Strong support from family and the parish priest, Father Antonio, helped him cope. When 13, Angelo expressed desire to be a priest, causing his parents joy- and his aunt chagrin. He studied Scripture during free time after school.

Despite the vigorous discipline of seminary and buffeting from his aunt Francine, Angelo developed high self-esteem, thinned down and blossomed into a man. Angelo’s talent for oratory and preaching yielded a mixed blessing as he attracted Lucca’s townspeople, who came great distances to hear him speak, generated attention from higher clergy and even gained the notice of the pope!

Ultimately, due to this great gift, Angelo was summoned to Rome and appointed the cardinal bishop of Lucca. He has found this position of great authority and honor also to be a rather mixed blessing.

 

 

Gianni

(Endearing ragamuffin)

Gianni’s true birthdate is unknown- as are the identities of his parents. From a very young age, he found himself homeless, hungry and having to survive the streets of Lucca. Needless to say, Gianni acquired a penchant for slyness, thievery and judging people’s motives. When he was 10, a very old woman took him in only to die a year later. Making off with some of her jewelry and coins, Gianni sold these and bought a small apartment. When the money was gone, he resumed life on the streets. He seldom attended church, only doing so to snatch offerings or candlesticks, but wandered into Lucca’s cathedral one, cold night and met an unsuspecting clergyman who changed his life.

It’s not from resent that Gianni mocks and annoys Cardinal Fratelli but rather to display misplaced admiration. Being without a father for so long, he scarcely knows how to react to Fratelli’s masculine authority. Gianni tests the cardinal, seeing if he’ll abandon him like the rest.

To be continued…