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Catholic Heroes… St. Francesco Spinelli

February 6, 2020 saints No Comments

By CAROLE BRESLIN

Ecclesia de Eucharistia: This is the title of the encyclical letter written by Pope St. John Paul II issued on April 17, 2003. This wonderful work begins, “The Church draws her life from the Eucharist.” In it he cites Lumen Gentium of the Second Vatican Council which tells us that the Eucharist is the source and summit of our life in the Church. Many saints have also made the Eucharist the center of their lives and have written extensively on this greatest mystery of our faith.
St. Alphonsus Liguori, St. Peter Julian Eymard, Servant of God Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ, and St. Francesco Spinelli all had a deep and abiding love for our Lord really and truly present in the Eucharist.
The Spinelli family was known for both their piety and charity. Thus it was not surprising that one of their children, Francesco, became a priest.
Francesco was born to Bartolomeo Spinelli and Emilia Cagliaroli on April 14, 1853 in Milan, which was part of the Lombardy Kingdom at that time. He was baptized the very next day.
When Francesco was still very young, the Spinelli family moved to Cremona, 95 kilometers southeast of Milan. During the summers they vacationed in Vergo, a city 37 kilometers north of Milan. This city was nestled in the foothills of the Italian Alps.
Whether they were in Vergo or Cremona, Francesco would accompany his mother on visits to the sick and marginalized. Since Francesco suffered the pain of a bent spine, this was not always an easy venture for him.
In addition, while his mother was conversing with the adults on her visits, Francesco would entertain the children with puppet shows.
After some years, in 1871, Vergo was the site of marvelous event. For years Francesco endured the pain of his deformed spine. Amazingly, while in Vergo he was cured of that ailment.
Through the years, Emilia’s brother, Pietro Cagliaroli, who was a priest, served as an influential model for Francesco. In addition, his dear friend Blessed Luigi Maria Palazzolo encouraged Francesco to become a priest. (Luigi Palazzolo founded the Sisters of the Poor.)
Answering God’s call, Francesco went to Bergamo, which is 78 kilometers northeast of Milan, also in the foothills of the Alps. There he studied for the priesthood. Bishop Pietro Luigi Speranza ordained Francesco as a diocesan priest on August 14, 1875.
Francesco then traveled to Rome where he participated in the Jubilee Holy Year convoked by Pope Pius IX in 1875.
The bishop of Cremona, Geremia Bonomelli, welcomed Fr. Spinelli to his diocese and invited him to continue his pastoral duties. Hence, three years after he left Bergamo, Fr. Spinelli founded the Sister Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament in Cremona. The new order received diocesan approval in 1897. In addition to Eucharistic Adoration, the Sister Adorers also spent time assisting the poor — ora et labora.
Fr. Spinelli possessed a very special love of the poor and marginalized. He knew from firsthand experience what it was to be rejected and abandoned. Therefore, he urged the Sister Adorers to continue their generous services to the poor whom Christ loved so dearly.
For the next 15 years Fr. Spinelli and the Sister Adorers grew in love of God and in their outreach. At Rivolta d’Adda, Fr. Spinelli died of natural causes on February 6, 1913. Although he did not live long enough to see the day, the Sister Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament received full pontifical approval from Pope Pius XI in 1932.
The Sister Adorers now operate in Italy, Argentina, and Senegal and have 436 religious in
59 houses around the world.
In 1958 Pope St. John XXIII visited Fr. Spinelli’s tomb, noting: “Going from Lodi and arrived in Rivolta d’Adda where I admired the general house of the Sister Adorers founded by Venerable Francesco Spinelli at whose tomb I was glad to pray.”
At the Trionfale convent the Sister Adorers also operate a retirement home in Rome called the Villa Immacolata and a holiday hotel called the Casa Serena.
Fr. Francesco Spinelli’s process for canonization was opened in 1928 with a second process which was begun by another group in 1930. His life of virtue — both the theological and the cardinal virtues — was approved.
However, his formal cause for canonization was not opened until January 25, 1952 under Pope Pius XII. His cause was approved on April 14, 1989. Pope St. John Paul II declared him venerable on March 3, 1990.
For his beatification a medical miracle was approved on June 2, 1992. Fr. Spinelli was then beatified on June 21, 1992 by Pope St. John Paul II in Caravaggio, Italy.
In August 2014 the investigation of a second miracle was concluded. The miracle took place in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The miracle was confirmed by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on September 21, 2017 and Fr. Spinelli was canonized on October 14, 2018 in St. Peter’s Square by Pope Francis.
His feast is celebrated on February 6.
Dear St. Francesco Spinelli, today many have lost their faith in the Real Presence and no longer treat Our Lord in the Eucharist with reverence and respect. Intercede for us to increase our belief in our Lord truly present in Holy Communion, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.
Then as we learn to love God more, may we love our neighbor more and serve him with love and respect. Amen.

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(Carole Breslin home-schooled her four daughters and served as treasurer of the Michigan Catholic Home Educators for eight years. For over ten years, she was national coordinator for the Marian Catechists, founded by Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)

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