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Catholic Heroes… St. Henry De Osso

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By CAROLE BRESLIN

Over the centuries, Spain has yielded many saints for the Roman Catholic Church. At the beginning of the fourth century, St. Maginus was martyred. In the twelfth century, there was St. Raymond of Penafort. In addition, the great sixteenth-century Carmelites, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, made matchless contributions to spirituality. In the nineteenth century, St. Henry de Osso did much to re-establish catechesis and strengthen the family.
Born in Vinebre, Catalonia, Spain, on October 16, 1840, Henry de Osso was the last of three children born to Jaime and Micaela de Osso y Cervello. His parents were simple people residing in northeast Spain. Their other son, Luis, became famous as an athlete and was one of the founders of the Barcelona Soccer Club.
As with most saints, Henry showed uncommon piety from a very young age. He had such a great zeal for the Lord that when he was six years old he would leave his playmates immediately when he noticed the priest carrying Viaticum to a sick person. His one desire was to accompany our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament!
Although his mother desired that he prepare for the priesthood, his father insisted that he become a businessman. Consequently, he sent Henry to work with his uncle in Quinto de Ebro, nearly 150 miles west of Vinebre.
Henry was only 12 years old, but he did his best to learn the textile trade from his uncle who owned the business. However, God’s ways are not man’s ways and soon Henry became so ill that he received Viaticum. This reception was also his First Holy Communion — the age for First Holy Communion was not lowered until the twentieth century.
After Henry finally recovered, they decided that he should return home. As he made his way through the countryside, he stopped at the Marian Shrine of Our Lady of the Pillar in order to give the Blessed Virgin thanks for his recovery.
Shortly after his return, a cholera epidemic broke out in 1854, claiming the life of his mother. After her death, Henry fled to Montserrat, about 20 miles northwest of Barcelona in hopes of becoming a priest. His brother, Luis, determined to force Henry to obey their father, quickly followed in Henry’s nearly 300-mile trek. He found Henry and brought him back home.
Although Henry failed in this attempt to become a priest, he eventually achieved his objective. His father finally realized how very much it meant to Henry to seek his vocation and he set aside his opposition. Thus Henry was allowed to begin his studies for Ordination.
Henry returned to the Barcelona area in 1861 where he began his seminary studies. He received minor orders and served as a subdeacon at Tortosa, Spain, about 100 miles southwest of Barcelona.
As he began his spiritual direction, he wrote down his plan: “I will, with God’s grace, engrave firmly in my mind St. Teresa’s words, ‘Let the world perish before I offend God, because I owe more to God than to anybody’.”
He continued his spiritual formation, becoming even more desirous of a strong zeal. He further developed his life’s plan during a retreat as he wrote, “‘Learn of me, for I am meek and gentle of heart.’ Goal: To imitate Jesus in my thoughts and actions so that others can say of me what they used to say of St. Francis de Sales: ‘This is how Jesus acted’.”
On September 21, 1867, Henry and Blessed Emmanuel Domingo y Sol were ordained to the priesthood. After celebrating his first Mass at Montserrat on October 6, 1867, Henry returned to Tortosa. There he taught mathematics and physics at the seminary.
During this time Henry deepened his devotion to St. Teresa of Avila. He became more concerned about the need for reforming his fervor in preaching and knew he needed a deeper relationship with Jesus.
Fr. de Osso became widely known for his meek passion for souls because of his deep love of God. This love and zeal he translated into apostolic works of catechesis focusing mainly on young adults.
Like all saints his accomplishments grew from a life of constant and abiding prayer. The Masses he celebrated touched many hardened hearts. As he walked the streets of Spain, people frequently heard him say, “My Jesus and my all. Praised be Jesus my love. All for Jesus! Praised be Jesus.”
He preached retreats, gave parish missions, taught children, and thirsted to do still more for the Kingdom of God. In 1874 he wrote Fifteen Minutes of Prayer, a masterpiece with 15 editions printed during his lifetime. Live Jesus, a meditation book for children, was published in 1875. His writing continued for the rest of his life, to teach others how to develop a deep conversation with Christ.
As time progressed and his successes multiplied, the crosses came. His publications were very popular and his apostolic works touched thousands of souls. When he was granted land and donations to build a home for religious women, his friend, the bishop, and some of the women religious turned on him and accused him of misuse of funds. They filed a lawsuit against him.
Henry fought against these allegations for the next 16 years and died long before he was finally exonerated of any wrongdoing. Despite the deep hurt it caused him, he embraced the cross and loved Jesus even more.
In January 1896, Fr. de Osso went to the Franciscan Monastery of Sancti Spiritus in Gilet, Valencia. After his General Confession with a Franciscan priest, he remarked, “What a beautiful sky, brother! If outside it is like this, what will be inside?” He died just a few hours later, on January 27, his feast day.
Fr. Henry de Osso was beatified by Pope St. John Paul II in 1979. Fourteen years later on June 16, 1993, the same Pope canonized the priest who, as a young man, had run away from home to answer the call of God.
Dear St. Henry, your thirst for God is admirable. Help us develop a time for deep and sincere meditation each day as you encouraged so many people to do. Intercede for us so that by doing so we will also hunger and thirst to spread the good news, to teach the true faith, and to encourage families to live holy lives. 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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