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Divine Love, Oratory of


The source of a significant pre-Tridentine reform movement that originated in Genoa at the end of the 15th century. The oratory (Fraternita del divino amore sotto la protezione di San Girolamo) was founded by a jurisconsult, Ettore Vernazza, together with three other Genoese citizens, Giovanni Battista Salvago, Nicolo Grimaldi, and Benedetto Lomellino, and with the advice and inspiration of St. catherine of genoa. According to its rule, approved by Leo X on March 24, 1514, membership was restricted to 36 laymen and four priests. The rule prescribed a fixed program of prayers, a weekly fast, monthly confession, and Communion four times a year (St. Catherine favored daily Communion; Vernazza and his wife, Bartolomea, received the Sacrament weekly). The objective of the oratory, however, was not restricted to self-sanctification, but included an energetic apostolate of charity. Members cared for orphans and delinquents, helped the poor, consoled imprisoned criminals, and attended the sick in hospitals. To facilitate their work throughout all classes of society, the names of the members of the oratory and its program were kept secret from others.

In 1499 Vernazza founded a hospital for incurables (Societas reductus incurabilium), the first of its kind in Italy. It was approved by the senate on Nov. 27, 1500, and privileged by Julius II and Leo X. Vernazza's part in its origin and organization is attested to by his daughter, Ven. Battistina (14971587), in her "Lettera del padre e della madre" [Opere spirituali (Verona 1602) 4:114]. Two affiliate reform groups, La compagnia del Mandiletto and La compagnia di Gesù e Maria, were organized at Genoa by Vernazza and St. Catherine.

Similar oratories were founded at Milan, Florence, Verona, Lucca, Vicenza, Brescia, Faenza, Padua, Rome, and Naples. Though the Roman oratory, established in the Trastevere before 1515, was disbanded at the sack of Rome (1527), its spirit survived in the hospital for incurables of S. Giacomo in Augusta and in the reform measures championed by its members, such as Gian Matteo giberti, reform bishop of Verona, St. cajetan (Gaetano da Thiene) and Gian Pietro Carafa (paul iv), founders of the Theatines, and Jacopo sadoleto, Luigi Lippomano, and Gasparo contarini.

Bibliography: p. paschini, La beneficenza in Italia e le compagnie del divino amore (Rome 1925); Tre ricerche sulla storia della chiesa nel cinquecento (Rome 1945). Dictionnaire de spiritualité ascétique et mystique. Doctrine et histoire, ed. m. viller et al. (Paris 1932) 1:531533, 2:316325. p. tacchi-venturi, Storia della Compagnia di Gesù in Italia, 2 v. in 4 (2d ed. Rome 193051) 1.2:2542, contains the "Capitula fraternitatis Divini Amoris." cassiano da langasco, Gli ospedali degli incurabili (Genoa 1938). a. cistellini, Figure della riforma pretridentina (Brescia 1948). a. bianconi, L'opere della compagnie del Divino Amore nella riforma cattolica (Città di Castello 1914). f. von hÜgel, The Mystical Element of Religion, 2 v. 2d ed. (New York 1923).

[e. d. mcshane]

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