August 26th, the Passionists remember one of their great missionaries, Blessed Dominic Barberi, born in Viterbo, Italy, in 1792. Early on, God inspired him to be a missionary to England.
The desire to work for Christian unity grew after Dominic entered the Passionist community, where he taught theology and was a spiritual director. In 1842 he went to England hoping to bring the English church and the Roman Catholic church together as one. Initially, he tried to engage the leading religious scholars at Oxford in dialogue.
The Industrial Revolution was changing that country, however, and thousands of poor Catholic immigrants from Ireland were flocking to the great English factory towns, fleeing famine and looking for work. Priests were needed and Dominic, though he never spoke English well, tirelessly preached and ministered to them.
Dominic never got his wish to engage the learned scholars of England as a lecturer at Oxford, but he was noticed by them all the same. One of England’s greatest intellectuals, John Henry Newman, was attracted to Dominic, not by the religious tracts he sent to him, but by his zeal and humility. Newman was looking for those qualities in the Roman church at the time.
“If they want to convert England,” Newman wrote earlier, “let them go barefoot into our manufacturing towns, let them preach to the people like St Francis Xavier–let them be pelted and trampled on, and I will own they do what we cannot…Let them use the proper arms of the Church and they will prove they are the Church.”
Dominic, humble, zealous and faithful, used “the proper arms of the Church.” When Newman decided to enter the Catholic Church, he asked for Father Dominic Barberi to receive him.
“All that I have suffered since I left Italy has been well compensated by this event,” Dominic wrote later, “ I hope the effects of such a conversion may be great.”
And they have been.
Longer biography here:
Writings of Blessed Dominic can be found here.
Blessed Dominic is buried here.