Tomorrow the Passionists remember one of their great missionaries, Blessed Dominic Barberi, who was born in Viterbo, Italy, in 1792. Early on, God gave him a desire to be a missionary, especially to England.
He dedicated himself to work for Christian unity, and in 1842 he went to England hoping to bring the English church and the Catholic church together as one. Blessed with a good mind Dominic wanted to engage the leading religious scholars in England to persuade them to unite with the Roman church.
The Industrial Revolution was changing the face of that country, however; thousands of poor Catholic immigrants from Ireland were flocking to the great English factory towns looking for work. They needed priests and Dominic, though he never mastered the English language, tirelessly preached and ministered to them. He shared the Gospel with them and his very self as well.
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 the England’s greatest intellectuals, John Henry Newman, was attracted to Dominic, not by the tracts he sent to him, but by his zeal and humility. Newman was looking for those qualities in the Roman church.
“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 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.