The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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June 16, 2000 Issue
Saint of the Day

A youthful trip to Venice led to a career in the episcopacy

St. Gregory Barbarigo did a lot to update seminary life

By Tony Staley
Compass Editor

All teens believe they could be of great service to society if only someone would listen to them. But that seldom happens.

It happened to St. Gregory Barbarigo and he made the most of it.

Gregory was born Sept. 16, 1625, into an important family in Venice. By tradition, the father was responsible for the religious, moral and political education of his sons. Gregory's father, Giovanni Francesco, was both holy and well-educated, and was Gregory's closet confidant until his death 10 years before that of Gregory. Gregory's mother, Lucrezia Lion, died when the boy was only seven.

When Gregory was 18, he was invited to Munster to help the Venetian ambassador negotiate the Treaty of Wesphalia, ending the Thirty Years War. During the trip, he became a friend of Fabio Chigi, the papal nuncio or ambassador.

In 1653, Gregory went to Padua to broaden his studies from math and astronomy to include law, theology and other subjects. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1655 at Padua before going to Rome where his old friend Chigi was now Pope Alexander VII.

The main reason Gregory went to Rome was to continue his studies under the city's leading scholars. But when a plague broke out in 1656, the pope gave him responsibility for relief work in the Trastevere District.

The following year, Pope Alexander named him Bishop of Bergamo. Upon arriving in the city, he began instituting the reforms of the Council of Trent. He wouldn't let priests who failed an exam hear confessions and he banned priests from attending the theater. He compiled a list of the clergy detailing their abilities and attitudes. He also improved seminary education and distributed books of devotion.

In 1660, Pope Alexander named Gregory a cardinal and three years called him to Rome for a one-year assignment. In 1664, Gregory became the bishop of Padua, where he instituted reforms similar to the ones he enacted in Bergamo. Many of his reforms concerned the education of seminarians, including major improvements to the seminary library and the setting up his own printing press. He also championed a well-educated laity, whom he used to ask catechism questions when visiting their parishes.

He took part in five papal elections, including three where he was a candidate.

He died in 1697 on June 18, the day we celebrate his feast. Gregory was beatified in 1760 and was declared a saint in 1960 by Pope John XXIII, who considered him his model when he was a seminarian in Bergamo.

Youth today would do well to follow the example of Gregory by learning all they can and, as we approach Father's Day, paying close attention to Dad.

Sources: Butler's Lives of Saints and Dictionary of Saints

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