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
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
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