Love to Christ
Antonio Tripodoro s.j.
One day, Miss Emilia Pavese, who was witness to St. Joseph Moscati’s hard work in the hospital, asked him where he got such a great strength. Moscati answered her using St. Paul’s words: “I can do everything through the One who strengthens me” (Phil., 4,13).
“The long prayer he said in the morning, - writes F. Marranzini - when the sunrise hardly allowed him to see from his room the apse and the bell tower of Gesù Nuovo Church, is the beginning of a new conversation. He continues this conversation in a different form everywhere he is, in the street, in the church, in the wards of the hospital, and in the tramcar, too.”
Many people, who knew him, remember him in prayer, knelt before the Blessed Sacrament in the Gesù Nuovo or St. Clare Church, especially in the morning, before going to the hospital. Dr. Sica tells: every day, he received Holy Communion”, while Nicola Mastelloni, a lawyer, says: “while he was hearing Holy Mass, receiving Holy Communion or staying before the Holy Sacrament, he showed such a devotion and inner concentration that the great love he felt for God was clearly betrayed.
Moreover, there are two testimonies from people who lived very close to the Saint, knew his habits, and, most of all, had a certain familiarity with him. The first is Miss Emma Picchillo, a woman of deep spirituality, who lived most of her life in the shrine of Pompei and very close to Bartolo Longo.
During the beatification trial, she gave the following testimony: “As much as I know, he received Holy Communion every day, and many times with great sacrifice. Actually, he visited patients even outside Naples. At his return from those visits, even very late in the evening, he was used to going to church and receiving Holy Communion. I noticed this four times in the shrine of Pompei at his return from Amalfi, Salerno, Campobasso, where he had gone to visit some patients. I also remember that he said to me: “I feel a great sweetness when I receive Holy Communion at the Virgin Mary’s feet; it seems like I get younger and I tell her the facts like they really are.”
The jesuit Giovanni Aromatisi had been prof. Moscati’s friend for several years. Therefore, he had a good knowledge of his habits and was his spiritual counsellor. At the trial he told: “He was used to visiting our Gesù Nuovo Church. He heard and served my mass many times. The cult of the Holy Sacrament was at the centre of his life. Each time he served my mass, when he looked at the Eucharist, he had such a light in his glance, that my eyes could hardly bear it. At the moment of Holy Communion, I had to lower my eyes. He has often prescribed a ‘Eucharist cure’ to young boys suffering from physical weakness, as a source of every strength.”
Prof. Guido Piccinino, teacher of medical radiology at the University of Naples, St. J. Moscati’s student and, then, assistant, said: he urged his students to receive the sacraments, even though he let them completely free about this choice. However, he tried to persuade to receive Holy Communion only those people who were very dear to him and if he was sure about their religious education.”
Prof. Filippo Bottazzi, having known that Moscati had to go to a village near Lecce, invited him to stay at his villa in Diso. The Saint went and stayed there for two days. Since Bottazzi knew his friend’s habits, the first morning he asked the Parish priest to celebrate the mass in the small chapel of his house, but he forgot to tell him to come the following day, too. “However, the following morning he easily put right - wrote Bottazzi. Without the knowledge of everybody, he got up very early and went alone to Diso, in order to hear the first mass celebrated by a priest for peasants who go to the country. We all were much amazed.”
The "Virgin of Silence"
Dr. Giovanni Battista Orsi, Moscati’s friend and study mate, gave this testimony: “The servant of God had great worship for the Passion and death of Christ, so he often meditated with great concentration. He had a deep devotion for the Crucifix and was used to always bringing it with him. He had a particular devotion to the Holy Heart of Jesus. I remember when he showed to my daughter, still very little, a drawing he made himself representing Jesus’ Heart with a crown of thorns. He was very happy as my daughter acknowledged it.”
Because of his love for Christ, it is clear that Moscati felt a special love for the Virgin Mary, too. There are many testimonies about this, but we will cite just the most important. Dr. Orsi summarizes this special devotion with these words: “The Servant of God had a great devotion to the Virgin Mary, especially for Our Lady of Good Counsel. Every day he said the Rosary and other prayers in Her honour. I also know that he had a great devotion to Our Lady of Pompei. To Our Lady of Good Counsel he dedicated his vow of chastity.”
When the bells sounded the Hail Mary, he made the sign of the cross and begged the people in the hospital to say the Angelus. It is still kept in the Incurable Hospital a marmoreal statue of the Madonna, that he venerated in his ward. On the table in his bedroom, he had a small bronze statue inspired by Raphael. This statue was from France and it portrays the Virgin Mary and the Child Jesus sleeping on her knees. Mary makes a sign of silence with her finger on the mouth, showing the sleeping child. At the bottom, there is the title: "Vierge au silence" (The Virgin of Silence).
“Notes” on "Hail Mary" by St. Joseph Moscati
It has been found notes on the versicles of Hail Mary by Joseph Moscati. His brother Eugenio gives news of it. The writing carries no date and has the title: “How I say the Hail Mary.” We quote it entirely:
"In order to avoid any distraction, and to say the Hail Mary much more fervently, I’m used to thinking of an image, I mean the meaning of an image portraying the Virgin Mary, while I say the versicles of the prayer in St. Luke’s Gospel. And I pray in this way: Ave, Maria, gratia plena... My thought runs to Our Lady of Grace, as she is portrayed in St. Clare church.
Dominus tecum... Our Lady with the title of the Rosary of Pompei crosses my mind. Benedicta tu in mulieribus et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus… I have a fit of tenderness for Our Lady of the Good Counsel, who smiles to me in the same way as she is portrayed in the Sacramentine Church. Before her image and in this church I abjured the impure worldly affects. Benedicta tu in mulieribus… And if I am before the tabernacle, I address to the Blessed Sacrament: Benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus.
Sancta Maria, Mater Dei... I fly with love to Our Lady under the honour of St. Francis of Assisi’s Porziuncola. She begged Jesus Christ for forgiving the sinners and he answered her that he couldn’t deny anything to her, because she is his mother!
Ora pro nobis peccatoribus… I look at the Virgin Mary, as she appeared in Lourdes and said that people had to pray for sinners… Nunc et in hora mortis nostrae… I think of Our Lady worshipped with the name of Carmine, protectress of my family. I trust in Our Lady del Carmine, who enriches the dying with spiritual gifts and frees the dead’s soul through Our Lord! I ask: is it a superstition to refer to so many images or titles of the Virgin Mary during an only prayer? During the Hail Mary?”
To Moscati’s question - answers F. Marranzini s.j - it is impossible to give a negative answer. Because of our sensibility, it is actually necessary to use images to help the spirit come to Our Lord and the Virgin Mary, who we turn our prayer to.”
In the boxes of the churches where Moscati was used to coming, there were often considerable offerings for the cult of the Virgin and sometimes the whole sums he received for his professional performances. His generosity is showed by the fact that, after his death, these notable offerings were not found anymore. The love for the different Virgin’s images was just an evidence of his deep love.
of Our Lady of Pompei,
Prof. Mazzeo make us know that he never forgot to say the Supplication to Our Lady of Pompei and reminds a declaration by the Mother Superior of Ivrea Sisters, who was in Vallo della Lucania (Salerno) at Prof. Lettieri’s nursing house: “Every first Sunday of the month, our Servant of God, on Prof. Lettieri’s request, moved from Naples to Vallo della Lucania because of medical consultations. The first Sunday of the month of October 1926, at the beginning of his consultations, the Servant of God, addressed to the Mother Superior, said: “Mother, please, inform me and the others shortly before Midday to go and say the Supplication in the Oratory.”
The Mother Superior informed everybody, telling them Prof. Moscati’s desire. It has never been seen such a great number of people in the Oratory!” Moscati used to go to Pompei every time he could to visit his friend Bartolo Longo, too (recently proclaimed Blessed by John Paul II), founder of that Shrine and of the charity works, as the orphanage, linked to it. Moscati met him when he was young and after his degree, he became his personal doctor.
Bartolo Longo, a Lawyer, himself helped the Moscatis increase their devotion to the Virgin Mary, when they came to Naples from Ancona and attended the institute founded by the Blessed Caterina Volpicelli. Longo lived in Palazzo Petrone, at “Quartiere della Salute”. He used to meet many friends there. The little Giuseppe Moscati was fascinated by the lawyer’s words, who was older than him and nourished a great love for Our Lady.
From that moment, he followed him all his life long. He visited him for the very last time in the evening of October 13, 1926. Since Moscati had found him suffering from pneumonia, while he was going out of his room, exclaimed with sorrow: “There’s nothing more to do! Mr Bartolo Longo will leave us in a few days.” In fact, death arrived two days later, on 15th October 1926.
We know that Moscati was deeply impressed by his visit to Lourdes, in France. At the end of his journey to England, he made a detour to go on a private pilgrimage to that famous Marian Shrine in the Pyrenees region, which recalls the Immaculate Virgin's apparitions to the little Bernadette Soubirous. This explains an episode witnessed at the apostolic trial by F.Giuseppe Bottiglieri, member of the Missionary Congregation of St. Vincent De’Paoli.
“I remember– says F.Bottiglieri - that, since there were celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the apparition of the Our Lady of Lourdes in St. Nicholas of Tolentino Church in Naples, I sent the plan for the feast to Prof. Moscati. I noticed with wonder that during the first days Moscati didn’t come. Only in the evening of the third day I was told that he was at the small chapel of the cavern. Prof. Moscati told me: “I’ve just come from the Medical Congress of Edinburgh and, having found your “invitation-plan” at the porter’s lodge, into my mail box, I left my suitcase at the porter’s lodge and ran here to venerate the Holy Virgin, before seeing my relatives.”
F. Bottiglieri says that in the same church there is a plaque (still existing) with these words that Moscati made inscribed in Latin: "Veni columba in foraminibus petrae, in caverna maceriae, ostende faciem tuam, monstra te esse Matrem" (“Come dove in rock clefts, show your face, make us understand that you are our Mother”). This is his thanks for having won a suit against a very expensive and wrong tax.
Enlightened by prayer, strengthened by the Eucharist and supported by love for the Virgin Mary, Moscati practiced in a saintly manner the Christian virtues, becoming an infectious example able to raise enthusiasm in everybody who approached him. Moreover, the testimonies given during the canonical trials make extremely clear that even people belonging to the academic world, like teachers, colleagues, and students, agree in celebrating the figure of their student, colleague and teacher.