There was a priest called Andrew (part two)
In December of the same year, members of the Society of Jesus, then a very new order, came to Naples to give a series of spiritual conferences, undoubtedly with the idea of attracting possible members. Andrew attended the conferences and was much impressed. He thought of entering a religious order, considered the Society of Jesus, but decided against it, for he had discovered, at their Naples house of St. Paul Major, the Order of Clerics Regular, commonly known as the Theatine Fathers. Later a rather discouraged-sounding Jesuit, Father James Lainez, wrote to the founder of the order, Ignatius Loyola, regarding the young men who had attended the conferences.
“Some were inclined toward the world; some had legitimate impediments; some were not resolute; others could not resist temptations, and one entered the Theatine Fathers.”
For a time Andrew could not decide exactly what he should do, and in 1549 after completing his studies, he returned to Castronuovo to rest. There he seriously considered joining the Order of Clerics Regular, for he was greatly drawn to the rector of St. Paul’s, Father John Marinoni, a man of appealing and saintly personality. He would later discover that Father John was equally drawn to him.
While he was vacationing at home, Andrew received a letter from Monsignor Rebiba, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Naples, asking him to return to the city and come for an interview regarding a project which the archdiocese would like him to attempt. Before he started back to Naples, his mother Margherita took him into a chapel dedicated to the Mother of God and asked Mary’s personal intercession for him. This time before he left Castronuovo, Andrew gave his brother Nicholas power of attorney over the entire inheritance left by their father,
Andrew returned to Naples and went at once to the palace of the archbishop, who was at that time John Peter Carafa, one of the four original members of the Theatine Order. Here he was informed that Father John Marinoni had suggested him as a man capable of handling a difficult assignment, that of reforming a convent of disorderly nuns.
Many of the convents of the time were a disgrace to the church, for the nuns made no attempt whatever to follow a spiritual rule and did exactly as they wished. Teresa of Avila explains that this was mainly so because many girls were placed in convents entirely against their own inclinations. “Pobrecitas,” poor little ones, Teresa calls them.
This particular convent was called Sant’Arcangelo a Baiano, and it was theoretically Benedictine. Andrew was asked to become chaplain for the house but not to take up residence in the chaplain’s quarters there. Obediently he postponed his plans to enter the Order of Clerics Regular and accepted the appointment, sincerely grateful for that final provision.
The convent did not follow its own constitution, nor did it hold regular spiritual exercises. Secular people came and went at will. Andrew decided that with sermons, penances, and exhortations he would try to persuade the nuns to accept the return to the rule voluntarily. The sequence of events which followed was certainly among the least rewarding of his life.
The new chaplain preached, he exhorted, he prayed, he wrote books of homilies, one with forty-three sermons for the Sundays of the year. He never relaxed his efforts to convince the nuns that they must return to the strict observance of the rule of the order. He was singularly unsuccessful. Bitter waves of resentment arose. The nuns, far from voluntarily agreeing to resume observance of the rule, stubbornly refused to do anything of the kind. It would seem that their intense young chaplain exhorted rather too much.
Andrew’s attempts to prevent secular visitors from having intimate relationships with the nuns finally brought about a crisis. One girl, up to no good, found that she could not elude his vigilance and hired an assassin to murder him. The first attempt failed, since the would-be killer did not know Andrew by sight. A second man, who did know him, lost his nerve when he caught up with Andrew in a church, since killing him there would have constituted not only murder but sacrilege. The girl, unrelenting, hired a third man who succeeded in striking his victim but did him no serious damage. He returned again, however, and this time catching Andrew off guard, wounded him repeatedly with a dagger. One stroke cut an artery, and for three days and three nights doctors tried to stop the bleeding with surgery, vitriole, and anything else they could think of. Finally the seepage stopped, and Andrew, tired and ill but alive, was left with a deep new scar across his cheek.
The Spanish viceroy for the Kingdom of Naples, Don Fernando Alvarez de Toledo, Duke of Alba, was outraged by the incident and gave orders that the attacker be arrested at once. This the police found difficult, since the injured man stubbornly refused to identify either the assassin or the girl. Andrew felt that he acted as Christian charity demanded, but the exasperated viceroy, who was trying to run a safe city, did not agree. Without the victim’s testimony no evidence against the man could be found, but the girl was taken and ended her life in the women’s prison of Naples. The would-be murderer was later killed a street brawl. Years afterward, the then Archbishop of Naples, Andrew’s friend and fellow novice Paul Burali d’Arezzo, dissolved the convent of Sant’Arcangelo a Baiano and separated its inhabitants, sending them to live in other religious houses.
In 1555 the Theatine Archbishop of Naples, John Peter Carafa, became Pope Paul IV. Almost immediately he named his vicar general, Monsignor Rebiba, to the College of Cardinals. Monsignor Rebiba at once offered to make Andrew a bishop, even going so far as to send him a bishop’s wearing apparel as a gift. Andrew refused the appointment with the strong support of Father John Marinoni who had himself just refused a cardinal’s hat.
Andrew, no longer chaplain of Sant’Arcangelo a Baiano, was now free to follow his own wishes, and he became a Theatine postulant on August 14, 1556, a novice three and a half months later in November of the same year. It was at this time that he assumed the name Andrew; until he became a novice, he had remained Lancelot. John Marinoni, his friend and confessor, now became his novice master. His fellow novice, Paul Burali d’Arezzo, would become his closest friend. Both John and Paul were later beatified by the church, Andrew canonized. They were a unique trio.
There was at this time in the house of St. Paul’s in Naples a senile old priest who required constant care in the most intimate manner. Father Marcos Pascualina had been a companion of Cajetan and was with the founder during the terrible suffering of the sack of Rome in the year 1527. John Marinoni gave Father Marcos into Andrew’s care. Witnesses would later describe Andrew’s tender patience with Father Marcos, who not only made a habit of calling his attendant names but also frequently hit him.
On January 25, 1558, Andrew and Paul took their solemn vows and were received by John Marinoni into the Order of Clerics Regular. After his solemn profession Andrew requested permission to visit Rome.
Passage from Heroic virtue Theatine lives, by Margaret Oyler – Theatine Pubblishers, Denver (Colorado), 1997 pagg. 28-31