There was a priest called Andrew (part three)
He had never seen the imperial city, and now, of course, he wanted to call on the Theatine Pope Paul IV and to meet the Roman members of the order, some of whom were very distinguished. The rector gave permission for the trip, but refused to let him travel on foot and beg for his food as be wished to do, since the Theatine Charter, which states that members of the order will exist on spontaneous donations freely given, prohibits the Clerics Regular from begging. On the morning of April 3, 1559, Andrew knelt for Father John’s blessing and then left for Rome on horseback.
Once there Andrew stayed at the new house of St. Silvester on the Quirinal, a gift to the order from Pope Paul IV. He visited the catacombs and the basilicas and had his audience with the Pope. He was still in Rome when the famous prophecy made twenty-three years earlier by the Theatine founder Cajetan came true.
This prophecy concerned Pope Paul and his family. When John Peter Carafa had accepted a cardinal’s hat, his friend and companion Cajetan had warned him, "If you accept this, you will doubtless rise higher still, but it will be at the cost of the ruin of your family.” In the spring of 1559, Pope Paul discovered that the nephews he trusted had betrayed him. He dismissed them at once from the high offices which he had given them and banished them from the imperial city. The illustrious old house of Carafa was publicly disgraced.
Three and a half months after Andrew had returned to Naples from Rome, Pope Paul IV died. The Theatines, who had held no chapter council while he was Pope, scheduled one for January, 1560, in Venice. At this chapter Paul d’Arezzo was elected rector of the Naples house and Andrew master of novices. an office he held until 1570. He was found to be an excellent novice master, kind, patient, and thorough. One of his novices would become his first biographer, another would be the procurator for his beatification.
While he was master of novices Andrew came to be in general demand as a confessor. He had. it was said, a genuine talent for consoling sinners. "Confess," he would say, "and God will belp you" His spiritual sons and daughters came to him from all levels of society. He now started to write the first of the literally thousands of letters of spiritual direction which throughout his life he would send to them. The last of those letters was written on the day before he died.
In 1562 John Marinoni returned to the Naples house as rector. While his friend Paul had been head of the house, Andrew had treated him with nothing but respect. Now that they were again equals they set out to enjoy each other. "We fought," said Andrew happily, "all the time." Witnesses agree. They argued indomitably, continually, and loudly. They were fighting for last place, each of them firmly insisting that the other should rank above him. This was the only subject on which the two of them could never agree; in all other things they were said to be of one heart, one mind, and one soul.
This short time in 1562 was the last period of happy intimacy for Father John Marinoni and his two spiritual sons; very soon they would he separated. First Father John, over his violent protests, was named Cardinal Archbishop of Naples and finally succeeded in refusing to accept the office. Shortly afterwards, when an epidemic of influenza hit the city, he died in the presence of the grieving Andrew, who would miss him as terribly as Father John himself had once missed his own dearly loved spiritual father, Cajetan.
Andrew tried to forget his grief in work. In 1567 he became rector of St. Paul’s as welI as master of novices. Then, in 1570 Charles Borromeo, Cardinal Archbishop of Milan, asked the Theatines to found a house in his capital. Andrew went as vicar to the new rector, taking with him several young priests who had been his novices. On the way to Milan they stopped in the city of Placencia, where they were just in time to see the bishop, Paul d’Arezzo, receive the cardinal’s hat which he did not want but had not been permitted to refuse. When Andrew and his group went on to Milan, they were warmly greeted by Archbishop Borromeo who installed them in the carefully equipped church and house he had provided for them.
In 1571 the Theatine chapter named Andrew to found a house in Placencia. Cardinal Paul, overjoyed at the thought of having his best friend in the same city as himself, provided house and church as Charles Borromeo had done in Milan. Paul immediately named Andrew spiritual director of the local seminary and also of the refuge for reformed prostitutes which the bishop founded.
As a combination, Andrew and the Refuge for Repentants were a success from the very beginning. He liked the members of the community and they liked him. His delight in their return to virtue encouraged them to greater efforts. They found a secure place in his own spiritual philosophy.
"Two are the doors of Heaven. When it is not possible to enter by the first, then one can cross over to the second. One who has lost his innocence can stilì enter Paradise through the door of penitence."
Andrew soon began to acquire a reputation in Placencia. Dozens of individuals came to the Refuge to meet him, to hear him preach, and to confess to him. The penitents of the community found thermselves playing hostess to the higher aristocracy. Both groups enjoyed the experience.
There was, however, one other group in Placencia which was not happy about the Refuge for Repentants. The men who had previously enjoyed the favors of the ladies got up a campaign to blacken Andrew’s character so that the duke, a very upright individual indeed, would order him to leave the city. According to the story they started, Father Andrew was a hypocrite seeking popularity; he was humble in public but in private lived "like a cardinal in a cell filled with luxuries. The lie did indeed come to the ears of the ruler.
Octavius Farnese, Duke of Parma and Placencia, was indignant. No pseudospiritual leader would be allowed to mislead the people of a city under his dominion! He decided to settle the matter in person. Without sending the Theatines advance notice of his intention to visit them, Duke Octavius suddenly appeared in full state at the front door.
"Where is the rector?" he demanded of the startled doorkeeper.
"Why, right here," answered the startled doorkeeper.
"Take me to his cell immediately!" thundered the duke.
The bewildered porter did. Andrew, peacefully studying, looked up to find himself confronting Octavius Farnese. The duke examined the luxuries in the cell: one wooden table with stool, one straw mattress, one crucifix, one earthenware bowl for holy water, and four books. Turning to the gentlemen who had come with him, the baffled duke remarked, "This is living like a cardinal?" Then, turning back to Andrew he said, "I have been an idiot. I ask your pardon."
Passage from Heroic virtue Theatine lives, by Margaret Oyler – Theatine Pubblishers, Denver (Colorado), 1997 pagg. 31-35