Bl. Dominic Barberi

Dominic Barberi was an Italian Passionist with a heart on fire with love for England. He contributed a great deal to the spread of the Catholic faith in England and was a significant influence in the conversion of John Henry Newman.

Dominic joined the Passionists in 1814 when religious orders could function again after Napoleon supressed them. He was a brilliant young fellow, but they first thought he was a little dumb. But he grew to be teacher, leader, missionary and saint. 

In 1839 the Passionists decided to open a community in England. As a step on the way Dominic led a community to Ere in Belgium. He had the heart of a real missionary. Life was hard. One of the brothers fell ill, the community was very poor. and Dominic spoke few French words. But he didn’t let little things like that stop him.

Bishop Wiseman, the head of the English mission (the hierarchy was still supressed), wrote to Dominic to invite the Passionists to England. In “The Second Spring of Catholicism in England” we read: “The second spring did not begin when Newman was converted nor when the hierarchy was restored. It began on a bleak October day of 1841, when a little Italian priest in comical attire shuffled down a ship’s gangway at Folkestone..”

A Missionary

Dominic’s reception was not friendly. Local Catholics feared they would be persecuted by the arrival of these foreigners. Dominic was laughed at when he tried to pray in English. But the people grew to love him and several became Catholics. On his way to Mass, youths threw stones at him, but two youths decided to become Catholics when they saw Dominic kiss each stone that hit him and place it in his pocket. Dominic was an attractive and truly loving man who drew people to himself.

He preached retreats in England and Ireland. Passionists soon had two communities and young Englishmen joined them. On 27 August 1849 Dominic had a heart attack while travelling from London. Cholera was raging, so no hotels would take him in, and he was brought to Reading where he died there on the railway station.