The Camillian identity of the Institute

The Camillian Identity of the institute in the “Decretum Laudis *From “Fino al dono della Vita“- Sr. Riccarda Lazzari, MI

On 23 March 1852, the Apostolic See issued the “Decretum Laudis” for the institute of Maria Domenica. This is obviously not the pontifical approval of the Rules and of the Congregation, as the Mother desired, but the authoritative document represents the first pontifical recognition of the institute of Barbantini.

The text is as follows:

 “Sactissimus Dominus Noster Pius PP. IX auditis S.R.E. Cardinalibus hujus S. Congregationis Episcoporum et Regularium acceptisque literis commendatitiis Ordinarii Lucani relate ad Institutum Sororum Infirmis Ministrantium Lucae erectum, et ea spe fretus, ut Sorores ipsae magis magisque christiana charitate in ministrando Mulieribus Infirmis inflammentur, Institutum ipsum in quo simplicia Vota emittuntur, tandiu duratura quandiu Sorores in Congregatione permaneant, summopere laudandum et commendandum esse statuit prout praesentis Decreti tenore amplissimis verbis laudat atque commendat, eique omnes et singulas indulgentias quibus Congregatio Clericorum Regularium Infirmis Ministrantium gaudet ac fruitur benigne communicat et communicatas esse declarat ; quin tamen per praesens Decretum Constitutiones approbatae censeantur de quibus in posterum habebitur ratio. – Contrariis quibuscumque non obstantibus. – Datum ex Sacra Congregatione Episcoporum et Regularium. – Die Martii 1852. – I. Card. Antonelli – A. Bizzarri pro-Scr[1].

     Our most holy Lord, Pope Pius IX, having heard the Cardinals of this Sacred Congregation of Bishops and Regulars, and having received the letters of recommendation of the Bishop of Lucca in reference to the Institute of the Sister Ministers of the Infirm erected in Lucca, and sustained by the hope that the same sisters, in serving the sick women, be evermore inflamed by Christian charity, has stated that the same Institute, in which they profess simple vows, valid for all the time that they remain in the Congregation, is to be greatly praised and commended as he greatly praises and commends it by virtue of this decree. He benignly states and stipulates that each and all the indulgences granted to the Congregation of the Regular Clerics Ministers of the Infirm be bestowed upon the Institute. However, the present Decree does not approve the Constitutions, which will be examined at a later stage. Notwithstanding anything to the contrary, – Given by the Secretary of the Sacred Congregation of Bishops and Regulars on March 23, 1852. – J. Cardinal Antonelli – A. Bizzari, Pro-Secretary.]

The decree, in its brief and concise formulation, contains three important realities, that we could define gifts, which contribute to engrave the Camillian identity of the institute. The first gift is represented by the praise done to the institute for the works of Christian charity “summopere laudandum et commendandum” in favor of the infirm. The praise of the apostolic see is clearly given in reference to the exercise of the charism of mercy towards the sick; this is the fundamental description of pontifical recognition. The second gift is that of having granted to the Luccan institute [i.e. our institute], the official name given by St. Camillus to his religious[2], the name is “Institutum Sororum Infirmis Ministrantium“. This is not simply a formal title, but a further confirmation of the common charism of the two institutes; in fact, the name indicates the common mission they exercised. The third gift is the spiritual communion between the two religious families, sanctioned by the apostolic see, in relation, above all to indulgences.

The Decretum Laudis does not fulfill the desire of Barbantini in relation to a binding aggregation on the juridical level, but, in my opinion, it contains a higher value. The apostle affirms that the letter kills and the spirit gives life[3]; in the Camillian action of Maria Domenica the form was lacking, but not the substance. On the contrary, in the pressing ahead of that increasingly hindered path, the spiritual intensity of the Camillian charism grew. With wise discernment, his holiness Pius IX recognizes, in the decree, the charismatic-Camillian identity of the institute of Maria Domenica. This identity, however, is not a simple offshoot of the charism of St. Camillus, much less a copy or an aspect of it. The charism of Maria Domenica is a reality born from her heart, from her history, and from the signs of the times. It is the reality of the Spirit, and therefore, unique, unrepeatable, and original. In this sense, the decree engraves a Camillian identity: highlighted in the common mission; reaffirmed in the official name that expresses its peculiarity, namely the service to the sick, and confirmed by the communion of spiritual goods that enlivens the charism and strengthens the fraternal union between the members of the two institutes.

The Institute of Maria Domenica is placed, so rightfully, in the history and charismatic tradition of St. Camillus de Lellis. The originality of the charism of Barbantini, therefore, expresses an aspect of the manifold richness and fruitfulness of the merciful love of the Father, in the line and in the spirit of the great Patriarch.

[1] Brazzarola B., Ricerche e Studi, op. cit., pp. 310-311.

[2] Cfr. Vanti M., Lo Spirito di  S. Camillo, op. cit., p.15.    

[3] Cfr. Rm 7,6 ; 8,2 .