Francesco da Fognano

The Soul’s Deliberations and Prayers

Translated by Br. Patrick Colbourne OFM Cap

francis zubaranFrancesco Visani (+ 1579) who was born in Fognano near Brisighella, in the Province of Bologna, was one of the best examples of preachers of the second half of the sixteenth century in Italy. In the tradition passed on in by the Order’s chronicles he was outstanding for his zeal for reform of morals, especially with regard to the curbing of luxury and provocative women’s fashions, as well as in his assistance to the poor in time of famine by devising novel ways of helping them. He also collaborated in the reform of many monasteries of nuns and inspired and founded certain Sodalities, such as those of Weavers and of Mariners at Rimini. It is noteworthy that his only spiritual work was printed for the Sodality of The Lord’s Body of Magdalene “in S. Donato Road”, Bologna.

As we read in the Dedication, this work was intended to be “a way of practising a spiritual life that would teach you to direct your life in all the things that are most necessary for carrying on a Christian existence and which will promote divine life more strongly. The work will be understood better the more what is contained in it is put into practice.”

Nevertheless Francesco da Fognano composed it out of ideas taken from his sermons for his personal use. After the manuscript had fallen into the hands of a “bookseller”, named Girolomo Veneziano, he had it printed “for the special use of the Sodality”, as we read in the publisher’s caption on the cover, when Pellegrino Bonardo of Bologna published it. It is easy to conclude that if he offered it to The Sodality of the Body of the Lord, this “bookseller” would have been one of their most fervent and devoted members. This is also clear from what he wrote to “the brothers and sisters of the Sodality” when he presented the content of the book and its author: “… This spiritual work teaches how to enkindle love of Our Lord and of our neighbour, and prepares a person for all the virtues and how to avoid vices and sin and the pains of hell, and acquire eternal life. Here in a short time anyone who wants to be equipped with virtue and holy morals and who wants to know how to control his frail life can learn excellent and necessary things. Even more, this short and useful work ought to be embraced by all, especially those who want to live a Christian life, particularly members of Sodality of the Body of the Lord because it was written by a Capuchin Friar. It is known that these Friars definitely live a harsh life and set a good example to the world.”

The work is comprised of 40 “deliberations of the soul”, as the author expresses it, or forty topics for meditation, which, covering a wide range of considerations concerning being aware of God and His gifts, focus on the person of Jesus Christ and the mysteries of his life, his sayings and deeds as a teacher of virtue and holiness. The concluding meditations deal with love of neighbour and the spiritual life in practice, above all with respect to sorrow for sin and the celebration of Confession and Communion which overcome all vice and sin.

The method of meditation is very affective and practical. The texts are divided into two parts: the first contains “the conversation of the soul”, which is set out in an affective style indicating various points on which the soul dwells in order to kindle love; the second part is made up of a prayer that summarises these thoughts.

Following the order set out in the work (as contained in the index), the pages that have been chosen here are deliberations: n. 3, 5, 13, 20, 26, 38, and 39. Note the author’s consummate familiarity with Sacred Scripture, which he quotes in very simple and plain and yet incisive words. The word of God flows out in tiny thoughts that are suitable for simple people and are effective in bring them to love Jesus Christ and the spiritual life.

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