Wednesday, 11 June 2014

A Method of Prayer Combining Spirit and Mind
 by Silvestro da Rossano

Translated by Patrick Colbourne OFM Cap

Silvestro Franco da Rossano (+ 1596) belongs to the ranks of the devout and popular Capuchin preachers of the later part of the sixteenth century who were anxious to launch or revitalize devotional or charitable initiatives. He stepped aside from the position of being “a learned man who was a good and accomplished preacher” who “displayed a great zeal for the Christian doctrine contained in the feasts, he established confraternities, and helped them after they had been set up and praised and recommended them in his preaching”. (cf. I Frati Cappuccini, vol II, section I, doc. 56)  In fact it was this aspect of his apostolic commitment that made the greatest impression on those who knew him. Above all else he preached about devotion to the most precious blood that had been shed by the Incarnate Word. He never missed an opportunity to emphasise this. He promoted this devotion in the Confraternities that he tried to establish in various cities where he preached. He did this in Piacenza in 1570, in Florence in 1572 and in Fermo in 1573. To this end he composed appropriate rules and norms and wrote booklets and spiritual leaflets containing an explanation of “the method” for carrying out this pious practice.

The librarians within the Order mention a particular work, which was printed in Florence in 1573 and which bore the title: Twelve Devout Considerations Concerning the Twelve Times That The Most Precious Blood of Our Saviour Jesus Christ was Shed. However, up to the present time no copy of this edition has been found. However, one of his booklets bearing the title A Method for Contemplating and Performing the Devotion to the Most Precious Blood, by F. Silvestro, a Capuchin, is listed in the Index in Parma in 1580. This work is probably more genuine, original and close to the style of the Capuchins who lived in Calabria. We do not know the reason for this prohibition. There is a booklet which was printed in Venice in 1613 which contains in a very simple and clear manner at least an abbreviated version, if not the whole, of this text, in the form of prayer intentions for each of the twelve times that the Blood of Christ was shed.  This text bears the title: A Brief Method for Praying Prompted by the Shedding of the Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

It was precisely his activity as the advocate among the people of the spirituality of the devotion towards the Passion and the Blood of Chris that made him develop a more extensive teaching on the practice of mental prayer. In an explanatory letter to the General Inquisitor in Venice, Father Ludovico da Rimini, a Dominican, dated 31 July 1574, he personally explained this connection: “Because I had taught the devotion to the precious blood of Jesus the Saviour, as Your Reverence knew and approved, I was asked to write down some points regarding that devotion and concerning the frequency of prayer to exercise, perform and sustain this devotion”.

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