Procter/Dominican Saints/Bl. Bartholomew Breganza
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John Procter, O.P.
Blessed Bartholomew Breganza, Bishop and Confessor
BLESSED BARTHOLOMEW was a native of Vicenza in Northern Italy, and belonged to the noble family of Breganza. He received the habit of the Order from Saint Dominic's own hands on occasion of the holy Patriarch's visit to Vicenza about A.D. 1220. So eminent was his virtue, that, only a few months after his reception, he became Prior, and he successfully governed several Convents with great prudence and fruit of souls. Seven years later he became Master of the Sacred Palace, an office which had been first held by Saint Dominic himself, and which has since been hereditary in the Order. It was whilst discharging these functions that Blessed Bartholomew composed his learned commentary on the work of Saint Denis: "De cœlesti hierarchia"
Bologna was at this time a prey to terrible civil dissensions, and the anger of God against the guilty city had been manifested by a plague of caterpillars and locusts, which had laid waste all the adjacent territory. Under these circumstances, Father John of Vicenza of our Order, who, though never solemnly beatified, is nevertheless popularly known by the title of Blessed John of Vicenza, in company with Blessed Bartholomew, went to exercise his apostolic ministry in a city so dear to all the sons of Saint Dominic, as being the burial-place of their holy Founder. The labours of the two saintly Dominicans bore abundant fruit; and, to ensure the continuance of the peace thus happily restored, Blessed Bartholomew established an Order of Knights, whose special office it should be to act as peacemakers. This Order spread widely throughout Italy, and received the approbation of the Holy See.
In the year 1246, Pope Innocent IV. appointed Blessed Bartholomew to a Bishopric in the Island of Cyprus, which he governed for two years, after which he was sent as Papal Legate to Saint Lewis of France, who was then carrying on the Crusade against the infidels. The two Saints contracted a sweet and holy friendship, Saint Lewis making choice of Blessed Bartholomew as his Confessor. When the King returned to France in A.D. 1252, Blessed Bartholomew went back to his diocese, which he continued to govern until A.D. 1256, when Pope Alexander IV. translated him to the Episcopal See of his native city of Vicenza.
The Bishop's first care was to purge his new diocese from the pestilential errors which had crept into it, and to his great joy he succeeded in converting the leader of the heretical party and a large number of his followers. This so exasperated the infamous Ezzelino, who at that time tyrannized over Northern Italy in the name of the German Emperor, that he procured the banishment of Blessed Bartholomew. The holy man was then sent by the Sovereign Pontiff as Nuncio to negotiate certain important affairs with the King of England. He returned from that country in company with Henry III. and his Queen, who were crossing over to Normandy. On his way back to Italy, Blessed Bartholomew had the consolation of visiting his beloved friend, Saint Lewis, who fulfilled the promise he had formerly made to him when they were in Palestine together, by bestowing upon him a relic of the True Cross and one of the thorns of our Lord's crown, which had been given to him by the Emperor of Constantinople, and for the reception of which he had erected the Sainte Chapelle in Paris.
In the year 1259, the death of Ezzelino left Blessed Bartholomew free to return to his diocese, bringing with him the priceless relics with which his saintly penitent had gifted him, and an authentication of the same in the King's own handwriting. As the holy Bishop drew nigh to Vicenza, the people went out to meet him with every demonstration of joy, exclaiming: "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord!" He proceeded to build a large church to receive the precious relics he had brought with him, and attached to it a Convent, which he bestowed on his own Brethren, whose quarters in Vicenza had hitherto been miserably poor and incommodious.
A noble Venetian widow, who had in her possession a rich and beautiful reliquary, which had been bestowed on her husband by the Greek Emperor and which contained a portion of the True Cross, two thorns of our Lord's crown, and relics of the Apostles and other Saints, sent for Blessed Bartholomew to come to Venice, that she might consign her treasure to him, to be deposited in his newly-erected Church of the Holy Crown. The servant of God joyfully obeyed the summons, and enriched his beloved sanctuary with these priceless gifts.
Blessed Bartholomew devoted himself with the utmost zeal and fervour to the labours of his office, rooting out heresy, pacifying those who were at variance, relieving the wants of the poor, and rebuilding his Cathedral, which had been destroyed by Ezzelino. So greatly was he valued and beloved by his flock, that they implored him to accept the temporal sovereignty of the city. This, however, he resolutely refused to do; but by his prudent counsels he greatly promoted the peace and prosperity both of Church and State. He was continually chosen as a mediator in the struggles and disputes which then distracted Northern Italy, and his wonderful powers of conciliation did much to remedy the miserable feuds of the times.
The holy man had the happiness of assisting in the year 1267 at the second translation of the relics of our Holy Father, Saint Dominic, of which he has left an official account. He it was who pronounced the panegyric on the occasion. His happy death took place A.D. 1271, and he was laid to rest in his beloved Church of the Holy Crown. He was beatified by Pius VI.
O God, who madest Blessed Bartholomew, Thy Confessor and Bishop, wonderful in leading the enemies of the faith from the darkness of error to the light of truth, and in bringing back multitudes to peace and concord, grant, through his intercession, that Thy peace, which passeth all understanding, may keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee for ever and ever. Amen.