Saint Henry De Osso-Priest

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SAINT HENRY DE OSSO - PRIEST

                                                                                                                                             Carmen Laveaga, stj

         There are in history, certain ideas that are exceedingly fertile. There are men and women who are exceptionally authentic, larger than life; capable of transforming whatever they touch, wherever they walk, with their words, with their writings, with their heart. One such man was Henry de Osso, a diocesan priest, born in 1840 in Vinebre, Tarragona, Spain, the son of landowners of moderate means. From his mother—an affectionate woman and deeply Christian— he inherited his gentleness, tender ness, compassion, and his fascination with God. His will and His kingdom. From his father he inherited efficiency, a sixth sense for achieving goals, an intelligent use of all the re sources available, as well as a superb way of investing in what yields the best results.

       Thus, we find ourselves with a practical man of great intelligence and clear vision, of magnanimous heart, profound faith, and with a tenacity beyond dispute. Who would have been able to convince him to abandon a project he had conceived, once he had thought it through and decided upon it? This was the faithful servant whom God sent to Spain, in the difficult, turbulent age in which Henry de Osso lived. The country was in need of someone of enduring courage, capable of counteracting and transforming it. Henry de Osso was that person.

WHAT DID HE DO?

           Henry de Osso was a man of prayer, of deep thinking, of action. His prayer was affective; his thoughts were logical, organized, born of a deep faith and tempered by knowledge of his times. His action was intrepid, far-reaching, fearless, tenacious, without giving in to tiredness or to discouragement.

       He had one goal in life and he pursued it from all angles. He made plans to counteract evil; and he actualized them using all possible strategies at his disposal —and he had many—. He was an excellent catechist and director of catechesis on a large scale. He was an untiring publisher, sup porting all his activities and undertakings with a variety of publications. Noteworthy are the Fifteen Minutes of Prayer, a book that had 52 editions; and the monthly magazine, Saint Teresa of Jesus, published uninterruptedly for 24 years, until his death. He even published textbooks for the Teresian schools, as well as many other booklets of tradition al prayers, which circulated extensively during his time.


 

       Father Henry was an untiring and dynamic preacher. He nurtured and enlivened the faith of multitudes, in the small towns and large cities, speaking, preaching, hearing confessions, directing retreats, channeling and guiding the desires and concerns of many, especially of children and youth. He traveled without ceasing so that Catholics would organize themselves and become effective agents of transformation. And he also dreamed. He dreamed of regenerating the world through the powerful influence of Christian women imbued with the spirituality of Teresa of Jesus. For Henry, Teresa was the incarnation of the most genuine Christian values. Let us not forget that the potential that lies in the heart of women was not recognized in the dechristianized world in which Henry lived, in the late 1800’s. His world gave very little importance to the development and education of women, which, however, would prove to be fundamental in restoring and rebuilding the church.

A STRONG AND DETERMINED CHARACTER

        At age 14, a few weeks after his mother’s death, Henry traveled by foot from Reus to Montserrat —approximately 80 miles. He was not content to be a merchant as his father, who had sent him as an apprentice to Tarragona, wanted. Henry’s deepest desire had been to be a teacher, but he changed his mind after his mother’s death. “To belong entirely to Jesus is my only desire,” he wrote. This was his fundamental concern. Though he was still a youth, his actions were not those of a child. His adventure to Montserrat was not a mischievous game, but an irrevocable decision.

       Naturally, his adventure ended quickly. His brother found him and brought him back home. After this, Henry’s father himself let go of his fixed idea and embraced his son’s desire. “Let us not discuss it any longer. Do you want to be a priest? If you do, tomorrow is too late! You will go to the seminary today!”

      Once decided, Henry never changed his mind. On the contrary, he nurtured his dream, fostered it, and strengthened it in a thousand ways. Everything he did was too little when it meant to belong entirely to Jesus. And since he was very young, we find him often near the Virgin of Montserrat, a place he dearly cherished and called a piece of heaven, the cathedral of the mountains. Indeed, he never made any important decision without first consulting the Virgin in this quiet, peaceful place.

       In the midst of arduous apostolic journeys, of economic difficulties, of perplexing dilemmas, Father Henry was capable of maintaining an envious calm, a profound faith and was even able to encourage others. He was also interested in keeping physically fit in order to engage in more important things.

       In the midst of arduous apostolic journeys, of economic difficulties, of perplexing dilemmas, Father Henry was capable of maintaining an envious calm, a profound faith and was even able to encourage others. He was also interested in keeping physically fit in order to engage in more important things.

       It is fascinating to discover how God and Henry together invested the gifts he had received. He was a youth of many possibilities. But he also was an adult of incomparable disposition, being always attentive and faithful to what God was asking of him. And how attuned he was! He lived to the fullest the Teresian saying: “nothing can be left undone in order to please God.”

       But there was one thing that branded Henry more profoundly than anything else, sealing his triumph. It happened at the beginning of the foundation of the Society of Saint Teresa of Jesus. Henry de Osso was involved in a suit that he probably at first thought was absurd. Because of it, he was himself involuntarily confronted with church authority who accused him of fraud. He was insulted, condemned, and censured. His fame suffered a tremendous blow that could have been borne if the truth, the simple truth that he claimed, had been made known. But this outrageous event tore his noble spirit apart for sixteen years. It accompanied him till his death and the truth was not made clear until several decades later. His reaction was awesome: a heroic silence. His decision to defend himself only by peaceful means and only in order to protect the rights of others was a trial that few would be capable of enduring; and yet, he lived it as a saint. He who was so honest, so humble, who had never wanted to excel, who had a special talent for affirming others while staying in the shadows, how deeply he must have felt it when his own intimate friends betrayed him. How could this happen? How could so many be so blind? Why didn’t they listen to the voices of those who defended him? How did something that could easily have been only a passing storm become so complex? The fact is that suffering purifies the children of God, who, after all, are called to be the image of Christ. It is possible that this man of God would never have soared so high if he had not been torn down so much.

        Besides all of this, an internal crisis in the young Society made him suffer much. Human limitations caused a painful rending of the heart of this father and founder. It is possible that his death was caused by this most intimate sorrow.

        Be this the cause of his death or not, he died on January 27, 1896, in the Franciscan monastery of Sancte Spiritus near Valencia in Spain, victim of a brain hemorrhage, at the age of 55. He had just finished a prolonged retreat that pre pared this great mystic for heaven. What he thought would give him renewed energies for his next venture, was only the time that God gave himself to prepare to receive him. What a great priest with the heart of a father for all God’s children and the heart of a mother for all the sisters! Those who met him knew that they had lived with a man of God, with a giant of the spirit, with a new version of Saint Teresa of Jesus.


HIS TWO MOST SIGNIFICANT ACCOMPLISHMENTS

           First, we mention the Teresian Archconfraternity, known today as the Teresian Apostolic Movement. Henry de Osso started with great dynamism an apostolic movement for women, which in his own time counted more than 130,000 members. The movement has been blessed by the Church, as was the Archconfraternity in his day. The purpose of the organization is to offer to the world the Teresian charism of prayer and ministry. Today, there are branches for children—Friends of Jesus— for youth, and for adults, all called to live Saint Henry’s spirituality in their own environment.

       Secondly, his greatest and most cherished accomplishment: the Society of Saint Teresa of Jesus. This is the one he judged to be of greater significance for the interests of Jesus —an expression he often used. The Society is a religious congregation for women dedicated to education. Their model is Saint Teresa of Jesus, under whose protection he placed it. She was a profound inspiration to him all his life. He hoped that the Teresians would become other Teresas inasmuch as possible. His enthusiasm as founder was not naive; he put the human, professional and spiritual preparation of the sisters on a firm foundation, and he himself molded the first generations. Everything was too little when it came to fulfilling his goal: time, money, sleepless nights, and especially his deep love for and fidelity to the Society. The Society in turn continues to keep burning the flame of love and gratitude.
 


        The Society of Saint Teresa of Jesus is extended today in 4 countries in Europe, 13 in the Americas, and 3 in Africa. It has suffered much in its more than a century of existence: persecutions, expulsions, imprisonments, rapes, martyrdom... And today, she continues giving fruits of holiness, some unnoticed, while others shine like the stars in the sky. The sisters can be found in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro or in the parochial schools of Louisiana; in the heart of Barcelona or in the jungles of Angola. They are at the service of all social classes and their main concern is to see that the option for Christ, His person, His message, prevails there, where the “interests of Jesus are most in danger.”

        The Society, wherever she is, is committed to Christian education through prayer, teaching and sacrifice. Thousands of lay collaborators multiply her mission. The schools administered by the Society are organized in educational communities, made up of parents, teachers, staff, and students. Together they form a big family that revolves around one common goal: molding the image of Christ in the mind and heart of new generations.

POSTHUMOUS FOUNDER
 

       Before his death in 1896, Henry sketched the general plan for a new foundation for priests Teresian Missionaries. The project lay dormant for almost one hundred years, until Fr. Carlos Rogel, in Mexico, felt called by God to take up the torch and promote the foundation. Today, the first Teresian Missionaries prepare themselves to fulfill the apostle’s dream with the same mission, the same name, the same spirituality that Fr. Henry desired. They are only a few. The generosity of those who recognize and follow the call of God will multiply and strengthen the foundation. The journey has begun and they are walking on it. Fr. Henry wanted them to find their inspiration in Teresa of Avila, and they do. But it is Henry de Osso, priest and apostle, Teresian at the core of his being, who is to become their model.

       As further fruit of the growth of the Society of St. Teresa of Jesus and as a consequence of the boundless zeal of Henry de Osso lived today, the Teresian Associates have been born. They are lay men and women, married and single, called by God to live their baptismal consecration with the Teresian spirituality and associated with the Society. The Society offers them support and guidance; they, their collaboration and commitment to live deeply their Christian call.

To bear fruit is a blessing. The person dies. The holy per son lives on, is multiplied, continues doing good. The people of God live forever.

Their light shines on. They seek followers. The call is there.

 

 

Page last modified: 07/29/2008
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