Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Januarius Maria Sarnelli

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 13
Januarius Maria Sarnelli

by John Magnier


One of S. Alphonsus's earliest companions, fourth son of Baron Angelo Sarnelli of Ciorani, b. in Naples 12 Sept., 1702; d. 30 June, 1744. From his childhood he was remarkable for modesty, self-denial, piety, and great diligence in his studies. At the age of fourteen he desired to become a Jesuit, but his father objected and directed him to study law. He succeeded admirably in the legal profession, while daily Mass, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, and attendance on the sick in the hospital of incurables filled up all his spare time. At twenty-six he abandoned the bar and become a cleric. His zeal showed itself at once in his labours for children, whom he catechized with wonderful success. Admirable instructions on this most important matter may be found in his works for ecclesiastics. He was ordained priest in 1732 and immediately became a member of the Propaganda of Naples, a congregation of secular priests devoted to Apostolic work. A year later he went to Scala and became one of the earliest companions of S. Alphonsus in founding the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. Both these holy men worked together and gave missions along the coast of Amalfi till 1735, when Ven. Sarnelli's health gave way. He had to return to Naples, where he spent nine years in a poor apartment with one lay brother as companion. Scarcely had his health improved than he began a crusade against the immorality of his time which has rarely been surpassed in boldness. In his writings he laid responsibility at the doors of ministers of state, while by his exhortations he created a public opinion which helped him on to success; and God evidently protected him in the dangers to which his zeal exposed him. His triumph was complete. His labours amongst the lowly and abandoned were continual; yet he found time to write many excellent works. He will always be known for his insistence on meditation as morally necessary for perseverance. He showed how simple it is and within the reach of everyone. It was his labours and success in this matter that occasioned, after the servant of God's death, the Apostolic letter of Benedict XIV and the Indulgences then granted to meditation (16 Dec., 1746). A complete edition of Venerable Sarnelli's works have been published at Naples, Tipografia, Largo S. Martino, No. 4, as follows: Il Mondo Santificato, 2 vols.; L'Anima Illuminata; Il Mondo Reformato, 3 vols.; L'Ecclesiastico Santificato; Le Glorie e Grandezze della Divina Madre; Le Discrezione degli Spiriti; Il Cristiano Illuminato; Dirretto ed ammaestrato; Opera contra la Bestemmia; Ragioni Cattoliche, legali e politiche, in difesa della citta rovinata dall'insolentito meretricio; Il Cristiano Santificato; Lettere Spirituali; Devozioni pratiche per onorare la SS. Trinita e Maria e Devozioni per apparecchio ad una buona morte.

He died in his forty-second year. His first biographer, S. Alphonsus, writes: "As soon as he had breathed his last breath his countenance suddenly became beautiful — and his body exhaled a sweet odour — which remained in the room long after the interment." His body reposes in a side chapel in the Redemptorist church in Naples. He was declared Venerable in 1874. A decree on his heroic virtues was published in 1906, and now only miracles are required for his Beatification.

Vita de Gennaro P. D. M. Sarnelli S. Alfonso, tr. in Companions of S. Alphonsus, Oratorian Series; DUMORTIER, Le Venerable Serviteur de Dieu, Le Pere Janvier-Marie Sarnelli (Paris, 1886) — Introductio causae. See ALPHONSUS LIGUORI, ST.

J. Magnier.