Rosminians

The Rosminians, officially the Institute of Charity or Societas a charitate nuncupata, are a Roman Catholic religious congregation founded by Antonio Rosmini and first organised in 1828.

The order was formally approved by the Holy See in 1838, and took its name from "charity" as the fullness of Christian virtue. Its members are commonly called Fathers of Charityand use the postnominal letters IC.

Antonio Rosmini-Serbati (1797-1855), also known as Antonio Rosmini, an Italian from Rovereto in the Austrian Tyrol, ordained in 1821, had been organising his life along the principles of striving to put God's prompting first and his own wishes second.

His two life-principles, written down at this time were: First, to apply himself to correct his faults and purify his soul by prayer and living a life as close to the teaching of Christ as possible. Second, to accept any opportunity to do charitable work. This principle was soon put to the test when the Marchioness di Canossa asked him to establish an institute for the education of poor boys. Rosmini saw this as God's hand at work.

In 1827 Rosmini was in Milan and met the Abbé Loewenbruck who informed him that he had been thinking about establishing a religious institute which would help to promote better education and spirituality in the clergy. Again, Rosmini saw the hand of God in this request. Still, as Rosmini believed that God would do the necessary prompting, he did not seek out anyone to join the new society he planned to establish. Two or three people who knew his thoughts joined him by their own request, and the three began to live according to the principles Rosmini had established.

Pius VIII, who was elected pope in the following March, called him to an audience. "If you think", said Pius, "of beginning with something small, and leaving all the rest to God, we gladly approve; not so if you thought of starting on a large scale." Rosmini answered that he had always proposed a very humble beginning. In the autumn of 1830 he gave the institute something of its current form; and all the community began to pass through stages of religious training.

Such was the state of affairs when on 2 February 1831, Rosmini's friend, Cardinal Cappellari, was chosen pope and took the name of Gregory XVI. Gregory was a supporter of the institute, and published a papal brief in March, calling the new society by its name and rejoicing in its progress under the approval of the bishops.

It was not until March, 1837, that Rosmini submitted the constitutions of his religious society for papal approval. The matter was entrusted to the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars, which declared, on 16 June, its general commendation, but also its judgment that it was as yet too young to be approved as a regular congregation. There was also a problem with Rosmini's understanding of the religious vow of poverty. The normal practise was for members of a religious community to renounce all possessions, whereas the constitutions drawn up by Rosmini permitted members to hold personal property.

On 20 December 1838, the Vatican's congregation met again and gave its opinion that the society should have the status of a religious congregation; the pope immediately ratified this decision. On the following 25 March the vows were first made, by 20 in Italy and 5 in England. Five of these then went to Rome and on 22 August, in the Catacombs of St Sebastianmade the fourth vow of special obedience to the pope. Apostolic letters embodying Rosmini's own summary of the constitutions were issued on 20 September, naming Rosmini as the first provost-general of the institute for life.

© Ordo Altaria Mariana 2011