Brief History

A Brief History of Saint Vincent Pallotti, An Apostle of Infinite Love and Mercy


Cultural Background

St. Vincent Pallotti spent his whole life in Rome during one of the most turbulent phases of its history. The early nineteenth century shook from the rumblings of the French Revolution and the struggle of the masses for national unity and self-determination. In Rome and the Papal States, it took on a particularly anti-clerical bent, fueled as it was by the activities of the secret societies and the reluctance of the papal administration to implement change.

His Early Years

Vincent was born in Rome on April 21st, 1795, the third of ten children, five of whom died in infancy. His parents were Maria Maddalena di Rossi and Pietro Paolo Pallotti, a small goods grocer, owner of three shops in Rome. Vincent was profoundly influenced by their personal, practical faith, their deep devotion, and generous attentiveness to the poor. He was aware of himself quite early — his urge for activity and achievement, his tendency to pride and anger.

At twelve years of age he selected Fr. Bernardino Fazzini as his confessor and spiritual director. Fazzini, a diocesan priest, recognized in Vincent a person of extraordinary spiritual gifts. He played a formative role, inculcating in his young charge a profound awareness of God, the discipline of self (according to the ascetical practices of the time) and a readiness for apostolic service. With clear sightedness and a resolute will, Vincent brought an energy to his life project, in spite of frail health and recurrent bouts of illness.

St. Vicent Pallotti’s Priestly Life

He was ordained priest at the age of twenty-three, already experienced from years of involvement with catechists, youth associations, ministry to peasant farmers and the poor. Seeing how he poured himself out in a staggering number of apostolic ventures, the ordinary people called him the “apostle of Rome.” His intuitive awareness of the spiritual situation and his gift of eliciting help from all classes of people led to the providential founding of the Union of the Catholic Apostolate in 1835. The Union was conceived as a united front, directing the efforts of lay people, religious and clergy, and bringing Christ’s message of faith and love to people of need in Rome and elsewhere.

His Foundation, the Union of the Catholic Apostolate

The Union called all to the apostolate. Although there had always existed in the Church a lay apostolate as a participation by the laity in the hierarchical apostolate, in Vincent’s time this idea had almost vanished from consciousness. Hence many considered Vincent’s idea of universal apostolate as unorthodox or, at least, arrogant. It was suspected of renewing the Protestant attack against the ordained priesthood. His effort, however, was not a subversive act against authority. In fact, he was closer to the Spirit of Vatican II which proclaimed that the whole Church (in all its members) was missionary. For Vincent the call to apostolate had its fundamental basis not in hierarchical approval, but in one’s creation in the likeness of the God of infinite love. His Union of the Catholic Apostolate, however, was always obedient to and at the service of the Church.

Death Of St. Vicent Pallotti

Vincent remained in Rome during the 1848-49 Revolution, in spite of attempts on his life. He died in Rome on January 22nd, 1850. One of his students, John Spalding, who was to become Archbishop of Baltimore, wrote of Vincent:

He was well known in all of Rome because of his extraordinary holiness. His complete unselfishness was coupled with penance. His love for all never faltered or slackened. No difficulty, no cross, could shake his patience. The touching trait of his character was his all-penetrating love of God and of Jesus Christ. This love was the driving force of all his endeavors; it was the true life and soul of all his actions; it was the key to his serenity, the font of his courage, and that inner peace which spontaneously radiated from his behavior.

Taken from Empowered by Love by Fr. Pat Jackson, SAC

Life of ST. Vicent Pallotti – Chronology

1795 April 21 Vicent Pallotti is born in Rome
April 22 Baptism in San Lorenzo in Damaso, given the name of Vincenzo Alois Andrea
1801 July 10 Comfirmation
1801 The start of formal schooling (Scuola regionaria)
1804 Attends the school of the piarists(San Pantaleo)First communion
1807 Vicent chooses Bernardino Fazzini as his permanent confessor
1807-1813 Studies at Roman College
1811 The reception ot tonsure and minor orders
1814-1818 Student of Philosophy and Theology at the Sapienza University
1816 Pallotti begins to write his spiritual journey (Letter entitled the Lumi)
1816 Sept 21 Ordination of the Sub-Diaconate
1817 Sept 20 Ordination of the Diaconate
1818 May 16 Ordination of the Priesthood(Lateran Basilica)
May 17 First celebration of Mass (Frascati)
July 15 Receives his doctorate in Philosophy and Theology
1819-1829 Associate Professor at the Sapienza
1819 Co-founder of the Night School of San Nicla degli Incoronati
1820 Pallotti stays in camaldoli in the vicinity of Frascati, and will return there in 1822 and 1823
1821 The start of Pallotti retreat ministry
1827 July 19 The death of Pallotti’s mother Maddalena De Rossi
1820-1840 Spiritual Director for the Roman Seminary
1832 Dec 31 The grace of the “Spiritual union with Mary”
1832-1833 Pallotti composes the “Month of Mary for Religious” which is eventually followed by a Month of Mary for Clerics and a Month of Mary for Laity
1833 Ministry at the Propaganda College, helping Pallotti develop closer contacts with the mission
1834 Pallotti create an Apostolic committee for the missions and has the first thoughts about the “Catholic Apostolate”
1835 Jan 9 The Regina coeli vision: The decisive inspiration about founding the union of Catholic Apostolate
April 4 Approbation of the UAC by the Cardinal Vicar Odescalchi
May 29 Approbation of the UAC by the Vice-Regent Piatti
July 11 Approbation of the UAC by Pope Gregory XVI
July 14 The first meeting of the members of the UAC in Santa Maira in Carinis
Sept 20 Pallotti becomes the spiritual director of the Propaganda College
1835 Dec In the beginning of December, Pallotti becomes the Rector of the parish of Spirito Santo dei Napoletani, which is to become the headquarters of the UAC (until the beginning of 1846)
1836 Jan 6 The union celebrate the first Epiphany Octave (in Spirito Santo dei Napoletani)
1836 Pallotti presents the idea of the UAC to the Cardinals, superiors of the Orders, the theologians and pastors of the city of Rome. He receives broad support.
1837 Jan 6 Epiphany Octave in San Cario al Corso
June The first companions of Pallotti join together in the rectory of Spirito Santo dei Napolitani
July-October Cholera epidemic in Rome. Pallotti and the Uac offer selfless service to the sick
Sept 15 The death of Pallotti’s father, Pietro Paulo Pallotti, Pallotti move to the rectory of Spirito Santo dei Napoletani
Dec The death of Pallotti’s confessor, Bernardino Fazzini
1838 Jan 6 Epiphany Octave in San Carlo al Corso
June 4 The move into the orphanage “Pia Casa di Carita”
July 30 The secretary of the Propaganda Fide, Msgr. Cadolini, delivers the news of the immanent dissolution of the Uac. Pallotti successfully convinces Pope Gregory XVI to preserve his foundation.
1839 July 10 Severe illness forces Pallotti to withdraw to Camaldoli for recuperation.
Sept Pallotti writes the “Great Rule”
Oct 28 Return to Rome from Camaldoli
1840 Jan 6 Epiphany Octave in Spirito Santo
1841 Jan 6 Epiphany Octave in Sant’Andrea della valle (Where it is held in all the following years as well)
1842 Sept 24 Cardinal Lambruschini prevents Pallotti’s removal as the rector of Spirito Santo
1843 Feb With Vaccari , Auconi and Mogliazzi, Pallotti stays in San Pantaleo and discusses the “Great Rule” of 1839 Pallotti assumes the pastoral care of the military hospital in the Palazzo Cento Preti
Mar 30 Pallotti founds the Sister of the Catholic Apostolate
1844 Aug 14 The church of San Salvatore in Onda is formally handed over to the UAC
October Melia is sent to London to serve the Italian immigrant community
1845 New members enter the core community ofthe Pallottine Fathers and Brothers. DeGeslin, Ghirelli, Bandiera, faa di Bruno, Gagliardi
1846 Faa di Bruno goes to London
1847 July 24 Pallotti writes his last will and testament
1848 Mar 8 Pallotti resign as the Rector General of the SAC, but his resignation is not accepted
1849 Jan 23 Pallotti and his companions are driven out of the military hospital by the revolutionaries who declare a Roman Republic on February 9
Feb 26-July 14 Pallotti takes refuge from the revolutionaries and hide in the Irish College. Here he write the book, God the infinite love
1850 Jan 22 The death of Vicent Pallotti
1950 Jan 22 Pallotti is beautified by Pope Pius XII
1963 Canonization of Pallotti