On October 20, Franciscans celebrate the memory of Blessed Contardo Ferrini (1859-1902), a brilliant Italian legal scholar and professor and fervent Secular Franciscan.
Ferrini was born into a professional family in Milan. He was a precocious child who developed a deep intellectual curiosity and an equally strong religious devotion. Several scholarly priests were influential in his formation, including the prefect of the Ambrosian Library in Milan, who encouraged him to learn to read the Bible in the original languages.
In 1876 he began the study of law in Pavia. A brilliant student, he was not popular with his fellows because of his serious nature. Graduating in 1880, Ferrini won a government scholarship that enabled him to study Roman law at the University of Berlin. There he also became active in the St. Vincent de Paul Society and other charitable organizations.
Contardo Ferrini attended the School of Law at the University of Pavia, Italy.
By the time he left Berlin in 1883, Ferrini had gained the reputation of a major scholar. He taught at a number of universities before finally settling at Pavia in 1894. His scholarly output was prodigious, and he was recognized as probably the world's leading expert in Roman law.
Already as a student in Berlin in 1881, Ferrini had made a private vow of celibacy; he told friends his work was his wife and passion. He did have a wide interest in art and poetry and a great love of nature, especially through mountaineering in the Alps.
Contardo’s spirituality was nourished by Franciscan sources, and he became a Secular Franciscan in 1886. He resonated with Francis’s love of nature and also involved himself in social work and public service. He strenuously defended Christianity at a time of growing secularism in Italian culture.
Unfortunately, in 1900 Contardo developed a heart lesion; in the summer of 1902 he went to his family’s villa in Suna, on Lago Maggiore, to rest and recuperate, but he developed typhoid fever and died there on October 17. He was beatified in 1947; his remains were brought to the Chapel of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan as he had long advocated an Italian Catholic university to bring together religion and science.
Contardo Ferrini’s family lived in a village in Suna, now part of city of Verbania, Verbania-Cusio-Ossola, Piedmont, Italy.
Our life must reach out towards the Infinite, and from that source we must draw whatever we can expect of merit and dignity.
Nature lives by the breath of God's omnipotence, smiles in its joy of him, greets him, eternally young, with the smile of its own youth. For the spirit of God by which nature lives is a spirit forever young, incessantly renewing itself, happy in its snow and rain and mist, for out of these come birth and life, spring ever renewed and undaunted hope. . . .
If on any particular day we do nothing more than give a little joy to a neighbor, that day will not be wasted.
Dominic V. Monti, OFM, is a Franciscan Friar of Holy Name Province (USA) and currently professor of Franciscan Research in the Franciscan Institute of St. Bonaventure University. He devoted the greater part of his ministry to teaching the History of Christianity, in particular the history of the Franciscan movement. He has contributed two volumes to the Works of St. Bonaventure series and is author of Francis & His Brothers, a popular history of the Friars Minor.