Blessed Innocent of Berzo
Saint of the Day for 3/3
Born in 1844 near Brescia in northern Italy, Innocent was already a diocesan priest and 30 years of age when he requested admission into the Capuchin Franciscan Order in 1874. He served as assistant novice master and then director of candidates for the order.
Innocent showed a special gift in working with the young men seeking to follow the Franciscan life. He loved his pupils, and they loved him. He preached exterior mortification, especially in controlling the tongue, but he knew that exterior discipline is hypocrisy if not founded on interior mortification. And as a preacher of prudence, Innocent was able to say with St. Francis: “Let everyone pay attention to his own nature. For, while one person can get along with less indulgence, I would not have another, who requires more, try to imitate him; but rather let him take his own nature into account and grant it what it truly needs.”
This ascetic friar, only 45 years old, died on March 3, 1890, from influenza while on a preaching tour. He was beatified by Pope John XXIII in 1961. Both miracles from his beatification process were the cure of terminally sick children.
Innocent preached mortification—a phrase that usually brings to mind giving up something we enjoy. But his strongest emphasis was on controlling the tongue—giving up careless and hurtful speech. Words that belittle us chip away at our confidence; the sting of harsh words can inflict lasting scars. Racial and ethnic slurs undermine the unity of the human race. Innocent also preached the importance of changing our hearts. Being careful about the words we use helps to soften them.