Rorate Caeli

The Life and Thoughts of Cardinal Merry del Val - IV
Disregard for self

Merry del Val neither desired dignities nor the responsibilities with which (it being the will of the Supreme Pontiff) he was invested, throughout the years of his wonderful service to Holy Mother Church. He, instead, filled with that profound humility , which sought out hiddeness and the last place in everything, fled from honours and receptions, and loved to dedicate himself with particular care above all, to the most humble duties of his priestly ministry, such as visiting the sick, hearing confessions and preaching.


 From the 1st of April to the 3rd of July 1897, Mgr. Merry del Val remained in Canada where the Holy Father Leo XIII had sent him as Apostolic Delegate on an extraordinary Mission to resolve a difficult political-religious question which disturbed souls greatly and therefore demanded unusual tact and competence. The mission was brilliantly successful, to the point that the same Supreme Pontiff, in the Encyclical Letter which derived from it, (addressed to the Canadian episcopate) declared that his Apostolic Delegate had carried out his mission in Canada “naviter ac fideliter,” with diligence and fidelity.

 In 1898, due to his competence and culture, the young Monsignor was nominated Consulter of the Sacred Congregation of the Index. In virtue of this nomination, he was often entrusted with the attentive examination of texts, specially in the English language. Upon addressing himself to the Secretary of that Congregation when submitting some work, he revealed the profound humility of his soul by writing the following words: “I do not know if you will be content, because I am worth little and don’t know how to do much, but I placed all my good will and all the care that was possible into it.”

 In 1899 he was named President of the Academy of Noble Ecclesiastics, from where he had come. He sought to be dispensed from such a nomination which destroyed once more his desire for an apostolate amongst the Anglicans, but he had to submit himself to the will of the Pope. On April 19, 1900, he was elected titular Archbishop of Nicea and on the following 6th of May, he received the fullness of the priesthood. On this occasion – after the solemn celebration – instead of the customary party, he wanted to offer lunch to 200 poor people, also giving some new clothing to each of them, in this way, breaking the tradition of having costly and lengthy receptions.

 His life in the Academy which prepared the young priest for service to the Holy See, was wonderfully edifying. Faithfully observant to the rule, he was present at all the common acts. In the morning, the pupils always found him in the Chapel where he read the points for the meditation.

 Preferring to increase his apostolic works and life of piety, he avoided receptions, even though those were permitted. Those who knew him at this time, were able to affirm: “…he was never to be seen at high society receptions, unless there was some good to be done there. Only in order to obey the desires of the Pope, whom he loved so much, did he attend, on rare occasions, those of his father, who was then Ambassador of Spain to the Holy See, but from his behavior it was easy to understand that he was present there unwillingly, feeling like a fish out of water.”

 Being very devoted to the Sacred Heart, he promoted this devotion both within and outside the Academy. He never made use of disciplinary measures since his life and example were a continuous admonition and a tacit exhortation to always do better. Though totally dedicated to his pupils, he managed to find time for ministerial works, such as visiting the sick, hearing confessions, preaching and religious instructions for Protestants, who were always the favoured object of his priestly duties. We have yet another testimony in the following letter, sent in 1901 to the Holy Father, Leo XIII:

Most Blessed Father,

Prostrate at the feet of Your Holiness, and with sentiments of filial submission, I submit to you the intimate desire of my heart and, with solicitation, ask a grace, which, in my eyes, is the greatest which I could obtain from the paternal benevolence of Your Holiness towards the most humble of your sons.

Until now I have asked Your Holiness for nothing for myself, and this is the first grace, and perhaps the last, that I implore. I would like Your Holiness to grant me the faculty of renouncing the office which I occupy, though unworthy, in the Academy of Ecclesiastics, and to withdraw to Trastevere, or another part of Rome; where, free from every other commitment, I could consecrate myself entirely to the priestly ministry in the midst of people, and at the same time, work for the good of our foreign brethren in Rome, and especially those who speak the English language.

I do not have great financial means, but that which is provided by my family is enough for me to live on decorously, and I neither ask for nor desire more. Perhaps this decision will cause many to be amazed and it could be interpreted in a different way by those who know me; but I will be happy to accept the consequences, certain of doing that which is pleasing to Our Lord.

Nothing has caused me displeasure at the Academy, and rather than seeing myself promoted to other responsibilities I would be happy to remain in this Institute until the end of my life. But, if Your Holiness would grant me the grace which I now implore, my happiness would be complete and my gratitude towards Your Holiness eternal.

Most Blessed Father, I place at your feet this my prayer, and with sentiments of the most perfect submission to Your sovereign Will, I submit myself.
But his request was not granted this time either. 

 To be continued 

 From: De vita Contemplativa, The Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate, Italy [Translation: Contributor Francesca Romana]


  1. Just a thank-you for all your posts on Cardinal Merry del Val. He is a hero of mine and a very important man for our time--but not easy to find material on if you only read English!

  2. Prof. Basto3:39 AM

    I'm writing just to thank all those involved in the publication of this text and to remind the Rorate Caeli team once again of how grateful I am for the Merry del Val series of posts.

    You folks are in my prayers!


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