The Carmelite Review – Blessed Baptist of Mantua

Blessed John Baptist SpagnuoloAmong the blessed Carmelites whom we honor in March, Baptist of Mantua claims our special attention. He was of Spanish extraction, but was born in Mantua, Italy, about 144S. Fully comprehending the dangers that might beset him in the turmoil of the world, he determined on seeking refuge in the seclusion of a monastery; and entered the Order of Carmelites in his native town of Mantua. So earnest was he in the fulfillment of his religious duties, that not many years had elapsed before he was thought fit to be proposed to others as an example worthy of imitation. Being yet comparatively young, he became the superior of the Mantuan Carmelites, and so well did he know how to blend kindness with severity in the discharge of his office that he gained the affection of all his brethren. For six successive times he was elected by unanimous choice to fill the office of prior. So great was his reputation in the Order that in 1513 he was chosen Prior-General of the entire Carmelite Order, in which capacity he died.

He excelled in the virtues of prudence, and charity, and great patience in suffering, as also in the observance of religious discipline. Not only did he excel in the science of the saints, but likewise held a prominent place in the intellectual world of his day. Amongst Christian poets, he certainly ranks with the highest. Many even have not hesitated to place him by the side of that other great Mantuan, Virgil. In Mantua a statue was erected, representing an angel in the act of crowning the successful competitor for the poet’s laurels, but hesitating whether to place the wreath on the brow of Virgil, or of the humble Carmelite.

What better evidence could we have of the esteem in which his poetic genius was held? Blessed Baptist died at Mantua, on Maunday Thursday of 1516 in the 68th year of his life. After his death people began to venerate his holy remains, and many miracles were wrought at his tomb. This veneration was in late years confirmed by the present gloriously reigning Pontiff, Pope Leo XIII.

– text taken from the article “Blessed Baptist of Mantua” in the March 1893 edition of The Carmelite Review magazine, authored by A.F.B. and O.C.C.