The Holiness of the Church in the Nineteenth Century – Venerable Placidus Bacher

Venerable Placidus BacherThough the blood of Switzerland flowed in the veins of the Venerable Placidus Bacher he probably never saw the mountains of his forefathers. He was born at Naples on 7 April 1781, the son of a Swiss captain in the service of the king. A pious priest took special care of the boy’s education. Placidus made his studies at the college of the Dominicans. Frequent communion and a heartfelt devotion to the Blessed Virgin, whom he honored every day by saying the Rosary, kept his youth from going astray.

When Naples was involved in the revolution a heavy affliction fell upon the Bacher family. They were imprisoned for their loyalty to the king. Young Placidus was separated from his relatives and thrown among the worst criminals. Besides this, he had much to suffer from the jailer and the jailer’s wife. He himself tells us that in those days of suffering the Rosary was his only consolation. It is related in the acts of his process that the Mother of God appeared to him in prison, consoled him, and promised him the dignity of the priesthood. The tribunal of the Revolution was about to pass sentence of death upon him when, contrary to all expectation, he was acquitted. But he was hardly set at liberty when a new warrant was issued against him and it was almost a miracle that he escaped the police.

After the fever of the revolution had abated Placidus Bacher began the study of theology, and on 30 May 1806, he stood at the altar for the first time as a priest. He soon distinguished himself by remarkably successful work as a pastor and was therefore given charge of the Gesu Vecchio church, in accordance with the desire of Queen Carolina Annuntiata and the recommendation of the Blessed Francis Xavier Bianchi of the Barnabites. The church had formerly belonged to the Society of Jesus, but was in such a state of neglect that it was intended to change it into a theater. Don Bacher did all he could to restore it to its old splendor, and especially to make it again a house of prayer and to fill it with devout worshipers. He accomplished this principally by his impressive sermons. He moved his hearers deeply when he pictured to them the greatness of God, the malice and punishment of sin, and the sufferings and love of Christ. He had particularly at heart the encouragement of devotion to the Immaculate Conception; and the yearly novena in the Gesu Vecchio before the feast was always like a great mission. He had the picture of the Immaculate Conception over the altar solemnly crowned by Cardinal Ruffo Scilla in 1826 in the presence of the royal family.

To inspire the young with love for the beautiful virtue of purity he always pointed out to them the noble example of Saint Aloysius. He set great store by a relic of Saint Aloysius which he had. It was a small bottle containing some hard, dried-up blood. It was said to have come from Castiglione, the birthplace of St. Aloysius. It was Don Bacher’s private possession and had been given to him in 1837. Every year, from the first vespers of the saint’s feast until the second vespers of the octave, the hard crust of blood in the bottle becomes fluid and a fresh red. On this occasion the relic is not touched by any one, but stands on the altar of Saint Aloysius and the miracle takes place only after some prayers have been said in his honor. On other extraordinary occasions, also, the hard blood is wont to liquefy. We may imagine how welcome an opportunity such miracles gave Eton Bacher to inflame his hearers with a love of virtue; and how fervently he exhorted them to love of God.

He had cared for the Gesu Vecchio for over forty years. His strength was consumed, and on the 19th of October, 1851, he departed this life to possess the life for which alone he labored. His body was placed in the chapel of Saint Aloysius. All the people, together with the king and queen and the royal heir of Spain, hastened to see once more the beloved priest. Don Bacher found his last resting-place beneath the altar of the Immaculate Conception. His cause was introduced on 12 May 1909.

– this text is taken from The Holiness of the Church in the Nineteenth Century: Saintly Men and Women of Our Own Times, by Father Constantine Kempf, SJ; translated from the German by Father Francis Breymann, SJ; Impimatur by + Cardinal John Farley, Archbishop of New York, 25 September 1916