Immacolato Giuseppe di Gesù (1922-1989)
“Far be it for me to probe the mysterious ways of God, whatever they be; when I die, no one will lose me because I shall return upon earth, I shall return to do violence to souls, so that they will love and know God as He Himself wills to be known and loved. I shall return to be the guardian, the defender, and the coadjutor of my beloved priests.” (Brother Immacolato Giuseppe di Gesù, 1949)
Victim Souls for Priests
I am continually amazed by the number of souls called by Our Lord, especially over the last hundred years, to pray and suffer in the total offering of themselves for the sanctification of priests. While many of these victim souls for priests are women, and models of spiritual motherhood, there are also among them a number of priests and laymen. Among these, Brother Immacolato Giuseppe di Gesù, O.C.D., a humble, bed-ridden solitary, who lived in his family home in Campobasso, Italy, has a message for all who “glory in their infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in them.” (2 Cor 12:9)
Born to Emilio Brienza and Lorenza Trevisani, on 15 August 1922, in Campobasso, Italy, Aldo Brienza was baptized on 21 August 1922. On 25 March 1943, Msgr Secondo Bologna confirmed him in his family home. Aldo attended elementary and middle school in Campobasso, finishing his studies at home.
When Pain Came to Stay
At the age of 15, Aldo was suddenly stricken with a acute pain in his feet, that he described as being “like that of a nail piercing them them right through.” From this moment on, lovingly assisted by his family, Aldo never left his bed. His state of health grew worse, in spite of which, he never, in over fifty years, complained or indulged in self-pity. “I bless the Lord,” he wrote, “because no one, not even those closest to me, are aware of the depth of my pains” (Letter to Fr Valentino Mecca, 17.12.1955).
“Here I am, a Carmelite at last. Oh! What joy was mine when after the Profession I could say to myself: He is all mine at last and I am all His. How beautiful is the part that is ours! To spend an entire life in silence, in adoration, in the intimate union of a heart-to-heart with the Divine Spouse. May I correspond fully to all the designs that He has on my soul, and perfectly accomplish all that He wills.”
In 1943, on the feast of the Annunciation, Aldo entered the Carmelite Secular Third Order, taking the name of Brother Giuseppe dell’Addolorata. Constrained to bed by his irreversible medical condition, he received from Pope Pius XII the singular privilege of making Solemn Profession in the First Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. On 11 May, 1948, he pronounced his vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, into the hands of Father Romualdo di Sant’Antonio, provincial superior of Naples, and the delegate of the Prior General of the Order, Father Silverio di Santa Teresa.
The Immaculate Gives Him A New Name
I take refuge in the Immaculate Heart of her who is the Mother of Mercy and the Mother of miserable sinners. She brings us to the Heart of Him who is goodness, love, and mercy.”
In 1951 Our Lady told Aldo that his name in religion was to be changed to Immacolato. This was no pious eccentricity. HIs spiritual director and superiors in Carmel discerned this as a particular and authentic Marian grace calling Brother Giuseppe to a lifelong program of purity, love, and to the generous and total gift of himself. In April 1951, he received, from the the provincial of Naples, Father Romualdo di Sant’Antonio, O.C.D., the religious name by which he would be known for the rest of his life: Immacolato Giuseppe di Gesù.
Lying on his bed like a host on the corporal, and effectively cloistered in his Carmelite cell in the Brienza family home, Brother Immacolato went to the heart of the desert solitude that characterizes the Teresian Carmel. Transported in a specially adapted automobile, Brother Immacolato left his family home on only a few occasions for specialized medical care. Three times he went as a pilgrim on the “train of the sick” to the sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Loreto. Once, out of obedience to his confessor, he was transported to the electoral polls to cast his vote in fulfillment of his civic duties. In 1952, he visited the house of his spiritual father, Don Michele Fratianni in the little city of Montagano. In 1984 and 1985 to Cardarelli Hospital in Campobasso for dialysis and surgery.
A Victim for the Sanctification of Priests
Already, in the very first years of his “illness” and relentless suffering, Aldo understood that the salvation of souls “costs blood.” His generous spirit could not remain indifferent in the face of so tragic an awareness. On 20 August 1943, certain of having at last found his path, and knowing that divine inspiration is confirmed by the ratification of the authority of the Church, he wrote to a priest friend, “Pray, Father, that I may obtain my confessor’s permission to offer myself as a victim for the sanctification of priests.”
On 6 January 1944, with the blessing of his spiritual director, he makes a magnificent Act of Offering. Aldo was twenty-two years old at the time. The Act of Offering that he wrote is a marvel of poetic harmony, prayer, and doctrine:
In the Name of God the Father, and of God the Son, and of God the Holy Spirit , in the Name of Mary most Sorrowful, I beseech the Most Holy Trinity to accept me as a victim of immolation, expiation, intercession, and reparation to the Divine Justice on behalf of all priests, and of each one in particular.
Receive, O my God, this all-encompassing and irrevocable offering, this total and unconditional act of abandonment, that by Thy mercy, I make to Thee of all that I am. . . . I want only to help and to merit for the world a priesthood worthy of Thy sublime designs. O Eternal God, for the needs of Thy priests, for the sanctification of priests, I accept and I love the sacrifice of my life. . . .
I accept whatever sort of suffering that may torment my body. I accept to be calumniated, despised, humiliated, dishonoured, vilified, outraged, forgotten, and trodden underfoot like a grain of sand, so that Thy priests may be loved, honoured, known, respected, and appreciated. If Thy hand must strike, let it strike me and not them. . . . I accept to feel impotent, useless, miserable, and abandoned by Thee, as one lifeless at Thy feet, happy if, by my immolation, I may increase Thy glory albeit by one degree, however small, and contribute to give Thee one more holy priest.
Infinite Divine Heart of my God, if Thou hast need of more martyrs for the defence and sanctification of Thy priests, I offer Thee all the blood of my veins. Make of me, O sweet Jesus, a host immolated for the sake of Thy priests. Be Thou, Thyself, my sovereign Priest, O Jesus. O my Jesus crucified, in union with Thee, I offer myself as a victim to the Divine Justice. . . . I want to live and die crucified for Thy priests, so that they may be priests according to Thy Heart. . . .
Virgin of Sorrows, victim of love, make of me, with thee, a living host, holy and acceptable to God, for the sanctification of priests. And Thou, O compassionate God, accept and bless this my poor offering; deign to consume this little host slowly, drop by drop, in the ardent flames of Thy most pure love, for the sanctification of the priesthood, so that the abyss of Thy mercies may deploy themselves in the abyss of my miseries. Amen.
“To labour is good, to pray is even better, but to suffer in union with Jesus is everything.”
Far from bathing in spiritual consolations, Brother Immacolato lived by faith, clinging to Will of God in the darkness known of old to psalmist:
I am numbered with those who go down into the abyss
and have become like a man beyond help,
like a man who lies dead
or the slain who sleep in the grave,
whom Thou rememberest no more
because they are cut off from Thy care.
Thou has plunged me into the lowest abyss,
in dark places, in the depths.
Thy wrath rises against me,
Thou hast turned on me the full force of Thy anger.
Thou hast taken all my friends from me,
and made me loathsome to them.
I am in prison and cannot escape;
my eyes are failing and dim with anguish.
I have called upon Thee, O Lord, every day
and spread out my hands to Thee.
I have suffered from boyhood and come near to death;
I have borne Thy terrors, I cower beneath Thy blows.
Thy burning fury has swept over me,
Thy onslaughts have put me to silence;
all the day long they surge round me like a flood,
they engulf me in a moment.
Thou hast taken lover and friend far from me,
and parted me from my companions.
(Psalm 87: 4-9, 13-18)
“In spite of so much darkness,” he wrote, “I sense that my heart possesses Jesus. Possessing Jesus, I feel that I can smile even in the midst of so many tears.”
The Most Holy Eucharist
The reception of Holy Communion was, for Brother Immacolato, a heavenly banquet, a foretaste of paradise, a joy surpassing all earthly joys. His mother and sister prepared a little altar in his room, complete with spotless white linens and fresh flowers. Nothing was lacking for the reception of the Eucharistic Jesus. On a number of occasions, with the permission of the Bishop of Campobasso, various priests offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in Brother Immacolato’s room.
On several occasions Brother Immacolato felt the companionship and presence of his Carmelite “sister-soul,” Saint Teresa Margherita Redi who, in his in own words, “made of Eucharistic adoration the essential and primary aim of her life.” He invoked Saint Teresa Margherita to learn from her the best way of living the mystery of the Eucharist.
“Saint Teresa Margherita came to show me how to adore and thank Jesus the Sacrificial Victim (Gesù-Ostia). What peace, what gladness, what adoring silence, what sweetness . . . how much I sensed the presence of God. Our sainted sister is prompt to help us. Let us entrust ourselves to her, the Saint of the hidden life, the Saint of spiritual graces.”
Brother Immacolato’s innumerable prayers, written spontaneously in letters to his correspondents, attest abundantly to his love for the Eucharistic Jesus:
O Jesus, unveil before our gaze the sublime beauties of the Eucharist. Live Thou always in us, that we may make Thee live in others. Jesus, give me a faith and a love so great that the Holy Communion I receive in the morning may truly be the centre of my day, and the Eucharist the centre of my life. Let nothing, nothing, ever distance me from Thee, and let my true occupation be to continue my communion with Thee all day long.”
Death and Ongoing Presence
On 13 April 1989, at 67 years of age, Brother Immacolato fell asleep in the Lord. The following day his funeral was celebrated in the Cathedral of Campobasso with the participation of an immense crowd of silent mourners. On 21 September 2004, Archbishop Dini of Campobasso wrote to the Father General of the Order of the Teresian Carmel:
All now know the stupendous figure of Brother Immacolato, in the world Aldo Brienza, who, for well nigh fifty years immolated himself in union with Jesus Crucified for sinners and, in particular, for the sanctification of priests, all the while nailed to his bed of suffering. He is emerging more and more as a shining example of evangelical heroism, and many of the faithful have expressed the desire to see recognized by the Church the reputation of holiness that continues to spread abroad among the people of God. And so, with great joy, I announce to you that on 1 October, at 7:00 in the evening, in the Cathedral, a solemn concelebration will mark the opening of the Diocesan Process for the beatification of the most beloved Brother Immacolato.
Two months after the instructive phase of the canonical process, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints grant the nihil obstare. On 13 April 2005, this initial phase was happily completed.
Seeking Brother Immacolato’s Intercession
Lord Jesus, Immaculate Lamb,
immolated upon the altar of the Cross
for the salvation of every human being,
I humbly pray that Thou wouldst deign to glorify,
even on this earth, Thy servant,
Brother Immacolato, who loved Thee so much,
and, confident in his help, I ask for this grace.
(Mention your intention.)
Grant me this, I pray Thee,
through the intercession of Brother Immacolato,
who, whilst living among us, offered himself as a victim
for the sanctification of priests
and for the redemption of those enslaved by sin.
Three Gloria Patri.
+Armano Dini – Arcivescovo
For information about Brother Immacolato Giuseppe di Gesù, to attest to graces received through his intercession, or to give your personal testimony, contact or write to:
Postulazione Causa di Fra Immacolato Brienza
Curia diocesana di Campobasso-Bojano,
Via Mazzini 76