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The Cross in the Life of St. Joseph Freinadementz

Author: Michael Ertl, SVD
Subject: Joseph Freinademetz
Language: English, Spanish
Publisher: VivatDeus.org
Year: 2024
Saint Joseph Freinademetz, Saint Arnold Janssen, Cross

Good Friday invites us in a special way to unite ourselves with Jesus in his Passion by contemplating his suffering and recognizing his great love for us in it. The cross and suffering are important elements in the spirituality of St Joseph Freinademetz. In a lecture to a group of catechists in 1893, he said: “There is one path that all those who want to become saints must take. I mean the contemplation of the bitter suffering of our Lord Jesus.”

He travelled this path himself. Not only had he often contemplated the Passion of Jesus in the Holy Scriptures, but he had also experienced for himself what it means: “Blessed are you when you are insulted and persecuted and denied in every possible way for my sake.” When he defended an unjustly convicted catechist before the mandarin, a high Chinese official in the district town of Tsaohsien, and demanded his release, he was almost beaten to death as he left the town. He described what he experienced there on 23 May 1889 in a detailed report to his bishop:

“They tore out my hair, twisted my arms and dragged me a long way along the main street of the town. I thought my last hour had come. I thought a lot about the cross-bearing Saviour as he was dragged through the streets of Jerusalem and considered myself lucky to be able to share in his shame. At the same time, I was afraid of the forthcoming tortures and constantly pleaded for strength.”

Saint Joseph Freinademetz, Saint Arnold Janssen, Cross

Another time he narrowly escaped death when the mission station in Puoli was besieged by the insurgents in July 1900. He could not resign himself to taking refuge with the other foreign missionaries while the local Christians had to expect the worst. So, he decided to persevere with them in their greatest need. In a report that he later sent to Europe for publication, he shared the dramatic events with the readers:

“The thousand or more residents and refugees all went to the Holy Sacraments. I succeeded in getting the large masses to pray together constantly in the church. I alternated between praying the rosary without interruption and the Stations of the Cross without interruption the other day, and everyone prepared for death. God saw what was being prayed and cried.”

These events are also mentioned on a memorial plaque that was placed in the church of Badia around 1925. It states that “in 1900, under the greatest persecution, he almost attained the crown of martyrdom.” This plaque, donated by his niece Albina Frenademez, is the first testimony of public veneration in his homeland. It reminds everybody, that “Badia may remember his great son and intercessor with God.”

The cross and suffering are mentioned in many of Joseph Freinademetz’s letters to his homeland. He often encouraged them to accept their own suffering without despairing over it. For example, in a letter to his godchild Franz dated 25 June 1905: “So take courage and bear the cross that the Lord sends you together; it will always be smaller than the one that God himself carried for us.”


Michael Ertl, SVD
Michael Ertl, SVD

Michael Ertl was born in Germany in 1966. He entered the Congregation of the Divine Word in 1989. After training as a pastoral assistant and professing perpetual vows in St. Gabriel (Vienna), he spent three years in Chile, where he worked in parish and school pastoral. Back in Europe, he spent 14 years in a contemplative community in Belgium and served as novice master in Berlin. From 2018-2022 he was Spiritual Director of the “Centro Ad Gentes” in Nemi. In 2022 he was transferred to ITA and since then he lives in the house of St. Joseph Freinademetz in Oies.

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