- . . . nelle Indie di quaggiù": San Francesco de Geronimo e i processi di evangelizzazione nel Mezzogiorno moderno: Atti del Convegno di Studio (Grottaglie, 6 e 7 maggio 2005)
The highly descriptive letters of Francis Xavier and those of other Jesuits from the Indies—a term that was synonymous with the general missionary effort outside of Europe—became such an alluring force that countless Jesuits petitioned the superior general to be sent to work and possibly die a martyr's death in the Indies. So strong was this pull to the Indies that Jesuit superiors [End Page 368] had to remind their charges that working in rural areas or among the poor in Europe had equal merit since it was inhabited by those equally ignorant of the faith. Thus the rural and urban areas of southern Italy known as the Mezzogiorno became known as "Our Indies" or "Our Indies down here." The great Jesuit missionary who worked in the "Indies down here" was St. Francis de Geronimo (1642–1716). In commemoration of the two hundredth anniversary of his beatification (1806), a congress and the subsequent published acts explored the various aspects of the work of Francis de Geronimo and the Society of Jesus in the Mezzogiorno.
The first essay, by Mario Spedicato, examines how historians have understood de Geronimo's activities and how historiography has changed reflecting various concerns of each age. Dino Levante's contribution entails a most thorough bibliography of both the saint's own writings and articles and books concerning his life and work. Giuseppe Orlandi explores the differences between the mentality and lifestyle of the itinerant Jesuit missionary and his more stayat home confreres living in a college. Since missionary Jesuits were frequently assigned to a specific college for their temporal support and a place to hang their cassock, there were frequently some differences in ways of looking at the world between the missionary and the academician. Differences occurred between Jesuit and Jesuit (no surprise there) and likewise differences in ways of evangelizing the Mezzogiorno occurred between the different orders who labored in Italy's Indies. Marcella Campanelli investigates the particular methodological differences between the Jesuits and the Lazzarists who worked in the same area. The essay by Giulilo Sodano examines how the Jesuits advanced evangelization by advancing the cult of de Geronimo in and around Naples after the saint's death. As the author notes, Jesuits disseminated more than the retelling of the saint's pious life since soon after his death they actually distributed 35,000 relics! The essay by Filippo Iappelli provides a brief summary of the locations of de Geronimo's work in Southern Italy.
Essays by Paola Nestola, Maria Epifani, Nicoletta Moccia, Rossario Jurlaro, Francesco Occhibanco, and Eugenio Imbriani describe the saint's use of theatrics and other important styles and formats in which de Geronimo excelled. Angelo D'Ambrosio's essay investigates the typical Jesuit missionary: their ages at death and what they ate. One surprising statistic was that in spite of a rigorous life style, most missionaries exceeded average life expectancies for their time. De Geronimo was an itinerant preacher and the nature of such preaching meant that the preacher left the city or village in hopes that the spiritual fervor he engendered would continue. Rosario Quaranta's essay explores how the implementation of the cult of Saint Ciro continued this fervor. Essays by Francesco Dandolo, Gianpaolo Cassese, and Alessandro Laporta explore the effects of de Geronimo's life and work and that of the Society of Jesus into the nineteenth century.
All the essays provided this reader with some insight into the life of de Geronimo, the ventures of the Society of Jesus in the Mezzogiorno, and the [End Page 369] effects of de Geronimo's work and the missionary efforts of the Jesuits into the...