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Venerable Cæsar Sportelli

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Born at Nola in Bari, Italy, 29 March, 1702; died at Pagani, 19 April, 1750. His mother, who died with the reputation of a saint, brought Cæsar up with all care. He became a distinguished lawyer, uniting the perfection of a Christian life with the duties of his profession. He was thirty-three when under the guidance of Fr. Falcoia of the "Pii Operarii" he joined St. Alphonsus, and was the first clerical novice of the saint's institute. He was ordained priest by his director, now become Bishop of Castellamare. Sportelli was St. Alphonsus's first and most faithful companion. When others abandoned him, Sportelli only clung more closely to him and like himself was determined, at any cost, to devote his life to the evangelization of abandoned souls. In this he succeeded admirably, nor was he less successful in his work for priests and religious. Severe with himself, he was full of charity to others. There was nothing austere in his virtue : it drew all hearts to him. His union with God was manifest, and although he preached the great truths with vehemence he repelled no one. He was the saint's advisor and helped him more than anyone else to extend the influence of his Institute. In times of great difficulty he founded the house of Mater Domini, Caposele, and the house of Pagani in which St. Alphonsus lived and died and where his relics repose. He wore himself out working and on his way to preach a retreat he was struck by apoplexy in a lonely place. Bandits helped him to reach Pagani, where after a tedious illness he died on the day he had foretold. Three years and seven months after his interment it was decided to transfer his remains to a place in a newly built crypt. The coffin was opened in the presence of the Bishop of Nocera, Right Rev. Gerard Volpe, the Abbot of Angri, D. Thomas Cortora, and others. The vestments in which the servant of God had been clothed turned to dust, while the body was in perfect preservation, flexible and exhaling a sweet fragrance. The countenance was beautiful and when a vein was opened blood flowed just as if he were living. St. Alphonsus wished to take steps at once for his beatification, but was prevented from doing so by many difficulties. It was not till 1899 that the cause was introduced and that he was declared venerable.

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