A friend of St Alphonsus and his faithful companion, he adhered to the Saint’s missionary project with a unique contribution, reaching out to the most abandoned of Naples and its surroundings. A gifted writer, he wrote a great deal even though he lived only 42 years. – Pope John Paul II beatified him on 12 May 1996.
Bl. Gennaro Sarnelli was born in Naples on September 12, 1702. Son of the Baron of Ciorani, he had a solid cultural and spiritual formation. Dedicating himself to the study of jurisprudence, he gained a doctorate in civil and canon law at the age of twenty.
Caring for the sick in the Hospital for the Incurables, he felt the call to the priesthood. During this time, he also came to know Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, who was his first biographer.
Ordained a priest in 1732, he dedicated himself especially to the catechesis of young boys and to the rehabilitation of girls at risk of becoming prostitutes. In June of the following year, he entered the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, founded by Alphonsus Maria de Liguori on the ninth of November, 1732.
He dedicated himself to the preaching of the Word of God to those who were most destitute of spiritual help. For reasons of health, in 1736, he returned to Naples, where, while continuing the missionary activity in the Redemptorist Congregation, he took up again his previous pastoral and charitable activities, especially among the sick, the old, those in prison and the young boys forced to work as dock-labourers. He also initiated a fervent movement against the spread of prostitution.
A prodigious writer, he published more than thirty books on a wide range of subjects: socio-juridical studies, moral issues, mysticism, pedagogy, pastoral practice, mariology and ascetical theology. In 1741 he organized and took part in the great mission among the spiritually abandoned areas in the outskirts of Naples.
Spent by his burning zeal, he died in Naples on June 30, 1744, at the age of forty-two. Pope John Paul II beatified him on May 12, 1996.
O God, you have chosen your priest, Blessed Gennaro Maria, to show forth your love for the suffering through preaching and good works. Grant that, animated by your love, we may follow his example in giving ourselves generously, taking to heart those in need. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen