Saint Giuseppe Maria Tomasi

Saint Giuseppe Maria Tomasi di Lampedusa, (1649–1713), often anglicized as Saint Joseph Mary Tomasi, was born at Licata, Sicily, of a princely family. He was an Italian Theatine scholar and reformer, and cardinal. He was beatified by Pope Pius VII in 1803, and was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1986.

His own life was oriented toward God from his first years. Formed and educated in the noble paternal home, where they did not lack riches nor virtue, he gave proofs of a spirit, very open to study and to piety. His parents cared greatly for this and for his own Christian formation and his instruction in the classical and modern languages, above all in the Spanish language, because he was destined by the family for the court of Madrid, as he was bound to inherit from his own father, for his own noble titles, that of "Grande of Spain".

But his own spirit aspired, even from youth, to be small in the Kingdom of God, and to serve not the kings of the earth but the King of heaven. He cultivated his pious desire in his heart until he obtained the consent of his father to follow his vocation to the religious life.

Urged by his particular love for the ancient documents of the Church and for the sound ecclesiastical traditions, he considered that a good part of his own religious perfection lay in dedicating himself, with the spirit of faith, to the publication of rare liturgical books and of the ancient texts of the sacred Liturgy, and so bringing to light many ancient sacred scriptures which until then had been hidden in the libraries.

Tomasi's efforts at reform were directed not to the introduction of the new, but to the restoration and maintenance of the old. He was not always upheld and was sometimes rebuked for his zeal. Pope Innocent XII made him examiner of the bishops, or of the clergy. Pope Clement XI, for whom he served as confessor, appointed him consultor of the Theatine Order, theologian of the "Congregatio super Disciplinâ Regulari" and other Congregations, consultor of the Congregations of Rites and Indulgences, and qualificator of the Holy Office. The same pope created him cardinal-priest of the Title of S. Martino ai Monti and compelled him to accept the honour.

He taught catechism to the children of the poor in his titular church. He introduced the use of Gregorian chant
in his church. On his death he was mourned by all, even by the pope, who so admired his sanctity that he consulted him before accepting the papacy.

His many publications on liturgical subjects, in which piety was united with scholarship, motivated the titles which some of his contemporaries gave to him, those of "the Prince of the Roman Liturgists" and of "Liturgists" and of "Liturgical Doctor".

In truth, not a few of the norms, established by the authority of the Roman Pontiffs and by the documents of the Second Vatican Council and today praiseworthily in use in the Church, were already proposed and ardently desired by Father Tomasi, among which it is sufficient to recall: the present-day form of the Liturgy of the Hours for the prayer of the Divine Office; the distinction and use of the Missal and of the Lectionary in the celebration of the Eucharist; various norms contained in the Pontifical and in the Roman Ritual; the use of the vernacular language, which he himself recommended in private devotions and in the prayers made in common by the faithful; all intended to promote a more intimate and personal participation of the People of God at the celebration of the sacred Liturgy.


The fame of his sanctity that during life accompanied Cardinal Tomasi became even greater immediately after his death. Because of this, only five months from his pious passing, on the desire of Clement XI, the canonical Ordinary Informative Process for his Beatification began. After having overcome vicissitudes and difficulties of various kinds, after two miracles attributed to the intercession of the Venerable Cardinal Tomasi were approved, Pius VII proclaimed him Blessed on 29 September 1803. 

A new miracle, attributed to the intercession of Blessed Joseph M. Tomasi, was approved, with the Decree of 6 July 1985, by the Holy Father John Paul 11, for his canonization. 

The relics of his body, transferred in 1971 from the Basilica of his title of Ss. Silvestro e Martini ai Monti, are presently exposed for the veneration of the faithful in the Basilica of San Andrea della Valle of the Theatine Fathers, in Rome. 


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