Benedict Menni

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Benedict Menni
c. 1905.
Born(1841-03-11)11 March 1841
Milan, Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia
Died24 April 1914(1914-04-24) (aged 73)
Dinan, Côtes-d’Armor, French Third Republic
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Beatified 23 June 1985, Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City by Pope John Paul II
Canonized 21 November 1999, Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City by Pope John Paul II
  • 24 April
  • Hospitaller Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
  • People with mental health issues
  • The sick
  • Volunteers

Benedict Menni (11 March 1841 – 24 April 1914), born Angelo Ercole Menni Figini, was an Italian Roman Catholic priest. Menni was a professed member of the Hospitallers of Saint John of God and he went on to establish his own religious congregation known as the Hospitaller Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and based upon the one of which he was a member. He worked in Spain as part of his pastoral mission.


Menni worked with the old and those who were abandoned. He also worked and aided victims of polio and those with mental health problems.

He was canonized in 1999 after the recognition of two miracles attributed to his intercession. His order continues to flourish across the world in locations such as Spain and Italy. [1]


Angelo Ercole Menni Figini was born as the fifth of fifteen children to Luigi Benni and Luisa Figini on 11 March 1841 in Milan. [2] He was baptized hours after he was born. As a child he was noted for his strength of spirit and for his intellectual abilities.

His religious calling came when he was an adolescent and he left his position at a bank in order to pursue his vocation but his departure from the bank was his resignation due to being asked to craft false records. In 1858 the Piedmont and French troops confronted Austrian troops outside of Milan and he volunteered to work as a stretcher-bearer to assist wounded soldiers on the battlefield at Magenta. This brought him into contact with the Hospitallers of Saint John of God; he entered their novitiate in 1860 and made his vows as a member in 1864.[ citation needed ]

He engaged in both philosophical and theological studies in Lodi and later in Rome. He completed his studies and was ordained to the priesthood in 1866 and he assumed the name of "Benedict" after this. At the behest of Pope Pius IX - in 1867 - he started the restoration of the Saint John of God order in both Spain and Portugal due to political strife. [3]

After he settled in Spain he first set up a children's hospital in Barcelona in 1867 and this marked the first of his several works of restoration and implementation. A short time later Menni attracted numerous followers to his cause and it allowed him to establish new institutions of his new order on a rapid scale - spreading not just in Spain but to Portugal and Mexico. The 1868 deposition of Queen Isabella II set off renewed persecution and Menni - chosen as the Superior of the order in 1872 - found himself besieged with constant threats. He relocated to Marseille to recover from an illness but later returned to Spain to help the victims of the Third Carlist War.

His arrival in Granada in 1878 saw him meet two women - Maria Josefa Recio and Maria Angtistias Gimenez - who set up a women's hospital in 1881. This inspired him to establish his own congregation and he established in Madrid the Hospitaller Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on 31 May 1881. Pope Leo XIII granted the Decree of Praise in 1892 and his formal approval to the new order in 1901. The order referred to the example of John of God as it set forth on its mission to provide care to all people. But their task was not a simple one; for instance one patient killed one of the nuns in 1883. Menni established around seventeen mental hospitals in Spain. [4] He participated in the General Chapter of the Order in Rome in 1905 and returned to Spain afterwards.

It was in 1890 that he began to reform the order in Portugal and instituted several hospitals and a home for priests in Lisbon.

He was accused of violence against a patient who suffered from dementia and faced a criminal court in Madrid. He refused legal representation but relented at the behest of the Bishop of Madrid. It also reached Rome and Menni decided to resign as Superior General on 20 June 1912.[ citation needed ]

Menni spent the remainder of his life - due to his declining health - in France from 1912 until his death on 24 April 1914. He suffered a stroke and developed dementia and moved to Dinan to spend the rest of his ailing life there knowing his end was close. His remains were taken to Spain, after his triumphant funeral, to the mother house of the order. [5] [6] [7]


The canonization process commenced under Pope Paul VI in Spain on 26 February 1964. The commencement of the local process conferred upon him the posthumous title Servant of God and saw the accumulation of both documentation and testimonies; the process was granted formal ratification in order for the cause to proceed. The documentation was compiled into a large dossier to be sent to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome for further evaluation.

Pope John Paul II approved the fact that Menni had lived a life of heroic virtue and proclaimed him to be Venerable on 11 May 1982.

The miracle required for his beatification was investigated in a diocesan tribunal and was ratified on 3 December 1982 to confirm that the process was valid. All documentation was sent to Rome and John Paul II approved the miracle on 14 December 1984; he beatified Menni on 23 June 1985.

The second miracle needed for sainthood was investigated like the previous one and ratified in 1998. The pope approved the miracle on 26 March 1999 and canonized him as a saint on 21 November 1999. [8]

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  1. "Saint Benedetto Menni". Saints SQPN. 23 April 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2015.
  2. Benedict Menni (1841-1914)
  3. "Saint Benedetto Menni". Saints SQPN. 23 April 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2015.
  4. "The priest who changed the way we treat the mentally ill". Catholic Herald. 21 April 2011. Retrieved 18 July 2015.
  5. "Benedict Menni (1841-1914)". Holy See. Retrieved 18 July 2015.
  6. "The priest who changed the way we treat the mentally ill". Catholic Herald. 21 April 2011. Retrieved 18 July 2015.
  7. "Saint Benedict Menni". Santi e Beati. Retrieved 18 July 2015.
  8. Our Founder: Fr. Benedict Menni