Saint Henry de Osso
Vinebre, Tarragona, Spain on October 16th, 1840.
Gilet, Valencia, Spain on January 27th, 1896.
Beatified by Pope John Paul II on October 14th, 1979.
Canonized by Pope John Paul II on June 16th, 1993.
Saint Henry de Osso was born on October 16th, 1840, in Vinebre, Tarragona (Spain). He was the youngest of three sons of Jaime and Micaela. His parents were good Christians and educated their children in the faith and in prayer. Micaela wanted her youngest son to be a priest one day, and she expressed this desire to Henry. He, however, was convinced of his vocation to be a teacher. His father’s idea was very different, for he wanted his son to work in commercial business.
When Henry was 12 years old, his father sent him to be with his uncle Juan, who had a textile business in Zaragoza, so that he could learn the trade. During the months that he spent there, he learned well the skills needed for the fabric business, and became very familiar with the accounting side as well. While in Zaragoza, Henry contracted a fever that brought him to death’s door. His uncle was very worried about his health, and commended him to Our Lady of the Pillar, and asked that he be administered the sacrament of last rites, so he received his first communion as viaticum. The Blessed Virgin did not make him wait long and Henry recovered immediately. Despite the notable recovery, his uncle decided to take him to his parents’ house.
His parents then decided to send him to Reus, Tarragona to work as a clerk in an important fabric business. During his stay in Reus, he received the news that his mother was sick with cholera and near to death. Henry immediately went to Vinebre and arrived in time to say goodbye to her. His dying mother expressed for the last time her greatest desire, that he become a priest. She died on September 15th, when Henry was 14 years old.
After his mother’s death, Henry returned to Reus, but he was not the same as before. The death of his mother had deeply affected him, and a desire of solitude and surrender to God arose in him. He dedicated himself to prayer and reading the works of Saint Teresa of Jesus. But the Lord asked him for more...
Shortly after, he wrote a letter to his father, expressing his decision to leave everything and asking him to give his material goods to the poor. “[...] My absence will make you suffer, father, but I am moved only to seek the glory of God. Your pain will be transformed into joy if you remember that soon we will see each other in heaven [...] I am leaving. Do not worry about me. God will protect and defend me. The glory and service of my Eternal Father are reason for my absence. Goodbye.”
Henry did not tell anyone where he went. His desire was to be a hermit and he set out, without money or personal belongings, to the Benedictine Monastery of Montserrat, in Barcelona, to offer himself to Our Lady. Along the way he met a beggar boy and, since he did not have anything to offer him, he exchanged the boy’s clothes for his own. Therefore, he arrived in Montserrat with the poor rags of a beggar.
Only a few days later, the family received his letter and went out to search for him. Among his things, they found several pamphlets about Montserrat and, knowing that it was one of his favorite shrines, they suspected that he had gone there. His brother Jaime went there and looked for him desperately. He finally found a poor beggar dressed in tattered clothes praying before the altar. In one of the boy’s movements, he recognized his brother and tried to convince Henry to return home. Henry, however, refused, believing the Lord’s will for him to be very different than his father’s will. Jaime then understood that this was something from God and he begged him to return home, promising that he would help him so that he could follow his vocation.
In 1854, he began his studies in the seminary of Tortosa. The young seminarian was known for his virtues: great piety, loyal and friendly to all, responsible in his studies, disciplined, and with a great apostolic zeal. During this time, he completely submerged himself into the writings of Saint Teresa of Jesus, who greatly inspired him in his spiritual and apostolic life and whom he affectionately called “the heart stealer.” During the academic year, in addition to his studies, he took time out for apostolate and for charity with the sick. During his vacations, he went to the “Desert of the Palm Trees” in Castellón, in search of silence and prayer.
On October 6th, 1867, he was ordained a priest in Tortosa, and celebrated his first Mass in the Shrine of Montserrat the next day, on the feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary.
As a priest, he surrendered himself completely to the formation of children and youth, since he realized that they were growing up in a less and less Christian world, and he worried about the salvation of their souls. He combined his pastoral work with education, teaching mathematics and physics in the seminary in Tortosa.
His untiring apostolic zeal lead him to write many formational pamphlets during the first years of his priesthood. Since the formation of the youth and catechesis was essential to him, he organized a catechist school in many churches in Tortosa and wrote his first book, a “Practical Manual for Catechists.”
He also began two magazines: “The People’s Friend” and “Saint Teresa of Jesus,” in which he transmitted the teachings of the Holy Father, taught the art of prayer, explained Catholic doctrine and spread the devotion to Saint Teresa. In 1874, he published “15 Minutes of Prayer,” a book of meditations that was spread to a great number of people. He founded several Marian associations and congregations, with the goal of familiarizing the youth with prayer and teaching them to be apostles in their own environments.
The Lord inspired him to found an even greater foundation. He had already done much for the youth, but he was in need of women who would consecrate themselves completely to this work of formation. To this aim, in the year 1876, he founded in Tarragona the “Company of Saint Teresa of Jesus,” a congregation of women religious, beginning with 8 teachers. His desire was that these women, filled with the spirit of Saint Teresa of Avila, would dedicate themselves especially to the formation of women, in order to “extend the reign of knowledge and love of Jesus Christ throughout the whole world by the apostolate of prayer, teaching and sacrifice.”.
After the foundation of the Company, Saint Henry dedicated himself assiduously to the formation of the sisters, whom he encouraged with his spiritual and apostolic life, transmitting to them his own zeal and enthusiasm. Even during the life of their Founder, they saw the work expand throughout Spain and to Portugal, Uruguay and Mexico.
Saint Henry de Osso was Jesus’ tireless apostle. His secret was, without doubt, his intimacy with Him, which made him into another Christ:
“To conform oneself to the life of Jesus Christ, it is necessary, above all, to study it and meditate on it, not only in his exterior aspect, but penetrating into the feelings, desires, sentiments and intentions of Jesus Christ, to do everything in perfect union with Him... He who does this will be transformed in Jesus and will be able to say with the Apostle, ‘It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me.’ ”
In January 1896, Saint Henry wished to withdraw for some days to the Franciscan convent “Sancti Spiritu,” in Gilet, Valencia for spiritual exercises and to dedicate time to reading and writing. There, he composed a novena to the Holy Spirit and wrote a treatise on the mystical life. On the night of the 27th, he collapsed. All help was in vain, for his heart was exhausted and, within a few hours, he died. He had worn himself out up until the last minute. Those who had known him knew that it was the death of a saint. He was buried there in the Franciscan convent and his body was later moved to the Novitiate House of the Company, in Tortosa. He asked that “I am a child of the Church” be written on his epitaph.
In 1923, the saint miraculously cured two sisters of the Company. They saw this as a sign to begin the process of his canonization. On May 15th, 1976, Pope Paul VI gave his approval for the publication of the decree about the heroic virtues of Henry de Osso. On October 14th, 1979, John Paul II declared Henry de Osso blessed. On June 16th, 1993, the same Pope canonized him in Madrid, during one of his apostolic trips to Spain. During this homily, the Holy Father wished to emphasize the following words of the saint: “Think, feel, love as Christ Jesus; work, converse or talk with Him; in one word, conform our whole life to the life of Christ; our essential occupation is to clothe ourselves in Jesus Christ”.
Saint Henry de Osso was an assiduous adorer of the Eucharist. From a very young age, he always made sure to have time for Mass and adoration in his daily schedule. He also made frequent visits to the Blessed Sacrament and recommended the same to others: “In visiting Jesus frequently, one learns to love him every day with more and more fervor. There, more than in any other place, the heart experiences that only God is enough.”.
He always received Communion when he was permitted to, normally once a week, since at that time it was not customary to receive Communion as frequently as we do now. He always prepared himself a few days before receiving Communion and afterwards he spent a while in thanksgiving. He trusted in the words of Saint Teresa of Jesus, who said that the moment of Communion was the moment of the “great negotiations” with the Lord. During his spiritual exercises, in his notes, we find this petition:
“[For] complete victory over my predominant passion, perseverance in the love of Jesus, the conversion of sinners, for the Pope and the other ministers of Jesus Christ, that they may all be holy and zealous”.
As a priest, he encouraged the faithful to have a great love for this special and important sacrament for our sanctification:
“In the other sacraments, God gives his grace to us; in this sacrament, God gives himself to us. For this reason, it is the summary of all the mysteries that his infinite mercy has known and given to us for the health and sanctification of men…Look at him in the Eucharist, offering himself day and night as victim to his Father, as nourishment and consoler of man.”
His faith in the Eucharist was so great that he said, “One communion well received is enough to make us saints.”
Saint Henry de Osso’s relationship with the Blessed Virgin Mary was that of a child with his mother. He often invoked her as the Immaculate, Virgin Mother or Queen of Heaven. He himself said to Our Lady: “Well do you know, O great Lady and Mother of mine, the devotion that I have professed to you since my childhood, and the special love of predilection that your Immaculate Mystery, admirable summary of all your glories, has caused in me.”
This love for the Mother of God led him to write several Marian devotionals, among them: “A Month in the School of Mary Immaculate", "Mary to the Heart of her Children” and “Novena to the Immaculate Conception of Mary,” in which he manifests the tenderness of his relation with her.
He nourished this love with his constant invocations, one of his favorites being: “Show that you are my Mother.” He practiced various Marian devotions, giving preference to the recitation of the holy Rosary, which he considered to be “the most pleasing prayer to Mary.”
He turned to her in all his needs, since he considered her to be the “aqueduct of divine graces.” He often went on pilgrimage to different Marian shrines to pray to her for various needs. His favorite shrine is that of Our Lady of Montserrat, in Cataluña (Spain). There he discovered his vocation to the priesthood and celebrated his first Mass.
From the book “15 Minutes of Prayer,” by Saint Henry de Osso:
“Through Mary’s yes, through her consent to be the Mother of God, the Son of God was made flesh in her most pure and virginal womb by work of the Holy Spirit; and the One who before was only God, then became True God and True Man, and Mary, without losing her virginity, was elevated to the almost infinite dignity of true Mother of God... Oh Most Blessed Virgin! How grateful we must be for your obedience to the orders of the Most High! Because of that obedience, you are Mother of God, and God is our brother, and you also are our Mother and Advocate because, although you were just our sister through the condition Adam’s nature, from this moment you are Mother of all of God’s sons and brothers of Jesus Christ.”
In Tarragona, Spain there are two main places of pilgrimage:
- Vinebre, where one can visit the house where Saint Henry de Osso was born, now converted into a museum;
- and Tortosa, where he studied in the seminary and began to form the Company. In this city, one can visit the house where he lived, the seminary, the church where he called the first young women to the Company, the first house of the Sisters of the Hermitage of Mig Camí, where he taught the catechism to the children. There is also the Novitiate of the Sisters, where the remains of the saint are conserved.
In Castellón, Spain there is the Hermitage of Saint Teresa in the so-called "Desert of the Palm Trees", a place where Saint Henry often withdrew to pray, read and write.
In Gilet, Valencia, Spain there is the Franciscan monastery "Sancti Spiritu" where the saint died. There you can visit his room and the place of his death.
By the saint:
Saint Henry had much apostolic initiative. His first publications arose from this zeal for souls. He began the newspaper “The People’s Friend” and the magazine “Saint Teresa of Jesus”. He also wrote several devotional and catechetical books. His books are mainly about prayer, devotion to Mary and to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Saint Teresa of Jesus and of catechetical topics.
One of his most widespread works is “15 Minutes of Prayer,” which includes meditations based on the spirituality of Saint Teresa of Jesus.
Some other works are: “The Spirit of Saint Teresa”, which is an eulogy of the Saint, “Treasure Chest for Children,” a book that teaches the children to pray, “Practical Manual for Catechists,” “Novena to the Immaculate Conception of Mary,” “A Month in the School of the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” “Letters about a Woman’s Education,” “Three Little Flowers to Our Lady of Monserrat,” etc.
There are also many letters and notes from his spiritual exercises.
From other authors:
- "The power of the priesthood: A life of Father Henry de Osso", by Marcelo Gonzalez Martin (1971).