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Home > Mezzofanti > Biography > 1843-1849 > House of Catechumen

Another religious institution to which he devoted a good deal of his time was the House of Catechumens, of which, as has already been stated, he was Cardinal Protector. When M. Manavit was in Rome the inmates of this establishment, then in preparation for baptism, were between thirty and forty, several of whom were Moors or natives of Algeria; and there are few who will not cordially agree with him in looking upon "the modest Cardinal, catechism in hand, in the midst of this humble flock, as a nobler picture, more truly worthy of admiration, than delivering his most learned dissertation on the Vedas to the most brilliant company that ever assembled in the halls of the Propaganda."

In this, and in more than one other charitable institution of Rome, the Cardinal took especial delight in assisting at the First Communion of the young inmates ; and, from the simple fervour of his manner and the genuine truthfulness of his piety, he was most happy and effective in the little half hortatory, half ejaculatory discourses, called Fervorini, which in Rome ordinarily, on occasions of a First Communion, precede the actual administration of the sacrament.

M. Manavit adds that, even after Mezzofanti became cardinal, his old character of Confessario dei Forestieri ("Foreigners' Confessor") was by no means a sinecure. To many of the Polish exiles, clergy and laity, who visited or settled in Rome, he acted as director, especially after Father Ryllo's departure to Africa.' He was equally accessible to low and high degree. M. Mouravief (the Russian traveller already cited) mentions an instance in which, having heard of a poor servant maid, a young Russian girl, who desired to be received into the Church, he paid her repeated visits, instructed her in the catechism, and himself completed in person every part of her preparation for the sacraments.

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