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Home > Mezzofanti > Biography > 1843-1849 > Sickness

Nevertheless, although, personally, Cardinal Mezzofanti suffered no molestation, the alarm and anxiety inseparable from such a time, could not fail to tell upon a constitution, at no time robust, and of late years much enfeebled. From the beginning of the year 1849, his strength began sensibly to diminish. It was characteristic of the man that even all the terrors of the period could not make him forget his favourite festival of the Epiphany; and that, among the numberless more deplorable changes which surrounded him, he still had a regret for the absence of the accustomed Polyglot Academy of the Propaganda. Before the middle of January he became so weak, that it was with the utmost difficulty he was able to say mass in his private chapel. While he was in this state of extreme debility, he was seized with an alarming attack of pleurisy; and although the acute symptoms were so far relieved at the end of January, that his family entertained sanguine hopes of his recovery, this illness was followed, in the early part of February, by an attack of gastric fever, by which the slender remains of his strength were speedily exhausted. The venerable sufferer at once became sensible of his condition. From the very first intimation of his danger, he had commenced his preparation for death, with all the calm and simple piety which had chara¬terised his life. In accordance with one of our beautiful Catholic customs—at once most holy in themselves, and an admirable help even to the sublimest piety—he at once entered upon a Novena, or nine days' devotion, to St. Joseph; who, as, according to an old tradition, his own eyes were closed in death by the blessed hands of his divine Saviour, has been adopted by Catholic usage as the Patron of the Dying, and who was besides the name-saint and especial Patron of the Cardinal himself. In these pious exercises he was accompanied by his chaplain, by his nephews, Gaetano and Pietro, and above all, by his niece, Anna, who was most tenderly attached to him, and was inconsolable at the prospect of his death. He himself fixed the time for receiving the Holy Viaticum and the Extreme Unction. They were administered by Padre Ligi, parish priest of the Church of SS. Apostoli, assisted by the Cardinal's chaplain, and by his confessor, Padre Proja, now Sacristan of St. Peter's. The chaplain and the members of his family frequently assembled at his bed-side, to accompany and assist him in his dying devotions j and the intervals between these common prayers, in which all alike took part, were filled up with pious readings by Anna Minarelli, and with short prayers of the holy Cardinal himself. " Dio mio I abbiate pieta di me !" " My God, have mercy on me !"—was his ever recurring ejaculation, mingled occasionally with prayers for the exiled Pontiff, for the welfare of his widowed Church, and for the peace of his distracted country. "Abbiate pieta delta Chiesa! Preghiamo per lei !"

By degrees he became too feeble to maintain his attention through a long prayer ; but even still, with that deeply reverent spirit which had always distinguished him, he would not suffer the prayer to be abruptly terminated. " Terminiamo con un Gloria Patri," "Let us finish with a Gloria Patri:"—he would say, when he found himself unable longer to attend to the Litany of the Dying, or the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin. But in a short time he would again summon them to resume their devotion.

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