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As a Passionist, Vincent Strambi was a man of prayer and community observance. He was also a zealous and effective missionary preacher. He helped to develop the methodology for Passionist missionary preaching and also exercised roles of authority and leadership in the congregation. As biographer of the founder he did much to preserve St. Paul’s spirit for future generations.
Vincent Strambi was born in Civitavecchia, the port city of Rome. On January 1, 1745. Father Paul (St. Paul of the Cross) had already opened three monasteries and received the first papal approval. Vincent was an only child, the joy of his parents. As a lad he had been educated by the Franciscans. When he was fifteen he begged his parents to allow him to enter the clerical state. His father granted this permission. Vincent received clerical “tonsure” and entered the seminary at nearby Montefiascone (November 1762).
Two years later he decided to continue his studies, not in the seminary, but in Rome. There he attended lectures on sacred eloquence or preaching. The following year he went to the Dominican house of studies in Viterbo to study theology.
He was ordained a deacon in 1767, and in 1768 he decided to join Father Paul’s community. He went to the novitiate on Monte Argentaro and took his vows a year later. Father Vincent had just six years to absorb the spirit of the congregation from St. Paul. He was sent to Vetralla for two further years of scripture study and sermon writing.
A Spirit of Holiness
In 1773 Father Paul put the former seminary prefect and rector in charge of the training of the young students for future missionary preaching at the newly acquired monastery of Sts. John and Paul in Rome. Eventually Father Vincent would write a manual on Sacred Eloquence.
In this way Father Vincent was able to be with St. Paul during the final years of his life. Paul saw in this young man the apostolic spirit of holiness he was bequeathing to his congregation. We are told that as he was dying St. Paul one day turned to Father Vincent Mary and told him he was entrusting the congregation to his care.
Vincent, like the others, missed the founder very much as he continued to prepare young Passionists for the missionary apostolate. He also went forth to preach missions as often as possible.
In 1780 he became rector of the Community of Sts. John and Paul. In 1781 he was elected provincial. He also served as provincial and general consultor. During this time that he published a biography of the founder. Father Vincent used the testimonies of eye-witnesses as given in the canonization processes. It is said that he wrote the life of St. Paul on his knees, out of reverence for the founder. His “Life” of Father Paul became a classic and was greeted with enthusiasm by many.
As the Vatican Council has reminded us, God calls Christians from both the lay and clerical states to the religious life. Father Vincent Strambi came to the Passionists as a priest who had been formed and educated in a small Tridentine seminary of that period, but who had also experienced university life in Rome and Viterbo. But even more he had shown the talent for teaching and training other young men for the priesthood. These talents and experiences he brought to the congregation at the critical period following the death of the founder and throughout the Napoleonic revolutionary suppressions and during the restoration.
Eventually appointed to bishop, Strambi was loyal to the pope and Holy See. He was a true pastor of souls, and not involved in political matters unless forced by circumstances of the times. He brought to the episcopacy a spirituality of prayer, prudence, and pastoral dedication.