Servant of God - Richard Friedl, SJ
Born: September 16, 1847
Died: February 27, 1917
Richard Friedl, the second of five children, was born in Spalato, Dalmatia (today’s Split, Croatia). In 1852 the family moved to Ragusa (today’s Dubrovnik) and there at the age of nine, Richard studied at the Jesuit school and became a member of our Lady’s sodality. When the family returned to Spalato in 1859, Richard continued his education in the public schools. As a result of a retreat he made in October 1862, he decided at the age of fifteen to enter the Society of Jesus and a month later left home for the novitiate at Verona, Italy. In a letter to his parents in the first week of his arrival, he told them that his happiness was so great that he gave “from Paradise” as his return address.
After he pronounced his three vows on November 13, 1864, he eagerly began his study of humanities. As the revolutionary-independence movement in Italy was gaining momentum, the Jesuit house at Verona was closed an the community moved to Feldkirch, Austria, in July 1866 but it returned to Italy and settled in Bolzano the following year. During Richard’s annual retreat from September 24 to October 2, 1869, he was blessed with an insight into the meaning of Jesus’ cross, an insight he preached for the remainder of his life. From 1869 he went to Bresanone, in the alps of northern Italy where he taught for six years and also stayed on the do his theology. When the college closed in 1876 he went to Laval, France, to finish his studies and was ordained to the priesthood on September 9, 1877.
His burning desire to serve as a missionary was granted him when he was selected to go to Mangalore, India. To prepare himself for this new apostolate he spent many months in 1878 in England, perfecting is English. But before his departure for India, he had to make his tertianship at Paray-le-Monial, France, where the holy Fr Pual Ginhac was the tertian instructor. During these period Fr Friedl perceived the meaning of Jesus’ cross with greater clarity and learned the true value of prayer. When his tertianship was over, Fr Friedl sadly learned that India was not for him. Instead his superior made him assistant to the novice master at Aux Alleux, near Laval, the novitiate of the exiled Jesuits. When these exiles were expelled by the French government on July 3, 1880, Fr Friedl and the novices went to Spain, arriving in Valencia ten days later. Shortly after arriving in Spain he was directed to go to the seminary in Zara (today’s Zadar, Croatia) where for the next seven years he devoted his time teaching in the classes but directing the seminarians to an active apostolate among Zara’s highlanders. He was appointed master of novices at Portore (now Kraljevica) in 1887 which was the start of his thirty years of leadership. When the novitiate was transferred to Soresino, near Cremona, Italy in 1894, Fr Friedl was appointed its rector.
Fr Friedl was made provincial in Oct 1896 of the Veneto Province of the Society of Jesus. After taking office he wrote a warm letter to the novices he left behind at Soresino saying:“ Be happy in the Lord, and to keep yourselves happy never deny our lord any sacrifice. No matter what he asks of you, do it happily. After several ter as provincial he was appointed rector and master of novices at Avigliana, the noviate of the Turin Province before becoming tertian instructor and rector of the tertianship at Sartirana della Brianza.
Fr Friedl remained in Florence; he was now seventy years old and the wound in his right leg had become cancerous. He fell ill on February 10, 1917 but the next morning he was able to celebrate his last Mass. When the attending physician told him there was no chance of recovery, Fr Friedl always resigned to the Divine Will, raised his eyes to heaven, then lowered them and said: “ The Lord’s Will be done.” On February 27, at 8.45 am, his breathing became more difficult, and resting his head on his right shoulder, he passed to heaven to receive the reward for a life well lived. His peaceful death reflected a statement he frequently repeated: “At the moment of death my consolation will be the remembrance of a life of perpetual sacrifice and of martyrdom because of the various offices I held.
In 1939 Fr Richard Friedl’s remains were brought to the Church of Good Counsel in Florence and his cause was introduced in Rome on December 10, 1943.