We commemorate today, February 26th, the Servant of God Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val, member of our Order of St. John of Jerusalem.
Rafael Merry del Val y Zulueta was born on 10 October 1865 in London, where his father was then Secretary of the Spanish Embassy. In his veins, given the different nationalities of his ancestors, flowed the blood of illustrious families of Ireland, Spain, England, Scotland and Holland.
From a very young age he had no doubts about his ecclesiastical vocation that Providence opened to him in a dazzling way: in charge of Papal Missions at the age of 22, with the title of “monsignor”, before even being ordained a priest; President of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy at the age of 34; Archbishop at the age of 35; Cardinal and Secretary of State at the age of 38, alongside a Pope –Saint Pius X– who has been a giant in the history of the Church!
Yet Raffaele Merry del Val followed this path out of obedience, not inclination: his dream had been to dedicate himself to the apostolate as it was summed up in the epigraph “Da mihi animas, coetera tolle” (give me souls, take everything else) that he wanted to be carved on his tombstone.
Almost at the end of his earthly life, closing a letter on October 28th, 1928 he wrote: “How fast the years have flown! … Forty years as a priest, twenty-eight as a Bishop and twenty-five as a Cardinal. How much my life has been different from the one I had hoped for and prayed for! May God’s will be done!”.
For eleven years he was Secretary of State of Pius X supporting the pontiff in all his battles, starting with the epic one against Modernism.
The Litany of humility that he recited daily, as well as the cilice he wore under the talal robe, were an expression of his deeply Catholic spirit that manifests itself in denying everything to oneself, to offer every greatness and every splendor to the Church, in perfect abandonment to Divine Providence.
He died suddenly in Rome on February 26th, 1930 from appendicitis and was buried in the Vatican. Rafael Merry del Val y Zulueta’s beatification cause was opened on February 26th, 1953.