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Catholic Heroes… Blessed Luigi Orione

March 6, 2018 saints No Comments

By CAROLE BRESLIN

Suffering, great persecutions, humiliations, obstacles to entering the religious life — all of these seem to be the lot of those destined to become saints. In fact, without these pains present in their lives, chances are that their causes for canonization would not proceed.
Why would someone want to become a saint if that is the path? Without the cross there is no salvation, but there is much more. Though saints may have been deprived of earthly pleasures, the joy they experience in knowing they are embracing God’s will for them, the graces our Lord bestows on them, and the fruits of their labors that they may live long enough to see, far surpass the pains endured.
Blessed Luigi Giovanni Orione was born on June 23, 1872 in Pontecurone, in the Diocese of Tortona, Italy. His family was a poor, devout, Catholic family who had Luigi baptized the very next day by Michele Cattaneo, the parish priest of Pontecurone. Luigi was named after St. Aloysius Gonzaga (1568-1591), who abandoned his inheritance to join the Jesuits, and then died at the age of 23 when he contracted an illness from those he was tending. (“Aloysius” is Latin for Aloysius de Gonzaga’s given name in Italian, which was Luigi.)
Luigi’s father, Vittorio, was a quiet laborer who worked as a street paver. His mother, Carolina, on the other hand was outgoing and energetic, working in the home where she managed it with great thrift and efficiency.
At the age of 13, Luigi entered the Franciscan Friary of Voghera in Pavia in 1855. In line with the experiences of many saints, ill health forced Luigi to leave after only one year. He returned home and after he recovered, he traveled 74 miles west to Turin where he entered the Valdocco Oratory run by the Salesians founded by John Bosco.
For three years he attended classes, prospering both academically and spiritually, and became one of the favorite students of John Bosco.
He visited John Bosco frequently, even though his health continued to give him problems and presented challenges to his completing his requirements. Nevertheless, as John Bosco was dying, Luigi kept a vigil with him, which resulted in Luigi being cured of all his ailments.
During his three years at the oratory, Luigi still longed to become a priest, never giving up on his hope. Now that his good health had been restored, Luigi prepared to pursue his fond quest. He applied and was accepted to the archdiocesan seminary in Turin. His success was evident by his academic performance as well as his outside activities. He joined the San Marziano Society for Mutual Hope as well as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
In keeping with the influence of St. John Bosco, Luigi opened an oratory to mentor and educate the young boys of Turin on July 3, 1892. He was only 20 years old at the time and had even missed some time in school because of his health.
A year later, since his first house was so successful, he opened another one in Tortona, Italy, on October 15, 1893 named the Little Work of Divine Providence. This also was a boarding school and home for poor boys.
During this time, he continued to prepare for the priesthood and finally realized his goal on April 13, 1895 when he was ordained. On the occasion of his Ordination the bishop also gave the clerical habit to six of the boys attending the boarding school. Then Fr. Orione opened more houses in the next few years in Mornico Losana and in Sicily at Noto. He also established one at Sanremo and another in Rome.
In 1899 he organized two new groups. One was the Hermits of Divine Providence, and the other was for seminarians and priests, who also wanted to help him with the work he was doing. On March 21, 1903 they received the full approval of Igino Bandi, the bishop, as a religious congregation calling themselves the Sons of Divine Providence. The Sons were men who sought to “cooperate to bring the little ones, the poor, and the people to the Church and to the Pope, by means of the works of charity.” Their fourth vow was faithfulness to the Pope.
One of the men in this original group of men was Lorenzo Perosi, a lifelong friend, who was the same age as Luigi. (Perosi later became the perpetual director of the Sistine Chapel Choir and one of the foremost composers of sacred music.)
In 1908 the Sons dedicated themselves to assisting the citizens of Messina, Sicily, and Reggio Calabria when they suffered from the destructive earthquakes. The Sons especially labored to help those children who were orphaned by the calamity. When Pope Pius X learned of the work the Sons were doing, the Pope appointed Fr. Orione to be vicar general of the Diocese of Messina for three years.
Seven years later another earthquake shook the foundations of Messina. Once again the Sons were there to help the people and Luigi saw the need for women religious to help care for the children. So he founded the Little Missionary Sisters of Charity in 1915. To support their work by prayer, he established the Blind Sisters, Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament. Not long after that he founded the Contemplative Sisters of Jesus Crucified.
Besides these two events, Fr. Orione was kept busy by sending missionaries to Brazil in 1913, Argentina and Uruguay in 1921, Palestine in 1921, Rhodes in 1925, the United States in 1934, England in 1935, and Albania in 1936.
Fr. Luigi seemed obsessed with the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, longing to solve the problems of his time: unity in the Church, modernism and socialism, as well as rescuing the industrial workers by evangelization. Realizing the laity was anxious to serve as well, Fr. Orione founded the Ladies of Divine Providence, the Former Pupils, and the Friends.
Perhaps his most unique accomplishment was the establishment of the Little Cottolengos. These were cottages built to care for those who were abandoned and suffering — usually found outside the large cities. He envisioned each of these homes as an oasis in the desert as a beacon of light in the midst of a darker secular civilization — the light of Christ.
Fr. Orione, a friend of the Pope and poor alike, found himself a trusting servant of the Holy See. To him Church officials entrusted several sensitive tasks of healing rifts both inside the Church and outside.
He enjoyed faith-filled celebrations by initiating pilgrimages, missions, and processions and live Nativity performances.
His love of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, led his disciples to build two shrines in her honor: Our Lady of Safe Keeping in Tortona and Our Lady of Caravaggio in Fumo.
In 1940, Luigi fell ill and was advised to travel to Sanremo despite his wishes to remain with his brothers, the poor and needy. He obediently went, but three days after his arrival, he died on March 12, 1940, saying, “Jesus, Jesus! I am going!”
Pope John Paul II on October 26, 1980 inscribed Don Luigi Orione in the Book of the Blessed.
Dear Fr. Orione, your zeal and love of Jesus led you to accomplish so much. Help us to love and give beyond what we find comfortable. Obtain for us the grace to give ourselves without counting the cost, especially during this time of Lent. It easy to give money, but how much better to give of our time and to utilize the gifts God has given us for the Kingdom. Amen.

+ + +

(Carole Breslin home-schooled her four daughters and served as treasurer of the Michigan Catholic Home Educators for eight years. For over ten years, she was national coordinator for the Marian Catechists, founded by Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)

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