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25 October 1964: the beatification of Don Guanella

by Angelo Forti

«Small things sway in the large space of the heart; but only great things stop there and take up residence." Paul VI is in the hearts of many and we Guanellians have engraved his presence in the soul for the many circumstances that brought glory to our holy founder and for the reflections and his sensitivity towards the world of the derelict, the wounded of life. The year following his election to govern the universal Church, he gave the poor the charisma of a champion of charity, a mirror image of the very face of Christ, the Good Samaritan of humanity.

Of Lombard origin, Giovanni Battista Montini certainly knew the figure of Don Luigi Guanella in his youth. When Don Guanella died, Montini was 18 years old and was in the process of discerning his priestly vocation. His father, a man involved in journalism and political life, will certainly have spoken and written about it. In his youthful enthusiasm Don Guanella, father of the poor, had certainly fascinated him and had offered a model of holiness for his call to the priesthood.

The whole Church has great admiration for the servant of God Paul VI. The merit of a man who led the Church during the Second Vatican Council will be discovered by historians, but the great significance of the conciliar intuitions is part of the fabric of the daily life of every believer.

The work Don Guanella has reasons for extraordinary gratitude first of all for the beatification of Don Guanella which took place under his pontificate on 25 October 1964, but already previously in his life as archbishop in Milan where he had entrusted the parish of San Gaetano in Milan to the Guanellians via Mac Mahon during the years spent in the Lombard capital as archbishop.

During his pontificate he had a silent and hidden figure at his side in Don Attilio Beria, a Guanellian, as librarian of his personal library. He reserved a great privilege for the Guanellian Work on 8 December 1965 at the closing of the Council, when he delivered the message of the Council Fathers to a "hospital" in the "citadel of Guanellian charity" in Rome. «You feel the weight of the cross more gravely, the message said, you who are poor and abandoned, you who cry, you who are persecuted for justice, you who are silent and are the unknown ones of pain, take courage again: you are the favorites of the Kingdom of God. [...] Know that you are not alone, nor abandoned, nor useless: you are called to be the transparent image of Christ."

But there is a particular reason why we celebrate the fifty years of the election of Pope Montini to govern the Church of Christ, it is the fact that Paul VI inscribed the name of Don Luigi Guanella in the list of the blessed. But the particular reason for celebrating the fifty years of his election is the canonization of Blessed Luigi Guanella.

On that occasion Paul VI traced a profile of the life of the new blessed and "the key" to a skein of good done by Don Guanella remained in the collective memory. The key with which Don Luigi built a world of good was to truly be a servant of charity, a servant of the flesh of the risen Jesus present in the flesh of the poor. In every initiative of his he repeated like a refrain “it is God who does. It is God who does." The origin of love, in fact, is in God. When we distance ourselves from the roar of this source, we lose the meaning of our action, our perseverance in doing good towards our neighbor weakens and we run the risk of falling into presumption to be ourselves "the source of justice towards others".

Don Guanella was aware of being a craftsman of love at the service of the suffering so that even the groan of suffering came out as a sobbing echo of a blessing. The soul of every project of Saint Luigi Guanella was the testimony of the charity of God who has always loved us. He, like the wind that fills the sails, pushes the boat of our life to help the shipwrecked of life.

Pope Francis speaking to the priests of Rome said that it is necessary for a priest to bring "the smell of sheep" into his life. This "smell" means experiencing the bitter taste of tears, the liberating joy of a shared smile, the escape from desolation and solitude and being authentic companions of orphans of affection and esteem.

The day before the beatification, Paul VI had proclaimed Saint Benedict the Patron Saint of all Europe, pointing to him as a "herald of peace", a peace that has its foundation in the essential binary of Christian life: "Ora et labora". Prayer and work are instruments of a pacifying relationship between man and God and between people. The slogan that Don Guanella left as a legacy to the followers of his charisma is: "Pray and suffer". Praying is the implementation of the daily awareness that it is "God who does" and "suffering" is the arms animated by faith, which work to eliminate, where possible, the causes of evil and give everyone reasons for hope that they have the roots in sharing animated by a luminous and transfiguring compassion.

Paul VI ended his speech on the day of his canonization with these exact words: «the social aspect of the blessed would deserve its true panegyric here; but this is done by his children and his admirers; his works do it with the eloquence of facts and figures. It is enough for us to gather the first thread of this whole wonderful story of charity working in mercy; and finding it, that thread, knotted at its starting point, as at the source of the supernatural energy that runs through it all: "it is God who does!" Isn't he handsome? Isn't that wonderful?"

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