- In relazione con...
- La Beatificazione
(July – December 2003)
by Fr. Francesco Pavese, IMC
16 July 2003
BLESSED JOSEPH ALLAMANO, PRAY FOR US
The 16th of July coincides with the memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. It will certainly be easy and pleasant for us to live this "day of our Founder" with a Marian spirit.
We know that Bd. Allamano used to refer to Carmelite spirituality fairly frequently, especially to the sound and profound thoughts of St. Teresa of Jesus and, sometimes, also to St. John of the Cross. From the point of view of ascetical living, he also promoted the "Sodality of Our Lady of Mount Carmel", whose members, if faithful to some religious practices, would be freed from Purgatory by Our Lady herself on the first Saturday after their death. In his conference of 14 July 1918, our Founder started with the following words: "Tuesday is the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Liturgically it is not a feast but, since you belong to her Sodality..., for you it is a feast. She will come to free you from Purgatory. But, in order to be freed, you must go there first; pray for the grace not to have to go to Purgatory" (MC Conf, II, 302).
In accordance with the above, for this day, in which we remember both Our Lady and our Founder, I suggest that, either personally or as communities, we pray a special prayer of clearly Marian inspiration, which, however, is addressed to our Founder. It is the "Litany to Bd. Joseph Allamano", composed by our confrere, Fr. Sandro Carminati.
The particular literary form of the Litanies, especially those to Our Lady, makes us think of a kind of prayer that is simple, easy, and for community use, coming from popular devotion. When we pray a Litany, it seems that, considering the exquisite titles we attribute to Our Lady, it is mostly the heart that speaks in us. Our Founder himself interpreted the Litany in this way. Here is what he once said, as he was explaining how to pray it: "So, be aware that now you must pray better, and especially with your minds and hearts (...). When we pray the Litany to Our Lady, why shouldn't we pay attention?!... When we say, 'Morning Star', why shouldn't we tell Our Lady, 'Mary, be my star'?; and the same with the other invocations" (MC Conf, III, 380).
On 16 July, then, with filial affection and in the form of a litany prayer, we may tell our Bd. Founder once again all the beautiful and exquisite things we think of him.
LITANY TO Bd. JOSEPH ALLAMANO
God, our Father, origin and source of every mission, have mercy on us
Lord Jesus Christ, the only Saviour of the world,
Holy Spirit, the protagonist of mission,
Our Lady Consolata, our most tender Mother and Star of Evangelization, pray for us
Blessed Joseph Allamano, pray for us
You have always done God's will, pray for us
You have constantly striven for holiness,
You have had a great love for the Holy Eucharist,
Affectionate son of Our Lady Consolata,
Worthy son of the Church,
Faithful in living and promoting the sacred Liturgy,
Priest, full of love for the Church and for the Pope, pray for us
Priest, rich in missionary zeal,
Priest, contemplative in action,
Teacher and educator of consciences, pray for us
Teacher and educator of priests,
Teacher and disciple of your missionaries,
Father of two Missionary Families, pray for us
Father of our life consecrated to mission,
Father of our mission of proclamation and consolation,
Father, persevering in doing well the good,
Father of goodness and humility with all,
Father, promoter of family spirit,
Father, untiring in energy and work,
Blessed Joseph Allamano,
obtain for us the spirit of prayer, of love, of meekness and of detachment,
so that our apostolic work may be ever more
"persevering, united and enlightened".
16 August 2003
"NUNC COEPI" (NOW I START):
IF I HAVEN'T DONE SO, I WILL DO SO
The 16th of August, our Founder's day, comes immediately after the solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady. Bd. Allamano would certainly help us to live this feast with fervour, as he used to do every year when he was in Torino or at the shrine of St. Ignatius. Usually the solemnity of the Assumption, as well as the one of the Ascension of Our Lord and the one of All Saints, was for our Father an occasion to think of Heaven, to celebrate a feast of Christian hope (cf. IMC Conf, III, 478). On the occasion of the Assumption in 1915, under the arcades of our Mother House, he blessed the statue of Our Lady which had to be enthroned in a special niche overlooking the main courtyard. This was to be a sign of encouragement: encouragement to live the time of recreation (usually spent in the courtyard) under the gaze of Mary, encouraged by her to be good: "Now, before you do something that may be wrong, look at Our Lady; if she tells you, 'yes, do it', go ahead and do it; if not...; even material things help" (IMC Conf, II, 336).
In this atmosphere of "trust in Mary", for our Founder's day in this month of August, I am proposing a reflection (which may become a personal or community meditation) on a theme which is familiar to us.
Bd. Allamano was formidable in educating people to hope, courage and perseverance, inviting them to never give up in the life of the spirit, which in daily life means to pick oneself up and start again after every failure. This is the characteristic attitude expressed by the title of this reflection: "Nunc coepi (Now I start)".
You are not saints
Bd. Allamano was realistic enough, so as not to delude himself in regard to the quality of his people, whom he knew as they really were; this helped him in his work as an educator. In fact, more than once, he led his missionary sons and daughters to become aware of their limitations; this was not done in order to discourage them, but to encourage them to become better. Here are some words of his, confidential and quite expressive:
"(...) when there is some weakness... even some sin (we are human), turn to the Blessed Sacrament" (IMC Conf, I, 284); " (...) I don’t believe that all of you are saints (said with conviction), and when you go to Africa, you will still be in this world... Our ‘ego’ always accompanies us" (MC Conf, I, 250, 252); "Are you progressing in virtue? Or are you proceeding like crabs (i.e., going backwards)?! Here I do not see any saint yet; if anyone thinks she is such, it is not true" (MC Conf, II, 8).
In the mind of Bd. Allamano, the above remark, uttered by a father who knew well and loved his sons and daughters, intended to be a springboard to launch ahead, not a wayside stone on which to sit. Bd. Allamano always and unceasingly proposed journeying towards holiness. This was so because he believed in the possibility of starting again, a belief founded on trust in God's help and on one's good will. He never allowed anybody to get discouraged and stop trying to get better. All that was required was to pick oneself up and start again every time as if it were the first time.
Now I start
Let's say right away that Bd. Allamano made use of verse 11 of Psalm 76 (77) as an educational means: "Et dixi: Nunc coepi: haec mutatio est dexterae Excelsi " [This was the Latin version in use at that time]; and he translated it as, "And I said, 'Now I start; this change is the work of the Most High's right hand'.” [The translation we now have in the Breviary is: "I said, ‘This is what causes my grief: that the way of the Most High has changed'."] The famous “Nunc coepi”, specifically used for encouraging, was taken by our Founder from the spirituality of St. Teresa of Jesus (of Avila). Determined as he was to never give up and always start again, he liked it very much. He went as far as saying, "Nunc coepi: you know that this is the motto of our Institute" (MC Conf, I, 361). Among the Consolata Missionaries it had become like a well-known refrain. Quite significant in this regard is a part of his Conference to the Consolata Sisters, held on 17 September 1916; the "four Sisters" (who used to take notes during his Conferences) noted the following: "Fr. Allamano said, ‘If you do not become holy here, in Africa you will decrease (in holiness); here you have graces falling upon you as plentiful rains, and you must give an account of them; therefore, Ego dixi...’ (and all the Sisters answered in unison as a choir): 'Nunc coepi!'." (MC Conf, I, 429-430).
Out of the very many expressions we all know, I quote here the Conference of 30 December 1906, in which Bd. Allamano was reflecting on the year that was ending and looking ahead at the new year: "St Teresa used to say, 'At times I renew a good resolution up to fifty times a day and, if I fail, terra dedit fructum suum: it is the fruit of my garden, and I start again with courage'. We must never lose heart" (IMC Conf, I, 140; cf. also 638, and II, 11). To show that our Founder persevered in this way of thinking, I now quote some later words of his, from a Conference to the Consolata Sisters, on 30 May 1920, which seem to me to be among the most significant "Have you fallen? Pick yourself up. St. Teresa used to say 'Nunc coepi' (Now I start) forty or fifty times a day; she asked pardon of Our Lord and said, 'Fruit of my garden: Lord, send some rain, so that something good may grow...'. Never get discouraged! The more we fall, the more we pick ourselves up and start again!" (MC Conf, III, 83).
Another aspect of our Bd. Founder's thinking on this subject may be found in another Conference to the Sisters, when he commented on the words of praise for Jesus from the crowd, as recorded in Mk 7:37: "bene omnia fecit" [he has done everything well]. We know how much this text was used (by Bd. Allamano) to educate his sons and daughters to strive for a kind of holiness that is simple, striven for, and achieved in the ordinary situations of daily life, according to the teaching of St. Joseph Cafasso. Also to this, Fr. Allamano used to add something of his own: an impetus for constancy, but without anxiety, with serenity, and always without losing heart: "Now let's ask ourselves, ‘How about me? Have I always done everything well? If I haven’t done so, I will do so’." (MC Conf, I, 418). We cannot hope for anything clearer than this!
16 September 2003
"IT WOULD BE BETTER TO SANCTIFY THE LIVING"
The above words are Bd. Allamano's. On a visiting card that had his name printed on it, and was sent to Fr. Ulderico Francesco Tiboni, of the Pious Schools, on 27 December 1917, our Founder wrote as follows: "[Fr. Allamano] cordially thanks the Rev. and dear Fr. Tiboni, and reciprocate his good wishes at the foot of O. L. Consolata; in a special way he prays for the fulfilment of his godly desires. He is consoled by the progress of the Cause [of Beatification] of our Venerable [Fr. J. Cafasso], but does not forget that it would be better to sanctify the living, rather than the dead. Courage in the Lord, and pray also for your dear friend in J.C. [Jesus Christ]" (Lettere, VII, 672). These words, the last of which are not so clear, could have a double meaning. They certainly express fervour and enthusiasm, as our Founder, in the fullness of his activity as a formator, is working to help his children be "first saints and then missionaries" by following Fr. Cafasso's spirituality. However, they could also denote some kind of weariness for a canonical Cause that, for many years, has been very demanding on him. But he did not give up; undaunted, he kept going with courage and hope, because he had a clear objective in his mind. In 1907 he had already confided to his young men, "I can say that I have introduced this Cause, not because of affection or family ties, but for the good that the exaltation of this man could bring about, so that those who will learn of his virtues may become good priests, good Christians, and you [may become] good missionaries" (IMC Conf, I, 192).
All of us ardently desire the canonization of our Founder, and we know that, at this time, all that is needed is an authentic miracle that may be approved by proper canonical proceedings. For our reflection on the 16th of this month, "our Founder's day", I am presenting the experience that he himself had when he was taking care of Fr. Cafasso's Cause. At the end, I am adding a prayer that could be used as the last intercession at Lauds or Vespers.
A "preoccupation" of Fr. Allamano
To say that our Founder was greatly interested in miracles for Fr. Cafasso's Cause, is the least we may say. I would dare say that he was even “preoccupied”, although this word is not the best for a man balanced and full of faith as he was. In at least 60 letters, especially those written to and received from the Postulator of the Cause, Mgr. Raffaele Virili, the matter of miracles is mentioned.
In 1902, Bd. Bartolo Longo, sending to our Founder a letter in favour of Fr. Cafasso's Cause, among other things wrote, "I have become convinced that, for the Causes of the Saints, what is mostly needed are evident miracles" (Lettere, III, 252). In 1906, the Postulator from Rome was insisting: "I am impatiently waiting for a report on the miracles of the Servant of God" (Lettere, IV, 485). The following year he wrote, "Tell your Venerable to start performing miracles, otherwise he might end up like Fr. Cottolengo" (Lettere, IV, 663). And in 1908, "Do not be preoccupied, as everything is proceeding properly. You should commit yourself, however, to obtain from the Venerable the two miracles required for the Beatification. This is the only serious preoccupation in regard to the Cause" (Lettere, V, 40).
A Father's confidences
Fr. Allamano was not indifferent to all these solicitations. In his letters, and especially in his talks to his missionary students, we find news, comments, and also the venting of his feelings in this regard. I am quoting some of them, so that he may be our model in this situation of ours, as we are waiting for a miracle obtained through his intercession.
In 1914, commenting on the fact that in Rome a doctor objected to a healing of a hernia, presented as one of Fr. Cafasso's miracles, Fr. Allamano said, "[...] we discussed, but that man of honour demands too much! Does he want, perhaps, that I cut off one of my arms...? This would not be a miracle; it would be tempting God. [...] See Bd. [Marguerite] Alacoque... Everybody would like to see her proclaimed a Saint; ... but the required miracles are missing... [...] She performed miracles during her life, but now she does so no longer" (IMC Conf, II, 114). In his conference of 15 February 1921, after having announced with evident joy the approval of the heroic virtues of Fr. Cafasso, he added, "[...] we still need to be patient! That holy man is hard-headed. He does not want to perform miracles: we have to remain in need of them! Perhaps he will perform them later on [...]. But, it is now we need them! [...] He thinks only of others, and does not think of himself." (IMC Conf, III, 537). Three days later he told the [Consolata] Sisters, "There are still the miracles to be approved. The doctors are sceptical about them: our Venerable must perform some of those to which they cannot object" (MC Conf, III, 213). A year later, while asking the Sisters to pray for a miracle, he expressed all his faith: "Pray Our Lady that she might give us this present. On the other hand, we will not lose our peace for this, if she chooses not to give it to us. Considering the fact that I am here [at the Consolata Shrine] as treasurer and secretary, I should have the right to receive her main favours; on the contrary... [...] However, you pray the Lord that his will be done: everything depends on this, you know..." (MC Conf, III, 436).
The last time that our Founder had to be concerned about miracles was after the Beatification of Fr. Cafasso, a few months before his death. On 17 May 1925, as he was telling his missionary students about the celebrations that had taken place in Rome, he confided to them the following: "Now they want to proclaim him Saint. The Cardinals in Rome are insisting: ‘in two or three years we will proclaim him Saint. But this is up to you: you have to obtain the required miracles’. This is good news. Ask for spiritual graces: these are the ones he likes best, and he willingly grants them. However, since these are not enough [for the canonization], ask also for material graces, especially miracles [...] (by making one novena after another, without getting tired); above all, ask for an authentic religious spirit" (IMC Conf, III, 723).
Here is what Bd. Allamano tells us to ask for:
"Merciful Father, your Son taught us that, if we ask you something in his name, you will grant it to us (cf Jn 16:23-24). With the confidence of children, in the name of Our Lord Jesus and through the intercession of Our Lady Consolata, we ask you the grace to grow evermore in the spirit that Bd. Joseph Allamano left us as an inheritance. We also ask you lo manifest his holiness in the Church, for your glory and for the spreading of your Kingdom of salvation over the whole world ".
16 October 2003
"LEARN FROM ME...!" (Mt 11:29)
Among the Saints most often quoted by our Founder, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque occupies a prominent position. This is probably due also to the development that the "devotion to the Sacred Heart" was undergoing at that time, a devotion that our Founder was promoting in our Institute. Bd. Allamano talked about this Saint in one of his conferences in 1910: "Today is the feast of a Saint [at that time still "Blessed"] totally devoted to the Sacred Heart. She did not invent this devotion, but actively promoted it, in spite of many difficulties" (IMC Conf, I, 349). He repeated again a similar expression in 1923: "The devotion to the Sacred Heart had to face many difficulties, but in the end it triumphed: it was not invented by St. Margaret Mary, but by Jesus himself when, on Calvary, he had his chest pierced by a spear" (IMC Conf, III, 686).
Today, 16th October, memorial day of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, and for us "Founder's day", we could spend some time in personal or community adoration, in accordance with the spirit of our Founder who used to say, "[on entering] the Chapel, give a look at the Tabernacle, where the Heart of Jesus is alive..:; then look also at the picture of the Sacred Heart" (IMC Conf, I, 349; cf. MC Conf, III, 437).
It is practically impossible to summarize our Founder's teaching on the Sacred Heart. It would take a very specific and quite extensive studying of it. I confine myself to offering some suggestions that may serve as inspirations for our prayer.
In the heart of Jesus I find peace
There is a long and good conference of our Founder, held on 25 June 1916, feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In it we find practically all his teaching on the Sacred Heart, a teaching that, however, was quite conditioned by the contingent theological "subtleties" of his time.
Alter having said that "all Saints cultivated this devotion", and that "they drew light and love from this source" (IMC Conf, III, 306), he dwelt upon the example of St. Augustine. Even if our Founder's explanation is extremely simple, proportionate to his audience, nonetheless I quote it, because it makes us understand the secret of his interior steadfastness, even in difficult moments, and of his firmness in always proposing the maximum to his students, without ever losing heart: "St. Augustine used to say those lovely words, 'when I am bothered by some temptation, I turn to our Lord's wounds (recurro ad vulnera Christi)'. Then what does he say? ‘Tuta requies in visceribus Salvatoris (a sure peace in our Saviour's viscera)’ [...]; tuta requies, which means that there we find peace. I place myself into our Lord's wounds, and let the devil do what he wants [...]; I am in the heart of Jesus" (IMC Conf, II, 614; cf. also MC Conf, I, 384-388; II, 606-609). Here is the secret of his life: our Founder lived in the Heart of Christ where, like the Saints he was quoting in this regard, he, too, found light and strength for himself and for us.
Jesus meek and humble in heart
Another suggestion for our prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament may be taken from the explanation that our Founder gave when he chose St. Margaret Mary Alacoque as our Patron Saint for the year 1919: "According to the custom of our Institute, I chose Bd. Margaret Mary Alacoque as your Patron Saint for this year, during which we hope she may be canonized. She was a strong woman, like St. Teresa [of Avila], to be truly imitated. With her [as protector] this year we should grow in devotion to the Sacred Heart. We shall exercise the virtue of meekness, according to the teaching of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 'Discite a me, quia mitis... [learn from me; I am meek...]' ...: meekness with ourselves and with our neighbour" (IMC Conf, III, 276-277; cf. also 11, 614615). Of this conference, in the volumes of our Founder's Conferences to his sons, we have only his own outline. However, we know what he told the Sisters, based on the same outline, as written by Sr. Carmela Forneris: "This year your Patron Saint will be Bd. Margaret Mary Alacoque. You should not imitate her ecstasies, but her obedience. This Saint did not perform extraordinary things, but lived in continuous union with God, and above all was very meek. She was staying for a very long time in front of the Blessed Sacrament and came to love the virtues of the Sacred Heart" (MC Conf, II, 462). As can be seen, the teaching and encouragement of our Founder was embracing several attitudes: habitual union with God; prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament; decision and perseverance in one's commitments; the good done well without looking for extraordinary things; obedience, meekness, and humility. The pre-eminent model of these virtues is Jesus himself. This is why our Founder invited to pray so as to acquire an "authentic devotion [to the Sacred Heart] which should not consist only in loving feelings for Jesus, but in the imitation of his virtues" (MC Conf, III, 77).
If Our Lord is not loved, let us love him ourselves
We know that our Founder renewed the consecration of our Institute to the Sacred Heart in 1917. On this occasion he insisted on the fact that it is up to us to love Our Lord on behalf of the whole humankind, without getting discouraged for the evils we see: "Some people are scandalized by the fact that Our Lord allows certain evils... Our Lord, on the contrary, is satisfied with a small group of Israelites for the whole world [...]; so, even now, other people's scandals and the small number ... should not discourage us; on the contrary, we should be full of fervour and, if Our Lord is not loved, we must love him ourselves: this is the purpose of the devotion to the Sacred Heart" (IMC Conf, III, 110). "Jesus asks love of us, ... to make up for those who do not love him" (IMC Conf, III, 687). "Behold the heart that has greatly loved men! With these words Our Lord makes known to us his love for us, and love demands love" (IMC Conf, II, 614). "Let us tell him that we want to love him ourselves, and to make him loved by many other people" (MC Conf, III, 438). A missionary's heart always feels responsible for all brothers and sisters, especially for those who do not love Our Lord, because they do not know him.
Jesus converts people's hearts
Our Founder found also a direct relationship between devotion to the Sacred Heart and our missionary vocation. On 7 November 1902, he explained the Act of Consecration of our Institute to the Sacred Heart as follows: "We who are like a mustard seed that, God willing, will grow into a tree and ... ; we who have as our purpose a goal so demanding, and so adverse to the devil; we certainly need to turn to the Divine Heart and consecrate ourselves to him, together with all the souls that Jesus in his goodness will give us to convert to him, to lead to the sheepfold of the Good Shepherd and, so, expand his kingdom: adveniat regnum tuum [your kingdom come]. With this consecration we undertake the duty to make a special profession of him, by honouring him ourselves and making him known and honoured by many unbelievers. Out of this I expect every good thing for our Institute, the coming of worthy confreres, their holiness, and apostolic ardour for the missions..." (IMC Conf, 1, 38; cf. also 349).
16 November 2003
"THESE ARE THINGS THAT WILL HAPPEN"
This year the 16th of November, our "Founder's day", is the XXXIII Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Word of God of the Eucharistic Liturgy helps us to reflect on the oncoming end of the Liturgical Year, as well as on the end of times. The Readings assigned for this year B (Deut 12:1-2; Heb 10:11-14; Mk 13:24-32) put greater emphasis on the end of times, a mystery that has always fascinated and intimidated humanity.
From a liturgical point of view, the month of November is also characterized by its reference to eschatology, as it begins with the Solemnity of All Saints and the Commemoration of All Souls. This is why it seems logical to me to allow our Founder to accompany us today along a journey that he himself travelled with great maturity: the journey of a person who knows with certainty that he, even if slowly, is approaching the end of his earthly life. The reflection, which I am proposing with the very words of our Founder, may be useful for us and, with some adaptations, also for the faithful who participate in our Sunday Masses.
The thought of death, not as the end of all but as the beginning of eternal life, has certainly been familiar to Bd. Allamano. And, during the last years of his life, his references to death assumed also the connotation of rest from the fatigues of this life.
"I tell you that this does me good"
I begin with an experience of our Founder, manifested by him in his Conference of 1 January 1916: "Let me tell you what I do. When I go to St. John's [the Cathedral] for the Choir [the Canons' Divine Office], along the way I meditate on death. I think that, if I still am at the Consolata Shrine [when I die], they will celebrate my funeral in the Cathedral [...]. Do you think that this thought bothers me? It does me good. One day I will pass through these same streets not walking on my two feet, but carried by others; so, I would like to walk along these streets in the best way. Then I think of what the people who will see me will say about me [...], both good and bad things. Then I arrive at the Cathedral. There is a statue of Our Lady there, which is the one I love most after O.L. Consolata, even if it is always the same person... I bow to the statue and I think that they will place me in front of her, and she will smile at me. Then they will carry me to the altar of the Blessed Sacrament. I hope that, on seeing me, Our Lord will be pleased and look at me. [...] I will be happy if Our Lord can tell me, 'Good; you always came here and prayed with faith. Now I will take care of you'. I tell you that this does me good. These are things that will happen" (IMC Conf, II, 464-465).
This "eschatological faith", expressed in very concrete terms by our Founder, has certainly been a great help to him. If we keep in mind that the above confidence was shared in 1916, when he was in the fullness of his activity as founder and educator, we must definitely say that the thought of the "last things" for him was not a brake at all; indeed it was like a spring that propelled him. His experience was that the meditation on these things, to express it with his own words, “was doing him good”.
During the last years of his life, Fr. Allamano used to refer to death more often than before. This "growth" toward eschatological realities is a clear sign of his spiritual maturation. There is no doubt that, as he grew older, he became more and more closely united to God and, in some way, was foretasting the eternal blessedness.
"I don’t worry about having to give an account"
The thought of having "to give an account" at God's tribunal was quite present to the spirit of our Founder. It was a motive for greater commitment, never for worry, and often for comfort. We may notice the seriousness and serenity of spirit with which on 21 January 1917 (his 66th birthday), he was talking to the students [in the Mother-House]: "Today I made my monthly Day of Recollection. Naturally, I thanked the Lord, and I begged him to be merciful to me when I will have to give an account of all the graces I received. I will have to give an account of many things! However, I don’t worry about having to give an account. I always did God's will; I have no doubt about that; therefore, 'Good Lord, you take care!' [...]. But, it is not up to me to praise myself; all we have to do is to thank the Lord" (IMC Conf, III, 34). He could say the same thing again a few months before dying, in a meeting at the Consolata Shrine, on 19 April 1925: "Within a short time I will have to face God's tribunal and give an account; but I will be able to say that I did my duty" (IMC Conf, III, 722). He had written the same thing to Mgr. Luigi Scassa, a Canon of Mantova and a benefactor of our missions, when responding to his good wishes for Christmas 1923: "Pray for me, for I am not far from the ‘redde rationem’ [giving an account]. ‘Fiat voluntas Dei’ [God's will be done]" (Lettere, IX/1, 722).
It is certain that, in regard to the time of his going to Heaven, our Founder preferred to trust God. His serenity was, without any doubt, the fruit of an unshakeable trust in God. On 18 March 1923, he had confided to the Sisters, "... I don’t want to die either one hour earlier or one hour later than the time Divine Providence has assigned to me, because I know that is the time that is best for me, and also for you" (MC Conf, III, 50).
"Paradise will repay everything"
Thinking about Paradise was also habitual to Fr. Allamano. A curious reflection of his is the one shared with the youngest students [at the Mother-House] on the occasion of his 45th Anniversary of Ordination. After having made a general calculation of the number of Masses celebrated by him up to that day, he said, "Do you see how many Masses I have celebrated? And you, would you like to celebrate many of them? ... And I hope to celebrate more Masses; then, in Paradise it will be a continuous Mass" (IMC Conf, III, 232). Once he comforted Fr. Domenico Ferrero [IMC] who was undergoing certain sufferings by saying, "Courage! After the pains, the Lord gives us many consolations. Then, Paradise will repay everything abundantly" (Lettere, IX/1, 107). And we could quote very many other similar references of his to Paradise.
As time goes by and difficulties increase, Fr. Allamano thinks more often of Paradise, in order to find strength and comfort, but he does not curtail any of his commitments. In 1923 he wrote to his Missionary Sisters in Kenya, "After the death of our dear Vice-Rector [Father Camisassa], I am burdened with a lot of responsibilities which, due to my weak health, exhaust me; if it were not for you, I would more intensely desire the rest of Paradise. But, God's Holy Will be done!" (Lettere, IX/1, 40). And he concluded his letter to his missionary sons and daughters on 11 May 1925, after the Beatification of Fr. Cafasso, in this way: "Pray to him also for me, so that our new Blessed may obtain that I terminate well my life and work and, when the time comes, and I may be united with him in Paradise" (Lettere, X, 285).
This was his final desire: to continue caring about us also when in Paradise. We know [the words of] his testament "[...] and I hope that by dying I may become your protector from Heaven". Our experience tells us that our Father's hope did not remain vain.
16 December 2003
"IT IS A NOVENA OF THE HEART"
This year we may ask our Founder to accompany us to the solemnity of Christmas. The 16th of December, our "Founder's Day", marks in fact the beginning of the Christmas Novena. It certainly is a providential coincidence, which we do not want to overlook. In this contribution of mine, which is the last one of this series, I am offering some reflections on Advent and on the Christmas Novena, together with some of our Founder's suggestions on how to live these days intensely. We may use them for our meditation on this day [16 December], or distribute them, one for each day of the Novena.
"Let's prepare for the coming of the Lord"
According to Bd. Allamano, who was using a simple language when speaking, Advent was "a long Novena in preparation for Christmas" (IMC Conf, I, 354), or "the longest Novena" (IMC Conf, II, 123). This connecting the whole of Advent with the Novena is interesting: an intense liturgical season likened to an expression of popular devotion, which traditionally was, and is, an immediate preparation for the solemnity of Christmas. But, it is precisely the idea of preparation for the Lord's coming that our Founder saw as important for the formation of his sons and daughters. All of his teaching on Advent, in fact, is centred on this idea of "preparation": "The Church urges us to prepare ourselves, and begs the Lord to come" (IMC Conf, III, 703).
Our Founder noticed that the Liturgy expresses a "crescendo" [an increase in intensity] in preparing for Christmas. In his outline for the Conference of 14 December 1904, he wrote this note as a reminder for himself: "Remark on the progressive increase in fervour!", and later he wrote, "During the Novena the Church grows [...]. And we?" (IMC Conf, I, 76).
With the Patriarchs and the Prophets
The invocations of the Patriarchs and the Prophets that are repeated throughout the whole of Advent aim to "prepare out hearts for our Lord's coming into them [...]. We must prepare, spur out hearts to love" (IMC Conf, II, 123). What stands out in our Founder's teaching on Advent is the ability to re-live and make one's own the "sighing" of the Patriarchs and Prophets for the coming of the Messiah, which becomes the sighing of the Church (cf. IMC Conf, III, 703). Let's listen to his words: “We must prepare by means of the "sighs" of the Patriarchs and Prophets who ardently sighed for this coming. We must prepare ourselves so that the Baby [Jesus] may be born in our hearts" (MC Conf, 11; 429).
He was using the Texts proposed by the Liturgy: "Excita potentiam... Excita corda... Aurem tuam... excita ... et magna virtute... [Rouse your power... Spur out hearts... Open your ear... and with great power...]" (IMC Conf, I, 76; cf. also II, 123). For our Founder, these expressions became sources of personal prayer and short invocations: "How many lovely invocations we may use! Veni, Domine... Utinam... [Come, Lord... Oh that...]. Oh, that heaven may open and you, O Lord, come down" (MC Conf, III, 334).
A model "in love with the Baby [Jesus]"
In this context I'd like to mention a model, a Saint who lived well Advent and Christmas and who was dear to our Founder. In the outline of the above mentioned Conference of 1904, there is the following sentence: "The Saints used to celebrate this Novena with ardour; for instance, St. Francis of Assisi" (IMC Conf, 1, 76). And in his Conference of 9 December 1923, he said, "Look at St. Francis of Assisi: he was moved to tears in front of the Baby Jesus" (IMC Conf, III, 704). Even if the meaning of this sentence is not very clear, it seems that Bd. Allamano admired St. Francis for the intensity of his affection for the Baby Jesus. Hence, he used to emphasize the vital dimension, the one which affects the deepest level of a person's interiority in his/her relationship with God. In fact, on 15 December 1915, he told the [Consolata] Sisters, "St. Francis of Assisi was in love with the Baby [Jesus]. He, too, was born in a stable" (MC Conf, I, 225: cf. also II, 455).
We are, therefore, in the context of the "heart". Here is what our Founder told the Sisters on 16 December 1917: "St. Augustine said that [Jesus] wanted to be born as a little and very tender baby because he wanted to be loved. For this feast we do not need our heads, but the whole of our hearts; we need affection, not our minds" (MC Conf, II, 195; cf. also 455). And on 17 December 1922 [he said], "[...] it is a Novena of the heart... He who does not think that this Novena is important, has no heart" (MC Conf, III, 489).
With Mary's heart
Here is how our Founder imagined the heart of Mary who was lovingly waiting for her Son: "[...] Those who do not feel this love, should ask Jesus himself for it, through the intercession of the B. V. Mary, who was all aglow with love as she was waiting for her Jesus" (MC Conf, II, 455456).
Our Christmas will be as we prepare it. This was a deep conviction of our Founder, expressed very many times: "Jesus will come into us with His graces in proportion to our preparation and desire..." (MC Conf, I, 95; cf. also 1, 354). "Our Lord comes into all hearts that desire him, not in those that are indifferent; the more he is desired, the more he comes with an abundance of his graces" (MC Conf, III, 333; cf. also 335, 336, 493). "Therefore, we must desire to receive the Baby [Jesus], with all his graces. He comes with his hands full [of graces] and gives them to us in proportion to our preparation" (MC Conf, II, 441).
To conclude, I would like to mention a rather curious happening: on 22 December 1918, after having given the [Consolata] Sisters a prayer card with the Nativity scene printed on it, our Founder made this comment: “Do you see? There is an angel here [on the card] who offers three little doves to the Baby Jesus...” Some Sisters said, "Father, the dove that is nearest to Jesus is you". But he answered, "No; I am that one there...", and he indicated the star that was shining over the manger (cf. MC Conf, II, 449). Our Founder is the star that accompanies us to Christmas 2003.