St Joseph and Religious Institutes
Bl. Luigi Guanella, SC*
St Joseph's Feast Day celebrated on 19 March
The following is a reflection on St Joseph and religious institutes was written by Bl. Luigi Guanella, who will be canonized on 23 October 2011. The words of the future Saint, the Founder of the Servants of Charity and the Daughters of St Mary of Providence, were published in the Bulletin of his religious family, "La Divina Providenza", more than a century ago, in March 1900 (Vol. II, pp. 17-19).
The Supreme Pontiff, Pius IX, who it is hoped will one day be raised to the honour of the altars, wished the devotion to St Joseph to be extended and declared the most pure Spouse of the Immaculate Virgin Patriarch and Patron of the universal Church.
Glorious Leo XIII — lumen de coelo — wishing to seal worthily his Predecessor's Decree proclaimed St Joseph Patron not only of Christian families but also of all religious institutes.
With this eminent act of wisdom and piety, the august Vicar of Christ glorified the Patriarch and natural Head of the Holy Family, recognizing in him the lofty authority that he exercised over Mary Most Holy and over the Son of Mary and Son of God; but at the same time he secured from it the most powerful Patronage for these great families, for these charitable houses that were not born of blood but of charity. Without divine help they would pitifully fall into ruin.
May the Patronage of St Joseph transform pious institutes and especially the various Houses of Divine Providence into welcoming hearths, beacons of light, and grant that all the virtues inspired by the shining example of the Holy Family may radiate from them.
However God, who created man without man, does not want to save him without his cooperation, according to a fine sentence of St Augustine; so in order that our Houses feel the full benefit of having as their Head and Patron the Head and Patron of the Family of Nazareth, they must show they are worthy by recognizing this very high privilege, by invoking him continuously, and making sure they do not fail to deserve it.
Let us turn with holy confidence to the glorious St Joseph, let us present to him our spiritual and temporal needs and not fear even for an instant that he might exercise his patronage weakly. Will he, the great Saint whom Jesus and Mary obeyed, who provided Jesus and Mary with their daily bread, be invoked in vain? No: not without a profound mystery of mercy, in this century the figure of the glorious Patriarch stands out and shines with new light, as the Head of Christian families, as the Head of religious institutes.
Let us give thanks to the august and venerable Pope at the Vatican who deigned to give us a most effective help in the hour of need. Let us always pray for him whose fatherly heart beats especially for the destitute, whose human dignity was even denied by the ancient civilization and to whom the modern civilization without God offers only contempt.
Praise be to Heaven! St Joseph, although he was of royal lineage, was very poor and by the sweat of his brow had to earn a living not for himself alone but for his Spouse and his Son, even though he was the Son of the Most High. May St Joseph, therefore, encourage us and our poor in the sorrowful trials of neediness and always help us to become those poor, the model so beloved by Jesus.
Let us not tire of repeating it. Let us place our full trust in the Holy Family presented to us by the Holy Father as an example, a comfort, and when we are overcome by neediness or sorrow and feel in need of a powerful voice to intercede for us to the Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary, let us turn confidently to St Joseph and he, who so often experienced the anguish of the humiliations inherent in poverty, will make our powerful Advocate and Father hear us.
Our House in Belgioioso is especially dedicated to St Joseph. Giuseppe Garibaldi once stayed there; today it is our poor who await Providence there. May glorious St Joseph make that house a hearth of the Christian civilization which, consisting of faith and charity, gives his followers on earth a foretaste of the peace reserved for the elect in Heaven.
In each one of the churches dependent on the Work of Divine Providence, the devotion to St Joseph predominates. We dedicate one day to him each week — Wednesday; one day each month — the 19th; and one month each year —March.
Oh yes! The month of March is particularly consecrated to St Joseph with special prayers and preaching; but what is highly recommended for the good of our Houses is that those who live there and the superiors succeed with all their zeal in honouring the great Patriarch with the exercise of virtue and with full conformity to the divine will. What kind of a Christian is the one who, dissatisfied with his own condition, complains about it, rebels or envies others?
Among our residents there are many who are chronically sick and invalids, and death, the implacable executioner is a frequent visitor to our Houses. Do we not also wish in this regard to cherish the protection of St Joseph, the powerful protector of the dying? Let us thank the Lord with open arms who has almost always given our Sisters, our Priests and our nurses the edifying example of sick people who die resigned, even smiling, with the names of Jesus, Mary and Joseph on their lips! Ah! May no one among us ever die without the comfort of St Joseph!
O Holy Joseph help each and every one of our residents, especially at the hour of death; but do not forget, we implore you, our dear benefactors. Watch over their souls and their bodies, protect their families and reward them a hundredfold for what they do for us. You know, O beloved Saint, that every day we and our patients pray to you and that we shall never cease to pray for them; grant us our warm prayers and grant that all who come to our aid may prosper and pour out Blessings on their concerns and their families!
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*Bl. Luigi Guanella, SC
Luigi Guanella was born in Fraciscio, a small village in the Italian Alps, on 19 December 1842. His father Lorenzo was Mayor of Campodolcino; his mother was Maria Bianchi; Luigi was the ninth of 13 children.
When he was 12, Luigi was sent to Collegio Gallio in Como and then to the diocesan seminary. He always showed an interest in the poor, children, the elderly and the sick. Not for nothing did he make soup for the poor", playing with his sister Caterina as a child! He was ordained a priest on 26 May 1866. After spending three years as a Salesian with Don Bosco and working in various parishes, in 1881 Fr Guanella founded the Congregation of the Daughters of St Mary of Providence in Pianello Lario. With them he opened the House of Divine Providence in Como in 1886. Fr Guanella also founded the Servants of Charity, a congregationof priests and brothers who serve disabled people with special needs and the poor. Fr Guanella and the first Servants of Charity publicly professed their vows on 24 March 1908.
His Work spread to the Province of Milan (1891), to Pavia, to Sondrio, to Rovigo, to Rome (1903), to Cosenza, to Switzerland and to the U.S. (1912), under the patronage of Pope St Pius x. In Rome he built the Church of San Giuseppe al Trionfale in honour of St Joseph. His homes were humane, with a family spirit. He advocated penance, prayer, work and sacrifice for the mission of charity, with a style marked by simplicity, tolerance, compassion and joyful hope. He had indomitable determination.
Luigi Guanella died in Como on 24 October 1915. He was beatified by Paul VI on 25 October 1964. Today his spiritual sons and daughters are present in Italy, Switzerland, Poland, Romania, Spain, Israel, India, the Philippines, Canada, U.S., Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Chile, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Nigeria, Ghana and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Weekly Edition in English
16 March 2011, page 9
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