General Audience of Pope Benedict XVI, 28 April 2010 – Saint Leonard Murialdo and Saint Joseph Benedict Cottolengo

Saint Leonard Murialdodetail of a painting of Saint Joseph Benedict Cottolengo; Agostino Cottolengo, c.1850; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsWe are approaching the conclusion of the Year for Priests and, in the last Wednesday of April, I would like to duplicate in their holy priests to God and the witness of charity, lived in the Church and for the Church with regard to their most needy brothers; Saint Leonard Murialdo and Saint Joseph Benedict Cottolengo. First, we commemorate the 110th anniversary of the death and the 40th anniversary of his canonization; the celebrations for the second centenary of the priestly ordination of the second just started.

Leonard Murialdo was born in Turin, 26 October 1828: the Turin of Saint John Bosco, Saint Joseph Cottolengo himself, a land fertilized by so many examples of holiness of laity and priests. Leonard was the eighth child of a poor family. Child, with his brother, he entered the college Piarist Fathers of Savona, and followed the elementary, middle and high school: he found educators trained in an atmosphere of religiosity based on serious catechesis with pious practices regular. As a teenager, however, he experienced a profound existential and spiritual crisis that led him to anticipate the return to the family and conclude his studies in Turin, enrolling in the biennial philosophy course. The “return to the light” occurred – as he says – a few months later, with the grace of a general confession in which he rediscovered the immense mercy of God; then it matures to 17 the decision to become a priest, as a loving response to God whose love had seized. He was ordained on 20 September 1851. It was at this time that, as a catechist of the Oratory of the Guardian Angel, Don Bosco met him, liked him and convinced him to accept the leadership of the new Oratory of Saint Louis in Porta Nuova, which he directed until 1865. There he was in contact with the serious problems of the poorest social classes, he visited their homes, maturing a profound social sensitivity, educational and apostolic which led him to spend independently to multiple initiatives for youth. Catechesis, school, recreational activities were the foundation of his educational method in the Oratory. Don Bosco tried again at his side during the audience granted by the Blessed Pius IX in 1858.

In 1873 he founded the Congregation of Saint Joseph, whose apostolic objective was, from the outset, the formation of youth, especially the poorest and most abandoned. The Turin context of the time was marked by intense bloom of works and charitable activities promoted by Leonardo Murialdo until his death on 30 March 1900.

I am pleased to note that the core of the spirituality of Leonard Murialdo is the conviction of the merciful love of God a Father always good, patient and generous, who reveals the grandeur and immensity of his mercy with forgiveness. This, in Saint Leonard made the experience not intellectual, but existential, through the living encounter with the Lord. He always considered himself a man touched by the grace of the Lord: wherefore he lived the joyous sense of gratitude to the Lord, serene awareness of his own limit, the burning desire of penance, the constant and generous commitment conversion. He saw all his existence not only illumined, guided, supported by this love, but continually immersed in the infinite mercy of God. He wrote in his Spiritual Testament: “Your mercy surrounds me, O Lord. As God is always and everywhere, so it is always and everywhere love, there is always and everywhere mercy.” Remembering the moment of crisis he had in his youth, he noted: “This is that God still wanted to shine his kindness and generosity quite singular Not only admitted me again in his. friendship, but he called me a favorite choice: he called me to the priesthood, and that only a few months after my return to him. “Saint Leonard so lived his priestly vocation as a free gift of the mercy of God with a sense of gratitude, joy and love. He wrote again: “God chose me he called me, he even forced me to the honor, the glory, the ineffable happiness of being his minister, of being” another Christ “. Where was I when you sought me, my God, the bottom of the abyss I was there, and that is where God came for me! there he made me hear his voice”.

Underlining the greatness of the mission of the priest who must “continue the work of redemption, the great work of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world Work”, that is to say, that of “saving souls” Saint Leonard always reminded himself and his colleagues, the responsibility of a life consistent with the sacrament received. Love of God and love for God: such was the strength of his way of holiness, the law of his priesthood, the deepest meaning of his apostolate among poor youth and the source of his prayer. Saint Leonard Murialdo abandoned himself with trust to Providence, generously doing the divine will, in touch with God and dedicating themselves to the poor youth. In this way, he joined contemplative silence to the tireless zeal of action, fidelity to the duties of each day with the brilliant character of its initiatives, strength in difficulties with the serenity of the mind. Such is the way of holiness to live the commandment of love for God and neighbor.

It is with the same spirit of charity has lived forty years before Leonardo Murialdo, Saint Joseph Benedict Cottolengo, founder of the work he called himself “Little House of Divine Providence” white today is also called “Cottolengo”. Next Sunday, during my pastoral visit to Turin, I will have the opportunity to venerate the mortal remains of the saint and meet the guests of the “Little House”.

Joseph Benedict Cottolengo was born in Bra, a small town in the province of Cuneo, 3 May 1786. The eldest of twelve children, six of whom died in infancy, he showed from childhood with great sensitivity towards the poor. He followed the path of the priesthood, also imitated by two of his brothers. The years of his youth were those of the Napoleonic adventure and challenges that followed in religious and social fields. Cottolengo became a good priest, sought after by many penitents and in the city of Turin at the time, the preacher of spiritual exercises and conferences for university students, with whom he still won a great success. At age 32, he was appointed canon of the Holy Trinity, a congregation of priests who was an officer task in the Church of Corpus Domini and give dignity to the religious ceremonies of the city, but this situation does not satisfy him. God was preparing him for a special mission and, precisely as a result of an unexpected and decisive meeting, he made ??him understand what would be his future destiny in the exercise of his ministry.

The Lord always puts signs on our path to guide us according to his will toward our true good. For Cottolengo this happened, dramatically, on Sunday morning, 2 September 1827. From Milan fuller diligence than ever arrived in Turin, where a French family piled whole, whose wife, with five children, was in an advanced state of pregnancy and with a high fever. After visiting several hospitals, this family found lodgings in a public dormitory, but the situation of women worsened and some people began looking for a priest. By a mysterious design, he crossed Cottolengo and it was precisely he who, heavy and oppressed heart, accompanied this young mother to death, surrounded by the despair of his family. Having accomplished this painful duty, heavy heart, he went before the Blessed Sacrament and raised this prayer: “My God, why Why did you want me to be a witness What do you want from me??? We must do something!”. Rising, he rang all the bells, made light the candles and welcoming the curious in the church, said: “Grace is made Grace is done!”. From that moment, Joseph Benedict Cottolengo was transformed: all his capabilities, particularly its talent management and organization were used to give birth to initiatives to support the most needy.

He knew how to enlist in his company dozens and dozens of collaborators and volunteers. Moving on the outskirts of Turin to expand his work, he created a sort of village, where every building he managed to build, he gave a meaningful name “household of faith”; “House of Hope”, “house of charity.” He put into action the style of “families”, constituting real communities of people, volunteers, men and women religious and lay people united to face and overcome all the difficulties that arose. Everyone in the Little House of Divine Providence had a precise task: that was working, praying, which was used, which instructed, which administered. The healthy and the sick shared the same weight daily. The religious life also became more specific over time, depending on the needs and special requirements. He also thought of a clean seminar for specific training of the priests of the Order. He was always ready to follow and serve Divine Providence, never to question. He said: “I am a good for nothing and I do not even know what I’m doing myself But Divine Providence certainly knows what she wants It remains for me to follow it Forward… in Domino “. For its poorest and most needy, he always define as the “maneuver of Divine Providence.”

Besides the small citadels, he wanted also found five monasteries of contemplative sisters and one of hermits, and considered them among his most important achievements: a kind of “heart” which was to fight for the whole Work. He died April 30, 1842, pronounced these words: “Misericordia, Domine; Misericordia, Domine. Happy and Holy Providence … Blessed Virgin, it is for you now. ” His life, as wrote a newspaper of the time, was “an intense day of love”.

Dear friends, these two holy priests, which I presented some traits, lived their ministry in the total gift of life to the poor, the needy, the last, always finding the deep roots, the inexhaustible source of their action in relationship with God, drawing from his love, in the profound conviction that it is not possible to exercise charity without living in Christ and in the Church. May their intercession and example continue to enlighten the ministry of many priests who spend generously for God and for the flock entrusted to them, and they all help to give with joy and generosity to God and neighbor.