The Holiness of the Church in the Nineteenth Century – Andrew Beltrami

Venerable Andrea BeltramiPrayer and suffering made a saint of a young member of the Salesian Society, the servant of God, Andrew Beltrami. “Mary, rather take my child to thyself than that he become wicked/’ the pious mother of Beltrami used to pray. Mary accepted the boy commended to her care, but not before he had admirably accomplished the purpose of his life. While he was at the public school of Omegna at the northern end of Lake Orta, Piedmont, where he was born on 24 June 1870, it was feared that frivolity would get the upper hand. But this danger was averted when the lively and highly-gifted boy was sent to the Salesian institution at Lanzo. The supernatural element in education which the admirable sons of Don Bosco know how to instil so well, enabled him to master his flightiness. Frequent reception of the Sacraments and the awakening of the spirit of self-sacrifice in well-doing effected in Beltrami a noble development of all the best traits of his character. He was soon a great help to his superiors in the work of education. He particularly endeavored to win and reconcile discontented youths, of whom there are always some to be found in every institution. On days of vacation he found ways and means of practising apostolic work. Through his endeavors a Catholic public library was established in his native town.

After completing his college course Beltrami entered the Salesian novitiate at Foglizzo, but before he finished he had contracted an incurable disease of the lungs. It seemed his gift from Providence to become a model for the sick. For seven years he was to languish in sickness, yet he had strength enough to be ordained and to say Mass every day until his death on 3 December 1897. But they were not useless or unhappy years for him. He published no less than twelve popular ascetical works and there were others ready when he died. One of the latter was a treatise on sickness, in three parts: Sickness in the plan of Divine Providence; The Temptations of the Sick; The Apostleship of Sickness. Beltrami derived from his sufferings all the benefit God designs them to bestow. He rejoiced in his sickness as a special grace. In his notes he says: “The chains with which I am bound to my room are dearer to me than the necklaces of princes, and I kiss them as precious jewels. At the end of February I celebrated for three days the fifth anniversary of my illness. I said the Te Deum, Benedicite, Laudate Dominant, and Agimus tibi Gratias to thank God for having deigned to make me share in the sufferings of His Son. Within my little room, where there is nothing of the world, but a foretaste of heaven instead, I am the happiest man in the world.” “To die and to be made whole? No, but to live and to suffer.” These sayings show us how deeply he had tasted the sweetness of suffering. All who knew him in his suffering bear witness that these sentiments came from his heart. “To suffer and to pray,” he called the purpose of his life. Like a true saint he embraced in his prayers the whole world and that he might help them he recounted all lands, all conditions, and the Church in her afflictions. Beltrami’s example reveals the strength and happiness faith gives to souls that are stricken down by disease in early years.

– this text is taken from The Holiness of the Church in the Nineteenth Century: Saintly Men and Women of Our Own Times, by Father Constantine Kempf, SJ; translated from the German by Father Francis Breymann, SJ; Impimatur by + Cardinal John Farley, Archbishop of New York, 25 September 1916