Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Prodigal Son

            Al the end of a mission at Silvano Pietra, Don Orione preached about the Prodigal Son in an interesting, unusual and effective way. Fr. Malfatti related:

“The mission was coming to an end and did not portend an abundant spiritual harvest. But Don Orione, who had great trust in Providence, asked the parish priest to bring in ten priests that evening to hear confessions. Fr. Semino [the parish priest] hesitated, obviously not because he was worried about how to extend hospitality to so many confreres, but rather because he feared leaving himself open to a failure. Nevertheless, he sent a group of boys out on bicycles to the nearby villages to inform and to invite the ten priests.
When everything was ready, Don Orione carried out his original plan. He threw on a threadbare overcoat, placed a worn old hat on his head (it could well have been his), left the presbytery and crossed the square. He entered the parish church as the bells were ringing full peal to summon the faithful.
Seating himself in a pew he began a strange monologue about his own misfortunes: "Look at what a state I am in... Yet I had everything...  It's my fault that I wanted to leave my father's home..." He was, in fact, reciting the part of the prodigal son.

The people in the church were extremely curious and listened to him with a lively interest. Someone... sent out word and the whole village flocked in.
When he was certain that no-one was missing, Don Orione took off his threadbare overcoat, climbed into the pulpit and, using the parable of the prodigal son, dealt in a most effective way with the mercy of God. All in all his sermon lasted an hour and a half. No-one missed confession.
Fr. Malfatti remarked while relating this episode: "It is difficult to get priests to cry, but that evening everyone was crying, even the priests." And to the writer of these biographical notes he added: "During that mission Don Orione performed miracles. The good that he did was boundless."[1]

[1] D. Sparpaglione, Il Beato Luigi Orione7, Roma, Ed. Paoline, 1980. [Unpublished translation].

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