Saturday, June 16, 2012

Vittorio Orione: Don Orione´s Father

 Don Orione, the youngest of four children of whom one, Luigi, died as a child, was born there on 23 June 1872.  It was the time when the crops in the fields were becoming golden under the sun which was at its highest point in the sky.
He was baptised with the names Giovanni Luigi in the parish church of the Assumption on the next day, the feast of St. John the Baptist.  His brother, Benedetto, was godfather.

 Vittorio his father, a native of Tortona, was a man of good physical stature and great natural goodness.
He had fought as a brave soldier at Bicocca (Novara) on 23 March 1849, as batman to one of his fellow townspeople, a captain who died on the field of battle.
His mother, Carolina Feltri, a native of Castelnuovo Scrivia, was an unaffected, decent housewife, very thoughtful and resolute.  This became obvious at her first meeting with the man who was to become her husband.
Vittorio Orione was hardly more than twenty when he came for the first time to the village, dressed in the gaudy uniform of a soldier in the Royal Sardinian Army.  He went as far as to address a somewhat joking word to the young Carolina Feltri whose only response was to give him a stinging slap on the face.  The soldier went away more in admiration than humiliation and did not reappear for another year, but this time to ask her to be his wife.  The marriage was blessed by both sets of parents and the family grew in a good, Christian way for all that Vittorio was, in Don Orione's words, a follower of Garibaldi who was faithful to the beliefs current at the time and little inclined to religious practice.
He was a road-builder by trade; this was traditional in his family.  Through his experience he came to know all the villages of the Alessandria province.  For hours and hours he would stand knee-deep in the wet sand, his back bent and his hands calloused, hoeing, weighing stones and putting them in place with measured blows of the hammer.  What a relief it was at the end, and as if in recreation, to take the tamper with both hands from under his straddled legs, fall into line with his workmates and in turn beat a joyful tune of reinforcement on the cobbled road that had just been made up and sprinkled with sand.
Don Orione would always remember this life of sacrifice, even to explain certain acute pains that racked his limbs.  According to him it was due to a hereditary kind of rheumatism.
His brothers were road-builders too: Benedetto, 13 years older than him and Alberto, similar to his own age.  Luigi was too little to become an out and out road-builder, but in certain matters he had to help his father and elder brother whose work often kept them away from Pontecurone for weeks and months at a time.  At home, then, there would be the mother and the two younger brothers.

It was a rented house, extremely poor, consisting of the servant's quarters of the villa of Urbano Rattazzi, situated at the end of the village towards Voghera on the left hand side of the road.  It was later demolished in order to extend the little garden that was already there.  It has since been rebuilt according to precise details based on surveys; it contains relics and souvenirs of the past.  Urbano Rattazzi, a famous minister of the newly-formed Kingdom of Italy (1861), spent a few weeks of his holidays at Pontecurone and had a great respect for old Vittorio, with whom he often held friendly conversations.
"What will we do with him?" he said one day, pointing to little Luigi who was still a young baby.  He then went up to the infant, pinched his cheek with his fingers and added:  "We'll make a general out of him."
What a pity it was that the famous minister in that very environment used to make fun of the Pope's flag with witticisms of dubious taste.

Source: St. Luigi Orione by. Fr. Domenico Sparpaglione

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