Saturday, September 29, 2012

Don Orione Traveling by Car

Everyone knows that Don Orione traveled by car, which was one of the new means of transport at that time. They were also, however, expensive and luxurious.
This could prompt us to ask: How did Don Orione combine the vow of poverty with their use? What did he think about the question? What were his feelings about using such means of travel?

            At the beginning of 1931, Don Orione received a car donated by Fr. Vittorio Carrera, parish priest of Lungavilla, who had seen the Founder collecting broken copper pots to make the statue of Our Lady.
For Don Orione, the car was Divine Providence’s gift in his search for broken copper pots, but it was also something which could be pawned after the feast of Our Lady of Safe-keeping. Maybe it was very luxurious for him? For the purposes of charity, Divine Providence has sent me a car, which I am using in my search for broken copper kitchen utensils; after the feast of Our Lady of Safe-keeping, I intend to pawn it.” [1]
In a telegram, the Founder thanked Fr. Carrera for the car he had donated, which was “consecrated for noble purposes: apostleship, faith and charity”. He also said that the car had begun “its work in the name of Divine Providence”. 

            “The car that you donated has been consecrated to noble purposes: apostleship, faith and charity. At the feet of Our Lady of Safe-keeping, it will commence its work in the name of Divine Providence today.
            I’m very grateful; allow me to give you a brotherly hug.”[2]

In a letter, Don Orione informed Fr. Orlando about the donation of the car and how he was using it to publicize the Shrine: You know that, more than two months ago, I went to Lungavilla, and your parish priest gave us his car, which used to belong to the Christians, and it has served me so far for the publicity of the Shrine.” [3]
            But even though a car may be useful for pastoral work, Don Orione once forbade the purchase of a car: Regarding the car, I am sorry that at the moment I must refuse you permission to make the purchase. Fr. Dutto will explain my reasons to you. That is why I have telegraphed you today not to go ahead with the plan.” [4]
Bishop Ramon Bogarin Argaña[5] met Don Orione in 1939, when he was a young priest studying in Rome. During his farewell in Genoa, Don Orione told him that he would be bishop in Paraguay, open the gates of Paraguay and die after the entry of the Congregation to that country.[6]
When the then Fr. Bogarin Argaña had to return to Paraguay because the Second World War was just about to break out, he traveled with Don Orione from Livorno to Alessandria. Some years later, Bishop Bogarin Argaña shared his experience and the lesson he was taught by the Founder concerning the use of cars.
However, I had a troubling thought in my mind that kept tormenting  me. Don Orione was a religious, and so was bound by the vow of poverty. How could he then reconcile the use of a car with that promise? I had noticed that at the house there was even another car, also with its engine running.
            Encouraged by the affection that he showed me, I mentioned my concern to him, which was intensified because gasoline was so scarce, and must surely have been very expensive.
“How can you reconcile the vow of poverty with the use of cars?” and I told him that I personally had made a solemn promise not to use a car.
He gave me a great lesson on poverty: with few concepts, but very clear. When it is essential, we should not have any scruples about the use of modern means. Instead, it would constitute a sin against poverty if we were to use them only for personal comfort, when we could do without. A car is simply a means of transport, and what counts is the aim. If the aim is a good one, then the best means is justified. What we have to avoid the unnecessary use of luxury of any kind.
He was so convincing that I decided to change my promise: “I will use the car only in case of need.”[7]

 Don Orione read the signs of the times and used the technology then offered to do good, as well as to work better and faster, but always with a great concern for religious vows and values.
He used the most modern means of transport, but with total detachment, avoiding unnecessary luxury or concern for personal comfort. For him, they were only “means” to further charity.

Fr. Facundo Mela fdp

[1] Letter to Fr. Grossi. Tortona, 29th January 1931. Scritti 37, 9 and 37, 8.
[2] Telegram to Fr. Carrera. Tortona, 22nd February 1931 (at 15:35).
[3] Letter to Fr. Orlandi. Tortona, 1st April 1931. Scritti 24,202 and 24, 217.
[4] Letter to Fr. Vincenzo. 29th August 1936 (There is no mention about the place, but the date shows that the letter was written in Argentina). Scritti 67,118 and 67,138.
[5] Mgr. Ramón Pastor Bogarín Argaña (30th March 1911 - 3rd September 1976) was Auxiliary Bishop of Asunción and San Juan Bautista de las Misiones, Paraguay.
[6] Cf. Pellizzari, Angelo, “Una historia llena de mensajes”, Don Orione, Buenos Aires, November-December 2001, 21.
[7] Testimony of Bishop Ramon Bogarin Argaña about his meeting with Don Orione. It was written in Rome, on 13th October 1965. Cf. “Mons. Ramon Bogarin Argaña ricorda Don Orione”, Messaggi 111, 2, 2003.

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