Sunday, January 13, 2013

St. Luigi Orione using the Radio and Phonograph

          St. Luigi Orione wanted to “go walking ahead of the times and of the people”, so he  used the radio and phonographic records, with criteria and without fear, to evangelize and to be in touch with religious, benefactors and friends.

The Radio
Talking on the radio was one of the new experiences of Don Orione during his second stay in Argentina. He realized the great force and ranges of the radio, expressing that “it is a media which can do a lot of good, so that it will be convenient to use it more often”.
He also invited his religious “to use everything provided by science to spread the word of God and to do good”.
            He even gave some concrete indication about the radio wave, the setting up of the speakers and the publicity. For example, he wrote:Yesterday evening, feast of Don Bosco, I spoke to the Argentines on the radio, in Spanish (...) it is the first time I talked on the radio, but it is a media which can do a lot of good, so that it will be convenient to use it more often.” [1] 

            Other examples:
            On August 29, Feast of the Our Lady of Safe-keeping, I'll be with you in spirit, from Buenos Aires. I will talk to my beloved Tortona people and pilgrims by radio, at 22 o’clock, when you are on the Cathedral Square.
            Understand well this and prepare it, setting up speakers for the broadcast around the Cathedral square. Transmission: L.S.X shortwave longitude - 28. 98
            Regarding what I have written to you, at least it may be well to inform the public by street bands and to publish it in newspapers, because anyone who has a radio can listen to it, if he desires. Thanks be to God! Look, my sons, we can and must be updated, but without being modernist. We have to do this: to use everything provided by science to spread the word of God and of the good.” [2]

            This year, I will celebrate the Midnight Mass on board the “Oceania”, and then I will speak on the radio to all the Italians in Argentina, but you will also listen to me from Italy because the minister of Press and Propaganda, His Excellency Mr. Alfieri, has ordered that the speech, which will be short, can be listened to throughout Italy. Thanks be to God! Praise and honour only to God!” [3]

            At the times, a radio was a luxurious device. So that, even though he wanted to walk ahead of the times, he was concerned about the Poverty vow, criticizing and warning about the lack of poverty. Ahead of times, but keeping the vows.

           In some houses, there is a radio. You tell me: ‘It’s been donated.’
            In ...., a Jesuit priest preached, he was called ‘the father who makes you laugh’. He met a Franciscan friar who seemed liked Brother Elias.
            The Franciscan friar pulled out a gold watch. And the Friar said: ‘Oh, you know, it was given to me’. After a while, he pulled out a gold cigarette box. The Jesuit said: ‘St. Francis, poor man!’ – ‘It was given to me by some Third Order women….’”[4]

            “Providence is treating us well, because, we can say we do not feel the pinch. Why a radio at home? You can tell me: “there is one in Vatican…” The radio is a two-edged weapon.
            We were in Varzi, a radio appeared for the news and then the rubbish came up. [5]

            In a letter, he also ordered two priests to raffle a donated radio and not to use it, because it “is not according to our spirit to have the radio”.

            “That radio that I saw there, which you said was donated, raffle it as soon as possible, because it is not according to our spirit to have a radio. I will tell you again, because of this, the Salesian Rector Major wrote to all his religious: now, you would become lax. You will know, by others, the serious words of the Argentine Episcopate about having a radio. The bishops specially turned to religious houses and very seriously spoke about them.” [6]

Other concrete indications, especially for formation houses: RADIO. Confirmed are the decisions taken in previous years. In Formation Houses where a radio may be necessary for reasons of studies, it must be closed and the key kept by the superior.” [7]

The Phonograph Records and the Phonograph  
            Another new experience and a way to be present among his religious, friends and benefactors was to “send” his voice by phonograph records and “so spread the spirit of good by the phonograph too.”
            He also gave some explanations about the care of the records, the needles, how to use them, etc. 

           “Now, I will give a piece of novelty, which you will be very pleased. Yesterday, I recorded a phonograph record for the usual meeting, on 18th March. After the speaker has finished, I will address everyone, through the phonograph record. So, even if I cannot be with my benefactors - at least I'll be there in spirit and voice. Since the phonograph record can repeat what I said around two thousand times - so I have spoken in a way that it can also be used out of Genoa. I spoke about Charity.
            If the phonograph records do not arrive broken, (the whole speech is not one disc, two were necessary) and everything will be fine, I can prepare others for some special occasions and so spread the spirit of good by the phonograph too.” [8]
       “I inform you that today, I have sent two phonograph records by the same airplane that this letter goes. They are engraved on one side and the other, and are numbered, it is a kind of hymn of charity, they were improvised the other night, and in a few hours to have time to record and send them by today’s airplane (...) there are two, very fragile. However, well preserved, they can play two thousand times. So that, because I cannot be present at the conference in Genoa, at least, the benefactors and friends will hear my voice (...) I also send some needles attached, - they have been used a little, but have been told that it is better.” [9]

            Two phonograph records were made yesterday, although I was a bit tired and therefore my voice was not in the best condition. However you will hear something of my spirit will find in those words (...) I think that the suggestion (to record the phonograph records) was an inspiration of God. If the phonograph records arrive well, you can use the phonograph, even for other occasions.” [10]

Don Orione knew how to read the signs of the times, to see the great potential of the mass media and their impact in society. He used the mass media to preach the Gospel as well as to be in touch with his religious, friends, pupils and benefactors.
He was not afraid to warn, to correct and advise his sons when the use of the mass media was against the religious life.

[1] Letter to Fr. Sterpi. Buenos Aires, 27th April 1935. Scritti 18, 60 and 18, 88.
[2] Letter to Fr. Sterpi. Buenos Aires, 21st August 1935. Scritti 18, 85 and 18, 133.
[3] Letter to General Beaud and his wife, Mrs. Thea. Buenos Aires, 16th December 1936. Scritti 116, 182 and 116, 187.
[4] Riunioni 99 (26th August 1930).
[5] Riunioni 112 (1932).
[6] Letter to Fr. Marian Szymkus and Fr. Michele Tiburzio. Buenos Aires, 4th June 1936. Scritti 51, 44 and 51, 73.
[7] Riunioni 212 (1938).
[8] Letter to Mrs. Queirolo. Buenos Aires, 29th February 22 1936. Scritti 9, 92 and 9, 98.
[9] Letter to Fr. Sterpi. Buenos Aires, 26th February 1936. Scritti 19, 014 and 19, 026.
[10] Letter to General Beaud. Buenos Aires, 29th Febraury 1936. Scritti 116, 176 and 116, 181. 

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