by Fr. Flavio Peloso
In this account of an evening at the Paterno in Tortona (February 17, 1940), one of his last peaceful evenings there, we are told how Don Orione met the priests of the Community in his room.
"He had summoned us: Fr. Curetti, Fr. Gatti, Fr. Genovese, Fr. Toso, Fr. Simonelli, Fr. Orlandi and Fr. Cardona: Fr. Bidone was absent. Just as we went in, he told me to take a box of candy and offer it round to the priests; “at least one for each eye”, he said, laughing. From his bed he began speaking in a low voice, and then he paused.
“It has been a long time since we all met together. I wanted to spend a little while with you. I am rather worried about some religious in the Congregation, and some Houses which are not doing as well as they should. Pray to God that things may improve and right themselves. I exhort you to pray and to invoke the Holy Spirit because perhaps we will have a new priest in March: Fr Kisilak in Rome, and some subdeacons here. The list will be out tomorrow. We must see that unworthy candidates do not get into the Congregation, because even one would be enough to discredit the entire congregation.
And another thing… I beg you to be punctual in rising and for meditation. If you do not do this in community, you know very well that it will not be done at all. We have to give God glory together in the community. In this we have had the good example of the most recent comers, Fr. Alice and Fr. Bidone, who are very punctual-- quite unlike their behavior as Seminarians. They are diligent and vigilant.
This is something we should be pleased about but, at the same time, it is something which has made us reflect that we have the duty of giving them a good example. They, the new-comers, were and are more vigilant than we, who are the elders in the congregation. While he was here, Fr. Alice also edified the seminarians. See what a good example Fr. Zambarbieri is to the seminarians. He frequently attends meditation and Mass with the priests, and also often goes to meditation with the seminarians, showing great earnestness and piety.
Now that it is no longer so cold, we have another reason to be punctual. Since my heart attack, I have made an effort - I should not be saying this - to celebrate Mass for you. It has been said that I did so because I could not sleep at night, but this is not the main reason, which is to be with the community and to give you a good example.
One can never do too much good for the Lord. Remember what Michele Bianchi (Translator´s note: one of the four Fascist generals who organized the march on Rome which brought Mussolini to power) said: “Even when one has given one’s all, even one’s life, for the Fascist cause, it is the very least one can do!” Good gracious! Giving one’s life for an earthly cause, however worthwhile, is the least one can do, but it is not to be compared with religious perfection, the cause for which we must sacrifice ours. I hope, in a few days, to be with you for meditation and to celebrate Mass... I do not know what they have decided, but it seems they want to send me I know not where, in which case we will be united in spirit, and in heaven we will be together ...
Let's get back to us. Pray that, if it is His will, the Lord may remove any bitterness in the Congregation. Pray for those who are to be ordained. Be punctual for meditation. See! Earlier I gave you some sweets, and now ... (he said smiling) this also should be enjoyable..."
(Then he began to talk jokingly with Fr. Curetti ...)
"Do you know, Fr. Curetti that I want to come and see you at the agricultural settlement? I want to come and eat grapes off the vines in the vineyard”.
Fr. Curetti replied: "Do come, and you may perhaps still find some grapes left on the vines”.
"If you get someone to put some back .... (and then) I can see you have lost weight”... (laughter)
“Do you know that Bianchi has returned from Rome?” "He told me” - Fr. Curetti replied – “that he could not bring them, but they are all on the way."
"The coins and the stamps!" (Translator´s note: Fr. Curetti was blind, but collected stamps and coins, and Don Orione loved to tease him about this).
"So”, Don Orione said:”You won’t need any more?" "Do you have a special one to give me?"
“What do you imagine I could have? I have my illness, but that is not at all nice, and I do not want to give it to you. "
Fr. Gatti added: "Indeed, it may be more valuable than any coin".
"Yes, if I accept it as a blessing, even this may prove a treasure”. .
He wished them good night and added: "If you see Fr. Sterpi, say “good night” to him for me. Good night!”