Sunday, July 28, 2013

Metaphors for Work used by Don Orione (Part Three)

 The theory becomes true: “God’s laborers”

            A concrete example of the meaning of work for Don Orione was the building of the shrines of Our Lady of Safe-keeping in Tortona and of Our Lady of Caravaggio in Fumo, where his religious worked side by side with the builders.

        On the occasion of the start of the building of the shrine of Our Lady of Safe-keeping on 23rd October 1926, Don Orione called his seminarians together and gave them a new name: God’s laborers, and he organized a procession of the boys, carrying tools. In his book, Papasogli said:

 “He spoke to them about Our Lady later. From the very first day, in his idealism, he handed them spades, hoes, shovels and buckets of whitewash. It was a new honor for them, and he called them ‘God’s laborers’
         The master builders would have been there, of course, but these seminarians were performing the most humble tasks, fetching and carrying what was needed up and down the makeshift ladders, always higher and higher, over and over again. How many times?

            Those boys were fifteen, eighteen, twenty years old. Tasks and tools had to be given according to the strength of each. But the real strength was one which could not be seen and which was not limited by any age: it was faith, simple strong faith, ideas and a routine that was manageable but strict on them, too. It was a strength which became all the greater by being used.” [1]

            Talking about the building of the Fumo shrine, Don Orione wrote in a letter: "At the new shrine, the poor priests of Divine Providence work energetically side by side with skilled masons. Our priests mix the lime, carry bricks and stones, toiling like true porters of God, as they already did at Tortona." [2]

 In a speech to a group of newly ordained priests who had worked on the building of the shrine of Our Lady of Safe-keeping, Don Orione praised Our Lady: “Oh, our Mother, from their first steps along this new path, always protect these priests of yours, laborers and porters at Your Shrine” [3]

         The testimony of “God’s laborers”, a concrete image of the Orionine work, touched  people’s hearts, even of those against the Church: “The wife[4] of a certain Pattarelli, an ardent Socialist who had broken the crucifixes in the Bishop’s Palace, said: ‘Even my children married in Church after they saw Don Orione’s priests at work.’”[5]

Living Examples of the Orionine Work

        Many religious understood what work meant to Don Orione, embodying the Founder’s teaching in their lives. 

 We can find an enlightening example of Orionine work in the then blind seminarian Cezar Pisano, who was later to become Brother Ave María. He even worked at night on the construction of the Grotto of Lourdes in the formation house in Villa Moffa: "Everyone got involved enthusiastically (...) Recreation time was entirely dedicated to that heartwarming and bold effort. Seminarian Pisano even spent time on it at night. He was able to use pick, spade and wheelbarrow with a confidence resulting from practice and the compensatory development of his other senses."[6]

Together with him, we should also remember the religious who worked on the construction of both the shrines of Our Lady Of Safe-keeping and Caravaggio, and others who were true workers of God, as the Founder wished. 

            The images used by the Founder are not only a definition of his own vocation, but an expression of his work and ministry, too.
            Don Orione wanted to serve the poor and the Church by doing the simplest and most humble work, following the example of many saints and our Lord: Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance.” (Philippians 2:6-7).
            The Orionine sense of work would also be a precious inheritance, a concrete way of following Jesus, and a constant challenge to those who desire to follow in the footsteps of God’s porter, Don Orione.

[1] G. PAPASOGLI, A Life of Don Orione, St Paul, London, 2000, p. 333.
[2] Letter to a distinguished gentleman, (distinto signore, he did not specify who the addressee was). Tortona, 26th July 1938. Scritti 47,242.
[3] Speech to a group of newly ordained priests. Tortona, 18th December 1938. Scritti 95, 253.
[4] In the English edition there is a mistake: the Italian word moglie which means “wife” was translated as “mother”. Cf. G. Papasogli, Vita di Don Orione, Gribaudi, Turin, 1974, p. 373.
[5] G. Papasogli, A Life of Don Orione, St. Paul, London, 2000, p. 345.
[6] d. sparpaglione, “Frate Ave Maria. L'eremita cieco di S. Alberto” Messaggi di Don Orione 40, 1978, 15-16.

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