History of Saint Luigi Guanella

/History of Saint Luigi Guanella
History of Saint Luigi Guanella 2017-09-11T13:37:39+00:00

Biography of Saint Luigi (Louis) Guanella

Luigi Guanella was born in Fraciscio, Italy on December 19, 1842. When he was twelve years old, he entered the seminary and was ordained in 1866. From 1875 until 1878, Don (“Father” in Italian) Guanella assisted St. John Bosco in his care of homeless children. Shortly thereafter, he began a pioneer program dealing with rehabilitation of boys and girls abandoned and rejected by society because of their physical and mental disabilities. Fr. Guanella’s philosophy in this matter was not entirely based on sophisticated theories but dealt in terms of “action.” No one could stop him in this effort. The opposition of civil authorities, criticism of the elite, and his personal reputation as a dreamer, did not matter.

As a talented writer and preacher, he wrote books, articles, and speeches to present to society the problem of those with disabilities and to further their acceptance as brothers and sisters and as blessings from God. He believed that their disabilities should not separate them from our love and attention and that some things could be done to alleviate their alienation. “Good children” as Fr. Guanella used to call them.

In 1886, Fr. Guanella’s goal became a reality. He opened the first established residential school in Como, Italy, for these beloved “Good children”. Some young men and women had joined Fr. Guanella, and two religious congregations were subsequently established: the “Daughters of St. Mary of Providence” and the “Servants of Charity”.

As the work of Fr. Guanella grew and multiplied his thirsts for doing good did not diminish. In 1912, he came to the United States and toured some of the principal cities. On May 3, 1913, he sent the first six Daughters of St. Mary of Providence to work with girls with intellectual disabilities in Chicago. The events of the First World War made it impossible for the Servants of Charity to come to the United States at that time.

Miracle attributed to St. Luigi Guanella

The miracle was the complete healing of William Glisson, Jr. of a traumatic brain injury. The injury resulted from an accidental fall, which took place in 2002 in Springfield, PA. The medical documentation confirmed that there was no scientific explanation for this recovery and therefore seen as “miraculous.” Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed Blessed Luigi Guanella “Saint” on October 23, 2011 and offered him to the world as an “Apostle of Charity.”

As Fr. Guanella was then growing older, he stated, “When my captain calls me, He will send someone else to take my place.” This prophecy became a reality in 1960 when Fr. Luigi Alippi, the fourth Superior General, was able to establish foundations of the Servants of Charity at Don Guanella Village in Springfield, PA and at St. Louis Center in Chelsea, MI.

Two years before his death Fr. Guanella founded the Pious Union of Saint Joseph, whose members pray for the dying. The first member of the prayer association, of what has now become over a million members, was Pope Pius X.

Fr. Luigi Guanella died on October 24, 1915, but his spirit is deep in the hearts of his priests and sisters who are spread throughout the world loving and educating thousands of boys and girls. The cause for Fr. Guanella’s canonization began in Rome on March 15, 1939. On October 25, 1964, Pope Paul VI proclaimed Fr. Luigi Guanella “Blessed” and presented him to the world as a model of charity and dedication in the education and welfare of exceptional boys and girls. On July 1 2010, Pope Benedict XVI authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate the decree regarding recognition of the miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Luigi Guanella.

Spirituality of St. Luigi (Louis) Guanella

The spirituality of St. Luigi Guanella can be understood as a unique confluence of the spirituality of the “saints of charity” such as St. Francis of Assisi, St. Vincent de Paul, and St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa), with the spirituality of the “saints of mystical contemplation” represented by St. Catherine of Siena and St. Teresa of Avila. For Fr. Guanella, a life and spirit of action and contemplation, as symbolized by the sisters St. Martha and St. Mary in the Gospels, served as the foundational cornerstones, which guided and sustained his ministry of charity along with his life of prayer. “Prayer and suffering” were to be the guideposts by which he and his followers actively lived this spirituality, and giving “Bread and the Lord” to those whom he served further exemplifies these ideals of action and contemplation.

Fr. Guanella’s spirituality centered on his serene trust and confidence in the loving providence of God, the Father. He believed that “God is Love” and that he is a loving Father who loves all of His children unconditionally, infinitely, and generously, and who provides and cares for all of His children calling each one to be “the instruments and hands” of His loving Providence, especially to the “least ones.”

St. Luigi’s spirituality was also very Christo-centric, fixed strongly on the person of Jesus Christ in His Sacred Heart. It was in the Heart of Jesus that St. Luigi Guanella saw the “burning furnace of charity” which can enliven all of our souls, and which can inspire our every action in service to the poor and marginalized of society. Fr. Guanella instructed his followers to recognize in the poor and the “least ones” the face of Jesus Christ himself – an ideal similarly taught by St. Teresa of Calcutta both receiving their inspiration from the Gospel verse, “Whatever you do for one of these least brothers (and sisters) of mine you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40).

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