Sunday, 3 April 2011

'Father Francesco, in Paradise remember this lamb of yours'

'Tribute to Father Francesco Pitocchi C.SS.R'  by Don Angelo Roncalli, from  'Journal of a Soul'.
(continued from previous post)
      'During the following years I found the same overflowing kindness; and on the numerous occasions that I returned to Bergamo from Rome, accompanying my Bishop and master, Mgr Radini Tedeschi of revered memory,  my heart impelled me to hasten at once to San Gioaccino, Monterone, or Sant’Alfonso, to find my dear Father Francesco. Again I would confide in him my joys, anxieties, and the various events of my life, and receive advice, encouragement and comfort from him. He was pleased to be remembered, especially from far away, and to have news of his former Bergamasque students, and the passing of time made no difference to the kindness he continued to show his children..
      What tranquillity there was in his goodness! In all the various circumstances in which I saw him, I never heard a word or saw a gesture betray even the slightest disturbance of his spirit. This imperturbable, sometimes implacable serenity, when on certain occasions he demanded from one of us acts of great but necessary self-denial, seems to me to have been one of his most effective means of earning our measureless esteem and the perfect confidence of the consciences which he directed.
      He had a sure touch in directing souls, treating them according to the needs and temperament of each, urging this one on and holding the other back, sometimes praising and at other times correcting, always watchful and perceptive in his guidance, yet always gentle, one might almost say motherly.
         This kindness seemed all the greater and made the more lasting impression because it drew dignity and splendour from the example he set before us of resigned and contented serenity amidst the atrocious physical sufferings which tortured him for so many years.
      We always knew him as a man in pain. In fact it was his physical sufferings which prevented him from devoting himself to wider and more exhausting ministries in his Congregation, or from going away from Rome. When with sorrow and filial compassion we saw that bent head which he could only raise with the greatest pain, because of the violent contraction of the nerves, and never, never heard a word of complaint that the Lord should have sent him this mortification, we used to say that truly his resemblance to his saintly founder and father, St Alphonsus, was perfect.
        As he was always in pain and always cheerful, his continual appeals to us to seek the holy will of God in all things were irresistibly persuasive. He helped us with advice and with prayer to discover this will of God, and having found it encouraged us to follow it with no other thought, no pre-occupation with any personal ambitions or interests, but with generous and loving hearts in the service of God.

       The supreme wisdom of the spiritual direction given by Father Francesco Pitocchi was in this simple but sublime doctrine, in this training of every soul to work for the triumph of the will of God and His kingdom, in the soul itself as well as in the whole world: ‘Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done”.
      The last time I saw him was a few days before he died, he was in great pain in his humble cell at Sant’Alfonso.  His last words to me were, “What God wills, Don Angelo, and as God wills……this alone…..this alone”
      I would, I could, add much more. But I am held back by the thought that the most sacred pages in the history of our souls are those which every one of us guards religiously in his own heart.

      Of special memory to me is the 1904 vacation, the last I spent at the seminary, Father Francesco was with us in the country at Roccantica. With little notice and  a certain reluctance, I was obliged to preach a short sermon, and having had no opportunity to prepare anything, I simply quoted  from the ‘The Imitation of Christ’, on the subject of  ‘The four things that bring much peace to the soul’
It is heavenly doctrine: who can forget it?
1.    Seek, my son, to do another’s will, rather than your own
2.    Choose always to have less rather than more
3.    Always seek the lowest place and to be inferior to everyone.
4.    Always desire and pray that the will of God may be wholly fulfilled in you.
      I then added a few words of my own which, as I was at the time absorbed in reading the life of St Francis, related to the story of Brother Leo on the mountain of La Verna, who, when the Poverello was raised in ecstasy, ran forward to clutch his feet and kiss them, weeping and crying: ‘My God, have mercy on me a sinner, and through the merits of this holy man grant me your grace’
      I still see before my eyes Father Francesco’s smile of pleasure at the subject and example chosen.  ‘You see’ he said to me, ’how obedience has come to your rescue. Always obey, simply, and good temperedly: leave the rest to the Lord. It is He who speaks to our hearts.’
      Eighteen years later I think with great emotion of the truth of that doctrine. When I think of him, my dear departed Father, my soul finds comfort in seeking him in that light of glory to which, we may hope, he was raised, much higher than the tall beeches of La Verna. Like humble Brother Leo, I love to contemplate him and, almost as if I were kissing his feet, I repeat with tears of sadness and love: ‘Father Francesco, Father Francesco, in Paradise remember this lamb of yours. And you, my God, have mercy on me a sinner, and through the merits of this holy man, grant me your grace.’

Don Angelo Roncalli
Rapallo, December 14, 1922.  Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

Ack  ‘Pope John XXIII  Journal of a Soul’  pub.First Four Square Edition 1966