Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How to Study Don Orione: Different Kinds of Knowledge of St. Luigi Orione

(Extract from PELOSO, Flavio, 
“Hemeneutica orionina per conoscere Don Orione da figli” 
in Mesaggi di Don Orione.)

We will deepen three different kinds of knowledge of St. Luigi Orione: spiritual, historical and pedagogic ones. All of them are necessary and complementary to understand him.

Spiritual Knowledge of St. Luigi Orione

We may knowledge Don Orione as his sons, as people who have his “same spirit”. We will read his writings and his life, study the charism and the Constitutions, but we will try to get into his inner life. To know Don Orione it is not enough to read his life, writings or articles about him, we need to get into his heart really to understand him[1].
A charism, first of all, is a gift or the Holy Spirit. It is not a specific apostolate, or religious ideology or a way of praying. A charism has apostolate, a way of praying and working, etc, but it is more than all these things together. A charism is a “soul”, a gift of the Holy Spirit which gives form and configures everything: prayer, apostolate, community life, etc.
Fr. Luigi Orione was a saint, a person full of God; as saint, his life was unified in God. John Paul II said: “It is impossible to summarize in a few sentences the adventurous and sometimes dramatic life of one who called himself, humbly, but shrewdly: "God's porter". But we can state that he was doubtlessly one of the most outstanding personalities of this century, because of his openly professed Christian faith”[2].
Some years after, John Paul II said: “It is, however, important to ask ourselves what is the unifying charism, on which his work is built, and what is it that distinguishes it from other Congregations which emerged in the same historical period and which were equally dedicated to the service of the poor”.[3]
His writings and deeds are expressions of his heart. We should know them, but really to understand and to know him, we need to go further; we have to enter his heart.
In the records of the canonization process of Don Orione we find the account of an episode witnessed by Fr Giovanni Venturelli: “When Don Orione was still alive, among the confreres, we started asking which was the most profound aspect, the one that justified all the life and works of our Father; people gave varied answers: some would explain the Don Orione ‘phenomenon' by charity, others by his prayer life, others by other particular aspects of his personality. Then Fr Biagio Marabotto, of happy memory, stood up and everyone went silent: “What are you all saying: what is the essence of Don Orione? Is it not God? This is what Don Orione is, above all: a man who lives on God”[4].
That is why we should study his charism. The charism unites all the aspects of the life of St. Luigi Orione and it may unite all the aspects of our life. We should avoid any reduction of his life, thoughts or deeds. Sometimes “we cannot see the forest for the trees”.

Historical Knowledge of St. Luigi Orione

We are Christian, we believe in Jesus, the incarnated God, John said that “the Word became flesh, he lived among us” (Jn 1:14). In the same way, a charism is a gift of the Holy Spirit in a concrete time and place.
St. Luigi Orione’s holiness took place in a historical moment, in a concrete situation (country, time, customs, etc), that is why we need some historical knowledge to understand him and to discover in the deepest and real sense of his thoughts and actions without wrong interpretations. We need to understand his Sitz im Lebem. He was Italian and European, died more than 60 years ago, another time, another Church, others traditions and customs.
So that, we have to know his biography, the historical context, etc. But, let us be aware that we cannot explain and understand everything.

Pedagogic Knowledge of St. Luigi Orione

            Another way to approach his heart is to know him as formator. He transmitted us his experience of God, his charism. First of all, the founder is our formator.
 He gives us what he experienced, as Paul who said, talking about the Eucharist: “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you” (1 Cor 11: 23).
In the transmission of his experience to his disciple, we can verify the validity of the charism. We should integrate all the knowledge: historical, spiritual and pedagogic ones.
Let us summarize, to understand the orionine charism, we need to combine: the spiritual knowledge, placed in the history and verified in his pedagogy as formator.
On the other hand, the charism is not a thing in the past; it goes beyond St. Luigi Orione and lives today. Because it is Evangelic and Catholic, it has the capacity of incarnation in different places, cultures, times, conditions, vocations, etc. The charism was born in concrete time and place, but it is alive, so it continues taking place in the history, in different times and places.
On the other hand, because the charism has the capacity of inculturation, we have to ask ourselves: What did St. Luigi do in Italy, Argentina, Brazil, etc? What would Don Orione do in Italy, Argentina, Brazil, etc, today (in a different context)?  What would St. Luigi do now, in the Philippines, Kenya, India, etc?

[1] For example: many priests, brothers, sisters and lay people lived and live St. Luigi Orione’s charism without studying it.
[2] Homily of the Beatification Mass (1980).
[3] Letter for the 50th Anniversary, in L’Osservatore Romano, 12/13 March 1990.
[4]  Summarium, p. 993. But Don Orione himself taught his seminarians and confreres: “I wish to confide you a great secret. What is the great secret to succeed in the works of apostolate, to obtain satisfactory results in our work, in the field of Christian charity? The secret is the union with God, to live with God, in God, united to God, having always the spirit raised to God. In other words, it is a profound prayer. Everything that we do is transformed, thus, in gold, because everything is done for the glory of God and everything becomes prayer”. Scritti (26th September 1937).

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