I was a Pastor of Sheep and Now I am the Pastor of a People

by Fr. Joseph Rinaldo

P1010521May 26, 2015 is the149th anniversary of St. Louis Guanella’s ordination. For the Guanellian family, the anniversary of Fr. Louis Guanella’s ordination to the priesthood is celebrated with special intimacy. Often, to experience the same emotions as the Founder, important events of the Congregation are celebrated on this day: professions, ordinations and renewal of religious vows. We all know of the fervor and also of the responsibility that the Founder felt on this solemn day. In a letter to Fr. Adamini, the homilist at his First Mass, Fr. Guanella wrote: “When in the years to come, I think back to that most holy and glorious day, the most beautiful day of my life, I must forget every anxiety in order to leap with joy and gratitude. However, it prepares me to enter this ministry which is a tremendous and frightening responsibility.” With these words Fr. Guanella apparently perceives the difficulties waiting for him, which certainly could be dispelled in the love of the Eucharist and the celebration of Holy Mass.
The anniversary of the Founder’s Ordination can therefore help us too to discover the meaning of our mission, on the basis of the sources from which the grace of the Lord springs.

The church in Prosto where St. Guanella celebrated His first Mass.
The church in Prosto where St. Guanella celebrated His first Mass.

Fr. Guanella describes the greatness, value and mission of the priest in The Mountaineer, a little book he published in 1886. “That young son of a mountaineer who, in offering himself to God said: ‘Father, I want to be a priest’. Now here he is, and having overcome many obstacles, he exclaimed at last: ‘I am a priest forever. Blessed be the Lord!’ I was a pastor of sheep and now I am the pastor of a people. My people, my people, pray for your pastor! Let us praise the Most High who has made me great. I want to be angelic in my habits; I want to be a sword of fire in the holy ministry. This is our priest! Let us be moved by him to the very depths of our heart… Let him be a priest. He discloses to us the true source of eternal temporal goods.”
We have always held these words to be autobiographical and they enable us to understand some of the most significant features of Fr. Guanella’s spirituality, as if to confirm that God always makes use of the gifts of nature to create his plan of grace. It is precisely the environment in which Fr. Guanella lived which prepared him to be a priest. He wanted to live amidst his people.  He understood their needs, the priest with “the smell of the sheep.”
“You remember when as a shepherd boy you tended your flock; your thoughts then quickly turned to your father and your home; the mind rushes down the path made by one’s father, the heart stores up his love; and your eyes brimmed with tears, like two streams and you cried: ‘I shall soon see my beloved parent again!’” In fact, Fr. Guanella wrote these words in Let us go to the Father, a booklet in which he expresses the full warmth of his spirituality founded on God’s fatherhood.

St. Guanella the day of his first Mass.
St. Guanella the day of his first Mass.

Like many saints, he learned from the natural and cultural environment of his early years.
We know that these were experiences that forged his character. They made him available for the Lord’s project. Each and every one of us can very easily be an expression of the Guanellian charism and spirituality without having the same experiences as the Founder. Let us accept today the invitation Fr. Guanella makes to all of us: “You must proceed with all kinds of beautiful virtues, especially humility and kindness.” To his priests he said: “You must be Christians for yourselves and priests for others; you must be in a holy way keen to distribute the spiritual and material fruits of your holy ministry.”

Prayer for the Intercession of Saint Louis Guanella

O Saint Louis Guanella, apostle of charity, you spread the treasures of your heart to the poor and suffering, whom you dearly loved, in a world filled with hatred and selfishness. Obtain for us from Divine Providence an ever increasing love for God and our neighbors.
Obtain for us also the favor we are asking for…and the grace of final perseverance. Amen.

Our Father … Hail Mary … Glory Be …
St. Louis Guanella, pray for us!

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