By Fr. Joseph Rinaldo
St. Louis Guanella calls the Church our mother and rightly so. The Church is like an expectant mother who holds each one of us in her womb, giving us love, protection and joy. When we die we are born to heaven for an eternal life. He is now in Heaven grateful for being in the womb of the Church all his life and now rejoices in Heaven in the vision of the Holy Trinity, the Blessed Mother of Divine Providence, St. Joseph and Blessed Clare.
Father Guanella died on October 24, 1915. On the morning of Friday, October 22nd, Father Louis expressed the desired to receive communion. It was about ten in the morning. He struggled to raise his right arm, pointing to his tongue, as now he was unable to talk. How much Father Louis must have enjoyed this last Communion! On the evening of the 23rd, they were expecting the end anytime now. The night passed in sadness, and so began the morning of October 24th. The Holy Father, Benedict XV, who had been constantly informed of the health of the infirm man, was advised by a close friend that Father Louis was at his end. “A saint is dying!” exclaimed the Pope, and blessed him, as he retired and recollected in prayer. Toward 1:30 p.m. the priests had gone into the dining room to take a little food. Suddenly, a new alarm was heard. They ran up to the blessed room. Their hearts were beating fast. Father Louis was battling death, the last struggles. They prayed, sobbed, made promises to the Lord. The saint expired. It was 2:15 p.m., on the Lord’s Day, Sunday, October 24, 1915.
In the morning of the following day, the body of Fr. Guanella was transported from his room into the Shrine of the Sacred Heart. Then an imposing pilgrimage began. For three days the church was the destination not only of those from Como but of those who could reach the city to render homage to the body of the saint. His Eminence, Cardinal Ferrari, celebrated the Pontifical Mass of suffrage in the Cathedral. Before the closing prayer, he ascended the pulpit to give the eulogy. “If I could question now the lamented priest who lies before us in the serene peace of death, and he could respond to me with his usual simplicity and modesty, I would ask him by what name he would prefer that I call him and greet him for the last time on earth. He would answer me, ‘Servant of Charity.’ In this beautiful name, Servant of Charity, the epitome of its meaning is embodied in the moral figure of Father Louis Guanella. No homily is necessary, only the recognition of the man.” The Cardinal continued, tracing St. Paul’s hymn of charity and demonstrating that it had been practiced by Father Guanella. He was an educator, missionary, prophet, builder and achiever, man of God and of the Church. But what else could we discover in him, to reproduce in bold characters his personality, simple and rock-solid, transparent and unsearchable in the depth of his charity?
The social aspect of St. Louis would merit his true eulogy here. However, this has already been done by his children and his admirers. His works with the eloquence of facts and figures is enough to gather the first thread of all this marvelous story of charity working in mercy, and to find that thread connected to the starting point, as the source of supernatural energy which permeates all. “God does it all.” Is it not beautiful? Is it not stupendous?
Let us praise God in His servant, St. Louis Guanella, and pray that through the intercession of this champion of faith and charity, He will give us the grace to imitate him and thus bless us all.