A channel of grace for many

Today, 9 Jun 2012, is the memorial and 76th anniversary of death of Blessed Luigi Boccardo (a.k.a. Aloyisus Boccardo, Aloisius Boccardo), a diocesan priest of the archdiocese of Turin, Italy. Throughout his life the good Lord put him into unusual spheres of ministry, and then gave him all the graces needed to excel in those ministries for the benefit of souls.

Blessed Luigi Boccardo was born at Moncalieri, in Turin, Italy in 1861 into a farming family. His eldest brother and godfather, Giovanni (a.k.a. John), also became a priest and was declared Blessed in 1998. In addition Luigi’s sister also entered religious life. Proving to be an able scholar with a growing desire to become a priest, this eldest brother paid for Luigi’s seminary costs and interceded with their parents to allow Luigi to follow God’s call and become a priest. His ordination took place in 1884.

While at seminary Luigi experienced a severe case of typhus, and everyone expected him to die. Thankfully someone did not give up on him, and asked him to drink some water from Lourdes. Aided by Our Lady’s intercession, Luigi was restored to health and ever afterwards cherished her with a special devotion.  

The longed for day of ordination came on 7 June 1884. During his early years of priesthood Luigi served in several places, until the time he was sent as an assistant priest to his older brother at Pancalieri, Turin. While they were both there a cholera epidemic struck, leaving many children without parents and many elderly residents without carers. Seeing these needs, Luigi’s brother began the Poor Sisters of St Cajetan to take care of them. 

Not long after this Luigi was sent to a boarding school for seminarians as vice-rector and spiritual director. For a young priest to be given responsibilities like this, the diocesan authorities must have seen special qualities in Luigi. Here he learned how to help seminarian souls along the path to holiness from the rector Blessed Joseph Allamano. The school also served as a place where newly ordained priests could learn more about moral theology and other subjects needed in pastoral work before being sent out as parochial vicars. So as spiritual director and theology professor Luigi helped in the spiritual and moral formation of a large number of diocesan priests. In addition to being a confessor for those at the school, Luigi spent many faithful hours ministering to everybody who came into his confessional at the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation. 

Meanwhile the Poor Sisters of St Cajetan had been growing and flourishing. With the death of his holy brother in 1913, Luigi was asked to take over as Superior General. Gone were the days of scholarly routine. Now he undertook the visitation of the many convents and works of mercy that the Poor Sisters had, and visited the sick, elderly and children under their care. His experience as a spiritual director would have been invaluable in this new role of service, because what those who are serving in works of mercy need most is to be listened to, to receive feedback, to be encouraged and to be helped obtain the resources to keep on going.

In 1919, the good Lord saw fit to expand Luigi’s priestly ministry still further and arranged for him to become the director of an Institute for the Blind. The Institute was deeply in debt. Because everything was growing, new accommodations were needed both for the Poor Sisters and for the Institute. Luigi now had to become a property manager and a builder as well, at a time when his body was showing many signs of premature ageing. Due to a lot of hard work the Poor Sisters now had a General House and the Institute for the Blind was close by.

What wasn’t available, and what many people asked for was a Church next to the Poor Sisters’ General House. Building any church is an arduous task at any time, but Luigi saw the will of God in this and set about the construction of the Shrine of Christ the King. This was finished and ready for consecration in 1931.

The good Lord still wasn’t finished making Luigi a channel of yet more grace to souls. Several members of the Institute for the Blind expressed their desire to give their whole lives to God, but there was no religious order who would take them because of their blindness. So Luigi set about the formation of the Sisters of Christ the King, as a contemplative branch of the Poor Sisters of St Cajetan. Now these holy blind souls had a way to live out their call from God. In particular Luigi arranged that the Sisters of Christ the King would pray for the Church, for the Pope, for priests and for all souls in great need.

Luigi also had a ministry of letter writing. Some 1027 of his letters to priests, religious and lay people have been published. Hopefully one day soon they will be translated from Italian to English, and be a source of grace for English readers as well.

Soon after celebrating 50 years following Jesus as His priest, Luigi died peacefully on 9 June 1936. On 14 April 2007, Luigi was declared Blessed by the Church. May we soon see his holy life raised to the altar in canonization and much better known throughout the Church.

Blessed Luigi Boccardo, pray for us, pray for priests, pray for all workers of mercy, and pray for all those who are blind that they may be able to follow God’s call for them.