Trivolzio Saint Riccardo Pampuri

Ten Years of Encounters and Prayers of a People
Fr Giussani’s devotion to the physician saint of the Fatebenefratelli congregation and a letter published in Tracce (the Italian Traces) marked the beginning of a decade in which prayers, requests, and reports of graces have come in from all over the world. Every Sunday, the church is filled with pilgrims

by Renato Farina

On any given Sunday, for ten years now, at about 10:30 in the morning and then in mid-afternoon, cars on the highway from Milan to Genova turn off at the sight of the bell tower in the lovely countryside, taking the Bereguardo Pavia-Sud exit. Entering the little village of Trivolzio (of about 1,000 inhabitants), you can see that something here is captivating, but it isn’t a festival market–or, actually, maybe it is, but a different kind. There are no stalls with merchandise, just people, some walking quickly, others slowly, slowly. But their faces! It’s amazing. Their faces are open and transparent; the business at hand here involves their greatest desires, and they’ve come to have dealings with Someone, to place themselves in His hands. It’s as if a solicitous host had pressed everyone to take off the invisible shields they usually wear to protect themselves from wonder. At the door of the sixteenth century Church of Saints Cornelius and Cyprian, the parish priest, Fr Angelo Beretta, always welcomes visitors. Inside, in a large crystal reliquary, wearing the black habit of the Fatebenefratelli Congregation and a silver mask, is the body of a man who is dead, but who everyone knows is destined for the resurrection, for it’s so evident: Saint Riccardo Pampuri.
All around are large books where people write their intentions. They wait in line to write, then they attend Mass, say the prayer of Saint Riccardo, and kiss the reliquary. Next door, in the museum room with the belongings and clothes of the saint, people can take holy cards and rosaries. And something happens: there is an encounter.

The rubbed medal

The writer is one of the pilgrims. Anyone would be impressed by this uniqueness of Catholicism: each person is alone with the Lord, yet we are a people. You see it as you read the prayers filling 143 big volumes. These books contain the written prayers, but imagine how many unwritten ones there must be.
We speak about all this now because it is the tenth anniversary of this religious renaissance twenty minutes from Milan.
Everything began with a letter published in the February 1995 Tracce, in which Cristina Bologna told about her visit “to our neighbor Saint Riccardo” with some Memores Domini who lived in the area. They requested a grace for a friend who was ill with cancer. She described the simplicity of rubbing a holy card of the Saint on the band uniform he wore. Laura, who had told Cristina to do so, explained, “This gesture is to underline the physical nature of the prayer. It isn’t a gesture of fanatics; we do it because we are concrete.” After the image was given to their sick friend, all signs of the disease disappeared. It can happen; it’s not necessarily a miracle in the technical sense, so to speak. But the healing was certain. Tracce told this story at the urging of Fr Giussani, who since that time was profoundly devoted to Riccardo, recently proclaimed saint by the Pope (1989). Riccardo was a young general practitioner who worked with youth, and then became a member of the Fatebenefratelli Congregation. Works? Charity, “always do the will of the Lord,” “always have great desires.”
I, too, am a witness to a miracle, the transformation of a place of pain and death into something resurrected. During the last months of the year 2000, my father, Guido, was hospitalized in the town of Desio for cancer. Nothing could be done for him. Months before, he had gone with his family to Saint Riccardo and had been touched. In his hospital room with the terminally ill, atheists, and even a Muslim, life changed. In fact, one of them died, and before the nurse arrived, they prayed the Requiem and the prayer of Saint Riccardo over his body. I had seen something similar only in Calcutta, in Mother Teresa’s home for the dying: new life in the midst of death.

Saint Riccardo’s “custodian”

Fr Angelo Beretta is the solicitous custodian of all the entire Riccardian movement. He tells how the fame of this sanctuary has spread throughout the world, such that he receives phone calls from every which where, well beyond the sphere of Communion and Liberation, and even outside Catholicism, asking for directions to Trivolzio, or asking for prayers. He recounts with gratitude, “While we were wondering whether we could organize some manifestation for 1997, the centenary of Saint Riccardo’s birth, one Saturday morning in 1995 I was called to the church and found it full of people. “Saint Riccardo did a miracle,” I was told. Certainly, Saint Riccardo had done miracles, or he wouldn’t have been declared a saint. The people in the church belonged to Communion and Liberation, and showed me a copy of Tracce with an article on our saint’s life and a miracle that Saint Riccardo had just performed. From that moment on, many people began coming on pilgrimage to Trivolzio; on Saturday evenings there are lots of young people, and on Sundays there are families with many children. Some CL people already knew of Saint Riccardo. Nearby in Coazzano, there’s a Memores Domini house that was dedicated to blessed Riccardo Pampuri a long time ago. Lorenzo Frugiuele, who wrote a life of Saint Riccardo in verse, came here before 1995 to pray to him for help in his illness. Fr Giussani was the one who pressed for this.”

The surprises of the Lord

Fr Beretta continues, “I didn’t belong to CL, but I had heard about it through Fr Giulio Bosco, a seminary classmate of mine who died young in the mountains. I am convinced that we must be attentive to what the Lord does in our midst and must promote what is good, even if we weren’t the ones to organize it. I met Fr Giussani when he first came to celebrate Mass at Saint Riccardo’s shrine. I went to the church square and saw him arrive. It was the first time I met him, but after only a few words it seemed like he had known me forever. After Mass, he came to the parish center for a coffee, not with milk, but with grappa. As we spoke, I really felt at ease with him. He asked me why I didn’t buy the farmhouse on the side of the church square, recently empty, to create a place for hospitality. I was perplexed, but he encouraged me, saying, “I’ll send you the money for the down payment,” amazing those who were with him. This was the beginning of the project for a center for hospitality and meals, with room for meetings as well. We hope to inaugurate it next May, thanks above all to Antonio Intiglietta, Saverio Valsasnini, and Mauro Berti.” Saint Riccardo was always very practical, as are those who continue his mission. I asked him what phrase would describe these ten years, and he sighed as he looked at his watch and tried to get the faithful seated, “The surprises of the Lord.”