Saint of the Day – 29 September – Blessed Luigi Monza (1898 – 1954) Priest, Founder of the Secular Institute of the Little Apostles of Charity, devotee of Eucharistic Adoration, Apostle of Charity – born on 22 June 1898 in Cislago, Varese, Italy and died on 29 September 1954 in Lecco, Italy of a heart attack. Patronage – the Little Apostles of Charity.
Father Luigi was born on 22 June 1898 in Cislago between Varese and Milan. The child appeared very frail and was baptised immediately. Fortunately his health slowly improved and over the years he grew stronger. In May 1913 a serious accident radically changed the life of the Monza family, his father Giuseppe fell from a tree and became paralyzed. He confided to his parish priest, Fr Luigi Vismara, that he had long felt the desire to consecrate himself to the Lord in the priesthood.
In September 1913, thanks to the help of his parish priest, Luigi left for the Salesian Missionary Institute of Penango Monferrato near Asti. On returning home for the summer holidays after the school year 1915/16 he found the family situation deteriorated. In fact, his father was completely disabled and forced to bed and Pietro, the eldest son, had been called to fight on the eastern front. Luigi decided not to leave the weight of the family only on the shoulders of his mother, as sister Giuseppina had entered the Sisters of Charity of the Immaculate Conception of Ivrea.
Fr Vismara came to his aid again and managed to get him into the Collegio Villoresi of Monza. When everything seemed resolved, on 16 January 1917, he lost his father and was later called in the army. When he was discharged, he resumed his studies. Cardinal Tosi ordained him a priest on 19 September 1925. He was assigned to the parish church of St Maurizio in Vedano Olona, in the province of Varese.
Fr Monza immediately became part of the parish life. His method was based on personal witness as a direct form of evangelisation, on the exercise of charity, on the formation of a community capable of living in loving relationship with each other. He founded a school for the teaching of French, to allow migrants, almost all headed to France or Switzerland, to learn the basics of the language with which they could communicate in the new country. The most successful activity was the sport of the “Viribus unitis” soccer team. In May of 1926 the fascists formed the Vedanese Sports Union, with the evident intention to oppose the “team of priests”. They preceded to provoke unrest and triggered a series of violent attacks that, despite the mediation of Fr Luigi, culminated in the arrest of eight young men of the oratory. Even Fr Luigi was arrested along with Fr De Maddalena and despite the intervention of the Curia had to spend four long months before the two were released. After his release, the diocese decided to temporarily transfer the young priest to the parish of St Mary of the Rosary in Milan and then assign him to the Shrine of Our Lady of Miracles in Saronno, where he arrived in November 1928. It was in this family environment that Luigi formed the first oratorian nucleus, initially constituted by no more than thirty boys. In a short time he constituted a choir and his house became a classroom to study and a room for singing and recreation.
On 30 October 1936, Fr Luigi took part in the first official meeting that began the institute that from that day took the name “La Nostra Famiglia”. So he got busy buying a house and, with great personal sacrifice, he managed to buy a land located in Vedano Olona on which the first stone was laid on 29 August 1937.
In the meantime he was appointed parish priest of the church of San Giovanni alla Castagna di Lecco, a suburb of the city. Within a few months he managed to win the sympathy of the parishioners by being loved and appreciated for his human and spiritual gifts. At the centre of the parish life he placed Eucharistic adoration that he practised assiduously and with which he “infected” his parishioners. And from the many testimonies that have remained of the period of Lecco, it is clear that in the ministry of Don Luigi the preaching, characterised by great simplicity, was also of great importance. With the arrival of Fr Monza to St John the Catholic association, already present in the parish, had new stimuli and new vigour; in fact he dedicated himself with great care to the development of all Catholic organisations.
After the World War II, true peace was still far away. In Vedano the displaced returned to their countries and the house of La Nostra Famiglia remained available for new initiatives. In January 1946 Professor Giuseppe Vercelli, director of the Carlo Besta Neurological Institute of Milan, proposed to Clara Cucchi to take care of the re-education of abnormal psychic children. This activity, which was well inserted in the spirit of the Institute, was extremely challenging and risky for the small community, composed of girls who were free of pedagogical medical knowledge. But Don Luigi and Clara let themselves be guided by events, perceiving in the Vercelli proposal a sign of God’s will.
In those years the heart problems of which Fr Monza suffered for some time were accentuated, aggravated by the loss of his mother on 17 April 1953. On 25 August 1954, when returning from the house of Varaz, Fr Luigi, began to suffer pain that within a few hours increased. The doctor had him hospitalised for he had suffered a serious heart attack. His condition deteriorated and on the morning of 29 September 1954, he received the Viaticum and died by saying, “My Jesus, mercy … “….Vatican.va (translated).
Blessed Luigi was beatified in Milan on 30 April 2006.