Saint of the Day – 7 November – Saint Vincenzo Grossi (1845-1917) Priest and Founder of the Daughters of the Oratory, Spiritual Director, Apostle of the Holy Eucharist and of Charity, renowned Preacher – born on 9 March 1845 in Pizzighettone, Cremona, Italy and died on 7 November 1917 (aged 72) in Vicobellignano, Cremona, Kingdom of Italy. Patronage – The Daughters of the Oratory.
Vincenzo Grossi was born in Pizzighettone, in the province of Cremona, on 9 March 1845 and was immediately baptised in the parish church of San Bassiano. He was the penultimate of the ten children (three died at an early age) of Baldassarre Grossi and Maddalena Cappellini, owners of a mill. From them he learned meekness and industriousness, combined with a sincere love for God.
He spent his childhood helping his parents and starting to cultivate, in prayer, the desire to resemble his brother Joseph, who attended the diocesan seminary. On 23 March 1854 he received Confirmation and, two years later, First Communion. It was then that he declared to his parish priest, Don Giuseppe Favenza and to his parents,. the conviction that he must become a priest. On the part of the family, there was no opposition but they merely pointed out, that they could still need hi,; besides, having already the other son who studied as a priest, they could not afford the expenses for both. Thus, while working with his father in delivering the sacks of flour, the boy took some time to privately study, under the guidance of the parish priest, the subjects of the seminary.
At the age of nineteen, on 4 November 1864, Vincenzo was admitted to the Cremona Seminary, after having taken the necessarily examination s. His lecturers soon realised that Vincenzo was dedicated – not only within the seminary but also in the world – when he returned to Pizzighettone, he gathered around him the children to instruct them.
In February 1869 he received the minor orders and, on the following 22 May, he was ordained a priest by the bishop of Brescia, Monsignor Girolamo Verzieri. His first assignments were in the parishes of San Rocco in Gera di Pizzighettone and in Sesto Cremonese, followed in 1871 by the one as spiritual director (a loophole by the bishop to appoint parish priests without annoying the civil authorities) to Ca ‘dei Soresini.
The first effective Parish Priest position was from 1873, in Regona, a small suburb of Pizzighettone. The population of the place had long been far from religious practice but Don Vincenzo devoted himself with such care that after a few years he transformed the small village into a “model”, as it was defined by his priest colleagues. The passion for the young had not abandoned him – he allowed them not only to visit his house but even to empty the pantry, in order to keep them from dangerous places and companions. For the girls, in particular, he had a genuine concern. In significant agreement with the work carried out in those same years by some lay people in the diocese of Milan and with what St John Bosco was doing in Turin, he gave the name of “oratory” to the small group he had managed to gather in his presbytery, because his young parishioners could enjoy themselves in peace.
He also took care of the restoration of the parish church but without neglecting the tasks most closely related to the ministry – to confess, to take care of the liturgy, to take care of the formation of the faithful. His reputation as a preacher stretched far and wide and soon he was begged to preach in parish missions. Sometimes he was alone, others in collaboration with fellow priests.
All this work, already enormous, did not completely satisfy Don Vincenzo. Living in constant contact with the rural population, he realised that youth grew up in very compromised and complicated situations. But there were some good girls who had asked him to be their spiritual director – one of them, Vittoria Squintani, besides being an apostle among the youth of her parish, had offered herself a victim for the sanctification of priests. He himself, faced with the spiritual decadence of the clergy of the time, was aware of this necessity, he saw in her a precious instrument to understand his new mission more clearly. He then began to gather some of his assistants and set them on the common life between them. The death of Vittoria, only twenty-nine years old, seemed to nullify those first steps but the encounter with a soul similar to hers, Maria Caccialanza, led him to continue.
In 1883 Don Vincenzo was ready for a new obedience – the bishop, Monsignor Geremia Bonomelli, destined him as parish priest in Vicobellignano. His presence had been recognised as the most providential, in that territory where Protestantism had taken hold, in its Methodist declination. Immediately, he showed great charity and openness also to those brothers – “The Methodists must understand that I love them too”, he often said. The effects were noticed, the same pastor came several times to listen to his Lenten sermons and the Protestant families sent their children to the parochial school.
The new destination, which took him far away from Regona, did not make Don Vincenzo desist from the project of the new female community. The name chosen was that of “Daughters of the Oratory” not so much to indicate the privileged place of their work but to recall to them to a very specific spiritual model – spiritual joy or, as he preferred to call it, the “holy joviality” of St Philip Neri, founder of the Congregation of the Oratory. He did not want them to wear a definite habit, to bring young women closer but he wanted them to be serious and convin ced religious. He personally took care of their training by holding regular conferences, annual spiritual exercises and sending them numerous letters. The first bases for the nascent Institute were placed in 1885 in Pizzighettone. Sister Maria Caccialanza was chosen as the Prioress of that first group, in 1895 but sadly, she died on 5 September 1900. Her successor was Ledovina Scaglioni, the first Mother General.
The diocesan approval, meanwhile, was slow to arrive. In fact, Monsignor Bonomelli, after some unhappy experiences in the diocese, was not very keen on opening new religious communities, for this reason, the analysis of the Constitutions was postponed for some time. Finally he gave his assent on 20 June 1901.
Meanwhile, the Daughters of the Oratory had opened a house in Maleo with the approval of the bishop of Lodi, Giovanni Battista Rota and other communities in the city of Lodi, where it was decided to buy a house in via Paolo Gorini that became the Mother House.
Don Vincenzo was divided between the parish and the nuns and continued even in the difficult years of the First World War. In 1917, while he was in Lodi to settle some urgent matters for the Institute, he fell ill. Despite stomach pains, he wanted to return to Vicobellignano. In the early days of November his condition worsened, so much so that the Sisters of Lodi rushed to receive a final blessing from him. He could speak only very few words: “The way is open, I must go.” A few days earlier, to the Mistress of Novices, he said: “Try not to complain ever, even try to rejoice when things go contrary to your desires.” At 9.45 pm on 7 November, Don Vincenzo gave his soul to God. He was 72 years old and was parish priest for 43 of those years.
The Daughters of the Oratory received pontifical approval on 29 April 1926 – currently they are active in Italy, in Argentina and Ecuador.
On 1 November 1975 Paul VI Beatified him as an example to all the priests and pastors throughout the world. He was Canonised on 18 October 2015 by Pope Francis, after approval of the second miracle. His relics rest at the Mother House of Lodi.
At his Canonisation Pope Francis said:
” Saint Vincenzo Grossi was a zealous parish priest, ever attentive to the needs of his people, especially those of the young. For all he was concerned to break the bread of God’s word and thus became a Good Samaritan to those in greatest need.”
Prayer for the Intercession of St Vincenzo Grossi
(With the approval of the Bishop of Lodi)
Most Holy Trinity,
who shaped the evangelical life of Saint Vincent Grossi
and made him a faithful servant of Christ
and of the Church in the priestly ministry,
loving educator of the young
and wise founder of the Daughters of the Oratory,
grant, by his intercession,
peace to the world,
harmony to families,
comfort to those who suffer,
for the future for the new generations,
grant fervour for priests,
a spirit of communion in parishes
and to all robust faith,
certain hope and active charity,
to proceed swiftly towards
the fullness of the Christian vocation.