Saint of the Day – 16 June – Blessed Donizetti Tavares de Lima (1882-1961) Priest, Apostle of the poor, the elderly and the sick, miracle-worker, known to bilocate – born on 3 January 1881 in Cássia, Brazil and died at 11.15am on 16 June 1961 in at the parish hall in Tambaú, Brazil of natural causes,he was 80 years old.
Donizetti was born in 1882 to Minas Gerais de Tristão and Francisca Cândida Tavares de Lima. He was one of eight brothers. His father worked in law and his mother worked as a professor. In 1886, the Tavares de Limas family relocated to Franca in São Paulo, where he attended school and learned music.
In 1894 he commenced his ecclesial studies where he soon became the organist at the institute where he studied and later started to teach music to the seminarians. In 1897 he moved to a college to further his education but later returned to teach music to seminarians. In 1900 he commenced a law course and in 1903 his philosophical and theological formation in preparation for the priesthood.
He received his Ordination as a Priest on 12 July 1908 from the Bishop of Pouso Alegre. He began work in the San Gaetano Parish and then spent time in the Campinas Diocese where he served as an auxiallary Priest.
In 1909, he was appointed as the Parish Priest for the Sant’Ana Church Vargem Grande do Sul in the Ribeirão Preto Diocese, where he defended the rights of the poor. This staunch advocacy for the poor led to the rich and his other detractors to accuse him of being a communist. He also helped construct Chapels to Nossa Senhora Aparecida and to Saint Benedict of Nursia. He was stationed at the Sant’Ana church from 20 April to 8 August 1909 before being transferred again. On 24 May 1926 he was appointed as the newest Parish Priest for the Church of St Anthony in Tambaú. He arrived in the town on 12 June and was inaugurated at the parish with his first Mass there on 13 June. It was there, that he oversaw the establishment of the Saint Vincent de Paul Sanatorium for the abandoned and for elderly people who lived alone. The first miracle attributed to him occurred in 1927 – torrential rain threatened a procession of a statue of Our Lady of Aparecida but the storm subsided and was quieted when Fr Donizetti led the procession himself.
In 1960, the Archbishop of Ribeirão Preto city, Dom Luiz do Amaral Mousinho, went to Tambau, to visit the parish of Saint Anthony and met Fr Donizetti. As soon as he saw the Archbishop, he told him:
“Archbishop, I had a terrible nightmare! I saw the demon entering in the Cathedral of Saint Sebastian (in Ribeirão Preto city-SP) with some priests with him and all of them were armed with picks in hand. They were walking to the side altars of the Cathedral, screaming loudly. When they reached the altar of St Anthony, the image of the holy Friar of Lisbon looked with authority to the devil and his minions, then they left the place fast. Archbishop, for goodness sake, do not let them overthrow the altars of the Cathedral!”
At that moment, the Archbishop told him that it was just a dream, a nightmare and no one would remove the altars but Fr Donizetti told again:
“No, no, Archbishop! We won’t see this disgrace (prophesying that they both would die soon) but it will come! This was not just a dream, nor a nightmare! The darkness will fall over this world! I beg you: don’t let them destroy the altars!”
Kindly, as usual he was, the Archbishop smiled and told to him: “Fr Donizetti, I promise you, I won’t let anyone destroy the altars of our Cathedral!”
A few years later, after the introduction of the New Mass, Fr Agmar Marques remembered this fact and he avoided the removal of the altars of Saint Sebastian Cathedral.
Father Horacio Longo also remembered the “nightmare of the altars” prophesied by Father Donizetti when they removed the side altars of the parish of Franca city, now the Our Lady of Conception Cathedral.
Father Saverio Brugnara reported that Father Donizetti received a picture of St Pope John XXIII in 1959. At that momen,t Fr Donizetti looked for a time at the picture, smiled and said to an acolyte that they both should pray a lot for the Pope and for the Church. One of the acolytes wanted to remove the old picture of Pope Pius XII on the wall and put the picture of the new Pope, John XXIII but Fr Donizetti said: “No, my son! Leave the picture there! Soon I will meet him! As for the new Pope’s picture, leave it there, where it is.”
The picture of Pope John XXIII was placed on a dresser and Pius XII’s picture continued on the wall, at the main place of the sacristy.
Many miracles were witness through the piety and devotion of Father Donizetti. He was just a living saint and he used to be called as “the thaumaturge of Tambau.” One of the miracles which Father Donizetti always attributed to the intercession of Our Lady of Aparecida, was witnessed by one of the most respected journalists in Brazil, Joelmir Beting (1936-2012) who was born and lived in Tambau. Local officials came to him to seek out his advice on social matters. Even President Getúlio Vargas spoke with Fr Donizetti about social matters, that culminated legislation governing proper work ethics
On a radio program the journalist told that on the Easter Sunday of 1953, Fr Donizetti prayed the Mass in the church of Saint Anthony for thousands people and at the same time, he was seen by about 2 thousand people in the City of São Pedro dos Morrinhos, attending an auction of cattle to raise money for his sanatorium. This was one of the many miracles that made him known in the state of São Paulo and other states of the country.
Another famous miracle happened in 1955 when José Alexandre Braga, a boy of 5 years old, was cured of osteochondritis, a disease that prevented him from walking.
About the miracles, Father Donizetti used to say that the most important were not the cures but the conversions to Catholicism.
Fr Donizetti died in Tambaú on 16 June 1961 due to cardiac complications and diabetic complications that had caused several hospitalisations in the past. He died in the morning at 11:15 am while seated in a chair. His remains were interred on 17 June and exhumed on 7–8 May 2009 in Tambaú for canonical inspection and relocation, which was done at night to avoid a large crowd forming. Later his body was moved to his old parish church and now attract, between 10 and 12 thousand people per month who come as pilgrims. Thousands also visit the ‘House of Father Donizetti’ (in Portuguese “casa do Padre Donizetti”). Inside the house, there are many objects related to the miracles, such as crutches, etc.
The Priest had been hailed as a Saint his entire life and efforts to launch a Beatification process started in 1991. The cause opened towards the decade’s end and he became titled as a Servant of God. Pope Francis confirmed his heroic virtue on 9 October 2017 and named him as Venerable. Pope Francis also signed a decree on 6 April 2019 that recognised a miracle attributed to his intercession which made it possible for him to be Beatified in Tambaú on 23 November 2019. He was Beatified on 23 November 2019 by Pope Francis. The Beatification ceremony was celebrated by Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu.