Saint of the Day – 20 July – Blessed Luigi Novarese (1914-1984) Priest, co-Founder (alongside Sr Elvira Myriam Psorulla), Apostle of the Sick – born on 29 July 1914 in Casale Monferrato, Alessandria, Italy and died on 20 July 1984 in Rocca Priora, Rome, Italy of natural causes, aged 70. Patronages – Apostolate of the Suffering, Silent Workers of the Cross, Marian Priest League, Brothers and Sisters of the Sick. Blessed Luigi with Sr Psorulla, founded the Apostolate of the Suffering as well as the Silent Workers of the Cross. He also established the Marian Priest League and the Brothers and Sisters of the Sick. He built several homes for those who were ill and disabled. He served in the Secretariat of State until leaving that position to work alongside the Italian Episcopal Conference and to dedicate more time to the ill and to the work of his orders.
Msgr Luigi Novarese, was born in Casale Monferrato, in Piedmont, on 29 July 1914, the last of nine children. His father died when Luigi was just nine months old. His young mother Teresa, barely thirty, had to take care of the large family alone.
He personally experienced suffering. In 1923, Luigi, age nine, was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease – bone tuberculosis. The doctors declared him incurable and his case a hopeless and terminal one. His mother, Teresa was determined to save him and intensified her work, using every penny to cure her dying son. She is also a very devout Catholic and prayed to Our Lady asking for Luigi’s recovery but the doctors told her to be resigned to Luigi’s terminal illness. His doctors will be proved wrong. Thus began the continuous pilgrimage from one hospital to another but to no avail. At that time he experienced the horror and suffering the chronically ill live with and this marked him indelibly.
The thing that made him suffer the most was hearing the sick cursing in anger and desperation, sometimes because they were not assisted by the staff. Then, with considerable effort, he tried to help them himself, to prevent them from cursing even more.
Luigi followed his mother’s footsteps in her devotion to Our Lady and wrote a letter to Father Filippo Rinaldi, leader of the Salesians Order, asking that he and his students pray for him. Father Rinaldi told Luigi that they will ask for the intercession of St John Bosco and Our Lady Help of Christians. On 17 May 1931, aged 17, Luigi left the hospital for the last time, miraculously recovered.
During his numerous hospital stays, Luigi decided that he would become a doctor if he recovered. All of this changed in 1935 with his mother’s death. He realised the great possibility of serving the Lord by uniting the suffering of the sick with that of the Resurrected Lord’s and so entered the Seminary of Casale Monferrato, Italy. He would later complete his studies at the Capranica College in Rome and was Ordained a Priest on 17 December 1938, at St John Latern Basilica in the same city where he would spend most of his life. On 1 May 1942, Msgr Giovanni Battista Montini, Vatican Under Secretary of State and the future Pope Paul VI, asked Father Novarese to join his staff, where he would remain until 12 May 1970, when he was appointed exclusively to the Religious Hospital Assistance of Italy.
Msgr Novarese saw that many Priests had been wounded or are sick because of World War II and he wanted to help them. He founded the Marian Priest League on 17 May 1943. He extended his activities four years later, by founding the Apostolate of the Suffering (CVS) with the aid of Sr Elvira Myriam Psorulla, a young woman born in Haifa in Palestine who had moved to Rome to aid her sick uncle. The aim of this Association was completely new and innovative because the sick were no longer seen as people to be helped but rather, as active participants in society offering and uniting their suffering with that of Christ’s.
Due to his experience of illness and sanatorium, he wanted to dedicate his life to a new apostolate: “the integral promotion of the suffering person.” His aim was to enhance, recover the sick person “in full,” starting from his soul and continuing in every area of his life – the body, the work, the affections, etc.
Then in 1950, Msgr Novarese founds a third essential group, the Silent Workers of the Cross composed of men and women, Priests and laity, who consecrate themselves totally to the suffering by actively aiding and educating the disabled on the Christian concept of pain. In that same year, The Anchor magazine began it’s monthly Publication focusing on the members’ spiritual growth. Finally, Msgr. Novarese realised that strong arms are necessary to carry out all of the Association’s numerous spiritual activities and meetings, so in 1952, he founded the Brothers and Sisters of the Sick made up of healthy persons willing to share their time aiding the disabled in all apostolic endeavours.
From 9 to 15 September 1952 he held the first course of spiritual exercises for the first group of Silent Workers of the Cross from different parts of Italy. It was on that occasion, that it was decided to build a house to accommodate the sick and handicapped who wish to live the experience of spiritual exercises annually. The first of these houses was built and was dedicated to the “Immaculate Heart of Mary.” A few years later, in 1957, the first Community of Silent Workers of the Cross entered what would become the association’s “Mother House,” at the Sanctuary of Valleluogo in Ariano Irpino. The works continued to grow. But Luigi Novarese had begun to think beyond Italian borders, dreaming of what he called “the worldwide union of the sick.”
Wanting to do more for the sick, Msgr Novarese thought of workshops that would allow the disabled to enter the working world and economic independence from their families. This happened in 1954 after a miraculous event involving a member of the community. It must be remembered that in those years no-one was assisting the disabled.
Ten years later, His Holiness, Pope John XXIII appointed Msgr Novarese to the Chaplains of the Italian Hospitals.
In his final years, he built communities abroad, organised conferences on religious and scientific themes bringing doctors and nurses together for discussion and planned Spiritual Retreats for psychiatric patients.
Msgr Novarese ended his earthly life on 20 July 1984, in the newly opened house in Rocca Priora where he wanted to establish the training place for those who wish to join the Silent Workers of the Cross. His work is now continued by the Silent Workers of the Cross who direct and co-ordinate the apostolate which takes place locally in Italy and in many other countries. He is buried in St Mary’s Suffrage Church, Rome, Italy.
For fifteen years Msgr Novarese also directed the Office of the Italian Episcopal Conference for the pastoral care of health, following in particular the formulation and application of the legislation for hospital religious assistance.
On 19 December 2011, Pope Benedict XVI signed the decree recognising a miracle obtained, through the intercession of Venerable Luigi Novarese. He was Beatified on 11 May 2013 by Pope Francis with the Beatification recognition being celebrated at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls, Rome, Italy by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.