The vocation to be educators of the heart

To the Salesian pilgrims who came to Rome for the canonization of Artemide Zatti

 October 08, 2022

It is part of the “Salesian vocation” to be “educators of the heart, of love, of affectivity.” This is what Pope Francis stressed while addressing Salesian pilgrims gathered in Rome for the canonization of Artemide Zatti, which will take place tomorrow morning in St. Peter’s Square. Receiving them in audience this morning, Saturday, Oct. 8, in the Paul VI Hall , the Pontiff delivered the following address.

Dear Salesian brothers and sisters, good morning and welcome!

I thank the Rector Major for his presentation; I greet the members of the General Council, the Cardinals and the Salesian Bishops-they are many! -; I am happy to welcome the pilgrims who came from Boretto, Artemide Zatti’s birthplace, and those from Argentina and the Philippines; I greet the members of the Salesian Family from many countries of the world, especially the Salesian coadjutors. And a special greeting to the person who received the grace of healing through the intercession of the Blessed, whom I will have the joy of canonizing tomorrow. I would like to recall his figure from four points of view.

First, as a migrant. The Salesians came to Argentina in 1875 and at first they carried out their apostolate, in Buenos Aires. In Buenos Aires they did not go to the most important neighborhood, they went to Boca, where there were the communists, the socialists, the priests-eaters! That’s where the Salesians went, and other places, especially on behalf of Italian emigrants. Artemide met the Salesians in Bahía Blanca, where he and his family had come from Italy in 1897. Unfortunately, many migrants were losing the values of faith, all caught up in work and the problems they encountered. But the Zatti family, thank God, was an exception. Participation in the life of the Christian community, cordial relations with priests, common prayer at home, and attendance of the sacraments did not fail. Artemide grew up in an excellent Christian environment and, thanks to the guidance of Father Carlo Cavalli, matured in her choice for Salesian life.

A second aspect, “kinship”: he was “kin to all the poor”; this is Zatti’s kinship. The tuberculosis that struck him at the age of 20 seemed to have to crush all dreams, but, thanks to the healing obtained through the intercession of Mary Help of Christians, Artemis devoted his entire life to the sick, especially the poorest, the abandoned and the discarded. The hospitals of San José and Sant’Isidro were a precious and unique health resource for caring especially for the poor of Viedma and the Rio Negro region.Zatti’s heroism made them places of irradiation of God’s love, where health care became an experience of salvation. In that handkerchief of Patagonian land, where our Blessed’s life flows, a page of the Gospel was rewritten: the Good Samaritan found in him heart, hands and passion, first and foremost for the little ones, the poor, the sinners, the last. Thus a hospital became the “Father’s Inn,” a sign of a Church that wants to be rich in gifts of humanity and Grace, a dwelling place of the commandment of love of God and brother, a place of health as a pledge of salvation. It is also true that this enters into the Salesian vocation: the Salesians are the great educators of the heart, of love, of affectivity, of social life; great educators of the heart.

The hospital and the homes of the poor, visited night and day moving by bicycle, were the frontier of his mission. He lived total self-giving to God and the consecration of all his strength to the good of his neighbor. His intense work and tireless availability for the needs of the poor were animated by a deep union with the Lord: constant prayer, prolonged Eucharistic adoration, praying the rosary. Artemis was a man of communion, who knew how to work with others: nuns, doctors, nurses; and by his example and counsel he formed people, shaped consciences, converted hearts.

Third, we see him as a Salesian coadjutor. We recall the beautiful testimony he gave in 1915 in Viedma at the unveiling of a monument to the memory of Father Evasio Garrone, a Salesian missionary and considered by Artemis to be a distinguished benefactor. On that occasion he made this statement: “If I am well, healthy and in a position to do some good to my sick neighbor, I owe it to Father Garrone, Doctor, who seeing my health worsening day by day, as I was suffering from tuberculosis with frequent hemoptysis, told me decisively that if I did not want to end up like many others, I should make a promise to Mary Help of Christians to remain always by his side, helping him in the care of the sick, that he, trusting in Mary, would heal me. I believed, because I knew by reputation that Mary Help of Christians helped him in a visible way. I promised, because it was always my desire to be of help in something to my neighbor. And, God having heard his servant, I healed.” I believed, I promised, I healed. Three words written there.

This regained life is no longer his property: he feels that it is all for the poor. The three verbs “credetti, promisi, guararii” express the blessing and consolation that touch Artemis’ life. He lives this mission in communion with his Salesian confreres: he is the first to be present at community moments and with his joy and sympathy animates the fraternity.

The fourth and final trait I would like to highlight: he is an intercessor for vocations. And I have experienced this. I will tell you a personal experience. When I was Provincial of the Jesuits of Argentina, I knew the story of Artemide Zatti, read his biography and entrusted to him the request to the Lord for holy vocations to the lay consecrated life for the Society of Jesus. Since we began to pray through his intercession, the number of young coadjutors increased significantly; and they were persevering and very committed. And so I bore witness to this grace we received.

And in this regard, I would like to emphasize the importance of the vocation of the brothers. I have seen this in the Society of Jesus and I know that the same can be said of the Salesians. Brothers have a special charism that is nurtured in prayer and work. And they are good for the whole body of the Congregation. They are people of piety, they are cheerful, hardworking. You don’t see “inferiority complexes” in them, no, they are mature, they don’t feel complexed by not being priests, and they don’t aspire to become deacons, no, brothers; they don’t want promotions: brothers, because all the wealth is there. They are aware of their vocation and they want it that way (cf. Letter to Fr. Cayetano Bruno, 1986).

To you, dear brother coadjutors, thank you, thank you! May you also always be grateful for the gift of this call, which gives a distinctive witness of consecrated life, and thus propose it to young people as a form of evangelical life in the service of the little ones and the poor.

Thank you all, brothers and sisters, for coming to celebrate the canonization of Artemis Zatti. I bless you from the bottom of my heart, even those who could not come because of age or health conditions, or pocket conditions! I bless everyone. And I ask you to please pray for me. Thank you.

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