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NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local parish, who professes faith and loyalty to the Church and our Holy Father. This "little work" is purely a personal expression of that faith and loyalty, and not an officially recognized ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu. ~ Peter


Monday, May 1, 2017

Saint of the Month - May 2017: Bl. Rolando Rivi


Blessed Rolando Rivi, Martyr
He belonged to God ~ Memorial: May 29th

This Blessed only lived to be 14-years-old; still a mere child when he gave up his life in witness to Jesus Christ. But despite his young age, he managed to make a profound and lasting impression on his family; on his fellow townspeople; and on the entire world, as a matter of fact. His courageous legacy and memory endures to this day and will likely continue indefinitely.

Born on January 7, 1931, in the town of San Valentino (Reggio Emilia, Italy), Rolando Rivi's parents were deeply pious farmers.  His father, Roberto, in particular, attended Mass daily and was also a member of the local church choir. The young Rolando took after his father and, after he celebrated his First Communion on June 16, 1938, he became a daily communicant, himself, and also sang in the choir. In addition to availing himself of the grace found in the Eucharist, he was reported to frequent Confession, and after his Confirmation in 1940, he resolved to become "a perfect Christian and a soldier for Jesus Christ."  

Besides being known for his unusually mature spirituality, Rolando's other traits were his natural leadership abilities and his athleticism. It wasn't uncommon to see him playing with his friends at one moment, then leading them to the local church for Mass and prayer time. He taught his peers about God, as well as the Rosary and other basic prayers. Furthermore, Rolando was also generous to the less fortunate and was usually the first to greet any beggars who came to the family's door, bringing them bread and other provisions.

In 1942, at the age of 11, Rolando made known his intention to enter the priesthood so as to become a missionary, and his parents readily gave their blessing. He traveled to neighboring Marola to enter the seminary there and studied with other aspiring priests until the seminary was forced to close in June 1944 due to the occupation of German troops. Rolando returned home to San Valentino where he did his best to live the routine of prayer and study that he followed in Marola, even continuing to wear his cassock. It was a conscious choice that would eventually lead to tragedy.

“Someday, with the help of the Lord, we will be priests.  I will be a missionary.
I will go make Jesus known to those who do not know him yet.  Our duty as priests is to pray
a lot 
and to save many souls and to bring them to paradise.”

~ Words of Bl. Rolando

To understand a bit more about what led up to this young man's martyrdom, it's necessary to learn some of the history of his time and place. At the time Rolando was a seminarian, the end of World War II was right around the corner.  In Italy, the Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, who was allied with the Nazis, had just been removed from power by Allied Forces in 1943, which then triggered the Germans to seize control of certain areas of the country.  In turn, Italian militant resistance groups called "partisans" were formed, which included many Communists, who hoped to fill the governmental vacuum left by Mussolini and the Nazis once the civil unrest was over.

Communism is widely known for its notorious hatred for religion and the partisans who followed the ideology were no exception - in addition to targeting the Germans and any residual Fascists, they were intent on wiping out the influence of the Church. In fact, in the Reggio Emilia region where Rolando lived, four priests had been assassinated by partisans... and in San Valentino, the Blessed's hometown, the parish priest was badly beaten and forced to flee. It was in this climate of anti-Catholic sentiments and persecution that Rolando chose to take a stand by openly expressing his faith in Christ by wearing his cassock.

“My whole life is for you, O Jesus, to love you and to become love.”

~ Words of Bl. Rolando

Dressed in the distinct, long black garb, Rolando became somewhat of a visible symbol of resistance against the Communists for his fellow Catholics, especially among the youth. His family repeatedly urged him to stop wearing his cassock because of the danger it posed to him, but his response to them was, "I am not hurting anyone.  I don't see why I should take off my cassock, which is the sign of my consecration to Jesus." or he would often repeat"I belong to Jesus."  In these brief statements, Rolando Rivi revealed the depth of his personal commitment to God - he had, indeed, fully given himself over to Jesus in his desire to become a priest, and was not afraid to witness to it.

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The shrine-memorial erected at the site
of Rolando's martyrdom.
On April 10, 1945, during Easter Week of that year, Rolando was abducted by partisans while studying in the woods near his home.  When he failed to return home for lunch, his father Roberto and his mother went to fetch him but found his schoolbooks scattered on the ground with a note that read, “Don’t look for him. He is spending some time with us. - The partisans.”  What followed in the next two days was an extremely painful trial for the seminarian. 

Rolando was taken to a secluded farm house in Piane di Mochio where he was stripped of his cassock, thrown in a pigpen, and beaten with his own belt. He was accused of being a Nazi spy as well as other falsehoods but he denied all charges against him. The farm owner overheard many of the things that went on and later testified to Rolando's steadfastness and faith. On the third day of his captivity - April 13th at 3:00 PM - the captive was lead out into the woods where he saw a shallow grave prepared. Understanding what his final fate would be, he asked his captors for one favor: "Allow me the time to say a prayer for my father and mother."  He knelt and prayed before he was fatally shot in the head and in the heart. Two days later, his father and the parish priest, who were frantically searching for him, were tipped off as to his whereabouts and they discovered his buried remains.

Rolando's body was at first interred in a neighboring cemetery, but when it was transferred to San Valentino on May 25, 1945, a large crowd converged to welcome their young seminarian home. Among them, hundreds of Catholic youth who had known the deceased in life. He was hailed a martyr and a spontaneous devotion sprung up around his memory, with a shrine being built at the site of his execution.

As for his murderers - a Giuseppe Corghi and Delciso Rioli - both were eventually brought to trial and convicted. However, six years later, a Communist Justice granted them amnesty and both were released from prison. The trial records confirmed that the reason they went after Rolando was due to him being "very young and of a pious and irreprehensible conduct."

“Rolando Rivi is the St. Aloysius Gonzaga of the third millennium.”

~ Archbishop Luigi Negri

After careful study was made by the Church of his life, virtues, and death, Rolando Rivi was officially recognized a Martyr who died "in odium fidei" (in hatred for the Faith). He was Beatified on October 5th, 2013, and his relics are now housed and venerated in the parish church of San Valentino. In the face of growing indifference and, even open hostility towards Christianity in our own times, may this Blessed's faith-example encourage all of us to also be courageous in expressing our belief in Jesus Christ!  Bl. Rolando Rivi, pray for us...

Prayer to Invoke the Intercession of Bl. Rolando Rivi

Image result for ROlando Rivi prayer

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