Saint of the Day – 3 April – St Luigi Scrosoppi C.O. (1804-1884 died aged 79) – Priest, Founder, Apostle of Charity – Patron of Sisters of Providence of Saint Cajetan of Thiene, footballers and Aids sufferers.
Luigi Scrosoppi (1804-84) spent much of his life fighting anti-clericalism in Italy and brought comfort to the poor. The son of a jeweller, Aloysius Scrosoppi – always known as Luigi – was born in Udine, in northeast Italy. His family was extremely devout, and his two elder brothers, Carlo and Giovanni, were ordained before him.
Luigi grew up during with famine, typhus and smallpox endemic. Even as a boy he felt the obligation to provide relief, inspired by Matthew 25:40: “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.” At 25, the year before he was ordained, Luigi joined a group of priests and young teachers dedicated to educating poor and abandoned girls, both in the town of Udine and in the surrounding countryside.
He gave himself tirelessly to fundraising and was soon running an organisation which accommodated over 300 students in a building which became known as the House of the Destitute. Scrosoppi, however, was not inclined to take any credit. “The Providence of God,” he wrote, “who prepares minds and hearts to undertake his works, was alone the founder of this Institute.”
He gathered together a team of young women to teach sewing and embroidery. Nine of them decided to mark their dedication more formally and in 1837, under Luigi Scrosoppi’s direction, constituted themselves the Sisters of Providence. The congregation received official recognition from Pope Pius IX in 1871.
In 1846, aged 42, Luigi Scrosoppi, joined the Congregation of the Oratory in Udine and redoubled his work for the Sisters of Providence, promising to found 12 houses for them before he died. This target he achieved and also opened a school for deaf-mute girls. In the 1860s the anti-clerical policies of the government in the Udine region forced the Oratory to close. But Luigi Scrosoppi’s determination and practical support enabled the Sisters of Providence to carry on their work.
Now an old man, but with his habitual openness of spirit, he understood that the time had come to hand over the reins to the Sisters, and this he did with tranquility and hope. At the same time he maintained contact with them all through his letters in which he strengthened the ties of affection and love, and in his paternal concern never tired of recommending community spirit and trust.
Through his deep union with God and his experience over many years Father Luigi had acquired a special spiritual wisdom and intuition which enabled him to read hearts: sometimes he even revealed the gift of knowledge about secret inner thoughts and situations which were known only to the person concerned.
At the end of 1883, as his strength began to decline, he was forced to give up all work, and he constantly suffered from a high fever. The illness took its inexorable course. He refold the Sisters not to be afraid “because it was God who raised up their religious family and made it grow and He it is who will see to its future”.
When he knew the end was near, he wished to greet everyone. So he wrote his last words to the Sisters: “After my death, your Congregation will have many troubles but afterwards it will have a new life. Charity! Charity! This is the spirit of your religious family: to save souls and to save them with Charity”.
During the night of Thursday, the 3rd of April 1884, he finally went to meet Jesus. The whole of Udine and the people of the surrounding countryside hastened to see him one last time and to beg his protection from heaven.
Through his efforts on behalf of the little ones, of the poor, of young people in difficulty, of those who are suffering, of all those living in trying circumstances, Father Luigi still continues today to show everyone the path of union with God, of compassion and of love, and is still ready to accompany the steps of those who entrust themselves to the Providence of God.
St. Luigi Scrosoppi was canonised on June 10, 2001 – It was at the intercession of St Luigi that a Zambian man, now Fr Peter Changu Shitima, was miraculously cured of AIDS in 1996. He was at that time a member of the Oratory at Oudtshoorn, near Cape Town in South Africa and it was to a member of St Philip’s family that his friends turned for help. Read the full story here https://zenit.org/articles/the-aids-miracle-that-led-to-a-canonization/
and here is Fr Shitima at St Luigi’s Canonisation.
Nine years later, he was named as patron saint of footballers (soccer players) by Bishop Alois Schwarz. Today his name is invoked by sufferers from Aids.