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November 25, 2002|
Saint Catherine Labouré
Enrico was born in northern Italy, in Gravedona on the northwest shore of Lake Como, on April 28, 1860. His father, Domenico, an administrative clerk before becoming head tax inspector for Como province, was not in favor of religion. He would accompany his wife to the church door but remained outside. His mother, Sophia, a model Christian, was a native of Livorno in Tuscany. Enrico was the second of five children. After finishing his secondary school studies, Enrico, who because of his father's opposition could not follow his call to religious life, enrolled at the university in Pavia to study mathematics. A calm boy of good upbringing, he stayed only one year at the university, where anticlericalism aroused in him bitterness and disgust.
Upon his return to Como, he completed his military service with a year of volunteer work. In his free time, he was glad to isolate himself in prayer and good reading. A student at the Military School of Milan, he emerged from it a reserve second lieutenant, esteemed by his superiors who encouraged him to make a career for himself in the army. But when he got home to his family, he opted to pursue studies in accounting, in 1882 receiving a diploma with honors.
A path that didn't suit him
Enrico's difficulties were not caused by his choice of a profession that matched his talents and inclinations, but by his persistent attraction to religious life, an attraction his father was opposed to. Soon, despite all his efforts to accept his fate, he fell into a state of moral dejection. He was so thin that he looked like he was recovering from illness. At last, in the summer of 1884, after long discussions with his son, his father finally gave up, in part through the intervention of Blessed Guanella (a priest who initiated social institutions, beatified in 1964), who had all the monasteries in Como pray for this vocation.
Three months after leaving his job, Enrico enrolled in the Gregorian University in Rome to pursue ecclesiastical studies. There he won the esteem of his professors. He received the Minor Orders with this distinction: «Edifying conduct, with a very good spirit of the Church.» Towards the end of 1885, his parents and his Aunt Magdalena came to Rome and were happy to find him pleased and calm. Magdalena noted in her diary: «Enrico is content and at peace. I understand how he can feel this way. He is sure he is on the way that God has prepared for him.»
Through the winepress
Enrico returned to his family. He also made a stay in a clinic. In Magdalena's diary can be found the following notes: there are «moments when the hand of God has weighed down on us and has plunged us into suffering... What a month of silence and what suffering at this time. May God at least put an end to this and give us back our treasure.» Eight years later, in recalling this period, Enrico would write, «I was sent to a spa. There God restored my health by giving me total confidence in His infinite goodness and mercy.»
A great spiritual capacity
In May 1887 the depression receded, and Enrico fully recovered his health. He experienced relapses, but they were less prolonged and less serious. Specific remedies for his illness did not exist at that time. The trial was overcome by a progressively more correct understanding of God, which brought about a filial relationship based on trust. The best feature of our Blessed's spirituality would from then on be the consideration of the infinite ocean of mercy found in the Heart of Jesus, of the maternal tenderness of our Mother, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, whom the Church invokes by the consoling title of «Health of the Sick.»
During the summer of 1887, Enrico was employed at the hospital in Como. But shortly thereafter, he was graciously dismissed because, instead of working in his department, he spent his time in the hospital wards at the bedside of those sick who were the poorest, the neediest, the isolated, for whom he sacrificed his last dime and even his own clothes. He also made numerous visits to the poor and the sick in their homes. His contact with these sufferings gave birth to his vocation as a hospitaller.
Abandoned to Mary
Born in the kingdom of Naples in 1550 and endowed with extraordinary vitality, Camillus de Lellis first entered the military profession, but shortly thereafter sank into debauchery, then was hospitalized in Saint James' Hospital in Rome. Profoundly touched by the extreme poverty in which the sick stagnated, he became a volunteer nurse, then gathered several companions who would form «the Company of Servants of the Sick,» or Camillians. Himself a sufferer of stomachaches and headaches, stones, ulcers, and almost permanent boils, Camillus circulated through the wards, a sick man among the sick, attentive to the needs of all. He died in Rome on July 14, 1614. The Church has proclaimed him Patron of hospitals, the sick, and sisters of charity.
On September 27, 1887, Enrico Rebuschini, 27 years old, entered the Camillians in Verona. The first attitude that he proposed to have was that of friendliness. This most necessary virtue did not come easily to him. He already had experience in professional work, while his companions in the novitiate were still in adolescence, and loved freedom, recreation, and noise, quickly turning serious thoughts into amusing puns. He therefore made a point of having a positive opinion of others, in spite of their faults or irritating attitudes. This ideal was sometimes difficult for him: «I am letting myself be taken in,» he wrote, «by fits of antipathy towards one of my holy companions. Sometimes he asks me about my studies, and instead of replying gently and just satisfying his question in a friendly manner, I answer this question irritably: 'I don't want you to ask me anything.' All this is the fruit of pride combined with a lack of union with my companions in love. I would like to think of nothing but doing the greatest good possible at all times.» In everyday reality, his resolution to be friendly was often destroyed by temptations to rash judgments and feelings of antipathy... But he did not let himself be discouraged by these battles. He renewed his intention to see in others the temple of God. He looked at the Crucifix and courageously resumed the slow work of softening the heart.
In light of these manifestations of depression, one might be tempted to think that Father Enrico had a gloomy and wavering nature. But it must be observed that between the attacks of 1895 and 1922, over 25 years of normal activity passed, during which he admirably took upon himself heavy responsibilities with great generosity. Then, from 1922 until his death in 1938, for over 16 years, he more than ever showed a stable equilibrium and complete serenity. Father Joseph Moar, who worked alongside him during the last seven years of the Blessed's life, affirmed in the beatification process that it was only through biographies that he had learned of the depressions Father Rebuschini had experienced. «When I knew him, he was utterly balanced and always his same old self. It had never occurred to me that he might have been able to suffer from depressions.»
By means of these sufferings, Father Enrico was able to practice the principles of Christian wisdom that the Holy Father Pope John Paul II gives to the sick: «Dear sick persons, I would like to leave in your memories and in your hearts three little lights which are valuable to me. First, no matter what your suffering might be, physical or moral, personal or within the family, apostolic, even ecclesial, it is important that you come to a clear awareness of it, without minimizing or overstating it, and with all the stirrings it engenders in your human sensitivity: failure, the uselessness of your life, etc. Then, it is essential to move forward on the path of acceptance, yes, to accept that this is how things are, not through blind resignation, but because faith assures us that the Lord can and wishes to bring about good from evil. So the greatest gesture remains to be madethat of oblation. The offering, brought about by the love of the Lord and our brothers, permits us to attain a level, sometimes a very high level, of theological charity, which means losing oneself in the love of Christ and the Blessed Trinity for humanity. These three steps experienced by each of the suffering, according to each individual's speed and grace, give him amazing interior liberation. Is this not the paradoxical teaching brought to us by the Gospels: He who loses his life for my sake will find it?» (Message to the Sick, Lourdes, August 15, 1983).
They couldn't resist
Father Rebuschini's success with souls can be explained by his union with God, especially by his pious celebration of the Holy Mass, his fervent recitation of the breviary, his adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and his remarkable love for the Most Blessed Virgin. His genuflections were marked with great respect. At the elevation of the Host during the Mass, he would stop for a moment in adoration. The Our Father, which is prayed with the very words Jesus used, seemed to him the most moving moment of the Holy Sacrifice.
At the beginning of May 1899, Father Enrico was sent to the convent in Cremona. The first charge entrusted to him was that of serving as chaplain to the Camillian Sisters. The following year his Superior also named him the bursar of his community. A man of interior life and prayer, Father Enrico carried out this responsibility, which was not to his liking, in order to do the will of God. He had at his disposal neither office nor secretary. But he could rely on the cooperation of active and intelligent Brothers. As part of his regular routine, he had to buy various goods, fix any plumbing or electrical failures, keep the clinic's operating room functioning, make the vegetable garden and henhouse at least marginally profitable, oversee the production of wine in the cellars, and prepare the salary budgets. But the extraordinary labors continued over the course of the yearsrenovating the kitchen, connecting to the city electric system, roof repairs, installation of central heating, not to mention difficulties caused by the insolvency of the bank in which the community's modest savings were kept...
Optimist as a matter of principle
Attentive to those who suffer
Through the intercession of Blessed Enrico Rebuschini, we pray for you, for your loved ones, for all those who find themselves faced with nervous weaknesses or diseases, so common in the modern world, and for all your intentions.
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