Saint Luigi Scrosoppi

St Luigi was ordained in 1827 in Udine, Italy, where he helped manage an orphanage. He joined the Udine Oratory in 1846 where he continued his work with the poor and destitute opening a school and home for deaf-mute girls. He taught them sewing, embroidery, reading, writing, and arithmetic. Passing on his knowledge, he also passed on all his material possessions to support them, and would then go begging to support himself the girls.

In 1866 the Italian Army invaded Udine, and due to anti-clerical laws the Udine Oratory was suppressed. But he continued to live as a faithful son of St Philip Neri. He continued to sign his letters as Fr Luigi of the Oratory and left instructions that on his grave the words “priest of the Oratory” should appear. He devoted himself to taking care of the Sisters of Providence, an order whose foundation he was involved in, and they continued to take care of orphans.

Towards the end of his life he had to give up all activity due to ill health, and after a long illness he died in 1884. During his life he lived by the moto “work, suffer, and be silent.” He was a man of deep prayer and wisdom, known for his intolerance of vanity, but also for his humility asking for forgiveness from anyone, no matter, their station, with those to whom he lost his temper. He encouraged the sisters to see Christ in the poor and suffering. He was completely indifferent to worldly reputation and honours and was known for his joy. His dying words to the Sisters were “Charity! Charity!… Save souls, and save them with charity.”

In 1996, Peter Shitima, a student of the Oudtshoorn Oratory in Zambia, was dying from AIDS. One witness said “He could scarcely lift his legs, and had developed a serious case of peripheral neuritis. He could not stay in bed without help. He was a terminal AIDS patient and nothing could be done.” His parish began to pray with him through the intercession of Blessed Luigi Scrosoppi, then on 9 October, Peter Shitima had a dream of Blessed Luigi, then woke up feeling much better. The doctors involved in the case had no explanation, Peter Shitima was cured. The miracle was approved by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints in 2000, the decree stating the miracle was the “rapid, complete and lasting healing of Peter Shungu Shitima by polyineuritis and cachexia in positive HIV subject.” This led to Saint Luigi’s canonisation in 2001. Fr Peter Shitima is now a priest in South Africa.

St Luigi reminds us of the importance of charity over and above material possessions, he reminds us to find Christ in the poor and suffering, and to be Christ to them.

O God, since you have inflamed the heart of your priest, Saint Luigi, so that he might be an example of genuine charity towards those who suffer, grant to us that, with the help of his intercession, we may love our brethren with sincere hearts, and daily seek the kingdom of God and his justice. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.