Earlier this week there came a wonderful story out of Italy that revealed a Catholic Archpriest, Don Giuseppe Berardelli, was among the 6,000-plus-and-growing who have now died via the coronavirus in one of the most beloved countries in the world. There have actually been well over 100 priests and clergy who have died at the European epicenter of the most vicious virus in our modern history, but what made Father Berardelli’s memory most warm is that numerous sources have confirmed he gave his ventilator to a younger patient who, we are told, he didn’t even know.
Fr. Bererdelli had been the archpriest in the northern Italian town of Casnigo (pop.
3,500) – about 50 miles from Milan – and is remembered as a friend to everyone, bouncing along on his red scooter but, thus far, no one knows the entire story of his last days. When he became critical, he was taken to a Lovere Hospital, some 20 miles away. With the pandemonium and the medical rush, the truth is in the details which won’t come until later.
Father Giulio Dellavite, the secretary general of the diocese, wasted too much Holy Water when he dampened a beautiful view with his own unfocused and elementary conjecture. He was never there, mind you, so as an absentee expert he told the Catholic News Service hospital officials said there was no respirator delivered for the stricken archpriest. "There was not a donated respirator. There have not been any respirators coming from outside of the hospital,” Fr. Giulio told reporters, and the notion that Fr. Berardelli’s parish furnished him with the respirator that he allegedly forwarded to the younger virus victim could not be proven.
Hey, “Mr. Positive,” that ain’t the way God works …
Rather than get in a diatribe that means nothing, take a hot shower to get rid of whatever mites are in your eye, and you will see the world’s people are desperate for an Easter, for hope. Can you prove Christ’s actual existence? Absolute not; but your look-touch-feel-smell doesn’t mean diddly in the deep and dependable way our God has influenced mankind. Trust me, you never took a class in organic chemistry class every summer that determines there is no way you’ll ever understand antibiotics? Of course not. That’s what makes the Ah-ha moment so very wonderful!
Can you prove when I read my Bible, why I often cry? Of course not.
Yet I believe with a fervor and, with you as a Man of the Cloth, might I suggest when your exhausted, tired, shocked and war-zone mentality brings you back to a more reality-based view, simply return to the very basics of religion: it’s easy. You gotta’ have a faith because without it you don’t have a chance at hope. Italy needs hope. For you to offer forensic doubt when the whole country is gasping for any inch of the bright side instead supports all the bad we must fight.
That established, Fr. Giulio said he had enjoyed a close friendship with Fr. Berardelli for many years, and added it was his belief that Fr. Berardelli would have given up a potential spot in the intensive care unit up for another younger patient, if he could have. “But we do not have certainty,” the priest said. What is certain is that followers of Christ have been martyrs since 11 of the 12 Disciples of Jesus were killed violently. History is chock full of martyrdom.
The most notable is the saint Maximilian Kolbe, a priest from Poland who stepped from a crowd of incarcerated prisoners at the German death camp of Auschwitz, located in German-occupied Poland during World War II. It was in the stead of a man he didn’t know who was pleading with the Nazis for mercy so he could see his wife and children again. Fr. Kobe, and nine others, were actually starved to death by the Nazis in an underground bunker. After two weeks without food or water, Fr. Kobe was the last barely alive so his starvation was hastened by a lethal injection. (The last Disciple, John the Apostle, watched his friends be killed and then it is believed he was the author of the final book in the Bible, Revelations. A glimpse at what is to come for millions of Christians world-wide, Revelations is sometimes called “The Book of Hope.”
Thousands of testimonials from across the globe have arrived at Fr. Berardelli’s church in Casnigo – The Church of John the Baptist -- and according to Vatican News the ever-happy archpriest would greet Catholics and non-Catholics just the same: “Pace e bene” (translated: Peace and good.”)
Benedetta Franchina, is a parishioner of Archpriest Berardelli’s church, St. John the Baptist, and that she knew the priest as a man of great faith. “He was a person full of faith and always a person who transmitted joy, positivity, and was always happy, always ready to give a word of comfort,” she said. “He always gave of himself to his parishioners and to all of the people that had a need or a want,” the Catholic News Agency reported. Franchina said. “He was always ready if someone needed to speak with him or needed help. He was always ready, he was always, always ready. So, when I remember Fr. Giuseppe I remember him as a wonderful person."
Because of the dizzying death rate, there is a funeral in the Lombardy region of the country every 30 minutes. In respect of others and the country’s lock-tight restrictions, Fr. Berardelli specifically asked there would be no funeral and asked the name of the person who received his ventilator should not be revealed. But as his remains were take to the cemetery, the people of Casnigo applauded from their balconies and porches and open windows and shouted, “Martyr of Charity” … Martyr of Charity …Father Giuseppe! Blessed are you.”
Yet the best chant was “Santo subito! … Santo subito!” which means, “Saint right now!”… a saint right now.
* * *
* -- “Maior amor non habet homo, quam hoc, quod homo ponat animam suam pro amicis suis.” –John 15:13 in Latin, the preferred Word of the Roman Catholic Church.
* -- "Non c'è amore più grande che dare la propria vita ai propria amici.” – John 15:13 in Italian, the Word of John The Baptist Church in Casnigo, Italy, as was once taught by Archpriest Don Giuseppe Berardelli (1947-2020 priest
* -- “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15:13 in English, the Word as our lives are already being challenged by a disease that is painting every corner of Planet Earth with a very wide brush.