Milan (AsiaNews) - I urge those who say that there are already so many Saints and Blessed to read this article until the end. I followed from the start the cause of beatification of Fr Clemente Vismara (1897-1988), beatified on 26 June 2011 in Piazza Duomo in Milan. I can testify to what follows:
1) At his death in Burma at the age of 91 on 15 June 1988, 65 of which spent as a missionary, a large popular movement of prayer and requests for graces began in his diocese of Kengtung and his birthplace of Agrate Brianza (Italy), because so many regarded him as a saint. Initially though, the diocesan information process met with strong objections, the usual ones that emerge in such situations. Who pays? We have so many saints. The Church today has too many problems to waste time on unnecessary things. Some of his brethren in Burma said, "Yes, he was a good man, but if you make him a Blessed, you'll have to do the same for us; we too lead the same life." Meanwhile in Agrate, the group "Friends of Father Clemente Vismara" was created. Since 1995, it has published a quarterly newsletter to disseminate stories about the Servant of God, devotion, prayers, graces received, etc. A biography, a collection of his letters, articles, holy pictures and devotional material have also been published. Masses and prayers have been celebrated as an offering for his beatification. Steps have been taken to raise awareness about the missionary in parishes, schools, cultural centres, not only in Lombardy, but also in other parts of Italy, like Italy's Deep South (Benevento, Catania, Calabria, Puglia, Sicily and Campania).
2) In October 1996, upon request of the Bishop of Kengtung Mgr Than Abraham, Card Carlo Maria Martini set up a diocesan tribunal in Agrate Brianza chaired by Mgr Ennio Apeciti, which started interrogating people who had been witnesses to Fr Clemente's life in Burma, Thailand, Italy, and Brazil. In 2001, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints issued its 'Positio' (A4 format, 630 pages) with the most important documentation collected by the postulation and the canon court. This is Fr Clemente's documented biography, plus the so-called "public copy", the photocopies of all documents collected: nine bound volumes (A4 size, about 800-1,000 pages each). That same year, the postulation presented six claims of "miracle" healing deemed inexplicable (with the necessary medical support) obtained through the intercession of Father Vismara. On 15 March 2008, Pope Benedict signed a decree on the heroic virtues of the Servant of God, making him a Venerable. After the approval of one of the six "miracles", Clemente Vismara was proclaimed Blessed of the universal Church on 26 June 2011.
3) This was the roadmap towards beatification. From the beginning, and even more so after the joyous final act, it elicited interest, devotions, received graces, charity and Gospel initiatives, and a desire to emulate. It also sparked male and female vocations for a life consecrated to Jesus Christ and the Church. It also generated offerings, which paid for the expenses of the Cause of Beatification and generated goods amounts sent to orphanages and missions in the diocese of Kengtung. The "Friends of Father Vismara" continue to publish their free newsletter delivered to about 8,000 devotees, even today when the costs of printing and postage are three times what they were three or four years ago! Providence, as Fr Clemente often saw it, is always present; it only needs some faith. What is more, the collected offerings paid for a real-size resin statue of the Blessed in the church (a bronze statue in the church square was paid by the City) and the purchase of the unassuming two-room flat where Clemente was born, as the start of a museum. Two other rooms adjacent to the flat will be purchased to enlarge the exhibit.
But the most important fact is that the devotion to the Blessed missionary has become increasingly widespread. In Burma, he has moved tribals, resulting in many conversions. He shook up a young Church, which had no other Blessed. Other bishops would like to beatify local priests and lay people, as well as missionaries. In Italy and in the Christian world, the president of the "Friends of Clemente Vismara," Rita Gervasoni, wrote to me, saying "We get on average a dozen requests per day for pictures, DVDs, books, comics and even relics of the Blessed Clement, especially from Brazil, the Philippines, Mexico, Poland and of course Italy. In addition to the work, all this entails considerable expenses. Each relic in its little reliquary costs about 7 Euros, plus shipping costs, which are high for foreign destinations. Yet, Providence helps."
All this is New Evangelisation. Each Blessed has his or her own charisma and Clemente had a really exceptional charisma. If the Cause had not started, he would already be long gone and forgotten by now. Instead, he is a Blessed who continues to spread the Gospel, inspiring prayers, imitation, vocations, and graces received. As an ideal, he represents-especially in his adventurous and poetic letters that burn with love for Jesus, orphans and the poor-the Saint Francis Xavier of modern times. The oratory of Agrate is dedicated to the Blessed Clemente, as is the oratory of the de'Busi Tower (Lecco), headquarters of the parish's own 'Radio Clementina'. On 29 June, Card Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, in a speech at Agrate for the centenary of the Sisters Servants of Jesus Christ, said among other things, "The figure of Father Clemente will always be ever more vivid and bright in the Church, I'm sure of that . . .".