05/10/2011, 00.00
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Fr. Clemente Vismara, blessed because he saw the "extraordinary in the ordinary"

by Angelo Campagnoli
A beautiful testimony gathered by the diocesan Tribunal for the beatification of Clemente Vismara, by Angelo Campagnoli, his confrere in mission to Burma. Here's an excerpt.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – There is no before and after to Vismara’s life story, instead in is found in the same gestures repeated each and every day for 65 years. It ended as it began, it was always the same life, always consistent, but always new because Clement repeated the same gestures with the same enthusiasm as the first time: welcoming orphans, the destitute, opium addicts, widows and starting all over again, then setting up chapels, little schools, villages and receiving catechumens baptized, instructing people in the faith ... In a tribal world in which nothing ever changes, it was always the same from beginning to end: a fidelity that lasted 65 years is a marvellous thing.

The impression Father Clement made on me, was of a wheel that never stops turning: when the children whom he had gathered as orphans grew up, got married, left his care, others were ready to take their place. There, generations are counted every twenty years, so he cared for four generations: the father, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great grandfather of the children he had in care when he died. He wrote, sought money, helped, had nuns, catechists, widows who helped him ... His problem was feeding everyone and this, in that environment, was a great success.

His famous catch phrase: "You are old when you are no longer useful to anyone," stems from the fact that he has been helpful to everyone until 91 and felt fulfilled. He took care of the new situations as they occurred: always the poor, children, widows, lepers ... gathering everyone with the same enthusiasm as if it were the first time. That was his style and even when he was aging he always remained the same, he never aged. He was not a bigot, he was a man of faith and had daily practices of piety in the old tradition. But he was also free, willing to stop praying for someone who needed his help and then return to it. He was free spirit and had a lot of common sense. This was his youth, his holiness.

Clemente was a man of practical faith, he had a supernatural vision of life, a profound abandonment in God Everything about him was driven by faith, which was the foundation of his strength and certainties. Faith gave him the strength to persevere, even to always start from scratch, even when faced with repeated disappointments. He was enthusiastic about his vocation, and because he believed passionately, he could communicate it. Joy for life is another unique feature of Father Vismara. Of course he had a natural talent and his spiritual life rested on this, he saw no distinction between the two spheres.

In general, all missionaries have some special charisma: those who play an instrument, others who  know how to organize hymns and liturgy well, those in the know about building, some who are engineers, others who knows languages, those who treat patients better than a doctor. Not him, he didn’t excel in anything, but it was always present, he let others get on with the work, animating all, the millions of different things that went on in his mission. He had special gifts. He knew how to animate others, he knew how to welcome, encourage, he had the delicacy of a mother and the strength of a father. He was a great man.
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See also
Fr. Clemente Vismara, "Patriarch of Burma" to be declared blessed
The missionary joy of proclaiming the Gospel
Fr Clemente Vismara beatified in Milan’s cathedral square
A DVD to tell the story of the Blessed Clemente Vismara’s mission
Father Vismara, from the Blessed missionary an impulse for the New Evangelisation