Milan (AsiaNews) On 11 April last, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints published a decree to initiate the Vatican enquiry into an extraordinary grace obtained by the intercession of the servant of God, Fr Clemente Vismara, and presented as a presumed "miracle" for the beatification of this great missionary. Clemente served for 65 years in Burma and is already venerated and invoked as the "Patriarch of Burma" and "Saint of Children".
Born in 1897 in Agrate Brianza (Milano), Clemente was awarded three medals in World War One, also attaining the rank of sergeant major; however he emerged from the war disgusted by all manner of violence and he became a missionary priest of PIME on 26 May 1923. He left for Burma on 2 August of the same year and died on 15 June 1988 in Mongping, the last of six parishes he set up. During this time, he only returned to Italy once, spending some months in 1957. Cordial and optimistic, always smiling, he died at the age of 91 "without ever growing old", according to his co-brethren, because, as he himself wrote, "old age starts when you realise you are no longer useful to anyone". Until the end, he was useful to so many in a country among the poorest of the poor, among tribal peoples tormented by war, dictatorship, famine, disease and misery.
Clemente lived among some 200 or 250 orphans. He gathered them from destroyed and abandoned villages, raising them with the help of sisters who educated and brought them up until they got married. They taught them to read and write, and trained them in an occupation. But Clemente was above all a holy missionary, wholly dedicated to his poorest neighbours. He prayed much and entrusted himself to Providence, spending wisely the donations he received but without keeping any accounts. In a locked chest, he kept a bag in which he put the money he received and from which he took what was necessary. The Italian sisters with him testified that, mysteriously, there was always money and enough to meet the need! Clemente sustained more than 300 people every day, among them orphans, widows, disabled, sick and poor. Every night after dinner, he would go to bid the sisters good night and ask them: "Did everyone eat today?" And he would say to visitors: "In my home, no one has ever gone hungry." In such a situation, this was the greatest boast anyone could make.He wrote many articles and letters; he knew how to transform the squalid reality in which he lived into a poetic literary style, adventurous, full of faith and humour. His writings, published in several books, are a classic of missionary literature, especially adapted to youths who love to dream. "Who will come to take my place when I am no longer here?" he would write. The question is aimed at those who still have life to live and who want to live it well.