PIME brother Felice Tantardini, spent 69 years on a mission in Myanmar. The name given to him by his mother always pleased him, because "it expresses the ideal of my life: strive to be happy, always and at all costs, and be intent on making others happy".
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The cause of beatification of Felice Tantardini, brother of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), made an important step forward today, with the announcement that Pope Francis has wanted his heroic virtues recognized.
Very well known and loved in the PIME, Felice was born in Introbio, in the province of Lecco, on June 28, 1898. He was the sixth of eight children and his mother decided to call him Felice (Italian for happy): a name he always liked, because "it expresses the ideal of my life: strive to be happy, always and at all costs, and be intent on making others happy ".
The family conditions led him to work: at 10 he began to work as a blacksmith, at 13 he was a fatherless, at 17 he was employed at the Ansaldo di Genova. Enlisted during the First World War, he was taken prisoner and passed from one labor camp to another, until he managed to escape.
Upon his return to Italy, at the end of the war, his vocation, matured in missionary magazines, awaited him. At 23 he entered PIME and ten months later he went to Myanmar, then Burma, as a lay brother. He left for mission on 2 September 1922: he remained there continuously for 69 years, with only a few months' return to Italy, in 1956.
His first destination is Toungoo mission, but he moved from mission to mission, wherever they called for him because there was a job to do. He built churches, schools, parish houses, hospitals, seminars, orphanages, convents, bridges: always with a smile, because he was really happy to contribute with his work to the proclamation of the Gospel. Sometimes he was also asked to do catechesis for young and old, but what he did best he did with the anvil and the hammer.
In his writings, Blessed Clemente Vismara, also from PIME, revealed one flaw: "Brother Felice’s weakness is the pipe; except for when he prays or chews food, the pipe is always in the mouth ”. When they would say "Felice, you cannot be canonized, because of your love for the pipe", he would invariably reply: "So much the better!"
At 85 they sent him into "retirement", meaning that they prevented him from working iron. He went on to devote himself to prayer, in particular to the "beloved Virgin Mother” to whom he prayed three rosaries daily.
In his autobiographical book "God’s blacksmith", which his bishop ordered him to write, he recounts all his adventures and journeys up and down Myanmar to build, to plant, to save people in situations created by poverty, by the Japanese occupation, from struggles between ethnic groups, bearing courage and charity, fruits of faith.
He died in Taunggy (Myanmar) on March 23, 1991. His tomb (photo 3) is a place of pilgrimage. In 1999 his cause for beatification began.
There are numerous testimonies of graces and miracles attributed to his intercession. In 2016 in Introbio, Valsassina there was an exhibition "Felice by name and by nature", dedicated to him. The exhibition effectively presented the human and spiritual story of a small, great lay missionary, a very modern figure with clear traits of holiness.