St Agostino Roscelli

Priest and Founder of the Sisters of the Immaculata (entered heaven on this day, 1902)

Dear Rose,

You don’t have to go to a galaxy far, far away to find work to do for Christ.  There is work aplenty right where you are, right there in your little home town where you are going to spend another summer, life-guarding six days a week.  Every single person in that town is the scene of an intense spiritual battle with eternal consequences.  I am not making this up.  This is Catholic doctrine.

The devil wants to lead each one of them into sin, separating them from God and reeling them into the everlasting frustration of damnation.  Jesus, on the other hand, wants to convince them of his friendship, of the power and the joy that comes from living in harmony with his divine will (the same divine will that runs the universe, by the way).  From that perspective, your summer could be as much of a missionary experience as any trip to the Andes could ever be.  Just follow in the footsteps of today’s saint, and watch how the sparks start to fly.

Agostino was born to a poor farming family in Genoa, Italy, in the early 1800s.  He had to work to help keep food on the table.  He labored in the mountain pastures, guiding and tending the sheep.  There, surrounded by the symphony of nature, he learned the quiet and fruitful art of prayer.  (I wonder: does it ever occur to you to PRAY while you’re whiling away the hours on that life-guard stand?  There you are, basking in God’s glory, the sun, the sand, the water, the joy of the children… Prayer might be a good idea, and it would definitely be good for your soul.)

He loved the mountains, but while still a young man he attended a parish mission that gave him a strong experience of Christ’s power and love, which moved him to decide for the priesthood.  He had to battle severe financial obstacles throughout his seminary years, but the grace of God kept him going, and after he was ordained he went to serve God’s people as a parish priest, shepherding souls instead of sheep.

His many hours in the confessional moved his priestly heart to do something to take away the sources of temptations for so many of his penitents, who were moving to the cities in search of work, as the Industrial Revolution clicked along.  He became chaplain of the prison, where he gave special attention to those desperate criminals on death row.  He was made chaplain of the orphanages, and finally, he himself took the initiative, encouraged by a gang of his penitents, to start a religious congregation to run residential schools for girls, so that they could receive a decent education and formation in the faith, learn a trade, and thereby escape the tangles of prostitution and sweatshops.

After 84 years of tireless service, in which his intense activity never detracted from his even more intense interior life of prayer and recollection, the saint died, as poor monetarily as he was when he was born, but abundantly rich in fruits for the Kingdom.  And he did it all right there in his backyard.  And you can too.  And God is hoping you do – just open your eyes and look for those in need: maybe some kids need to learn the Bible, maybe the home for the elderly needs some new activities, maybe the parish needs to offer young people some alternative entertainment… If you’re willing to go out on a limb and take a risk, I have no doubt the Holy Spirit will be happy to guide you.  And you will be happy too, if you let him.

Your un-tanned uncle,


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