What the Mothers of Lu Knew
Jun 15, 2022 / Written by: Tonia Long
Tragic Statistics, Simple Solution
Worldwide, the number of priests in 1970 was 419,728. In 2017, there were a total of 414,582 priests. While the total number of priests worldwide has therefore remained about the same since 1970, the Catholic population has nearly doubled, growing from 653.6 million in 1970 to 1.229 billion in 2012. The figures for 2021 in the United States were a deplorable 34,923 priest, including both diocesan and order priests, with only 441 ordinations in the entire country.
This is an appalling tragedy among those to whom Our Lord gave the instruction, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:18-19)
Rather than wring our hands in concern, we would do well to learn from the mothers of Lu, a little village in northern Italy, with only a few thousand inhabitants. The rural area 90 kilometers east of Turin would still be unknown to this day if, in the year 1881, the families of Lu had not made a decision that had “serious consequences.”
The deepest desire of many of the mothers of Lu was for one of their sons to become a priest or for a daughter to place her life completely in God’s service. Through the trusting prayer of these mothers and the openness of the other parents, an atmosphere of deep joy and Christian piety developed in the families, making it much easier for the children to recognize their vocations.
A Man with a Plan
Under the direction of their parish priest, Msgr. Alessandro Canora, they gathered every Tuesday for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, asking the Lord for vocations. They received Holy Communion on the first Sunday of every month with the same intention. After Mass, all the mothers prayed a particular prayer together imploring for vocations to the priesthood.
This prayer proved very effective, as the fruits of those prayers are undeniable. From the tiny village of Lu came 323 vocations: 152 priests (diocesan and religious), and 171 nuns belonging to 41 different congregations. As many as three or four vocations came from some of these families.
The prayer that the mothers of Lu prayed was short, simple and deep:
O God, grant that one of my sons may become a priest! I myself want to live as a good Christian and want to guide my children always to do what is right, so that I may receive the grace, O God, to be allowed to give you a holy priest! Amen.
By Their Fruits You Shall Know Them
The most famous example is the Rinaldi family, from whom God called seven children. Two daughters became Salesian sisters, both of whom were sent to San Domingo as courageous, pioneer missionaries. Five sons became priests, all joining the Salesians. The most well-known of the Rinaldi brothers is Blessed Philip Rinaldi, who became the third successor of St. John Bosco as Superior General of the Salesians. Pope John Paul II beatified him on April 29, 1990. In fact, many of the vocations from this small town became Salesians.
It is certainly not a coincidence, since St. John Bosco visited Lu four times during his life. The saint attended the first Mass of his spiritual son, Fr. Philip Rinaldi in this village where he was born. Philip always fondly recalled the faith of the families of Lu:
“A faith that made our fathers and mothers say, ‘The Lord gave us our children, and so if He calls them, we can’t say no.’”
Fr. Luigi Borghina and Fr. Pietro Rota lived the spirituality of Don Bosco so faithfully that the former was called the “Brazilian Don Bosco” and the latter the “Don Bosco of Valtellina.” Pope John XXIII once said the following about another vocation from Lu, His Excellency, Evasion Colli, Archbishop of Parma: “He should have become pope, not me. He had everything it takes to become a great pope.”
Every ten years, the priests and sisters born in Lu come together from all around the world. Fr. Mario Meda, the long-serving parish priest of Lu, explained that this reunion is a true celebration, a feast of thanksgiving to God who has done such great things for Lu.