Faithful until martyrdom to the mission

2013-04-21 L’Osservatore Romano

Out of his 31 years of priesthood (1587-1618) Fr Nicolò Rusca –  the priest who was beatified on Sunday, 21 April in Sondrio, in the Italian Alps, by Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, on Pope Francis’ behalf – sspent  two  (1599-90) living as parish priest in Sessa-Monteggio, Canton Ticino, Switzerland. For 29 years he was Archpriest in Sondrio (1691, with his official entry in 1618) and wonderfully impersonated the ideal character of the Gospel shepherd of souls (John 10:11-18), outlined a few years earlier by the Council of Trent (1545-63) and reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council.

Antonio Caimi, «Nicolò Rusca» (1852, Sondrio, collegiata dei Santi Gervasio e Protasio)There are three fundamental aspects of a zealous pastor of souls, as was Archpriest Nicolò Rusca. In the first place: his sound cultural and theological training for the priesthood; secondly, the fascinating exemplarity of a holy life; lastly, his unflagging pastoral zeal. This is the most emphasized and impressive dimension that documentary and testimonial proof has passed down to us about Rusca and it should be juxtaposed with the documentation of his death as a martyr.

For Rusca the years 1608 and 1609  were years of adversity and persecution. In these years he underwent two trials and experienced prison, escape, contumacy, the payment of a fine: all events that convinced him to view as the enemies of reformers: sectarians, because in these trials he was later recognized to be innocent; the perpetrators of violence, because they were young, radical and aggressive Calvinists; those determined “to exterminate the Catholic faith”, also in the Valtellina. And the privileged target of the Calvinist preachers had to be above all the Archpriest of Sondrio, who could not but realize that sooner or later the persecution might lead to his martyrdom. Yet in spite of this outlook he continued to carry out his mission as a zealous pastor, as a champion professing the Catholic faith, even with the famous disputes. For the Calvinists, his enemies, he was the “great devil”; the minister of the new Babylon, Papist Rome! What roused and exacerbated the Calvinists’ hostility to him was above all his determined and active opposition to the creation in Sondrio of a reformed school open to Catholic youth, for the purpose, behind appearances, of disseminating Protestant  texts in the Valtellina, and of being a hotbed of heresies. The halting place which  he opposed and the school's consequent failure, because it was not attended by Catholic youth who were obedient to their beloved pastor, marked the beginning of the showdown for him,  until his martyrdom.

Pietro Riva , Postulator