Made public today was a letter from Benedict XVI to Bishop Maffeo Ducoli for yesterday's Feast of St. John Gualbert, patron of the Italian Forest Rangers.
Yesterday, in the church of the Virgin of the Snows at Pra Mirino, Bishop Ducoli presided at a Eucharistic concelebration attended by members of the Forest Rangers from the provincial headquarters of Belluno. Pope Benedict recalled the feast with fondness writing that it, "has particular significance this year because it coincides with the 20th anniversary of the visit my predecessor John Paul II made to that church, so beloved by the inhabitants of this splendid region."
"This is an appropriate occasion for me to express my appreciation and affection for the Forest Rangers, certain that they will seek to undertake their activities in a spirit of service so as to remain close to the people and to protect as best they can the richness of nature, which is a gift from God to everyone."
St. John Gualbert was from a Florentine noble family. When his brother Hugh was murdered, John tracked down the killer and found him on Good Friday. Upon seeing his brother’s killer, John received a vision of Christ on the Cross, which he took as a sign to pardon the killer, and convert to Christianity. He did both.
Against his family objections, he became a Benedictine monk at San Miniato del Monte monastery. He also founded and built by hand the monastery in Vallombrosa, Italy near Friesole in 1038. The rule of his order was an austere form of the Benedictine Rule, which included an order of lay brothers, and received papal approval in 1070. He is reported to have had the gift of prophecy and was known for his great charity.