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Beatification cause of bishop known for ‘ordinary extraordinariness’ moves forward

schermata_2021_02_10_alle_10_1612950515_1.png Guglielmo Giaquinta as a young priest. Credit: Pro Sanctitate.

The Diocese of Rome on Friday concluded the first phase of the cause for beatification of an Italian bishop and founder of the Pro Sanctity Movement.

Servant of God Guglielmo Giaquinta “was not an ordinary man or priest: he carried within his gestures, his words, his ministry, an ordinary extraordinariness,” Marialuisa Pugliese, the postulator of his cause, told CNA.

Giaquinta, who died in 1994 aged 79, is a candidate for beatification. His cause was opened for an investigation into his holiness in 2004. 

Born in Sicily, Giaquinta carried out his priestly ministry in Rome until he was made bishop of Tivoli.

He devoted his life to promoting the universal call to holiness. To advance this mission, he founded the Pro Sanctity Movement, which includes a secular institute of women and an institute of priests.

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Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the vicar of Rome, formally closed the diocesan phase of Giaquinta’s cause for beatification in a rite held at the Lateran Apostolic Palace on Feb. 12.

In this phase, Pugliese explained, the tribunal of the Vicariate of Rome had the objective of collecting “documents and writings to learn about the life and thought of the Servant of God, as well as finding testimonies about the exercise of human and Christian virtues and possible traces of a reputation for holiness.”

It was Pugliese’s responsibility, as postulator, to guide this process. 

“In the 10 years in which I have looked after the cause of the bishop and founder Giaquinta, I have been able to understand many aspects of his person and his charism,” she said.

“I have discovered a precious treasure of spirituality, perhaps hidden from a superficial gaze, but really profound, with a prophetic characteristic and an optimistic sense of life.”

Her role was “that of bearing witness to all this before the Church and the world,” she said.

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Pugliese explained that “it was a long and complex work due to the richness of the personality of Bishop Giaquinta,” but the outcome of the investigation into his life has been “entirely positive and fruitful.”

Now, the diocese gives wax-sealed boxes of the evidence it has gathered to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, “where the collected documentation will be examined to ascertain the degree of the candidate’s evangelical witness and [whether] to declare him venerable,” the postulator said.

De Donatis said Friday, the day before the feast of Our Lady of Trust, to whom Giaquinta had a strong devotion, that the Servant of God lived a simple, even “ascetic” lifestyle, and offered “an authentic evangelization of the Gospel.”

“His witness of ordinary holiness in daily life and of how radical availability to God’s grace can transform one’s heart and the whole world is a witness we need,” Jessi Kary, an apostolic oblate and the national director of Pro Sanctity in the United States, told CNA via email.

“His life can draw priests more deeply into the heart of the priestly vocation and help them discover more deeply how to receive from the source, Christ the Priest,” she said.

“Bishop Giaquinta also assists the laity in discovering the amazing invitation to become a saint,” she continued, “and very practical ways in which to respond to that call in the ordinary circumstances of daily life.”

Born in Noto, Sicily, in 1914, Giaquinta was a mischievous child. One episode from his childhood he would often recount is wanting to collect stamps to send to people in Africa, and how he would skip school to do it.

The truancy got him in trouble with his father, who decided to send him to a high school seminary to be taught by priests. This moment marked a turning point for Giaquinta, who said, “at the instant that I entered the door of that school, I knew with certainty that I had to become a priest. It was a certainty that never left me. It was a mystery of the priestly vocation.”  

He was ordained in 1939, offering his first Mass the next day, on March 19, the feast of St. Joseph, who became an important saint in his life.

The young priest began his ministry in the Diocese of Rome and took on some duties at the vicariate.

Giaquinta would wake up at 4 a.m. every day to spend three to four hours in study and prayer.

He would also often spend up to five hours a day hearing confessions, as people would form long lines to wait to receive the sacrament from him.

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Recognizing time as a gift from God, the priest was known to not waste it. Once, speaking to his spiritual daughters, he said that time “is the money of the poor, you must spend it for the good of souls.”

“Redemptive Love and the Thirst of Christ are two themes at the heart of the charism and spirituality entrusted to Bishop Giaquinta,” Kary said.

“He discovered within himself the Thirst of Jesus for souls to know and receive the infinite love of the Father,” she said. “Bishop Giaquinta lived his life attentive to this thirst he shared with Christ, striving to quench the thirst of all those he encountered with the life-giving water Jesus offers.” 

In 1968, at the age of 54, Giaquinta was appointed bishop of Tivoli, a diocese close to Rome.

People who knew Bishop Giaquinta have described him as a meek and humble person, an approachable and down-to-earth father figure.

He did not keep a strict schedule for his diocesan duties but was always available to anyone who walked through his doors. He was also an extraordinary teacher. He left behind volumes of writings, including on the theme of holiness, which he emphasized was for everyone.

Even before the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, Fr. Giaquinta was thinking and preaching about the important role of the laity in the Catholic Church. 

In the aftermath of World War II, he founded the Pro Sanctity Movement as a means of promoting the universal call to holiness. As people were grappling with difficulty in Italy in the post-war years, Giaquinta thought the solution to violence and war was for everyone to become a saint, treating each other as brothers and sisters.

In addition to starting the Pro Sanctity Movement, which has members in Italy, the United States, and India, Giaquinta founded the Secular Institute of the Apostolic Oblates, a community of lay women who promote the movement and take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, as well as the Institute of Apostolic Sodales, made up of diocesan priests. 

Giaquinta visited the communities in India and the United States. The joyful man was always ready to have a good time, including playing ping pong and making a visit to Disneyland in California. 

“His simplicity and ordinariness also make him relatable,” Kary noted. “As a diocesan priest and bishop, he is a wonderful inspiration and intercessor for our priests and bishops as they strive to respond to God’s call in very challenging circumstances.”

After his retirement as bishop of Tivoli in 1987, Giaquinta returned to Rome, where he lived until his death six years later, 10 days before his 80th birthday.

Giaquinta’s postulator said that over the years, it was discovered just how big a project investigating his life was going to be, which gave both satisfaction and worry.

It “required a lot of work and will require much more,” Pugliese said, “but it is worthwhile to bring forward in the name of the great message of universal holiness.”

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