Dear Salesian brothers and sisters, good morning and welcome!
I thank the Major Rector for his presentation, and I greet the members of the
General Council, the Salesian cardinals and bishops – there are many of them! I am
pleased to welcome the pilgrims from Boretto, the birthplace of Artemide Zatti, and
those from Argentina and the Philippines; I greet the members of the Salesian
family from numerous countries throughout the world, and especially the Salesian
coadjutors. And a special greeting to the person who received the grace of healing
through the intercession of the Blessed, whom I will have the joy of canonizing
tomorrow. I would like to recall him from four perspectives.
Firstly, as a migrant. The Salesians arrived in Argentina in 1875 and initially carried
out their apostolate, in Buenos Aires. In Buenos Aires they did not go to the most
important areas, they went to Boca, where there were communists, socialists,
where they eat priests alive! The Salesians went there, and other places, especially
in support of Italian emigrants. Artemide got to know the Salesians in Bahía Blanca,
where he and his family had come from Italy in 1897. Unfortunately, many
migrants lost the values of faith, all absorbed in work and the problems they
encountered. But the Zatti family, thanks be to God, were an exception. They never
failed to participate in the life of the Christian community, maintain cordial relations
with the priests, pray together at home, and partake of the sacraments. Artemide
grew up in an excellent Christian environment and, thanks to the guidance of Fr.
Carlo Cavalli, developed his choice of Salesian life.
A second aspect: his “kinship”: he was “kin to all the poor”, this was Zatti’s kinship.
The tuberculosis that afflicted him at the age of twenty seemed to crush all his
dreams, but thanks to the recovery obtained through the intercession of Mary Help
of Christians, Artemis dedicated his entire life to the sick, especially the poorest,
the abandoned and the discarded. The hospitals of San José and Sant’Isidro were a
precious and unique health resource for caring especially for the poor of Viedma
and the Rio Negro region: Zatti’s heroism made them places where God’s love
irradiated, where health care became an experience of salvation. In that patch of
Patagonian land, where our Blessed led his life, a page of the Gospel was rewritten:
the Good Samaritan found in him heart, hands and passion, above all for the little
ones, the poor, the sinners, the last. Thus, a hospital has become the “Inn of the
Father”, a sign of a Church that endeavours to be rich in gifts of humanity and
Grace, a dwelling place for the commandment of love of God and brother, a place of
health as a pledge of salvation. It is also true that this enters into the Salesian
vocation: the Salesians are the great educators of the heart, of love, of affections,
of social life; great educators of the heart.
The hospital and the houses of the poor, visited night and day getting round by
bicycle, were the frontiers of his mission. He lived full self-giving to God and the
consecration of all his efforts for the good of his neighbour. His intense work and
tireless availability for the needs of the poor were inspired by a profound union with
the Lord: constant prayer, prolonged Eucharistic adoration, praying the Rosary.
Artemide was a man of communion, who knew how to work with others: religious
sisters, doctors, nurses; and with his example and his counsel he formed people,
shaped consciences, converted hearts.
Thirdly, we see him as a Salesian coadjutor. Let us recall the beautiful witness he
bore in 1915 in Viedma, on the occasion of the inauguration of a monument in
memory of Father Evasio Garrone, a Salesian missionary considered a distinguished
benefactor by Artemis. On that occasion he made the following statement: “If I am
well, healthy and in a position to do some good to my sick neighbour, I owe it to
Father Garrone, doctor, who, seeing my health worsening day by day, as I was
suffering from tuberculosis with frequent haemoptysis, told me decisively that, if I
did not want to end up like many others, I should make a promise to Mary Help of
Christians to always remain at her side, helping her in the care of the sick, that he,
trusting in Mary, would cure me. I BELIEVED, because I knew by reputation that
Mary Help of Christians helped him in a visible way. PROMISED, because it was
always my desire to be of help in something to my neighbour. And, God having
listened to his servant, HEALED. I believed, I promised, I was healed. Three words
This recovered life was no longer his property: he felt that it was all for the poor.
The three verbs “believed, promised, healed” express the blessing and consolation
that touched Artemide’s life. He lived this mission in communion with his Salesian
confreres: he was the first to be present at community events, and he inspired the
fraternity with his joy and good nature.
The fourth and final trait I would like to highlight: he is an intercessor for vocations.
And I have experienced this. I will tell you about a personal experience. When I was
provincial of the Jesuits of Argentina, I knew the story of Artemide Zatti, read his
biography and entrusted to him the request to the Lord for holy vocations to the lay
consecrated life for the Society of Jesus. Since we began to pray through his
intercession, the number of young coadjutors increased significantly; and they were
persevering and very committed. And so I bore witness to this grace we received.