RMG - Feb. 1, 2023: centenary of Blessed Luigi Variara’s death

01 February 2023

(ANS - Rome) - Feb. 1 marks the centenary of the death of Blessed Luigi Variara, a Salesian of Don Bosco, in Cùcuta, Colombia, at 49 years of age, 31 as a Salesian and 24 as a priest.

He was born on January 15, 1875, in Viarigi, province of Asti, Italy. Don Bosco had been there in 1856  to preach a mission. And it was to Don Bosco that his father entrusted his son, leading him to Valdocco on October 1, 1887. The saint would die four months later but the knowledge that Luigi made of Don Bosco was enough to mark him for the rest of his life. This is how he recalled the event: "We were in the winter season and one afternoon we were playing in the large courtyard of the Oratory when suddenly there was a shout from one side to the other: 'Don Bosco, Don Bosco!' Instinctively we all rushed toward the spot where our good Father appeared, whom they were letting out for a ride in his carriage. We followed him to the place where he was to board the vehicle; immediately Don Bosco was seen surrounded by the beloved crowd of children. I was frantically looking for a way to put myself in a place where I could see him at my leisure, for I longed to meet him. I got as close as I could, and the moment they helped him into the carriage, he gave me a sweet look, and his eyes rested attentively on me. I do not know what I felt at that moment… it was something I cannot express! That day was one of the happiest for me; I was sure that I had met a Saint, and that Saint had read in my soul something that only God and he could know."

Luigi asked to become a Salesian: he entered the novitiate on Aug. 17, 1891, and completed it on Oct. 2, 1892, with perpetual vows in the hands of Blessed Michael Rua, who whispered in his ear, "Variara, do not vary." He did his Philosophy studies in Valsalice where he met the Venerable Fr. Andrea Beltrami. Here in 1894 Fr. Unia, the celebrated missionary who had recently begun working among the lepers of Agua de Dios, passed by. "What my astonishment and joy were," Variara himself said, "when, among 188 companions who had the same aspiration, fixing his gaze on me, he said, 'This is mine.'

He arrived at Agua de Dios on August 6, 1894. The lazaret included 2,000 inhabitants of whom 800 were lepers. He immersed himself totally in his mission. Gifted with musical skills, he organized a band that immediately created a festive atmosphere. On April 24, 1898, he was ordained a priest and soon proved to be an excellent spiritual director. Among his penitents were members of the Daughters of Mary Association, a group of about 200 girls, many of whom were lepers. The young priest discovered that not a few of them would willingly consecrate themselves to the Lord. But this was considered a pipe dream because no congregation would accept a leper or even a daughter of lepers. It was in the face of this realization that the first idea of consecrated young women, even if they were lepers, was born in him. The Congregation of the "Daughters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary" began on May 7, 1905.

He felt increasingly enthusiastic about his mission. He wrote, "Never have I felt as happy to be a Salesian as I did this year, and I bless the Lord for sending me to this lazaretto, where I learned not to let the heavens be stolen from me." Ten years had passed since he arrived at Agua de Dios. A happy decade full of accomplishments. Now, however, a period of suffering and misunderstanding was opening for the generous missionary. This period would last 18 years, that is, until his death. He was forced to move away from Agua de Dios; Mosquera, Contrataciòn, Bogota, Barranquilla... were the various places assigned to him by obedience. In 1921 he was transferred to Tàriba, a Venezuelan town on the border of Colombia. When he arrived there, his health began to deteriorate alarmingly. The doctor recommended, for climatic reasons, that he be taken to Cùcuta in Colombia. He went there, but his physical condition quickly plummeted. His body was transported to the chapel of his Daughters in Agua de Dios.

He was beatified by St. John Paul II on April 14, 2002.


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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