From the Pastor: Martyred for Wearing a Cassock!
On April 13 of this year, a number of news stories came out about a young seminarian who was martyred on that date in 1945 and is now a “Blessed”. The stories erroneously, as far as I can now tell, said that the thirteenth was his feast day. It was, rather, the date of his death. His actual feast day is set for this coming week, Tuesday, May 29, the date of the translation (moving) of his relics from his grave near where he was tortured and murdered to the cemetery of his hometown church after Italy’s Liberation. The April date would have conflicted too often with Holy Week, hence the practical change to this other important date, something which is not unusual in cases of liturgical conflicts such as this. I bring him up because I have a particular affinity for him. A couple of years ago I wrote a bulletin article about Blessed Rolando, which I will present below (with a few slight edits) and I believe you will see why I am drawn to him.
On October 5, 2013, a beatification ceremony took place. The Bishop of Rome, Francis, in commenting the next day about it said, “Yesterday in Modena (Italy) Rolando Rivi was beatified. He was a seminarian of that region, Emilia, who was killed in 1945, when he was 14, because of hatred for his faith, guilty only of wearing a cassock during that time of raging violence against the clergy, who spoke out to condemn in the name of God the postwar massacres” (emphasis mine). Since I wear a cassock most of the time, Francis’ words caught my attention! Those who hate Catholic Church's moral teachings, be they the communists and socialists who killed Blessed Rolando or “progressive” Catholics (including laity, Religious, Priests and even Bishops) to this day absolutely hate cassocks and those who wear them. Blessed Rolando experienced this hatred in perhaps its most violent form. I have culled the following information from several sources on the web. Go find more. You will not be disappointed.
Rivi discovered his vocation very early and entered the seminary when he was only 11 years old. At that time, all seminarians wore cassocks, and so did he. The Rector, Msgr. Luigi Bronzoni, would explain to the seminarians that they had to be very careful not to associate with bad companions and occasions of sin, but moreover they had the obligation to distinguish themselves by prayer and service in the parish, in study and in purity, in good works and dedication to the Lord. “Even in vacations--he used to recommend--the seminarians must always wear the cassock which is the sign of our belonging to Jesus.” Rolando wore his cassock and white collar with pride, even in vacations in the hot month of summer. Some of his peers who normally sought comfort didn’t wear the cassock and even some of his relatives told him: “You are on vacations, take off your cassock, be freer to move and play…” He answered: “I don’t have to take my cassock off, I can’t, it is the sign that I belong to Jesus!”
His cassock was not for him a human or social barrier for relationships with others. It was not an impediment for the development of his activities, even the recreational ones. Everyone knew how affectionate he was to his cassock. He wore it always. It was very common to see him walking the streets of San Valentino, normally going towards the Church alone or with others, always smiling in peace, ready to say hello to everyone, always with his austere cassock. Everyone used to see the young seminarian walking in the streets, everyone knew his lifestyle, he was known as: “The little priest.” His parents used to tell him: “Don’t wear the cassock, at least don’t wear it during these times…” They used to explain that it was not prudent to wear it in such unstable moments. But Rolando used to answer: “But why, what is so wrong with me wearing it? I don’t have any reason not to wear it. I am studying to be a priest and this cassock is the sign that I belong to Jesus.”
The communist and socialist partisans noticed the kid wearing the cassock, too, and hated him for it. Kidnapped and stripped of his cassock, Rivi was imprisoned and tortured by partisans for three days. Some of the partisans proposed to let him go, since he was only a young boy. But the majority sentenced him to death, in order to have “one less future priest.” On April 13, Rivi was taken to a forest in the surroundings of Modena. The partisans dug a grave and had Rivi kneel on its edge. While he was praying, the young seminarian was killed by gunshots to the heart and head. His cassock was rolled into a ball, kicked around and then hung as a war trophy in the front door of a house.
Blessed Rolando Maria Rivi, martyr for wearing the cassock, pray for those of us who wear cassocks and for those who hate us for doing so.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka