Born: Badia Calavena, 23.12.1934
Temporary profession: 9.9.1952
Final Profession: 24.12.1955
Ordination: San Leonardo 24.6.1960
Death: Verona (Borgo Trento) 22.8.2017
Age: 82 years:
Remembering Fr. Pietro Mantovani
Funeral: Homily by Fr. Gianni Piccolboni at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, on the 24th August 2017, 13:15 hours.
As a devotional gathering, we are here in church at this unusual time, to hold on next to Fr. Pietro, to whom officially and together, as friends, family and confreres, we wish the good journey to the Father's embrace. It is that journey to the Father that we will all do. Returning home is always a moment that fills the heart.
Death is a thief; it takes away the sight of our loved ones, affects us in unexpected, unthinkable and unplanned moments.
But death is also the sister, the friend, the benefactor who carries us, with his invisible arms, at the gate of the bridal banquet room prepared by the Lord for his friends.
Still, despite beautiful definitions and theological reflections, we are scared and we are struggling to die for two fundamental reasons:
1) Usually we die when we are elderly, even physically debilitated, and the body suffers.
2) because we have built false clear ideas about God. As a result of distorted reflection, we have transformed God into a monster, a ruler, ready to strike if the accounts do not match. Fear consequently arises. One lives in fear for the scarecrow of dying and meeting with God. We are afraid of the book that will be opened, where everything is strictly recorded.
As we greet Fr. Pietro, who leaves the scene of this world, today's liturgy, Saint Bartholomew's Feast, has offered a very beautiful passage of the Apocalypse, presenting us the fulfilment of God's plans and dreams about humanity, which is not a catastrophe or a terrible and disgusting experience, but a beautiful, almost indescribable event. "Come, I'll show you the betrothed, the Lamb's bride. Its radiance is like a most precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal".
Using the bridal language, Saint John suggests the image of the intimate union between the sacrificed and glorified Lamb, – the "Bridegroom", and the Church, the New Jerusalem – “the Bride”, in a spousal relationship. It is the spousal union between each of us believers and Christ; together we are the church, and we too become the bride of Christ; a bride that he himself makes beautiful, attractive, precious and embraces her and makes her worthy of himself.
This Word of God enlightens and makes it clear that our pilgrimage on earth, in the light of who created it, is like the path of a young man who becomes open to love and has this love singing in his chest and seeks the girlfriend with whom to establish long lasting, pleasing, loving, even ecstatic relationships. I wish and I pray that more than fright, thinking about death is like the sound fear and trepidation of a bride who moves towards the altar for her yes to the groom and lives that moment full of joy, with such a rampant and intense love that her heart can not hold it … and then she cries. She weeps because her heart is full, overflowing with tenderness, love, astonishment, and expectation, and she expresses herself with healing, liberating, silent tears.
Fr. Pietro, in the last years of his life, devoted himself also to reflections that had the theme of love. He seemed almost fanatical and maybe we were teasing him. Possibly, we did not understand what he meant. Perhaps, in the mature phase of his existence, he had synthesized the Christian, spiritual life as a spousal experience. A spousal union with Christ that only the mystics understand, about which we have heard in the today’s first reading. He also felt of writing on it in a literary form, which was somewhat provocative, somewhat misleading, somewhat imaginative, at times applying it to specific pieces of news.
Now Fr. Pietro, fully liberated and purified, shines in the glory of God. He has made his metamorphosis becoming God. This is how we now imagine him. The dream of the spousal union with Christ is now, for him, a reality.
P. Pietro joined the Stigmatine Institute soon after the war. He was ordained a priest in 1960.
It has been a lifetime spent mainly for boys and teens in a school environment. He has fulfilled the Stigmatine apostolic missionary, in the footsteps of Saint Gaspar Bertoni, through the educational sector, in the school, devoting to it almost forty years. He was professional and creative. I remember his presence among us, high school students, ready for final exams. I remember the passion that was his own, with which he wanted to train us, young future Stigmatines, to reason with our heads, to search for the truth and to be ourselves. A good educator teaches pupils to fly, but he knows that everyone must fly his own way. They were the revolutionary years of '68. A new world was to be born and, at its birth, it was very chaotic and unstable. Along with his colleagues and confreres, Fr. Pietro’s teaching was at the forefront of proposing lasting values to which one can cling. He believed in the power of a culture that penetrates the young man's heart, transforming it.
We Stigmatines remembered him well for his creativity, for his hilarity, good humour, for his obstinacy, for his jokes, but above all for his faith, for his intelligence and for his great humanity.
After his career of Teacher and School Head (Stimate, Cadellara Via Mameli), Fr. Pietro devoted himself to historical research on his valley of origin, on the “Cimbri”. Well investigated and appreciated researches.
Dear Fr. Pietro, we give you the last earthly embrace in a Christian spirit precisely with the Holy Mass, which you have celebrated many times in your 57 years of priesthood; in this shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes where in the last years of your life you spent time and passion, chiefly in the ministry of confessions. We still see you walking every day up to the statue of Saint Joseph, punctually at 4 o'clock every afternoon, careless of cold and heat, together with your dear sister-in-law, praying the rosary and bringing a flower to St. Joseph. You know well that St. Joseph always has a hidden ladder to bring his devotees into paradise. We greet you with a heart full of consolation and gratitude for what you have been for us; and for many of us, your former students. We thank you for your humanity, for your moving against the stream, for helping us in our days of high school to think with our heads, to live with great discernment marches and strikes, the students movements of ‘68 that were about to change society, and how to manage culture, work, promoting people's rights and dignity, and seeing the world not as an enemy, but as a field to throw the seed of good, of beauty and of goodness. We know that you have lived in full your mission as a good son of Bertoni, a zealous priest, a teacher and educator.
Mission accomplished, dear Fr. Pietro!
Well, good and faithful servant, enter into the glory of your Lord.
Yes, we are certain that the Lord has already wrapped you with his glory and that you now live in the heart of God. Thank you Fr. Pietro and remember us.