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Marist Bulletin - Number 236

 

Venerable brother Alfano Vaser (1873 – 1943)
23/02/2006

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On the 12th January 2006, Brother Antonio Giuseppe Vaser died, the last of the five nephews who had followed their uncle Alfano in Marist life. Brother Antonio Giuseppe was ninety-nine years and nine months old. In this way, the Marist adventure of the Vaser family came to an end.
It had started 120 years earlier, with Brother Alfano who was the first Italian Marist Brother. He was born in the Valley of Aosta on the 10th September 1873. He joined the Marist Family in 1886. When, at seventeen years of age, he started the novitiate, he wrote:
To be always faithful to the vocation
and to meet perfection;
to combat my own faults, pride above all,
to consecrate myself only to Jesus Christ, my only master
who deserves all my love and who gives everything that is good;
to observe the rules, even the smallest ones,
always tending to the good, the better, the perfect;
to be for all a model of Christian and religious virtue.

On the 1st March 1943, he gave his soul and his Marist life definitively into the hands of Mary. On the 22nd January 1991, John Paul II declared him venerable, a model of Christian, religious and Marist life, for having practised the Christian virtues in a heroic manner.

In the conclusion of his first encyclical Deus Caritas est, Benedict XVI recalls the communion of saints: Finally, let us consider the saints, who exercised charity in an exemplary way… The saints are the true bearers of light within history, for they are men and women of faith, hope and love… In the saints one thing becomes clear: those who draw near to God do not withdraw from men, but rather become truly close to them. (40, 42)

Testimonies
That is exactly what those who testify in favour of Brother Alfano say. Nearly all of his life he was a formator of young brothers: fifteen years Master of Novices and sixteen years Director of Scholastics, obtaining an astonishing perseverance. He was an attentive heart, a source of joy for the community, while asking the young to be generous with God and with people: He was always energetic in his work as a formator… He wanted manly, austere and strong characters. He himself, a man of intimacy with God and the Virgin Mary, knew how to be close to the brothers. As a Provincial Councillor for thirty years, he assumed the problems of the young Italian Province with love and attention.
The young brothers used to say of him: He would always welcome with goodness and kindness anyone who had recourse to him; he was very patient with the troublesome ones… No one left his room without having been consoled.
Here is what he was convinced of: Fraternal charity is the joy and happiness of religious houses. It is a participation in the love that God has for us. All his life and all the teachings of Jesus are love… Every day we can find ourselves united, in the Heart of Jesus, we can speak together piously and help each other. Ah well! Lets do this every morning!

When he speaks with Jesus he says: Lord, willingly I want to suffer all that pleases you. From your hand I accept joy and sorrow, consolations and afflictions, success and failure, favours and persecutions. But in all of this, allow me to love you intensely, to make you known and loved, to earn for you many hearts. May your kingdom of love come!
Divine Heart of Jesus, yes, I want to love you always more, with the help of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Make what I think, judge, want, do, suffer, conform to your glory, to the good of my soul, Superiors, Confrères and the Church. Make me live in You, with You and for You and may I die close to You.

His way of seeing the Virgin Mary is very beautiful: Mary has done everything for us, she has given herself to the just and to sinners, to all she opens the treasures of her mercy. She breaks the bonds of slaves, gives back health to the sick, consolation to the afflicted, pardon to sinners, an increase in grace to the just. No one can escape from her love.
Regarding the rosary he used to say: Its the most loved prayers of Catholics, good for every state and condition, easy, gentle, very noble; it is good for those who are in good health and for those who are sick, day and night, at home or on a trip, in happiness and in affliction. The person who prays the rosary is walking serenely towards paradise. It is the Holy Virgin herself who will welcome you.

Brother Gaetano Vinai, who is still alive, talks about one of his memories: I was fourteen years of age… In 1923, at the start of autumn, I had a sore foot and on Thursday I could not go out walking. I went into the house and met Brother Alfano… He came up to me and greeted me with a huge smile. That won over my heart. I went with him and we had a long conversation on subjects that I enjoyed. He took me into the study hall and we started to talk about studies. He asked me what I knew and I was happy not only to answer him, but to be able to speak with him. He was very kind. Then we went to the garden… We were practically friends. At one stage he went away and then returned with some sugared almonds; he gave them all to me and I received them happily. The day ended with a great goodbye… During recreation, he was incredibly open, with a smile and a way of doing things that everyone would try to do the same. He had a great laugh that could be heard from far away. He enjoyed a good joke.

In a family of saints
Brother Alfano reminds us that in our family, holiness and the work of the Holy Spirit are often more present than we think. The small calendar for 2006, that of our saints, on the page for November and on the last page, presents a list of brothers who can surprise us: Marie Nizier (Oceania), Joche Albert (China), Charles-Raphael (Belgium), Chris Mannion (Great Britain), Joseph Rushigajiki and Etienne Ruesa (Rwanda), Quentin Duffy (Australia), Paul Nolan (South Africa), Septimio Walch (Argentina), Estanislau José (Brazil), Stephen Minogue (United States), Servando, Miguel Angel, Fernando, Julio (Congo-Spain); these are all saints, but not one is on the list of candidates for canonisation… The Spirit of the Lord is at work amongst us and holiness flourishes in love and in gift.

Here is a concrete example. Its a brother who wrote this letter on the 1st June 1962: The aim of this letter is to ask you for some help… to be able to survive. I suppose you know that here everything is rationed, especially the food. Said in a few words, the ration is 8 ounces (less than 250g) each day. (Among the brothers, I am the most severely rationed because I have no work, and that is because of my age: 75 years old.) I cannot calm the hunger pains and you cannot buy more than is marked on the ration card. By love or by strength, I bear the hunger by trying to be patient. You only find vegetables in summer. There is really very little to eat in winter, for the rest of the year the maximum is seven ounces per day. Never any meat, except four or five times a year and then only two or three ounces per person; very little oil: four ounces a month up till now. But since June, those who work receive only 2.5 ounces, while those who cannot work receive only 1.5 ounces per month.
The three previous years, this Brother had all his civic rights withdrawn and was placed under strict police surveillance. In 1975, at 87 years of age, he was publicly tried and died as a result. He said that he prepared for this meeting with God every day, and in his solitude he would pray for the Institute.

There is certainly a great deal to thank God for because he never leaves our Family without the saints that it needs.

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