Zatti: A generous compassion to others

Today, being Bl Artemedi Zatti’s feast, is a very special day for Salesian brothers. Thus, I am giving this space to Br. Dominic Verano, SDB, himself a Salesian brother offers some reflection about Bl Zatti and thoughts about his Salesian brotherhood vocation. 

Br. Dominic is on his first year of practical training in Don Bosco Seminary in Canlubang, the Philippines.

Br. Dominic is on his first year of practical training in Don Bosco Seminary in Canlubang, the Philippines.

Sharing the life of Blessed Artemide Zatti in front of you is a moment of grace for me. I first read his biography in my aspirantate and had the opportunity to share his life in our Salesianity class in the novitiate. Reading his life once again inspires me as well as an invitation to emulate such a saintly life.

Fourteen years ago, 31 May 2001, the eighth successor of Don Bosco, Don Juan Vecchi[1] wrote in one of his letters to the Salesians (AGC 376) about the upcoming beatification of Bro. Zatti. He entitled it as a “Sensational Precedent.” He wrote, Bro. Zatti’s beatification was a great joy to the congregation since he is the first Salesian coadjutor not a martyr to be beatified. He continued, “It gives us a touch of completeness to the series of models of Salesian spirituality.”

Why sensational, you might wonder? Let me share with you, on a personal note, what inspires me to imitate this saintly man.

Don Juan Vecchi in his letter highlighted his being a “Good Samaritan[2]” compares him with Jesus, in the Parable of the Good Samaritan; he is filled with compassion for the sick and needy. His compassion leads him to get fully involved in the life of the sick and the needy people around his area. Zatti’s Good-Samaritanship consists in the fact that he became a neighbour to the sick and the needy he ‘saw’ around him. He gave himself to his mission as an infirmarian full-time. He lived the total donation of himself to God and the dedication of all his strength to the good of his neighbour. Of course, he was able to do this because of his interior life – “He was a man united with God…”[3]

I quote Br. Abraham Antony, a lay brother, who spoke about “The Salesian Brother’s Growth in Apostolic Life in the light of Blessed Artemide Zatti’s life” in Hyderabad, India during the fifth congress of Salesian Brothers (South Asia, 2004). “Like the Good Samaritan, he took numerous risks in their favour. He never counted the cost. When it came to caring the sick, he spent all he had!”  His presence was not just active but also a healing one. He not only injected medicines, but also “Christian values” into the people around him. His compassion for them led him to love them – love without expecting in return.

He was a giant of charity! His had a heart of the Good Shepherd summed up and centered in pastoral charity[4]. Don Juan Vecchi in his letter added: “The Salesian Brother Artemide Zatti was truly a ‘good Samaritan’ in the style of Don Bosco, a ‘sign and bearer of the love of God’, of his compassion, of his healing and consoling presence, which opened up horizons of faith and hope to the sick and to the young”.

This particular trait of his struck me and led me to reflect on how I deal with the people around me? With my community? With the young people I am relating with especially, the poor and the needy? Am I a neighbour to them?

Last home visit, in one of our meals, the sharing of my mother stuck into my thoughts. I quote her:

“Nung mga bata kayo, naka experience kayo ng “togetherness” sa pamilya. Talagang pagbakasyon, magkakasama tayo sa bicol kasama ng lola mo, mga tito, tita at mga pinsan mo. Kayong magpipinsan ay magkakasamang lumaki at naging close sa isa’t isa.  Siguro time naman ngayon na I-share mo din sa iba ang na-experience mo nung bata ka – mahalin mo yung community mo, alagaan, ipakita mo ang malasakit mo sa kanila gaya ng pagmamahal at pag-aaruga na natanggap mo sa amin/sa pamilya natin. Kung paano mo inalagaan ang mga kapatid mo, pinsan mo, pamangkin mo, ganun din sana ang pag – aalaga mo sa mga ka-community mo lalo na sa mga kabataan na tutulungan mo. Huwag muna kami alalahanin dito! Sila na ang bago mong pamilya. Binigay ka na namin sa Diyos. Siya na ang bahala sa amin. Love your community, show your care and concern to them. Focus on your mission as a Salesian especially sa mga mahihirap na kabataan. Share the love, togetherness and the joy that you experienced when you are with us.”

In his heart warming message, very evident was her message of love/charity. Show concern to your confreres and to the young people you minister particularly the needy – the last, the least and the lost. Be sensitive and compassionate to them!

Yung simpleng pag rerefill ng water dispenser kapag ubos na yung tubig o yung pagtulong mo sa confrere mo na nahihirapan sa studies nya sa philosophy. Yung pagiging sensitive natin sa mga kasama natin lalo na sa nangangailangan. Tayo na mismo ang lumapit sa kanila! Sabi nga ni Bro. Raffy – ibaba naman natin yung ego natin!

Yup, I know it’s hard! That’s why we need to see it in the eyes of Jesus – being compassionate to them. Not just a moving feeling but also a moving presence. I, for one, have difficulty in this one but I am trying my best to be open – enough of those biases with my confreres because it wouldn’t help me or him. That is why in my philosophy of life, I chose to be a loving person – to love! The genuineness of my being Salesian is to love the people around me with utmost kindliness, respect and patience. [5] It’s a very tall order yet my inspiration comes at the fountain of Love – the Pure, Compassionate and Perfect Love himself – God.

Like Zatti – the Good Samaritan, we approach those who need our help particularly in our community. Let`s be generous in wasting our time for them without expecting anything in return. When it comes to helping others: let’s take the risks, never count the cost and spent all we had. We, as Salesians of Don Bosco are signs and bearers of God’s love for the young. I believe not only ‘for the young’ but also among ourselves – let`s be a sign and bearer of God`s love for each other. In this way, I believe we will be able to concretely manifest our favorite line in our formula of profession, “through the assistance of my brother Salesians, keep me faithful day by day!That ‘assistance’ is our love for them – by being sensitive and compassionate to each other.

Blessed Artemide Zatti! Pray for us!

[1] Fr. Vecchi was a nephew of Artemide Zatti — 23 June 1931
[2] AGC 376
[3] Summarium, p.43, n. 160
[4] Constitution 10
[5] Verano, Philosophy of Love, 2014


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