JOANNA OF FR. DOLINDO
AGNIESZKA BUGAŁA: - The first biography of the author of the prayer ‘Jesus, you take care of it!’ has already become a bestseller, but nobody in Poland has heard about Fr. Dolindo. How did you notice him?
JOANNA BĄTKIEWICZ-BROŻEK: – In 2014 I was translating a book by Antoni Socci ‘Caterina. A letter to a daughter’ in which I found a fragment of the entrustment act ‘Jesus, you take care of it!’. I read this prayer and I often went away from my desk. Being aware that these are the words dictated by Jesus…However, in the book there was only a laconic information that these words were written by Fr. Dolindo Ruotolo, a mystic from Neapol – and nothing more.
When I found information that it was the priest to whom Father Pio had sent everybody, at once I got enthusiastic: what an important person he was!
Did you find more information?
Not at once, but more or less one and a half month passed when on the way to the editorial college I was thinking intensely what material I could suggest. I had no idea, but the prayer, and, in fact, its piece, had already been working strongly in myself. And at that time, for the first time consciously, I had decided to check who it was and write an article about him. I used an Italian text of an autobiography of Fr. Dolindo and I was reading it the whole night. My tears were pouring down from my eyes, it was an emotionally strong experience. Preparing the article for the Catholic magazine ‘Gość Niedzielny’ (‘Sunday guest’) I was sure about one thing: I want to show Readers this prayer, so I gave the title: ‘Jesus, you take care of it’. Then it turned out that the article appeared on the anniversary of the death of Fr. Dolindo, that is, on 19 November.
The first present of Fr. Dolindo?
It was not so easy. In the editorial office I was going to have a ‘surprise’. On the wall I saw printouts of pages from the current edition and it turned out that the entrustment prayer had disappeared and an advertisement appeared in its place. Unfortunately, it happens so everywhere.
We added the prayer later in the online version, but in the paper edition the title did not make any sense. Then I beat at my heart strongly and said: ‘Jesus, you take care of it now’. I really wanted this prayer reach to people…
And He did care about it – two days later, when the edition was published, a phone rang. It rang every day, for nearly three months. Other readers used to ask about Fr. Dolindo – they were thirsty of his life, they also used to ask about his books. They were so interested that I had to ask a secretary not to put through other callers with me, as I was not able to work. And on the same day there was one more phone call – from a publishing house Espirit, with a question: ‘Will you write a book about Fr. Dolindo?’
Which means that ‘he decided to deal with’ the impetus?
Yes, he did. But I did not agree at once. I knew that I was going to have a lot of work, but I had other commitments. At last things went on in such a way that I felt: yes, it was that moment. First I wrote to Sisters of Immaculate Mary in Nepal - they were surprised, that I was looking for contact and I was interested in the person of the priest. It turned out quickly that a niece of Fr. Dolindo, Mrs. Grazia Ruotolo, was alive. I got her telephone number…..
I did not phone at once. For various reasons I postponed the phone call and my trip. There was always an obstacle. Finally I called and I heard a reaction on the phone, which nobody would have expected. Mrs. Grazia said: ‘At last! I may have been waiting for you!’.
Did you decide to meet at the grave of Fr. Dolindo?
As Mrs. Grazia said – ‘da padre Dolindo’, that is, at Fr. Dolindo’s. We met at the grave of her uncle in the church under vocation of Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Joseph in Nepal.
It is difficult to get there…
Yes, it is. I described this district, full of stairs and narrow streets, in my book. I still have an image in my mind: when I entered, Mrs. Grazia was sitting on a chair with a rosary in her hand, nearly cuddling to the grave plate of her uncle’s grave. She was waiting for me, wearing elegant clothes, beautiful make-up, perfumes, holding a handbag matching with the colour of her shoes – charming. And she greeted me with such friendliness, as one greets somebody dear to him. I sat down next to her and I had been listening to her speaking about her uncle for six hours.
It was incredible! There was no more place on my voice-recorder but it did not matter as the story was incredible. It was when I disappeared for ever. Certainly, from time to time somebody came up to the grave, knelt down and knocked at the plate loudly.
Weren’t you surprised?
I was! It looked crazy but Grazia explained that there was nothing crazy in it, as people tend to do it in order to fulfill the priest’s will: ‘When you come here, knock and I will answer even from the grave: trust God!’.
Grazia Ruotolo, and then also one of the Franciscan Sisters of Immaculate Mary told me that FR. Dolindo wanted me to take him out onto the daily light. ‘He chose you’ – I heard, not understanding completely what it was about then. Anyway, what is interesting, at that time Fr. Robert Skrzypczak, who is supporting me today, heard the same; he also loves Fr. Dolindo and promotes cult to him. Only another stay in Nepal, when sisters talked me into trustfulness, made me aware that nobody had touched things collected in archives or souvenirs after him since 1970, that is, the death of Fr. Dolindo. At that time there was only a thin little book written by a postulator of the beatification process of Fr. Dolindo, and a source material, letters, autobiography which is of 4 thousand pages and still uncompleted handwritings of Fr. Dolindo. Nobody, even in Italy, wrote a book about the priest who died in the opinion of holiness, to whom crowds of people made pilgrimages, and a lot of them were sent to Nepal by the very Father Pio. Anyway, the very wander following the priest was incredible.
Can you tell us a bit of the secret?
The door in the cloister of the Franciscan Sisters of Immaculate Mary was opened by a nun – the angel. I cannot tell you her name, as she asked me not to, but today I can see that she was really sent to me by God and Fr. Dolindo. If it had not been for her, nothing would have been successful. She was the angel- the guardian at the stage of collecting materials for the book. One day I was walking with her along the street in Nepal, she suddenly stopped and said: ‘Remember that it is going to be difficult for you. There will be moments when you will want to give it up – then close your eyes and say: Jesus, you take care of it. And go ahead, Fr. Dolindo will lead you’.
Fr. Robert Skrzypczak tells us about a similar message: ‘Somebody who is getting to know the person of Fr. Dolindo, must suffer a bit’.
Yes, as ‘dolindo’ in the Neapolitan dialect means suffering. Priest writes about it in the introduction to my book. And it is not direct. Difficulties which were taking place during publication of the book – both the physical, material and spiritual ones, were enormous. I could not get down to work. As if everything was against me – both at work and at home. It seemed to me that there was a fight on at the border of the spiritual world. During one of my visits in Nepal, my publisher had temperature of 40 degrees. There could have been another book written about what was happening during writing the biography of Fr. Dolindo. A lot of people were praying for me. We asked for Holy Masses all the time, two religious orders were praying for us all the time, we received a lot of support from the publishing house as well – they were praying for us every day! And I talked to Fr. Dolindo every day: if you want this book to come out, please, write as well. And then everything went as quickly as a lightning. There was also a moment when I wanted to give it up. But I repeated: ‘Jesus, please, take care of it!’. I was very tired, the deadline had already passed, and I could not finish my work. But today when I receive hundred letters about miracles, which are taking place in the life of readers of this book, I thank God for my tears and difficulties. God used me as a tool – and this is my only role in this work. It was necessary to show life of Fr. Dolindo, all difficulties, especially in his priesthood, which he had experienced.
A lot of mentioned about the crisis of priesthood, about the lack of faithfulness which results from disappearing awareness of who we are, in the eyes of Christ. When one reads about how Fr. Dolindo was fighting humbly for his priesthood, one wants to give this book to all priests one knows.
My academic priest, whom I know from the times when I was a student, phoned me to say: ‘Listen, I have already got the fifth copy!’. In Poland there are people who buy this book to give it to priests, and I am really glad with it. Fr. Dolindo could be a patron of priests. The testimony of his life deprives us of all arguments. It is very important when we hear about resigning from priesthood, about discouragement….Fr. Dolindo shows that it is possible to overcome everything with the help of God. Heroic humility – he even used to kneel down to his enemies and he used to ask them for forgiveness – especially when he was suspended in his priesthood for 20 years, but he wore his cassock, attended the Holy Communion every day and was for people… he did not proclaim any manifestos, but kept silent. He used to say that ‘Church is Jesus’ – he loved it and never allowed anybody say anything bad about Church. Who would tolerate it today? He used to say that if we had known who priests were for us, we would not have left them alone. And during Eucharist we should hold our breath at the moment of consternation how great things are happening in Heaven then. Christ devotes his life on every altar of the world. Through priests’ hands…This is a great mystery.
Not being proclaimed a saint yet, but he seems to take care of priests…
Yes, he is helping them from Heaven. I have recently been in north Poland to tell people about Fr. Dolindo. Having entered a church I saw a giant crucifix – a beautiful, giant and very significant. A priest who had invited me to his parish, said that it had been placed there recently and it happened thanks to Fr. Dolindo and a story began…..A priest who was on the verge, in depression, read the book about Fr. Dolindo and during one night he changed completely. And to clarify it: this is not my text which did this revolution, but God through Fr. Dolindo, who got to the heart of this priest and saved his priesthood. People to whom I talked later in this parish, told me that there had happened a miracle. Their priest is happy, smiling and tells them about Fr. Dolindo all the time!
That’s why there is this big cross…
Yes, this is a great sign of thanksgiving for renewal, for change, for a new life. There are a lot of stories like that. When I told them to the bishop of Nepal, I saw a gleam in his eyes. At once he asked me to enclose these testimonies to the materials of the beatification process of Fr. Dolindo.
Returning to the topic about friends of Fr. Dolindo in Nepal – did you talk to witnesses of his life?
I did. And those talks helped me understand who was sent to me by God. His friends, spiritual daughters – all of them were crying when they were telling me about him. The meetings with prof. Umbert Cervo were touching. He is a nearly 90-year-old man with his ill leg and moving with his walking stick. He showed me a rosary, a cross of Fr. Dolindo and a prayer which the priest had written especially for them. He asked me to read it out. I was reading the prayer while he was standing upright, leaning on his walking stick and crying with fervent tears of emotions. I was crying with him…. For those people Fr. Dolindo is still alive, is somebody still present. Not only do they mention him – but they live with his presence, advice, prayers. They know, see how he helps them every day.
If there was a competition on using soaring acts, ‘Jesus, you take care of it’ beats ‘Jesus, I trust you’. Certainly, it is a joke, but everybody who has seen the entrustment act of Fr. Dolindo, sees the connection of these two requests and an unusual continuation: going into depth, into direct, less official request to Jesus…. My 10-year-old daughter found a bridge: ‘Jesus, I trust you’, so, ‘You take care of it’.
Great! But doesn’t this request push us into passivity? Jesus, you take care of it, so I will be waiting for dinner?
No, absolutely, not. Firstly – Jesus acts in various ways, sends people on the way of our life and solutions – but we must listen. Besides, it also concerns extreme situations in which human power is helpless. And then we say: ‘I trust You, so you will lead me. When it is impossible to do something by ourselves. He wants us to beat at our heart strongly and say: please, take care of it. Take care of it, as I am helpless, because you see…..It is not all about shy, religious sigh. It is all about brave, maybe desperate request to the almighty Friend. It must come out of our heart. Jesus asks us for it in this act.
But lots of people write: ‘I prayed and nothing’.
God is not a vending machine into which you put a coin and get a coke. Nothing like that. A lot of us have got a ready recipe, we dictate God how we want out things to go. It is not like that. God sees our life from the bird’s flight. Trust Him, even if something keeps collapsing. Anyway in the entrustment act Jesus says that if things get complicated, you should repeat more loudly and frequently: ‘Jesus, please, take care of it!’, do not resign, but keep going. If somebody says that it does not work, it means that he did not pray according to – as I call it – ‘instruction’ of Jesus.
Fr. Dolindo is God’s servant. When can we expect his beatification?
The beatification process ended at the level of Nepal diocese, acts got to Vatican a few years ago. The first postulator of the process died, another one – a Franciscan Father of Immaculate Mary – has been suspended. The Holy See imposed a commission board onto the Congregation of the Franciscan Brothers of Immaculate Mary in Italy, because of revealed abnormalities. Acts of the process of Fr. Dolindo are in the hands of this congregation and it has seemed till now that the process got stuck in a dead point. But there is Poland luckily!
Do we, Poles, have an influence on the proceeding of the process of Fr. Dolindo?
I am saying it with emotions – this is the latest news: the beatification process, mainly thanks to Poles, will get quicker! In increasing number of pilgrims from Poland is so significant that there is no time to wait. Not I am often in Nepal and I can see it. Poles love Fr. Dolindo! Lots of coaches of pilgrims arrive there! Hence the matter became the subject of interest for the ecclesiastical authorities – on the 47th death anniversary of Fr. Dolindo, that is, this year, archbishop of Nepal announced that cardinal Crescenzio Sepe was addressing his official request to the Congregation of Canonization Issues to shorten the time of the process. I am very happy! Anyway, Fr. Dolindo used to say himself that there would be time when he would be rehabilitated completely, but only when people had the Holy Scripture at home and when the Immaculate Heart of Mary triumphed.
Knowing Fr. Dolindo, thanks to your book, we can be sure that he still repeats: ‘Jesus, take care of it!
Yes, and he entrusts himself to God completely. But he is also waiting for our prayers – he is an extremely useful advocator in Heaven – agreeing, trustfully as usually, to some misfortunes at times.
Translation: Aneta Amrozik
„Niedziela” 52/2017 (24 XII 2017)