Xavier de Verchère: A new saint in the Salesian family, Artémide Zatti

Xavier de Verchère: A new saint in the Salesian family, Artémide Zatti

Artemide was a Salesian brother and nurse. Born in Italy in 1880, he began working as a laborer at a very young age. He had to go into exile in Argentina at the age of 17 because of poverty. His spiritual director helped him find his way: he entered the Salesian novitiate at the age of 20. While helping a young priest with tuberculosis, he contracted the disease. Prayer to Mary Help of Christians helped him find healing. He then decided to devote his life to the sick. “I believed, I promised, I healed”, he will say. He spent all his strength in running a hospital with it. His fame spread throughout the region. He died in 1951.

How can this religious inspire Christian caregivers today?

Artémide Zatti testifies how much our spiritual life can combine with our work and find their unity. Being a caregiver was for him a real mission as a baptized person. In the evening, he formed himself by reading medical textbooks and spiritual readings. His joy and his delicacy were reflected in his work, including in the midst of constraints and trials. Artémide strikes a fine balance between prayer, community life and her commitment as a nurse. Finally, he did not forget his modest origins, attentive to visits to the sick in poor neighborhoods and localities of Viedma and Patagones, even refusing to be paid for treatment. Several witnesses affirm to have found the faith with his contact, without even that he speaks to them about God.

Being a caregiver is therefore compatible with the Salesian charism oriented towards education?

I think so. Several of our works, particularly in Africa, are oriented towards the care of populations. When we speak of Christian education, we are talking about a global education, integral to the person, that is to say which integrates all its dimensions. We must take care of the body, the soul and the spirit. The person is a whole. It is the whole man that must be helped to grow and flourish. Artemide Zatti, as a good Salesian, knew it: Don Bosco advised his missionaries to take care of the sick. The notion of “integral education” fits perfectly with the Salesian charism; moreover, it nourishes the great texts of the Church since Vatican II.

But faced with the challenges of our time, each of us – parents, teachers, educators – sense that we need to enrich it with another dimension. The philosopher Émilie Tardivel, inspired by Jacques Maritain, explains that we must also educate for the common good. To the three personal, social and spiritual dimensions to which Don Bosco was attached, we must add a fourth, the natural dimension of the common good. We could say our common home, “the common world that we form with other living beings” as Émilie Tardivel explains. Today, young people are pushing us to change to save the planet. Students from Grandes Ecoles criticize companies that emit too much CO2. This is what is targeted. Integral education must aim at an integral ecology to which Pope Francis invites us.

Xavier de Verchère is a Salesian priest of Don Bosco and Chaplain General of the Scouts and Guides of France (SGDF)

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