BROTHER GINO, APOSTLE OF OUR LADY OF FATIMA
In Italy there now lives a brother of the Congregation of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, who has helped many people to know how to apply the Message of Fatima in their lives in the Twentieth Century. His name is Brother Gino, and in the following article we quote him many times when he talks about living the Message of Fatima. In addition to the edifying effect of his spiritual counsels and the example of his holy life, God seems to be teaching us another thing through the special gifts He has given this brother.
People who have a knowledge of theology and who have known Brother Gino agree that God has a special purpose for giving us this Brother in the Twentieth Century. One of the signs of the times today is the prevalence of atheism and materialism, where people live as though there were no God and where at times it seems whole nations forget that there is a God Who created all things and to Whom we are answerable for what we do. By giving to the Church in the Twentieth Century such a holy man, God seems to be showing us that Christ is real, the Catholic Faith is real, and that Christ is still with us. God hasn't forgotten us even though so many of us forget Him.
Brother Gino has a great devotion to Our Lady of Fatima, and he has built a large shrine in Her honor at San Vittorino, near Rome, Italy. He sees the importance of the Fatima Message in our times, and explains (as Pope John Paul II says), Fatima is a reaffirmation of the Gospels. Our Lady of Fatima told us how to apply the teachings of Christ to our lives in the Twentieth Century.
Brother Gino was born on July 7, 1932 in a small farming town called Gambassi, near Florence, in Italy. He is the eldest child of Angelo and Blandina Burresi. From an early age, as his mother noticed, he showed great charity for others and an unusual degree of devotion to God and the Blessed Mother. At the early age of 14 he joined the Congregation of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, and made his perpetual vows in 1956.
Saved American Soldiers
During World War II there was much crisis and sorrow for Italy, as there was for the rest of the world. Brother Gino was about nine years old at the time. Previous to the takeover by the American soldiers, Brother Gino helped to save the lives of several American soldiers who had been taken prisoner by certain German soldiers who intended to kill them.
Gino said to his father, “Those Germans intend to kill the Americans. It is not right to kill those many young men. You must free them.”
Angelo Burresi replied to his boy, “It is too dangerous. The fence which surrounds the prison camp is electrified.”
Gino said, “Father, do not worry. I will pray to the Blessed Mother. You go ahead and free those soldiers. Nothing will happen to you.”
The boy Gino kept insisting until Angelo Burresi, together with his cousin, went to see what they could do. They cut the wire and helped the young prisoners to escape.
Angelo next called several Italian families together and came to an understanding with them that the American soldiers would be kept hidden from the Germans. These families would see that sufficient food was given to the Americans. Gino was assigned to represent the Burresi’s by carrying food to the American young men. It was necessary to pass the German soldiers to reach the hiding Americans, and at times Gino had much difficulty, as he had to make several river crossings.
His mother Blandina Burresi had taught him to pray in the following way when he was afraid: “Jesus, Mary, Joseph, accompany me along the way.” And she had given him a Rosary and taught him to say it. Armed with these prayers Gino passed safely through the Germans and brought food to the American soldiers in their place of hiding. This whole incident was very heroic, as all who were involved in freeing, hiding, and feeding the American soldiers may well have been shot by the German soldiers if they were discovered.
Early Years as a Brother
On December 10, 1946, when Gino was fourteen years old, he entered the Oblates of the Virgin Mary as an aspirant. On February 13, 1950, he entered the novitiate. He wanted to be a brother. Since he was very talented and intelligent, his parents and superiors didn’t understand why he didn’t aspire to be a priest. Brother Gino was trying to do God’s will above all, and he thought God wanted him to be a brother. He was happy to do the humble work of a brother, teaching catechism, visiting the sick, helping the poor, and looking after the cleaning of the churches where he was working at different times. After many years Brother Gino resumed his studies for the priesthood. In 1979 he was ordained a deacon, which is the major order which precedes ordination to the priesthood. Brother Gino, by his prayers and example, has drawn many young men to come to the Oblate Seminary at Our Lady of Fatima's shrine at San Vittorino.
The Oblates of the Virgin Mary
The Oblates of the Virgin Mary is a Congregation founded by Venerable Pio Bruno Lanteri, a humble Italian priest who lived in the troubled times during and after the French Revolution. When Bruno Lanteri was just a little boy of four years old, his mother died, and his father was left looking after a large family of young children. Bruno’s father took him to the parish church, and there before the altar of Our Lady he said to his son: “You no longer have a mother here on earth. From now on, the Blessed Virgin will be your Mother. Love Her as your true Mother.”
When Bruno Lanteri was in Turin studying for the priesthood, everywhere there was influence of the false doctrines of the Jansenists. Jansen taught in effect that human nature was completely corrupted by original sin and that we don’t have a free will and he taught the false doctrine of predestination. These heresies caused people to lack trust in God's mercy and goodness. Heated controversies over the false doctrines occurred in theological circles. Bruno Lanteri however continued in his devotion to the Mother of God, who, as the Catholic Church says, is the destroyer of all heresies, and Bruno’s prayers were answered, and he was saved from the errors of the Jansenists. Just before receiving the diaconate, Bruno Lanteri consecrated himself in a special way into the hands of the Blessed Virgin Mary (in 1781), in a similar manner as the offering of St. Louis de Montfort.
While studying for the priesthood, Bruno Lanteri worked among the poor in Turin. As a priest, he constantly encouraged others to have loyalty to the Holy Father. “It is a question of the unity, of the center, of the foundation of the faith,” he said. When Pope Pius VII was imprisoned at Savona (1809 -1812), then at Fontainebleau during the Napoleonic era in the hope that the Pope might give in to the Emperor who wanted control over Pope and bishops, it was Father Lanteri who, during these years, managed to get secret documents into the hands of the Pope which His Holiness in turn used to overcome Napoleon's plans to rule the Church.
Father Lanteri was devoted to spreading Catholic teaching through the diffusion of good Catholic literature. He also published pamphlets giving the Catholic Church’s teachings regarding news events of the day, to alert the faithful, to clarify the issues and to give encouragement.
Father Lanteri found others to help him to help invalids and the sick and the poor and the imprisoned. One of the tasks of the order he founded was the formation and sanctification of the clergy. For this, Father Lanteri gave retreats using the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola, and he encouraged souls to consecrate themselves totally to God through the hands of Mary. In speaking of his religious order, he would say, “I am not the Founder. The Founder is Our Lady.” And he directed his Oblates to be apostles of Mary as well as personally consecrating themselves to God through Mary, because as he said, “In order to bring souls to God it is necessary to make them pass through the hands of Mary.”
The Oblates look to Saint Thomas Aquinas as their teacher of dogmatic theology, and Saint Alphonsus Liguori is their teacher in moral theology.
Their Rule says that the Oblates of the Virgin Mary fight against current errors, even those diffused within the Church, especially those regarding dogma and morals. To help them achieve this goal, they have frequent recourse to the Blessed Virgin Mary, “who has overcome all the world’s heresies.” According to the intention of their founder, the Oblates profess a complete obedience to the authority of the Holy See and a complete acceptance of the teachings of the Holy Father.