Seventy Years after the Arrival of the Camillians in China: Some Protagonists. Part Two. Celestino Rizzi (1914-1951)

sacerdoti_-_padre_celestino_rizzi._missionario_camilliano_in_cina_della_comunita_di_cavizzana._mort_imagefullCelestino Rizzi bore witness to outstanding evangelical virtues – faith, a high sense of duty. But the passion which most marked him out was his vocation to the missionary apostolate.

A Man of Faith

Fr. Celestino was a leading figure in many misfortunes. In each of them a strength came forth which saved him from giving up. He never accepted being a ‘man who was finished’. He was often lost, but available to him was the last card that he possessed to play – trust in providence. Faith was the secret that placed him above the fray. It was especially present when there were difficulties. His feet were on the ground and yet he moved on a higher plane. His journey took place at a high altitude. Faith opened up an opening towards another world that corrected the present and showed him other roads. His earthly roads clashed with obstacles and yet ‘in spe contra spemhe fought on feeling the presence of God, of the Lord who defeated the world, at his side.

His days were spent apparently like those of all of his fellow religious and yet in him there was something particular: he drew their meaning from a burning faith. For him, events were never a matter of being a mere chronicle – they were carriers of providence In solitude during the time that he spent in Peking studying Chinese he wrote to his fellow religious as follows: ‘I feel in a tangible way the influence of your prayers’. After falling gravely ill, he informed Fr. Crotti: ‘I assure that I would not have regretted dying…Whether we live or die has only relative importance as long as the Lord is glorified’. Thus his faith explains his lordly attitude towards death. Death was not simply an ending of things, as is the case with the death of an individual without ideals. Indeed, it had a meaning that could not be reached through the human faculties alone. Just as dying was not only dying, so suffering was not only suffering when it took place because of the gospel. Indeed, it was ‘beautiful and sweet to suffer for the Lord’. The separation from his parents was a severe trial for him. However, his faith also led to this obstacle being overcome and his approach was: ‘we will see each other again…we will be united again in heaven. As regards you being far away and my perhaps not being able to see you again on this earth, the steady hope of seeing all of you in heaven comforts me’. His choice of China was felt by him as an adieu ‘for ever’.

Once all his experiences were referred to faith they acquired a new meaning. The persecution and injustice endured under the Communist regime were seen in a supernatural light: ‘Above men there is God who governs the world…making everything converge for the greater good of those who love Him’.