by Daniele Bolognini
The Servant of God
Blessed Sacrament Brother
Giovanni Nadiani was born on 20 February 1885 at St Maria Nuova, near Bertinoro (Forli). He had an older sister and brother. When he was three years old his mother died and his father, an anticlerical republican who ran a grocer’s shop-restaurant, married his wife’s sister. After only two years he became a widower and married again. All three women in a Christian manner educated Vanitti, as he was called familiarly. He was a model lad, good and generous, being available at home, diligent at school and in the parish, where he showed a particular disposition for singing and was a fine soloist. After completing elementary school in 1898, he entered the seminary of Cesena, but this was not God’s design for him.
In 1902 with much suffering he returned home and set to work in the restaurant-shop of the family. Serious and kind, when he had free time he used to read religious books and if he heard a bad word he would leave and make the sign of the cross. He used to like taking the horses to graze near a chapel of the Blessed Mother to pray and sing. His sister from the house would listen to his lovely voice. Deep faith enabled him to mature his will to be committed socially and he entered the Christian Democratic Circle of Prodezza, where he was appointed secretary, while he continued to reflect about what would be his destiny. He thought about becoming a missionary and went to work in Switzerland in order to learn French and German. He became a worker in a chocolate factory until 1905, when he was enlisted for military service in Italy. He returned to work in Switzerland, but in the beginning of 1907 he was transferred to Rome, where he became a bar tender.
He was devoted to visiting churches in the historical centre and one day entered San Claudio. The Blessed Sacrament was solemnly exposed while two priests were in adoration and members of the faithful came in and out to pray for a long time or for a few minutes. Kneeling down he understood that this was his mission. He got to know the Blessed Sacrament Fathers, who appreciating his great interior character welcomed him, not as a candidate for the priesthood, because of his age, but as a lay-brother.
He entered the house of the Congregation at Turin on 2 July 2007 and on 14 November began the novitiate at Castelvecchio di Moncalieri under the direction of Father Carlo Maria Poletti. At the end of the first weeks, having followed an intense ascetical path, he began to write his “Spiritual Notes.” He decided to be consecrated in a nuptial communion to Jesus in the Eucharist, through the “Eymardian Vow of Personality.” His mystical insights, his passion for the Eucharist and the Blessed Mother reached the highest levels. He was entrusted with the task of sacristan and the promotion of the Blessed Sacrament periodicals, while being available for every humble service. The Great War took him to the Front from January 1917 to the autumn of 1918 near Strassoldo (Udine), as assistant to a military chaplain. When he returned to community he resumed numerous services, even being vice-treasurer.
In October 1931 he was definitively transferred to Ponterancia, where the Servant of God Lodovico Longari made him the infirmarian of the community. Though not having a diploma, but with being practical, he undertook the duty with kindness and generosity. He earned the esteem of the doctors, who recognised in him a “really maternal care for the sick.” He set down his thoughts in “The Spiritual Maternity of the Religious of the Blessed Sacrament.”
Brother Giovanni was a contemplative of the Eucharist. He used to prepare his adorations, choosing the themes and afterwards noting down the spiritual fruits. He set up a “Eucharistic clock” in order to be in communion with the various priests who in the different parts of the world were celebrating Holy Mass. In his “Notes” we find his true and radical spirit: “Adoration is the most sublime thing. It is the time kept for our rapport with God; during this time we are free from all commitments to place ourselves in an intimate relation and familiar conversation with God. So we are no longer just workers, but ambassadors of the Church before God and very dear children of God. Adoration is an angelic exercise. Yes, indeed, by means of Adoration we enter into the same task as the Angels.” “Adoration is my little Mass. Oh, with what commitment I must celebrate it!... I must every time have a victim prepared for the offering. The best Adoration is thus what brings one close to the Mass itself; it is that at 6 a.m., namely, when I receive Holy Communion. Then I renew the deep Adoration of the Virgin at the time of the Incarnation, her loving thanksgiving, her immolation and her prayer. In all the Adorations I relive the moment of the elevation – consecration – immolation; I must pray for Jesus to want me to change, to transform me, make me a little Jesus, so that I may say: it is not anymore I who live; no, no, but Jesus who lives in me! This is my Mass that I have the joy of celebrating 3 times a day. In all the Adorations although I do not really draw Jesus to my heart, it is He from His Sacrament who transmits to me His Divine Life, His Divine Spirit the Life-giver, Transformer, Formator of Saints, who are images of the Son of God. Oh! With what an ardent desire I must prepare myself to celebrate my little Mass! With what care I must prepare the Victim to be immolated with generosity for the moment of consecration!”
The daily life of Brother Giovanni, who since his novitiate wore a hair shirt under the scrupulous guidance of his confessor, could seem monotonous, but he said: “My life must be a continual Adoration. I must always unite contemplation to the active life, making ‘spiritual’ all my ordinary actions, in a way that everything may lead me to Adoration.” He was fifty-five years old when the doctor found that he had a stomach ulcer, which turned out to be cancer. The Servant of God thanked the Sorrowful Virgin for “that little living cross.” He continued the task as infirmarian and with sacrifice did not omit to go to Bergamo on various assignments. On 9 September 1939, not without unbearable suffering, he went alone to the city on foot to visit a clinic. On hearing the unhappy diagnosis, he responded: “Deo gratias.” On 22 December he was taken to the main hospital and an operation was performed. He wrote a last letter to a confrere: “Ask all to pray to obtain from the Blessed Father a miracle for me. So much love moves me! If then the good Jesus will wish otherwise, may he be likewise thanked ‘with joy.’ Help me also, dear Father, so that if I am operated, I may celebrate my bloody Mass as a true Blessed Sacrament religious, freely and joyfully allowing Jesus-Victim to complete in this his unworthy member His Passion and thus redeem me of my many sins! If then the Lord would call me… Deo gratias! The beloved heavenly Mother, I am sure, will accompany me.” He died on 6 January 1940, the solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. In 1957 the process of canonization began. When his coffin was opened on 8 November 1988, his body was found to be intact.
O most Holy Trinity, we give thanks to you for the gift of the Eucharist, the fountain and strength of all holiness, and we pray for you to glorify your servant Giovanni Nadiani, who in humility and service bore witness to the life of love that springs from this Sacrament. Through his intercession, grant the graces that we ask.