10 Apr Father Bernardo Boldini
Father BERNARDO BOLDINI
Born in 1930 in Borgosatollo (Brescia), he began his monastic life in the Trappist (OCSO) monastery of Tre Fontane, Rome, on December 1, 1956. He made his solemn profession in 1963 and was ordained a priest on August 10, 1967.
He was a novice of the Venerable Father Romano Bottegal, whose beatification process is currently underway. Therefore, he had an exceptional teacher in terms of doctrine, mystical life, and today we can also add prophetic strength. Father Bernardo remained a faithful disciple of Father Romano throughout his life, that is, of this man of great spiritual quality who left his community after a long preparation, made up of service to the community first and then of times of eremitic life lived under the major superiors, but certainly with great disappointment within the enclosure. Finally, he left with the permission of his community. For this reason, he was long suspected of disobedience and rebellion, until the power of his sanctity, after his premature and holy death, forced a reevaluation of his positions.
Father Bernardo remained in this community full of problems for more than 20 years, which mainly stemmed from its difficult location in the city of Rome, which exposed it to various theft attempts. The superiors, forced to deal with these difficulties, could not dedicate themselves sufficiently to the care of the community, which was a particularly challenging and difficult aspect for everyone in our times of transition.
Father Bernardo subsequently served as Novice Master, Prior, and Superior. We should also learn more about the history of Father Domenico Turco, a beautiful figure of Abbot at Tre Fontane, a man of great culture, magnanimity, and courtesy. He was a great friend of Mother Pia, Abbess of the Trappist female monastery of Grottaferrata, recognized her greatness, and remained faithful to this friendship until his death, disregarding the calumnies of many petty and envious people.
He financed the construction of Vitorchiano first and Valserena later (the latter was the foundation that Mother Pia had long dreamed of) and was a benefactor of many, from the Little Sisters, who are still housed on the grounds of Tre Fontane, to a quantity of other religious families. He was also a financier of the overly imposing work of the Order, the General House and reception for Monte Cistello students. He was eventually accused, during a difficult time of expropriation by the state, of dissipating the Tre Fontane’s assets, and had to resign, later living as a monk in humility and silence, devoting himself to his beautiful translations of St. Bernard.
Father Bernardo told me that instead it was the French Apostolic Administrator appointed after him and always considered the savior of the situation who severely compromised the assets, canceling wise and prudent choices of Don Domenico that had secured much of the capital. Father Bernardo Boldini, appointed superior, inherited this extremely difficult situation, working day and night for several years (1974-1977) to set the administrative and financial situation in order, exhausting himself greatly. Taking advantage of the circumstance, his claustral prior, also a monk sent from another country's monastery, probably to remove him, worked within the community to turn the brothers against the superior. Father Bernardo himself told me these things to explain how, once his task was completed, and now devoid of strength, he took refuge in the Attached House of Boschi that he had created himself in view of a possible transfer of the community, by Don Domenico Turco who was from the area and had taken care of the search for the location, and by some other brothers. After a break spent as superior of Tre Fontane, he returned definitively in 1977. The story of the small community and its growth until becoming an independent monastery can be found on the Community's website: https://monasteromadonnaunioneboschi.it/
These three figures we mentioned, Father Romano, Don Domenico, and Father Bernardo, together with many others, express the two souls of Tre Fontane: on one hand, a strongly contemplative spirit that drove them to flee from Rome in search of solitude and a more suitable environment for the search for God; on the other hand, a loyalty to the monastic presence in Rome, a presence desired by the Fathers at the site of the martyrdom of Saint Paul and many other Christians, a presence initiated by Eastern monks, continued by Saint Bernard and almost uninterrupted until today. It is a presence in a place deeply loved by the monks, and highly appreciated by Pius XII and Paul VI, who always opposed the idea of a transfer. Let us not forget that in the 1950s, the Madonna appeared on a plot of land owned by the monastery and publicly accessible to Bruno Comacchiola and his three children as the Virgin of Revelation. The Chapel of the Madonna of Revelation was established in the cave of these apparitions, whose messages were linked to those of Fatima and other apparitions. Although never officially recognized, these apparitions have led to a strong movement of popular prayer to this day, particularly attentive to the prophetic revelations concerning the future of the Roman Church.
How could the monks abandon this field of spiritual struggle where the official prayer in the abbey church, the celebrations of the Eucharist and the Divine Office, the reception of pilgrims in the places of martyrdom, confessions, and spiritual conversation, are united with the piety of the people and support the search of many, clergy, religious, laity, still attracted by the two-thousand-year-old holiness of this place? But how can the monks remain monks without adequate spiritual renewal for our time?
This is the profound question that has always troubled our Father Bernardo. Personally, despite the difficulties in understanding between the two communities, when Tre Fontane felt they did not have the strength to support Boschi and hoped for the return of the brothers, I always felt that Tre Fontane was the deep root that gave substance to Boschi, and that Boschi represented the renewal of Tre Fontane, as necessary as it was little understood within it.
When the first meeting of Italian trainers took place in Valserena in 1982, Father Domenico Turco was present as the master father of Tre Fontane, later replaced by Father Emanuele, and Father Bernardo represented Boschi, of which he was superior and trainer. At that time, while Father Domenico first and then Father Emanuele positioned themselves as the sons and scholars of St. Bernard, Father Bernardo Boldini appeared rather as a restless researcher and attentive listener to all the new fermentations of culture and society. In those years, he delved very personally into the thought of Freud; but this long and laborious research should not deceive us about the theological solidity of his personal approach, always strongly nourished by Scripture, liturgy, the fathers, and the ecclesiastical magisterium. But he never gave up his anthropological research, passionate, generous, and exhausting, to unravel the authentic image of man from the frozen formalism of the clericalism of that time and from the even more frozen constraints of Trappist customs. The passionate question, "Who is man? How can he grow and become more and more himself in relation to God?" was common to us. Father Bernardo's research delved more and more into the ecclesial-sacramental field, while the nuns were more sensitive to the field of communitarian ecclesiology. Then we all came together in St. Bernard; and I believe that, amid many discussions, we enriched each other more than we thought.
Returning to Father Bernardo, the characteristic of his spirit and mind has always been one of boundless openness, I would say greater than his limits as a man and a monk, tied to that particular experience and environment. Openness to the problems of humanity, to the events of history, to the evolutions of culture in difficult and tormented years for all. Above all, openness to the work of the Holy Spirit in the human spirit, which he tirelessly investigated in the Liturgy, in the writings of the Fathers, in spirituality, and in the daily life of people. This great desire for truth and wisdom lived in a small and fragile body, with a humble appearance and not very fluent speech. Returning to our meetings as trainers, I remember when his slow and wise considerations got lost in his beard, and we, younger and more carefree, would become sleepy and bored. However, when I returned to my monastery as a secretary and carefully transcribed his notes, I was constantly amazed by the depth of the topics he discussed. I must add that our charisma as nuns was to drag our wise Fathers, somewhat entrenched in their reasoning, into a dialogue that would bring that reflection to life and use it to illuminate everyday problems. In this way, the work of our group of trainers became an important contribution to our Abbots and Abbesses, who then resumed the same topics in their regional meetings, developing and deepening them. Thus, reports of those meetings reached even distant Houses of the Order, for fruitful exchange. Obviously, my personal memories of Father Bernardo concern the life of our monasteries. It is not up to me to speak of his patient work in giving life to the beautiful Community of Boschi, with its so prayerful Liturgy and its irradiation in the region, through an active group of laypeople present in prayer. Nor could I sufficiently speak of his teaching, both to religious and laypeople, or his numerous publications in which, already elderly, he updated his method using slides... I could not sufficiently speak of his help or that of other members of the community to religious women, with spiritual direction and retreats... I saw all this a little from afar, but I also felt it well in my visits to Boschi, where the atmosphere of prayer, friendship, and simplicity captured us with a particular charm. Of those men, we could perceive above all that they were and wanted to be only seekers of God, and consequently, they were true brothers.
Certainly, beyond these few remarks, I will not be able to sufficiently convey Father Berardo's search in the spiritual field. His attention to the liturgy in all its aspects was predominant, both in the conduct of the community and in study and teaching. He also paid great attention to a field less frequented by monks of our time, that of exorcism. The kindness and generosity of his nature led him to devote himself greatly to a ministry of spiritual healing, and it was striking to see this man, who appeared so fragile, never give up the fight against evil. A particular chapter would be his commitment and the forces he exerted for years to help our foundation in Angola. Enormous generosity always supported the commitment of the Boschi community. As always, there were also enormous obstacles encountered, and at some point, they proved insurmountable. Unfortunately, this increasingly complicated story eventually forced a stop to the collaboration between our monasteries. We never considered the friendship interrupted, but not being able to reach the necessary agreements anymore, communication was suspended at some point. I think Father Bernardo suffered from this too. His sensitivity was very acute and made him very vulnerable, giving an appearance of weakness to his untamed inner form as a man of God. When I happened to visit Boschi in more recent years, I remember visiting Father Bernardo in his study. It was a sort of Sancta Sanctorum overflowing with books, books, books in a picturesque and lived disorder. In the center of this kingdom, his sweet and subdued voice flowed with his characteristic chant, and it was the words of Augustine, those of the Psalms and prophets, those of the entire Scripture, of Saint Bernard, of the other Fathers. He spoke as he breathed, as he lived, a river of sweet and unstoppable wisdom, buried among his woods, surrounded by his bearded brothers, in the dimness of the church that had been a stable. Now that this root is buried in the earth, may God's mercy and blessings continue to pour out on this small community, which is the true legacy of Father Bernardo.