St. John Baptist Rossi
John Baptist Rossi was born in 1698 in a village near Genoa, Italy. His family loved him. They were proud when a wealthy couple visiting their town offered to educate him. His parents knew the couple and trusted them. John was happy to be able to go to their house in Genoa because then he could attend school. Everything was going well for John. He became a student for the priesthood at the Roman College. He realized that studies were easy for him and took on more and more of a load.
John became very sick and had to stop his studies for a while. After he recovered enough, he completed his preparation and became a priest. Even though his health was always poor, Father John did so much good for the people of Rome. He knew what it was like not to feel well, so Father Rossi took a special interest in sick people. He was a frequent visitor in Rome's hospitals. He especially loved to spend time with the poor people at the Hospice of St. Galla. This was a shelter for the poor and homeless. But Father Rossi became aware of poor people who had no one to look after their spiritual needs. He noticed those who brought cattle and sheep to sell in the Roman forum. What hard lives they had. They came in the morning with their herds. Father Rossi would walk among them and stop and talk with them. When possible, he would teach them about the faith and offer them the sacrament of Reconciliation. Father Rossi's priestly ministry made a big difference in their lives.
The priest also felt deep compassion for the homeless women and girls. They wandered through the streets day and night begging. This was dangerous and very sad. The pope gave Father Rossi money to open a shelter for homeless women. It was right near the Hospice of St. Galla. Father Rossi placed the house under the protection of one of his favorite saints, Aloysius Gonzaga. The feast of St. Aloysius is June 21. Father Rossi became best known for his kindness and gentleness in confession. People formed lines near his confessional and waited patiently for their turn. He once said to a friend that the best way for a priest to reach heaven was to help people through the sacrament of Reconciliation. Another favorite assignment given him by Pope Benedict XIV was to teach courses of spiritual instruction to prison officials and state employees.
Father Rossi suffered a stroke in 1763. He never regained his health. He was able to celebrate Mass but he suffered greatly. This wonderful priest died at the age of sixty-six. It was May 23, 1764. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Leo XIII in 1881.
How can we help our priests? May we may always pray for them and ask Jesus to console them.