Stubborn determination and a competitive spirit can bring a young boy a lot of places… it could spur him on to turn his team around in a sports game; it could drive him to study hard in school; it could get him into some trouble with friends… but rarely do we think about these qualities helping a young boy towards sainthood.
Maggiorino Vigolungo was born on a farm in Benevello d’Alba, Italy on May 6th, 1904. While his family was not wealthy, they were hard-working and devout. They loved and provided for him, sending him to school and teaching him about the faith.
As a young boy, Maggiorino was already showing himself to be lively, intelligent, determined, and very competitive. He aimed to be the top of his class at school, and played to win in sports games with his friends. But these qualities of his were not only shown in his drive to be the best – they also worked to lead him closer to God. One cold winter day, Maggiorino was faced with the prospect of a nearly 9 mile walk from his village to the nearest church. He hadn’t the proper clothing to keep warm, but was determined to meet Jesus in the Eucharist anyway. He trudged the entire way in the freezing cold, and when he arrived with numb hands, legs, and feet, someone at the parish kindly offered the boy a cup of hot milk to help him warm up. But Maggiorino refused, because he wanted to receive Holy Communion first, before taking anything else. As determined as he was in the classroom and on the field, he was equally determined to love Christ however he was able. He served in Church faithfully as a choir member and altar boy.
It was as an altar server that the young Maggiorino met the young priest, Fr. Alberione. Fr. Alberione became Maggiorino’s confessor and spiritual director, and shared with the boy his own enthusiasm for his dream of establishing a school for “The Good Press,” by which to share Jesus with all men and women. Fr. Alberione’s dream captured Maggiorino’s heart. When he was 12 years old, 2 years after it had opened, he entered “The Typographical School of the Small Worker” for boys to train to be an apostle of the Good Press.
Maggiorino entered the Typographical School with all the faults and struggles of a typical adolescent, but with an enthusiasm and drive for holiness that shone in one of his age. Maggiorino announced his three great aspirations in life: to become holy quickly, to become a priest, and to be a good apostle of the Good Press. Recognizing in humility where he was in relation to his goal, he did not demand of himself immediate perfection, taking instead as his motto: “A little progress every day.”
At the Typographical School, which would soon officially become The Society of St. Paul, Maggiorino found friends and brothers in the boys alongside him who also wanted to dedicate their lives to sharing Christ with others. He learned to work with the printing machines and studied attentively under Fr. Alberione, Fr. Giaccardo, and Canon Chiesa. Most importantly, he dedicated his prayer and his life to knowing and loving God all the more. He said that his Pauline Vocation was “the most beautiful gift of all.” Maggiorino made great progress as he threw his whole heart into all the ordinary tasks of life at the School.
When Maggiorino was only 14 he got sick, and it was no regular cold…it was meningitis. He became so ill that it was soon clear he might not recover. His friends, worried sick, prayed for him fervently. Fr. Alberione had his parents come and take him home so that he could spend time with his family. Fr. Alberione himself went to be with Maggiorino during his last days. When he asked the young boy if he wanted to get better or to go to heaven, Maggiorino replied that he wanted “to do the will of God.” His last words were to Fr. Alberione, “I greet all of my companions; tell them to pray for me and that we’ll see each other again in heaven.” He passed away moments later, on July 27, 1918.
Maggiorino’s liveliness, determination, and love for God have left a lasting legacy in the Pauline family. After his death, Fr. Alberione suggested that he become the Patron of all Pauline Aspirants. Maggiorino’s remains were brought to be buried with the Pauline family at the Temple of St. Paul in Alba, Italy. Maggiorino’s own cousin would go on to become a Brother with the Society of St. Paul, Brother Spirito Maggiorino Caldellara, and was a missionary in France for 50 years. Maggiornino’s very best friend at the School, Bartolomeo Marcellino, who went on to found Pauline communities in the East, never forgot his friend and continued to share Maggiorino’s story throughout his life. Paulines around the world continue to look to him for intercession and inspiration.
Maggiorino was proclaimed “Venerable” on March 28, 1988.