Saint of the day
St. John Baptist Rossi
John Baptist Rossi was born in 1698 in a village near Genoa, Italy. His family loved him. They were grateful when a wealthy couple that they knew hired John to serve in their household. John was happy to go to their house in Genoa because then he could attend school. When he was thirteen, he began studying for the priesthood at the Roman College. He realized that studies were easy for him and he signed up for more and more subjects.
Then 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 much good for the people of Rome. He knew what it was like not to feel well, so he took a special interest in sick people. He was a frequent visitor to Rome’s hospitals. Father John 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 John 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 at the market. What hard lives they had. They came in the morning with their herds. Father John 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 John’s priestly ministry made a big difference in their lives.
The priest also felt a 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 John money to open a shelter for homeless women. It was right near the hospice of St. Galla. Father John placed the house under the protection of one of his favorite saints, Aloysius Gonzaga. (The feast of St. Aloysius is June 21.) Father John 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 John 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.
We can learn from the life of St. John Baptist to be grateful for priests and for the sacrament of Reconciliation. We can also pray to this saint and ask him to console priests for all the good they do.