This year, Bishop Mario Oliveri came to Villatalla to preside over the festivities of St Michael’s Day, patronal feast of the village and of the parish church. Because of liturgical obligations in his cathedral of Albenga which is under the same patronage, the feast was anticipated the day before, September the 28th.
The faithful met on Saint John’s Square at the entrance to the village. A statue of St. Michael enthroned was carried on the shoulders of four men. Behind the processional Cross held by the altar server, Don Sandro, pastor, led the rosary. At 4 P.M., the Bishop’s car entered the square. The rosary was finished with a Gloria Patri, the car stopped, the parish priest opened the door of the car and the bishop came out, wearing amaranth cassock and biretta. He greeted ecclesiastical and civil authorities, the little crowd squeezed up around him, and he blessed them all.
At once the procession began to make its way to the church, to the rhythm of popular songs. The cross opened the way, followed by the crowd, the monks, the clergy, the Bishop and the statue of the archangel.
Upon entering the church, with the sound of the pipe organs and the singing of the schola, the Bishop moved up the central aisle, again blessing the crowd left and right, then kneeling and reciting the prayers of the Pontifical upon arrival at the sanctuary. Then he took his seat to hear the welcome speeches from the pastor, Father Jehan and the mayor.
During the pontifical mass which followed, celebrated in the traditional rite, Bishop Oliveri pronounced a vigourous sermon on the importance of spiritual life founded on Catholic faith and doctrine, and he ended with words expressing benevolence and paternal friendship for the monks:
“Very dear brethren, You have now among you the presence of the monks. The goal of their life and dedication has been fully and well evoked a few minutes ago by dear Father Jehan de Belleville at the beginning of our meeting. They are a continual reminder of fidelity to the Lord. They are a continual reminder to always give our Lord the first place: He and He only. Everything else is secondary. Everything else must be used by us to walk towards the eternity of the Lord. Everything. The whole life of the human being has no other goal than to purify him, to prepare him to enter eternal life.
Dear Benedictine monks, thank you for having chosen this place for your consecrated life. I am happy to learn that you were welcomed here, as it should be, according to justice and charity. I am happy to know that you have the support of this small population so that you do not lack any of the small needs which always accompany man on his pilgrimage through time.
I am asking you, dear faithful : continue to support them. Please God that in this place they find a suitable environment, well adapted, to be able to grow and truly become a monastery able to give back the luminous testimony that the Lord is the Lord and that nobody else can take His place. Thank you! Thank you, dear monks.
I bless you and will accompany you with a huge joy so that in any need, you can find in me a father, you can find in me someone who understands you. And I pray the Lord that what you found in me, you may also find in all the priests of my diocese, in all the faithful and particularly in the faithful of this parish of Saint Michael The Archangel in Villatalla.
May all be blessed, and blessed you are if you are in friendship with the Lord”.
After the Mass, Bishop Oliveri visited the monastic house Santa Caterina da Siena, next to the church, and proceeded to its blessing.
Upon coming out, he greeted various persons and groups, for example the carabinieri who attended the ceremony.
Then Father Jehan accompanied the Bishop back to Saint John’s Square, where the faithful were waiting with tables of delicacies and beverages laid out by the ladies of the parish. Bishop Oliveri departed quickly, but left great joy in all hearts.
Thus on two days in September 2008, the Bishop of Albenga-Imperia has celebrated Mass publically in the traditional rite, first for the Franciscan contemplative sisters in Alassio, on the 23rd, and then on the 28th in Villatalla. But that is not all, because on October 26th, feast of St. Maurice and his martyr companions, in the co-cathedral of Imperia, he will again celebrate the ancient rite, and this time a pontifical Mass, during which seven Franciscan sisters of the Immaculate Conception will pronounce their solemn vows.