BL. ALFREDO ILDEFONSO SCHUSTER


Memorial : 30 August

BL. ALFREDO ILDEFONSO SCHUSTER, O.S.B. was born in Rome on 18 January 1880 and baptized Alfredo Ludovico Luigi. He entered the Benedictine monastery of St Paul-Outside-the-Walls when he was 11, and in 1896 began his novitiate, taking the name of Ildefonso. He made his solemn profession in 1902. After studying philosophy at Sant' Anselmo and theology at St Paul's Abbey, he was ordained a priest in 1904. He served his own community in various offices until he was elected abbot in 1918.

He taught at several pontifical institutes and served as consultor to the Sacred Congregation of Rites in the sections for the Liturgy and for the Causes of Saints, and in addition to being censor of the Academy of Sacred Liturgy, president of the Commission for Sacred Art and Apostolic Visitator for Italian seminaries.

He was singled out by Pope Pius XI, who appointed him Archbishop of Milan on 26 June 1929, created him a Cardinal on 15 July and consecrated him on 21 July.

Beginning his ministry, in his own words as "errand boy" of the Ambrosian Church, he gave priority to catechesis and promoted the role of the laity in the parish and in Catholic Action. He was the first Italian Bishop, following the Concordat, to swear allegiance to the King. He denounced Fascist interference in Catholic Action. Later, he refused to solemnly bless Milan Central Station, obliging both the King and Mussolini to be absent from its inauguration. He condemned the racial laws in 1938: "A kind of heresy has been born in foreign countries which is spreading everywhere ... it is called racism". He championed the cause of the poor during the Second World War and after it founded the Domus Ambrosiana, inexpensive housing for newly-married couples.

He closely followed the growth of the Catholic University, founded the Institute of Amrosian Chant and Sacred Music and the Ambrosianeum and Didascaleion cultural centres. He also blessed the Mary Immaculate Institute for priests, and contributed articles to the daily, L'Italia. Above all, he proposed holiness as a goal for all, and the only means to human happiness. A few days before he died, he withdrew to Venegono Seminary. His last, moving words were to the seminarians: "You want something to remember me by. All I can leave you is an invitation to holiness...". He died a few days later on 30 August 1954. His cause for canonization was introduced in 1957 by his successor, Archbishop Giovanni Battista Montini, the future Pope Paul VI.


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