PRIEST (DECEMBER 5, 1966)
“THE LORD SET AN INTIMATE CONVICTION IN MY HEART, THAT THE ONLY WAY FORWARD FOR ME WAS TO BE A SALESIAN”
Andrew Beltrami was born in Omegna, in the province of Novara, on June 24, 1870. In his family he received a bountiful education in Christian values. Andrew, with his lively character, was tempted in his virtue during adolescence by a bad companion, but his frequent reception of the sacraments, together with his firm will, made him a lad whom many held in high esteem.
His parents wanted to enroll him at the Salesian College at Lanzo, where he entered in October 1883. He distinguished himself in his studies and the exercise of Christian virtue. His vocation matured during this time. Later he would say, “The Lord set an intimate conviction in my heart, that the only way forward for me was to be a Salesian.” His mother, entrusting him to the Novice Master, said, “Make him a saint.” In 1886 he received the clerical habit at Foglizzo from Don Bosco, who said of him, “There is only one Beltrami.” In the two years 1888-1889 he spent in Turin-Valsalice he completed two three-year subjects.
During this time he came to know the Polish Prince Augustus Czartoryski, who had recently entered the Congregation. He soon became ill with tuberculosis, and it would be Fr. Beltrami – who quickly became his spiritual friend – who would be his guardian angel at Valsalice and in those places where he was in convalescence. He wrote, “I am aware that I have been looking after a saint, an angel.” Later, Fr. Andrew himself took ill and, like his holy confrere, experienced his suffering with inner joy.
He offered himself as a victim of love for the conversion of sinners and for the consolation of those who suffered, living out his motto: “Neither recovery nor death, but live to suffer.” Fr. Beltrami fully accepted the sacrificial dimension of the Salesian charism, as desired by its founder, Don Bosco. The Salesian Cleric Louis Variara, then a student of philosophy at Valsalice, was struck deeply by Fr. Andrew and here discovered the roots of the spirituality of the future Daughters of the Sacred Hearts — living joyfully with Jesus one’s vocation as victim.
Ordained a priest by Bishop Cagliero, he gave himself to contemplation and the apostolate of the pen. His very strong desire for holiness took over his whole existence including the pain and ceaseless work. He was exact in his observance of the Rule, and had a burning love for Don Bosco and the Congregation. In the four years of life that were his after his ordination, he continued praying and writing.
It is worth noting he did an Italian translation of the first volumes of the critical edition of the works of St Francis de Sales. When he died on December 30, 1897, he was 27 years of age. His body is laid to rest in the church at Omegna, his native village.