His Spirituality

The Spirituality of Bruno Lanteri

In this section we will describe the spiritual characteristics of the Venerable Bruno Lanteri.  In so doing, we place ourselves at the heart of his whole person, of the motivation and energy which led him to the accomplishments for which he is known as a founder of a religious institute and a figure in the history of spirituality.  All of the writings published in this volume, those directly of a spiritual nature and those of a more pastoral nature as well, are born from this center.  We will outline briefly the influences which shaped his personal spiritual formation, the essential foci of his spirituality, his own spiritual traits and, finally, the characteristics of the spirituality he imparted to others in spiritual direction.

1.   Personal Spiritual Development

Bruno Lanteri was born into a devout Christian family and, from his earliest years, was solidly nourished in the life of faith.  His spiritual development proceeded as a continual deepening and growth, without periods of distancing himself from the life of grace, a trajectory of uninterrupted maturation building upon the firm Christian formation given within the family.  A decisive influence, after the early death of his mother, was the example and teaching of his father Pietro, a doctor and exemplary Catholic.  Such information as we have concerning his first seventeen years in Cuneo reveals the young Bruno as deeply committed to his Christian faith, the central reality of his life, and desirous of dedicating himself totally to God.

His brief endeavor to join the Carthusians at this point, unsuccessful because of the limitations of health that would trouble him throughout his entire life, bears witness to this intention. The attempt itself evidences the depth and centrality of his faith already at this time in his life. It attests also to the desire for deep prayer and simplicity of life which would constantly characterize Lanteri. The following year the Bruno opted for secular priesthood and began his studies in Turin where he would spend most of his priestly life. The private vows he took in these years, his later consideration of joining the re-established Jesuits and, most clearly, his definitive role as founder of a new institute, testify to his continuing interest in religious life as a vocational choice.

The key spiritual influence in his life entered through his encounter with Fr. Nikolaus von Diessbach, whom Lanteri met in Turin at the age of nineteen in the course of his seminary years.  Diessbach, an ex-Jesuit after the suppression of the Company in 1773, as his spiritual director and mentor, provided the fundamental matrices of Lanteri’s spiritual and apostolic orientation.  It may truly be said that “this meeting was the decisive event which determined the direction of his entire life” (Guerber, 111).  While Lanteri will develop his own spiritual and apostolic personality, distinct from that of Diessbach, the bases upon which he will build will be those given him by Diessbach.

Diessbach infuses into Lanteri his own profound sense of the power of the printed word as the means which shapes ideas, and of the need to use this medium in support of Christian truth.  He prepares him to continue his own work with the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises and the formation of young clergy.  He brings him into the ambiance of his Friendship organizations, select circles of highly trained and zealous clergy and laity, and it is in this setting, following the guidelines established by Diessbach, that Lanteri will assume his own ecclesial identity.

Thus Lanteri will be essentially, though not exclusively, Ignatian in his spirituality and in his apostolic identity. He speaks of his “acquaintance with Fr. Diessbach for nearly twenty years, during which he always insisted on the importance and the necessity of preparing to give and of giving well the Exercises of St. Ignatius” (Positio, 560). In taking Diessbach as his spiritual director, Lanteri enters the world of Ignatian spirituality under the guidance of a capable master, and will penetrate its richness to such a degree that he will become, in turn, a highly effective director in spiritual matters. No less a witness than the Jesuit John Roothaan will say of the sixty-five year old Lanteri that he “knows many of our [Jesuit] things since he has always been occupied , as long as his health permitted, in giving the Spiritual Exercises , in which he is highly knowledgeable ” (Positio, 58).

The number and quality of his writings concerning the Ignatian Exercises is apparent to the most cursory glance at the contents of this volume.  In them Lanteri shows himself personally experienced in the Exercises and an accomplished master in training others to give them, as his published Directory for the Exercises of St. Ignatius demonstrates.  The same writings demonstrate how Lanteri lived constantly of the teaching of the Exercises in his own life of prayer, most notably in his meditation, examens and retreats, convinced that in them he possessed a uniquely powerful pathway to holiness.

From Diessbach Lanteri learned to esteem the writings of St. Alphonsus de Liguori and to find pastoral guidance in them, becoming in his own right a major proponent of the teaching of the saint.  He adopted fully the directive of Diessbach: “have no doubts, follow Liguori in all his teachings” (Un’esperienza, 54) and trained innumerable disciples in this teaching both personally and through propagating the writings of St. Alphonsus.

St. Alphonsus is a major inspiration of his continual emphasis on the mercy of God in preaching, confessional practice, and spiritual direction, that quality of warmth and hope which drew so many to him and to the Oblates he would later form in the same pastoral sensitivity .  The Alphonsian influence is also evident in Lanteri’s love for the Eucharistic visit, his adherence to the Holy See, and his devotion to Mary.

Lanteri developed this identity profoundly throughout the first thirty years of his priesthood (1782 – 1811) within the Friendship organizations of Diessbach, initially as a disciple, then as a creative leader in his own right of the energies in this movement.  After the fall of Napoleon, in the years of the Restoration he would apply this already established identity to a new set of works and, finally, to the foundation of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary who were to live of his same spirituality and apostolic initiatives.

2.   Fundamental Spiritual Elements

Christ is the center of everything in Lanteri’s life and spirituality, the decisive focus of all else.  Christ is his teacher, his model, his help, and his reward.  Above all Christ is his companion, the one he loves and to whom his heart opens in gratitude.  He is drawn to the humble, poor and gentle Christ who goes about the cities and villages preaching the Word of the Kingdom and healing every suffering, the Christ whose heart feels compassion for at the sight of human distress.

His daily effort is to imitate this Christ in such fashion that he becomes himself “a living copy of Jesus.”  This imitation is the guiding principle of every action of the day. A key christological passage describes for his Oblates a ‘method’ of living moment by moment in the light and company of Christ.  In each major action of the day “they keep Christ always before their eyes.” They begin “ex fide, with a tranquil glance of faith at Jesus our model,” they continue the action “cum affectu,” turning their hearts to Christ from time to time, and conclude “reflexe,” looking at the action now completed in the light of Christ.  In this way, says Lanteri, “Jesus forms the only treasure of their hearts; Jesus thus abides in their hearts and they abide in the Heart of Jesus.  Can there be anything greater and more consoling than this?” (Un’esperienza, 127). The practice Lanteri outlines here is simply a description of his own daily relationship with Christ. Easily discernible behind this practice is his lifelong contemplation of Christ in the framework of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises.

And Lanteri is a man who loves and serves the Church. The object of his love is not a theological abstraction, but the real, existing, concrete Church.  He is concerned that his teaching never be other than a faithful representation of the teaching of the Holy See toward which he professes a “complete, sincere, and inviolable obedience” (Un’esperienza, 203).   The words of the Lord, “My teaching is not mine but his who sent me” (Jn 7: 16), reveal to Lanteri a profound attitude in the heart of Christ which he wishes to emulate in his own pastoral practice (Un’esperienza, 142).  From this arises his love for and full fidelity to the teaching of the Church by which he understands himself to be sent in his apostolic ministry.

This adherence is his guiding principle in resolving theological debates when they have become divisive and damaging to the faithful.  A notable witness here is his solution to the endless and debilitating theological battles in moral theology regarding the absolution of penitents.  In responding to the widespread acceptance of rigorist thinking, Lanteri does become one more voice arguing for a personally preferred solution.  Rather, he proposes the moral theology of St. Alphonsus because of the Church’s declaration that it is nil censura dignum and therefore may be safely followed. As recent studies have demonstrated, this was the reasoning that would finally dissolve the knot of theological discussion and cause the more balanced Alphonsian moral teaching to prevail.

His zeal for the Church takes concrete form in his active love for the Holy Father. This was a lifelong disposition which, under the French occupation of Napoleonic years, exposed him to grave personal danger, a danger he knowingly accepted. His attitude toward Church teaching is perhaps best summed up in the phrase of St. Augustine which Lanteri often quotes: “In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus charitas.”  His work in the spiritual and apostolic formation of the lay leaders of his society seems to anticipate, in some sense, much of what will later be expressed in Lumen Gentium concerning the nature of the Church.

From his earliest days, Lanteri was drawn to Mary as a spiritual mother, and feels toward her a “tender love . . . and the confidence of a son” (Un’esperienza, 69).  The death of his own mother when he was four provides the background of his statement, late in life, that “I hardly ever knew any other mother than Mary most holy, and I have never received anything but blessings from this Mother, so rich i n goodness” (Gastaldi, 21). Mary provided the essentially maternal element in his life and a deep bond of the heart was established from his family days in Cuneo.  In his years as a seminarian Mary becomes also the Lady to whom he totally offers himself by a formal and never forgotten act of dedication, “with a pure, freely chosen and total gift of myself and all I possess, that she may dispose of this according to her good will” ( Un’esperienza, 49).

Antonio Ferrero, one of the first Oblates in Pinerolo and confessor to Lanteri, writes: “He had a deep love for the Virgin Mary . .. he had an extensive collection of books which speak of her and read from them for a few hours every week.  He celebrated her novenas and spoke very frequently about her. . . He always wanted a talk given on her whenever the Exercises were given, and he called her his mother, his helper and his paradise” (Positio, 606).  The talk on Mary always to be given in preaching the Spiritual Exercises reflects the similar Alphonsian practice.

The solid christological focus of his Marian devotion renders this aspect of Lanteri readily accessible to those who approach him today. After Jesus and never apart from him, Mary is the model whose evangelical virtues he seeks to imitate.  Thus he calls his Oblates to “the closest possible imitation of Jesus Christ, whom they propose as their model in every action, together with the example of Mary most holy, their loving Mother” (Un’esperienza, 120).

Lanteri understands the culminating achievement of his life, the foundation of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, to be not his own initiative but,  most radically, the work of the Virgin Mary.  The name itself of the Congregation clearly reflects his intention that it be fundamentally Marian in nature.  He expresses this by calling on his Oblates to tum “often and from the heart to Mary most holy, their principal Foundress” (Un’esperienza, 203).  He finds Mary so deeply at the heart of his charism of founder that he can only proclaim this by calling her the true Foundress of the Congregation.

3.   Personal Spiritual Traits

Many witnesses remark on the impact of his presence alone.  To meet the priest Lanteri was to be inspired and energized in the life of faith.  Of his visit to the Aa of Chambery in 1787 one who encountered him writes, “He has given new life to our beloved Aa by his presence alone” (Un’esperienza, 86).  And another: “We have seen with our own eyes all that you said to us about how edifying our beloved Lanteri is, and it was readily apparent that grace has not worked in vain in him” (ibid , 87).  Enrico Simonino, one of the early Oblates, testified from personal experience that “it was impossible to spend any time with him without feeling oneself grow in fervor for the service of God” (Positio, 614).

This effect on others was the fruit of continual prayer and of study in matters of the spiritual life.  Training under a master, Fr. Diessbach, intensive reading, and frequent experience in giving the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises made him a master of this spirituality, able to personally live of its richness and teach it effectively to others.

A similar effort led to a like mastery of Alphonsian writing and spirituality.  His writings reveal a close familiarity with the writings of St. Bonaventure, St. Theresa of Avila, St. Francis de Sales, Bossuet, Fenelon and many others, including a broad range of secondary spiritual literature. Lanteri appears as a man who mind is steeped in Catholic spiritual tradition, and whose heart lives this truth with impassioned energy.  This study would be a continual part of his nearly fifty years of priestly ministry, and he will ask of his Oblates that, after prayer itself, it be “the principal concern of their heart” (Un’esperienza, 141).

A strikingly evident characteristic of his spirituality, thoroughly Ignatian in tone, is his constant search for spiritual awareness.  His personal writings abound with references to the two Ignatian examens, the general and the particular, and to a third which he calls the ‘individual’ examen, a “simple and peaceful’ look at each major action upon its conclusion, to see it in the light of God.  He regularly sets aside one day a month for personal retreat, and often a block of several hours weekly simply to review his activities and to determine how to employ with increasing effectiveness his apostolic energies.

The lack of this spiritual awareness is, for Lanteri, the root of all spiritual impoverishment, and of all significant and sustained moral failure.  This absence of reflection on the truths of the faith that the Christian accepts at least in words, is the great spiritual indigence Lanteri wishes to address, whether in himself or in others.  Thus the great importance of regular meditation on these truths, a meditation that moves not only the mind but arouses love in the heart.  Thus also his sense of the urgent need for the Ignatian Exercises both as private retreats and in the more public setting of the parish mission: there is no more apt instrument to instruct the mind and move the heart to reform and active love of God.  They are a “sure method by which all can become saints, great saints, and quickly” (Un’esperienza, 248), provided only that the recipient persevere in the gift given during the days of the retreat.

Lanteri is eminently practical in his personal spiritual proposals, and in his direction of others.  The two words ‘method and fidelity’ often appear together in his writings: “I propose never to omit my meditation, and always to do it with method and fidelity,” and again, “I propose with regard to Communion to prepare . .. to do all with method and fidelity” (Un’esperienza, 63-64). There is nothing vague about what he sets out to do, his personal prayer, his practice of the sacraments, his effort to grow in virtue, etc.  He takes counsel and time to plan a suitable method in regard to each, and then sets out to be faithful to what he has determined.  Constant examen and spiritual direction provide the framework for continuing fidelity and adaptation of the method as he progresses spiritually.

A strong living faith is the motivation of all else in Lanteri and the only explanation of his life.  A companion writes: “His faith?  His whole life was a life of faith.  He spoke of faith with such deep conviction and such a wealth of considerations that he reawakened or increased it in all who listened to him” (Positio, 602).  From this faith a core spiritual trait of Lanteri emerges: a boundless thirst, a sober and yet powerful desire for God and the things of God: “O zeal, impassioned zeal, what will you not undertake?” (Gastaldi, 457).  He is a man whose will is unshakably focused on the ‘one thing’ necessary.

He aims to “always think, speak and act as the saints” (Un’esperienza, 64), with a profound sense that his priestly vocation requires this of him, that he has “the same reasons which the saints had” for this (Un’esperienza, 66).  He will not let discouragement, the passage of years, or anything else diminish this fundamental purpose and, as a consequence, will steadily grow in a life of deep holiness and union with God.

Thus the centrality of prayer in his life.  The starting point (not yet the culmination) here is daily fidelity to personal meditation.  Mental prayer “is as necessary for our soul and the souls of those we serve as is the bread which nourishes our bodies,” an “abundant, serious, constant and willingly made” meditation (Gastaldi, 431).  His prayer is nourished by the Scriptures, the Fathers, and a wide selection of substantial spiritual authors, especially of an Ignatian bent.  His meditation is carefully prepared, the time faithfully set apart, and his energies generously applied within the prayer.  Upon its conclusion he reviews it attentively and seeks then to carry its grace into the activity of the day (Un’esperienza, 64-65).

As the years pass, Lanteri’s personal prayer continues to simplify and gradually resolves in a cry of the heart: “Jesu bone, sitio te,” or more simply yet, “Sitio,” a thirst for an ever deepening union with the Lord (Positio, 606).  Those closest to him testify that he experienced a high degree of infused contemplation.  His disciple and close associate Luigi Craveri, speaking of Lanteri’s protracted prayer before the Blessed Sacrament and extensive reading of St. Bonaventure during his years of exile in the Grangia, writes: “I do not doubt that his soul reached the highest levels of contemplation, and I have seen that with great ease he was able to discern the degrees and the nature of such prayer” (Positio, 623).

He is irresistibly drawn to Christ in the Eucharist.  Devout celebration of Mass and the visit to the Blessed Sacrament were daily spiritual element of his entire life. As one disciple who knew him well affirms, “The vivacity of his faith was visible in the expression of his face as he spent long hours in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament where he often recited the Divine Office and meditated at length” (Positio, 621).  His years of forced exile from Turin (1811-1814) and the last months of his life (1830) were times of especially intense and almost uninterrupted Eucharistic adoration.

Lanteri became himself a living witness to the goodness and gentleness of God that he so often proclaimed to others.  Apparently this did not come naturally and was the fruit of constant effort.  In his early years of priesthood especially, we find repeated application to acquiring the gentleness of Christ and this was often the subject of his particular exam.  He aims to be “joyful, compassionate, yielding in all that is not offensive to God, gentle and humble of heart” in his dealings with others (Un’esperienza, 66). Those who approached him found him to be “gentle, persuasive and above all very kind” (Positio, 66). It is not difficult to understand why such great numbers sought his confessional and spiritual guidance, and why he was able to “win over even the most resistant hearts” (Gastaldi, 171)

He is a man alive with apostolic desires, with his eyes ever open to the culture and world in which he lives, searching without ceasing for ways of promoting ‘the glory of God.’ This zeal is “never wearied,” it “cannot bear to be limited” and “will not endure half-measures.” It is an “interior fire that inclines to good” (Gastaldi, 457). One can only marvel at the apostolic achievements on a local and European scale of this man. He was called in truth a man ‘with a hundred arms,’ ever promoting the work of the Church in many directions, present to the heart of intellectual and political culture of his day. The appreciation of his accomplishment deepens when one considers the unending and debilitating physical infirmities which stood in his way.

Lanteri spends hours in the confessional and is open to receiving penitents at all hours of the day.  Great numbers of clergy, religious and laity come to him for spiritual direction, and many others he reaches through the numerous letters of encouragement he writes.  He dedicates himself to the formation of the members of the Friendship organizations, lay people well-placed and able to affect the course of society, young priests and seminarians.  His endless reading makes him a master of classical and contemporary theological writing, able to indicate with precision the value and limitations of writing concerning the faith.  He assists the Holy Father in his time of need, promotes the publication and spread of the Moral Theology of St. Alphonsus, and finds ways to support the missions of the Church in the New World.  He gives himself, and trains many others to give the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises.  Located at the heart of the events and culture of his own nation, he is endlessly creative in promoting new initiatives for the glory of God.

4.   In Spiritual Direction

The depth of his spiritual life, his constant study of spiritual things, linked to an ever increasing experience in the art of spiritual guidance, caused Lanteri to become a highly effective spiritual director.   Already  four years  after his ordination  Diessbach  writes to a young priest  seeking spiritual assistance:  “Lanteri will  give you all the help you need, whatever you will ask of him, and be sure that in this way you will be following the voice of God” (Un’esperienza, 83).   His closest priestly companion, Giuseppe Loggero, testified that “He was filled with the highest degree of wisdom in guiding souls to holiness” (Positio, 632), and a retreatant, the Marquis de Cavour, father of Camillo de Cavour, affirmed that “God gives him much light to understand and explain things very well” (Un’esperienza, 228).

A telling witness to this activity, the more striking because written by the Director of police in Turin during the Napoleonic occupation, testifies to the amplitude to Lanteri’s spiritual influence in the city.  Monsieur d’Auzers writes to his superiors in Paris: “the Abbe Lanteri has a great influence here by means of the confessional.  He is one of the most sought out confessors in the city . . . a great number of people, including those from the higher ranks of society, have chosen him as their spiritual director” (Positio, 24).

Sentite de Deo in bonitate!” This Scriptural verse (Wis. 1:1), often quoted by Lanteri, is a nerve center of his entire spiritual direction.  His own personal experience of God and his conviction of what best serves the people in pastoral practice, leads him to tirelessly present a God who is filled with goodness, toward whom we are called to relate with trust and love.  To one directee he writes: “We do a great wrong to God when we measure him according to our own limits,” and invites her to “always attribute to him that which is proper to him, that which is most precious to him, that is, to be filled with goodness, merciful, compassionate, a loving Father who knows our weakness, bears with us and forgives us” (Positio, 538-539).  This message, tirelessly repeated to all who approached, is all the more telling in the pastoral context of his day when God was so often presented as remote and judging.

And so Lanteri constantly invites people to a sense of hope.  His companions tell us that “he had from God the grace of comforting the anxious, giving clarity to those in doubt, joy to those who were sad, and encouraging the hesitating.”  Penitents “departed from his confessional filled with consolation.” Again and again he reminds people that discouragement is the greatest obstacle in the spiritual journey, and that they must resist this with energy.  The virtue of hope is a wellspring of spiritual growth, as Lanteri affirmed: “It is impossible to hope too much. The one who hopes for everything, obtains everything” And so he “had received grace from God to comfort the fearful, the give clarity to those troubled by doubts, to hearten the downcast, and to encourage the timid” (Positio, 603).

Linked to this sense of hope was his call to constantly ‘begin again,’ summed up in the scriptural phrase ‘nunc coepi’ (Ps 76: 11, Vulgate). His constant use of these words renders them a classically Lanterian expression whose sense is that whenever and however severely we may fall spiritually or morally, nothing is ever lost.  In fact, we give the Lord yet a further opportunity to show us mercy.  At such moments we “give God the glory of being good and mercifully forgiving with us, as one who never wearies of granting pardon” (Un’esperienza, 77).  The one thing that matters is never to give way to discouragement but rather continually to begin again,” so that should I fall even a thousand times a day, a thousand times a day I will begin again” (Positio, 538). Thus he guides people “to serve God with a great and generous heart” (Carteggio, II, 164), to take new initiatives, to consider new possibilities, with courage and energy.

In contrast with much of the pastoral practice of the day, Lanteri calls all who approach him to frequent reception of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the essential ‘channels’ of grace in the spiritual life. Through them comes grace and light; upon them our perseverance depends. In his letters he constantly reminds his directees of this, and invites them to a faithful practice of these two sacraments as the basis of all else.

As already indicated, Lanteri is a firm believer in the importance of the classical practices of personal prayer: meditation, spiritual reading, examen and times of retreat, all of these in accord with the duties of one’s state in life.  Meditation is to be planned as much as possible in a concrete way regarding subject matter and time.  Spiritual reading is to be done from nourishing books and in a climate of faith, with an open and receptive heart, “attentively and without hurry, pausing on the truths more suitable to our needs and returning from time to time to ourselves and to God” (Carteggio, II, 284). Lanteri’s profound conviction of the importance of reading in the life of faith underlies this teaching.  All of this is to be done with “a holy determination” (Carteggio, II, 161), a firm spirit of perseverance.

This kind of direction gradually creates the well-formed, solidly rooted and energetic disciple of the Lord.  The Ignatian emphasis on the glory of God is never far from his mind, and he calls all who approach him to promote this by their activity in the world: “I take consolation in seeing you ever more committed to the glory of God, since there is no greater purpose nor one more consoling in this world” (Carteggio, II, 166).

Conclusion

At the heart of this entire spiritual experience is joy, a spiritual joy which Lanteri experiences and shares with all whom he can reach. The human heart fills with gratitude in knowing that we can “live in society with, and indeed aspire to union on this earth with a God so great and so good.” It tastes this joy too in the perspective of final and full union with God, “mindful of having a heavenly Father and a celestial homeland” (Un’esperienza, 121-122).  It knows by its own experience that “only the fullness of being, of intelligence, and of love in the infinite Unity and in the ineffable Trinity of God can fill and satisfy its immense capacity” (ibid, 129-130), and Lanteri himself speaks of “the union with my gentle Jesus for which I long” as the years of his earthly life draw to a close (Carteggio, II, 322).

The Church, in declaring Bruno Lanteri Venerable, recognized the heroicity of his virtue.  Clearly, this was a man of God, deeply united to God himself and a powerfully effective channel of God’s grace for the numberless people he touched personally or through the many priests and laity he formed.  The writings published in this volume bear ample witness to his lifelong dedication to the things of the spirit.

Of the intimate spiritual writings conserved most are proposals, often written in the context of annual spiritual exercises.  Others are found in notebooks used for the purpose of occasional spiritual jottings.   Occasionally, notably in the case of his Spiritual Directory, these are compiled more formally into larger documents.  Only very occasionally are we given texts which reveal his personal spiritual experience.  Yet when these writings are taken together, and read in the light of the personal witness of those who knew him closely, a clear spiritual portrait appears: a fascinating spiritual personality, a man who speaks to our times today and who draws us toward the God he loves.

 

Excerpted from: “To Live the Lord Jesus: The Identity of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary in Today’s Church”

Born into a profoundly Christian family in 1759 and raised in a deep atmosphere of faith, Bruno Lanteri began life solidly equipped for his future journey of grace through life.  Faced with the death of his mother at the age of four, he showed a first sign of that special attachment, that intense devotion, that reverent love of the Virgin Mary which would surface again and again throughout his entire life. In attempting to enter the Carthusians at the age of seventeen he manifested his attraction to what he would later call “silence and seclusion,” that spiritual climate that fosters a profound experience of prayer and study. In the course of these early circumstances he came to understand that, without renouncing this spiritual attraction, he was called to the active life of priestly ministry in the world.

While pursuing his studies in Turin as a seminarian, he came into contact with the Jansenist-inspired theology of his day.  Jansenism was a very strict interpretation of Church teaching which greatly discouraged reception of communion and even denied absolution to those seeking mercy in confession. Through his providential encounter with Father Nicholas von Diessbach, Lanteri was introduced to a very different and more pastoral set of principles which would become the fundamental orientation of his entire spiritual and apostolic life.

Under the apt instruction of Diessbach, a Jesuit until the suppression of the Society in 1773, Lanteri came to know and love that goodness and mercy of God which are expressed in the works of St. Alphonsus de Ligouri. In company with Diessbach, he walked the porticos of Turin to meet the poor and abandoned, feeding them, clothing them, teaching them catechism, and preparing them to receive the sacraments.

Diessbach, moreover, introduced Lanteri to ministry with books and with the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Under the skilled guidance of Diessbach, Lanteri came to a profound conviction of the value of these apostolates and would dedicate a great part of his energies to promoting them. Lanteri worked closely with the two “Amicizie” or “Friendship” groups founded by Diessbach. These were groups of clergy and lay people that sought to promote and uphold sound Christian values. In this context Lanteri dedicated himself intensely from 1780 to 1811 to the apostolates characteristic of these groups: the Spiritual Exercises, the distribution of books promoting values of faith, the formation of young priests, the defense of the Holy Father, confessions, spiritual direction…growing in a sense of his own spiritual and apostolic identity within the Church. His work in the “Amicizie” came to an end with his forced exile from Turin (1811-1814) by order of the French police who suspected him – and rightly so – of being active on behalf of the imprisoned Pius VII. Lanteri’s years of house arrest were marked by his attraction to silence and solitude as means to foster a profound life of prayer and study.

After the fall of Napoleon, the Church which had been so viciously persecuted was in need of spiritual renewal. In 1814, an apostolic initiative intended as a response to this need was undertaken in the city of Carignano by three priests: Fathers Reynaudi, Biancotti, and Golzio. This institution pursued its course somewhat hesitantly, in search of its own identity, until its providential contact with Lanteri in 1816. Of this moment of grace, the same Reynaudi writes:

…turning to Father Lanteri, D. Reynaudi was encouraged
by the same to this enterprise as to a work clearly
of God…Lanteri spoke to him efficaciously of
the good that could be accomplished through
the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, through
studying current errors in depth, and through an
opportune distribution of well-chosen books…

This was the moment in which Lanteri began to transmit to his disciples his own experience of the Spirit as founder. The group drew up a Rule which was approved on August 12, 1817. This was the beginning of the diocesan rite congregation known as the Oblates of Mary Most Holy.

After Lanteri voluntarily disbanded this group due to conflicts with the new Archbishop of Turin, who persisted in seeking to change the identity of the Congregation, Lanteri experienced a key moment of grace when, in May of 1825 during a retreat, he perceived clearly the call of God to refound the Oblates in a definitive manner. During the next two years he sought and obtained first diocesan approval in Pinerolo and then pontifical approval in Rome, rewriting the Rule and shaping it into its final form. The Congregation of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary began its life in Pinerolo in 1827.

Fr. Lanteri had spent his life in faithful service to God’s people, a service that found its completion in the definitive founding of a new religious congregation. But even as the new Congregation was beginning its life, it founder was nearing the end of his own earthly journey. Always afflicted by delicate health and what had been described as a “weakness of the chest,” Lanteri’s health began to fail rapidly. Surrounded by his fellow Oblates, Father Bruno Lanteri died on August 5, 1830.