It was March 1918, when Beniamino was called into the army. He was posted at the 68th infantry regiment in Milan.
Here Beniamino was swift to divide his rations with his colleagues. His life story tells us that he never grumbled. When he was off from work he would go to the nearby parish to offer his services. People were touched by his devout, peaceful, gentle, and smiling spirit. As soon as he was let off from the service in 1921, Beniamino adamantly continued his studies at the minor seminary.
On the eve of the Feast of St Michael the Archangel, September 28, 1922, he took the Capuchin habit in Bassano del Grappa as a novice and was given the religious name of Fra Giacomo da Balduina. During his novitiate year Giacomo accustomed himself with convent life, the everyday liturgical office as well as housework. One day, his Novice Master told him directly: Dear son, you are not made for the religious life. You are not doing well in your studies, you are too shy to beg. But Fra Giacomo courageously pressed on: If truly, I cannot become a religious, please be patient and charitable with me; I will do the dishes, I will sleep in the stable if there is no room for me in the convent. His reply was so convincing that his Novice Master admitted him for temporary profession, which took place on September 29, 1923. On that happy day of his life Beniamino managed to hear the subsequent words of praise told to his mother: Dear Madam, I must admit that your son is quite perplexing, for he doesn’t know how to do anything but pray.
When in temporary profession, Fra Giacomo he commenced three further years of study. At this time one of his brother students praised a brotherhood with the name of the “Pious Union of Victim Souls”. Fra Giacomo told him that he had nothing more to donate since he had by then offered himself up as a victim for priests, and articulated the heroic act of charity for the souls in Purgatory: Dear God, in union with the merits of Jesus Christ, your Son, and the most Blessed Virgin Mary, I offer to you for the sake of the poor souls all the satisfactory value of my works during life, as well as all that will be done for me after death.
On December 8, 1926, Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, Fra Beniamino made his solemn profession as a Capuchin at the feet of the Provincial Vicar. Afterwards he continued his theological studies by following a three year course in Venice. Much to the surprise of his superiors, he did fairly well in his studies. Nonetheless, in the year 1927-1928, his health immediately went from bad to worse and he experienced disturbing symptoms. Beniamino could walk solely slowly thanks to small sudden steps, as if he were going to fall forward.
Despite the fact that he was normally in control of his intellectual abilities he talked with difficulty. In hot weather, Beniamino was unable to speak. In fact, during this period he could not reminisce nor reason. To add insult to injury, Fra Beniamino suffered from intestinal problems as well as insomnia. Consequently, he would spend a lot of time by himself in his room.
Questions to be asked:
Do I pray for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life? Do I pray for God’s protection for those who have already been called by the Father to give their lives to Him thanks to their priestly and religious consecration?
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap