The Mass at San Procolo

How La Pira in 1945 described the origin and character of this “experiment”:

It should be said at once that the Holy Mass of the poor in S. Procolo and the Badia was rooted in an intense desire for a Christian “adventure” of faith and charity which at that time – as still it does – enflamed our soul.

It was born of the need to render our Christianity less “bourgeois”, and we were spurred on and guided by the mysterious words of that mysterious parable: “Go out into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind”.

We took the Gospel literally. We went to the public dormitory – and I well remember my impressions of the first visits to that strange assembly of guests in the dormitory! – and to the other “streets and lanes” where we were likely to find the friends we were looking for, such as convents where broth was doled out daily at one o’clock, working-class soup kitchens and so on.

Having overcome the inevitable difficulties that face anything new, our project became a reality. One Sunday in the spring of 1934 about forty poor people – really and truly “the last”: blind and lame! – were gathered in the Church of S. Procolo to take part in the Mass. After the reading of the Gospel a few words were spoken, then came a few prayers, and the Mass ended.

A basket of fresh bread was taken up to the Altar. The bread was blessed, everyone joined in an Our Father, and the bread was distributed in an orderly fashion. We came out of church really happy, eager to repeat the experiment the following Sunday. Since then, greatly enlarged, that experience of Christian faith and charity has been a joyous weekly prospect and joy for many people.

Those first forty communicants have nearly all died, but in their place more than one thousand five hundred souls now meet weekly to celebrate the Sacrifice of Love together.

In the Masses of S. Procolo and the Badia are in some way repeated the experience of the first Christians, insofar as the rich and poor, the prosperous and the needy, come to form a single family: like the first Christians, cor unum et anima una.
In 1942 there was such a crowd of men at S. Procolo that a larger church became necessary. We therefore moved to Badia, while S. Procolo became the place for the celebration of the Mass for women.

More then ten years have passed: how much brotherly love and holy providence have we known in these years so swiftly flown! Our Treasurer, the Madonna, has paid out enormous sums which came to her by mysterious ways: Ask not! We have lived like the birds of the air: on prayer and trust!

So S. Procolo has become the name of a family which recruits its members from all levels of society, from the lowest to the highest. No one has come in contact with S. Procolo or the Badia without having gained some inner benefit, because during the celebration of the Mass, whether at S. Procolo or the Badia, the souls of those present are really and truly touched by the life-giving wind of Christ’s grace: a sweet hope springs up in every heart.