In a rapid attempt to get a more complete brief biography of Blessed Rolando Rivi online in English, I have cobbled together and translated various Italian sources and present the result here. There are many other wonderful details about his life that are worth knowing – such as his growth in the faith and sense of a priestly vocation – but these will have to wait for another time when I can put together something more substantial.
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I BELONG TO JESUS
A Brief Account of the Life and Death of Blessed Rolando Rivi
Blessed Rolando Maria Rivi (January 7, 1931 – April 13, 1945) was a Catholic seminarian, one of the victims of Communist insurgency in the so-called Triangle of Death (in the area of Emilia, Italy) during the Second World War.
Born in San Valentino, a hamlet of the town of Castellarano, he was the second of three children of Roberto and Albertina Rivi. On the day after he was born, his parents brought him to be baptized in the village church, after which they dedicated him to Our Lady of Mount Carmel (thus his middle name, Maria). He came to be an intelligent and lively child; his grandmother once said that he would either become a saint or a bandit!
Rolando entered the seminary of Marola in the fall of 1942. But in 1944, following the German occupation of the country, he was forced to return home. He did not, however, stop considering himself a seminarian. Nor did he cease wearing the cassock – notwithstanding the opposition of his parents, who were worried due to the anti-religious hatred that had become widespread in that area. When they asked him to stop wearing it, his response was: “But why? What harm do I do in wearing it? I don’t want to take it off. I am studying to be a priest and the cassock is the sign that I belong to Jesus.”
On April 10, 1945, Rolando was taken by a group of Communist insurgents, who forced him to go with them into the woods. His father, Roberto, wrote of that day as follows:
It was the morning of April 10, 1945. After returning from Mass with my son, I left to work in the fields. When I returned around midday I did not find Rolando in the house. My sister-in-law told me that he had gone to study in his usual place, a grove nearby the house. I called him; there was no response. Together with his mother I went to the place thinking that he might be asleep, but a sad surprise awaited us. His books were scattered on the ground and, on a piece of paper taken from one of his notebooks, these words were written: “Do not search for him; he has come with us for a moment. The Insurgents.” My wife began to bawl.
On Friday, April 13, 1945, after three days of torture and humiliation, the insurgents brought him to a forest in the village of Piane di Monchio, where there was already a grave dug. It was about 3:00 in the afternoon. They hurled him to the ground and then forced him to kneel on the edge of the grave. Before they killed him, Rolando asked for – and was granted – a moment to pray for his parents. Even then, he reaffirmed his belonging to Christ. The Communist insurgents then murdered him with two shots of the pistol.
On the evening of April 14, following the directions of some insurgents (including the very assassin!), Roberto Rivi and Father Alberto Camellini, the pastor of San Valentino, recovered Rolando’s body. His face was black and blue, his body tormented, and there were two mortal wounds: one at the left temple and the other at the heart. The following day they brought him to the town of Monchio, where the funeral and Christian burial were held.
After the Liberation, the body was transferred on May 29, 1945 to the cemetery of San Valentino, amidst the homage of all the parishioners. On June 26, 1997, owing to the fact that his tomb had become a place of pilgrimage, his remains were moved inside the church of San Valentino with a solemn ceremony.
Rolando Rivi’s cause for canonization was opened by the Archdiocese of Modena on January 7, 2006. In May of 2012, the competent Vatican commission of theologian “censors” approved the validity of Rolando’s martyrdom in odium fidei – in hatred of the faith. Then, on March 28, 2013, Pope Francis authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate a decree recognizing the martyrdom. The ceremony of beatification was celebrated on October 5, 2013, by Angelo Cardinal Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, in the city of Modena.