The following excerpt is 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.