Social saints and prophets. Introduction

What a strange city Turin is. Generous and shy, square and introverted. Capable of making history without being conspicuous. Regal in its boulevards and palaces and gardens and courtyards, yet so domestic and shrouded in modesty. Deep and taciturn, a little melancholy and always waiting for a destiny.

In this strange city something radically original could not but come to life, something that history, sociology, economics, psychology and whatever else knowledge together could not explain. Something unique in the world, stirred up by the Spirit who blows when and where and how He wills: the so-called ‘social saints and prophets’.

They are saints and prophets like all other, immersed in prayer, in fidelity to the Word and the Church, united by the depth of an oblative feeling, tenacious and tireless witnesses, thirsty for the absolute and devoted body and soul to charity, yet they have a special gaze. Their horizon and terrain of action are first of all the last, the victims of those sufferings, exclusions, hardships, labors, rules and cruel mechanisms that a city in transformation brings.

But the attention of each of those saints and prophets is directed electively to a sector, a category, a set of people united by an identical destiny: the sick, the imprisoned, the youth, the workers and so on. It is precisely in this choice of field that their being ‘social’ consists.

Our journey begins in the first decades of the 19th century, years in which the first industrial revolution redesigned the urban landscape year after year, and ends in our days in a completely different Turin. From a city largely made up of slums and paved streets crossed by rivulets of sewage to a city geared towards the development of the most advanced technologies.

We will try to recount the lives of our protagonists, lives that often intersect, with a particular focus on the specific charisma that has marked them, a charisma that for some has taken the form of a veritable ‘slogan’. Thus we will meet the saints Giulia di Barolo (1785-1864) and her husband Tancredi (1782-1838), Giuseppe Cottolengo (1786-1842), Don Giovanni Bosco (1815-1888), Pier Giorgio Frassati (1901-1925), and the prophets our contemporaries Ernesto Olivero (1940) and Luigi Ciotti (1945).

Have a good trip!