These days many people talk about the miraculous crucifix in the church of San Marcello al Corso, so the name of this church has now become quite popular, unfortunately in very sad circumstances. At the beginning of the past century, this church was a parish but in 1909, this parish was suppressed and all the rights and gains were given to a new parish in another part of Rome, in an area called Trionfale, the church of San Giuseppe al Trionfale. The name of the area, Trionfale (“triumphal”) was given because this was the path Roman generals entered the city after their victories, and also in the Middle Ages this was the path that pilgrims used to enter the eternal city, Rome. The church was the project of a saint, Luigi Guanella (1842-1915), founder of the Servants of Charity, a congregation devoted to the assistance of people coming from very low social conditions, including people with disabilities. Don Guanella asked the architect Aristide Leonori (1856-1928) who specialized in religious buildings, and he conceived a building in neoclassical style. It was inaugurated in 1912 and Pope Paul VI made this church a minor Basilica in 1970. The pastoral care of the church was given since the beginning to the Servants of Charity, the congregation Don Guanella has founded.
In the website of the Servants of Charity, their vision is described in this way: “Our very title, Servants of Charity, reminds us that Charity is the reason why the Lord gathers us together, consecrates us and sends us to the poor. Through a lifetime commitment to Christ and His Church, we are called to celebrate God’s merciful love, which touches, heals and embraces everyone. United in a community of Brothers and Priests, we strive to make visible the Lord’s mercy, by becoming instruments of His Providence among the most fragile and neglected of our brothers and sisters who, like the Paralytic in the Gospel, cry out, “Lord, I have no one!” From this vision come their spirituality: “Religious congregations are distinguished by their own specific spirit and charism. The Guanellian spirit and charism can be characterized as a living family spirit. The priests and brothers are, therefore, to acquire a profound spirit of union with God in order to nourish a genuine spirit of sacrifice, self-giving and dedication. These characteristics are the basic points on which the Guanellians live their own vocation.
To achieve this goal, the Servants of Charity have to grow in prayer and nourish a strong bond of fraternal love among themselves. Knowing their own abilities as well as their own deficiencies, they support each other for a better and more effective result in caring for their needy brothers and sisters. To be a Guanellian means to carry the cross day after day with a spirit of self-renunciation. Religious life is very demanding and not an easy one. Strengthened by spiritual motivation the Servants of Charity are working joyfully knowing that everything they do, for the least of the brothers, they are doing for the Lord.”
And from the first two, here comes their mission finally: “The Guanellian Mission is to take care of the poorest of the poor, those who have no one else to care for them. Following the example of Christ, the Good Shepherd and Good Samaritan, and walking in the footsteps of our Founder, Saint Louis Guanella, we search and care for the poor, the suffering, the abandoned, and the wounded members of God’s family. The Servants of Charity are concerned in a special way with children and youth who are materially and morally abandoned; the elderly who, deprived of all other human support, have no way to continue alone; people with developmental disabilities, whom our tradition calls ‘good children’, and who do not have adequate care; and an apostolate of prayer for the suffering and dying throughout the world. The Congregation devotes itself to caring for these souls both physically and spiritually, combining the ministry of evangelization with active expressions of aid to the poor. The poorest and most vulnerable ones are our precious “treasures,” as Saint Guanella said, “take in the most abandoned of all, have him sit at the table with you and make him one of your own, because this is Jesus Christ.” By dedicating ourselves entirely to the fulfillment of this mission, the Servants of Charity find their way to sanctification” (from servantsofcharity.org).
Let us remember one interesting fact concerning the vocation of don Luigi Guanella, that he was a spiritual son of Giovanni Bosco and so of the Salesians.