Servant of God Don Dolindo Ruotolo has gained many spiritual children, especially over the past several years, through the immense and enduring popularity of the Surrender Novena. Recently, I’ve been devoted to researching and writing about Don Dolindo, and the more I learn, the more I am convinced that Jesus has sent this humble and brilliant priest to be a powerful intercessor for our time.
Don Dolindo’s ultimate goal was to make God known and loved, and he sought to maximize every opportunity to fulfill this goal. He didn’t want to waste a single chance to bring people to Jesus. Even his daily walks became a way for him to lovingly care for individual souls. Walking along the city streets in Italy, he would exhort passers-by and would “purposely pause for a while at newspaper stands for the chance to edify and inspire the patrons,” he explains in his autobiography.
Blessed with the gift of reading souls, Don Dolindo was acutely aware of the spiritual needs of each person he encountered. This gift was of special assistance as he carried out what he called his “Umbrella Apostolate.”
On days when it was raining, Don Dolindo would bring his umbrella as he walked along the city streets. Then, if he saw someone without an umbrella, he would invite that person to join him under his own umbrella for shelter.
“They would be touched by this gesture,” he writes in his autobiography, “and, the field being thus prepared, I would plant a good word.”
Ever since I first heard about this Umbrella Apostolate, it captured both my heart and my imagination. My heart was drawn to the tender simplicity and profound depth of Don Dolindo’s heart. And my imagination was sparked by the image of him standing on the street, holding his umbrella over people, telling them about God’s love as the rain fell around them.
It seems to me that this image is a symbol—a visual representation—of Don Dolindo’s patronage in our present times. For I believe that, just as he did on the streets of Italy a century ago, Don Dolindo is still holding out his umbrella today, to people all over the world.
The storms are swirling on earth right now. But so are the stories of graces and miracles received through the Surrender Novena and Don Dolindo’s intercession. The skies in modern times may look dark and threatening; the clouds of contemporary culture may look ominous and dire; but there is hope in the midst of this impending gale, for it seems abundantly clear that Don Dolindo doesn’t intend for his spiritual children to get drenched or to walk alone in the deluge.
From his place in the communion of saints, this dear Servant of God is constantly carrying his spiritual umbrella—gathering his little ones beneath it, offering to shelter them from the storm, and planting the Word in their hearts. When we ask his intercession, he holds out his umbrella over each of us. And when we commend our loved ones to his care, we are placing them under the protection of his umbrella, too.
As we make our way through the streets of this earthly pilgrimage, Don Dolindo is ready and waiting to help. He won’t let us pass him by without offering us the shelter of his paternal care in the walk towards heaven.
Special thanks to Maria Palma Smith for the use of her English translation of the book Amore, Dolindo, Dolore (Casa Mariana Editrice “Apostolato Stampa”, 2001). Publication of the English translation is forthcoming from Academy of the Immaculate Publishing.