The spirituality of Blessed Louis Guanella can be understood as a unique confluence of the spirituality of the "saints of charity" such as St. Francis of Assisi, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Joseph Cottolengo, and St. John Bosco, with the spirituality of the "saints of mystical contemplation" represented by St. Catherine of Siena and St. Teresa of Avila. For Fr. Guanella, a life and spirit of action and contemplation, as symbolized by the sisters St. Martha and St. Mary in the gospels, served as the foundational cornerstones which guided and sustained his ministry of charity along with his life of prayer. "Prayer and suffering" were to be the guideposts by which he and his followers were to actively live this spirituality and giving "Bread and the Lord" to those whom he served further exemplifies these ideals of action and contemplation in the tradition of St. Benedict's "ora et labora" - "prayer and work."
Another hallmark of Fr. Guanella's spirituality centered on his serene confidence and trust in the loving Providence of God, the Father. Because of the Father's infinite goodness and love, especially to his "least ones," Fr. Guanella's faith-filled trust that God would provide, care for, and protect us permeated his life and spirituality. It was this confidence and trust in the Providence of God which allowed Bl. Louis to carry on his work to God's "buoni figli" (good children) to many parts of Italy with only the support of his priests, brothers, and sisters and the support of many friends and benefactors.
Fr. Guanella's spirituality was also very Christo-centric fixed very strongly on the person of Jesus Christ in His Sacred Heart. It was in the Heart of Jesus that Blessed Louis Guanella saw the "burning furnace of charity" which enlivened all of our souls and which inspired our every action in service to the poor and marginalized of society. Fr. Guanella also instructed his followers to recognize in the poor and the "least ones" the face of Jesus Christ himself - an ideal similarly taught by Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
Finally, Bl. Louis Guanella's spirituality would be less than complete if it did not include its most essential component - the theological virtue of charity which St. Paul describes as the "greatest of these" virtues. To his first priests, Fr. Guanella stated that "all our experience of faith and service has charity as its center," a charity which is lived in filial surrender to God and in evangelical compassion to the poor. In addition to its love of the Providential Father and service to the poor, this charity is a charity which is to be lived in a familial spirit pointing to the Holy Family of Nazareth as the model of family life with this life being characterized by simplicity and trust and complete availability to the Father's will. Lastly, this charity, for Fr. Guanella, was to be nourished, sustained, and strengthened through devotion to and frequent, if not daily, reception of Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist. It is this Eucharistic aspect of Bl. Louis Guanella's spirituality which makes possible a life of action and contemplation - which underpins one's perseverance to "prayer and suffering"; and which pervades a life of giving "Bread and the Lord."
(Credit: Catholic Social Services - Mental Retardation Services (Archdiocese of Philadelphia) and the Cardinal Krol Center)