Today, January 10, we celebrate the feast day of the Venerable Ludovico “Vico” Necchi, Servant of God (1876-1930). Dr. Necchi is remembered for his writings on the faith, his tireless service to others, and his deep commitment to promoting Christian love and conversion. The decree which proclaimed him Blessed read: "he had an admirable serenity of the mind and the habit of command to himself, that he obtained with constant vigilance and struggle against his character brought to anger, also the spirit of poverty, which was filled, and for which he was completely detached from the possession of wealth. Throughout the course of life he was guided by the Franciscan spirit, cheerful and happy in the midst of adversity and harassment; patient and simple, inflamed by the desire to promote the salvation of others, and compassion toward the poor and needy that he assisted with his hand, money and advice. "
Vico was born in Milan in 1876. Having lost his father at a young age, his mother remarried, and Vico grew up in a household that practiced atheism. However, he was guided in the faith by two maternal aunts, despite the prevailing anti-Christian sentiment of the times. His schools actively preached against the faith, but Vico’s resolve only strengthened. Despite the beliefs of his classmates and professors, Vico tirelessly witnessed to others, demonstrating the simple joy and love of Christianity. By his attractive, joyful character he exercised a wholesome influence upon those with whom he came into personal contact. Everyone knew he was a militant and a convinced Catholic - but no one avoided him for that reason. Even his opponents could not help admiring him, for his conduct was in full harmony with the faith.
Blessed Vico strove to increase the visibility of Christianity, helping initiate a Christian Center in Milan. The objects of the Center were expressed in these terms: "To exercise an influence on social problems, upon the solution of which depends the well-being of the community and in particular of the laboring classes; to exercise an influence on all questions of nation-wide importance, and to co-ordinate the studies and work of members toward the supreme interests of religion."
He spent his weekends in the countryside surrounding Milan, preaching to the agricultural workers. During these mission trips, he fasted, subsisting only on the Eucharist, which gave him strength.
Vico earned a doctorate degree from the University of Pavia, and was assigned to the Military Hospital of Saint Abrose in Milan (serving his required military service). It was there that he encountered a group of Franciscans, and eventually joined the Tertiary Order. As a Franciscan, Vico attended Mass daily, oftentimes missing sleep and other requirements of his job. "The heart of this Tertiary," wrote Msgr. Olgiati, Necchi's Spiritual Director, "burned with a flame similar to that which devoured the heart of St. Francis."
At the conclusion of his military service, Vico attended the University of Berlin where he earned his degree in neuropathology. He returned to Italy, started a family, and worked for the remainder of his life to solve social problems through the propagation of the faith. Vico further served in the military during the first World War, as a doctor, ministering to the sick and dying of all armies, bringing Christian love and comfort to those in need.
Vico was a prayerful, humble, charming and cheerful man who stood at the forefront of the new Italian Catholic Action. Despite opposition and trials, he used his medical profession as a holy apostolate for the conversion of his patients while his charity was being lavished on retarded children. He also used his higher education to co-found the University of the Sacred Heart.
Doctor Necchi's patience and charity were especially manifest in his work for mental sufferers. For the task of dealing with patients afflicted with morbid anxieties and scruples Doctor Necchi was especially fit. During his youth he had passed through a period when he himself was tortured by scruples. He wrote: "In order to acquire that degree of self-denial necessary to cure these diseases, a spirit of self-sacrifice is required which no motive of mere financial gain or of scientific interest is powerful enough to create.....One must have undergone these torments oneself. And I have suffered them."
Blessed Vico was diagnosed privately with cancer in 1929, but did not let on that he was suffering or in pain. Rather, he continued to treat his patients and teach his students, inspiring all with his love and joy. On January 9, 1930, he died. According to his will, his headstone was to be inscribed with the simple words: “Vico Necchi, Franciscan Tertiary.” An extraordinary man, he is buried in the chapel of the University of the Sacred Heart in Milan in the expectation that one day he will be raised to the altars.