You know, sometimes people do things that seem strange, and are, but at the same time aren't.
We went to visit an elderly couple for the first time last week here in Sicily. They had never received seminarians like us but when I called she was open to meeting us. So we arrived, rang, and, as the Gospel says, the door was opened to us. The house was set back behind the gate about twenty yards and as we entered we saw Mr. and Mrs. near the house approaching us. We greeted them and immediately he positioned himself between myself and the other seminarian, took us each by the arm, and walked with us to the house. It was a first-time, unexpected, and rather uncomfortable experience, given that I just met this man. How could I have known at that moment their sufferings, their difficulties, their burdens? How could I have known about their daughter who, along with her husband and their grandkids, had totally abandoned them, moving away and cutting all communication? How could I have known the joy, in the midst of this their continual ache, that our simple visit could bring? They were so happy that, 45 minutes later as we departed, they insisted and insisted we come for lunch our next visit. In addition, they insisted that we take two bags full of fruit that they had gathered from their fields. They accompanied us to the gate, gave us five euro for a cafè along the way, and saw us off until we were out of sight.
Taking us both arm-in-arm seemed strange to me, and it was, but in the end it really wasn't.
Here in Italy, everyone is talking about how "bravo" Pope Francis is. He has many human and spiritual qualities which make him very attractive. At the end of his Angelus addresses he says, "buon pranso," or, have a good lunch! He is notably extraverted. I hope, however, that these people who "love" Pope Francis also listen attentively to what he says. His words during the vigil of prayer for peace two Saturdays ago struck me as extraordinary. I share an excerpt below.
And at this point I ask myself: Is it possible to walk the path of
peace? Can we get out of this spiral of sorrow and death? Can we learn once
again to walk and live in the ways of peace? Invoking the help of God, under
the maternal gaze of the Salus Populi Romani, Queen of Peace, I say: Yes,
it is possible for everyone! From every corner of the world tonight, I would
like to hear us cry out: Yes, it is possible for everyone! Or even better, I
would like for each one of us, from the least to the greatest, including those
called to govern nations, to respond: Yes, we want it! My Christian faith
urges me to look to the Cross. How I wish that all men and women of good will
would look to the Cross if only for a moment! There, we can see God’s reply:
violence is not answered with violence, death is not answered with the language
of death. In the silence of the Cross, the uproar of weapons ceases and the
language of reconciliation, forgiveness, dialogue, and peace is spoken. This
evening, I ask the Lord that we Christians, and our brothers and sisters of
other religions, and every man and woman of good will, cry out forcefully:
violence and war are never the way to peace! Let everyone be moved to look into
the depths of his or her conscience and listen to that word which says: Leave
behind the self-interest that hardens your heart, overcome the indifference that
makes your heart insensitive towards others, conquer your deadly reasoning, and
open yourself to dialogue and reconciliation. Look upon your brother’s sorrow –
I think of the children: look upon these… look at the sorrow of your brother,
stay your hand and do not add to it, rebuild the harmony that has been
shattered; and all this achieved not by conflict but by encounter! May the
noise of weapons cease! War always marks the failure of peace, it is always a
defeat for humanity. Let the words of Pope Paul VI resound again: “No more one
against the other, no more, never! ... war never again, never again war!” (Address
to the United Nations, 1965). “Peace expresses itself only in peace, a
peace which is not separate from the demands of justice but which is fostered by
personal sacrifice, clemency, mercy and love” (World Day of Peace Message,
1975). Brothers and Sisters, forgiveness, dialogue, reconciliation – these
are the words of peace, in beloved Syria, in the Middle East, in all the world!
Let us pray this evening for reconciliation and peace, let us work for
reconciliation and peace, and let us all become, in every place, men and women
of reconciliation and peace!
I met this awesome family here in Italy. One of the kids was dating a girl in high school and she had a serious stroke at the age of 15 which left her with minimal use of her left side. It was so bad that other kids at school made fun of her to an unbearable extent and she did not finish high school. There was, however, one friend who stood by her. It was her boyfriend. He stayed with her through the whole thing and, a few more years down the road, he proposed to her and they are now married. She still has merely minimal use of her left side, but they are happily married and I found their testimony to be extremely edifying.