My dearest friend,
Before I knew you my understanding of friendship was smaller than an atom! You showed me that friendship is a rose that blossoms and whose nuances color and warm the soul fortunate to enjoy it.
You never drew attention to yourself, and I obviously didn’t pay much attention to you, yet with the corner of my eye I noticed something in you that today I would define as courage. The courage of silence; the courage to choose as a friend someone who was marginalized in class; the courage to neither hide nor boast about your love for prayer; the courage to extend an invitation to me.
Yes, that was an uncommon courage, whose fruit still lasts to this day. We had been confirmed, you knew that I went to Mass and confession, but I never showed up at the oratory anymore and I stopped attending Catechism. You still frequented these things, and more than once you tried to invite me: “… there’s a retreat coming up, and you should come to this meeting…”. I don’t know how you persevered! I repeatedly expressed to you (and perhaps with a disdainful tone of superiority) that I had other interests (more political than religious), that I was too busy with my studies and that on Sunday I preferred to go skiing with my friends, and anyway, I didn’t like the “churchy” kind. And you, year after year, returned to the offensive, “peacefully”.
What reason motivated you? Didn’t my continual turning you down annoy you? Weren’t you discouraged by the fact that I never followed suit? Weren’t you fearful that I might judge you or think you a fanatic? How much patience you had at only 17 years of age! You had a force on your side… interior, supernatural. You were not alone on the path you were treading; the Holy Spirit was in you. Infact, your conviction and – I believe – your prayer, slowly turned my life around, in a definitive way.
It would be only many, many years later that I would understand: you were not indorsing propaganda about an idea; rather, you were simply seeking to give me what was most precious to you. You did not offer me a product with marketing strategies, but an invitation to know the Lord because you had encountered Him. It was enough for you to be a channel for Him, you only wanted to be love and to spread love, and you attributed little importance to yourself, but you wanted to bring me to Him at all costs. You continued to bear witness even in the absence of desired results. You accepted cashing in rejections and to remain my friend, because you knew what true friendship was. You preferred to risk losing my esteem in order to gain my soul. You wanted my good, not your own.
As an Apostle I slowly grew in knowledge of what spiritual direction was, and I realized that you were a spiritual mother “in cognito” with me (knowing that I would have run as far away as possible otherwise!).
My friend, in the end, with the beginning of university, you convinced me, and I started to go to everything that you proposed!
You found the way to enter into me: “there is a new priest for young people, and his lessons provide profound answers to all our existential questions.” You were right, it was a substantial nourishment that knew how to shake us up, a dialogue that didn’t turn down a challenge but provoked our intellectual thirst and in him I found a spiritual father to accompany me during the four wonderful years of discernment.
You sent me to the Association, knowing well my abstract sense of solidarity in need of concrete encounters. You lead me to touch with my hands our friends “in difficulty”, who now had names. And even there, you came with me. And you presented other “believers”, who were joyful and authentic, breaking down my prejudices in their regards.
You came with me on retreats, in my first experiences of silence and prolonged prayer, which you knew would stir up my unspoken desires. We would take the train, one Sunday a month. Together.
The bridge that tied me to my fears and my sense of presumed superiority and presumed inferiority were crumbling. I saw my limits. I began to beg for love.
The other friendships that blossomed in the womb on these experiences with you remained among the most significant of my life, not to mention those great Carmelite saints that you introduced to me: Thérèse, Teresa, Edith Stein!
Here again your friendship showed itself to be true. You didn’t keep me just to yourself and you introduced me to your other friends. I wanted to bring you to mine! It was one of the most beautiful gifts that I could give to the people I loved! The goodness that emanated from you tended to grow all around you.
In those years in which I finally learned to trust you, you knew how to encourage me and correct me at the same time. The secrets of the human soul were not hidden from you; you discovered the most embarrassing sentiments tucked away behind my masks and you knew how to name them, downplaying the awkwardness. You were able to listen to my most intimate desires. You had a realistic knowledge of the miseries and aspirations of man; you were never scandalized and were so candid! Thank you, you freed me from many fears.
I know that what you did on earth you can now continue to do more fully in Heaven. I still don’t know what I can do for you, to thank you and share the fruits of your labor with the world and to continue to listen to you and learn from you, and laugh with you. You will teach me when you want. For now, when I meet a homosexual man, or a student who doesn’t want to come on retreats, or a young person who gets drunk or the philosopher tormented by doubts, I will ask the Lord to let me borrow a little something of your gaze, and then, if He wants, I too can stop judging and impart that certainty that God is not scandalized. I would like to do it with your charming smile that pokes fun without offending and does not take too seriously the smallness with which we encage ourselves.
Pray for missionaries, that they may experience and proclaim a God that loves us not because we are good children, but because we are his children!
To you who lives in Love,
with love, friendship and gratitude,
Find the analogies between the “Church which goes forth” described by Pope Francis (EG 24), the life of the girl described and your life.
- The Church which “goes forth” is a community of missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice. An evangelizing community knows that the Lord has taken the initiative, he has loved us first (cf.1 Jn4:19), and therefore we can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast. Such a community has an endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of its own experience of the power of the Father’s infinite mercy. Let us try a little harder to take the first step and to become involved. An evangelizing community gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others. An evangelizing community is also supportive, standing by people at every step of the way, no matter how difficult or lengthy this may prove to be. It is familiar with patient expectation and apostolic endurance. Faithful to the Lord’s gift, it also bears fruit. It finds a way to let the word take flesh in a particular situation and bear fruits of new life, however imperfect or incomplete these may appear.