trasf 07Dear sisters and brothers,
it is with great pleasure that I accepted the invitation to testify to the transformation and joy of my own inner resurrection.

I met your congregation a few years ago. I was going through a hard time, both from a financial and health perspective. I was on crutches at the time and received an invitation to join the day care center “Raggi di Sole” here in Rome. I was welcomed by Sr. Giuliana and other people to meet and share offered services. The lunch meal, in particular, represented a moment of communion during which I had the chance of getting to know all the people. Each person shared their enduring hardships, while the sisters were beginning to understand our daily needs.

Overtime, what struck me  was the fact that we did not have to express our needs, rather the sisters themselves recognized our needs. It sufficed for them to look at us, listen to us and to understand what we were experiencing inside ourselves. The sisters I met were very good at that. There were also moments of happiness, days in which we were invited to watch some movies. I received so much help in those moments and I must confess that I revived inwardly. To me, reviving inwardly means to re-discover the ability of making plans for  life and to have trust in the future.

But what have I offered to the sisters I met?
I have encountered very complicated situations and faced them with serenity, trying to share my days with people who were coming from difficult situations, very different from mine. I learned that it is actually possible to offer other people little gestures of kindness, words coming from the heart. I learned to share inner truth without any difficulty, and this helps to build peace among people. I learned that it is possible to act as charitable apostles even though one owns nothing. How does this happen? In a very easy way, just being myself, in all aspects.

I learned not to be ashamed of the situation I am experiencing. All of us are “naked” before the hardships of life. And there are many of those hardships, as we all know.
The cross that poor people all over the world bear, at every latitude, and the fragility before those events which disconcert our life, make us naked. To live discomfort in the worst solitude means sinking into depression. But if you live on the street and have a lot of energy and will to live, then you scream and learn how to ask for help out loud, because solitude has led you to disaster. I know that life for poor people on the street might shock those who own a lot of material things, but then get lost in existential hardships, without wondering why there is so much grief in the world around them.

Humbleness is what saved me. I have admitted to being fragile, I have learned to be aware of my limitations, and this has helped me to overcome so many situations. “When I am weak, it is then that I discover I am strong”, as St. Paul said. And that is when I discover the beauty in life. Daily little things that make us enjoy life again, despite all our heavy burdens.

I have questioned myself, if it is possible to save our lives without having a real and true crisis of faith.

trasf 06I do not know if it is possible to save others; but I have experienced that through the flow of life, if I am able to accept my days in faith's light, then faith is able to transform, meaning that it is able to make me feel positive and make me love myself and, as a consequence, others too. I am aware of the fact that a far too rational view of “why(s)” and “how(s)” that I am experiencing, would not take me too far. I would become closed in on myself and intolerant towards others. But faith transforms me, changing me to become someone able to welcome other people.

Do you want to know why it happens that a poor man crushes another poor man for a piece of bread? Do you want to know why there is war among poor people? Simply because brutalization – yes, brutalization, indeed – comes from the lack of faith in God, who never leaves us when we look for God. I could tell you so many experiences I have lived through in the dorms and canteens for those who are poor, which show how sad is the war among the poor. Poor people's lives are like a bike chain which rotates and which, as days go by, might become a positive chain which transforms us. When we realize that we are loved by Someone who forgives all our miseries without asking for anything: this is real transformation, this is real joy. And I embrace it as a resurrection which takes place, a resurrection which becomes more and more mine, ours, every time we reflect on the things that happen and on the people we meet in our lives.

I sometimes meditate and think in retrospect of some little things that have happened to me, some sudden encounters, which  happened without a reason: that's when I realize that everything has a meaning, everything leaves a mark, tracing a path which I had never imagined or thought of. I believe this is the moment when I let myself be transformed and feel naked, unable to overcome my own problems which torment me. It's not a matter of either ability or inability to act, it's about being humble: humility to let other help me, for my own sake and to be transformed.

See, today we are here to get to know each other, and I surely know well your sisters here in Rome. You will leave here for your destinations and carry on with your commitments. I will go back to my daily life, with many struggles to face. Many of you come from and serve in tough realities, with a lot of poverty. But I am sure you have seen the joy among the many poor people you serve, and who you consider as friends, brothers, sisters. Your closeness gives them the awareness of an identity and a dignity, no matter the condition they find themselves in. Aristotle says that without friends it is impossible to live. So true! You offer such friendship which is able to be transforming.

Friendship is the glue which keeps us close to reality, allowing us to bear and overcome many obstacles. I am saying this, since I have experienced long periods of solitude and I have faced prejudices due to my social condition and due to poverty. Solitude is like water, which inundates a cave and goes up, until everything is opaque. The route is strenuous. Sometimes solitude is something which has been looked for, because in situations of vulnerability and need, it might happen that we prefer to be on our own, with our own thoughts.

But I have seen that those who choose to be on their own might encounter obstacles in their journey of life, even psychiatric diseases. I have been lucky, since many people around me have offered me help, which I have accepted. Yes: I received everything in the dimension of mutual exchange of a gift I receive, which I can offer in return. I have always attempted to explain to all the people, especially to young volunteers, even with jokes, for bad  things also happen because of us. But if we were able to dispense us from pain, we would not be mortal. Many times I have asked myself: why? I learned that we must live day by day and claw back today those good things we lost in the past. Those things which have taken away from life because of us. Yes, we can resurrect from pain. I have resurrected from many things. Honestly, this moment with you today has represented the occasion to experience how I used to feel twenty years ago, when I was alone, with no bonds, no home, no friends and no job. It was August and I had a small folder with me, with some documents in it. That’s what was left of 41 years of life. At 41, I found myself with a past to rearrange and fix. It was not easy at all. I was consumed with the anguish of spending nights on the streets. That’s the truth. But in that anguish, waiting and inner reflection began. I started to see so many things that I had not been able to see before, and I realized I had so many things that I wished not to have. And little by little, I was transformed.

trasf 01Your friendship has been a gift that I have wanted to repay and share with others. It’s my life’s continuous flux that has helped me to improve, and I can see the desire of justice and peace in everyday events. I have seen it in your gestures and in your words, and I would like to make it mine.

I do not want to expect peace to come from the sky. But I know that it is gained with effort, also learning to surrender to other people. I feel that life, our existence, disquiets me and requires me to live with moral tension in order to make the world better.

I am a new man , “Homo novus sum!”: I would like to paraphrase St. Paul, not comparing my faith to his, but I am certainly not the same Valerio I was twenty years ago. Life has changed me: I am better, more meditative, aware and attentive to others. I did not go back to what I used to do. Certainly, now I do not need much to feel at ease with both myself and other people. I really think today is a good starting point to keep improving myself and helping others.

Pax et bonum…


Published: August 29/08/2016