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ez 01When I read the biography of Blessed Frances Schervier, the words of her friend Gertrude made a great impression on me: "The Lord wants you to leave your paternal home and your family to save souls and heal His wounds." In Jesus’ plan of salvation for Mother Frances, she had to separate herself from her previous life before she could make her decision.

We heard it as message, closely linked to being an Apostle of the Resurrection. It was as if to say that the Mission entrusted to us by the Lord must inevitably begin with a "leaving", a distancing from our former life. I think that being an apostle means bringing everything Jesus did in His life into our own lives. Jesus healed, cared for, remedied, forgave, died for us and rose again. As St. Paul wrote, "He did not consider His divinity a treasure to be grasped, but He emptied Himself, and made Himself like us in every way except for sin".    
 
ez 03What did "leaving my family" mean in our minds? The Lord has been good to us and, because he knows us very well, He began with "easier" attachments. Easier because they were not so close to my heart, but when they happened, they tested me greatly. When my husband Silvio lost his job, money no longer offered a safety net, and having money was no longer a part of my self image. Going to work in a clothing store:  finding myself "on the other side of the register" in a place where I was used to being a customer changed me greatly. It wasn't so much serving other people that made me reflect, but rather the measure to which I was willing to share a part of myself. Because I was no longer a girl, I often found myself dealing with people my own age who were going through hard times similar to what I had just gone through. It would have been quite easy to present myself as being more beautiful, a better person, but bit by bit, as time went on, I felt like this dimension no longer belonged to me. So I tried to offer hope as well as self-sufficiency, and allow my own scars to show, scars that by that time were healed -- and the grace that such death had given me. Slowly, without visibly transformation, the Lord was making me grow and, time after time, He prepared me for another more intimate and difficult step.
                                
ez 02Finally, the Lord came to look for me in the depth of my heart where my most dear and sacred emotions live, and the separation became a laceration that bled and then healed. I thought I believed that people, and our children also, do not belong to us, but are simply gifts of God. Perhaps it is because we bring children into the world and rear them and educate them, and make lots of sacrifices for them, we consider them to be "ours." Well, they are not. God talked to me through the experience of my son Carlo, so ill that he was poised between life and death, and who, even now, continues to live in a precarious state. Today, as his parents, we no longer decide anything for him because there is always a doctor or specialist better equipped than we are to make important decisions for him. This is not what we wanted for our new son, beautiful in his total separation, yet extremely fragile.

Perhaps only now, I begin to understand the meaning of the words, "children do not belong to us." We, as his parents, no longer can make plans or expect results : his situation can change at any given moment. Truly, this son is not "ours" in the sense we believed before, he is simply of God who alone makes and decides his story, establishes changes, progress and setbacks. We can no longer simply embrace him with all the love we have, rather we must wait until we are asked to do so – almost as superfluous servants of the Gospel. Yet, the beautiful light in this darkness is a serene peace of heart, one that prevented our family falling apart from desperation and destroying itself.

A lot of pain remains, but in the hands of God, this story has become another story altogether. There are many tender, joyful moments. Carlo's life is a blessing, the Lord has made us grow as parents and perhaps we in a very personal way God’s message for us: Descent and Resurrection, suffering and the strength to walk through the valley of death, because God never abandons us. He is present at all times with His support and His consolation.

 

 

Associates Elisabetta and Silvio Zaina

Published: February 25, 2016