In July of this year, together with another novice, Daniel Nørgaard, we had an experience of service with the poor, “the month of hospital”, as St. Ignatius called it in his time, one of the most important esperience of the novitiate time, month of volunteering in the Pope John XXIII Community in Cittadella. Daniel was assigned in a recovery home and I in the service of a Bolivian boy with a severe handicap, named Manuel, and the boys of the foster home with whom he lives.
I meet with Manuel, his adoptive mother Nadia and the family home of Paolo and Anna: they opened me to a world I did not know. I was especially struck by their stories about the missionary life spent in various countries, their life choices, their way of giving themselves to God. It was nice to see how the Lord has done great things through their lives. I understood that there are many ways to consecrate themselves to the Lord, and that these lay people have found very fruitful ways of sharing life with the poorest and helping the most vulnerable.
The difficulties in living with a disabled person can be different and obviously change a lot the life of those around him a lot. In getting close to Manuel I not only helped out with practical things, but through the difficulties I experienced with him I was able to improve in my way of relating to others. The words of Jesus echoed in me when he said: “if anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me”, they let me discover that fatigue and pain bring joy and hope within them.
Living this time with them in this way, the difficulties that initially seemed great stopped during daily life, full of enriching episodes and moments. In being next to Manuel day by day, I was surprised and amazed at how his simple gesture, of opening his arms to ask for a hug, is so full of meaning. This child, who does not speak, does not eat alone and is unable to communicate, is able to speak with the language of love. He knows a gesture, well known to us too, which is perhaps his only gesture that can also be understood by our mentality: that of embracing you strongly and for a long time, wishing to be embraced and loved.
Raul Ciocani, novice of the second year