It really happened!
Publish date 05-05-2023
From the morning of January 7 I remember the trepidation. Even in the previous days I felt it in my skin and I couldn't hold it. I had in my heart, like everyone else, the awareness that from her gestures and words we will have received a sign, an answer to the question that often resurfaces in prayer: Lord, we do our best, but how do you see us? Lord, are we doing your will?
I have lived many moments like this, asking myself the same questions. Like in July 1983 when, at the end of a course of spiritual exercises, I decided to go and present to Don Giuseppe Pollano of the Consolata sanctuary in Turin the dream of consecrating my life to God in a fraternity that was being born in Sermig, with the prospect of finding a home in the former military arsenal. However, the Arsenale was late in arriving and I wondered if the absence of answers was a "no, you were wrong, your life will not be within those walls". I wondered if I was forcing myself to "get settled" or if the Lord really needed that sign that was passing through me too. I felt that giving my life for the dream that united fraternity and the Arsenale was within my comfort zone and that the Arsenale della Pace would be a sign for many. I felt, I believed, but from time to time, in that wait, doubt seized me.
To Don Pollano, a priest whom I did not know personally, who in my eyes appeared austere, severe, but very authoritative, I told the dream of the Arsenale della Pace and of a fraternity that did not yet exist. I knew he wouldn't give me discounts, and I was ready to do what he would tell me: Lord, what he will tell me will be like you tell me and I will do it, even if it were to give up this dream.
I felt like Abraham who, to be faithful to his God, was ready to sacrifice Isaac, the son of promise.
I went to don Pollano with the trepidation of Abraham who takes Isaac to Mount Moria and who along the way gives up the preciousness of that son.
Don Pollano, to my great amazement, did not treat me as a visionary, he did not ask me to give up, on the contrary with great fatherliness he encouraged me to go ahead, to follow the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
I left that meeting thanking the Lord for having confirmed me through that man of God. A few weeks later we entered the Arsenale and, a few years later, Don Pollano became our spiritual assistant, he mixed with us, and contributed in a decisive way to the our spiritual formation.
Forty years later I felt that meeting the Pope was like passing a sifter. As the meeting approached, the same trepidation of that day grew in me. On the one hand I wanted him to put his seal on our history lived in fidelity to the Church, but at the same time I was afraid of him.
In the Sala Clementina the atmosphere was intimate but joyful, a long applause welcomed Pope Francis. The Pope had listened attentively to Ernesto's moved greeting, he had greeted him with affection, then he had taken the floor calling him by name... as I listened to the words of his speech, first incredulity grew in me, then amazement, and finally the wonder and praise to the Holy Spirit.
I have not yet understood the beauty and depth of those words.
But then Lord you are really happy to walk with us, just as we are!
You really aren't afraid of our fragility, of our struggles, of our littleness and you renew your yes to walk with us!
You really encourage us to keep going! We have been trying to follow you for forty years now. Don't allow us, today or ever, to distance ourselves from you, because for us the Arsenale has always been yours.
Just as the Pope told us: «The Arsenal of Peace is the fruit of God's dream… of the power of the Word of God.
That power we feel when we listen to Isaiah's prophecy "They will break their swords and make them plowshares ... they will learn no more the art of war". Here is God's dream that the Holy Spirit carries forward in history through his faithful people".
Every time I re-read the text of the speech I am moved to be part of the story of what the Pope calls "a kind of large tree grown from a small seed", "a group of young people together with the Lord Jesus", where the Lord he kneaded with all of us "because - says the Pope - this is a work that cannot be done without God. Because war can be done without God, but peace is made only with him" and "peace, hope, encounter, harmony are built only with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God". And I welcome his invitation with joy, true inner joy: go forward!
"In audience with Francis"
NP February 2023