“To me it seems that the vocation of the Community Cenacolo is to develop the verbs that speak of meeting: to know, to understand, to accept, to help, to support, to appreciate, to embrace, to kiss, to love… We’ve come here to touch the tender breath of God, to directly experience the profound love of God, and we leave here with this as our mission: to tell everyone that this love of God that was given to us in Christ Jesus, this love that we celebrate, is true! It’s not just an expression. It’s authentic, because here we see it, we experience it, and we touch it.”
His Excellency the Most Reverend Giuseppe Guerrini
Catechism of Fr. Pierino Ghi, SJ from Cuneo
I would like to start with a short story. When the good God made the universe, He also created the birds, but He didn’t give them any colors. So the Lord said, “I want to remedy this” and he took a tablet, because He is also an artist, spread out His colors on top, and then called the birds, one by one, and began to paint them. At last a tiny little bird came to Him, and our heavenly Father told him, “Poor thing, I don’t have any more colors for you. You will always be colored grey. The bird’s children asked him, “Father, why don’t we have any colors?” And he, a little saddened, did not know how to answer. One day, the little bird saw a lot of commotion going on, on top of a mountain. Horses came and went, men with swords… and then he saw a man, crucified. “Oh,” he said, “He is all covered in blood, and look, He has a crown of thorns! I want to go and remove one of the thorns.” He rested on one of the arms of the cross, and was just able to reach the crown of thorns. With his beak, he removed one of the thorns, and then quickly escaped. The other little birds, his children, watched him, and they said, “You’re all red! Your breast is all red!” and from then on he was called the Red-breasted Robin.
When I awoke at six this morning, I told myself, “I must get ready to leave, and then my heart started beating a little faster. I said to myself, “What am I going to speak to them about?” because the theme is “Mercy and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss.” How am I going to put them together. It’s not easy! And besides Cardinal Schönborn already spoke. What more could I add?
It had already been a few days that I had chosen another theme, “The alliance of the hearts of Jesus and Mary.” Who knows why this came to my mind? This morning I thought, “I’m a little crazy, what am I going to say? I arrived here and saw that statue of Our Lady of Fatima. I really wanted to begin by speaking about Our Lady of Fatima, and she was waiting for me!
So I want to tell you how the Angel had prepared the children of Fatima, Francesco, Giacinta, and Lucia. The Angel had taught a prayer to our little shepherds. “My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love you. I ask forgiveness for all those who don’t believe, who don’t adore you, who don’t hope, and who don’t love you.” Then the angel told them, “Pray like this. The hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to your supplications.”
In a second apparition to the little shepherds, they were playing by the edge of a well near their house when the Angel said to them, “What are you doing? You must pray very much. The Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary have plans of mercy for you.” And here we have the theme: mercy and truth shall meet.” The Lord has prepared for each one of us a plan of mercy and of truth.
In the third apparition the Angel taught the little shepherds the prayer to the Most Holy Trinity. “Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I profoundly adore you, and I offer to you the most precious body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus, present in all the tabernacles throughout the world, and by the infinite merits of Your most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I ask you for the conversion of sinners.” As you can see, three times the angel mentions the Heart of Jesus and the Heart of Mary, because only through the hearts of Jesus and Mary is it possible to eradicate lies and injustice from our hearts and fill them with mercy so that we can give peace to others.
I think that the Lord calls all of us to this walk of interior transparency. Let us stop for a moment and reflect on the heart of Mary, since Divine Providence has brought her here amongst us. Believe me when I say that the presence of Mary is prophetic, and I think that she has a message for each one of us. Twenty-five years ago, more or less, I went to Fatima in a car, with a friend, his wife, and another lady. We arrived around five in the afternoon. One hour later was the Holy Mass, concelebrated by many priests. Look how Our Lady is prophetic: she willed that I would be chosen to give communion to the people sitting in wheelchairs, and there I began my ministry to the sick. Mary has something to tell every one of us, believe me. Today I’m content that we said the Rosary first, that you prayed it. I thank you all for the silence that reigns, because we need to listen to the beating of this maternal heart, that is pure, even when it is encircled with thorns.
Let us immerse ourselves in this beautiful theme of the alliance of the Heart of Jesus and the Heart of Mary. The concept of this alliance comes from the Sacred Scripture. The Second Vatican Council says, “Mary is an integral part of the mystery of Christ and of the Church.” I remember when I was a child of seven or eight years old, at home my mother and father quarreled. As usual, since I was very sensitive, I escaped and went to a shrine dedicated to Mary. There I opened up my heart and I cried. This is how Mary works! When we will go to paradise one day, I think that I will ask a favor of Saint Peter. I will say, “Can you do me a favor? Can you let me go to Our Lady?” Then I will go, kneel at her feet, and say to her, “Thank you! Thank you for everything,” because if I am here with you all, it is a gift from her. It’s a gift from God that she, the Mother, has interceded for each one of us.
In the Bible, and in particular, in the prophetic books, the symbol that most often expresses the alliance between God and his people is marriage. Here we have the alliance. God is the bridegroom and the daughter of Zion, the name attributed to Mary, is the bride. In the New Testament, Jesus is the bridegroom and the Church is the bride, because there is this intimacy between God and each one of us. Looking at you all this morning, I can simply say that I’ve seen the presence of God. I’ve seen God in you all, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Married or not married, we are all married to God, because He is the true marriage. This is our dignity. Now we will hear a beautiful passage from Ezekiel, where we find the theme of the true marriage, the alliance between God and humanity. “I will sprinkle on you clean water to purify you from all your iniquities.”
If you fell into the deepest slime, God was there. He wasn’t afraid to dirty His hands. He took you into His hands. We’ve all been in this sewer. No one is innocent, but God in His infinite mercy has given us the dignity of being children of God.
I remember when Pope Benedict XVI announced this year for the priests. If only you all knew how important this year is –because to save a priest means to save an entire population. Mother Elvira, the Lord has given you so many graces with youth, with the girls, but the most beautiful are the priests! I want to cry out to any of you who might feel the call of God, “Don’t say no!”
It’s true that to rise to the priesthood means to climb up to Calvary—and the priest who doesn’t die on the cross with Jesus is not a true priest—but you who aspire to be priests, don’t let this scare you, because the Lord is a perfect sculptor, and He sculpts a little bit at a time, like Michelangelo did with his masterpiece, the Pietà. That’s the way the Lord will make you holy. “I will give you new hearts. I will take from you your heart of stone, and I will put my Spirit within you, and I will make you walk according to my ways. You will be my people!” There is a great secret to achieving this interior purity. It’s an infallible secret. It’s the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Then there is another secret that in a short while will be here, present on the altar: my Lord Jesus. During the octave of the Feast of the Sacred Heart, Our Lady appeared to Saint Gemma Galgani. She took her in her arms like a mother takes her child, and she asked her, “Do you love me?” “Yes, of course I love you. You know this.” “But do you really love me, more than anyone else?” “Ah, no, there is one Person I love more than you!” “And who is it?” “Oh, you don’t know? He has hair like yours, and a face like yours, and a smile like yours. It’s Jesus!” And then Our Lady replied, “Love him. Love him very much.”
There is so much simple holiness in the world: mothers of families, people who are poor and unknown… I heard the testimony of a mother who has a son who is blind, mute, and cripple, and she said to me, “This is my great treasure!” This is holiness, because to be holy doesn’t mean performing miracles, but to live loving others! He pushes us towards holiness a little bit at a time. Therefore it is a great temptation to say, “I’m the same as always.” This is not true! The good that you did yesterday remains, and you climb towards holiness a little bit at a time. The Holy Spirit transforms you slowly, day by day.
Let me say one more word to the elderly who are here. The Lord makes us similar to a persimmon tree. Little by little He removes all the leaves and the only thing that remains is the beautiful fruit that is mature. When you become elderly, the Lord strips you bit by bit. First comes the walking cane; then in the morning it takes you three quarters of an hour to get up; then you can’t get around by yourself anymore; then at mealtime they have to make special food for you because your stomach doesn’t work that well.
There’s a great truth here: in today’s society the elderly are the most ignored. They say that the elderly have thin skin, and I believe this. So I beg you all, treat them well. Help them to have a happy death, in peace and serenity. There is a story about Mother Teresa that I like very much. She entered into hovel where there was an elderly man, alone, and dirty, and Mother Teresa said to him, “Would you like it if I tidied up the room a bit?” “Oh please do, because I’m always alone.”
Then she finds an old rusted lamp, and asks him, “Has it been a long time since you last turned on this lamp?” “A very long time. No one has come to visit me for a long time.” “If you want, I’ll turn it on for you.” “Please do.” “If you want, I can come back tomorrow to visit you.” “By all means, please come.” So from then on every morning she sent the sisters to visit him, and when he died, he died happy. If today you take home this meeting a love for the sick, for children and for the elderly, then I assure you that you will have chosen “the better part.” “Whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me!”