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Iím Valentina. Iím twenty-five years old, and for some years Iíve been a part of the large family of Cenacolo, where I was able to find my life.  I was a child who didnít lack anything, born in a well-off family with good values.  I was looked after more by my grandparents than my parents because of my mother and fatherís work, but even today this never seemed to have caused me any trouble. Up until the age of twelve I frequented the church, the oratory, and everything that surrounded those places.  But growing up and going to high school outside of the city and meeting new people, my life took a wrong turn.  I had decided to go to school to work in hotels.  I was aware that it involved sacrifices, but I felt passionate about it, and it was really in those years that the downfall started.  I was afraid of being judged, crushed, put aside by the others, so I started to do things that from a young age I was taught were wrong: smoking my first cigarettes, then ďjoints,Ē skipping out on going to the oratory and Sunday MassÖ
Even my friends changed, and out of fear not to be accepted, I started to behave like them to feel stronger, greater, so that I could ďbe somebody.Ē  During school or in the summer I went to work in a few restaurants, trying out what I thought might be freedom.  Without my parents to control me with money in my pocket, I went out dancing and seeking new experiences: alcohol, ecstasy, pills, and cocaine.  In those years I also began to have eating disorders.  I was anorexic, and I wasnít able to accept myself in any way.  I tried different psychologists, but they didnít help at all.  I had a boyfriend who I was very attached to, but evil had entered even entered our relationship.  We used drugs so often together that many times we risked our lives, hurting each other even physically, and finding ourselves in situations that were always stranger and more dangerous.

Sometimes it seemed that things would better a bit but then everything collapsed again.  Even though I liked my work a lot, its hours caused me to live nocturnally, always spending more and more.  Eventually my paycheck wasnít enough to sustain him and me, so we started to steal wherever we could.  I was so tied up in this relationship that it seemed to me I must live for him, so I decided one day to leave everything and move in with him.  It was here that I really began to see that without the drugs I wasnít even able to greet him, or be close to him, and everything always became more complicated.  I barely stayed in that house for more than a month, after which I asked my parents for help.  Like always they were ready to welcome me and give me a hand, but despite all the effort and help, especially from my mother, I didnít listen to what they told me; in fact I completely refused it.  There was no real communication between us.

But the day arrived when, and I still donít know how, I found myself attending the meetings in Torino for people who wanted to enter the Community.  After speaking to the girls, whose smiles, attentiveness, and welcome I remember even more than their words, I returned home and told my mother the truth, even though she already knew everything.  During the first days, I had the desire to behave myself, to listen to the things that the girls told me, but every time I went back home I always ended up in debates and arguments with my mother.  I felt like I couldnít wait any longer.  The hour had come.  I had to change my life for the better. Today I realize that Jesus was already holding my hand and giving me the strength, especially in those final days before I entered.  I saw my boyfriend once again but, thanks to God, I had the courage to leave everything behind and go forward on my new path.
The first six months were very tough.  I didnít see any sense in the things that I did, I wasnít interested, and I didnít understand why I had to change everything while many young people and many ďfriendsĒ continued their lives like always.  Today I thank Our Lady, because she wanted me in Lourdes and placed me among some sisters whose their love, friendship, and help, led me to encounter Jesus in their daily gestures and in their faces.   I had a long way to go in prayer, too.  In the beginning I was still very selfish and superficial, but then I understood, opening my heart a little bit at a time, that prayer is about everything in my life, every tiny thing that I did, said, thought, and lived.  I thank God because today Iíve found true life, and because Iíve discovered many gifts and wonderful desires inside me, that I didnít imagine were even possible to have.

I thank God because today I can give myself, suffer, rejoice, and fight to be a true friend. Iíve rediscovered the great value of friendship, built on truth, that many times makes us suffer but that is already love; in fact it is the one true love.  Thank you, Mary, because you made me rediscover the beauty of being a woman and of knowing how to love.  Thank you, because Iíve forgiven the wounds that I experienced in my family.  Thank you for all the good desires that you put in my heart.  Iím happy to be a part of the ďfamilyĒ of Cenacolo. Iím sure that God has rested his gaze upon us and has prepared something beautiful and great for me as well. I discover it every day in the beauty that is always new, which I live with childlike wonder.

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