One day, looking at a lime tree, I found myself being drawn towards a lively little green bud, inserted in the middle of the dark bark. I thought about Péguy when he speaks about hope, comparing it to a small blossom that revitalizes the hard bark of the faith. In my relationship with kids, I notice that they are capable of producing the same effect, they are able to revive the bark of my faith. From them I have learned something, which is now our motto: “God does the biggest things through those who are smallest”. This appears evident after seeing parents return to the Lord, to the sacraments, who begin to move not because of some discourse but because of these little missionaries who go home and share with their parents, through their faces, their gazes, something that they have seen and lived.
During the Summer, I attached the poster of Marcellino pane e vino on the wall in my bedroom. Marcellino is a presence—that is, looking at that face one can’t help but desire that same gaze for oneself—because he is in front of a Presence.
I want to share a few facts and what I have taken from them.
There is a Dad, who for a very long time hadn’t returned to Church and hadn’t received the sacraments. Between us, thanks to his son who frequented the parish, a beautiful friendship was born. One day he said to his son: “Today I am going to confession”. His son, at all costs, wanted to go with him. I save in my memory the boys gaze when, outside the confessional, he watched his Dad kneeling in prayer. I thought; no homily or lesson could speak stronger than that gesture, and that that Dad, without knowing it, had given witness to the Lord more than a great saint.
One day I went to bless a family, I rang the bell and heard cries and yells from the door. I went in and saw a small child who was crying and having a temper tantrum. His parents were focused on calming him down and trying to get him to stop crying. Their attempts were useless. I tried myself to calm him down, but it only made things worse. At a certain point, I said to the parents: “Listen, let’s let him be for a minute and say the prayer for the blessing of your family and your house”, (they were not the only family I had to visit that day). Immediately after taking our eyes off the child and bringing him towards the little crucifix that was on the wall, he instantly stopped crying and started to look towards what we were looking at. In this simple fact I found the meaning of every educational principle: that which the child needs is not someone who responds to every temper tantrum, or someone who finds their own consistency in the relationship with him, but someone who knows who to look at, who to belong to, in who to consist in. Only then will he be able to stop crying.
During the Sunday Mass I asked the kids: “How do you imagine God?”. One imagined him bald, another with four arms, a little girl imagined him to be similar to Zeus. They all agreed that God was full of goodness. At a certain point, without the suggestion of anyone, a boy raised his hand and said: “For me God is like Jesus, and his character is similar to Jesus’s”. This is Christianity! No one has ever seen God, the only begotten Son came to make him known. (John 1,18)
For the last three weeks, one of the kids in the parish has been begging his mother to invite me over to their house, because he wants me to tell them the story of my becoming a priest. God does great things through the smallest!
(Paolo Desandré is the pastor of Santa Maria del Rosario ai Martiri Portuensi. Above, a moment from the “Celebration of the family” in the parish.)