From an experience with the university students of Bologna, a reflection on the communion of saints and that eternal place where all our relationships from our earthly journey will show their authentic value.

I always picture Paradise as the place where every important relationship during our life will manifest its complete value, and also where everything that was lived or shared, with whoever, in true a way, will return and be a permanent part of our life, not any longer subject to corruption, to the limits of time and space. In Is it Possible to Live this Way?, Fr. Giussani describes the value of a sacrifice made in Italy that, inasmuch as it is offering to God, is able to help someone who is living in Japan at that same moment. I think that in Paradise I will finally recognize the real significance of many people who have accompanied me during this earthly journey, even those who passed a small amount of time physically with me. This is depicted well in the film Still Life, which describes how relationships that existed on the earth go beyond death and show their goodness and truth, and all their ramifications, only in Heaven. This is what the Church calls “the communion of saints”.

There are a few episodes from my mission with the university students of Bologna that I want to share. It seems paradoxical, but during the last few years some students were added to our community only after their death. I will explain. Everything started in February 2011, when a young drug addict was found dead from an overdose taken in the bathroom of the Department of Literature. The students of the community of CL asked what they should do. They immediately thought about writing a flyer, while, at the same time, a debate erupted in Florence concerning the presence of homeless people in the halls and all the security precautions that they were provoking. With time, the students began to recognize that, as Christians, what was being asked of them within that environment was something much: to pray for student who had died, to attend his funeral and to accompany his spirit into Heaven. They also wanted to stay with his family, but they were not able to contact them.

Not much time had passed when another dramatic episode happened calling us back to what we had previously discovered. One afternoon, a young man threw himself from the emergency staircase on the fourth floor of the Mathematics department.

Everyone was dismayed. The following day, the news of the suicide filled the newspapers: he would have graduated in less than a week. This time, my friends managed to find the phone number of the family. His girlfriend answered, and they invited her and his family to the weekly Mass of the CLU which would be celebrated the following day in his memory. Surprisingly, they accepted the invitation. At the end of the Mass, I was able to meet them and share my condolences. They were dumbstruck: more than three hundred young people during a weekday Mass to pray for their son, without having ever met him. They had never experienced something similar! Before Easter two of us, who were also at the funeral, went to see the family and, as a gift, we brought them the poster of the Movement.

A few months later, a professor of Modern Languages contacted a student in CL who studies in her department, telling his about the sudden death of another student. Also in this case, we invited them to the Tuesday Mass. Before beginning the celebration of the Mass, I met the professor and the parents. They were sitting in the first pew of the Church; behind them was a packed church, full of people the same age as their deceased son. The majority of them hadn’t ever met him, and yet they prayed for him. “I had never seen him, as one student wrote to me. “I moved when I heard the news through an email from my professor. It arrived to me and I felt personally called: in front of death, what remains? What hope is there for them and for me?”.

Life has been frequently re-launching these questions at us, and there have been many strong relationships born in these years with these unknown friends, as well as many encounters that could be shared. I think that, in Paradise, these friends “of the final hour” will come to meet us, maybe to thank us for our prayers, and we will be curious to finally meet the great army of saints from all times to whom our prayer has united us.

marco ruffini

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