The gift of the sacraments for a terminally ill person and an “outing” to the beach with a teenager in a difficult situation: two encounters in one letter from Santiago, Chile.

Dearest friends,

since the last letter I wrote you many things have happened.

Parish life is consistently intense.  Sometimes I get the impression that what I do is insufficient.  I have understood however that this is a temptation.  It is the temptation to think that I am the factor that causes change in all things.  Thus every morning I ask the Lord to make me see what I should do and in the evening I ask him to bring to completion all of my approximations and make right all of my “mess-ups.”  My obedience to the Fraternity and the dialogue with my brother priests is the most concrete help that the Lord gives me to adequately understand the “things to do.”  These days we have been meditating on Mary and St. Joseph’s “yes.”  The Lord always asks things that seem really huge for our poor human strength, but he does this precisely to educate us to trust in God’s strength.

Many things have happened these months, such as the pilgrimage of the movement, the first of October, Encuentro Santiago, summer camps with the kids, the first communion masses…

I will share two recent episodes.

 

A huge gift

The first has to do with a really beautiful encounter the Lord gave me.

A lady from one of our little chapels calls me to tell me that one of her relatives has reached the terminal phase of the illness he is suffering from, AIDS. Luigi—we will call him by this name—is around 50 years old and he has been homosexual his whole life, as he tells everyone. My friend was very worried because Luigi was facing death with anger. I ask her how he would react if I went to visit him. A week later she tells me that Luigi had accepted letting me visit him. I leave everything I had to do and I trek across the city a little worried. What was I going to tell him? What would he tell me? On my chest, in a small case, the Lord accompanies me.

When I get to the hospital I face-off with the Chilean bureaucracy. When it starts to seem like it was going to be impossible to go inside, I ask St. Joseph for his help and slowly he opens all the doors (Chilean officials are very precise but also very religious!).

I find Luigi’s room and I go inside. He sees me and is very embarrassed, so I give him a huge smile and tell him, “Luigi, I am Fr. Lorenzo. I wanted to meet you.” Luigi returns the smile. There is no time to lose because doctors and nurses start coming and going all around us. So I tell him, “Luigi, I brought you a huge gift and it’s not from me. It comes from God, because he doesn’t forget anyone and wants to tell you how important and precious you are in His eyes. Think about it: he tells us that it’s worth dying for you, giving his life! Do you want to receive God’s forgiveness? Do you want to make a confession?” His face lights up and with fatigue says, “Yes.” After confession I tell him that I have another huge gift. It’s the anointing of the sick. “Do you want to receive it?” “Yes.” I continue, “I have yet another huge gift, Holy Communion. Do you want to receive Communion?” “Yes.”

After communion we pray together a bit, and crying and smiling at the same time, in wonder and almost incredulous about what was happening, Luigi doesn’t stop repeating, “I am happy, I am happy, I am happy.”

I couldn’t prevent myself from being deeply moved. Luigi made me understand how much we are loved and how little is necessary to let oneself be loved by the Lord. He doesn’t measure the greatness or smallness of our “yes” the way we measure it. His measure is different from ours. For him all that is needed is something fragile to be able to construct something eternal.

 

A nice little chat

The other episode has to do with a kid about whom I’ve already written a few times.

Ismael’s mother calls to tell me that she is very worried. Unfortunately, the cliché is one we have already seen many times: money disappears from the house and strange people begin looking for Ismael who in turn begins behaving strangely. Ismael has wounded up in drug circles. To be brief his mother and I successfully decide upon a strategy. The problem is that in the meantime we cannot leave him home by himself. And so I decide to bring him with me to the sea with some college students. Inside I’m thinking, “I’ll look for an opportunity to talk to him to see if he’ll open up a bit.” When we get to the beach we aren’t even out of the car before Ismael is already in the water. The CLU kids are very attentive; they talk to him and involve him. After a little while I invite him to go for a walk together along the splendid and immense beach that was hosting us. We begin walking and I try asking him something, but he immediately says, “Father, look at those rocks, do you want to climb them?” “Fine, let’s go.” We get to the top of the rocks (I was plodding along a bit) and I try to restart the conversation. He responds, “Father, look at that opening, can we go in?” And then, “Father, can we take the starfish?” In short, we get back to the others loaded down by starfish and by other “things” that I’d never seen before. As for my nice little chat, there was nothing I could do!

The day ends and the college students invite him to watch a movie later.  I drop him off at his house.  The only thing I am able to tell him is “Ismael, I hope you know that anything you do or have done does not change my affection for you by one iota.”  “Yes,” he answered.  “Ismael, great things are waiting for you, but you should not be afraid to ask for help!”  I hug him and I leave him with his mother.

The following day his mother tells me how as soon as he walked in the door he flopped down on the couch and erupted into tears like a baby.  He asked for forgiveness from his mother for all of the stupid things he’d done.  Then he told her how he wants to be helped because he is not capable of dropping drugs by himself.

Once again I realize that love is the most fruitful work we can do in our lives. The love we’ve received generated us, generates us in every moment, and encourages us to give of ourselves. Only for this love can we desire to change, start again, forgive and ask for forgiveness, and kneel down and become humble.

As always I entrust each of these individuals to you. In your prayers you can call them by their pseudonyms. The Lord know who you’re talking about!

I always remember you in the mass and I thank you for your support. A hug for each one of you!

Yours truly,

Lorenzo

Fr. Marco Aleo is pictured with some young people during an outing. Aleo is pastor of the Church of Blessed Pedro Bonilli in Santiago, Chile.

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