I want to tell you about the trip to Italy that we took this summer with some of our students from Taiwan. There were about twenty of us. We passed the first week in Carpi, at the cooperative for people with disabilities, called the “Nazarene”. The days were a full immersion in the experience of charitable work, and the evenings the opportunity to meet with friends who live in that region of Italy (Emilia). At the Nazarene, we divided into groups and accompanied those with disabilities in their daily jobs, or, more simply, we kept them company. To tell the truth, together we were like a big group of “disabled” persons. The Taiwanese, despite their exceptional Italian professors (us…), had a hard time being understood. The locals had the same difficulty. The Taiwanese were a bit lost and awkward in their movements. The locals, a bit less. Every conversation between a Taiwanese and a native required two interpreters. All of that to say that it was not easy to understand exactly who was helping who, and yet, I saw relationships between them blossoming in a way that I would have never imagined. We let charity “speak”. Every morning, after breakfast and prayer, we read and explained a part of the booklet The Sense of Charitable Work by Fr. Giussani. Then, after dinner, we would have a small assembly to share about the day. There are many things that could be said: many of our students said that they had never seen or lived something similar, that it was an experience very different from anything they could imagine doing in Taiwan, where those with disabilities are treated as problems to resolve (if they are allowed to be born). Often, the relationship with them is limited to feeding, washing, and getting them to bed. The students shared about how they discovered the value of the other, but even more how they discovered their own value. One of them said: “I would have never imagined that helping others would make me so happy”. Another said, “In these days, I discovered more of my heart, I don’t know exactly how, but I did”. Yet another: “Without you guys I would never have done it. I want to return home a tell everyone”. There were even some who proposed staying at Carpi instead of continuing the trip towards Rome! In the end, it was truly a rich week, full of unexpected gifts. We had thought that, for many, the first week would be spent just waiting for the entertainment that they were expecting from the visit to Rome.
In the capital, we visited magnificent places, from the Vatican Museum to the many famous piazzas, from Trastevere to Villa Borghese. We recounted and pointed out the history of the Church, which is the source of the experience we had had in Carpi. I was too saw parts of Rome that I had never seen before, and was also able to enjoy our mother house in Via Boccea for five days, something that I hadn’t done in a while. The last day, during the final assembly, practically all of the students said that the first week in Carpi struck them more than everything else. Incredible! Many said, “This trip was beautiful but also different than the others I have taken. I don’t know why.” They were all visibly taken by a joy that they didn’t know how to explain. At the end, we told them that this difference is a person and that he has a name: Jesus.
A few days ago, I discovered that one of the girls of the group asked to begin catechism: she wants to get to know better that Person who is at the origin of everything she saw and lived during those days.