Last December I found myself disheartened because of the poor outcome with the first group of catechism group that I led in Santiago, Chile. They were in many in the beginning, but everyone went away despite the effort put in by myself along with other catechists. However, in the beginning of this year, some of the students came back and they asked whether they could come back to the catechism classes. About a month ago, I saw one of them in the parish and I went up to him to give him a notice: “Diego (it is a made-up name), we chose the date for the Confirmation. It will be on November 30th”. At that moment, his facial expression changed, and with a sad look he answered back instinctively, “But I don’t want to leave this place! I don’t come here to receive Confirmation, but because I am happy here.”
Diego has been the gratuitous answer from God that I have been desiring in my heart for a long time: that a flicker of flame would burst in these students, that they might see something that would ignite in them a longing to belong to this place; the grace to encounter a home that they would never want to leave.
So, Diego came to the winter vacation with his sister. Then they began to help out at the charitable work with children that we do every Sunday – a kind of a Sunday school that has been awakening the faith in many. Two days ago, they even participated in the School of Community. Diego told us that for him, this company of friends is an “important sign”, because here he found himself once again happy.
Only God knows how their faith journey will turn out, but I can say that in this simple episode I experienced once again one thing that had already touched me many times in my life. It is something that I couldn’t understand in the beginning, but later, I found it expressed in a book What Hell Is Not [Ciò che inferno non è], where Alessandro D’Avenia writes, speaking about Father Pino Puglisi, “God unveils His Self only to men who are bare and orphan of tenderness, cut down to the breath of his trembling existence”.
(Father Alessio Cottafava, 38 years old, is in mission at San Bernardo, Chile. In the photo, Father Alessio after the inauguration mass as pastor of the Divino Maestro Parish, which took place in November 2019)