My story is a river of faces, dramas, poems, loves, evenings spent on the beach singing, desires, betrayals, and grace. In time I perceived the echo of a more true, discreet, and powerful voice behind each of these things, one that connected even the most mysterious and painful facts, a voice that throbbed to reach me, to tell me how precious I was in his eyes, to win me over.
I had never thought about becoming a priest, even if I had breathed the faith and the [CL] Movement in my home since I was little. I had always desired a great life with a comfortable job and a beautiful family. Thus, after graduating with a degree in Engineering, I started traveling around Italy as a consultant, while I began to draw the sketches of a more well-defined future with a girl who I had been dating since college.
In a short period of time, however, my projects fell to pieces. My relationship with my girlfriend ended abruptly. My job, which offered many satisfactions and which tacitly asked one to consecrate his life to it, did not maintain its promises.
“Stefano, now you have a challenge you must face. The moment you walk out of this door, you can look for another woman with whom you can build a family. You are free to do so, but again it will render both of you unhappy. You need to discover if it is really true that God can fill your heart, that only he who created you can dominate your soul.” A priest from Bologna who I had known since college hurled these words at me. At first they were like boulders but I had nothing else to cling on to. In time, they revealed themselves to be the foundation of a new beginning.
I moved to Milan and I changed jobs. I started getting together with a group of Young Workers of the [CL] Movement. That priest from Bologna’s words continued working inside of me: I asked Christ to reach me with an embrace that was more real than that of a woman, that he may grant a ray of light to illuminate my life. And he showed me that he was able to carry to the center of my heart individuals who until shortly before were complete strangers, but he nurtured these relationships in which he gave me a glimpse of eternity.
Silently my life began to take root. I faced new difficulties in my work due to the economic crisis that had just erupted; I had no girlfriend and many wounds were still fresh. Nonetheless I found myself telling a friend, “Even if I could turn around and change the past, I wouldn’t trade my life for anything.” Thus, in an arduous battle with God, I accepted to hand over to him my deck of cards to see what game he had instead designed for me.
In the meantime, Milan had become my home, my friendships had exploded, and affective preferences were reborn. A new fullness of life was inundating me. Thus it became the moment to decide. “Do you love me, now, more than everything else?” This is the question that I felt addressed directly to me—it is the question of a jealous lover, one that does not accept competitors, that is not satisfied with anything less than giving all of one’s life. I let myself wait attentively, I allowed myself to want it and in the end I had to give in. It was an unequal battle: who could possibly resist a fascination for the divine? From the moment of that relieved and trembling “yes” and onward, God has been guiding me toward a horizon marked by an unexpected beauty and intimacy, which my poor projects could never have let me touch.
Stefano Tenti is pictured during a recent pilgrimage to Rome with young people from Reggio Emilia, the city where he lives and works with bishop Massimo Camisasca.