Jazmín is fourteen years old. She likes to dance and spend time with her friends. She has a beautiful family, one that is still wounded by the suffering of her little sister’s death, which happened almost two years ago. Her mother and father faithfully participate in the life of a chapel in a village on the outskirts of Asunción. There, on Sundays, several families say the rosary. The idea is that, over the course of a year, the rosary is recited in each family’s house.
Not long ago, Jazmín’s mother asked the girl, “Daughter, it’s your birthday in December, we need to celebrate your quinceañera (the fifteenth birthday). Tell me who you would like to invite.” And she responded, “Given that you’re asking for the list of the people I’d like to invite, mama, I’d like anyone to come who would like to come.” A few days ago, Jazmín went to a quinceañera, and began to feel sick. Her parents picked her up from the party and brought her immediately to the doctor. They returned home, but she continued to be unwell. They spent days passing from one doctor to another, until her condition worsened, and they brought her to the emergency room of the hospital where they discovered that she has a serious heart condition.
In our parish we meet about a hundred young people each Saturday. One day, a group of them came to me asking that I pray for a friend who was seriously ill. This is how I came to know Jazmín. That same day, in fact, I went to visit her at the hospital and I had the chance to meet her family as well. I entered her room in the intensive care unit, and I prayed for her—she was in a coma. I also offered her the sacraments.
I returned to visit her the following Sunday. The doctor told me that her heart was failing. I administered the anointing of the sick to her another time. Then we prayed a rosary with her family and friends. The following day, Jazmín was still unwell but it seemed that she was getting better. The doctor began to nurture some hope. Each time that we opened the door of the room in which the girl was hospitalized, it was like a thorn in the heart of each of us who loves her, until the door opened to communicate to the family that Jazmín passed away. Immediately the question of “why?” arose. It was present in her parents, who had already passed through a painful road of loss, and her friends, who are also my friends, and continue to look at me waiting for an answer.
I asked the young people, “How did God act in these days?” They responded, “He remained silent and left us hope.” “So, let’s continue like this” I said to them.
A myriad of young people attended the funeral, whose tears and laments were so great that it was difficult to begin the mass. Jazmín’s father got up and declared, “Enough! Now let’s pray.” A great silence then descended on the mass and funeral.
Several days later, psychologists came to Jazmín’s school to help her classmates. One of them, fourteen years old, wrote to me saying: “Pato, how great is our friendship! How different it is to stay in front of suffering with the silence of God, in expectation of His response. Here, on the other hand, I want to respond to what, at its core, is a great mystery.”
Moved, I thought of my silence, as true as it is powerless. I understand that it was this girl, with her message, who was the first to receive the answer of God. Waiting together is the only possibility of staying in front of history. The problem of the great “why’s” is the problem of a friendship. To educate to this means to educate to the only hope that does not betray.
(Patricio Hacin, a priest since 2011, is the assistant pastor of San Rafael ad Asunción in Paraguay. In the photo above: a street on the outskirts of the city.)