Last week I went to Potma to visit the inmates. They were waiting for me, because it had been several months since I last went. I met a new prisoner who was 32 years old and had just arrived, a few days after his final sentence: twenty years imprisonment for drug smuggling. How painful it was to see him crying while telling me what he had done. “You know, father” he said, “I thought I was a strong man, a superman capable of fighting and winning in any situation. Now I know that it’s not like this. I discovered I’m fragile like everyone else. In these two and a half years I was in preventive detention, waiting for the sentence, I reflected a lot and reviewed my life, as in a film. How much evil I have done, and how many sins I’ve committed! All of this weighs on my heart like a mountain and I want to free myself of it.” Then he asked me to hear his confession.
At school, several weeks ago, at the end of classes, while I was preparing to return home, I saw a man at the end of the hallway. I didn’t know him, but I thought he might be the father of one of my former students, so I went near him to greet him. He later told me he was there because he was waiting for the son of a friend. He said he’d been living in Moscow for the past twenty-five years. He had opened a furniture company with his wife, made a huge turnover, and earned a lot of money. Then the crisis came, and the empire collapsed. With the company, he too had collapsed: he had become reactive, impatient, and cruel with his wife and children, causing separation. In a few minutes, he told me the evil he had done, the weight oppressing him.
I listened mute, without knowing what to say, because it was all happening in an unexpected way. But I knew for certain that I did not want to leave him without saying anything. So I stammered, “Remember that you are not the mistakes that you have made, even when they are serious. You are defined by something absolutely greater.” He didn’t understand, or perhaps he wanted to hear these words once again, and he said, “What are you saying?” And I responded, “All the evil you have done, all the mistakes and sins do not have the last word on your life. What defines you is the fact that you are loved by Him who is giving you life, now. For this reason, each moment is given to you so that you may begin again.” He was moved. Seeing the tears in his eyes, I too was overcome, and I went away amazed by what God works for the happiness of each of his children.
I could stutter these words, with some timidity and trembling, because I am certain of them through my experience.
I need to be loved by someone capable of freeing me from my miseries. I believe that the most terrible thing that can happen in the life of a man is not committing evil deeds, but instead, not knowing where to go to be forgiven, to start living again without being crushed by remorse of his sins. Through what happens to me, I understand that Christ heals my wounds by making me run into the wounds of others. He clarifies my need for Him through an encounter with lonely, needy people. It is striking to realize that, in belonging to Christ, reality is not static like an image but speaks to you. When we allow Christ to enter our lives, we understand fully that what is happening begins to become significant, as if it were another life.
In the photo, Giampiero Caruso (from the left), chaplain of the Italians in Russia, in Moscow, in a moment of singing.