My nonna had always said it, and she was sure. In a dream, in the early 80’s, Pope Paul VI revealed to hear that she would have had a granddaughter become a nun and a grandson become a priest. For her, who had been a friend of Pope Montini when he was still archbishop of Milan, it was a genuine prophecy. Some years later, in 1985, my cousin, Paola, entered the novitiate with the Franciscan Sisters of Egypt. My brother Marco, who is nine years older than me, was the only one to remember my nonna’s dream; he was scared that it would fall on him to become the priest! For this reason, when, in 2009, I told him that I would be entering the seminary, he recounted this little story to me. The “prophecy” of Paul VI seemed like it was about to be fulfilled!
Actually, I had never really had the thought about becoming a priest and my grandmother didn’t make it in time to put the idea in my head. I was educated in the faith by my family, by the community of my parish, and by the example of my aunts, uncles, and cousins. From a young age, I enjoyed praying, and, as I knew that Jesus and Mary always listened to me, I would often turn myself toward them in prayer. My teenage years were the most turbulent. Within these new difficulties that I was experiencing, my faith began to grow cold. Things started to go south at school. However, in those years, the closeness of my sister Laura and certain true friendships helped me to keep the desire for a fulfilled life alive. For this reason, when I began to study Engineering in Milan, an encounter with a classmate who belonged to Communion and Liberation was the spark that rekindled the flame.
With these new friends from the Movement, my life changed profoundly. Studying together, the School of Community, the songs, the vacations, the charitable work, and the involvement in the life of the university, all became roads that led to a singular center: Jesus Christ. Immediately after finishing my undergraduate degree, I decided to go for a Masters. Together with Marco, Simone, and the two Giovanni’s, I decided to do a year of Erasmus, studying abroad. We dreamt of going to Barcelona, but circumstances took us to Vienna. There, I met the Fraternity of St. Charles. Father Pepe Claveria, who was following the university students at the time, put us to work, so that our friendship might be at the service of those who were seeking Christ. It was a year of mission, in addition to a year of study. In Fr. Pepe, I encountered a friend and a father: I was struck by how certain he was of his vocation, totally given to God and to the Church without any compromises.
When I returned to Italy, 22 years old, I had very few clear ideas: I wanted to be a missionary, and wanted to live with my friends and for them, and I wanted to get married. At the same time, I had discovered a new availability towards life. I asked the Lord, “What do You want of me?” He wanted to give me a new idea immediately, that same summer at the Meeting of Rimini. One afternoon we went to visit the exhibit on the Italian resistance. The final part of the exhibition was dedicated to the life of Rolando Rivi, a seminarian from Reggio Emilia, martyred in the 1940’s by communist renegades. “I belong to Jesus”; this simple motto of Rolando’s summarized the whole life of this young man, so simple and in love with Christ, who dreamt of becoming a missionary priest. In that moment, for the first time and with a bit of emotion, I understood what God wanted of me. The next year, during the pilgrimage to Czestochowa, I asked the Blessed Mother to teach me how to say “yes”. On that occasion, I met Fr. Matteo Invernizi, who accompanied me in friendship during the journey of my time of discernment, and during all the years of formation.
In the seminary I got to know the Fraternity of St. Charles, and I understood that I had found the precious pearl buried in the field. Above all, I understood that I have been saved, sought, and converted by He who created me. In the friendship with my new brothers and thanks to the fatherhood of Fr. Massimo, the entirety of my existence found unity, so that now I can truly offer it to God. Nonna Nora, who is in heaven now, with be very happy!
In the picture, Davide Tonini during an encounter with an elementary school class in Mexico City, where he passed the year of his deaconate and where he will be assigned as a priest.