I happened to substitute Fr. Simone as the hospital chaplain in our neighbourhood for about ten days. The experience of being hospital chaplain educated me to being available: the phone rings when you least expect it and it is always clear that it is the Lord who is asking you to leave what you are doing and bring him a soul. Who knows if I will see the day when my response is immediate and total, without a crumb of resistance or complaint! The fact is that, as in the parable of the two brothers, even when I groaned a bit, I always ended up going. I found that I continuously came back to the house moved by the encounters that had happened. I will share the most beautiful one.
A girl calls me: her brother Vicente, 27 years old, is in the intensive care unit, in a state of semi-consciousness because of a brain tumour. She asks me to come and administer the anointing of the sick and to marry him to his fiancé. They have been living together for several years, even if they had decided, back when they lived in Venezuela, to get married in the Church. Then came the need to come live in Chile, sickness, many difficulties, everything delaying what they had decided. I remained perplexed, and said: to get married it is necessary that both spouses are conscious, they are the ones to administer the sacrament. I wanted to help the girl to understand my concerns, then I began moving towards the hospital thinking about administering the anointing of the sick. When I arrive to the room, I met the bride, Rosa. She is a very beautiful girl, of that beauty that comes from poverty and purity of heart. She has a serious disability that prevents her from walking with ease. I immediately understand that she has no pretensions: you can see that she is ready to receive whatever the Lord will decide. But what Hope! In her hand, she holds the wedding rings that she had just bought. We walk into the intensive care unit. I instantly recognize Vicente, he is the youngest. Behind millions of tubes and wires that surround him, he seems unconscious. We move closer, I say to him out loud: “Hi Vicente, I am Father Lorenzo. I have come to give you the Anointing of the Sick. The Lord does not forget anyone and today he has come to see you”. Vicente opens his eyes and looks at me. He is alive and present, but not able to speak. So I continue: “Rosa is here too, so we can also celebrate your marriage!” Vicente continues to look at me and grabs Rosa’s hand. I take it as a yes. Moved we begin to prepare for the ceremony. First of all, wedding attire: a sterile white coat, gloves and a mask. When we are ready, I call in a nurse who will be the witness together with Vicente’s sister. The ceremony begins. I begin with the Anointing of the Sick. Then, the rite of marriage. At the moment of the “yes”, Vicente stares intently at his bride and tightly clasps her hand. During the exchange of rings, I ask his permission to help put the ring on his brides hand. At the end of the exchange, he let go of Rosa’s hand and grabbed mine. He squeezed tightly. It was his way of saying thank you. Then he let go and took the hand that is now his forever. When the blessing had finished the whole care unit was filled with cheers. I turned around and noticed that his relatives and the nurses on duty had all assisted the ceremony. Everyone was very moved. I whisper to Vicente’s sister to leave the bride and groom alone to enjoy their honeymoon. Rosa was radiant. I have never seen two people more conscious of the fact that marriage is a gift, received in order to truly love each other through all of life. All of life, for Vicente and Rosa, lasted one week. Their wedding feast will be the definitive one, which will never end. During the funeral, inside Rosa’s excruciating pain, I also noticed her peace and gratitude to God. The Sacraments are something really great! They teach us that our desire is enough to receive the Lord and to allow him to operate in our lives. He then takes us by hand and assumes responsibility for the rest.
(Lorenzo Locatelli is assistant pastor of the parish of Beato Pietro Bonilli, in Santiago, Chile. In the photo, a moment from the parish summer camp.)