The decisive encounter of my life happened during my first year of high school, when, during one of the first lessons of Religion, the teacher invited me to a gathering of students after school. They called it “Radius”. It was my first contact with a group of friends that engaged me, and brought out the most important questions that I carried in my heart, which we formulated together, guided by an adult who would try to respond.
A few months later, there were the first Easter Exercises, the Triduum retreat of GS students in Rimini. Listening to the words of Fr. Giorgio, I found something that profoundly corresponded. From that moment onwards, I never separated myself from that companionship. I was amongst thousands of kids my age, and yet I had a clear perception that the priest was speaking personally to me.
As I think about the years of high school, the only thing I can do is thank the Lord for having given me the possibility of meeting people who were real, people who loved me, and still love me, more than I knew how to love myself. The charitable work on Saturday, Radius, the School of Community, and the Mass, became fixed appointments in my week. I grew, thanks to the gaze on me that emanated a care for me, expressed in these questions: what will happen to him? What will be his destiny?
During my first year of law school, I had the same encounter as that I had experienced as a 14-year-old. Many friends engaged me in their lives. From morning prayer to studying together to pass our exams, from student elections to the tables that welcomed the incoming freshmen, from the militant selling of traces to our student bulletin, from relationships with our professors to the life lived in the apartment, together we experienced and affirmed a Presence in our lives. Thanks to these friends, I was continually being reminded to not take for granted what there was between us, the reason for our unity: Jesus Christ. With them I was called to respond to a question that provoked and changed me through the years: What sustains my life? In what do I find satisfaction? With time, in a discreet but decisive way, an intuition was confirmed in me: to give my whole life to the encounter I had had when I was young.
The student representation in university was a decisive experience for me. Going to the core of the reasons and also the difficulties of this activity, allowed me to discover the desire to live every relationship in truth and to its fullest. In this way, during the last year of university I decided to enter the seminary of my diocese in Chiavari.
It was a fundamental time for me, especially because it helped me to understand better my vocation. The friendships with those who walked with me, the presence of the superiors, the paternity of my Bishop, made me realize that I was called to priestly life within the Fraternity of St. Charles as a missionary. And so I arrived to Rome, and to the Fraternity.
A phrase by Mounier accompanied me in these years as a constant reminder, “It is from the earth, from a solidity, that, necessarily, a full part of joy derives, as well as the patient sentiment of the germinal work, of the steps that follow one another, which are awaited almost calmly, securely…It is necessary to suffer so that the truth not become crystallized into doctrine, but be born from the flesh.”
I am receiving the gift of the priesthood with great gratitude, aware that it is not a gift that I can guard jealously and keep to myself, but one that I must spend for the people that I will meet.
In the picture, Fr. Marco Vignolo at the celebration after the ordination.