I clearly remember the day when, sitting in a shabby bar in Milan, a couple told me that they wanted to get married and asked me to celebrate it. I knew the guy for many years and the woman only for a couple of weeks. That day was the beginning of a long journey and of a depth between them that I would have never predicted.
They explained to me, in fact, that there was a possibility that he could be affected by a severe hereditary sickness that could lead to his death. She was aware of this and did not think it was an objection to marriage.
At the beginning, their insensibility to this sickness struck me, but what struck me more was their beautiful availability. It was born from an intuition that what happened to them, the event of falling in love, could embrace their whole life and that this event, in the end, was greater.
We started to meet even if the logistics did not make it easier for us. They lived in Milan and I, in Rome. Because of this the meetings between us would have been very essential and true. Together we talked about the beauty of marriage and the task that is unfolded in the world: to be a piece in the kingdom of God, a piece of transfigured reality of His presence that makes Himself evident in the love of spouses.
At one point, we confronted the topic of his sickness. It was not easy because it required important decisions. First of all, if it was something that was needed to be known. It was possible to have a medical exam that revealed with certainty the presence or absence of the sickness. How many questions are born before such situations! Is it better to live in doubt or is it better to know and carry the weight of the answer? Is it possible to live without thinking about it?
One thing was clear from the beginning: one cannot confront this difficulty if not within the journey of faith that one lives. It is only then that the questions, little by little, are transformed while remaining dramatic: what does all of this have to do with the vocation of marriage? And what role does the sickness play if God calls us together for this task?
What impressed me was the seriousness with which they asked these questions, even with difficulty. I was intrigued to see the strength of communion. Knowing that they are together and are bounded by God forever allowed them to look at things that, alone, would be unbearable to look at. What happens to him has to do with both of them because their lives, in marriage, is marked by a common task that they receive. I was fascinated by seeing the strength of their prayers while they grew in their certainty that abandoning themselves to God, within the mysterious circumstances that they live in, is the way they can fulfill their vocation.
To abandon oneself to God with trust is extraordinary, dramatic, and beautiful. I saw it with my own eyes when they told me, trembling, “We have decided to have the medical exam.” It is the extraordinariness of faith that one can lean one’s life, with reasonableness, on Someone who is beyond one’s capacities.
The following months were marked by a continuous return to this posture of abandonment. Prayer, confession, and faithfulness of their friends were the way for them to stand before God who called and asked them to do something great. I followed their journey while feeling that I was also part of them and I rediscovered one of most beautiful part of being called to priesthood: sharing the destiny of those that God has entrusted to me. This was the content of my prayer in those suspenseful months: “Lord, please don’t let there be a sickness so that your glory can radiate. And if your glory must radiate through their sickness, give us the faith to carry what you ask of us.”
The day arrived when the results of the exam came out. There was fear and anxiety in them while the peace of their abandonment dominated them. I accompanied them from afar, sitting on the train. I was going back to Rome and reciting the rosary.
Then I received the call and the news: there was no sickness. He did not say a lot, as gratitude filled him with silence. Then, slowly, there emerged the most beautiful fruit of the journey that was lived in the previous months: the desire to continue to abandon oneself, having the availability of accepting what God asks, the desire to continue to lean on God for their marriage, that He fulfills what He has begun, according to His mysterious ways.
I am grateful for the possibility of serving the vocation of marriage so that its beauty radiates in the world, the beauty of two people called together to build the kingdom of God that has its beginning there where the heart abandons itself to God.
(Foto Leonora Giovanazzi)