After having dinner with a family, the rediscovery that we are not alone. A Presence accompanies us with a benevolent gaze upon us—of which often we aren’t aware.

Tuesday is one of the most tiring days in our parish. After the commitments of the weekend, all the urgent things to do accumulate. Generally, I wake up rearing to go in the morning, knowing that a busy day awaits me. But sometimes it seems like emergencies all make an appointment for the same time.  That Tuesday at 9.30, after saying mass, I already had to deal with the following, in this order: a broken pipe in the crypt of the church, a block in the parish theater’s electrical generator, and phone calls from the oratory about a problem in the gym. As if these were not enough, there were also countless emails to which I needed to respond. The afternoon also passed intensely, including meetings, appointments, and other emergencies. 7:00 PM arrives and I am destroyed.
The day, however, is not over yet: I have to see a family. They have two children, Fabio and Beatrice, both very blonde (the names in this article are made up). Fabio, 7 years old, attends catechism with us. As soon as I enter, the children assail me. I do not even have time to remove my jacket as they are already dragging me into the room, their parents watching helplessly.  I sit down on the couch and Fabio asks me to listen to his best keyboard pieces, from Jingle Bells (a bit out of season) to Sofià by Alvaro Soler.  Beatrice, 4 years old, does not want to be outdone and shows me first her multicolored magic wand, then how she learned to do a cartwheel and a somersault. Obviously, I appreciate everything and do not restrain my compliments. It is important for them to show me that they have talents. With difficulty, their parents show us to the dinner table. During dinner, Fabio and Beatrice repeat my name: “Fr. Paolo, look! Fr. Paolo, listen to my riddles!  Fr. Paolo, can I ask you a question? Fr. Paolo, I want to sit next to you!” They want my attention: I understand that I’ve been awaited all day. Enjoy yourself, the parents confirm.
After dinner, after one last joke, I get up to leave: the next day, another demanding day awaits me, including catechism lessons. In the meantime, the children have already gotten into their pajamas. They say goodbye at least ten times: Beatrice hides under the covers so she might be found and Fabio continues to give me high fives. He knows that tomorrow we will see each other again: now there is a special relationship between us.
As I go down the stairs of the house, I am surprised by a light feeling, a lack of weariness. All of the day’s exhaustion has practically vanished. My head seems to be more free.  And while I’m walking down the road toward the parish, I understand why.  Asking for my attention, pulling me by my jacket, those children taught me that I too need someone to notice me.  So I think back to how the day went: the entire time, my efforts were under the benevolent gaze of God and I had not noticed it.  Now, becoming aware of this fact gives me peace and serenity.  That which exhausts us the most are not the unexpected things that happen or our fatigue, but rather the fear that nobody is aware of us, that nobody appreciates what we do, that our sacrifices are in vain.
Fabio and Beatrice reminded me that we are not in front of nothingness but in front of God, the only one capable of loving with infinite depth our efforts, our intelligence, our passion and even our obedience to daily work.

 

Paolo Pietroluongo is parochial vicar at St. Giulia’s parish in Turin. In the photo, he is pictured with several young people during an event called «Maggio in Oratorio», organized by the parish of St. Giulia in Turin, with moments dedicated to sports, music, and culture. Information: www.maggioinoratorio.it.

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