I was finishing up college in Milan, and I had just made the decision to enter the seminary of the Fraternity. Just in that moment I was assaulted by a storm of doubt and fear that would not let me rest. I would be leaving behind my family, my affections, and my friends, and in exchange for what? Every certainty seemed to vanish. Precisely when all of these waves were about to get the better of my ship, I feel to my knees and turned with all of myself towards the mother of God. I pleaded with her, repeating: “Give me the force to respond to the vocation that your Son has given me, because I am not able to myself!”
Day after day, thanks to the recitation of the rosary, my intimacy with the mother of God grew. I was like a child who rediscovers the warmth of his mother’s embrace precisely because he returns to her in tears. While I was praying, I would return to the image of Mary as she searched desperately for her son amongst the crowds in the temple. I saw her as she had to face all of their relatives who would recount the bizarre behavior of her son, trying to lead her to understand, without much subtlety, that he was out of his mind. I saw them trying to convince her that it would be better for their whole family if she could just convince him to return to his respectable, pervious work as a carpenter. But, more than anything else, I contemplated Mary under the cross, when, even in the face of total darkness, she did not cease to repeat the “yes” that she had pronounced in front of the angel. The morning of the Annunciation, she had been filled with such a light that she had thought she would have never again experienced the obscurity of the darkness. In the same way, when Jesus invited me to follow Him with all of my self, I too had experienced a blessedness so strong that I was not able even to imagine that I would have had to pass through the dark night of abandonment.
Thanks to this experience, I discovered that it is impossible to remain faithful to one’s vocation without the help and guidance of Mary. I think of how many would not have strayed from their paths, if they had only entrusted themselves to her! Aware of this elementary truth of our faith, now I never fail to say the rosary. I recite it in the morning, during my time of silence; I recite it while I walk the streets of my neighborhood, while in the car or on the train, or while I am falling asleep at night. Now that I am pastor of a parish in Turin, it often happens that I am busy with the million tasks that the care of a community requires. Before much time passes, however, I feel the desire to reemerge myself in contemplation. When this happens, I leave the house, go to the path along the river Po, and, while walking, pray the rosary.
There, where the river peacefully flows by, there is a silence that fills you with memory. Through the Hail Mary’s that keep rhythm with the falling on my steps and the beating of my heart, I contemplate the life of Jesus, from His conception to His ascension. I never get tired of looking at Him. Many think that the rosary is simply a prayer of intercession; instead, hidden within its’ simplicity are real treasures of contemplation.
The more that life goes on, the more I thank the Madonna for the superabundance of graces that she rains down on me through her intercession. I burn with the desire that many of the wounded persons that I encounter might experience the sweetness and warmth that one feels in coming closer to the Mother of Heaven. I want to shout to everyone with the words of Saint Bernard: “If the winds of temptation swell, if you run into the reefs of tribulation, of uncertainty, of danger, of anguish, of doubt, then think of Mary, invoke Mary.”
photo: Turin (elisa – flickr.com)