As Christmas approaches, the nostalgic memory of family and distant friends grows stronger, and so I thought of writing to tell you all a little of what the Lord has been giving me in the past few months.
November marked the end of the first period of my mission in Santiago, dedicated above all to the study of the language and history of Chile. Together with John, I moved to our Parish of St. Bernard, in the southern outskirts of the city, to work with Fr. Alessandro and Fr. Stefano, who have been living there for two years now. On the same evening that we arrived, the entire parochial community gathered together to celebrate the inaugural mass of the month of Mary. In fact, in Chile the month from the 8th of November to the 8th of December is dedicated to the Virgin (what we in Italy celebrate in May). Here she is recognized by all as an affectionate mother who is always present, and, from early childhood on, children are taught to venerate her with particular devotion.
The celebration also foresaw a ceremony of welcome for Giovanni, an eight-year old altar server. After the homily, Fr. Alessandro called him by name and asked him whether he was willing to commit to serve at the altar and to a true friendship with Jesus. Right away, the young boy, with a luminous gaze and a firm voice, replied three times: “I promise”. A couple of feet behind him stood his father, mother, and younger sister. Although he stood alone, his voice was sure. It was a response born from the depths of the heart, which resounded before the whole community, before the whole Church, like the word of a man. As he put on his new vestments and a cross which had been blessed, and took his seat in the presbytery beside the other ministers of the altar, his face was glowing. In that moment, Giovanni was taking his first steps towards a new life: his family was there with him, but his place was beginning to be another, and you could see great pride and happiness in the eyes of his parents. I am struck by how even an eight year old child can say his “yes” to Jesus with all of himself.
During the following Sundays, I had the opportunity to get to know this child well because he often accompanied me as I celebrated mass, both of us first-timers and a bit clumsy, me with my Spanish, and he with the vessels for the water and the wine! The joy that I always see on his face when he serves at the altar helps me greatly, because it reminds me that the possibility of saying “yes” to Jesus with all of ourselves is the only thing that satisfies in life. Fortunately there is the Church: a company which invites you to take your place before your brothers and to make a commitment to a particular service for your whole life. Little does it matter whether it means starting a family, dedicating yourself to charity, to prayer, to the priesthood… What matters is that we say our “yes” and allow that God make it flourish according to his timing and ways.
In the picture, the youth of Santiago del Chile on a hike.
Fr. Matteo Invernizzi, after many years working at the General Council of the Fraternity of St. Charles in Rome, is today in mission in Chile. In this letter, written a few days before Christmas, he describes his first months in mission.