There are many children who attend our catechism here in Alverca, and it is wonderful to see them all lined-up for the 11 o’clock Mass. Our tradition is to begin the year with a hike guided by Fr. Giovanni Musazzi, in the hills that surround Alverca. On the morning of Sunday, October 9th, there was an extremely clear sky: one was able to see the estuary of the river Tago all the way to the Bridge of Vasco de Gama, which extends across the whole of the bay of Lisbon. With us that day was Luis, a nine year old boy whom I had never seen before. While we were hiking down the mountain, he approached me, outfitted with his white baseball cap and a streak of chocolate on his cheek. “What class of catechism are you in?” I ask. “Cate-what?” “Catechism…at the parish…you know, the school where you learn about the life of Jesus.” With a look of stupor, he posed me a question, point-blank: “But are we all children of God? Even the ones who don’t ever go to church?”
Luis recounted to me that he had participated in the Mass that morning for the first time in his life. He had never learned anything about God and was full of questions. Now he had found in me an interlocutor who would listen to him. “Who is God? If he stays in heaven, why doesn’t he fall? How was he born if He doesn’t have a mommy and a daddy?” I began to speak to him about the creation story, about Adam and Eve, about the Garden of Eden. He kept looking at me with a gaze of augmenting surprise. “I can’t believe it, that God created the earth…That means you and I are brothers because our great-great-great grandfather was Adam?” After that, he began with a second line of questioning on heaven and hell. “When you die, where do you go? You go to heaven if you are good? In that case, heaven is full of policemen and hell is full of robbers.” I responded to him that the people who go to heaven are the friends of Jesus. With that, Luis began the third assault of questions. “Why was Jesus all that special? Did he do magic-tricks? What did bad things did he do to get himself killed? Couldn’t he have not died if he was as powerful as he was?” We stop in the middle of the woods, and I begin to tell him about the Resurrection, about the apostles who then told everyone that Jesus was God, and about the fact that that this news had arrived all the way to our times in which the Pope, the bishops and the priests guide the Church, which is the group of Jesus’ friends. Luis looked up at me and exclaimed, “The Pope? I know him! He is that guy dressed in white, who’s standing at the bar of the Church! But do you want to become a priest so that you can be the best friend of Jesus?”
He couldn’t have given a better definition. As we finished our hike and arrived at the parking-lot, it was my turn to pose him a question: “Luis, do you want to be a friend of God as well?” “Of course I want to! It must be beautiful to be a friend of God!”
The hike with a group of parishoners, guided by Fr. Giovanni Musazzi.