The road that fulfills our life

An injustice suffered becomes an occasion for a path of grace and forgiveness. A story from Taiwan.

Simone Valentini during a moment of games and songs with the community.

It was 9:30 in the evening, a Saturday in February; I’ve recently become pastor of the church of St. Francis Xavier in Taishan, in the parish area where we five missionaries of the house of Taiwan live. The doorbell sounded and I heard a man’s voice who, speaking Chinese with a foreign accent, asked to enter the church. Here in Taiwan it is rather unusual that someone asks to pray in the church at that hour. I went down the stairs to open; the visitor was an Asian man, about 35 years old, tall, with a profound gaze and a distraught look on his face. It seemed like he had been crying. I let him into the church and, a little bit wary, I also sat down on a pew that was fairly close to him, to say the rosary.  I was curious to know how he had come to be at our little parish, hidden in the middle of a traditional market.

A few minutes passed and the man began to ask me questions on faith and on the forgiveness of God. Then he told me that he had just received a communication from the Taiwanese police: he had been charged for a crime he did not commit. The tears began to flow again and he told me about his life. He came from Korea; his name is Paul and he was in Taiwan as a tourist when, because of this accusation, he found himself blocked on the island for at least six months. His family is Protestant but he, during his years of military service, encountered Catholicism and was baptized.

After this, he lived and worked in China for about a decade. Paul knows the person who accused him and at that moment, he told me about his anger. Then he asked if he could pray in silence. I decided to leave him alone: before going, I reminded him that God loves him and that, in this church, he would find a home that would welcome him every time he wanted. The day after, he returned and he kept coming back in the next few days. After going to confession, he continued being faithful to the Mass. Then, having heard that catechism for adults had begun, he asked to participate, in order to deepen the faith that he had fallen away from.

The drama of injustice obligated him to face the difficulty of forgiveness

In the meanwhile, a few parishioners who participate in the School of Community invited him and he, with enthusiasm, threw himself into the reading, in Japanese and in Chinese, of the Religious Sense.

In him, the rediscovery of the faith went hand in hand with a greater awareness of himself and with an abandonment to God. His dramatic situation and the precarity of the future from the judicial point of view made every instant of his life more important. He has told me many times, in the many conversations we have had in these months, that he no longer wanted to waste “even a minute of his life.” The drama of injustice obligated him to face the difficulty of forgiveness and of impotence before the evil suffered. This dramatic experience was for him an occasion to reestablish a relationship with Go, to rediscover his sonship and a belonging. In the months of catechism, even though he had already received baptism, Paul was always the most faithful; his desire to know the faith arrived even to the decision to receive Confirmation on the day of our parish feast, December 3rd. In the first months as pastor, the path of Paul was a grace that accompanied me as a promise: the companionship of Christ, at time, passes through dramatic events, bringing with them sadness and suffering, but within the personal story of each person, these events are the way that Christ radically changes our lives to render them full of meaning. In Taiwan, in the parish of St. Francis Xavier, Paul found a home because he found Christ and a community of friends who welcomed him. This changed his life to the point of wanting to continue to live in Taiwan, even after things were sorted out and he could have chosen to return to Korea. I do not know who his judicial episode will finish but the certainty that we have, he and I, is that Christ will find a way to fulfill our lives.

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