Marked by no less than three occasions of mourning and death in the last couple of weeks, the Fraternity of St. Charles feels the urgent invitation of this Gospel as directly addressed to itself, as well as to all who hear it: be ready. “Be ready” is not an exhortation to anxiety. Nor is it a discriminating message. It is a realistic message. In fact, we know the beginning of our life, but we cannot know the end; we know neither the time at which nor, above all, the way in which our life will end. And, therefore, we must be ready. Don Sandro was a singular example of this. In fact, all of the meetings that we were able to have in these last few months showed that this message was at the core of his soul, both in moments of serenity – which were the majority – and in the comprehensible moments of disturbance. He was preparing himself for God. God granted him a long time to prepare himself. We ask that this same time of preparation should also be granted to us. It must happen every day because every day we are put in front of the mystery of life and death, of good and of evil. Every day, we must say “yes” to God who calls us. Let us prepare ourselves joyfully, with lightness; let us prepare ourselves while remaining certain that all of the good that was given to us and that we have lived will not be taken away from us, but will only increase. Let us prepare ourselves for the encounter of joy and of communion. Let us prepare ourselves for the light.
When a priest dies – allow me to say this with more awareness that I had a year ago, having accompanied dozens of priests to their death now – he does not arrive in heaven by himself, but carries with him an infinity of existences. He carries all those who passed through his life, in one way or another: those he knew for a long or a brief time, those encountered in a single confession or accompanied in an intense friendship, those he stayed with in a moment of prayer or on an outing, those he came near due to a help given or received. The life of a priest is a crossroads at which many needy persons stop, many, many seekers of light.
Every time that a priest goes up to heaven, he brings with himself, in a renewed way, these lives, these expectations, these questions, these supplications, these dramas, these discoveries. And in this way, the world is renewed. The love of a priest does not end in death, but, rather, continues with even more intensity, with even more depth. Because now he sees. He sees that which he was not able to see before. And he knows that which, before, he was not able to know.
Don Sandro was an intelligent and curious man. He was gifted with an intelligence that came from his passion for beauty, which was rooted in the technical and graphical studies that he had done in a Salesian school. These passions, then, accompanied him for his whole life, in the diocese of Grosseto, where he was director of Cultural Heritage and a teacher of art at the Institute of Religious Sciences. He was a man, above all, curious about humanity, about the humanity of others.
We thank God for all that Don Sandro brought to the Church, for all that he has given to us, for all that he has given to the infinite number of persons that he encountered.
Let us pray, certain that we will find him in heaven where we will all be young again. St. Augustine wrote that in Heaven, we will all be thirty-years-old, and, thus, at the peak of our energies and in the prime of our features. For that reason, today, besides certainly being a day of silence and sadness, is also a day of joy, which anticipates, by the grace of God, the final encounter that we will have with those whom we love.
(Extract of the homily for the funeral of Fr. Sandro Spinelli, Church of Mezzolombardo (Tn), April 19, 2021)