This summer Chiara and I spent three weeks in St. Ambrose and St. Charles’ territory helping out with the summer camp at our priests’ parish in Milan. They were intense days of theater, games, songs, hikes, and prayer in the midst of a hundred kids, teens, and adults. Three weeks to contemplate a Christian proposal lived and desired down to the finest detail.
The brightest moments were those in which the kids let themselves be moved and started to follow what was proposed to them. The joy of the games, in fact, is always proportional to personal involvement, even more than ability or desire to play. It’s beautiful to see a team that’s about to be put to the test in archery cheer each other on! Or watch little kids throw themselves onto a wet tarp to chase after balls bigger than they are! Or to look after a boy that, instead of messing around, sits down to sharpen pencils so that everyone can color! In those who follow shines a light and a joy that an attentive gaze can’t miss.
I saw it happen when I became friends with some Chinese girls: they were so happy that they tried teaching me something in their language, like the numbers up to ten or the Chinese version of Frere Jacques. Among the attempts to learn and the laughter, I realized that two of them are daughters of non-Christian parents. I met them on the last day, during the send-off party where they watched their daughters play with a big smile. I asked them if they were happy that their daughters participated in the summer camp and they responded with simplicity: “they are happy”.
One day we went to Arona to visit the 35 meter colossal statue of St. Charles. While chatting with a girl, she asked me: “is it really true that those who do what God asks of them are happier?” Yes, it’s really true. Maybe it’s what, without knowing it, the parents of my little Chinese friends see when they recognize with simplicity and wonder the happiness in those who grow fond of the unexpected Christian proposal.
(In the photo, an afternoon at the Saint Charles’ parish Oratory at the Ca’ Granda in Milan)