The Italian community in Moscow, of which I am the chaplain, didn’t always have a choir. Before, there was just Vilja who played and led the songs of the liturgy. Because of the education to beauty that I have received in the Movement and in the Fraternity of St. Charles, I was preoccupied with this lack of music. In addition to constant solicitations of the faithful for their availability to sing in the choir, I was also insistently asking the Good Lord for it. Therefore, I’m not exaggerating if I affirm that the small choir that was born here a few years ago is truly a gift from the Lord: its elements truly came out of the blue. Among them, one day, was Vera.
Sunday, I think in the spring of 2015, I approached the choir in order to confirm the songs for the Mass and I noticed a new face, a girl. I had already caught a glimpse of her, always seated, almost hidden, in the back of the church. From her appearance, I had gleaned that she wasn’t Italian. I greeted her quickly, asking what her name was and adding that I was happy that she had decided to sing with us. Vera was Russian but spoke Italian perfectly. I remember that in my heart, I sensed that she was a gift sent by God. But I could have never imagined the greatness, greater than that which I myself had been waiting for or could have dared to ask for. The irony of God!
One day she told me that she wanted to talk. I remember that she seemed afraid, with her stature that at first glance seems fragile. Today, knowing her, I know that her delicate figure hides a strong and determined soul. She told me that she wanted to be baptized. I asked her why, and why she had come to a Catholic priest, and, what’s more, to one from the Italian community. Quickly, with just a thread of voice, and in a rather nonlinear way, she told me about her atheist family, of a visit she had made years ago to the Catholic Church of St. Catherine, where she had mysteriously intuited the presence of God and finally felt at home, a sentiment that she had never felt up until that point. She confessed her doubts about the possibility of being baptized in the Catholic church, as she was Russian. I responded simply that her nationality wouldn’t have to determine her belonging to the Church and proposed a course of catechism, to verify the truthfulness of her desire.
Looking back on that moment, I see that my eyes, due to ignorance and superficiality, at that point had not seen well. Vera was like the deer that yearns for running waters, whose soul longs for God, thirsts for God, for the living God. Notwithstanding her sincerity, her fidelity and her intelligence, Vera had to wait for the encounter with the Church, with the People of God, in order to know herself, and to see the face of the Mystery that she had intuited and desired to encounter.
The meetings for catechism, which continue, have truly been a path walked together. I have been able to rediscover how the good Lord uses everything in order to attract to Himself those whom He desires. When Vera tells the story of her life, it is possible to see with one’s own eyes that the true protagonist of life is the Spirit of Jesus. Vera Sofia — her baptismal name — on the 19th of last March received the sacraments of Christian initiation during the Mass celebrated by His Excellence, Archbishop Paolo Pezzi, while visiting the Italian community of Moscow.
Often, I ask myself why God sent her to me, and what Christ is saying to me through this encounter. Certainly, He has communicated that His Spirit breathes where and how He wants. The man that I encounter carries within himself a mysterious story, which is already inhabited by Christ. Vera Sofia helped me understand anew that man is a profound mystery and that it is necessary to come into contact with him with infinite and trembling respect, like Moses before the burning bush. The Lord saw that Moses had come closer in order to see and called him from the bush and said: “Moses, Moses!” And he responded, “Here I am.” And the Lord continued: “Do not come close. Remove your sandals from your feet, because the ground on which you are standing is holy ground!”