One hour before the Mass, the piazza was already full of young people with their mopeds and leather jackets. They pressed up around the coffin, yelling and taking selfies. Not far away, a police van arrived escorting the imprisoned brother and the family pushed against the police, trying to open the door of the van. Those working for the funeral service asked me to begin the Mass immediately, hoping to avoid any possible escalation. The sacristan encouraged me to return to hide in the sacristy in the case of a shooting. In this surreal setting, I could only see people who were lost, dazed by pain, by injustice, by the violence that had accompanied them since they were children. People who relieved themselves with tears and anger, because they did not have any words with which to speak with God, to entrust their pain to God.
I left the church to welcome the coffin: when they saw a priest, who was also foreign, wrapped in purple vestments, everything became silent. Taking advantage of the moment I transferred the attention to the mystery that we were celebrating: Nicolás’ return to the house of the Father, to the house he had entered the day of his baptism and then progressively separated himself from, the house that had not given up on being his definitive home and the place where the Father had been always waiting to reembrace him. At the very beginning of the funeral, there is a beautiful prayer that emphasizes the connection between baptism and death; following this prayer there is the aspersion. And so, with solemn gestures, I blessed the coffin abundantly and had a wave of emotion thinking about how much the Lord had desired to reembrace this son, and how he desired the same embrace for each of the kids present. From that moment forward, the ceremony took on a new dimension. Not because the friends had stopped opening the coffin and taking one last photo, but because there was respect and attention, in front of the presence of a mystery much greater.
After communion, the guards took the handcuffed brother to the coffin for a last greeting. As they proceeded from the back of the church up the aisle, everyone watched in silence. I waited for him at the coffin, I asked him his name and if he could receive communion. With downcast gaze, almost ashamed, he said no. I asked him if I could give him a blessing: this time he raised his face, then he thanked me. I blessed him, then hugged him and let him say his last goodbye to his brother.
The ceremony then quickly finished and all the teens began to swarm out of the church. There was a tumultuous river of mopeds and motorcycles, sounding their horns and accompanying their friend to the cemetery. By myself, in the silence of the church, I thought with gratitude for the beautiful fact that men and women still know that there is a home where someone awaits them and where they can always return, not only for a last goodbye.