I want to tell you the story of Carmen (a fictional name), because through her, I learned to not fear sacrifice. Not only the sacrifice that I have to live but, even more, the sacrifice that, as a priest, I am called to ask of those who want to follow Christ. In order to speak about Carmen’s flourishing in the last months, I need to go back to the beginning. I met this young woman around ten years ago, when I invited her to come to the School of Community. From the very start, I was impressed by the intelligence and openness with which she prepared for this gesture. It was as if she had finally encountered the fountain at which she could quench her desire to live the faith. Thinking about it now, you could say that from the very beginning she was able to display something of her true personality: complete simplicity in following Christ, the capacity to not put anything before her desire to follow Him.
Through the years, my awareness of her deep wounds grew: a long, very possessive, affective relationship that had ended badly; a profound delusion towards work where she continuously struggles in an environment without scruples; a difficult family situation and conflict between her parents.
In the middle of all this confusion, there was now the certainty of having encountered Christ and friends who were walking together. As a result of this encounter, Carmen decided to receive the sacrament of Confirmation. Going back to her parish, she found a welcoming environment and, after her Confirmation, she decided to help out as a catechist. The relationship with the young parish priest, who was also her Confirmation sponsor, was growing.
Unfortunately, this relationship began to founder. When Carmen told me the details, I advised her to move away from him, for the good of both of them and their vocations, even though I knew that this would be a very painful step for her to take. I was sustained by the certainty that it was the right decision for both of them and by the hope that God would not abandon her.
A few years later, Carmen came across another man whom she had known for a long time. He was very good to her and they decided to get married. Their advanced age made the possibility of having children very difficult, but on this occasion too, Carmen decided to trust the Church and denied in-vitro fertilization. Her husband also made a 15 kilometer pilgrimage by foot to the Basilica of Guadalupe to ask Our Lady for the grace of a child. When everything seemed lost, she found out she was pregnant. The baby was born in the middle of the pandemic, but he was very healthy.
The story of Carmen, and now her husband as well, has allowed me to see up close the greatness contained in sacrifice. I have understood that when sacrifice is accepted as part of our path towards the fulfillment of our life in Christ, it can make people blossom, even when they are in the middle of great difficulties. In a world in which the sacrifice that Christ and the Church ask no longer seems to have any value, the simple trust of Carmen and the birth of her son for me are a sign of hope: Christ walks with his people.
(Fr. Roberto Zocco is Professor of Philosophy at the Instituto Tecnologico Autonomo de Mexico, in Mexico City)