43rd NATIONAL REMEMBRANCE DAY FOR LIFE – FEBRUARY 7TH 2021
This day for life is a national day of remembrance in Italy and is of course especially celebrated in the church.
For some time now, our convent has been going to the nearby parish church of St. Francis for Holy Mass on Sundays. It is run by a convention of Piarist Priests. Also on this February 7th we were there for Holy Mass and the priest of the parish, Padre Stefano, naturally also addressed this topic in his sermon. It touched us very much and I would like to share a few thoughts about it with you.
Fr. Stefano began his sermon by reminding us that Christian life also has a prophetic dimension. This dimension does not mean to predict things of the future, but to say the word of God into our present time and above all to live it. He made this clear with two examples from his time as a priest in the Ivory Coast, a country in West Africa. He saw the first example around 2003. He received a call from a catechist. French is spoken in the Ivory Coast, and the catechist spoke French too, if not a good one. Father Stefano could hardly understand him. But the catechist called several times and so the priest realized that it was urgent and therefore went on his way to see what it was about. He came to a small village and the catechist received him with a small, newborn child. This child had given birth to a Muslim woman, but it was not her husband’s child. According to Muslim law, such a child could not stay in the family and it was a lot that she was allowed to give birth. It had been brought to the catechist in several detours. But what should happen to the child now? Fr. Stefano first brought the child to a medical examination to make sure that it was healthy. Of course, word of this had got around and a young woman answered who was ready to take care of the child. Fr. Stefano and the catechist then spoke to the family to see if they agreed. They were it. But not only did they agree to this, but in the near future some family members contacted Fr. Stefano with the wish to become Christians. She had been impressed by the commitment of the priest and the catechist. Not only was a teaching proclaimed here, such as the preciousness of human life, but it was lived convincingly in everyday life.
He saw the second example years later, in 2011, when civil war broke out in the country. The mission station of the Fathers was exactly between the fronts, i.e. between the government troops and the rebels. There was shooting and the people in the area were afraid and sought protection at the mission station, among other things. They came in droves and soon there was no more space. In this tense situation, Fr. Stefano called the bishop and asked him whether it was possible that people could sleep in the church, otherwise they would have no more space. There were over a thousand people. So the church became a place to sleep for those seeking protection. Among these people was a young, heavily pregnant woman and the time of childbirth came for her. What now? Fr. Stefano acted quickly and took her to the nearest hospital. But this was closed in these troubled times. So he drove back to the mission station. There they tried to prepare a small, protected and separated room for this woman. She gave birth to a healthy girl without complications. This woman was also a Muslim. But after the birth she also asked to be allowed to become a Christian, because the selfless commitment of the Father had convinced her that the God of Christians is really a philanthropic God, to whom the life of every person is precious, regardless of his religion, his Gender or race and nation.
Fr. Stefano ended his sermon with the call to all of us that we, as Christians, must take this prophetic dimension of our lives seriously and how important it is not to preach catechesis in words but to live it convincingly and authentically in everyday life.
Sr. M. Petra