[Province of San Vincenzo – Italy] What can be done so that Confirmation does not become the last stage on the path of faith? How to transmit the passion for Christ to the boys? How can we show that a life without God is empty, sad, without horizon? These are some of the questions that haunt us every day. One who has encountered Christ, who experiences His love cannot hold it for oneself but wants to show it and give him to the world. St. Vincent always said, “It is not enough to me to love God if my neighbor does not love him” . But can we help the boys to love God? Benedict XVI reminds us in Deus Caritas est that “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”
This belief has driven us to promote “Charity Saturdays.” Started with our former students, they were then proposed to the post-confirmation groups and to students of the secondary school of a parish; now five parishes of the Diocese of La Spezia collaborate. Many of these kids, former students, did not attend the parish but are still tied to the Daughters of Charity and then continue the training even if school is finished.
What are we doing on “Charity Saturdays”? In the School of the Daughters of Charity we meet the boys every 15 days. First they play, dialogue and snack together. After the prayer begins the “service to the poor.” Actually we do not like to call them “poor”, those who have experienced it know it: who is poorer: the giver or the recipient? So we prefer to call them “brothers”, “friends” … After the prayer, “we go out on the streets” and while the older boys, in small groups are sent on home visits to the “grandparents”, elderly people living alone, and some families in difficulties for the delivery of the package food, younger boys of “post-confirmation” start their way through the streets of downtown.
We can sum up this experience in five steps:
1. SEARCH. The boys are encouraged to look up and look for those in need.
2. BENDING. What is given from above, cannot turn into love!
3. ASK PERMISSION. We search, we get closer, we kneel and after greeting them we ask them if they want a bag with a small snack. In asking this, actually we want to ask them if they agree to meet
4. LOOK IN THE EYES. Here, if the answer is yes, the encounter takes place. It is the most beautiful and exciting moment. It is the moment in which the profession of faith happens, “It’s you, Jesus, I see you, I feel you.”
5. LETTING TRANSFORM. The meeting with these brothers or sisters cannot leave us as before. If it does not, it means that the meeting did not happen! Those who meet the “poor” cannot see Jesus immediately. The boys discover, however, that the more they open the heart to the people in front of them, the more their life slowly transforms.
On this point we would like to report the voice of the boys:
- Something has changed in me because by doing good to the people you get the joy of having helped someone.
- I have acquired the knowledge that there is always someone who is worse off than me.
- It has changed my way to see the world: now I look through different eyes.
- I understand the meaning of poverty, sacrifice, and that you can live without all the things we have.
- Since then, nothing embarrasses me anymore.
- After I met them, I put more effort into things that I do.
- Meeting the poor made more aware of my actions and my choices .
- I know I’m lucky to have friends because in their eyes I noticed loneliness.
- I am less impulsive and more respectful towards others .
- I realized that I have to learn to be less superficial .
- This experience gives me not only joy but also helped me to overcome shyness I had, and makes me realize that helping the poor is a really important thing .
When we go back, “Charity Saturdays” continues with a training time in the Church. Then we eat pizza and we play together. This is a point of strength because it responds to the need, very strong at this age, to speak, to be heard and above all to be together. There is a “SUNDAY CHARITY” once a month.
St Vincent transmitted this to us and we want to repeat it to you: he understood that God was waiting for him not in the books or in ecstatic contemplation, or in the silence of a monastery but He was waiting for him in humans: in the small, the poor, the prisoner, in the stranger, the sick, the sinner and every person who is poor of love, in need of God himself. Also we found it there. Each of us has a place where the Lord awaits us; what allows us to find Him is His desire and the desire to search, bend, ask permission, look into the eyes and be transformed.
The Daughters of Charity of La Spezia