Thursday, April 07, 2005

FRIENDS IN ROME...

[BARB Notes - A friend of mine happens to be in Rome in these days. She is sending us some lovely reports of the action on the ground. Here's one of her messages...]

Hello from Rome, in this, indeed, historical moment!

Yesterday was a 12 hour wait in a line winding down the Via della Consolazione, across the Tevere, down Via Vittorio Emmanuale, and on and on....all was calm, with a spirit of reciprocal concern and solidarity.

A small gesture, but significant - a teen's brand new parka lost and carefully tied to an umbrella held high in the hopes that the young owner could find it again; and as the early morning hours drew near, a "race" in who could be first to offer a square of ground space to the older pilgrims and to the very young - small "acts of love" along the way, that describe the climate here. Often without words to communicate (one is surrounded by the lively chatter of 100's of languages), gestures make all the difference: they are ones of kindness, of people striving, in many cases, to be the first to love. We feel, in a certain sense, "at home", "with family" - a beautiful family, where differences of country, race, religion, age or culture only accennuate the beauty of its universality. The fatigued endured of 12 - 15 hours standing, dissipates....

Then, the entrance into St Peter's Square: illuminated as the "Eternal Day" unfolding in the midst of a very dark night. It's spectacular and only the constant flow of people surrounding you, gives you courage to move on. At once we are all together, rooted firmly in present, with an unexpressable desire not to be moved, spiritually, from this immersion into a world of light.

And then we entered through that ancient door - everything was suddenly calm and silent. We continued our walk forward, conscious of the sacredness of the moment. We passed close to JPII and, suddenly, it was harder than ever not to imagine him lifting his arm to us, with that smile, that twinkle in eyes, encompassing us in one final blessing. However it seemed to us to be his silence, after leaving us an enormous volume of words and images, that cried out hope in the unity of the human family!

His immobility in death speaks more strongly than ever to his openness to suffering and to the pain of others. Reflecting on this,I am reminded of his words following the attempt on his life and after repeated surgeries. He entitled his letter "Salvifici doloris" (1984) - (my own rough translation)

"How can we speak of a suffering that saves us? Is not suffering an obstacle to happiness and a motive for abbandoning God? Without a doubt there exists tribulations, from a human point of view, that seem to be deprived of any meaning. In reality, if Jesus, the Word incarnate, proclamed: "Blessed are the afflicted", it is because there exists a higher point of view, that of God, who calls everyone to life and, although through suffering and death, to His Kingdom of love and peace. Happy is the person who can shine forth the light of God while immersed in the poverty of a life that has suffered and has been diminished!"...

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