The historical-mystical aspect of the charism, is naturally based on the root of your Blessed Foundress.

Fr. Giovanni Scarabelli

Let me start with a demand that Fr. Divo Barsotti used to express, whenever he accepted to talk about a certain saintly personality, a blessed or a servant of God – whom he certainly knew but whose milieu was unknown to him. He always asked, at least a day before, to have a guide who would lead him to the places where the person he would talk about had lived. Why? He had this profound conviction—and I heard it personally many times—that even the place where a person lived, somehow determines the person’s spirituality, and, in some way, the same person absorbs the spirituality of the place, reciprocally influencing each other. When he then delivered a famous conference at the University of Brescia on Annunciata Asteria Cocchetti, it turned out to be a hymn in which one evidently felt the reflection of the Valle Camonica.

The first aspect, therefore, that I want to highlight is this: go to Lucca! Whoever has not been there, go! Because it is in Lucca, it is also in that place where your religious family was born, that you can understand the personality and the charism of the Foundress with remarkable force. Lucca, towards the end of the ‘700, and the beginning of the ‘800, was a city-state, closed, totally closed within the walls; a city defined as “civilized.”  This definition might sound strange to you, but if we make reference to the unruly, so to say, city of Viareggio or to the quite shattered style of the other cities of Tuscany, Lucca—even popularly—has a language and a way of behaving truly civilized, which educates to fineness. It is part of the environment. The whole complex of the city of Lucca expresses remarkable harmony. This is the reason why such an environment, away from the big busy streets, from current communications systems, but the heir of a trade tradition that kept it in the European domain, has its importance. In Belgium, I found some paintings of the Holy Face of Lucca. In Camaiore, which is just a small town, there is one of the greatest Flemish work of art: the Cenacle by Pieter de Pannemaker, of the year 1515. This is simply to say that the walls which enclose the city did not close the minds, but allowed the preservation of that fineness and also of that reserved manner that became characteristics of Maria Domenica. Reservedly, in the beginning, she used to visit indigent sick women at night – at high storeys and in the attics. Lucca is not a closed city, but it was opened to the European flows so much so that it had Swiss guards, more or less like the Vatican. We all know that Maria Domenica’s father came from Switzerland… What I try to say is this: these elements enter into the formation of Maria Domenica’s personality. I invite you once again: go to Lucca to breathe that environment, which will make you better understand the personality and the spirituality of the Foundress, so as not to lose also, absolutely never lose, the roots of your religious family. This need is not out of a nationalistic claim but for the sake of a spiritual identity.

I often asked myself (I am adding a new element), thinking of the Dorotea Sisters of Cemmo, but this is also true for you: “Why is it that the charism of the foundation was, and still is, so widely welcomed in countries which can hardly reach the levels of development that are typical of the north of the world, that is Europe, North America, etc.?” It is because they correspond to the environment of the origins. And as the charism was prolific in the setting of the origins, it is similarly prolific in the ambiance that is similar to that of the origins. This is aside from the internal value of the charism itself, “you will always have the poor with you”, the sick will always be present in our midst. I just came back from a pilgrimage to Lourdes between 1 to 6 of May and it is always a deeply moving experience to see such a crowd of sick people. This year we had 1500 of them just in our pilgrimage; we alone filled up the St. Pius Xbasilica. But what is touching even more – and here is where your charism is well identified in all its richness – is not only this world of suffering, of pain and hope, but it is that whole hidden world of sorrow and psychological and moral suffering which comes from sin or from difficult situations lived by those who come to serve. I tell you sincerely that very often, during these thirty years of pilgrimages to Lourdes, it happened that I have to give more attention to the service personnel than to the sick. At times the needs of those assisting were greater than the needs of those who were assisted.

Charism is about persons, not about diseases. I reiterate: charism is about the person. And the person is to be welcomed, to be approached; and he/she is to be accepted in all his/her demands. Not by chance does Maria Domenica combines the assistance to the indigent sick women, assistance and attention to the disease, with the spiritual assistance to the person who is scarred by the limitations of the disease. Therefore, it is important always to keep this in mind: it is the person who at that moment has a health limitation, but it is always the person. Here allow me to mention my experience in the organization of “Misericordia” [a Confraternity dedicated in assisting the poor and the afflicted and in giving dignified burial to the dead]. Whenever I speak to volunteers in their formation courses – volunteers who are so much taken up by the thought of “flying” in ambulance –  I use to say: “Pay attention, because the problem of someone who met an accident is not the fact that he broke his leg, or that he bumped his head, etc.: this is what is seen externally and which needs immediate assistance. But when that person screams, he screams not only for the pain but also because that accident puts him in unknown hands: who knew him before? And who will see him later? Held by strangers! He is totally cut off from his ordinary environment and his projects. This is just to say that the scream expresses the anguish of loneliness, more than the pain for the wounded leg, fractured arm or the head that bumped. Therefore, it is true that we must intervene professionally on the emergency of the accident, but we need to spend ten seconds to take his hands and say: “Do not worry; give me a phone number and I will take care of communications.” Something which never happens, instead what is often said is: “Those in-charge of the emergency room will take care of it.” To be a member of the “Misericordia” means knowing how to spare those ten seconds which say: the emergency is understood in its human and personal depth and is not an exclusively physiological matter. We have before us a person, not a “clinical case”. In this regard, there would be interesting experiences to mention, like the one I had when I went for CT Scan of slipped disc. As agreed – the sisters were still at the old hospital in Viareggio – I arrived at the time I was asked to be at the ambulance. They had told me: “Come with the ambulance because you are still confined, etc.” I obeyed in everything and the sister told the head physician of the ward: “Here is Fr. Scarabelli who needs to have that CT Scan.” He responded, “Ah, yes, give me chart no. 14.” That’s it: chart no. 14. I do not expect any privilege, but I expect not to be chart no. 14. This is simply to understand since we are talking about the charism.

And so – I am finally entering the topic – the fundamental question is: through which experiences does Maria Domenica get to the charism? I will follow not a chronological order but an order founded on the history of Maria Domenica, a theological and logical order.

I do not absolutely believe that it was by chance that the official foundation happened in the church of the Most Holy Trinity, because the experience of the Most Holy Trinity is the fundamental theological venue of the charism. What is the Most Holy Trinity, whose feast we have celebrated in a particular manner eight days ago? It is the revelation of a total love; it is the revelation of a total love. Here I would even want to say that this reality of the Most Holy Trinity is so radical in Its identity that It cannot be confused either with Jahweh or with Allah, in spite of those who believe otherwise. The Most Holy Trinity is, in Itself and for those who participate in It, for those who enter It, the experience of a total love in the dimension of paternity and filiation. I beg you to keep in mind the adjectives that I’m using, because they all qualify the experience of Maria Domenica which merge into the charism. Therefore, the place where Maria Domenica  sets herself is the experience of the Most Holy Trinity, paternal and filial love.

The second step – you have it also in the chapel – is Our Lady of Sorrows. What type of experience does she represent? That of maternal love! Once again, a total love but this time, in motherhood. A love so complete in motherhood that it assumes a universal value, going even beyond those of natural bonds with the Son, because she participates in the sacrifice of her Son. This, then, is the totality of the love of our Lady of Sorrows. Her love for humanity is so great that it moves her to participate in the sacrifice of her Son. It is a motherhood without boundaries, almost “unnatural”, I would say, because natural motherhood would have brought Mary to defend her Son, the way a lioness would defend her young, if only to save his life.  Instead, it is precisely that of a humble servant – “May it happen to me as you have said” – this full insertion in the Most Holy Trinity, that brings her to the maturing of a total love similar to that of the Most Holy Trinity, so much so as to share in the sacrifice of the Son. This is the maternal love that Maria Domenica assumes in an exemplary manner in the first association in which she participates, an association that, not by chance, was placed under the patronage of the Blessed Sorrowful Virgin. Let us understand it well: up to this point, there is no big difference with respect to the whole spirituality of the 1800s in which Maria Domenica lived and which was one of the most significant expressions then. The 1800 is characterized precisely by the Crucifix and Our Lady of Sorrows.

However, there is a further step. We have seen:

  • the founding experience of the Trinity – paternal and filial love
  • the experience of Our Lady of Sorrows – maternal love

We all know very well that Maria Domenica got married and, therefore, to the experience of total love expressed until now, we also add the adjective “conjugal” – paternal, filial, maternal, conjugal. You might say, “We, therefore, venerable daughters of Domenica Barbantini, betray her if we do not marry first, then kill our husband so that we become widows and then we become sisters.”  Obviously, no!  Because what matters is not so much the natural conjugal experience as the conjugal spirit that characterizes a matrimony. It is being “united with” the other in an indissoluble manner. Here then is the conjugal experience in the charism, making it an unalterable, unfailing, indissoluble experience of union with the sick, with the person of the sick who is in particular spiritual, intellectual and physical need. Your relationship is the relationship with the sick experienced in terms of conjugal love. The mystical experiences of St. Catherine of Siena with the spouse in the “Mystical Betrothal”, etc., Maria Domenica experiences them not only in reference to the Most Holy Trinity and the Sorrowful Virgin; but the conjugal experience allows her to live the indissolubility of her relationship with the sick. It is the choice of a total self-gift in the relationship with the sick, an irreversible bond, I repeat, indissoluble like that of matrimony.

And we have now four qualifying adjectives. But in all the writings of the Mother, in all her letters besides the autobiography, as in the lived experience from the early years, there is another experience of love that touches her in a significant manner, and it is the experience of the community. So much so that when the first community is being formed in her house, and she still stays with all the privileges of a foundress in the monastery of the Visitation Sisters, within a very short time, within some weeks, a little more than a month – I do not remember exactly – she reached gradually the decision to leave the privileged hospitality of the Visitation Sisters because she understands that the relationship with the community is significant in her itinerary of love. Therefore, the experience of the community, which will always be her concern – it is enough to read her letters because she refers all the time to coming together – this community experience, this strong need of community brings her to discover, and therefore to include in the charism the fraternal love or, as the Servant of God, Fr. Luca Pasi says it using a neologism: “sisterly.” (A sisterly love in as much as it is addressed to sisters, and obviously stands for “fraternal’.)  This is then another element added to others: paternal and filial love, maternal, conjugal, fraternal love.

However, it is a well-known fact to all that Domenica Brun Barbantini fell in one affair, so to speak, which constituted the cause for reponatur, in the years 1920 or 1930, of the Cause of Beatification: this concerns her relationship with Antonio Perfetti. I think – I repeat it and the ex-Mother General knows perfectly well my thoughts in this regard – that the letters of Perfetti to Maria Domenica (unfortunately, those of Maria Domenica to Perfetti cannot be found yet) are a work of spirituality and are among the most significant, if not the most significant, of the 1800. So much so, to my mind – and Sr. Tomasina knows it well – I still insist that a theological study of those letters be done. And she, honestly, took pains in this sense, by talking to a female theologian, of national fame, married, and with almost the same experience as that of Maria Domenica.  Unfortunately, Ina Siviglia, after having given her yes unexpectedly lost a daughter who was in her twenties. This theologian, therefore, is also marked by a personal story which, after having overcome this very understandable crisis, would have allowed her a very deep understanding of the personality of Maria Domenica and the richness of this personality through the letters of Perfetti to her. Why? I say that the last element of the experience of love is added: a love for a friend. Therefore, we reached the six adjectives to which I wanted to shed light rather, to present. But what does love for a friend mean? It is sharing with the other one’s own journey towards holiness. And even this enters fully the charism. I ask myself, I who have a charism, as you know, I am a priest, a monk  – 16-17 years ago I made my solemn vows. The charism of my order, which is very old but very much sui generis, is that of obsequium pauperum (assistance to the poor, the sick and the suffering); an order of hospitallers. I, therefore,  have the same sensitivity, if not the same understanding, of the charism with you. I ask myself, a member of a hospitaller order: “How many times, in approaching a sick person, I propose to myself to love that person, accompanying him/her towards holiness?” This, in fact, is the value of the experience of the love for a friend that Maria Domenica present in your charism. Maria Domenica is a friend in sharing a path of holiness, she brings Perfetti to holiness; and Perfetti acknowledges it. Starting from an entirely different perspective, gradually the relationship – under the guidance of the confessor certainly, but the main character is Maria Domenica; honestly it has always been the Holy Spirit, but the agent is Maria Domenica – immediately acquires a very a different value. Well, it is she who gradually leads Perfetti to holiness. And therefore, this series of elements that qualify the experience of Maria Domenica forms, as in the case of a very beautiful, multifaceted crystal, your charism.  Here we should start with a reflection on how to put it into practice, but now I want to summarize it because we shall analyze later the ways of actualizing it.

Here is the summary:

  • Trinitarian love – total love, paternal and filial
  • Our Lady of Sorrows – maternal, universal love
  • Barbantini – conjugal love
  • Community – fraternal love
  • Perfetti – love for a friend

The charism requires fatherhood and filiation; it requires motherhood; it requires conjugality; it requires fraternity; it requires friendship.

This experience of total love that Maria Domenica has makes her fully a woman.  Keep this in mind: love understood in these dimensions mature fully even from the human point of view. And proclaim it in your ministry. This truth, I would say, connects the first part of the reflection that I am doing with you to this second part, because the point of connection is a term very familiar to you: contemplation. Contemplation – what does this mean? I must not teach you this, however, I simply go back to it. It means entering into an empathic relationship with what is contemplated upon. In existential, personal terms, empathy means taking on; it is becoming what I contemplate upon. An example is that of last Sunday. The logic of contemplation is the logic of the Eucharist. Yesterday was the feast of Corpus Domini. What did we do? This morning as well as last evening: in the morning we had breakfast together; last evening, we dined together, we fed on a non-living thing: the food. We took it in, transforming it into our life; we ennobled it, raised its dignity. In the Eucharist exactly the opposite happens: it is not we who reduce God to our dimension, but in Christ, God takes us on, transforming us into himself, sharers of divine life. Far from that idea of a human being ennobling something! Contemplation is this: it is allowing ourselves to be moulded by the one we contemplate upon. It is taking it on, yes, but allowing ourselves to be transformed by the love being contemplated. The charism is not something to be done, the charism is the contemplated one which transforms us unceasingly. This is because the charism is incarnated in Maria Domenica Brun Barbantini and in her religious family, but it has its origin always and ever in the Holy Spirit, obviously. And therefore, we are taken on by the charism, we are not the ones who take on the charism.  Contemplation is this reality of being taken up: it is not I who work, it is the Holy Spirit who works in me; who allows me to be, and makes me act.  I want to insist much, if you allow me, on this “seeming passivity” because we are too much used to living, unfortunately, in what we may call a cultural reality, that is marked instead by activism, by the desire to be at the centre of attention, by self-sufficiency.  I do not want to make precise reference lest it be politically interpreted and I do not want it but… certainly, today the radical sin, at least in our most advanced societies, is that of self-sufficiency. Allow me to say, sisters of Africa, the Americas, and Asia: your cultures are running into the same danger. Last March, I participated in the plenary of the Pontifical Council of Culture on the topic of Secularization; we were about thirty-five or thirty-six. In substance, I heard only one testimonial from all continents. It is true that in Africa the solidarity of the families still holds and let us hope that it will resist for long, but even there huge fissures begin to show, that is, the process of secularization, which substantially means self-sufficiency, has begun. This means that it does not matter any more whether God is present in the society or not, anyway, we can do on our own . And together with this, nothing changes with respect to the radical sin, that is, the original sin – pride – “I can do without God.” Well, within this framework of secularization, which is unfortunately global, determined by a mentality of self-sufficiency, there is no space for passivity. Either one produces and is active or is nothing at all. So much so that the criteria, which are now more or less universal, because of the process of globalization, converge into efficiency. Twenty or thirty years ago when I was teaching, one day a certain person accused me of ideological terrorism because (we were discussing about abortion) I was affirming that if it touches the sacred foundation of life, the system would fall, and as an ultimate consequence, I would have to canonize Adolph Hitler and Josef Stalin since they have been the greatest benefactors of humanity. The moment we let go of the sacredness and intangibility of life, they who made eugenics operation, automatically become saints. I used to say thirty years ago that the consequence of accepting abortion would be euthanasia. It is impossible for me now, but I would like to meet again those who were my students thirty years ago and tell them: Hey, guys, what did I tell you thirty years ago? Was it ideological terrorism? The shift from voluntary euthanasia to obligatory euthanasia is almost unnoticeable, almost non-existent, hence I concluded then: we shall become a nation, the richest country in the world if, instead of granting retirement to people at sixty years of age, we send them to the cemetery.  Because 70% of the state budget goes to social contributions – pensions and sicknesses. Therefore, instead of building hospitals, I build beautiful cemeteries and when one gets sick I send him to the cemetery instead of sending him to the hospital, and I will no longer incur expenses for the hospitalization! At sixty, instead of sending the person to retirement, with all the expenses that I have for the retirement, I send him to the cemetery. Stalin did this, Hitler did this. And therefore, I ask myself: “How can I justify the verdict of the tribunal of Nuremberg, if these are the inevitable consequences of touching the sacredness of life?” I know that what I am saying is a provocation but we are precisely talking about self-sufficiency. I return to the fact that the cult of efficiency (or productivity) presents itself as an element that qualifies life, the value of life, but not life itself.  You have value because you produce, you have value because you are efficient. All the cosmetic surgery done in our society – without mentioning names or surnames: someone goes for hair transplant because it looks more beautiful in the television … the gym work outs… this cult of efficiency – where do they lead?  Therefore, all that intellectual and spiritual efficiency say are of no value. The scale of values is lost with secularism, with self-sufficiency, but most of all with the cult of efficiency; the value of passivity is lost.  Let us talk clearly. Health is a business by definition, by definition, it is business. Therefore, I put up with the sick because he/she generates work, not because he/she is sick. He/she produces for me – I do not know – how many thousands or hundreds of thousands of job opportunities. This is the only logic that justifies sickness today; because it is the logic of business. More sick, more work.  And what interests me is to have more work, not more sick persons. I am not interested at all with the sick; and if ever I am, it is only because they produce more job opportunities.

Let us go back to the value of passivity. We are gifts to be given; our value is made up by the fact that we are filled with the charism and through us the charism is communicated, given, lived in the course of history. This is contemplation: it is looking always at the charism; it is this being continually “formed” by the charism so that the fecundity of the charism would fill the world through our humble ministry. This was the point of connection between the definition of the charism through the Mother Foundress’ experience of this total love with those characteristics that we already have seen, and the exercise of the charism through the ministry. Hence, we enter the last phase with some challenges, but I do not know if they were taken up or not in group studies.

If you notice, the whole experience of love that Maria Domenica expresses and translates in the charism given by the Holy Spirit could be summarized in motherhood, because now the application phase concerns you in your specific femininity, without forgetting, however, the other dimensions of love. You are mothers of the sick, but you must also be fathers, brothers (sisters), and friends, and you must feel this indissoluble bond, which is the conjugal bond with the sick. A great friend who died a few years ago told me once something I did not believe in, and then I experienced it personally. “We reach that point in time when the roles reverse: we, children, become fathers and mothers of our parents.” Reacting, I said, “But what are you telling me?” Then the time came wherein, with all that happened to my mother, I really found myself guiding her like a father.  Therefore, even in the charismatic relationship with the sick, even this paternal dimension must not be forgotten but lived; this role of being a sure guide, keeping also in mind the boundaries, because it is not always true that allowing everything is love; rather, almost always it is not. Therefore, for you, we express everything in terms of motherhood. The motherhood of Maria Domenica generates life. You are here, generated by Maria Domenica, generated by the Holy Spirit in Maria Domenica, and you are called to generate, likewise through the charism, the same life from which you were generated—the experiences of Maria Domenica—in your ministry, with that holistic glance at the physical, intellectual, psychological, cultural, and spiritual level, remembering always that the person is at the centre and at the end of your ministerial service.

             Here are then are some questions:

Ø In this dimension of motherhood, is my vocation an expression of my experience of the love of God according to the examples of Maria Domenica and the charism she handed on to me?

In these last years, the formation itinerary of your religious family concerned precisely the community. I do not know if it is only for Italy or for the whole Congregation. Hence, this question:

Ø Does my motherhood mature in the concrete community where the Lord has called me to live my baptismal vocation to holiness?

A third question regarding the motherhood of Maria Domenica who generates life and this is directly addressed to the ministry:

Ø Do I live the ministry of service to the sick with all the love possible that the charism expresses?  In synthesis, Do I live this motherhood in the service to the sick?

It is necessary to repeat here that motherhood is also paternity, filiation, friendship, fraternity, etc.  

A second observation or premise is this: the charism of Maria Domenica is a living hope, because to love the person of the sick is to become witnesses of hope. And to serve the person in sickness is to witness to hope. The question we pose is obvious.

Ø Animated by the charism, faithful to the charism and continuously transformed by the charism, am I a sign of hope in my community and in the ministry to the sick?

Third point. Love, the experience of love of Maria Domenica, according to the Holy Scriptures, is without limits, without end. It is without boundaries as to geography, without end as to time; it is therefore universal and vast, without the limits of time and space. Naturally, therefore, there is a characteristic which I did not highlight yet: that is, that charisms are for common edification, recognized by the Church and exercised under her guidance, or control. I would take it for granted but we shall talk about it again. Thus, here is the first question in this area of universality and ecclesiality of the charism:

Ø Do I live my sense of belonging to the Congregation within the evangelizing mission of the Church?

We have, among others, a reference text of great value: the Salvifici doloris that concerns precisely the evangelizing and prophetic dimensions of the Church. Here is the evangelizing dimension, this prophetic witnessing. Excuse me but I tell it to myself, and I sincerely refer it to myself – with regards to hope: whenever I visit a sick person, how much do I consider the fact that that body is destined to eternal resurrection? And it is not simply a matter that gets resolved by trying to regain ones health.  There is the eschatological dimension: “I believe in the resurrection of the body” and I am there as a witness of the resurrection. My ministry of life is resolved in the final resurrection. It makes sense there where there is this clear reference, but not in consoling terms, rather in terms of faith and hope. “Poor fellow, suffer now, anyway, you will be better in paradise.”  “Oh, yes, but I suffer just the same!” Yes, these beautiful words may make me feel better but do not solve anything. No! We have to ask ourselves: to which degree does my ministry effectively gives witness to the eternal destiny of this body, which at this moment is loathsome to me because it is wounded, because it is covered with ulcerous wounds, because it produces pus, because it drives me crazy? That body! The dimension that is precisely evangelizing, the evangelizing mission in the world of suffering and the testimony of love – Salvifici doloris. Thus, re-reading it, I automatically exempt myself from talking about the whole mystery of the cross related to the Sorrowful Virgin Mary. Another question, while keeping in mind that in the Church there are neither citizens nor foreigners: everybody is there, no one is excluded, full stop (the stranger or foreigner, to use a sociological category, has only a geographic meaning):

Ø Regarding the communities abroad of this religious family of mine: Are they accepted as a unique divine gift that challenges me continuously to live the universality of charity as lived, even in the small setting of Lucca, by the Foundress, Blessed Maria Domenica?

And though I know that I run the risk of sounding heavy to you, but for the sake of clarity, I add that not only the prejudice “Italians-others” exists but also the prejudice – “others-Italians”. At times divisions happen not only because the Italians believe to be the first, because they have more, because the Foundress is Italian. There is also the other kind of division that comes: “Anyway, the Italians do not understand anything, because now we understand better the charism more than they do.”  Hence, it is necessary to be cautious, allow me to say it, with fraternal concern; but it is also necessary to be careful not to create schematism.  You are all under one obedience to the charism of Maria Domenica given her by the Holy Spirit; everybody is equally bound to obey the charism.  That which will qualify you is the value of the charism which embraces that fraternity, rather that experience of total love wherein there is also the fraternity.  Hence, it is the capacity to acknowledge the diversity as reciprocal enrichment, not in a ‘one-way traffic” style – “I give and you receive”.  We all receive because we are all alike in obedience to the charism.

Third and last question:

Ø Am I really open to welcome the richness of the other as an authentic divine grace in the common path towards holiness?

Let us be clear, dear sisters: the charism is the reality within which we live and move to become holy. The purpose of the charism is not that the Congregation may become more powerful and widespread, but, I repeat, that we become holy. You have chosen to fulfil your common vocation to holiness through the charism of Maria Domenica. And living the charism means making concrete the path to holiness. And since the choice is a choice of the community, the other sister represents the grace, the other who is unpleasant to me, who annoys me, whom, if I do not see, I would feel better; that other there is the grace of God which He gives me at the moment so that I may be holy.


  • This indissolubility of conjugal relationship with the community is realized concretely in the indissolubility of relationship with the world of suffering. I cited the matrimony of Maria Domenica simply as an historical reference to her experience which is also natural, but which becomes part of the charism through its indissolubility. This means that my indissoluble love  to the Most Holy Trinity is as intense as my relationship with the person of those who suffer.
  • The problem of spiritual life in all states of life is the problem of unity. It is succeeding in maintaining not only the balance between space and time but, most of all, the necessary interdependence between contemplation and action. The society could prefer action, to the point of almost making it exclusive—only action. There is a well-known work of Bergson called “L’action” (The Action) in the late 20’s or 30’s: this productive vitalism. Our foundation, however, is not action. Our radical and fundamental foundation is in the Most Holy Trinity. I have insisted a lot on this rootedness, this fundamental theological experience of Maria Domenica of the Trinitarian love, which is basic to all the rest, in the same manner that spiritual life and religious life are basic. According to the medieval scholastics, this is the point of unity—in my opinion: “agere sequitur essere”—that i is, action is the manifestation of the being; therefore, what we are precedes what we do. We are not instinctual or fixed in acting. That which determines our action is our being.  Hence, the more we become trinitarian, the more we act according to trinitarian love. There is no contradiction between being and acting, between contemplation and action.  Therefore, I say this in a very fraternal manner: let us always reserve for ourselves spaces, even physical spaces, temporal spaces, to become evermore more deeply rooted in the experience of the Trinitarian love so that we become fruitful in our action, in the charism, in ministering to the world of suffering, to the sick, so that there may be unity and not contradiction. Even here, without allowing ourselves to be too conditioned by urgent needs,.  Allow me to recount to you a story told by a priest who experienced it. I had a vice rector in the seminary who was a physician and had stopped practicing his profession when he became a priest. Then, he met Fr. Ambrosoli in Africa, who owned a huge hospital, and Fr. Donini was sent there with the permit to exercise his medical profession, such that he had to undergo some months of updating, and he returned there. When he came back and met us, who had him as vice-rector for quite some time, he told us this story: as soon as he arrived there, he saw such an emergency: a queue of about eighty or a hundred or hundred twenty patients in front of the emergency ward and the queue continued to prolong; it never ended and he worked full time. After three days, in which he could sleep only for two hours every night, missing even his meals, Fr. Ambrosoli took him aside and said to him, “Listen, either you make a timetable or I send you away because you are killing yourself. It is either you give yourself a rule to follow or you lose the motivations that are essential and you will also get sick! Afterwards, what will I do with you?” Obviously, this way of reasoning is utilitarian, in some way. However, it is extremely necessary to be careful not to allow ourselves to be engulfed by the urgent needs. Now I give you a personal example which will make you laugh: I refuse to have a cellular phone, and I do not have it! They gave me five and I recycled them; I have none! Why do I refuse it?  Because I do not want to be reached always when I think that after an hour or so nothing changes. I give you the example of a professor of the University of Pisa who lives in Viareggio, and was travelling from Grosseto to Viareggio, a two-hour trip; during that time he quarrelled with half of the world. After calling up at least 15 persons during the trip, he alighted in Viareggio. I asked him, “Excuse me, Professor, but if you postponed your calls for tomorrow, what would have changed?” He looked at me, and he remained stupefied because nothing would have changed since the problem would come after three days. This simply says that our way of looking at things is distorted at times. Contemplation brings us to see the way God sees.  And God does not see according to emergencies, haste, and unexpected events. Therefore, getting used to be detached from haste is not only effective but also affective; not allowing ourselves to be engulfed too much because even this is witnessing. Another example: The Cardinal with whom I work, the head of the Greek-Catholic-Ukrainian Church, a patriarch actually, makes me nervous every time he comes, that is, every two or three months, with boxes of letters that we have to see together; some have been waiting for months; there are problems, not really urgent, but problems. I tell him, “Excuse me, Your Beatitude, why did you not bring them earlier?” He responds, “Because they should know that haste is a bad counsellor. I have to think first before answering them, and since a month more or a month less does not change the situation, those waiting for a reply need also to learn to wait.” I am the type who would immediately answer five minutes after I have read the letter… but he is right, I am not.
  • Suffering is a mystery, and we need eyes enlightened by faith in order to penetrate the mystery of suffering. I will cite St. Benedict who in a chapter of his rule says, “De hospitalitate”, “… hospes tamquam Christus suscipiatur…”, that is, “The guest must be received as if he were Christ himself…” The sick is a sacramental sign of the presence of Christ. Among others, you know very well that during the time of St. Benedict, “hospes” and “infirmus”, the guest and the sick, are almost identical. The eyes illumined by faith lead one to see not only the person of the sick – honestly, I took for granted this second aspect – but to see Christ himself, the sacramental presence of Christ. You remember very well that episode in the life of St. Camillus when the presence of Christ was so much alive that at a certain moment, he confessed to a patient because he believed to be talking with Christ.
  • I remember the last verse of the poem of Leopardi,  L’Infinito (The Infinite): “and getting drowned in this see is sweet for me…” Let us get drowned in the sea, in all the jolts, in all these human movements; anyway, to get drowned is not a failure; to get drowned in the love of God is not a failure, rather, it is the port of health, the port of salvation.
  • (Responding on the question of remaining in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament before going to the sick according to the rules of the Foundress):  In the Misericordie, the point of departure of every service, even the emergency sick call, is always from the chapel. Those on duty, with the head of the service, go to the chapel, recite a prayer, and when they return, they go back to the chapel to end their service there. This practice remained only in Florence, unfortunately, which is very conservative in keeping the original statues. This is to say, however, that in the vision of hospital spirituality, we start from Christ to serve the sick and return to Christ; it is a circle. At the beginning of the service, the ambulance team (the team that is in charge of manual work of transporting the sick in wheelchairs in Lourdes and Loreto, etc.) meets together a quarter of an hour before, prays together, and then starts to pull the wheelchairs. At the end, the whole team once again gathers and prays together. This is because many times the work distracts, but what is always necessary is to have the motivation and to have a purpose.  In between lies the service.