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In the art of living we are both sculptor and marble

In the art of living we are both sculptor and marble

Vincenzo del Monaco *

I am especially grateful to my Franciscan Friends who are again giving me the honor to speak at such a special event, so dense in significance, not only for the Catholic Church but also for Albania. We know, confession is retained in the depths of the secrets of the heart, but let me “open my heart” and share with you how hard it was for me to think about today and find what wise things to say when the topic in question is of such extraordinary importance and goes beyond the scope of my daily life: martyrs, “Milites Christi”, «soldiers of Christ», those who share the passion of Christ without submitting to the pagan masses, giving their lives (perhaps it is better to say in death being reborn) and forgiving their persecutors. Martyrs for their "doing" and martyrs for their "being". Like Father Anton Harapi, like the blessed Gjon Shllaku. Like Father At Gjergj Fishta, whom we recently commemorated in Shkodra. Like a multitude of others. All of the victims of the "beyond superior", if we translate it into our everyday grammar: the most extreme barbarism.

Perhaps it is no coincidence and I relay this more as a question than as an assertion that the Church of Rome takes up the issue of martyrs by placing St. Stephen, the first martyr, on the calendar immediately after Christmas.

We articulate here an extraordinary testimony of Faith, that Faith which arises from hearing and lives from love. The Gospel of St. Mark says of the last Sunday of October: love thy neighbor, that is, this double dimension of the Christian: vertically (God) and horizontally (thy neighbor), so inseparable, that it shapes a Christian. And maybe even here I have to formulate this sentence as a question: thy neighbor should not be loved in the name of God, but if we love our neighbor, are we not on the right track to attaining God?

So we who are not merely an instrument, who is not humble. But we who become an active part of seeking God. "Whoever created you without your assistance, cannot save you without it", writes Agustini in his Sermo. A passage that San Josemaría comments on is as follows: “I understand very well those words of the Bishop of Ippona, which are a wonderful anthem to freedom. In fact, each of us - you, me - reserves the opportunity - the sad calamity - to rebel against God, to rebuke him - perhaps not loudly, but by conduct - or to cry out: We do not want God to come and reign over us (Amici Di Dio) ”.

Personally, I have always been taken by the joy of Christianity, the Franciscan excitement, the happiness of the ritual of concluding Mass, those words "go in peace", which give rhythm to the steps of our day, rejecting sorrow, laziness. I would say that in rejecting the deadly sins, which, in a wonderful presentation, Enzo Bianchi describes as belonging only to man (gluttony and other smaller vices are also possessed by animals) and which are obviously the worst vices, to the point of vainglory: Icarus who flew towards the sun forgot that his wings were glued with wax. Let us here take the anger, which is read engraved on the face, which no one could immortalize better than Leonardo da Vinci in the painting dedicated to the Battle of Anghiari, a painting that was lost but brought back to life by Rubens, with that entanglement of people, steeds and curved swords. Anger, the origin of the first murder in history, is the fratricide between Cain and Abel.

And Christians, what do they do: they create another painting. They outline the other end, that is, love for the enemy, this stupidity in the common mindset for the culture of the unit, and of the "this is how I feel". Exactly that landscape created by the Franciscan martyrs we commemorate here today. Such to the end, because "if one does not love the man they see, how can they love God who they do not."

I do not know if the Faith of Martyrs has always been unshakeable. Selfishly, from my very mortal point of view, I would hope not. And yet martyrs are witnesses, and not only etymologically, of that Faith which never failed to want for the best, despite - maybe who knows - doubts.

I wonder - and I really hope - if God loves us happier than stronger. That he does not love us in our normal, adjective for which in a recent article entitled the art of finding oneself, the author Alessandro D'Avenia reminds us of how he comes from the norm, ie “That instrument, the try square used by masons to build a straight wall. "Normal people who never stop building humanity and multiplying life around them where they live: with their diligent work (the norm of security they follow and their fidelity to the calling) joining the forces of many in the service of all."

D'Avenia, among others, is also the author of a very beautiful book dedicated to another martyr, Don Pino Puglisi (What hell is not), who in the Brancaccio neighborhood of Palermo restored youth to dignity through play, study, and catechism. Don Pino used to tell young people to walk with their heads held high, as this is not a privilege but an imbued gift in our being by our Father and not the Godfather of Cosa Nostra. Here we again view the life of priests devoted to studying and teaching in the school open to all. I am here reminded of the current events as to what happens in those parts of the world where little girls and women are denied the freedom of education or sports.

I would like to conclude this conversation of ours by borrowing once again a few lines from Alessandro D'Avenia, from the same article I mentioned earlier. We find ourselves again, that is, reborn, when we come out of the womb when we accept the life we ​​have and we brightly enlighten it every day. Man is not as reactive as other animals immersed in the continuous present. Man is active: we choose and act, we model our own time. Michelangelo eroded the marble from the superfluous to find its essence; and in the art of living, we are both the sculptor and the marble: to be reborn and strive towards the work of art within us. A major responsibility for young people to ask and to reflect, to train for a life sacrificed to action, exercising freedom. We grownups have to do our best until the general context, democracy, and its functioning,

Ambassador Vincenzo Del Monaco's speech at the 75th anniversary of the martyrdom of Father Anton Harapi and Blessed Gjon Shllaku.


Speaking in a personal capacity.

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