Pope to Cenacolo Community: Let us not be afraid of our miseries
By Salvatore Cernuzio
"Two minutes and he’s here!". It was a boy wearing a hood and a mask who announced, at around 4.18pm, the arrival of Pope Francis at the Good Samaritan fraternity of the Cenacolo Community in Rome, where the Pope closed the Year dedicated to St Joseph inaugurated on 8th December 2020. Boys and girls, families, priests and religious, guests and staff at this place that exudes grace, joy, welcome stood outside 30 minutes before the Pope’s arrival along the avenue of the entrance. They braved the pouring rain and a few hailstones, waving banners and coloured garlands. They waited for the Pope by reciting the Creed or the Rosary, the one they pray every day even three times a day "out of gratitude" and to bring order to a life previously lived in total chaos.
"Welcome among us!"
A song to the Holy Spirit, accompanied by guitars and cymbals, greeted the arrival of the Pope's dark blue hatchback. The boys, as it advanced, ran after it. "Welcome, welcome among us!" they chanted as soon as Pope Francis got out of the car, accompanied by Don Luigi Epicoco, spiritual assistant of the Dicastery of Communication. Wearing a mask, but with a visible smile, the Pope greeted everyone and then headed inside the building, partly granted three years ago to the Comunità Cenacolo by the consecrated laywomen of the FAC movement (Fraterno Aiuto Cristiano), few in number after the vocational crisis and "reborn" thanks to this experience of sharing. "They are like mothers and grandmothers here, especially for those young people who still today suffer psychological wounds due to abandonment," they say in the house.
Only one rule: love
Two children welcomed Pope Francis: they were the children of Andrea Giorgetti and his wife Antonia, who now manage today the Good Samaritan fraternity. They had been two drug addicts who were seeing their lives slip away but have managed to start again in this place finding only one thing: love. This is what Sr Elvira Petrozzi - known by everyone as Mother Elvira - has 'imposed' as the rule for this community, founded on 16 July 1983 in a dilapidated and abandoned house on the hill of Saluzzo and now has branches on every continent (71 houses in 20 countries, particularly in Latin America). For forty years now, the aim has been to welcome marginalised and desperate people, crushed by situations of physical and spiritual distress, especially those caught up in the tunnel of drugs and alcoholism. On its website the Cenacolo Community is described as, "A response of God's tenderness to the cry of despair of so many young people who are lost, deceived and disillusioned, seeking the joy of living. "And this is what actually appeared before the Pope's eyes.
Assisted who become assistants
One example is Marco, a former drug addict, now married and father of four, who - between sobs and jokes ("I think my heart is going to burst") - welcomed the Pope into the building's Auditorium, after a welcome song and dance. "On my knees before Jesus, I felt forgiven and loved. Here I did not find methadone, but guardian angels. Before, people would always ask me 'how are you?' and I would evade this question, then I started to answer and now I am the one asking others 'how are you?” A phrase that exemplifies the path undertaken by many volunteers in the various Fraternities: former guests welcomed by Mother Elvira and her collaborators who, after completing this itinerary of prayer, work and accompaniment, have decided to make themselves available to help others. Even if they do not speak of help but of "giving oneself"".
A film on St Joseph
This self-giving also includes carrying out various activities: renovation and cleaning work ("because external cleanliness is a sign of inner cleanliness"), handicraft workshops, but also important projects such as musicals created and produced by the boys themselves, to be taken around Europe. Covid put the brakes on these tours, so for two years the young people of the Cenacolo Community have been working on a major project: a film on the life of Jesus. Nothing amateurish, but a full-length film, well-acted, with music and a script, filmed, moreover in the hills of Medjugorje by the guests of the two communities present there, the Campo della Vita and the Campo della Gioia. In the auditorium, the Pope was shown a long clip centred on the figure of St Joseph, entitled "Do not fear Joseph." The script and the concept were inspired by the Patris Corde and the book cited in the Pope's apostolic letter "The Shadow of the Father". The director said at the end of the screening: "This film is a miracle.”
Stories of rebirth
Immediately afterwards, some of the actors, dressed in costumes, gave their testimonies to the Pope: Arianna, 20 years old, who told of her eating disorders and her fear of becoming an adult, today is simply "happy". The brothers Luca and Davide, "lost in drugs", filled with all kinds of substances, who say they manage "to stand up in difficult moments", thanks to the Community, despite a past that is sometimes "a worm in the brain". Then there was Daniele, born and raised in a family of the Cenacolo Community, who expressed the desire "to become a just man like St Joseph", and lastly there was Catherine, from Croatia, who initially did not believe in Our Lady but gradually discovered a deep relationship with Her. The Pope was also shown a film of the foundress Mother Elvira, 84 years old, who is now ill and almost immobile in bed: "Her life is consumed, crumbled because she gave everything", said Don Stefano Aragno, assistant priest of the mother house in Saluzzo.
The encouragement of Pope Francis
After listening to these stories of rebirth and accompaniment, of courage and redemption, the Pope took the floor and thanked the Cenacolo Community, encouraging above all the journey of these young people: "Do not be afraid of reality, of the truth, of our miseries. Do not be afraid because Jesus likes reality as it is, not made up, the Lord does not like people who make up their souls, who make up their hearts", said the Pope. Hence the encouragement: "Help many young people who are in situations like yours. Have the courage to say: 'Think that there is a better way'".
A chapel built with discarded materials
Walking through this large house, structured like a college but where as soon as you enter you breathe a domestic atmosphere, among the smell of good food and people sitting on sofas and at tables, Pope Francis then moved to the Chapel dedicated to the Good Samaritan for a blessing and to conclude the Year of St Joseph. A symbolic gesture in an even more symbolic place: the Chapel, made of wood and white marble, was in fact built entirely by the children, "with their creativity and their hands". They picked up pieces of travertine, oak beams and other waste material from rubbish tips and rubbish bins: "This is a concrete example of what we do here: we take waste to make wonderful works," says Don Stefano. "These young people, if before in the life of evil they gave the worst of themselves, now in the life of good they rediscover the love of God".
Pope Francis blesses the Chapel
Pope Francis blessed the chapel and prayed together with all those present, who he then greeted one by one. Each person was offered a leaflet so that the prayer to Mary's spouse, contained in the last pages of the Patris Corde, could be recited together.
"Hail, guardian of the Redeemer and husband of the Virgin Mary / To you God entrusted his Son; in you, Mary placed her trust / with you Christ became man / O Blessed Joseph, show yourself to be a father also for us, and guide us on the path of life / Obtain for us grace, mercy and courage, and defend us from all evil / Amen".