“When I was ten years old an event occurred that turned out to be a turning point in the life of my family and in my personal life. My father underwent a very serious liver operation. I remember some mornings in the summer when I would accompany him, with my mother, to the promenade of Syracuse, Italy, for a walk. After a brief period in which he appeared to be recovering, suddenly as a storm came the crisis. And one night he fell asleep forever. When I saw his motionless body, his face paler than usual, I couldn’t cry. I was like stone. At ten years old, the thought of asking why never entered my mind, neither was I able to pray. In later years I realized that all my friends had a father who protected them, but not me. And the situation of orphan-hood weighed on me a lot.
Five years later, through a friend of mine, I met people who had made the Gospel their code of life. In their apartment – the Focolare – one evening I met Marco, the first young man who had followed Chiara Lubich. And he told me about the adventure of unity. His words so full of life, of the living Gospel in daily life, really hit me. I was no longer an orphan, I now had a Father who took care of me. In fact, in the years that followed I found a hundred fathers, a hundred mothers, a hundred brothers and sisters (see Mt. 19:29). I suddenly realized that I had to put the Gospel into practice, so I began at school, listening with love to that somewhat boring teacher, sharing my notes with my classmates who needed them.
A few years later, prompted by this wonderful discovery of God’s personal love, there began to grow in me the desire to give myself to him, and the experience of the Focolare was opened up to me. I lived for twenty six years in the Focolare in Vienna and then there were continual short visits to Czechoslovakia and Hungary to meet with people of the Movement there. These were the years in which there was a wall between us but what united us was the Gospel, because this is what they were thirsting for more than for freedom.
And we had our share of adventures during those trips. Once in the border area, opening the boot of the car for the usual checks, I realized to my horror that we had accidentally loaded a large suitcase full of videos, writings and slide photos of our communities. These were all “forbidden” materials. Strangely, the police gave a superficial glance (not noticing my terrified face) and told us that we could proceed. Everything turned out fine for our friends in Budapest who were able to have the necessary means to know about the spread of the Gospel around the world. On this and on many other occasions I saw God’s love watching over my steps, even when I didn’t do things as well as I should have.
The Genfest was held in Budapest in the beginning of September. It was such a joy for me to see. I remembered the days when we were meeting in the ‘catacombs’ with the young people, in a family home. It was officially prohibited to gather together groups of more than five people. In the midst of the tourist season we would be able to meet sometimes on weekends at a country cottage or at Lake Balaton. There, surrounded by tourists, we would be able to talk about the spirituality of unity and about our experiences of living the Gospel.
Today many of those teenagers, families and priests are actively involved in this new life in the Movement. Jesus in His powerful strength is the Light that always shines through, even when the doors are all closed, even now, as He did then.”