As Anna and Claudio tell the story of their life, the word passes from one to the other in such a natural way that it’s as if, after many years of marriage, they have become a single person. She begins by saying, “When we were first married, what united us was the enthusiasm and joy of seeing our family grow. I didn’t know anyone in the little town in northern Italy where we had moved for work. I took care of the house and waited for him to come home each evening. We were happy but … something was missing. One Sunday we were chatting to a priest outside the church. We invited him to the house and when he came, he brought a copy of the New City magazine. Later on, he brought us the Word of Life leaflet. We thought that we too could begin to live the words of the Gospel.”
Claudio continues: “I had a good job. We made machines that developed and printed films for the cinema. However, when the owner died, there were problems amongst the people who inherited the company. Eventually, I received a really attractive offer of a very well paid job. However, I understood that the content of the films I would be helping to produce would be ethically unacceptable. My wife and I agreed that I should not accept the job. After a while, I had the offer of another job but with a much lower salary. By then, our second child had been born and the expenses were increasing. I accepted the second job, trusting that we would manage.
There was a lot of work to do and I needed a helper. The human resources department suggested someone who was known to be a very difficult character. In fact, the first time I met him, he said, ‘If you think you are going to make me work, you have got it all wrong.” I realised that I was going to have to make up for his shortcomings: but in the family we had agreed that we were going to love everyone and so there was no turning back. After that, he began to really enjoy the work and I remember that at Christmas he brought me a little train wrapped up in newspaper for my son.”
Anna continues, “I was expecting the third baby when Claudio had the offer of another job. We moved and the other four children were born in that town. We were a little “tribe” that was growing enjoying our way of life and the peace and harmony we tried to maintain always. I was working too. I was teaching German in a high school and this meant that I always had a lot to do. The children were very supportive: they used to help one another with their homework and prepare supper sometimes. The school was about 30 kilometres away from home and I remember coming home on the bus one very wet evening. I was expecting to get absolutely soaked on the way to our house. Mobile phones didn’t exist in those days. When I got off the bus, at the stop, I found one of the children waiting for me with a big umbrella.
A few years later, when there were nine of us (plus a cat), my husband’s work meant we needed to move again. I was very hesitant at first. Then I realised how difficult it was for him to spend five nights each week in a hotel. Out of love for him, we decided to pack our bags once again. We understood how important is to always be united and we often prayed together during difficult times. I was on my own during the day but I knew he was always with me. Sometimes, after supper, we used to walk around the block together just to have a little bit of time for the two of us to be on our own.”
Claudio takes up the story once again, “Our children are all married now. One of them is separated from his wife and this made us suffer a lot. Recently, when we were on pilgrimage, we entrusted this situation to Mary. At first we prayed that the family could be re united. After a while we thought it was better to ask that their hearts might be converted. Eventually, we understood that the grace we needed to pray for was our conversion. We ended the pilgrimage determined to be attentive to what God might still ask us. We don’t want to stop being instruments of his love. In a family, love is the only thing that must never move.”