I was born with a visual and auditory handicap resulting from an illness that my mother contracted during the pregnancy.  As I was growing up I realised little by little that I was different.  I felt marginalised and suffered a lot.  I wanted to join in with others and help others but people around me often excluded me saying that I wasn’t capable and would never  manage.

I started to get more involved in my studies, thinking that through this I would be accepted, but there was still something missing and I often used to cry, asking myself “Why did this happen?  Why did God want to do this to me?”
When I was 25 years old I was invited to a meeting led by a priest for people with hearing difficulties like me.  I remember how he was holding a page of the Gospel in his hand which he had great difficulty in explaining because he couldn’t communicate in sign language.  I offered to help him and in sign language I spelt out the words of the Gospel that say “Love one another as I have loved you”.
When the meeting had finished I started to reflect on those words and realised I too had to start to love and forgive as Jesus did.

Little by little I got to know other people in the Focolare Movement and started going to more meetings with other young people and trying to put the Gospel into practice.  I finally had the response to that “Why, God?” I had often asked myself.  I realised that I could be His instrument of love in the world so as to love God better.  I understood how much more important it was to look and listen with one’s heart.

At school
I am a teacher and from that moment I felt I had to start working in a different way.  I was working in a school for people with hearing difficulties and together with others we introduced a method which centred on the culture of the deaf person, using sign language with the support of the Portuguese language.  Parallel to this, I tried to adopt another method based on the “art of loving”, that suggested me ‘to love everyone’, ‘to love first’,  ‘to make myself one’ with everybody, so that each student could feel special. 
One day the headmistress called all the teachers together and asked me to talk about the method I was using.  I spoke about how I tried to identify with the life of the students to the point of making myself one with each one of them.  My colleagues were so struck that immediately after the meeting they decided to changed their way of working.

At catechism classes
Some years ago I went to a Mass during which a number of young people with hearing difficulties received the Sacrament of the Eucharist.  I realised that they didn’t really understand what they were doing because they hadn’t been properly prepared.  After doing a course in Italy at an institute for deaf people, I decided to give catechism classes to deaf people in my own parish.  The results were immediate.  I used the Brazilian sign language, focussing the lessons on the Sunday mass readings.  Immediately afterwards I was invited to coordinate all the activities of this type in the province of Paraná ( Brazil) which is composed of 16 dioceses and started to meet periodically with other catechists.
I feel fulfilled and happy because I realise how the spirituality of unity has opened the way for me to help God to build a humanity renewed by love.

(R. A. – Brazil)

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