This is for you … who must go to the river every day to fill up a tank of water for your family and carry it on your shoulders for miles.
This is for you … who start your long journey to school before the sun rises, sometimes barefoot, for two hours every day walking through fields, always fearing that someone could abduct you.
This is for you … who were abandoned by your parents, but found the strength to forgive them and create your own hopeful future.
This is for you … who risked everything on a boat hoping to find a better life in Italy, and instead were forced by criminals to steal and sell your body.
Magic is the art of producing illusions by sleight of hand or trick props. I have learned one or two tricks so that when I visit the children in our programs in Italy, India or Ethiopia I can communicate with them despite the language barrier. One of my favorite routines is the mysterious disappearance of a red tissue.
The 40 boys in our “town” at St. Savio’s Home in Pavaraity, India, need not check the weather forecast before they go to school. They know that every day at 7 AM there will be heavy showers.
So, they put on their swimming suits, go to a gathering point outside, and wait for the rain with a soap and a bath sponge in their hands. The water does not come from heavy clouds in the sky, but from an ingenious system created by the program directors who take care of them. They could not afford to build 40 showers so they created a fun way to get all the kids washed in time for school.
“Sister, I am really full. Thank you, but no…” said Martina, our Development Associate, to the Indian nun who was offering more food to her.
“You must try this!” With a quick move, the sister scooped more food onto her plate.
“But, Sister, I am a vegetarian …”
“Oh, but it’s quail from our farm!”
This was the typical scene in India as we visited our “Towns” in Kerala last month. Usually three or four nuns (see picture above) would surround and patrol each of us until we ate all the delicious dishes they had prepared for us. They never sat with us, even if we insisted.
“I have a confession to make,” I told the almost 400 seminarians at St. Joseph’s Pontifical Seminary, during one of my trips to India a few years ago. They looked at me, baffled. Had I had sinned so gravely that I needed an absolution from 400 future priests?
I confessed that when I was very young, I was a seminarian, too. But I left after one day! You see, my pastor talked me into entering the seminary with promises of a beautiful soccer field. I soon found out being a priest requires more than that.
Nino, a shoeshine boy wandering in the streets of Rome, reacted with scorn when Monsignor Carroll-Abbing suggested that he knew of an institution where the youngster could learn a trade. Nino looked him up and down and said, “Who, me? Go into an institution? Marching all day in line? Not me! I can come and go as I please, and look … I’ve got a pocketful of lire!” He drew out a handful of dirty paper money, probably stolen from a drunk’s wallet. To his own astonishment, the Monsignor heard himself ask, “Would you come if I opened a center and we lived there together and you helped me run it?”
The hard-faced boy mumbled, “Yes, if it was you and I could help you.”
King Rehobam, son of Solomon, had 28 sons and 60 daughters. Can you imagine what it would have been like for him to get all of them back to school each year? He needed to buy 88 parchment rolls, 28 tunics and 60 garments, sashes and girdles, and lunchboxes … or whatever was used at the time!
I’m delighted to say that my family is even bigger ... I have 1,500 kids.