"What prevails each morning"

A doctor in a Milanese hospital, an unthinkable situation for which he “thought he was prepared.” But instead discouragement and a feeling of uselessness dominated. And yet "I realized with surprise that something within me was resisting."

I would never have expected to live such a circumstance, nor that within such a circumstance I would perceive the vital need to recognize Christ as my only true self-awareness, which is otherwise exposed to nothingness. I perceived this within my own person, as a doctor in a large Milanese hospital, called upon immediately to attend directly to those suffering from Coronavirus pneumonia. After a few hours of work, I realized that I faced a situation that far exceeded my pessimistic expectations. I thought I was ready to treat severe pneumonia, as I had done many times before, but here, and it is now become clear to everyone, the development of the pneumonia can be unpredictable, even in young people, and, furthermore, in a context of forced isolation, it is hard and sad for everyone. The more this all advanced, the more an anguished reaction of defeat, futility and meaninglessness overcame me. Every morning, I asked myself how I could be rid of this pressure and I looked for several ways: trying to minimize it, telling myself that I was exaggerating, working non-stop…

I kept repeating to myself what I had heard a thousand times and told myself that the circumstance could be a great opportunity, but I was not able to look at it like that: discouragement dominated. This continued for several days, and more than once I wanted to quit, to return to my ordinary occupation, but in the end I could not do it. To my surprise, I realized that something within me was resisting. I was certain that it was a question of my temperament, a good disposition, a generosity that I could not contain...It was something else that was happening within me, and I realized that this was what made me say yes in the first place, even though I almost forgot about it later because I was overwhelmed by initial shock.

There was something within me that I was not able to look at in those conditions: a desire to remain within that circumstance because that was where the good Mystery was calling me, which, since it conquered me, had decided to never abandon me. It was the recognition of a desire that I perceived within me, almost in spite of myself, and which resurfaced unexpectedly and repeatedly as if to say to me: "You are mine, your life belongs to me, and your destiny is to give yourself to Me.”

When this surfaced within me, it was like a spring that made me pass from being nothing to being “something”. I could begin to look at what I had in front of me and I wondered where it all came from and why. Surprisingly, something began to come between me and nothingness, and my freedom was challenged again. I began to wonder if it was not Christ who was really at the origin of everything that was happening to me, helping me to overcome my fears and rejection. I began to verify the presence of God, not my attempts, but what was happening in my life: I discovered that I was called by God to exist, to verify my vocation.

The content of my prayer changed, from a plea to be able to stand up in front of the circumstances I see everyday, to the request to let myself be overcome every morning by that Mystery that put the desire to surrender myself unconditionally in my heart, so I could perceive what was going to happen both within me and in the world.

Thus, as the days went by, up to today, where we are perhaps overcoming the hardest part of this circumstance, I have rediscovered, as if for the first time, that what moves me is the nostalgia for Him, who truly moves me and accompanies me throughout the day. The nostalgia for Him that comes to the surface when I find myself faced with the desolation of patients who can barely breathe and do not even have the strength to ask for help or talk on the phone; or yet another ineffective medical attempt; or of a life that deteriorates far from the love of their loved ones. Thus, the search for Christ forces me to stand, to look, to share, to not stop working as hard as I can to help, because I cannot stop being there, inside things, looking for Him.

Never like now have I asked for a circumstance to change, to become lighter, but it is also true that never before had I understood what it means that within the darkness in which I find myself, I am given the possibility to be, because Jesus is there, telling me that I am His.

I still start every morning with my fears and my rejection of this situation, and I always have to stop to think about this prodding that breaks through my resistance to give me a new self-consciousness, which over time has been loaded with small and fragile moments, but which I perceive as great signs of his Presence that loves and sustains me. If I think of the daily devotion of a friend, whom I met just before the beginning of the pandemic, who came to my hospital for urgent treatment for a tumour, and who writes to me every morning to say good morning and to entrust ourselves to Jesus, each from within the struggles of their day about to begin. It is impossible not to be surprised by what Fr. Giussani says in the School of Community that “human preference is the shadow of the choice of God’s freedom.”

If I think of the discovery of an unexpected and unusual communion with colleagues and nurses with respect to the ultimate meaning of what is happening to us, or if I think of the last moments I shared with unknown people who came to hospital because of Coronavirus, I cannot fail to recognize the truth of these words that Fr. Giussani further says in the School of Community: “There is a relationship with the Mystery who makes all things, there is a relationship with the Mystery become flesh, become man, Jesus, that is immensely more human, more mine, more immediate, more tenacious, more tender, more unavoidable than the relationship with anyone else – with my mother, my father, my fiancée, my wife, my children – with everyone and with everything. For everything is born from the Mystery, nothing makes itself. This is why the person before me, whoever he may be, is and marks out the road through which I reach Christ, the You of which all things are made, and so for that person I have esteem, respect, adoration, I can adore his face.”

Read also – “The first value of the person. Even in prison”

In the evening, alone, back home, to see this gratitude within myself, when I think about all the horrific things that I have seen and done, is the surprise of Him who became flesh, that the encounter has not abandoned me but continues within history, within my history, within the history of the world affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, and I can only live with Him.

Andrea, Milan, Italy