To get to know Christ, sewing masks

"I would like to know more about Jesus..." Elena is startled by her friend’s question, which sets her in motion. Deep down, she says to herself, she shares this same desire. An energy that ends up involving the people in her neighborhood.

Today, after a morning spent watching online tutorials and an hour spent cutting new fabric from a reel, I went out for my now almost daily tour of the houses in the neighborhood, where grandmothers produce great things with their sewing machines. Today alone, I collected 258 masks, and in total we have exceeded 3,000... I am moved to think that this whole thing began with the desire to want to know more about Jesus.

On the afternoon of March 27, I thought of inviting two friends who are distant from the Church, and from Christianity, to watch Pope Francis’ prayer in St. Peter's Square. Fearing their reaction, I said to myself, smiling, that "after all, a blessing does no harm to anyone..."It was an awkward invitation, but they both accepted. After commenting upon the touching images of the Square, from their own homes, one of them, who is a Buddhist, called me and said: "Elena, I would like to ask you something I have never understood: what does INRI mean?" And I replied: "Well, you know, the Romans... Pontius Pilate... the King of the Jews... the crucifixion... the mockery..." "Yes, but why the King of the Jews?" "Maybe you should get to know more about Jesus in order to understand better." "I would like you to tell me about Him, to understand who He is." I was stunned by this most beautiful question. Which had arisen because she had seen the Pope, a magnificent fact occurring. More importantly: I shared this same question. In this period of difficult isolation, I wished not to waste time, not to miss the opportunity to get to know Him even more, even if living days (and particularly evenings) suddenly emptied of things to do.

This question began to accompany me throughout my days and I realized that I was beginning to be more attentive and to let myself be provoked by everything. One evening, during one of the many online meetings during this period, I found out that the association "Incontro e Presenza", of which I am a member and through which I do charity work in San Vittore prison, received a donation of a 7,000-meter reel of a material which can be used to produce masks. And we began to wonder how we could sew them.

I did not put myself forward because of any particular skill…I put myself forward because everything began to interest me, even that need I had in front of me. I talked about it with my parish priest, with whom I have recently developed a friendship. Thanks to an announcement during the streamed Mass on Psalm Sunday and thanks to word of mouth, a
a team of 24 women from the neighbourhood
was created a few weeks ago, plus other people with various tasks... I would have never have imagined such a great response.

What strike me most are the encounters I have made: people who said their simple yes to the possibility of doing something good, even if they do not understand the reality inside the prison, and do not know much about the association... There is Elisabetta who, even if she is now at home, works at the Teatro della Scala and produces stage costumes, or Carla, who cares so much about her 1940 sewing machine. Then there is Mayra, who, despite economic problems because she is not being paid her salary, gladly gives a hand, and Elena who, in the absence of elastic bands, has invented a prototype with pieces of pantyhose... I find myself treading the path with these travelling companions with a gaze full of gratuitousness, like the one Fr. Giussani educates us to through charity work. And this gaze allows me get to know Jesus, because it is His gaze: "We go in "charity" to learn to live like Christ." I do not want anything less than that.

From this reality that has flourished from the people in my neighborhood, our horizon has also widened: a friend has asked to collaborate, but she does not live in the area and the restrictions on movement are insurmountable. The matter was left pending, until I discovered, in a dialogue, that the son of one of the sewing ladies is a delivery boy. He offered to help us free of charge and the material was delivered to the friend's house far away... And so we continued.

Read also - "The way Jesus makes me perceive that He loves me"

We are now waiting for the prisons to update us on what is needed and this is also a provocation: we are in a hurry to complete everything right away, but this patience makes me recognize that we are not the ones who complete an endeavor. On the contrary, waiting allows us to widen our gaze and has made us recognize other needs around us: we have started to send masks to some community shelters, we sent 700 masks to an NGO in Romania…How great God is! For Him, it is enough that I desire to get to know Him in order for Him to make unimaginable things happen.

Elena, Milan, Italy