A video by Enzo Piccinini screened in Nonantola Abbey (photo: Maria Beatrice Cattini)

Enzo Piccinini: "A humanity that lets the Glory of Christ shine through”

The homily of Monsignor Filippo Santoro, Archbishop of Taranto, during mass for the twenty-third anniversary of the death of Enzo Piccinini on May 29.
Filippo Santoro

Your Excellency Don Erio, Fiorisa, dear friends, dear faithful, I warmly welcome this invitation, especially on this XXIII Anniversary, which falls on the day we are celebrating the Ascension of the Lord into heaven.
The solemnity of the Ascension is a great moment in the liturgy, a great moment in life.
The Ascension is the feast of the complete Glory of Christ, of Christ’s humanity. "He ascended to heaven": the fact that the Lord ascends to heaven means that His and our humanity is fully glorified. The fullness that the heart desires happens, the whole expectation of the heart is fulfilled.
As Fr. Giussani told us, "ascended to heaven" does not mean He ascends to the clouds: "ascended to heaven" means He went to the depths of the earth, to the heart of the earth, to the heart of reality. He is at the heart of everything, at the heart of every affection, at the heart of every relationship, at the heart of every circumstance, at the heart of our daily journey. The humanity of Christ is at the heart of reality. And so, by following Jesus, our humanity also shares in His Glory.

It has happened to us, too, to encounter the humanity of Jesus through the humanity of the people who made Him known to us, who made us encounter Him. To many of us this happened by encountering Fr. Giussani. It happened to many of us by encountering Enzo. A humanity that lets that Glory shine through: the Glory of the One who sits at the right hand of the Father, the Glory that attracts us, the Glory that leads us on the path of life. The contradictions, however, do not end – think of the war in Ukraine, the pandemic, so much pain and suffering. It is not that the struggles, the contradictions, the difficulties of life are over, but we are not alone in all this. We are united with the One who is at the right hand of the Father, with the Glory that He gives us and had given us in our history, to our life, to this friendship that continues through time.

I met Enzo before I went to Brazil as a missionary. I stayed there 27 years so he passed away when I was in Brazil, but I followed his whole journey. I followed how he participated directly in the glorious humanity of Christ: the humanity that we seek, the humanity that became present in a face, became present in a gaze, became present in a relationship. The great feast of the Ascension, however, indicates that everything took place in the simplicity of a relationship, a indelible relationship in our lives, a relationship that reached us and was transformed into an embrace that never leaves us, like Enzo's.
And this shines out in the lives of the saints, in particular. Among them, in one of my presentations at the School of Community, I recalled that the great figure of Enzo stands out on the path to sainthood.
When I was in Brazil I had the text of his last testimony, which appears summarized in the book Ho fatto tutto per essere felice [I did everything to be happy] by Marco Bardazzi. He spoke of his job, of the unity between his faith and job as a doctor, with his family, with the world’s problems, with the problems around us, and he said: "From here questions arose about what is urgent in the morning when you go to work. Questions arose about how not to live a fragmented experience between your home, affections, work, rest.” The question Enzo kept insisting on that evening [the evening of a conference] was about the unity of the person, which requires putting one's heart into what one does.
But that was not enough for him. It certainly did not end there [there was something bigger]. “[...] Something greater is need to be free. Life is not in our hands, I do not make myself. I recognize that there is something bigger than me and I begin to admit that I may not understand, but also that what I do not understand has meaning."
But even that was not enough for him because when you are on a ward, with a terminal illness, it is not enough. It was not enduring. Even the best intentioned and the most "inspired" could hold on a little bit, but then would collapse. Enzo knew this, and he had also experienced this himself. He understood it and he repeated it everywhere, even that evening: "The ultimate condition is that we must not be alone [and recently we have lived this great experience of not being alone, accompanied by heaven, accompanied here on earth by a great history: the history of the Church, the history of the movement, the history of our communion]. Without belonging, that is, without a reference point – thanks to which your ‘I’ stops drifting but is rooted in faces, people and history – you cannot make it. Ultimately, what is needed is not to be alone. Whether we are doctors or not, that is the ultimate point. In this way you do not lose the will to fight [the will to fight. Enzo's testimony is a great fight!]. And over time, little by little, I assure you that the gusto is not denied to those who make mistakes. It is denied to those who do not have a sense of Mystery in their lives, that is, of something greater, present. A companionship to belong to, a true friendship."

That experience is what strikes me the most: over time the richness of that experience becomes more rooted in life, as it was rooted in Enzo's life. And what was there at the beginning has, over time, grown. But I have verified it myself! In the past few days I have celebrated fifty years of priesthood – I did not even realise, but I have been a priest for fifty years! – and when people tell me how beautiful my day of ordination must have been, I realise that it is true but that it is even more beautiful now after fifty years! There is an ease, an experience of the Lord present that acts and takes me where I did not think I would go... like when Fr. Giussani said to me, "Would you be willingly to go Brazil?". That "willingly" won me over! It was so reasonable! Then, as time passed, I was asked to return. Pope Benedict said to me, "You have been in Brazil for a long... Come back!" In short, I discovered what we have learned in myself, and what Enzo lived. In Taranto we have serious employment issues and I have not been able to sit on the side-lines, watching. The heart that Enzo lived is what I too look for, which people throw themselves at with hope, creating unity and a common path. This is what also happened when I responded to Pope Francis' invitation (to be his Special Delegate for the Memores Domini Lay Association). When he gave me the assignment, he first talked to me about the many things we had experienced together in the Conference of Bishops in Brazil in Aparecida, then he said "Thank you for accepting!" I had not said yes yet! "Thank you for accepting": how can you say anything else! And it is a great experience! Then the experience of welcoming novices who have made their profession, including one who really recalled Enzo to me. The novice is a nurse in a clinic specializing in child leukemia. He had been treating two little girls: one of them died of leukemia. The other one was angry, so this young Memor stayed close to her, keeping her company, not giving her speeches. But he saw that she was sad. At one point he said to her, "As for God, as for Jesus, what would become of your friend if His presence was not there? However, I understand that you are angry." He stayed close to her and said, "Leave the little door of your relationship with God open: that is the door to Heaven."

We are in the world to point towards the gates of Heaven: in our family, in our vocation, in our work. To point towards the gates of Heaven: we can say this because it has already begun now. And Enzo pointed towards them precisely because it had already begun. And now, as time goes by, his presence, in this journey that has made him a Servant of God, has allowed us to see the gates of Heaven more clearly. And by following what he followed, by following the presence of the Lord seated at the right hand of the Father, the gates of Heaven are closer for us as well.
Praised be Jesus Christ.