Enzo on a hike to Mount Cusna, in the Apennines of Reggio Emilia (Photo by Enzo Piccinini Foundation)

Argentina: "My encounter with Enzo Piccinini”

On the eve of the 25th anniversary of the Italian surgeon's death, the testimony of those who, even after his death and thousands of kilometres away from Italy, encountered him and whose lives changed.
Carlos Aníbal Bonino

The story of my encounter with Enzo is evidence of Christianity as a mysterious encounter (mysterious because we cannot explain the 'how'), with a presence that refers back to Another presence. It is not a matter of following a 'good example', of important 'values' embodied in a person, but of the attraction generated by coming across a person whose whole humanity shines through that, for better or worse, belongs to Christ.

The first moment was when I read by chance (as Enzo says: “chance is a sign of the Mystery”) the booklet with the testimony he gave at the CLU Exercises in 1998. To someone like me, coming from an essentially agnostic family and with great prejudices against Catholic associations and the life of the Church, such a person seemed totally implausible, but at the same time unpredictably corresponding: a layman, a family man, a health professional, committed to the world and interested in the beautiful things in life, who loved friendship and companionship, and who exuded a fascinating energy and intensity. But the most disconcerting thing was that he lived all these things more and more fully, as his awareness and relationship with the risen Christ grew (“like a hot air balloon,” he said).

The second moment came sometime later. I started working in my profession: I am a physiotherapist specialising in neurorehabilitation. I started a family, my responsibilities within the movement, and in civil life grew. Among other things, my wife and I started running a clinic offering specialist medical and rehabilitation services, which we decided to name after 'Dr Enzo Piccinini', to affirm the character we wanted that place to have and, at the same time, to show the different human approach with which patients were treated.

ANNIVERSARY - Here is information on the celebrations, events, and initiatives to mark the 25th anniversary of Enzo Piccinini's death on May 26 (in Italian)

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to meet people who knew Enzo and to read other transcripts of the meetings he spoke at in Italy and around the world. Each time, I could not help but wish that I could live with the same intensity with which he lived. But just as he had been in his earthly life with his friends, Enzo challenged me and forced me to take a step of maturity, especially when I found myself, a short time later, coming to terms with all my limitations and with the bitter realization that my temperament and strength was nothing like his, and thanks to my wounded pride there was also the regret of thinking: “How greatly does today’s world, our lives, need a powerful testimony like Enzo's.”

In the face of these things one must make a judgement, because the intensity of life – as the School of Community teaches us – does not lie so much in doing many things, but in the awareness of the Mystery, of the destiny present in everything, however small it may be. On the other hand, the attraction that Enzo's life generates comes from his being conquered by Christ. As Giussani would say: "His adhesion to Christ was so totalizing that there was not a day when he did not seek in every possible way the human glory of Christ", because only this truly corresponds to the heart. The rest is vainglory.