There is a beautiful tradition in Italy in which a priest visits every household in his parish. They call it la benedizione (Italian for blessing). They pray a little prayer together and the priest blesses the family. It’s a simple thing, but it gives a vestige of the catholic country that Italy used to be. It’s amazing to see such a tradition still alive in a country where only 30.8% of Catholics go to church on Sundays (not to even mention those who go to daily Mass).
Every year, some of the brothers are asked to help carry out these visits at nearby parishes. I had an interesting experience one of the times I went. A fellow brother and I were walking out of an apartment building after visiting the residing families when a couple entering stopped us. Asking if we were there for the benedizione and finding out that we had just missed them, they asked us if we would mind going back in to bless their home. They said that it would be really important for them. It amazed me to see how important a simple blessing was for them.
We entered their apartment, which was beautifully furnished and well-kept, and after the prayer asking for the Lord’s blessing to come upon them, I sprinkled holy water on them and around their home. After finishing, they asked me to give them holy water again a second time. I could see in their eyes such a hunger and thirst for God and his blessing.
Afterwards, we stayed for a few moments speaking with them. From the conversation I found out that they were not practicing Catholics. Also, they have been living together for twenty-six years and still haven’t gotten married. However, even so, their hunger and thirst for the grace of God were so clear and strong. That someone who had lived away from God would thirst for him so much struck me so deeply.
These people had each other, a nice home, money, food, etc, yet they felt that need for something more, that this life and this world could not fill their hearts, and they showed this in the importance they gave to the benedizione. It is just a simple prayer and holy water yet it made them so happy. I realized that even if they lived away from God and the Church, they still felt the need for Him because this need never goes away. We all need Him, no matter who we are. I couldn’t help but wonder, if only they knew how much more Christ was offering them and how much he loved them and how much he wanted them back, how much happier they would become.
At times we can ask: does this world feel a need for God? With all the gadgets at hand, millions of possible enjoyments, and all the new things continually appearing, is God passé? Looking out there, so many seem to be getting on just fine in life without Him. However, is it really so? Well, this small experience testifies that even with everything we have, the desire for something more, someone more, still gnaws at our hearts. There is a void which only God can fill. People are thirsting for Him. They just need someone to have the courage to show them the way.