Winter of 1964. The experience of a young Frenchman who came to Loppiano in search of truth.

For two or three days, he was left alone to rest or rather no one told him to do anything, nor did he dream of offering himself to do some work. He wandered around and watched others work. He saw that some college students like him, or already graduates – doctors, engineers, judges – worked together with the laborers of a Verona company to install some of the prefabricated houses that would have housed new student[…]

For two or three days, he was left alone to rest or rather no one told him to do anything, nor did he dream of offering himself to do some work. He wandered around and watched others work. He saw that some college students like him, or already graduates – doctors, engineers, judges – worked together with the laborers of a Verona company to install some of the prefabricated houses that would have housed new students; others worked,with great ease, with bricklayers of a local company, committed to start with the foundations of the college; yet another group, led by  Enrico, the former trader from Trieste, dug septic tanks, with knee deep mud, Tuscan mud, tan in color which is a sticky and slippery clay.

Further on, on the way to the industrial zone,Campogiallo, amidst the din of bulldozers, another pioneer team led by the German, Walter and Gianpaolo  from Trieste, a Monfalcone Shipyard worker, installed iron lattice pylons for large chicken coops.Each shed measured one thousand square meters and would house five thousand chickens, thus freeing up some rooms at the Loppiano farm to be placed that winter, at the disposal of the school (the opening of the first half was fast approaching) awaiting the finished construction of the college.(…)

“With others, I worked like crazy – he tells me now – to carry the heavy walls of prefabricated houses. I remember that in those days my classmates were living this phrase […] ‘What does it matter? To love you matters!.’ That evening Ezio,an Argentinian worker recounted that while he held the huge rods he thought he could no  longer go ahead. But then thinking of Jesus under the cross, he discovered the significance of his fatigue and the strength to continue on. Then and there I was stumped.  However, a few days later…wiith someone else, I found myself lifting a heavy chest, heavy as lead. At some point it was necessary to raise it and hoist it up a ladder, but just at that moment one of my boots sank into the mud. I pulled and pulled but to no avail. I could not lift it out and in fact it seemed that the slime suck it even more. I was going to leave everythiing. But then I thought, what about the others? and I remembered […] ‘What matters? Only to love you matters.’ I took off  the boot without letting go of the heavy chest and walked up the ladder with a bare foot. Finally, I let go of my selfishness. The first step had been taken!

However it was possible to take this step only because of all the love I had seen around me, moment by moment, during those days.  There were those who washed my shirt, who polished my shoes, who served me at the table, who listened patiently to all my oddities, and there was nothing that one could explain this humanly. Nothing. Only the Gospel – and it was a gospel that I could experience first-hand. […]

At the eve of an important event we worked very hard to clear, at least in part, the slimy mud which covered the first concrete structures of the International College, Istituto Mystici Corporis. We also spent that night polishing the floors of the farm now named «Villa Eletto», in memory of Vincenzo Folonari, a member of the Focolare who disappeared in Lake Bracciano on July 12, 1964 and whose example the school drew inspiration.

The next day, October 25, 1964, the blessing ceremony took place attended by many dignitaries of the Church and other visitors.

The morning was hit by a dark storm when Archbishop Florit of Florence […]  all the students, and many friends arrived. The rain poured down all the time, but at the hour of the blessing, as if by magic, the sky turned serene and incredibly blue.”

( S.C. LORIT, Loppiano – a new city, Città Nuova 1967)

Share This