On the occasion of the World Day of the Sick, which is celebrated today, Tuesday, February 11, we are publishing Umberto Ferro’s experience. Umberto is a married focolarino, originally from Pompeii, who moved to Loppiano 18 years ago.

“I must premise that when I fell ill,” says Umberto with his distinct Neapolitan accent, “I was going through perhaps one of the worst moments of my life. Since I had lost my job (at my age, I am already a grandfather!), I was angry with God and with everyone. I had given up all my commitments, both in the parish and in Loppiano. Nothing made sense to me anymore”.

And it is precisely in that situation of “distance” that God finds a way to break into Umberto’s story again: “It was August 4, 2018. We were in the parish to greet the parish priest on his birthday. Suddenly, I fainted and woke up in an ambulance”.

Umberto was taken to a specialized centre in Ancona, where he received a serious diagnosis: heart surgery was necessary. “At the beginning of September, I entered the operating room. Everything went very well, so much so that after four days they discharged me. But the worst was yet to come”.

A serious complication occurred and a second operation was necessary. This time the risk was very high and both he and his family were warned. All the inhabitants of Loppiano prayed for the success of the operation.

“When they explained to me that I might not even make it out alive, I stood before God and saw my life with all its ups and downs. It was as if Jesus in the depth of my heart said to me, “Prepare yourself because you are about to join me. But this idea only made me sad, a great melancholy grabbed my soul and I asked the nurse to leave me only for a moment. She left the room and closed the door. I had never noticed that behind that door there was a poster, an image of Jesus with an inscription: “Don’t be afraid, I will always be with you”. That sentence shook me and everything changed inside me. Suddenly the melancholy gave way to a great serenity. Now I just wanted to put myself in God’s hands, to do His will. And, strangely enough, I entered the operating room with a certainty: everything will be all right”.

Every time Umberto remembers those moments he speaks of a rebirth: “Since then, my life has changed. I understood that I had to, indeed I could start loving again, that it was up to me to take the first step towards others. It’s strange, but the moment I decided to get closer to people again, I had the impression that everyone was coming towards me. Now I am back in the parish and I am collaborating in everything I can in Loppiano. But the thing that interests me most is to tell everyone that I am ready to give my life for each one. My illness has become a new birth for me, I have been given a second chance to praise God and bear witness to Him”.

Sickness and rebirth, illness and encounter with Jesus. They are terms, almost paradoxical, that make us think of the words of Pope Francis in his message on the occasion of the XXVIII World Day of the Sick: “Jesus does not make demands of those who endure situations of frailty, suffering and weakness, but offers his mercy and his comforting presence.  He looks upon a wounded humanity with eyes that gaze into the heart of each person.  That gaze is not one of indifference; rather, it embraces people in their entirety, each person in his or her health condition, discarding no one, but rather inviting everyone to share in his life and to experience his tender love.”

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