Aurelio, the fruit of Loppiano

12 Jun 2020 | Life, Life

We would like to offer you an article written by Oreste Paliotti for Città Nuova. It outlines the person of Aurelio Lagorio, a young man who was among the pioneers of Loppiano. Aurelio died very young in an automobile accident. He had a short but intense and spiritually profound life that left an indelible mark on those who knew him, first of all on Alfredo Zirondoli Maras, author of his biography, reprinted by Città Nuova. In this biography one also gets to know a part of Loppiano’s history. The new edition, enriched by many photos, include many testimonies about him such as that of Carlo Nunziati who was in the car with him at the time of the accident and his sister Caterina, now in the Focolare of Belgium.

I did not meet Aurelio Lagorio in the autumn of 1969 when I arrived in Loppiano, the Focolare little city near Florence. Aurelio was no longer on those roads that he had helped build, between those farmhouses and terrains once abandoned and uncultivated, in that shed where he had vigorously and enthusiastically worked to bring about one of the first companies born to support the inhabitants: the sorting of fabric scraps for recycling. He was not there because he had died in March, 1968 at the age of 22 in an automobile accident. Instead, his spiritual presence lived among those who had known and loved him; it made him come alive again in the episodes told of his brief existence, in some of his writings that circulated: testimonies of a holiness difficult to describe perhaps because it is extremely simple, without making too much of a sensation.

I remember the individual or group visits to his tomb in the small cemetery of San Vito, where he was like a seed awaiting the resurrection that was already giving so many fruits of conversion to the Gospel; I see his picture on the tombstone, smiling and with the phrase written on it: “He became perfect in a short time, he accomplished the works of a long life”. They were visits to a friend and brother to whom one went to ask advice, to be consoled, to be confirmed as followers of Christ. “You tell me things without speaking/things of a truer world” are words sung by Mario Desiati in a song by Gen Rosso dedicated to the young Lagorio.

I got to know Aurelio’s story in its brief but essential form. I had missed his biography which appeared in 1980 and which was distributed by the Azur of Loppiano. The author, Alfredo Zirondoli, had been co-director of the little city since 1966 and as such had known Aurelio well; indeed, as a doctor, he had made an extreme and vain attempt to save his life after the accident. Forty years later, Città Nuova’s reprint would appear with the title Vita di Aurelio Lagorio, Scritti e testimonianze (Aurelio Lagorio’s Life, Writings and Testimonies). These would include testimonies of Caterina, his sister and Carlo Nunziati, who was in the car with him at the time of the accident.  With its added freshness and incisiveness, these writings and testimonies made me know about him in a more complete way.

Aurelio was born in Novara, Italy in 1946, and at the age of two he emigrated with his parents and sister to Uruguay, where a second little sister was born: Mabel. When he was 17, the family returned to Italy, while he stayed in Montevideo to continue his studies. During this period of about a year or so he met the Focolare and remained attracted by the life of some focolarini who bore witness to a Gospel put into practice in their everyday actions. When it was time for him to attend University Aurelio returned to Italy and joined his parents in Genoa. He continued his contacts with the members of the Movement until he too felt called to leave everything to follow Jesus. He was only 19 years old when, in November 1965, he arrived in the hills of Loppiano where he participated actively in the construction of the nascent town and at the same time in the formation courses for focolarini.

He recounted the beginnings of his life in Loppiano to his friend Antonio, who was in Uruguay: “Here we come from all parts of the world trying to build this city […] uniting ourselves in a chain of love  by sharing what one has that is positive and leaving everything else behind. That is why we see only one people here: the people of God. And it is truly a miracle because all the barriers that had been built up for years, for centuries, fall as if they were nothing. Because the only thing we have in our soul is God, and only He gives meaning to every relationship with our brother”.  Naturally there are difficulties when one tries to build the unity Jesus asked of the Father. Aurelio then had a “very low” image of himself: he felt as if he were nothing, incapable of loving, but his tenacity in believing in God-mercy led him to continually put himself at risk to love the others, going beyond his own and others’ limits every time. The others described him as serious and capable in his work, joyful and fraternal in his relationships, attentive in grasping his inner voice in order to do God’s will, so that the spiritual level was always high with others, but without expecting anything from anyone except from himself.

On March 28, 1968, Aurelio passed away. An unfinished letter was found in his wallet, addressed – also in the name of his fellow Focolare members – to the founder of the Focolare, Chiara Lubich: “We wanted to give you a gift, we looked for something in our drawers, something of our own, and we realized that we had nothing. But looking at our faces we understood! We had ourselves, our life to give you. We told ourselves that what God most desires is that we offer Him all of ourselves, not only our joys, but above all our little things, our weaknesses. We understood that through you this gift could reach heaven faster…”. In turn Chiara would say of him: “Aurelio is and will remain a real fruit of Loppiano“.

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Loppiano, 1965: Aurelio works on the road construction
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