Enzo’s Hat

1355428500        I never imagined I would go to the circus for the first time as a religious and a seminarian. After watching Dumbo as a little kid, I dreamed of going to see the lions, flying trapeze, dancing horses and tightrope walkers—I wasn’t too keen on the clowns. This January, my dream came true.

In his general audience on January 7th, Pope Francis greeted the performers of the Rony Roller Circus who were in attendence:

First of all, I would like to thank the people from the circus who have come here. Here’s a thought: “Let’s go to the circus, we’ll have a little fun…”. Yes, that’s true, the circus is a spectacle and we have a good time there. We also see men and women perform unusual feats, who have great balance: yes, this is true, we’ve seen it. There they are, let’s all greet them! But they also teach us something more. People who perform in the circus create beauty, they are creators of beauty. And this is good for the soul. How much we need beauty! 

            This is Pope Francis at his best! The initiative caught traction, and on January 14th, Mother Theresa’s Missionaries of Charity bussed in the poor, the homeless, and refugees from all over Rome for a special showing of the Rony Roller Circus. I had the unmerited honor of being one of the bus drivers for the event. So at three o’clock on that rainy Thursday afternoon, I pulled right up to the entrance of St Peter’s Basilica in our seminary’s 1982 Mercedes Benz coach bus, loaded up with the underprivileged and the Missionaries of Charity, and was off to the circus.

What a gift to sit among Christ present in the poor as we watched the show. We always receive so much more than we give. That is how God works. He asks for a small gift from us, a small drink of water as from the Samaritan woman at the well (Jn 4), so that he can then pour an ocean of grace into our souls. I felt unworthy to be in the company of my poor brothers and sisters as we shared our stories, our joys and sorrows, our hopes and despair. There was a lot of everything under that circus tent.

At the conclusion of the show, I began speaking with a fifty-some year old homeless man named Enzo. He was all smiles. I asked him why he was so happy. God’s love was his response. He told me that food and possessions didn’t make him happy. God gave him a hope that no one could take away. This is a man who has next to nothing saying this! We got outside back into the rain, and I began making my way over to warm up the bus for the return trip to St Peter’s while Enzo went to get the packed dinner that the pope was providing for all those attending the event. Enzo noticed I didn’t have anything to cover my head from the rain, so he took off his hat and gave it to me. I tried to refuse, but he insisted with a smile.

Back at St Peter’s as we were saying goodbye to our new-found friends, I said farewell to Enzo and gave him back his hat, but he wouldn’t take it. He wanted me to keep it as a gift. Here is a man with nothing, returning to the chill of another winter’s night in the Eternal City, and he is literally giving me the hat off his head! I thought “This is the self-giving that melted Christ’s heart when he watched the poor widow put her last two cents into the temple treasury (Mk 12:41).”

What about us? We are all good people, but are there maybe two cents still jingling in our pocket? Yes, we get tired, but so does Pope Francis, and he inspires me with his constant self-giving to rich and poor alike. Yes we may feel we don’t have more to give, but neither did Enzo nor the widow in the Gospel. What is that small gift God wants us to give so that we are open to receive the ocean of graces that he wants to pour into our souls? He wants us to live with a happiness that nothing can take away, like Pope Francis, like Enzo. We just need to make that little gift. What is it for you?

About Br Dain Scherber LC

Br Dain Scherber LC is a religious seminarian of the Legionaries of Christ. Born and raised on a dairy farm in central Minnesota, he attended the Legion’s high-school seminary in New Hampshire at the age of 13. He did his first two years of seminary in Dublin, Ireland before being transferred to Connecticut, where he continued his studies in the classical humanities for two years and worked as an assistant on the formation team for four years. He is currently studying philosophy at the Legion’s Center for Higher Studies in Rome.
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