New Blue Sweater


Massimo’s home, Civitella

If we could see the expression on Christ’s face when we came into his Eucharistic presence, what would it be like, I wonder.

Once or twice a month, my community gets out into the Italian countryside on a Saturday to get some fresh air and ventilate out our brains, which have been saturating themselves in philosophical juices for the past fortnight. It is always a much needed disconnect from the lofty things like “being,” “essence,” and “truth,” which are our daily bread at the university. I love the country: the winding mountain roads, the olive groves, the sheep, the vineyards. My favorite sights are the cities on the mountains. They are really something to behold, as if crowning the entire panorama. The sand-tinted plastered houses, glistening in the sun, are compacted into a dense, impenetrable bundle that practically hangs off the mountain. These cities never cease to strike me with awe.


A couple weeks ago, we hopped in the buses and headed into the heartland of Italy for one of these Saturday outings. I decided to go for a jog with a couple brothers up one of the mountains. We took the road that skirted the mountain village of Civitella and started our ascent up the mountain. It was a very nippy day. As we approached the last house before the top of the mountain –It amazes me how high up the mountain they tuck away some of these homes. I feel pity for the poor cars that have to climb that far— we encountered a man raking his driveway. His name was Massimo, and he had to have been about sixty years old. After speaking for a while with Massimo, learning about the area, the names of the mountains, and the nearby shrines, our unused limbs really began to feel the bite of the frosty day. Instead of sending us off, Massimo invited us into his stone-brick house to warm up and have some tea. We had no more that set foot in the house when Massimo’s kind wife, Giovanna, began to run here and there, upstairs and downstairs, bringing out blankets and sweaters, tea and coffee, cookies and toast. She sat us on the couch and wouldn’t let us move from in front of the heater she had situated for us. She was even going to whip up some homemade spaghetti for us if we hadn’t told her that we had to make it back to our community before too long. It was an experience of Christian charity incarnate. They had no idea who we were, but it didn’t matter.

After a good hour of visiting, we had to begin our trek back down the chilly mountainside. We said our goodbyes, emerged from the cozy warmth of the heap of blankets Giovanna had covered us with, and began taking off the sweaters they had given us. “The sweater is my gift to you,” Giovanna said. “Keep it.” What generosity, and to complete strangers. So off we were, running down the mountain road, with our stomachs filled with warm tea, our backs covered by new pure wool sweaters, and –most importantly— our hearts warmed by the example of unmerited generosity of two kind souls, who gave gratuitously.

Later as I was speaking with our Lord in the chapel, the thought struck me: this is how Christ receives me every time I come before him in the Eucharist. He receives me with that same explosive joy of St Elizabeth when Mary visited her after the Annunciation, that same limitless, unmerited, joyful reception we experienced from Massimo and Giovanna. Christ isn’t indifferent to the times we come to see him. Don’t forget that. Though nothing seems to change as he receives us in that silent, dim church with the steady red flicker of the sanctuary candle, if only we could see the joy on his face.

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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