“”Come back, with confidence and peace, to the thoughts of yesali, followed to tell her the cappuccino: “Ask again to the Lord the graces you asked him, for being a holy wife; and trust that he will give you more abundant, after so much trouble. And you, he said, turning to Renzo, “remember, son, that if the Church makes you this companion, she does not do so to provide you with a temporal and worldly consolation, which, even if it could be whole, and without any mixture of any displeasure, should end up in great pain, at the moment of leaving you; but it does so to start you both on the road of consolation that will not end. Love each other as traveling companions, with this thought of having to leave you, and with the hope of finding yourself forever. Thank the heaven that led you to this state, not by the turbulent cheerfulness and strolling, but with travails and miseries, to arrange yourself for a cheerful harvest and quiet. If God grants you children, aim to raise them for Him, to instill the love of him and all men to them; and then you’ll guide them well in everything else. “
Wonderful lines. These words of Fra Cristoforo are a gem embedded in that masterpiece that is the most important work of Alessandro Manzoni. We’re towards the end of the novel. The plague is loosening its gloomy grip on the city of Milan. Renzo and Lucia survived the epidemic that claimed so many lives. Everything seems to be going well. The two young men find themselves at the lazzaretto. There is something that still prevents their union. He’s not Don Rodrigo anymore. He’s dead. There is perhaps an even more difficult impediment to overcome. Lucia, in the dramatic night spent at the castle of the Unnamed, promised Our Lady to give herself completely to her in virginity, in exchange for liberation. Renzo is desperate. He can’t do it. Fra Cristoforo intervenes and frees Lucia from that vote. After freeing her, she returns her to Renzo with this beautiful speech. Remember, at least to me, by some traits, the biblical story of Tobia and Sara.
Let’s look at this little theological treasure by thought.
- Ask the Lord again for the graces you asked him for, for being a holy wife; and trust that he will grant you more abundant, after so much trouble. Holiness is a gift from God. Certainly. It is also an act of personal will and an inclination of the heart. This is equally true. Life’s difficulties are not just a misfortune. They can be a moment of crisis that puts us in front of a choice. Deciding for good and continuing to trust in God with hope, in spite of everything, or surrendering to evil and despair. What happened to Lucia led her towards holiness because she, with the Grace of God, always chose good.
- And you, he said, turning to Renzo, “remember, son, that if the Church makes you this companion, she does not do it to provide you with a temporal and worldly consolation, which, even if it could be whole, and without any mixture of any sorrow, should end in great pain, at the moment of leaving you; but it does so to start you both on the road of consolation that will not end. This recommendation reminds us that our spouse is not placed next to us to make us happy, so that he may have to fill that void and those emotional and sexual needs that we feel. Only in God can we find what we lack, and only by feeling loved by Him can we correspond to that love. In marriage we respond to God’s love by loving a creature of his that becomes a mediator between us and Him. Here joy will no longer necessarily be dependent and arise only from what we receive. The gift we will give to the other will also be a source of new life, love and meaning. Everything changes. Marriage changes with this perspective. Marriage thus becomes a school to learn to love. It prepares us for the encounter of love with the groom, with Jesus.
- Love each other as traveling companions, with this thought of having to leave you, and with the hope of finding yourself forever. We must not look into our eyes, as if our horizon, our everything, is limited to the other. As we walk together, supporting each other, we must follow that path traced toward eternal holiness and joy in Jesus.
- Thank Heaven who led you to this state, not through the turbulent cheerfulness and strolling, but with travails and miseries, to arrange you for a cheerful harvest and quiet. This step reconnects to the first point. Marriage rests on the rock in faith, of course, but also in the strength that is generated in facing difficulties together. What allows us to experience the unconditional and authentic love of the other is not found in the tranquility of serene periods, but in the stormy waters of difficult times. When loving becomes a difficult choice, fidelity to promise, mutual support, mercy given to one another and the gaze that never ceases to see the beauty of our union, become cement for the relationship.
- If God grants you children, aim to raise them for Him, to instill the love of him and all men to them; and then you will guide them well in everything else. This passage is also beautiful. If your love takes flesh, it is realized in a new creation, in a new life, always remember who created you and those who re-created you in a us, in a soul and a single heart. Bring that creature back to the source of everything, to the source of your love, to the source of Love. This is marriage. This is our way to holiness
Alessandro Manzoni gave us a moment of pure theology. He did it his way. With the beauty he manages to convey with his writing. He did it through the words of a cappuccino friar. A consecrated to God who shows the bride and groom, who are also consecrated in a different way, the purpose of their vocation: to prepare for the eternal wedding with the Bride who never disappoints.
Antonio and Luisa