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Will he find faith on earth? ~ Luke 18:8

Last month, we reflected on the lives of the first married couple to be canonized, Louis Martin and Marie Zelie Guerin. They were declared saints of the Church by Pope Francis on 18 October 2015. But the first married couple to be  beatified were Luigi Beltrame Quattrocchi and Maria Corsini. They were declared blessed by Pope John Paul II on 21 October 2001 while Louis and Marie were beatified by Pope Benedict XVI seven years later on 19 October 2008. A second miracle needed for the canonization of Luigi and Maria was investigated in 2014. If approved, the two could be the second couple to be canonized as saints.

During the beatification of Luigi and Maria, Pope John Paul II delivered a homily based on the Gospel of Luke (Lk 18:8): I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? It is the final verse in the Parable of the Persistent Widow. Pope John Paul II said: “The question with which Jesus ends the parable on the need ‘always to pray and not lose heart’ frightens our soul. It is a question that is not immediately followed by an answer: indeed, it is intended as a challenge to each person, each ecclesial community, each human generation. Each one of us must give an answer. Christ wants to remind us that human life is directed to the final meeting with God; but in this perspective he asks himself whether, on his return, he will find souls ready, waiting for him, to enter the Father’s house with him.”

Luigi (1880-1951) was a lawyer and civil servant while Maria (1884-1965) was a simple housewife. They were married on 25 Nov 1905 in the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome. They had four children, Filippo, Stefania, Cesare and Enrichetta. The last child was a very difficult pregnancy and the best gynecologists at that time advised her to have an abortion in order to try to save at least the mother. The possibility of survival then was less than five percent. But Luigi and Maria refused to do it. They placed their entire trust in God’s providence. Her pregnancy was one of suffering and anguish. But God responded beyond all hope and Enrichetta was born with both baby and mother safe. 

Many in our community can relate to this experience. When Jean was one month pregnant with our third child, Joel, she contracted German measles. The doctor, certain that the child will be born multi-handicapped, suggested abortion. But we refused and left everything to God’s will. Joel was indeed born multi-handicapped. His muscles were so weak, he could not stand or even lift his head. He had autism, tetralogy of fallot, and was deaf, mute and blind. To enable him to stand and lift his head, we had to bring him daily to the hospital for his physical therapy. As he grew up, he had to be brought daily to a special school for the deaf, mute and blind. He had two heart surgeries to close the holes in his heart and one eye operation to remove the cataract. But he remained bluish and blind. We tried all sorts of hearing aids, but he remained deaf. Our medical bills and school fees were staggering. But God provided for us. 

When he was 24 years old, we went on mission to Indonesia and Brunei. But Joel got sick and his nose bled. And so Jun went alone while Jean stayed with Joel at the hospital. But since we were to install the members of the national council of Indonesia, Jean had to follow to conduct one-on-one sessions with the wives as soon as Joel was allowed to leave the hospital. We were then at the Jakarta airport about to board our flight to Brunei when our housemaid called informing us that Joel had difficulty breathing. We advised her what to do. Then a second call came. Joel had passed away. We cried silently at the airport and all throughout the two-hour flight to Brunei. We tried to return to Manila as soon as possible, but there were no flights available. We thus proceeded to finish our mission in Brunei. When we arrived back in Manila, Joel and the rest of our children were waiting for us in the funeral parlor.

Before marriage, Luigi, though he was honest and unselfish, did not have a strong faith. But Luigi and Maria grew in faith after their marriage. Their family life was never dull. There was always time for sports, holidays by the sea and in the mountains. Their house was always open to their numerous friends and to those who ask for help. During the Second World War, their house became a shelter for refugees. They prayed the rosary every night and the family was consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. 

Like many in our community who are actively involved in ministry and service – giving talks and teachings, going on missions to the provinces and other countries, working with and for the poor, giving tithes regularly and using their own resources to serve in the community – Luigi and Maria were also active in religious organizations and deeply involved in several forms of marriage and family apostolate. They were very active in many Catholic organizations: Associazione Scouts Cattolici Italiani (ASCI), the Italian Catholic scout association; Azioni Cattolica, the biggest lay organization of Catholics in Italy; and UNITALSI, an organization that carries infirm people on pilgrimages to Lourdes and other sanctuaries. They were also members of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis of Penance.

In the midst of their busy daily activities earning a living, supporting and educating their growing children, and serving in their various organizations, the flourishing of the vocations of their first three children took place, undoubtedly with and in God’s grace. The eldest, Filippo, became a priest known as Don Tarciso; Stefania became a religious nun known as sour Cecilia; and Cesare also became a priest known as Fr. Paolino. The youngest, Enrichetta, dedicated her life caring for her old parents.

Luigi died of a heart attack in 1951 at the age of 71. After 14 years as a widow, Maria joined him in 1965 at the age of 81. She died at their house in the arms of Enrichetta. Just like many couples in our community, Luigi and Maria knew how to love and respect each other, always living in the presence of that third person that gives true meaning to marriage, our Lord Jesus. We too can be like them if we allow God to direct our lives, serve the poor and one another as part of a community of believers, and nurture God’s gift of faith so that when Christ asks, “Will I find faith on earth?”, we can answer “Yes”.

(We continue our reflection on our marriages... our Christian vocation... our path to holiness... our means to enter heaven. May we all be inspired by these words and, like Luigi and Maria, continue to nurture God’s gift of faith in us so that when Christ asks, “Will I find faith on earth?”, we can answer “Yes”.

We pray that the Holy Spirit will touch your hearts through these Letters, and may His Spouse, the Blessed Mother, bring you ever closer to her Son, Jesus, for the glory of the Father. ~Reflections of Jun and Jean Uriarte)

Added on Tuesday, October 27, 2015


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