COMBONI THAT DAY

Foreseeing One’s Last Christmas

Tuesday, December 19, 2017
“The doctors have told me that my meeting with the Father should happen before Christmas 2018. I have a great desire to take this great leap into His arms. He now holds me up in my uncertain steps, and tries to place my hands in the hands of a brother or sister who suffers more than me. At times, actually most times, he can only pick me up, and dry my tears.” These are the words used by Fr. Albert Modonesi, 75, an Italian Comboni from Brescia who spent 45 years of his life between Egypt, Sudan and South Sudan, to wish us a merry Christmas 2017. Many years ago the missionary was bitten by a puff adder. He survived but has been plagued with health issues, in his liver especially. He had to leave Juba after an attack of malaria. A year ago he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer spread to the liver. Here below is his witness.

ADVENT and CHRISTMAS 2017

Dear one and all:
About a year has passed since Christmas 2016 when I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer metastasized to the liver.

At the time I had defined it as a special gift, because in my simplemindedness and perhaps in my presumption and pride, I thought it would be easy to accept to walk side by side with Jesus and my suffering brothers. Instead I have come to realize that it was exactly my weaker brothers and sisters who have given me the courage to continue my ascent to the Peak, together with Jesus and in their company. It has been a year where I have contemplated flowers never before seen. Their perfumes have surrounded me and have penetrated in the depts. Of my cancerous cells, bringing relief, life and the will to fight.

The first flower was the meeting, after my first chemotherapy, with a 30 year old woman. She was sitting next to me and, at the end of the cycle, suddenly she began to cry. Before I could say anything, while wiping away her tears, she said to me: “I don’t cry for me, but for my one year old daughter,” and she hugged me. I will never forget that embrace.

The second flower is an 18 year old boy, Gabriel, who is getting ready for his final exams in the classics, a young man who loves mountains and rock climbing. I shared with him a room in the oncology department and we exchanged our life experiences that were mutually enriching. He had tumor modules in his lungs that in a short time brought him to climb the last peak to Paradise, in a few short months. A large group of young people was fascinated by his silent witness and by his concern for all those who were suffering more than himself. The fragrance and the freshness of his presence was an incomparable gift which I still carry in my heart.

The third gift is a bunch of flowers. The variety of their colors and fragrances have made me enjoy the beauty and the greatness of the missionary vocation as it is reflected in about thirty Comboni confreres who have come here to Brescia for various medical treatments. They all share this great desire to fight back and to regain their strength in order to be able to return to their mission as soon as possible. Their missionary experiences, be they marvelous, joyous or sad, with the variety of failures and disillusionments help me to live my missionary vocation in my condition of a weak missionary.

The smallest flower, but not less splendid than the others is my little brother Fr. Renato who, on October 27, 2017, gave me these words, one could say prophetic words, he had written in 2009: “Thank you Albert for everything. Our sufferings prepare us for an Eternal Paradise. Our parents and the Lord are awaiting us. I am always close to you with affection. In my weakness all I can with His Help.”

The doctors have told me that my meeting with the FATHER should happen before Christmas 2018. I have a great desire to take this great leap into HIS arms. He now holds me up in my uncertain steps, and tries to place my hands in the hands of a brother or sister who suffers more than me. At times, actually most times, he can only pick me up, and dry my tears.

A warm hug. MERRY CHRISTMAS.
Albert Modonesi