The period of time – 1914-2012 – in which the venerable Enrichetta Beltrame Quattrocchi lived embraces a century which from a historical, social and religious point of view is very articulated and complex. A woman of refined human and spiritual acuity, she offers to today’s world that seems to have lost the compass of the essence of the human person – trust – profound and provocative stimuli for thought and reflection. Her public and private history unmasks a conception of man’s commitment on earth seen only in individualistic, selfish and anthropocentric terms.
The pages of this biographical text, born ex abundantia cordis, where every element of language summons all its strength to say things that are important, where great teachers of the spiritual life are called, do not suggest a mirror, but are themselves a mirror, which reflect the depth of a very articulated, essential, overbearing, dramatic human and spiritual experience. They reveal to us a special figure: not corrected, not rounded off, not adapted, not approved, not supervised but faithful to her living image of a woman who illustrates the Gospel, the life of Jesus, starting from daily life, showing the essential features of Christ , of his holiness, of his divine beauty. Her life is like a raging river. Enrichetta has always defined herself as a simple ladle – reference is made to the spirit of dedication to God and her brothers and sisters that marked her long life – a woman, therefore, who chronicles the occurrence of grace. Two fundamental elements are striking, as they capture essential aspects of this woman’s life. The first is the experience of faith.
The venerable one lives her faith in a natural, simple, evident way, as something that corresponds to the heart, which, while it happens, illuminates and makes everything evident. It is the beginning of grace. And this recognition, being the result of attraction, when it happens, is the most natural thing in this world, a fact that can only be told when it happens. Jesus said: “My yoke is light and my burden is easy”. For this reason Enrichetta’s experience, aware of being a poor sinner (as excessive and ardent spirits can be sinners, spirits blinded by the light), enjoyed too much the health that comes from closeness to God, with the treasures of the grace of God becomes a provocation in a world that walks in the gardens of grace with a terrifying brutality, and is no longer equipped to understand words like these of Péguy: ‘To hope one must be very happy, one must have obtained, received a great grace’ . In an increasingly secularized society, education to the good life of the Gospel is urgently needed. She therefore cries out the primacy of grace, the attraction of Jesus, who makes one deserve paradise in the afterlife and already gives it in the hereafter experience of amazement, precarious yes, but real. There were many and different difficult circumstances in her life. At every step the venerable encountered a device capable of blowing up, of calling into question her existential project. About her Her greatest battle was fought by measuring herself ‘with the brothers who shared her same Christian faith’. Thus arriving at that great faith that she testified with that secret but tenacious Christian vocation to sacrifice, to suffering (if not to martyrdom) that comes close to scandal.
That of the venerable is not a shouted Christianity.
A second element, emerging from the biographical data that is offered to our reflection, capable of conferring meanings, igniting desire, illuminating knowledge and inspiring research is the story, the effort, the human-divine drama of reading one’s own life, which it is the most precious ‘book’ that has been given to us, “a book – as Pope Francis says – which unfortunately many do not read, or they do so too late, before they die”, in which we find what many seek in vain for other ways. Enrichetta reread her life, “noticing in it the silent and discreet, but incisive, steps of the presence of the Lord”. This ‘re-reading’ of one’s life is much more than an examination of conscience, it is learning to see the clues that the Lord sows throughout our existence. The venerable communicated with God, under whatever form he presented himself. A road, hers, made not only of successes and gratifications, but also – and above all for a long time – of difficulties, an infinite number of obstacles, separations, pains and misunderstandings. Enrichetta found herself at the right moment, it is the amazement aroused by a new beginning of grace, while the today of history, of modern man and woman, is always late. Rooted in a ‘Deuteronomic’ memory, she looks to the future with confidence, drawing from the pantry of family life the juice to grow and practice fraternity, sharing and forgiveness. This memory of one’s history, of one’s family, the memory of the marvels that God has done in her life, makes her feel alive, makes her grow, gives her strength and life, capable of undertaking a very risky journey, shunning a pleasant and sure, a domesticated faith. She strongly pushes her to heroic daily life in order to be able to live in the world without being of the world. She has addressed the causes, not the symptoms of the disease.
Through this biography I wanted to explain, narrate what I saw and heard in person by being there. It is urgent to go deeper, to offer keys to interpretation, illuminating them with the Gospel, which can help to place the experience of the other in a supernatural logic, respectful of the mystery. Telling means letting yourself be struck but also hurt by the story we encounter, in order to be able to humbly narrate it to readers. Pope Francis in his speech on November 13, meeting a group of journalists in the hall of the Consistory, said: “We so much need […] passionate communicators of reality, able to find the treasures often hidden in the folds of our society and to tell them allowing us to be impressed, to learn, to broaden our minds, to grasp aspects that we did not know before”.
postulator of the Causes of Saints
Venerable Enrichetta Beltrame Quattrocchi. Sparks of faith as moments of salvation