If Our Lady of Fatima Arrives in the Neighbourhood (remembering Brother Ettore as well)

Written by Aldo Maria Valli

Our Lady of Fatima is coming to where I live, and obviously Saint Immediately is at work. Yesterday evening, when I arrived home, I found on the balcony a part of a banner with words written in blue against a white background. Another part was in the entrance. Then, on the table, there were balloons to be blown up, and scissors, glue, and adhesive tape. When Saint Immediately sets to work, nobody can stop here.

From what I have heard, the phrase that will be on the banner is the one that Elizabeth addressed to Mary: “Why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” The letters were written in blue with a felt pen, a notable work. I believe that one of our daughters, enrolled for the task by Saint Immediately, had a hand in this.

     To return home and see the house transformed into a craftsman’s workshop can involve some moments of puzzlement, but when one decides to link one’s destiny to Saint Immediately one should expect almost anything.

It appears that the banner will be hung on the net that marks the boundary between our street and a meadow where some quiet horses usually stand. I do not know if those horses have been asked their view on the matter but I believe that they won’t mind because they have always seemed to me to be peaceful horses, involved more than anything else in eating grass and warding off flies with strokes of their tails.

Rumours from corridors tell me that Saint Immediately and her friends (a team of ladies involved in teaching catechesis, in comparison to whom the SAS are a group of blushing violets) will not confine themselves to positioning the banner. There will be various special effects. For example, that stretch of the road that goes upwards will be decorated with tens of flowers attached to balloons. I foolishly commented: “Yes, you have enough breath to blow them all up!” But Saint Immediately, looking at me with thinly disguised forbearance (as if to say: “you have got things to learn”), made clear: “I got a small gas bottle”.

Obviously, the local residents will be asked not to park their cars but I know that the parish SAS have already taken care of this and as far as I know they were convincing.

Yesterday I saw Our Lady of Fatima while she was going round another neighbourhood near to ours. She was on the car of the parish priest, and this parish priest, dressed in white, was at the steering wheel. The boot of the car was open so that Our Lady could see well. The four indicators were on but every so often the parish priest sounded his horn. A car of the traffic wardens led the procession and another was at its rear. Escorted in this way, Our Lady went along the busy road and the scene reminded me of certain films of the neo-realism school.

 A pilgrim by definition, Our Lady of Fatima willingly allows herself to be transported and goes everywhere. So she will reach us tomorrow and given that the undersigned has undertaken to cover for the television news the visit of Donald Trump to the Vatican, and then the general audience of Francis, and then the assembly of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, I do not know whether I will take part in the real event of the day which will take place in our street on the outskirts of the city. However, I will be present in spirit.

It is a very beautiful thing to see how an entire neighbourhood is mobilising for the arrival of the statue of Our Lady. We may be a secularised and pagan-leaning society, but there is always a place for Mary.

Usually on an evening in May, in front of our home, the rosary is recited. In that case Saint Immediately brings out the little statue of Our Lady which is in our bedroom under a covering of glass. It is a nineteenth-century statuette which in the Serena family is handed down rigorously through the matriarchal line.

When the little statue of Our Lady is taken out for the rosary, Saint Immediately and her friend Laura, a real genius when it comes to decor, prepare a little altar and decorate it with vases of flowers and small lights. But this time the operation will be much more complex. However, I am certain that our domestic little statue of Our Lady will willingly stay in the bedroom in order to give way to Our Lady of Fatima.

    Yesterday, when seeing the statute of Our Lady on the car of the parish priest, Brother Ettore came to mind, that Camillian who in Milan and its hinterland took round a statue of the Virgin on the roof of his car, an old Fiat 128. Brother Ettore Boschini, who died in 2004 (the cause for his beatification is currently underway) did not possess anything else. With his worn out habit, he patrolled the streets to help the homeless and he accompanied them to the specially equipped shelter at the central station where Cardinal Martini, Mother Teresa di Calcutta, Don Luigi Giussani and l’Abbé Pierre also went to visit him. For everyone Brother Ettore had a few good words, a gesture of care. He assured the poor people that he found in the streets a hot meal and a clean bed. Every so often he came to visit me at the editorial board of the Italian broadcasting company, the RAI, in Sempione Street, and then, too, he had with him a small statue of Our Lady. With his hoarse voice, and his untidy grey hair he said: “remember me and my friends”. If we journalists did not go to visit him, he came to visit us so that we do not forget about the suffering of those people. When in the 1980s he understood that for his works of care he needed greater space, he decided to purchase a property in Seveso. He did not have any money at all and so he did what was most natural to him: he went to Fatima and placed the mission in the hands of Our Lady. After coming back he went to the mayor of Seveso, gave him a large number of IOUs and said: “don’t worry, Our Lady will help us”. In fact, thanks to anonymous donors, the money arrived punctually, Ettore paid the debts and then went back to Fatima to offer thanks. But given that he was already there, armed with a builder’s measuring stick he took the measurements of the chapel and had it reproduced in his home.

    So there you are. I am sure that when tomorrow Our Lady of Fatima arrives in our street escorted by the parish priest, by traffic wardens, by children, by Saint Immediately and by other ladies who teach catechesis, Brother Ettore will observe the scene with a satisfied smile.


Aldo Maria Valli