Spread out on a pile of cushions, which helped his difficult breathing – writes Fr. Degli Angeli, who was close to Nicolino during his last night – white, with large black eyes, made larger by a face made square by decisive blows, a face hollowed out and made tense by his malady, I saw him engrossed.
He was almost always like that, as though a thought had taken him and occupied all of his being, making him a stranger to the world that surrounded him…He spoke through the expressions on his face: he felt the need for the support of his religious brothers, he was pleased that there were there near to him, even though words were spare; a handshake, a look, a passing smile…
How dear to him, and wanted by him, had become the pure oxygen that we unconsciously drink in and dissipate!
His body was oppressed amidst so many tribulations, including that of progressive asphyxiation. But his eyes were shining.
That night I said to him: ‘Don’t lose anything, Nicolino, everything is precious’. Everything, Father; but when suffering is far away you cannot imagine how much patience you need!
And he was patient, with his teeth clenched, at times almost convulsive, with his veins standing out because of the effort of a bad and pitiless cough; he was lucidly present, in contained suffering, without tragic gestures or overflowing scenes of piety.
It was 4.30. He gasped in a sleep of immense labour amidst starts and waves of trembling. Then suddenly his suffering broke through, suffering that his virtue each day had warded off: ‘I can’t go on any longer…I can’t manage it! Lord, Lord, can’t you see that I can’t go on? St. Camillus!…’
Amidst so much pain, however, he still found the strength to calm his mother, who had come in answer to his prayers. His poor mother, who had absorbed, drop by drop, all of his passion like a holy Madonna.
SAINTS BY VOCATION: NICOLA D’ONOFRIO