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14 May 2022

DAY: 14th April, 2022 HOLY THURSDAY

At breakfast, they had placed three hyacinths next to each one’s plate to celebrate our priesthood. Sister Alina greeted us. She says that they congratulated us and prayed for us with the three bulbs, Faith, Hope and Charity.

We said goodbye in the street, and I was very surprised by the warmth of their welcome, true sisters.

We set out on our way to Berdichev. It takes seven hours.

Some sections I travelled through were full of potholes.

Many control barricades and many soldiers all the way. We got through without problems and without being made to stop.

We passed through a city where you could see the effects of the bombs.

We left at 7.20 a.m., and we arrived in Berdichev at 2.20 p.m.

We were welcomed by the whole community of friars. I visit the Sanctuary, our Mother of Carmel. We ate a typical Ukrainian dish. We chatted animatedly.

In a while, at 6.00, we will have the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. It is overwhelming to be here and to see the joy and liveliness of the friars. God bless them.

Holy Thursday evening. The church, the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Mount Carmel of Berdichev, patron saint of the Ukrainian Catholics. Beautiful icon of the Mother with the scapular, offering her protection. Full church. The elderly, young people and children… a large group of altar boys in perfect Vatican harmony open the celebration with scrupulous detail. I have to say that rarely in my life have I celebrated a Holy Thursday with so much emotion within. The singing, attention to every detail, care for the flowers, acolytes helping one another to vest for the Mass…

I washed the feet of the friars in the community. Here, the celebrant dons a  kitchen style apron to do it. Significant. I kiss the feet of my brothers who take care of all these people here. I kiss Jesus in them.

Although Vitaly, the prior (Ukrainian), presided, I gave the homily, explaining the mystery that is celebrated, with examples of the war and current situation surrounding these days. The Breaking of Bread reminds us of the broken bodies of so many people in some cities. Tomorrow the broken body of Jesus remains a mystery that we do not understand and, while apparently defeated, gave life to the world.

At the end of the Mass, how could I describe the atmosphere of family and affection of the people? They greeted the priests with a touching affection. Everyone congratulates us and hugs us. They bring fruit, flowers and gifts. Everyone wants photos. Everyone says words of thanks for being with them. Everyone tells me, thanks to you all for praying for Ukraine. A grandmother asks me that when I go to Rome, please would I tell the Pope to come.

When leaving the Church, another very cordial time of discussion with volunteers, families, friends.

A relaxed and very fraternal dinner.

A very pleasant time of recreation without wanting to finish it. They celebrated the presence of the General and also of Paweł, who since the beginning of the war has been living on the other side in Poland, to organize humanitarian aid and the transport of material, twice a week. Not a moment of silence in our conversation which consisted of intensity of topics and questions from them about known friars, and mine about the situation and what they are going through at the moment.

It was about 10 o’clock at night in Ukraine, when the siren began to sound for a few minutes. It was announcing that some projectile had left Belarusian territory.

But the friars continued their friendly conversation without moving themselves much. They worried about whether I was afraid. I was confident in their calmness.

And so the day ended… with the vivid sense of communion and family in times of war. Before sleeping, another siren sounded, and a prayer asking for True Peace.