Monza (Milan, Italy)
We are Adele Leo and Valter Schiliró. We live in Monza (Milan, Italy) and have five children (Marta, Elisa, Guilio, Lorenzo, and Pietro). On May 31, 2006 we celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary.
Have you always had the same ideas about religion, marriage and family life?
When we got to know each other we were very young, and we have journeyed together in Communion and Liberation. When we started dating, we placed ourselves under the guidance of Fr. Sandro Chiesa, a priest who has helped us to deepen in the understanding of our vocation. Once married, we had another spiritual father with whom we have shared our journey in marriage.
Where does your connection with the carmelite spirituality come from?
Shortly after getting married, a friend of mine gave me the book “The Story of a Soul,” and I became immediately fascinated by St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus. A few years later, we got to know Fr. Antonio Sangalli, who had returned from the missions because of health issues and was living in the Carmel of Monza. It was truly a gift from the Lord because during that period, the priest who had accompanied us while we were dating got transferred far away, and so it became very difficult for us to see him on a regular basis. So, Fr. Antonio then became our spiritual father.
At a certain moment in your life, what we could call an "extraordinary event" took place. Could you tell us about it?
It all happened on May 25, 2002 with the birth of our fifth son, Pietro.
The entire pregnancy went well and there was nothing that indicated that Pietro would be unable to breathe on his own when he was born. He received immediate help and was taken to intensive care, incubated, and had to have 100% of his oxygen provided to him. Right away, we realized that the situation was very grave. After a week of respiratory crises, the doctors asked to perform a pulmonary biopsy in order to better understand the causes of it. Before giving our consent, we called Fr. Antonio and asked him to come to the hospital to baptize Pietro
&.nbsp;Why did you start to pray to the holy couple, Louis and Zélie Martin?
When we went to pick up Fr. Antonio from Carmel so that he could baptize Pietro, he gave us a holy card of the Martin couple and said to us, “They lost four children at a very tender age. Ask them for help during these moments of difficulty and sorrow.”
They seemed very close to us right away precisely because we were already “friends” of St. Thérèse, their daughter.
How did you react when you received the results of the medical tests?
The results of the biopsy analysis indicated a serious congenital lung malformation and, therefore, there was no hope that Pietro would survive. We received the news with great anguish. However, that night was the opportunity for us to remember who we are; that is, children of a good Father, and a good Father who is the Lord of Life! Only He had the last word on Pietro’s life and each and every one of us. So, we “woke up,” and with the renewed awareness of being His children we said, “We can still do something. We can ask the Lord who is the Lord of life to cure Pietro.” Without the slightest pretense, we had the certainty that the Lord, if He wanted, could cure Pietro.
What happened afterwards?
Pietro continued having respiratory and cardiac crises until, on June 29th, feast day of his patron saint, he started showing signs of being able to breathe on his own. Three days later, they took him off the respirator and to our surprise, the surprise of the doctors, and everyone who was with us, he suddenly began to breathe on his own.
Along with the miraculous cure of Pietro, there were other small miracles. Could you tell us about them?
We started to give the holy cards of the Martin couple to everyone we encountered. This was a great help to us because we experienced in a very tangible way the beauty of belonging to the family of the Lord. It is very different carrying the weight on your own than knowing that others are with you. It was also a surprise for us to hear Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI speak a few years ago about Baptism, saying how with the Baptism of the Lord, we are given a special gift: the gift of a presence which always accompanies us in such a way that we are never alone in life. This was the first gift that we received: to live this situation in the company of others.
Another important gift was a letter by St. Thérèse in which we found an answer to the question of being able to understand the meaning behind Pietro’s suffering: “I am delighted with the little child, and the One who carries her in His arms is still more delighted than I… Ah! how beautiful is the little child’s vocation! It is not one mission that she must evangelize but all missions. How will she do this?… By loving, by sleeping, by throwing flowers to Jesus when He is asleep. Then Jesus will take these flowers, and…with the flowers, with the love of the little child, who will see nothing but will always smile even through her tears!… A child, a missionary, and even a warrior, what a marvel!”
The first thing that surprised us about this letter was that St. Thérèse called the child a "warrior," which was the nickname we had given to Pietro because he was battling for his life. It was as if we had found his motto! The other important thing that spoke to us was the answer we had been waiting for: that Pietro’s suffering was not in vain (like we were told so many times), but rather it had great value...The letter said that what the child offers is before Jesus and with it, Jesus saves souls. It was important for us to find that letter. The suffering that we experienced as parents certainly continued the same, but when we realized how great our vocation was, our hearts found peace. Before such a vocation, one can only get on their knees.
What has this miracle meant for your life?
When we had asked for Pietro to be cured, and when all this happened, we experienced a big disproportion between what the Lord had done in Pietro and how it was not because of any merit on our part, which was evident then and even more so now. Therefore, it is not something that belongs only to us. Of course it happened to our son, but by means of this miracle, the Lord wants to say something to everyone. That is why we like to share what we learned from this miracle:
a) Pietro’s cure is a visible confirmation of what the Lord has said to us through the words of St. Thérèse’s letter; that is, that innocent suffering contributes to the salvation of souls. It is a gift to be able to find meaning in suffering and it is offered to us if we are capable of placing our fatigue and our sufferings in His hands so that Jesus can give us the opportunity to participate in the salvation of souls. We can also offer our sacrifices for people we care about, especially for the needy and our persecuted brethren throughout the world. Later on, we will see the fruits of our offerings in paradise.
b)The Martin couple, , who we barely knew (we knew they were St. Thérèse’s parents and that they were described by her as “more worthy of heaven than earth”)… have been a great gift to us. Our encounter with this married couple has been a huge discovery that has changed the way we look at each other. We are more aware of our vocation as spouses and our calling in life, which is to worry about the sanctity of one another.
Later on, the canonical process which led to the beatification of the Martin couple was opened...
Yes, Pietro was released from the hospital at the end of July 2002. Later on, in September, we spoke to Fr. Antonio, who we kept in long distance contact with, about what had occurred. He sensed that something extraordinary had taken place, informed the diocese, and in the spring of the following year, instituted a diocesan process to verify the events. We can testify to the fact that the Church is very rigorous in her investigations. It has been a very complicated process with many witnesses. In June of the same year (2003), the then Cardinal Tettamanzi concluded the diocesan phase and sent everything to Rome to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. After five years of posterior investigations, Benedict XVI confirmed in July of 2008 that what had occurred to Pietro was in fact a miracle performed by the Lord through the intercession of the spouses Louis and Zélie Martin. The date for their beatification was set for October 19, 2008, which was also World Mission Sunday. This was done in order to emphasize that the holiness of St. Thérèse, Patron Saint of the Missions, began in her family.
Later on, Pietro suffered other problems such as deafness. How have you lived through this event?
Pietro was about two and a half years old when he became deaf. After the initial shock, we realized that the Lord was helping us to understand other things through his deafness. The fact that he was miraculously cured did not mean that nothing else was going to happen to him in his life, that he was not going to experience normal sufferings during his growth, or that he was not going to have to say his own “yes” in following the Lord. It is obvious that the Lord has taken care of him in an extraordinary way, but that helps us to understand how the Lord also takes care of each one of us every day. We should learn to recognize the signs of His Presence in the day to day to be able to take pleasure in His company.
You had a special experience with Cardinal Comastri in Rome. Could you tell us about it?
On January 14, 2009, after the Wednesday Audience with Pope Benedict XVI, a Swiss Guard called us because Cardinal Comastri was waiting for us. We were rather surprised by this unexpected invitation and quickly went to his office. The Cardinal received us and said, “It is really true how St. Thérèse says that the Lord takes care of the smallest details of our life and not just the important things.” We did not understand very well what he was trying to say to us. He then explained how a few years ago, he was in charge of the Santa Casa de Loreto and a group of people that we do not know asked him if he would like to join them in praying for the cure of a small child. And so they went to the Santa Casa and prayed for Pietro, whom they did not personally know. Years later, he was called to Rome and is now the rector of the Basilica of San Pietro. During that period, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints at the time, Cardinal Sarajva Martins, had distributed documentation among several Cardinals relating to the causes they were reviewing. They entrusted the cause of the Martin couple to Cardinal Comastri, and while he studied the documentation, he realized that in some way he had also been included in Pietro’s cure through prayer. He lived it as a sign of the Lord’s tenderness towards him, and knowing that we were there, he wanted to personally get to know Pietro. He also wanted to leave us with a mission, which we try to fulfill: he asked us to tell all married couples that they should look at their own vocation to matrimony with greater courage and pride, which is so important to the entire Church. Later on, he asked us to tell all the parents that we encountered that the greatest gift that they can give to their children is the gift of faith, because it is the only means we have to be able to give our children the possibility of being free and happy, since we can only truly be so in the Lord.
©HM Magazine; nº194 January-February 2017