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MEETING WITH THE POPE
AND THE DISABLED IN SAINT JOSEPH’S INSTITUTE, exponent of the civilization of love

I have found out that one of the great stages of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Spain, the third after his predecessor, the blessed John Paul II, on the occasion of his apostolic journey to Madrid at the XXVI World Youth Day, was going to be on Saturday 20 August 2011, at St. Joseph’s Institute from 7:40 pm to 8:00 p.m. in order to have an encounter with the young people with disabilities. I had worked in it in my first twenty years of work, such as professor specialized in therapeutic pedagogy. I was one of the first four teachers that inaugurated the classes in May of 1961, and although I was only with an appointment of few months, until we were replaced by permanent teachers, God wanted that I remained there more than twenty years, before becoming education inspector.

When we enter to the Institute there is an obelisk with a plate where we can read: “1899-1974 to all who made possible the reality of this Institute. In the 75th anniversary of its foundation.” I am one of those people who have made possible this reality, and I visit it as own thing, although neither there, nor in the book that was published twenty-five years later, entitled “Foundation of Saint Joseph’s Institute. One hundred years of history (1899-1999) “, written by Fray Matías de Mina y Salvador, were cited our names, despite having dedicated to the disabled the best of our lives, contributing to the civilization of love.

Thousands of pilgrims from more than 150 countries invaded Madrid to participate in the WYD. Therefore, it was very difficult to approach the Pope without being authority, voluntary, or accredited. But I did not want to miss being a witness of the first visit in the history to the Pope at the Institute, which was my workplace in my youth. I tried and I did it, thanks to the invitation that the D. Pascual Ramos Rivera, pedagogical director of the College of Special Education and Occupational Therapy, send to my wife.

After leaving parked the car away, we saw how a lot of colored pilgrims invaded all the surrounding areas, carrying flags of various countries to go to the next Cuatro Vientos Airport.

At the Institute, the wait was long, about six hours and each time we saw more police officers and volunteers who were taking positions of monitoring and collaboration. With delay, because he made a scale not announced at the Society of Mary (the Marianists), the Pope made his appearance at 8:00 pm, passing next to us in his popemobile and addressing to the scenario assigned for the act.

Because of the distance, I heard the words of Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela (patron of the Foundation), and the Pope through a portable radio that I had. After greeting to the present, The Pope said: “The youth, as we have said other times, is the age in which the life is revealed to the person with all the richness and fullness of its potential, motivating the search for higher goals that give meaning to the same. Therefore, when the pain appears on the horizon of a young life, we were bewildered and perhaps we ask ourselves: Can a life remain beautiful when the suffering bursts onto it? In this regard, my Encyclical on Christian hope said: “The greatness of humanity is essentially determined by its relationship to the suffering and the sufferer (…). A society, that can not accept those who are suffering and can not contribute through the compassion that the suffering is shared and endured inwardly, is a cruel and inhuman society” (Spe Salvi, 38). These words reflect a long tradition of humanity that springs from the offering that Christ makes of himself on the Cross for us and our redemption. Jesus and, following his footsteps, his sorrowful Mother and the saints are the witnesses that teach us to live the drama of suffering for our own good and the salvation of the world.”

He continued: “first of all, these witnesses tell us about the dignity of every human life, created in the image of God. Any sorrow can erase that divine mark engraved in the man. And not only: since the Son of God wanted to freely embrace the pain and death, the image of God is also in the face of people who suffer. This special love of God for the sufferer takes us to look at the others with clean eyes, to give them, in addition to external things, the look of love that they need. But this only can be done as a result of a personal encounter with Christ. You are well aware of that, religious, family, health professionals and volunteers who live and work daily with these young people. Your life and dedication proclaim the greatness to which the man is called: take pity on and accompany for love those who suffer, as God done it. And in your beautiful work also resonate the evangelical words: “Every time you did it with one of them, my brethren, you did it with me”(Mt 25, 40).”

Finally he asserts that: “our society, in which the inestimable dignity of every life is often putted in doubt, needs us: you contribute strongly to build a civilization of love. Even more, you are protagonists of this civilization. And as sons of the Church, you offer to God your lives, with your sorrows and joys, working with him and entering “to be part of the treasury of compassion that the human race needs (Spe salvi, 40).”

This was a brief, deep and emotional speech, that because of its content, apostolic blessing and proximity, worth the wait that hot August day in Madrid. More than a million pilgrims were waiting the Pope in the great night concentration at Cuatro Vientos which made them experience the adventure of a storm of air and water, which served to give more value to the act. John Paul II set very high standards to the current Pope, but Benedict XVI that agreed to the Pontificate considerably older with patience, intelligence and goodness is making people love him as much as his predecessor.

Ricardo Gutiérrez Ballarín.

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