A man who lived his convictions with joy
[Editor’s Note: Few priests have influenced believers and unbelievers alike as did Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete, theologian, writer for national and international publications, author of God At The Ritz, media guest on CNN, The Charlie Rose Show, PBS, and others, and National Chaplain for Communion and Liberation in the United States. Monsignor Albacete passed away on October 24, 2014. The following is an intimate remembrance of Monsignor Albacete by his colleague and friend, Maurizio "Riro" Maniscalco. It is partly addressed to Monsignor Albacete’s friends and partly to Monsignor Albacete directly as the writer details the circumstances of Albacete’s last days and their significance. The text also refers to Luigi Giussani, the founder of Communion and Liberation, an ecclesial movement of immense vitality and a charism for bearing witness in a post-Christian world.]
Life is fulfilled when and how the One who gives it to us decides. Lorenzo knew this well. “I lived a beautiful life. I always followed Christ. I will live as long as Christ wants me to live.” He whispered these words with a weak voice and with certainty in his heart. He whispered these words to the doctors who were questioning him about the use of a ventilator and the possibility of resuscitation. These things were not important to him. “I lived a beautiful life,” he told them, “I always followed Christ. I will live as long as He wants me to live.” Last night, Christ called our friend back to himself and led him across the river, to the other shore. He took him in his sleep, finally in peace after days of ups and downs, of difficulties, pains, and tribulations. “Do you think Don Giuss suffered like this?” he asked us at a certain point.
Even when you were no longer able to go on, Lorenzo, your pain was anchored in that which your heart loved: Jesus, His Church, Giussani… At the point of death as throughout your whole life. When you were lucid and could speak, your words would immediately turn there. Like when Cardinal O’Malley came to see you in the hospital and you welcomed him saying, “I am leaving. I wish I could have stayed longer but here I am.” And then you began to talk to him and pray with him, and even sang together in Spanish, only God knows how. Or like when you asked what Carrón’s main concern was and, after hearing about the last Traces editorial, nodded in agreement, insisting that the Incarnation is the crucial point. And like when you were moved after a friend shared a verse from John 14 with you—“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God and trust also in me”—and you asked her to sing “Al Mattino.” And in the moments of fear (because you even admitted to those) it was enough for you to look at the faces of your friends in order to become serene again, the same playful self you have always been. “Let’s go home and order two large pizzas…” Friends… You were always accompanied by friends, by those who constantly arrived from all over the country and from your beloved Puerto Rico. They came to stay with you and to thank you, sometimes simply by their presence, which is the most beautiful gift. How many friends did you have, Lorenzo?
Monsignor Albacete’s life bore much fruit: the scientist, the theologian, the writer, the op-ed columnist… In one way, or another, his presence touched and marked thousands of lives. For years, I had the privilege of following him around the country. We would go to the places where, in some mysterious way, Giussani had already arrived. And wherever we went, from Florida to Oregon, every night we would ask ourselves what Giussani might have told us if he had been with us in that corner of the world.