Maximiliano is 33 years old. He has five children and is employed as a garbage collector. On March 22 of this year, while he was on the job, he was hit by a speeding vehicle. Both of his legs had to be amputated. In his honor, the city legislature of Buenos Aires is proposing that March 22 be designated Garbage Collectors’ Day. And 400 of his colleagues wanted to recognize the testimony Maximiliano gives with the way he lives in a special ceremony.
The same morning as this recognition ceremony was set to occur, on his way to the legislative offices, Maximilian got a phone call, from a private number.
“Who’s this?” he asked. “Pope Francis,” was the reply.
One of the organizers of the ceremony, Legislator Gustavo Vera, had been able to inform the pope of what happened and the plans to honor Maximilian.
“I was touched and the strength you have impressed me,” the pope told him, according to Maximilian. The Holy Father encouraged him to keep moving forward. “You are an example to follow,” he said.
Maximilian related with enthusiasm how he asked the Pope if he was in Argentina.
“The pope told me no, that he was in Rome, in Italy, and that I didn’t need to go there because he is going to come here to meet us and speak in person.”
As is already well-known, Pope Francis often calls people on the telephone when he finds out about situations of suffering or hears of people who need consolation.
This was already his practice when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, when it was also easier to send a note or an email. But still today, even as Successor of Peter, many people receive calls from him, or have found voice mails he’s left.
Many of these eventually are discovered by the media; many others are known only to the recipients.
But each of these people carries a memory in their hearts that will never be forgotten.