A Precious Gift

  A FEW DAYS ago 1 read about a young German called Svens Sehfeld who spends most of his time in Berlin's most important museum. He walks slowly through the various rooms in silence, with a melancholic look in his eyes. He pauses at length in front of the paintings, appearing particularly taken with the works of the great French artist, Claude Monet. It is as if he wants to memorise the smallest detail, every brush stroke, every drop of light and shade on Monet's canvasses, in order to capture the luminous and simple calm of the countryside represented through the magical meeting of colours and the depth of the sky.
  Svens is in no hurry and he remains immobile in front of these works of art for hours. Other visitors to the museum look at him curiously, recognising something unusual in his face; then they pass him by and keep on walking. These works clearly touch Svens right to his heart. Svens is clearly no ordinary visitor.
  The museum attendants all recognise him: the young man has visited the museum for months now. Perhaps they too have discovered his secret and the reason behind such devotion. However, they don't like to talk about it, out of shyness and admiration.
  Here is his story. Svens was an ordinary young man. After many years of study, thanks to which he was able to reach considerable level of knowledge of the arts, he was employed by a publishing house where he worked as an editor. He was completely passionate about his work, which enabled him to read and come into contact with great works of literature.

Then, suddenly out of the blue, an incurable and extremely rare illness struck his most essential tool for work: his eyes. The first symptoms had revealed themselves a few years previously: his eyesight began to worsen and he was soon unable to distinguish the outlines of objects. From then on, his existence has been a chronicle of foretold blindness, the acceptance of a terrible fate in a short amount of time, inexorably advancing, which will leave Svens in the shadows. But young Svens didn't lose spirit: precisely because he knew that the bright horizons of his days would soon turn into perpetual darkness, he began a systematic war against time to register, storing them in his memory, all of the most beautiful and precious images which exist in this world.
  He thus began with art, felt and experienced by him as mankind's noblest expression, a privileged place of beauty and truth, worthy of being recorded and guarded jealously deep within himself.
  This young man heading towards darkness understood that what would save him from despair, loneliness and resentment, was the memory of images of beauty which he was able to appreciate with his own eyes whilst he was still able to see light and identify object.
  In fact, Svens has made many long iournevs visiting places of art: Rome, Florence, Venice, London, Paris ... and to whoever asks him about his illness, he replies that he considers himself to be 'privileged' compared to whoever has not had the gift of sight, not being able to discover the beauty in the world.

  The dramatic experience of Svens leads us to reflect on something we don't usually think about, which we don't usually attach importance to, or which we even take for granted: our health, our physical integrity. Our health is a precious gift, much more so than money or success, motives for which we consume vast amounts of energy every day. The story of Svens helps us understand that human life is above all a gift from God, and as such it must be experienced even in the most difficult of situations. It is right to fight against illness because health is a gift from God, but it is also important to be able to understand God's plans for us when suffering knocks on our door. The key to understanding this mystery for us believers is the Cross of Jesus. Only by joining in His suffering, can our pain achieve true significance and value

               Father Mario

Drift on the River Seine (1880) Claude Monet, Musee d'Orsay, Paris