Great things happen when God mingles with human beings and prayer is that channel where this meeting of the Divine and the human comes alive. The story of the captivity and miraculous release of Fr Pierluigi (Gigi) Maccalli (SMA) from his abductors after two years of captivity bears testimony to the fact that great things happen when God steps into the affairs of those who trust in Him.

Fr Pier Luigi Maccali

Fr Maccalli, while on mission in Niger, was kidnapped by an extremist group. He recounts his experience with his abductors and how he lived a simple contemplative prayer life for two years without the opportunity of celebrating the Holy Eucharist. According to him, he found strength in the ‘simple morning and evening prayers that I had learnt from my mother and the rosary that my grandmother had taught me as a contemplative prayer.‘ It is therefore true that when all is dark and gloomy, when the road gets rough and narrow, when tempest rage and life seems unfriendly; holding firmly to the tiny beads of the Rosary in contemplative prayer can connect us to the source of power and strength, and the Blessed Virgin Mary can step up to the occasion and say to her son (on our behalf); ‘they have no wine (Jn 2:3)’.

When we feel lonely and the joy of life eludes us, a little gathering of the faithful in prayer can rekindle faith and hope. The disciples, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, at that lonely moment when their Master and Lord ascended into heaven, gathered together constantly in prayer (Acts 1:14). In these days when priests are gradually becoming scarce and the possibility of having daily Eucharistic celebration is greatly challenged, we are encouraged to strengthen the culture of community prayer and reflection on the Word of God. When Fr Maccalli asked for a copy of the Bible in his captivity, and they didn’t give him one, every Sunday, he said, ‘I meditated on a Gospel passage’; that means, he had memorised some Gospel passages. With this he kept his faith alive, his hope was rekindled, and he began to live one day at a time; he could trust God that no matter how long it takes, his freedom will come someday because, as the Angel told Mary; ‘nothing is impossible for God (Lk 1:37).’

As we begin to reflect on God’s Word and meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary, it will become clear to us that Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God who was brought into the world by Mary is with us at every step of our journey through life. So, wherever we may be; whether in the villages or in the crowded streets of the cities; whether in good times or in bad, in sickness or in health; whether on the mountain or in the valley, in the spring or in the desert; whether in the pandemic or out of the pandemic; we shall truly submit our lives to God and say like the Blessed Virgin Mary; ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me (Lk 1:38).’ Then we shall know that great things happen when God mingles with human beings.

This reflection appeared in the 2021 Mission Month Booklet published by Missio Ireland.

Sr Julie Doran OLA