(Rome) A devout woman was troubled by colleagues who wanted to convince her that Christ never existed, but was only an invention. They pressed a publication in her hand that supposedly provided the "evidence" that Christ sprang from mere mythology.
An example: Virishna in India has performed miracles and healings and was crucified 1200 years before Christ and was resurrected. The "serious" source: David Icke! Horus, an Egyptian God was born of the virgin Isis and had 12 disciples. He died and rose again. Krishna, another Indian deity, was born on December 25 ...
The list goes on and relies on "experts" in matters of religion such as David Icke and Umberto Eco. One might say: Whoever does not believe and doesn't want to believe, looks for justifications for his unbelief and justifies to himself what he accuses of believers: he believes what is truly irrational, because he willingly believes everything that confirms his conviction not to believe in Christ.
The insecure woman wrote to the Catholic journalist Maurizio Blondet with the question of what they should respond to their colleagues, which historical evidence is there for Christ. Here is his response:
They claim that Christ is a Myth like Krishna? Then tell them the story of Don Franzoni
by Maurizio Blondet
I'm tired of responding to such allegations. I used to think, in this way one can convince someone. But even by the best arguments on man can't bring another man to belief. Colleagues like David Icke and Umberto Eco will have their moment in which they have to decide, and that path may lead through personal suffering or imminent death, at least it will be completely personal. There will be a moment where there is no enjoyment in work and making fun. It comes to us all. Then the response of the person concerned will be decisive.
Christ is radically different from any real or mythological figure
I want to tell you a rather different story, a personal history, so you will not be unsettled by others. I tell them about the man who made me understand why Christ is radically different and not at all comparable with any other real or mythological figure, not even those that appear to have anticipated the aspects of his being. What use these myths are to individual nations, we do not know, perhaps, as in the case of India, in those days, we can not ascertain, how to initiate conversion or appeal. But that is not the issue here today.
Let me tell you the story of Don Enelio Franzoni - who I interviewed -- I don't know how much longer before - some years past in Bologna for the weekly magazine Gente. He had nothing in common with the Don Franzoni who was mainly known by some in the media as a progressive priest at that time. The Don Enelio, whom I met, was already old, and retired in a rectory.
Don Franzoni had been in World War II as a military chaplain of ARMIR, the Italian Army of Russia which fought from 1941-1943 on the German side against the Soviet Union. He had volunteered, because it is about life and death in the war and he wanted to give spiritual assistance, to those who might be wounded or die. "I thought: They need me there now, more than anywhere else. That is what the Lord wants of me now."
In the Soviet Union he got into one of the infamous Kessel [Pockets] with thousands of Italian soldiers, his "boys" in Russian captivity. With them he was sent to a Siberian camp, or to be exact, from one camp to another.
The hope in "Hell on earth"
He told me very little about the cold and the hardships they suffered, about which I knew from the stories of other Russian fighters. He did not speak about the brutality, the blows, the cries of the camp guards and their dogs. He also did not talk about the hunger that was so great that it could brutalize people inhumanely. At most he told of the marginal aspects of the humiliations that they had to go through having to relieve themselves in the snow in front of their tormenters under ridicule and violence, of the fleas and forced labor.
On the other hand, he told of the numerous confessions of young Italian prisoners, suffering, trembling, dying men, whom he had known in their heyday. He told of their calm, serene dying in peace amid a "Hell on earth". He told of the tears in their eyes when they thought of home. Of their families, their wives and their mothers, he told of the hope where all hope seemed to be pure madness. And he also told me about the most incredible actions, sometimes including death which his "boys" were prepared to suffer, to get even a few drops of wine for the Holy Mass.
He told of the many, which he gave the last rites, and those whose eyes he had to close, who perished in the camp. He recorded all in a small notebook that he had taken to Russia: first name, last name, date of birth, date of death and place of burial. They were buried at the beginning mostly in mass graves. "They died like flies," he said and paused, it seemed, despite the many times that had passed since then, when he would see them in front of him. There were so many who perished in the camp that the book was no longer enough. There was no other paper, an possession of it was banned. So Don Franzoni began to write the names in his field cap with the butt of a copying pin. But this was not enough, so he inscribed the inside of his military jacket. He had kept it and showed it to me. It seemed no longer the coat of a soldier, but the consumed, shabby cloak of a beggar or vagrant. Its interior was fully written in tiny letters. I read, names, dates, places. Thousands of names. "To find them again," said Don Franzoni me. "And I did not know if I would ever return."
Renunciation of the release
In 1948 he left the Soviet Union as part of the Italian prisoners of war set free. Don Enelio Franzoni was among them. He told me nothing about how he felt at that moment, when he could read his name on the list of those permitted to go free. I know from the stories of others: The state of mind of a prisoner is turned upside down, at the moment, when he becomes free.
Part of his "boys" had to remain in the Soviet camps. No one knew why one was held back. It was just was a means of pressure, that Moscow retained in hand. Don Franzoni renounced his release. He was their chaplain. He had gone to Russia for them. He could not leave them now. Their suffering would continue. Death was a permanent resident in the camp. The camp was surprised. One of the officers called disparagingly: "Throw him out!" But at the end they accepted the desire of "the madman." He could stay and hear more confessions and close the eyes of the dying. And recorded their names on his coat.
The return and the meeting with Nikita Khrushchev
It was 1952 or 1953. I do not remember exactly, anyway, it was about eight years after the war, he was released with the last survivors and returned to Italy. Soon after his arrival in Bologna, Don Franzoni began to contact the families of the dead who had died in captivity. He founded a committee for this, to demand the repatriation of the remains. He did not let up until he succeeded with a delegation of mothers of officially "missing" to get an appointment with Khrushchev.
Nikita Khrushchev was then leader of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and Soviet Prime Minister. He had called out Stalin's crimes publicly by name. Khrushchev raised the question of how the desire of mothers would be realized toward exhuming their dead sons. Then Don Franzoni handed him the list of the names, the date of death and place of burial. Khrushchev was so astonished that he said, after some hesitation, he did not understand the list. He did not understand how such a list could exist with exact details.
He asked the delegation: "For what purpose should these bones be exhumed? They have now been connected to Russian land for a lonig time." After a moment of silence, he added, ".. They're already on Russian land "
"Comrade Secretary, each of these guys is the son of a mother"
Khrushchev replied as a Russian, or rather actually Asian. Buddha would probably not responded otherwise. I still loved l Hinduism and was convinced of the superiority of the neutral Brahman, the impersonal Nirvana over the Christian salvation. I, too, would not have responded differently.
But Don Franzoni replied to Khrushchev in Russian: "Comrade Secretary, each of these guys is the son of a family. Some of them even have a wife that awaits them; others had brothers and sisters. All have a mother. A mother who has loved each one of them by name and is not content to know that their son is mixed somewhere in Siberia with the ground. Every mother wants her son, just him, because she loves him and she wants a grave for him, that they may seek to talk to him. With him, only him.
That was a Catholic response, a Roman response that even a Communist Party Leader could understand.
The final resting place with the inscription: " Ego te nomine tuo vocavi "
Khrushchev gave permission for the exhumation. Delegations of parents, led by Don Franzoni, examined the places on where to bury their sons, sometimes more had been buried. They found here the remains of other Italian soldiers which Don Enelio had not recorded because they were killed at the site at another time. Remains that asked for no mother because no one knew of them.
Don Franzoni also brought these nameless bones back to Italy. They were buried at his request, at a military cemetery. He made an inscription in large letters a word of the prophet Isaiah: "Ego te nomine tuo vocavi ". It is God who speaks like this: "I have called you by name."
He wanted to express: Although no commander is there any more, soldier, who is calling you, who knows about you; although not even your mother's call has gone to you, exactly to you and only you, unique person; although all have forgotten you, I remember you, I know your name, just you who are a unique person for me because I have given it to you. I love not "all" of you, but each one of you.
This is my "proof"
That, my dear, who are troubled by unbelievers, is my "proof" that Christ is not a myth. I will not even attempt to provide a proof that Christ has existed in history, 2000 years ago. That would be far too little.[!]
The "proof" is that Christ exists today and now. It is the evidence of Don Enelio Franzoni, a soldier of Christ, bolder than a samurai, so brave that he even refused his release, and at the same time, loving as a mother.
A mother loves her son, even if he is a villain, because he is just "he," her son. Don Franzoni loved them all, with whom he removed, one by one, he looked radiant and looked miserable, and especially he saw them in their greatest inner distress and at the moment of their death. And he stayed by their side and has returned each and returned each to his mother. Yet where there was but no mother, the motherland, from which they had set out, and if that should mean nothing then it is even more true that he has lain them in consecrated ground, where they are silent witnesses of the faith, and a warning voice for peace.
Imitation of Christ
Don Franzoni did this in the belief he imitated Christ with his limited human powers and the impotence of a prisoner, with the special love that knows the world only through Christ: bolder than a samurai and more specific than the mother who does not love "all" but who knows her own by name.
I know that this offers no "proof" for scientific discretion that one can oppose to professional unbelievers who talk of Krishna and Horus, because they want to deny Christ. It is also not a rational argument, although it can show historical data and tangible archaeological finds.
The faith is not a matter of intellectual methods. The faith in its essence is not theory but practice. It is never abstract but always alive. He is to follow. Following in courage, in action, in heroism, in the mercy and love of Him who has risen on the cross for all of us, not for us "all", but for each individually, for each of us, although we are not there earn. It's like a mother's love for her son, even if he is a villain, only larger by a multiple.
The proof, others might say evidence, for the real and actual existence of Christ are people who follow Christ and imitate Don Franzoni or Padre Pio and thousands of others who love Him contrary to reason - as a mother - who does not deserve it. Many of these people have not been canonized by the Church, because they work behind the scenes, but are known to Christ, for He has called them by their names, each individual. There are those people who in the Imitation of Christ testify in each historical moment in their narrowness and overcome their limits in Christ.
Hope not for everyone, but for each individual
Therefore, my dear, I know that Christ and his salvation are radically different than what Buddha, Horus or Krishna has to offer. Therein lies my personal hope: I am a rogue son, who has not loved his mother as she loved me. I neglected her, and now that she is dead, I can not make a remedy, though I want to. I have not done even a thousandth of what Don Franzoni has done and have not even applied a millionth of his love. But I have a hope that is given to me by Christ. My mother loved me, even though I was with her as I was. So I cherish the hope that God looks up to me at the last day and increases my little merit, as would my mother.
Therefore Pray for your colleagues, who now laugh at you. Pray out of love and the hope that your colleagues, when God calls them, to answer Him even if it only at that last moment, in which we are all prisoners, of suffering and powerless at the moment of dying, that Don Franzoni has so often witnessed and in which he could support his "boys" representing Christ and the consolations of the Church founded by Him. A moment that awaits us all. For the Lord says to each one: " Ego te nomine tuo vocavi ".
Introduction / translation: Giuseppe Nardi
image: Il Timone
Trans: Tancred email@example.com
image: Il Timone
Trans: Tancred firstname.lastname@example.org