My name is Tiziano and I am 28 years old and a sinner but now I am “happy”. When I was a child I attended a school that was far from my home and many times when I returned from school I was alone. It was difficult to build friendships because I was so far from other students when we were free. So started my lack of social confidence, my difficulty building social relationships and it led me to choose the wrong friendships that suited my own convenience.

My father worked long hours each day and when he returned home he wanted me to go with him to the countryside to work with him in his vineyard. When I was young I was very energetic and I didn’t understand the meaning of sacrifice so I went to the countryside with my father to run and have fun but when the time came to work I got annoyed and frustrated and continued to carry that anger in my heart.  My parents did not know how I felt because I didn’t tell them and I didn’t want to upset them. As a family we all loved cycling and because of this I became one of the best cyclists in Italy. I worked hard at school so that my parents would be pleased and so that I could enjoy the feeling of being one of the best students……but again I didn’t have the courage to talk to them about how I really felt.

As a child I was very close to my paternal grandparents who lived nearby and I always attended Mass with them every Sunday. When my grandfather died my granny continued to go to church but with different people and gradually I stopped practising and as I grew the emptiness and anger increased within me. When I was 14 I started to smoke and drink and for the first time I felt a different person and felt I was able to express myself more confidently. I soon left school and stopped cycling and I started work as a fishmonger in our family business. Now I had access to lots of money (not all mine) that led me to the beginning of a rapid downhill journey into darkness. In only a few years I lost a variety of jobs and friends and I started to use cocaine and heroin and lost the will to live. My life consisted of waking up in the morning to the problem of where to get money and crying with sadness from a feeling of immense loneliness.

Today I realise that in all that despair there was still a small flame of hope alive within me that the Lord never left unlit: at the darkest point He gave me the strength to ask for help from my parents, telling them everything that was happening. They already suspected a lot of what I was telling them but it was like they were waiting for me to come to them.  They immediately tried to help me by visiting doctors, sending me to different rehabs and trying different medication and treatment. When they saw that I was getting worse rather than better they realised that it was a problem too big for them alone. In that moment my mother, after many years of not practising her faith, began to pray to Our Lady and to light candles for me. In that time of suffering and desperation for a son who was day by day killing himself the Lord showed a way of light. For the first time my father spoke without shame about my situation to family friends – People who are very close to the Cenacolo community because they had a daughter who had been in community for several years. My father began to speak to me about this place but around me there were many “friends” who had been in different communities without any results so that for me it was difficult to believe that Cenacolo would be any different. Anyway I didn’t have any choice, my parents were very determined and “Something” was stronger than me.  I started to attend the weekly interviews where I listened to some of the experienced guys of the community speaking with simplicity and testifying about their lives, I was impressed with what they had to say.

The strong disciplined structure of the community and the vision of a clean, purposeful  life made me understand immediately that it was a different place and I felt accepted and understood. The desire grew within me to begin this walk, there was something that attracted me more than all the worries and I decided to enter. I was 23 years old; young outside but old inside; without physical strength, full of sadness, very confused, with many masks; I didn’t know who I was. I still remember that after a few weeks a priest of our community came to celebrate Mass in the fraternity where I entered and he said, with a lot of enthusiasm, to say to God, even without knowing the meaning of it, this prayer:” Lord, reveal  yourself!”  So even though I didn’t understand sometimes I repeated those words in my heart:” Lord, reveal yourself; I need you!” The desire began to grow in me to become a better and honest man. I began to trust the brothers who had more years in community, who gave themselves generously, in service and friendship, who lived their lives with faith and enthusiasm, who loved the community. After only a few months I started to go every night to the chapel before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. At the beginning I didn’t know how to pray and I used to pray a decade of the rosary asking Our Lady to teach me how to pray. When I found the courage I shared all that I was living with “that piece of bread” that at first was a mystery to me but that gave me peace and freedom after many years without it. I found myself often crying in the chapel and entrusting my life to God. To see that I was able to live my day with a new will serenity and trust made me understand the importance of prayer.

Today I recognise that the Lord has healed many of my wounds; my prayer is not as selfish as at the beginning of my journey, the difficulties and the struggles are still there but there is more freedom and serenity to face them. The sins into which I fall are often the same ones but receiving mercy I have learned to accept myself with all my poverties and weaknesses and with the hope and the will to become a better man. I have discovered that true joy comes when I stop thinking of myself and I give everything with simplicity to the people who God has put next to me and with my luminous and reborn life I can also be that “door of mercy” for that brother who is suffering and has not yet found a true sense in life.

Today I also have the best relationship ever with my family and I want to thank Mother Elvira and the Community. The trust and the love that I receive make me feel like a son who is always loved and give me strength to continue to give myself. It is marvellous to see that I never stop learning and to discover day by day what God has prepared for me.