On Boxing Day, I was privileged to be introduced to Samuel, the young ‘star’ of L-Istrina 2016. At age 11 going on 12, he has lost his eyesight to cancer but, this notwithstanding, demonstrates and exudes a positive outlook on life which is as deep as it is disarming to us adults.
I would call it ‘The Samuel Perspective’: that resilience rooted in hope and joy in life whatever the adverse circumstances, whatever the failures, whatever the downside of things this side of heaven.
What is the secret of such extraordinary tenacity and prowess? Behind the young Samuel there is his mother, Maryrose. Samuel can go through these challenging times because he is convinced of one fundamental truth: he is deeply loved. His great intelligence and his wonderful, sharp wit betray the care, the nurturing and the warmth that has embraced him from the womb to the cradle to the hospital bed to the world.
Another woman, President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, intuited all this the moment she decided to write a personal letter to our political leaders and to me, the Archbishop, introducing Samuel and enclosing a pen drive with the video clip of Samuel’s interview with Xarabank’s Peppi Azzopardi.
From the warmth of the family hearth, Samuel was transported to the heart of the nation as a witness to an optimistic outlook on life which does not disdain the fundamental questions of life, the struggle with doubt and depression, the will to recreate our common home in the colours and shapes of one’s liking.From the warmth of the family hearth, Samuel was transported to the heart of the nation as a witness to an optimistic outlook on life which does not disdain the fundamental questions of life
Samuel’s perspective, in spite of sight impairment, is another stark reminder of the wisdom of the words of the fox in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince: “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Looking at Samuel, at his smile, at his beautiful eyes, listening to his words of zest and character, I was reminded, not without a smile and a grin, of another quote from The Little Prince: “Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.”
I suppose this is the best paraphrase of the words of Jesus: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14).
During Advent I had the good fortune of reading a short story by Oscar Wilde, The Happy Prince. For an Archbishop who has to celebrate rituals in a number of different liturgical vestments of a variety of designs and textures, this is a very sobering tale. It is the story of an heir to the throne who was raised in a forest and finds himself in the royal palace on the eve of his coronation. Sumptuous vestments and the crown are brought to him.
He sleeps and dreams three dreams. His dreams tell him the real story behind the cloth of gold, the real story behind the precious pearls and the dazzling rubies of his crown. They are real-life stories of suffering, hardship, slavery and injustice.
These narratives give the prince a new perspective on the riches intended as his status symbols. He decides to renounce to them. He is taken for mad.
I will not ruin the finale for those who have not yet read this splendid short story. But I will put myself and ourselves the pertinent questions: are we ready to stop and think what human toil, what market systems lie behind the status symbols of our lifestyle, from the coffee we drink to the laptops we use, to the florid GDP and positive credit ratings that make us proud?
What people like Samuel, our own little ‘Happy Prince’, teach me is that we really need to stop to see and listen to our hearts before we decide which way we need to go.
‘The Samuel Perspective’ is the perspective of those who have the courage and the humility to go beyond the need for instant gratification and have the wisdom to enjoy wealth and opportunity with a deep, generous sense of solidarity with the future generations.
‘The Samuel Perspective’ is the perspective I wish for for Malta, Europe and the world for 2017 and beyond.
✠ Charles J. Scicluna
Archbishop of Malta