From Babel to Pentecost: missionary life in foreign lands


Having ‘nothing’ and at the same time having ‘everything’. Finding the face of God in the face of people. Recognize His love in the lives of others. Be comforted in the heart of one’s brother. Living an ascetic life. But who needs material riches when we have the abundant Providence of the Lord? Each new day brings a new opportunity to embrace the Cross. A new opportunity to be merciful. Our life is a mission. There is no greater joy than to live it.

So, I am Wallace and I’m 25 years old. I was born in Fortaleza, Brazil, but today my home is in the mission of the Shalom Community of Rome. God generously chose for me to live a missionary life in the “heart of the Church”. Here I understand that the heart of the youth is my mission! Before, Rome was a place I only knew through Google Street View, now I know it even when I get on a wrong bus. There are countless beautiful streets, churches, and piazzas here, but more charming than all these is the heart of every Italian. I came here believing that I would meet only Italians, but God does not cease to amaze – ever! He allows me know Frenchmen, Spaniards, Arabs, Hungarians, Africans, Vietnamese, Indians and many more! God asks me to evangelize people from all over the world! Reaching out to the hearts of the young people is the goal. God has a face, the offering of daily life has a face. One, not many! But that one face shows the traits of people from different nations.

Cultural shock is real. It is a very concrete mental and physical fatigue, caused by constant adaptation. But more than a certain wear and tear, what I felt was a great martyrdom for the fact that I had to communicate without being able to speak the language. I was a master at pretending to understand everything when people talked to me but I dared not utter a word in Italian. In the midst of all this “Babel” I began to see a supernatural grace in communication between peoples.

Pentecost has never been so real to me as it is today! One of my activities here in the mission is my participation in the San Lorenzo Center prayer group. The group is made up mostly of university students who have come from other countries to study in Rome. An international prayer group! It is with these people that I experience how God does not ask for my worldly knowledge, but for my decision to love Him in the midst of my inability to speak fluent Italian. It is amazing to see how much God does when we say “yes” to Him. The time comes when there is no longer any place for pride: it is better to suffer the humiliation of speaking incorrectly, so that a young man knows that he is loved by Jesus, rather than to stop evangelizing.

Centro San LorenzoAt the San Lorenzo Center there is the cross that St. John Paul II gave to the youth. Whenever I look at that relic, I feel the love that Karol (his birth name) had for young people and in that I find the convergence of Love. It is the Cross that unites my heart to the heart of the mission. It is on the Cross that I find the meaning of the mission. The vertical and horizontal lines, which unite my sins, my incapacities, to the mercy of the Lord. It is the Cross that transforms Babel from within and without me into a great Pentecost. I see on the Cross, on that cross, the universal oasis of man’s thirst. The Cross is the language we know how to speak.

May the Holy Spirit, who is a communicator, realize a new Pentecost in us every day.


Wallace Freitas 

Translation: Jhoanna Climacosa


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