A lasting embrace: Joaquina’s legacy in Dario Nasilli’s life.

On May 22, the feast of St. Joaquina, we will publish this testimony in our magazine DIÁLOGO Y ENCUENTRO in its June 33rd issue. We believe that the experience of Dario Nasilli, director of the “Niño Jesús” Ikastetxea School, Vitoria-Gasteiz (Spain) can contribute to celebrate our feast 2023 with renewed closeness and empathy with Joaquina, inspirer of our daily being and doing.

There are encounters that change the course and meaning of a life. For me, one of these encounters was the one I had with the figure of Saint Joaquina.

It all started fifteen years ago when I was called to teach in a Vedruna school, the school of the Child Jesus in Vitoria-Gasteiz (Spain). Until then I had no idea who Joaquina de Vedruna was. It was when I began to take the first steps in this new reality, next to people who transmitted joy, enthusiasm and educational passion, that I began not only to know, but to appreciate and feel part of the Vedruna family, sharing the same values and lifestyle. In particular, the Carmelite Sisters, who were then still active in the school, passed on to me the joy of being a Vedruna.

From those beginnings until today many things have changed, but not the essence, which always remains; a common thread has accompanied my personal, family and professional career: the reference to Jesus of Nazareth, which Joaquina followed in her life, embodying the Gospel, the good news for the poor, needy and marginalized of her time, especially the poor girls and the sick.

In my journey there has been an experience that has marked a before and after in relation to my deepest dimension: the Vedruna Roots formation course in February 2017. And specifically, the possibility of spending a time of silence and reflection in the cradle of Vedruna spirituality, in the Manso Escorial, praying before the cross-shaped beams on the floor of the attic. A place that, for those who know Joaquina’s life, cannot go unnoticed. It is probably there where the projects that the good Jesus had for the widow of Mas were forged, the foundress who knew so many difficulties, trials, obstacles and challenges in her life and who always faced them with deep trust in God.

In my daily life Joaquina accompanies me with her presence, her message and her example. I have in my office a picture with her image and a phrase that I often repeat to myself, because it comforts me and encourages me to continue in the mission that has been entrusted to me in the Vedruna school. “Courage and confidence, everything will be fine, better than we thought.” Beyond this phrase, what orients me and gives meaning to my day to day life is to find myself in the silence of prayer every morning before starting my work. At that time, in addition to the word of God, I usually read a letter from Joaquina’s epistolary or something related to her biography or her message, which guides me in the decisions I have to make on a daily basis.

A short time ago, while preparing the publication of a book about the history of my school, I noticed a verb that Joaquina repeats in her letters and that inspires me a lot: the verb “abrazar” (to embrace). To such an extent that I decided to give the book a title evocative of the mission that the Vedruna School, a school of life and a house of open doors, must continue to fulfill after almost two hundred years of existence: “An embrace that lasts”. For me, Joaquina’s pedagogy of love can be combined very well with the symbol of the embrace. And that embrace is what gives me the most of my being Vedruna on a daily basis.

What does it mean for me today to “embrace” like Joaquina? I try to summarize it in three

  1. Embracing the needs of others: In my professional sphere, as the director of a Vedruna school, I feel that my task is a call to respond to needs with an evangelical outlook. Like Jesus, who looked with compassion on the crowd; who looked with sympathy on the rich young man; who looked with mercy on sinners. There are many people who knock on my door throughout the day to attend to their various needs. Often, when faced with complicated situations
    I realize that I do not have the solution to everything and that I can only listen, empathize and accompany. In a word, embrace. From silence and compassion.
  2. To embrace from simplicity and humility: It is the deep conviction of not having the truth, of being a seeker of meaning, together with many brothers and sisters. It is to enjoy the encounter with the little ones, made of simple gestures, but full of light and love. One of the best joys I experience at school is when, passing by the classrooms, the children run to hug me. Or when I give and receive hugs from the people I love the most and who love me the most. These moments reinforce in me the certainty that it is worthwhile to go out of one’s way for others and to do my bit to make the world a little better.
  3. Embrace with the heart: “All for love, nothing by force,” Joaquina repeats. This is the motto that we have at the entrance and that welcomes everyone who enters our school. And that is the very heart of the Gospel, the most important commandment, which sums it all up. It is to be aware that the engine of
    life, so that it may have meaning and be fruitful, is the love that “never says enough”. Never ever. Nor in the face of tiredness, disappointment, pessimism or sadness that can often arise in daily routine. Only with this love in my heart does my daily life become an embrace that lasts.

I have shared in these brief lines how I try to live my being part of the great Vedruna family, which I thank with all my heart for what it has given me and continues to give me. Without her, my life would not be the same.

Dario Nasilli

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