Desire as Prayer
Monica reflects on the incredible connections she discovers with strangers after risking to share her story of losing her son.
When an editor from USA Today approached Monica Canetta and asked her to share the story of her son Matteo, who was born in 2015 and lived for two hours before peacefully passing, she embraced this opportunity as a way to remember her son. What she did not expect were the mysterious ways the article would change others (friends and strangers alike) and herself. (Read the article here.)
In a time where any public statement can be politicized or twisted to promote a certain ideology, it would have been perfectly understandable for the Canettas to prefer to keep Matteo’s story private, or at least only shared with friends; but in sharing the story publicly, Monica discovered again that she is never left alone.
“I wasn’t afraid to share Matteo’s story because we can only share what happened to us. Of course we want people to take it for what it is, and not their interpretation. But all we can share is what is true, and it’s true because we lived it,” said Monica.
As detailed in the USA Today article, Monica’s story demonstrates that what helps a woman living such a dramatic situation is not a political discourse or a series of medical tests, but a companionship. This companionship became even more evident after the article was published, and Monica started receiving an outpouring of letters and emails from people she had never met but who were moved by her story.
“They somehow found my email on Google. I even received one letter to the house–I have no idea how they found my address,” said Monica. The letters, many of which came from families who had faced similar circumstances, offered words of support and also gratitude. Despite coming from strangers, the letters reveal intimate details, as if written to a dear friend.
“I was brought to tears this morning after reading your article. My sincerest condolences on the loss of your son, Matteo. While no person can ever truly understand or comprehend another's loss, your words had a profound impact on me,” wrote one father who also lost a son during birth.
“There’s no answer that could make any sense within the framework of human logic. So a mystery seems to make sense, as contradictory as that may sound,” reads another letter.
A friend in the Boston CL community wrote her a WhatsApp message that said: “Thanks for the beautiful article! Almost crashed my car cause I teared up. I sent it to all my friends.”
After the article was published, the School of Community in Denver also reached out to Monica, asking if she would be willing to discuss her story further with them via Zoom. Although Monica did not know anyone in that community, she agreed.
“Ultimately, what I found important from her witness was how she did not close herself from the world in the midst of such a dramatic event in her life, but instead, how she opened up to her friends, family, and even strangers. [The Zoom meeting occurred] while we were reading chapter five of Fr. Carrón's Is there Hope? Which says, ‘Friendship is defined by its purpose: help to walk towards destiny.’ Monica was a witness of exactly that…her witness was an invitation to follow someone else in order to be more myself,” said Pietro, who participated in the Zoom discussion. Several others in the community echoed his judgment, indicating that Monica’s article and the follow-up discussion served as a profound witness speaking to their personal lives, despite not sharing any of her circumstances.
While beautiful that the article had been helpful to so many others, for Monica it was first and foremost a help for herself.
Monica recalls returning home that same day after Matteo was born. She and her husband were about to go to sleep when he said, “Moni, I just hope that we don’t forget.” Now, six years and three kids later, Monica continues to be moved that they do not forget, despite the busyness of life, because something Other always reminds them.
"I’m discovering that this expression of our desire—‘Don’t let me forget’— is enough of a prayer. Saint Augustine says, ‘Your desire is your prayer.’ We don’t need to do anything. We have these desires but we don’t always risk them. But him [her husband] risking that desire with me the night Matteo was born, that was enough—that is prayer. God listens to that,” said Monica.
“This experience has made me more certain of following Father Giussani because he always educated us that the person is a mystery,” she said. “Seeing how this [USA Today] article struck people, it was another occasion to say, ‘Wow, it’s true, I’m a mystery even to myself.’ Sometimes I can’t even communicate what happened to me and the life of Matteo but at the same time I can, and how mysterious these other people are to me. I don’t know them, and yet there’s such a connection.”
“This experience has also made me understand why Father Giussani always stressed this work on experience,” said Monica. “It’s easy to use words, but this education he’s introduced us to means to always start from what you lived and what you learned from it. It’s amazing to see that what Father Giussani says is true in my life. It fills me with gratitude and certainty that Father Giussani’s path is my path.”
*interview conducted and article written by Meghan Isaacs