TRIESTE is a delightful seaport town in north-eastern Italy. Often neglected by tourists as they head to the standard attractions of Venice, Florence and Rome, the city boasts a stunning harbour, astonishing architecture and a lovely, Eastern European atmosphere. It is therefore not surprising that many artists, like the great Irish writer James Joyce, elected to reside in the city in order to draw inspiration for their works. In 2012 listed Trieste as the world’s most underrated tourist attraction.

I was born in Trieste in 1949 and, even though I unfortunately do not have many opportunities to return to my hometown, the city remains close to my heart because of the many childhood memories it has for me – recollections that represent the happiest period of my life.

I remember that in the evenings my mother used to take us out to our balcony, from which we enjoyed a stunning view of the city’s harbour, to admire the boats setting off for their rich harvests of fish. Each of those boats was carrying one or more fishing lights, and soon the huge harbour was dotted with hundreds of luminous points – it was as if the sky with all its stars had been spread over the sea like a bed cover.

“You see,” my mother used to say, “the lights attract the fish to the surface; this way the fishermen draw them into their nets.”

Lent, which this year begins on 5 March, is an excellent opportunity to rediscover the work of the fisherman: that is, the fact that we are all called to be fishers of people helped by the light of our good deeds. Fishers is a metaphorical expression indicating our mission to carry the light of faith to the doubting, hope to the fearful, strength to the weak and comfort to mourners. This mission is entrusted not only to bishops, priests, nuns and friars, but to all the baptised.

However, in order to be effective fishers, we must use the light of our good deeds. It was, in fact, through His deeds that Jesus manifested his luminous goodness. How many people came to Him in darkness, and went away bathed in light!

In a famous line from The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare writes, “How far that little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.” This means that every time we do something good, we shine a light a little further into the darkness.

Mother Teresa gives us a beautiful example of how she was able to fish a sad soul through the light of her love. One day in Melbourne, Australia, she visited a poor man whom nobody knew existed. The room in which he was living was in a terrible state of untidiness and neglect. The room was quite dark, and the man hardly ever opened the blinds; he had no friends in the world.

Teresa started to clean the room, but the man protested, “Leave it alone, it’s alright as it is!” But the diminutive nun went ahead anyway. Under a pile of rubbish she found a beautiful lamp. It was obvious it had not been used for years, and she asked why he did not light it.

“Why should I light it?” he replied. “No one ever comes to see me. I never see anybody.” Mother Teresa asked him whether he would light it if her Sisters came to see him. He replied that he would if he heard a human voice.

Two of Mother Teresa’s nuns began to visit the poor man on a regular basis. Things gradually improved for him, and one day the man said to the nuns, “Sisters, I’ll be able to manage on my own from now on. But do me a favour, tell that first Sister who came to see me that the light she lit in my life is still burning.”

Each of us can become a fisher of people and a source of light for this darkened world. As Christians we are, in fact, actually called to this task, but unless our own lamp is burning we won’t be able to catch any fish.

Lent provides us with the opportunity of looking squarely at ourselves to see how we can become better followers of Christ and better fishers of people.

May we, therefore, spurred on by the example of Mother Teresa, prepare our own nets, because we have loads of work to do!


Updated on October 06 2016