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Federica’s Victory

Marco Sermarini eulogizes his wife, and testifies to faith, hope, and love
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Federica Sermarini, wife of Marco and mother to five wonderful children, died this week of pancreatic cancer. Her funeral was on September 29, in San Benedetto del Tronto. Readers of The Benedict Option will know all about the Sermarinis. I have told anyone who will listen that their little community of Catholic faithful, the Tipi Loschi (cheekily, “the Usual Suspects”), are the best example of the Benedict Option I ever found. They are joyfully countercultural, and rooted deeply in their faith. Anybody who thinks that the Benedict Option is about running to the hills and hiding out fearfully and joylessly should visit the Tipi Loschi, who refute all those claims.

In the book, you meet Marco and Federica — but mostly you meet Marco, because Federica’s English wasn’t great. In Marco you see an Italian man of irrepressible joy, which comes from his boundless faith and love of life. It tells you everything that he is the head of Italy’s G.K. Chesterton Society. Once on French TV I was asked who my hero is, and I said, “Marco Sermarini,” explaining that this Italian lawyer, who lives in a small city far off the beaten track, has shown me what kind of joyful life of creativity and love is possible with great faith.

This morning someone sent me the eulogy Marco gave for Federica at her funeral. I translated it through DeepL, and present it below. This is a powerful testimony of faith, hope, and love. I just read it, and am sitting in my armchair in tears. I offer it to you, and pray that it blesses you as it has me. This is what it means to be a true Christian:

First of all I want to thank everyone for a number of reasons, your presence here brings us a lot.

I speak on behalf of the Sermarini clan, it comforts us a lot, it gives us great pleasure. I should make a huge list of people from the five continents who have prayed for us during this period, and the prayers have had their fruit, without a doubt.

I should make a very long list of people who have helped us in so many ways during these six months of illness and hardship, which you can surely understand.

I do not do any of these, however, I say thank you. Because our Chesterton said that gratitude is the basis of happiness, a happy man is always a grateful man, only a grateful man can be happy.

And we are very grateful for Federica, so we say thank you.

We say thank you to the Lord for giving her to us, for letting her stay with us for these years and this is already a lot, we can only say thank you. Also because my wife has left us a great delivery.

Between yesterday and today I have heard from many people who wanted to express their participation in our pain and many of them have told me that my wife was a person who was good at welcoming, and I thought I knew this, but maybe now I understand it well. Many have told me that my wife was a person capable of surprise, and I knew that.

I remember a joke made by a friend of ours, a Lebanese man who was very nice. Since my wife always asked so many questions, she asked them like this, as they came to her, and at a certain moment this friend said to her: “But Federica, you look like a child!”, and her being like this has always remained, until the last second. And for this I am very grateful.

And then the undeniable educational talent of Federica, which could not be explained only at school, also because she did not teach at our school, but she was a constant presence and she was around you until you did not give up. And so this talent was not only expressed in her family, a demanding woman, a general of the army corps from this point of view, but it was expressed wherever she was.

I use the past tense but I can safely use the present tense, and this is another gift that we have cultivated in our 27 years and 12 days of marriage, which is the gift of the Catholic Faith.

The Catholic Faith tells us that we must believe in the Communion of Saints, so here is the Ecclesia Militans [Church Militant] that is the church that fights, and over there is the Ecclesia Triumphans [Church Triumphant]. We are the same army, but for now we are in two different departments, but absolutely nothing changes.

Speaking of wars and battles, with regard to the reading we read a moment ago, it is taken from the epistle that tells us of a battle, indeed of a war. A war that is a vision, but that is a war that has been there, that is really there and that is there every day. It is the war between good and evil, between God and evil, and this war is fought in front of everyone by St. Michael, leader of the angelic militia.

When I saw that the funeral was going to take place today [September 29, Feast of the Archangels], I was happy for this occasion, because the battle that Federica fought was a battle, the last one we fought, but a war that we started all along, and in this battle the great dragon wanted to prevail over her, but he didn’t succeed.

“The great dragon, the ancient serpent, the one we call the devil and Satan, and who seduces the whole earth, was hurled down to the earth, and with him his angels were also hurled down.” (Revelation 12,9)

And it fulfilled what we understood from the beginning: that it was going to be a battle, and we sensed from the beginning that we might have to give a testimony, and it says it here, but I didn’t know six months ago. I didn’t know how it was going to turn out and I didn’t know it was going to turn out today.

Now the salvation, the strength and the kingdom of our God – because we are here fighting for our King, who is God — and the power of his Christ has been fulfilled, for the accuser of our brothers has been precipitated, — that is, the one who tells us “you are worthless, your life is worthless, your life is nothing, everything ends up in a black hole” — the one who accused them before our God day and night.

But they — that is, we, Federica — overcame him through the blood of the Lamb — where Federica washed her clothes for six months — and thanks to the testimony of their martyrdom”.

That is, we poor little frightened soldiers, that is, when they tell you “your wife has a tumor, and not a pimple, that is one of the worst, it is not that you want to jump for joy, but then courage comes and courage gives you the strength to give testimony, that is, to do as the ancient Christians, where the first thing to which they gave testimony was the resurrection of Christ, and we give testimony to the fact that life does not end here, Christ is risen and gave his life for us and defeated death. We didn’t understand that we had to give this testimony, but we tried it along the way.

Our Frassati [Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, to whom the community is devoted] reminded us, and yesterday it came back to me, that we are not made for this earth, but for our True Homeland.

So the battle has been won. Someone will say “But how? Federica is gone”, the battle has been won.

Federica wanted to die at home she always told me that. She died with us, with our family and friends around and with the comfort of the priest, who was never missing in these months.

And then she didn’t die in despair, she died serene, fighting to the last because even death is a battle to be fought, and I must say that she was very brave, she never shirked. I tried to give her strength as much as I could, or rather we tried because our children have never pulled back, they have never been afraid to face this thing, or rather they faced it with courage, because courage follows fear.

And in these months what has accompanied us are some lines from a poem by our Chesterton, which is entitled “The Ballad of the White Horse”. It’s the story of King Alfred who has to fight against the Vikings, and the Vikings were cruel pagans and he had to defend his people and at a certain point he has a dialogue, a kind of vision, with Our Lady who says to him:

“But you and all the lineage of Christ are ignorant and brave, and you have wars that you hardly win and souls that you hardly save. I say nothing for your comfort, nor for your desire, I only say: the sky is already getting darker and the sea is getting bigger. The night will be three times darker over you, and the sky will become a mantle of steel. Can you feel joy without a reason, tell me, do you have faith without a hope?”

Humanly we had no great hope, we kept Faith, which was the real battle to win.

I can only give you this testimony, I could talk for four consecutive days about how great my wife was in life, how simple, humble, good, a good mother, a good wife, full of strength, indomitable, never bent, never sat down, never satisfied, but this is another story and a bit long, but many of you have brought me this testimony and I am calm and serene.

I invite you to be just as calm and serene, just as happy and I would even say cheerful, and I can say that. Because in any case this is part of our being Christians, we have this hope, this is the true hope, in the end this is what counts my friends.

So be cheerful and pray for the soul of my wife, because something will always be missing, pray for us who are and the battle continues, and we do not want to back down in the least.

And with this I also say thank you to the priests who came, to the monks, to all the dear friends and let’s go on, with courage.

A friend who was at the funeral sent me this photo of Marco and his oldest, Pier Giorgio (in the white shirt):

My friend said:

Look at the faces of Marco and his son Pier Giorgio at the end of the funeral. They were even more smiling than usual, testifying to all of us present the certainty of eternal life.

These men were at the bedside of their wife and mother as she breathed her very last two days earlier. And now look at them. These are Christian men who know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they will see her again one day. As Marco would say, Grande! 

I was not able to get to Italy in time for the funeral, but I wanted to do something in Federica’s memory. I gave a donation to the building fund for the Scuola Chesterton, the classical Christian school that Marco and Federica started. If you were moved by Marco’s words, and the testimony of the life and death of Federica Sermarini, please consider making a gift to continue her work at the school. 

And if you can, someday, go to San Benedetto del Tronto and visit the Tipi Loschi community. There they have faith. There they have hope. There, above all, they have love. This is how life is supposed to be.