Increasingly dining room tables are a rarity. Perhaps it is because in newer homes dining rooms are rare. (Indeed some would suggest that dining itself has disappeared.) I was thinking about this recently while six of our grandkids – all under eight years of age – were spending a week with us. One of their more wholesome pastimes involved constructing models with Legos, a time occupier which requires a flat, wide and easily accessible surface. Our dining room table suited and, happily, survived the days of concentrated and at times carefree creation.
I reminded these youngsters that the table on which they were assembling their impressive models was a gift from their great-great grandmother to their great-grandmother and that over the past 80 years five generations of the family have gathered around it for community and shared sustenance. When not in use for its designated purpose it is kept free of clutter and, with the chairs surrounding it serving as sentinels, stands as a silent and timeless witness. And when used properly, it somehow enriches the meal, enhances the conversation and invites us to linger longer than we would at other, perhaps more convenient, platforms.
Reflecting on the effect care for this elegant piece of furniture can have, I more fully appreciate the importance of preservation. Consider the benefits we enjoy in places like Mount Vernon or Monticello. Space, once vibrant with life, can, once stilled and preserved, take on for subsequent generations an edifying, even sacred, character. Special space, special objects somehow remind us of and link us to immutable realities. This will certainly the case with Ponte Nuovo of Magenta near Milan, Italy.
Ponte Nuovo of Magenta was the home of Gianna Beretta Molla who died in 1994 and was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2004. The attached brochure sets forth her extraordinary story along with the ambitious and inspiring plans to restore and convert her family home into an international center for prayer, spiritual retreats and study. I urge readers to open it.
St. Gianna’s daughter, Gianna Emanuela, travels around the world as an apostle for the familial love her parents so powerfully and heroically exemplified. Recently she came to Wilmington. The large crowd she attracted was very moved by her remarks and in particular by her restoration plans. Gianna Emanuela is an itinerant witness; Ponte Nuovo of Magenta will be a stationary one.
Dana Robinson is chair of the board of Trustees of the National Catholic Community Foundation.