In our "Hall of Fame" we must add Mario Poliandri, born in Martinsicuro, Italy 56 years ago, fisherman, born to Heaven on Saturday, January 29th. I have known Mario since 1993 and what I say of his spiritual journey I have seen personally. He married Diana Vagnoni and he was father of two children. Mario was a fisherman, since he was 14 years old. He spent more time in his life on the water than on land. When I became parish priest of San Giovanni in Colonnella, Italy Mario began to participate to all parish activities with his family, without any exceptions. I remember when with astonishment I saw him attending the weekly Bible-catechesis on Friday evening: he participated even if he had come back from the fishing-week on Thursday night (when you are in the sea, you sleep 2-3 hours a night and “an eye is always open”) and he fought against sleep and tiredness to be careful to the explanation of the Scriptures.
I remember his joy at hearing that, when Jesus chose his first four disciples, He did not choose any important person of his time, but he chose four fishermen, and that one of these, the future first Pope, was married. After a lot of years of vicissitudes and spiritual struggles, the experience of illness and pain in the body began for Mario. He lived all the human impact with it and the whole response of the divine Power to it. His last and most terrible stages were: the battle with liver cirrhosis, won, in addition to human treatments, with a wonderful healing-deliverance of the Lord Jesus; the battle against a malignant retro-pharyngeal tumor, and finally the battle against a malignant brain tumor. For the first devastating tumor he was treated at the Gemelli Hospital in Rome, where he made all types of cycles of chemo and radiation therapy. His wife assisted him and he received the affection by many people and friends, that visited him and prayed for him. The battle against this cancer was a triumphal march: Mario has held up the cycles of chemo and especially those of radiotherapy magnificently well, without suffering great bad consequences. Meanwhile Mario learned to rely completely on the will of God: ".... Let Your will be done ... Jesus, I am in your hands". Praying in this way, Mario had the grace to overcome the fear of the disease and of the future, and he felt calm and ready for anything. We all prayed for his healing and Mario had received the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.
When he had examination, and the visit to verify the outcome of the therapy, the doctors were amazed: the retropharyngeal tumor had completely disappeared and there were any signs of tumor cell in his body anymore! The doctors said to Mario and Diana to thank God for the wonderful outcome of therapy. So Mario gave testimony the work of God on him several times in public and in private places, and we have praised God for His infinite Power against the deadly and incurable diseases. After a few months another tumor arrived, this time based in the brain, which caused him very strong suffering, at the limit of human tolerability. Confident in the Power of God we all rolled up our sleeves for this new battle, thinking of winning it again in the Lord. But things got different. From inspirations had in prayer and from Bible passages got for him, a new reality was taking shape. The most explicit Bible passage we received by the Lord for Mario was Colossians 1,24: "I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and I complete in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ in favor of His body which is the Church".
All prayers for the physical healing in this third trial were not heard and a new reality began to outcome. Meanwhile Mario was making long strides in the things of God. Charity to the poor had always been a constant in his life, but suffering let it grow. He had only to see a child asking his grandmother for something with enthusiasm and immediately getting what he had asked for, to understand our mistakes and shortcomings of faith of our prayers and requests to God. He had only to think back to the sufferings of his wife only in the last year for assisting him in hospitals, to exclaim: "If my wife loves me so much, God loves me more!".
So, when we went to visit him at his home to pray with the prayer-group, we heard him saying: "Praise and glory to You, Jesus, I love you, Lord; thank you for your love, You are great, O my God, hallelujah...!". Who among us praises God for the love He has for us while our body is suffering terribly? Who among us endures the assaults of the Devil that, through pains, wants us to rebel against God? Who among us has reached the loyalty to God when His plan to defeat the evil of the world includes our supreme sacrifice? Mario has reached this goal. Mario was able to fight against himself, when he lost his sight (and he did not regain it anymore) and he fought his natural desire to see, because he had known a blind woman for over twenty years and she did not use to complain for the darkness. His trial culminated with the total and final loss of hearing and speech. Only he and Jesus know what level of physical and spiritual suffering he has reached. Mario eventually communicated with the world by his hands, sometimes moving his fingers to indicate his desire to shake another hand, especially the one of his wife. At the end, on Saturday morning, January 29th, he was born to Heaven. I think, and I don’t think I'm wrong, that at that time Jesus told him: "Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world!" (Mt 25,34).