|01-01-2006 - Traces, n.1
For some time now, the event that most judges my life has been my father’s illness. Lately, his condition has worsened. He’s entirely powerless now; the only thing he can do now is close his eyes to answer yes. He’s lucid. When things began worsening, Ilia, a friend from my Fraternity group, urged me not to bear this weight alone. She was the first to get involved with my family, bringing her concrete aid as a physical therapist. I asked my friends for help, and they immediately began going to visit my father in the hospital. During the day, many of my friends, doctors and physical therapists, went to his bedside, and this was a real grace for him. “When I see your friends, I feel better,” he told me. From then on, I was able to accompany Dad in encountering as much of our experience as he could grasp. He lived the period of Fr. Giussani’s final illness and death with great participation, and asked that his handkerchief be laid on his tomb at the Monumental Cemetery. I read pages from Traces to him, and he wanted to learn about Saint Riccardo Pampuri. He also followed the events of Pope Wojtyla’s death and Ratzinger’s election, and willingly saw again some of my friends he had not seen for decades. He recited prayers with us, etc.… I had always wanted my parents to know a bit more about the Movement than I could have explained myself, but I have to say that the Lord chose to do this in a moment I certainly wouldn’t have considered the most appropriate. Among the many encounters marked by gratuitousness, the most recent and moving was with a priest in the Movement, Fr. Giorgio Brianza, who began spending time with my parents, celebrating Mass in their home. During the first of these encounters, Fr. Giorgio asked my father if he would be willing to offer his suffering for the Church and for her priests, and Dad answered, “Yes,” closing his eyes many times. My relationship with my mother has become more meaningful as well, because, thanks to the presence of my friends, I have been able to tell her what Carrón told us at the Spiritual Exercises: if we miss Christ, it is a good thing, because in this way we remember Him.
M. Pia, Busto A.
Here is the letter of a young friend who wrote after doing charitable work at a center run by the Sisters of Charity (of Mother Teresa of Calcutta).
I couldn’t believe that Luis was so happy to see me; he was almost crying. He was so happy to see me that he asked me to go say hello to Ramón. There was a moment, while I was with Ramón, when I looked over at Luis: he was happy that the other man was happy. Then, I understood what charity is, the charity of one who rejoices for an instant at the happiness of the other, who looks tenderly at what God has given him, and gives it to the world. Then, I looked around me and I realized the absurdity of our going there. Our going there doesn’t make sense–these people are dying! The harshness of reality fell on top of me like a ton of bricks, the fact that here, we are in the face of humanity’s limitations. I looked at Luis again, and he was happy. I looked at Edgardo, Neysha, and Bea, and they were all happy serving lunch. I noticed that even the other ladies who worked there were in a good mood. What a sight! It seemed like a party. So I thought, “Your sweet Presence, only Your sweet Presence makes harsh reality so beautiful.” Mysteriously, we have been asked to accompany these people as they die, and thus we have been given life, so that going there, our wounds too are healed, the wounds we never would have expected to be healed, the ones we have on occasion tried to forget, in order not to feel them.
At the Edimar Center, the surprises never cease. Our friend, nicknamed, “the Englishman,” is very agitated and uptight today, and keeps trying to provoke people. He doesn’t know what he wants, but he doesn’t leave the Center. After the umpteenth provocation, he calms down and gives me a phone number to call his uncle, to restore contact with his family. For over a year, he’s been telling me about this uncle who has been looking for him, because his family wants to see him again. Finally, I manage to speak with this uncle, who is happy to be able to find the boy again. Nobody knows what this boy kept hidden in his heart during these years wandering the streets. We often spoke during the night rounds we do with a group of educators in various points of the city, but rather than having a conversation, he blurted half sentences, because of his constant moving around. Only soccer and some other mundane topics captured his attention. All this served to increase our friend’s trust in us. Often, we’ve had the impression of being in a “Colombo” movie, gathering many bits of evidence in order to get close to the truth. This obligates us to stay in front of reality as it is, at every moment, to look at the street kids just as they are. It’s not a pre-established project to be applied. This is the point of departure for growing in friendship, so that he can say, “I feel good with you, and I trust what you propose for me.” At the Edimar Center, a large part of our time is spent this way. Through the many activities we offer, they come to have some trust in our proposal. The kids are not attached to a project; they’re attached to people. This is an important fact, because the street kids very often see themselves as betrayed and cast aside by the adult world. “In order to survive on the street, you have to grab God by the feet…,” one kid told me, a boy who’d been on the street for years, and had been in prison repeatedly. He said it, expressing the nostalgia for a more human life and, at the same time, as a prayer that God would not abandon him. Certainly, God abandons no one, as shown in the beautiful story of Edimar, whose eyes became blue, thanks to a friendship he encountered.
Fr. Maurizio, Yaoundè, Cameroon
Dearest Fr. Carrón: My story began four years ago, when “by chance” I decided to share an apartment with some CLU (CL university) girls in Chieti. I began attending School of Community without understanding much what the CLU kids were doing, or their reasons why. After three months, I decided to stop going to School of Community, convinced that it was something I didn’t need. The years went by, and I continued sharing an apartment with the CLU kids, without asking myself why, just out of laziness. The friendship with the others continued, but I couldn’t explain why, and I did not even ask myself. The proposals continued undeterred: retreats, vacations, the Way of the Cross… I should have mentioned that at home I had a difficult family situation, because my mother was ill, and I had always thought that it hadn’t been given to me to be happy like those in CL. I was convinced that there was a time for suffering and a time for happiness and that, in this period of my life, it was my lot to suffer, but that at some point, one day, I would be happy. But actually, all this was not working out, and last summer, at home, I understood that I missed being in Chieti; I missed that friendship and I missed being happy. I had never admitted this desire to myself, but in talking with a friend of mine and with my father, this prayer was consciously formed in me for the first time. I realized that I already had the answer to this prayer; I just needed to free my heart from the rationality oppressing it. My daily life hasn’t changed; I still have exams to take and my mother is still sick. What has changed is my way of looking at these things.
I believed that the others had to take action, not me. I told myself that my school was too big for spreading GS. Then, something unexpected inside me told me that I too was a participant, and that I too was part of GS, and that I needed to overcome my fearful timidity about what others would think of me. So, I began at school by circulating flyers for the CL Academic Year Opening Day, posting some and handing out others. People were indifferent about it; they didn’t know what it was or they were prejudiced against it, and it all seemed like a waste of effort. A few days later, I saw a teacher in front of my classroom, asking for me. She said she too was in the Movement. As we spoke, it turned out that I was not alone, but that there were three others in the school. In those days, I was having an ongoing conflict with some fourth-year kids, right-wing extremists. They told me I was getting to be too much of a leader, and that they “nipped things in the bud…” I told them where they could go, showing them that nothing would stop me witnessing to the presence of Christ. I had seen the movie The White Rose, and it strengthened my determination to spread GS. Seeing young people who had died for their own ideals, I told myself that what I had to do was nothing in comparison, even though it is equally great. This gave me strength to testify to what I believe in. Time passed by and in my class there began to be discussions like, “Does destiny exist? What is it? And happiness?” I started to see my classmates search for life’s meaning. So, I gave friends and people I didn’t know the flyer on the 50 years of CL. They were struck by it, and open to a meeting outside school hours. The other day, I gathered the teachers of the Movement to discuss the possibility of an afternoon “raggio” [GS meeting].
The Pope’s Letter
I want to share with all of you my joy in feeling part of the Church. Last April, Alessandro (5 years old), struck by the election of Pope Benedict XVI, drew a beautiful picture to send him, along with a note dictated to his mother. The Pope wrote back. Just think, the universal Pope reaches with solicitude and tenderness even the smallest of children; it’s marvelous. This is the communion of the Church.
Dear Alessandro: The Holy Father Benedict XVI has received with pleasure the letter and the meaningful drawing you sent him with the help of your mother, to show your affection. The Pope thanks you for your kind thought, and, while he wishes that you may grow in friendship with Jesus, to give peace and joy to everyone, he entrusts you and Alberto to the celestial protection of Our Lady, and from the heart imparts His Blessing, which he willingly extends to your parents and loved ones. Wishing for you every good thing, I too greet you warmly.
Msgr. Gabriele Caccia, Secretary of State
of the Holy See
Attached to the Vine
I encountered CL one October Sunday, many years ago. I remember that day perfectly, my amazement, and the sensation that this encounter would change my life. My high school years with the friends of the Movement were rich in spirituality, sharing, and events. I have a beautiful memory of that journey with GS. I learned a way of being, of looking at people and facts. The university experience wasn’t as happy, and when I finished my studies and became absorbed in my work, without actually deciding to do so, I slowly drifted away. I moved abroad, and still live away from Italy. During this period of almost twenty years, I had forgotten CL and many other things, but I have never forgotten the heart of the experience, and I have always been faithful to the Church and to John Paul II. The beginning of the new millennium was marked by very difficult years for me, when my faith in the mystery of the Cross was my only strength. Then, when that period unexpectedly ended, “normal” life was no longer sufficient for me. I had developed great sensitivity to suffering, and intolerance for hypocrisy and injustice. This malaise could only be cured with action, and I began asking the Lord to show me a concrete road. One morning last February, someone far from the Movement called me to tell me about the death of Fr. Giussani. When I asked, “Why are you calling me about this, at this hour?” he responded, “Because I know that it was important for you.” It was true. In another life, it had been very important. That news brought back to mind my greatest dream, the greatest hope I have ever had. The next day, I was leaving for Brazil, and I asked a journalist friend to save me everything he would find on Giussani in the following weeks while I was away. When I returned, I began a period of reading that led me to reflect upon my past. After a couple of weeks, I heard of the death of John Paul II, and so I entrusted to his intercession my journey, and I felt the responsibility of being a miniscule part of his living heritage. After a few weeks, I happened to learn that Msgr. Negri had become bishop. I had known him as a girl. The news filled me with great joy, and even though twenty years of silence had passed, I decided to write him. In my brief note of congratulations I was able to formulate what I had come to realize over the previous two months, that is, that the experience of CL was the framework upon which everything else was built, that is was my compass. Some time later, I received a response that moved me deeply. Notwithstanding how much time had passed, and the distance, I still felt that I belonged structurally to that education. In August, I also bought an issue of Traces, the first in twenty years, and as I thumbed through it, I found an article signed by “Silvio Guerra, Paris,” the city where I live. When I returned, I decided to dedicate a couple of hours a week to catechism. I had hoped to find an experience that would engage me in true sharing as I faced this task but, instead, I only found good Church organization. I wondered where I could find the resources to credibly communicate what I desired–not a discipline, but Jesus present and a friend today. That name in Traces came to mind again. I found Silvio’s number, called him, and we decided to meet. I told him this story and asked if I could come to School of Community. This is what I do now, and how I feel attached to the vine.
Dearest Fr. Carrón: I am in the third year of Classics at the University of Genova. About a year ago, I was elected Faculty Council representative together with some others from CL, and two leftist students. After a somewhat circumspect beginning, a beautiful relationship has developed with them. In particular, I have been struck by the way one of them, Alberto, the head of the leftist party list, considered us from the start with liking and freedom, not at all ideologically. We have been able to work very well together, doing some really useful things for the council. When it came time to invite people to the Spiritual Exercises, I thought that such a true and free person couldn’t be looked over. I was a bit fearful of making such a big proposal, but then Fr. Mimmo had us read a piece from The Journey Toward the True is an Experience, in which Giussani says that the Christian invitation must be a decisive and elementary gesture. I spoke with my friend Sara, and it was evident that weakness in communicating what we have encountered wouldn’t be overcome by making an effort, but only by being companions. So we invited Alberto together, and the surprise was that he simply said yes. What most struck me was not so much that the head of the local leftists accepted being ridiculed by his friends as a “ciellino” [CL member], but that his position toward us was one of absolute simplicity. If he sees something beautiful, he says yes. It was clear that for him, the friendship with me, Sara, Danilo, and many others was something beautiful to trust in, something that maybe he didn’t understand entirely, but of which he was absolutely certain. On Wednesday, Alberto and his friends invited me to eat with them in a trattoria, and this too really impressed me. First of all, I liked them, because they are fully alive, and want their friendship to be something totalizing that judges the world. But the biggest news was the fact that by now, we think of ourselves as being together. The only word that comes to mind about all this is newness; the newness among some of us is not utopian; it’s not a refuge, but a help to truly live reality.
Maria Silvia, Genova
In these days, the positive has been immense, much, much greater than the pain. The Lord will give us time to grasp it all. Many have reminded us that with Pietro Benedetto’s death we now have one more angel watching over our family. I think they’re wrong. It’s mistaken for two reasons. First, because we hope that Pietro Benedetto and the others won’t be concerned with just our family. Second, because our friend is not an angel. Pietro Benedetto is a man, just as his sister Alice is a woman. When the world was still Christian, they used to say that angels are jealous of men, because men are free and because Christ died for them. The afternoon before Pietro Benedetto died, his grandmother Grazia, holding him as he slept, said, “How could anyone harm children? Look how Pietro is totally abandoned!” This was exactly his characteristic trait. Among our many grandchildren, he was particularly striking for the way he became one with the person holding him. This was Pietro Benedetto’s vocation: total abandonment. Sometimes his mother worried that he was a bit too serious. In effect, when he looked at someone, he always seemed very questioning. But a few days before, he had begun smiling and speaking at length, as children do when they are trying to put out words that aren’t there yet. Before falling asleep, abandoned, Thursday afternoon, he had launched into big discourses and laughed a great deal with us, and in this, too, he fulfilled his vocation entirely, so we would not think that one can die an interrogative. Pietro Benedetto is a baptized man, a son of God with a precise vocation of his own and a clear and, for those who knew him, indisputable charism, that of reminding everyone that the only thing that matters is staying in the Lord’s arms like a child in the arms of his father or mother–or grandmother. This is true joy. The glory of God is a man like this.
We publish here the message sent
by Holy Father Benedict XVI on the occasion
of the Advent Retreat of the Memores Domini
and the “profession” of 57 novitiates.
Most Reverend Father Julián Carrón:
Grateful for your fervent message sent also in the name of Antonio Giavini and the members of the Memores Domini lay association on the occasion of their Advent retreat and the profession of novitiates, the Holy Father greets you with good wishes, and while he reciprocates your devoted thought, hoping that this providential gathering may evoke renewed and generous commitment in the annunciation of the Christian faith in contemporary society, he invokes upon the new novitiates and their families continued divine assistance, and willingly sends all the participants the requested apostolic blessing, a pledge of copious celestial graces.
Cardinal Angelo Sodano,
Secretary of State of the Holy See
November 27, 2005