|01-02-2006 - Traces, n.2
Over the holidays, I had to transport a 22-year-old woman who was having a difficult delivery. The village midwife had asked me to find a way to bring this woman to the hospital 9 miles away. We found a tractor. When we arrived at the hospital, we found out that the entire city had lost power, so we bought some diesel to turn on the hospital generator to enable the doctors to operate. By 11 pm, they had finished the surgery, but only the mother had survived. The baby had been dead for several hours. I was very sorry, but it was a comfort to me that at least the mother had survived. The cost for everything was $110, but the poor husband had only two dollars with him (both are laborers who earn fifty cents a day). I paid it for them, because a life is worth much more. I’m telling you this because this life was saved through the offerings and donations of the friends I was with during my stay in Milan. I would like to thank all of you for having been part of this support for my mission. I thank Fr. Giussani and each of you for the witness and the experience of the Movement that whispered to me that I should become a bearer of the Gospel. The New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs has already been printed in Burmese, the fruit of a six-year effort.
This year, a bit before Christmas, I sent an e-mail to my office colleagues to wish them a Merry Christmas and to propose an AVSI distance adoption to everyone. Right away, I received positive responses, and my boss even forwarded my note to practically the whole company, and in the following days many thanked me for the greetings and told me that they too would participate in the distance adoption. In short, now we have done the adoption, but what I most want to say is that we often make all sorts of problems for ourselves regarding how to live our circumstances fully or how to communicate what we live for, since we are so limited and needy, but we forget that there is an Other who always takes our nothingness and makes it be, and makes use of the freedom of each of us.
Loredana, San Donato Milanese
Everything began about 10 years ago. One evening on the way home, I said to Davide, “You know when I really understand something? When I suffer.” I remember that he looked at me as if to say, “What in the world are you saying?” He didn’t understand, but the good Lord took me at my word. I graduated from the university, found work, married Davide, and then I thought about having three children–four would have been too many if I wanted to work, and two would have been too few. Well, as happens sometimes, the children never came. I’d never even thought of something like this as a possibility for my life! Time went by, and my desire became ever greater, but nothing happened. Completely stunned and incredulous, I began asking, “What have I done wrong?” and then shouting, “What do You want from me?” Over the years, the pain and anger made me have highs and lows. The worse I felt, the more it seemed the world was against me. After about three years of marriage, a gynecologist told me, “There’s nothing physically wrong, but in the meantime, why don’t you think about adopting?” She never saw me again. Adoption! A child that wasn’t my child, someone I couldn’t even name, who didn’t even resemble my husband… And then the prayers, how many prayers! I began offering all my pain so that someone else in that moment could have the part of happiness that compensated for my pain. My mind began to yield; the pain, the sacrifice, the patience took over space and filled my heart. The question became ever greater, filling my daily life; it seemed like my friends of long ago no longer corresponded to me, and only those who knew pain deeply, or who had great faith seemed to respond to my life. At this point, I began searching constantly for someone who could be a companion for me. Then I began asking to be able to understand, that my desire for fulfillment would receive an answer–it didn’t matter what kind, but at least some answer. I was beginning to entrust myself. One day, we went to Fr. Fabio. He told us a few things, and then sent us to Fr. Claudio at the Cascinazza Monastery. For five years now, my husband and I have been showing up punctually every month at the monastery gate. Fr. Fabio often says, “Ask for the miracle until you believe in it; if you want a child, ask for a child, but you have to believe in it.” I believed in the miracle, and it arrived–actually, they arrived–from Russia. About a year ago, I met my two children. Kolia and Yuri are two splendid children. I didn’t give birth to them, but every day they become a deeper part of me. Today, ten years after that barely understood statement of mine, I pray every morning, asking to be able to understand things through a strong faith, without having to suffer so much any more. I pray for all of those who are in pain, that they may soon entrust themselves to a companionship of friends. The pain was mine; nobody took it from me, not even God, but how differently it is borne when you recognize the Presence of Christ and you trust in your friends! Just before Christmas, I overheard the following conversation between my children: “Look up at those lines in the sky [contrails on a clear blue day]; it seems like a drawing.” “Of course! It’s Jesus who’s drawing.” “Why, where does Jesus draw?” “Jesus draws in the sky.” At that moment, observing blessedly the beauty of the sky, and a bit moronically the intelligence of my children, I understood that things are the way they should be, and that that line had always been straight, and always will be.
Dearest Fr. Carrón: We are a family with three children. Last year, because of my job, I began working in London. For about a year, I traveled back and forth, Mondays and Fridays. The difficulty of this situation and the desire to be together, together with some favorable conditions at work, led us to the decision to move together to London, though we didn’t have a clear idea of how long we would remain here. So, since September we have all been here together. As you can imagine, this has led to many changes, many new things, many wonderful things and many difficulties, those foreseen and those unexpected. But the greatest thing that has happened to us has been the encounter with the community in the United Kingdom, and the life this has generated. The challenge hasn’t been–and still isn’t–just dealing with a new and exciting adventure, but through that circumstance, discovering what the Lord is asking of us, and continuing to deepen the encounter we have had with Him through the Movement. This has happened precisely with these English friends; we experienced right from the start a great familiarity, and our friendship immediately reached an unexpected depth. This unity among us has so struck some friends and colleagues, who are not in the Movement, that some of them have begun coming to School of Community and other common gestures. For everyone, the amazing thing was that in such a short time we could have so many true friends with whom we could share everything, from problems at work to those at home. Within this companionship, some faces in particular have reawakened us in our daily relationship with reality, those of our Memores friends who are here in London. It is incredible how the relationship with them is changing us, helping us to look at the relationship among ourselves in a truer way, to look at our children with a truer gaze, one directed more at their Destiny. The intensified adherence to reality is incredible in how it derives from this friendship and is translated into help with concrete things. Out of this has grown the desire to form a Fraternity group with some of them and other friends of the community that have School of Community with us.
Andrea and Laura, London
Dear friends: My husband and I recently got married, and we have decided to donate the offerings of the wedding celebration to the Fraternity. We hope through this gesture to make a small contribution to the work of Fr. Giussani. Even though my husband is not in CL (at least, he says he isn’t…!), the Movement has enabled us to live this journey toward marriage with intensity and full awareness. I could even say that without the Movement, we might not even have gotten married, because I wouldn’t have had the freedom to respond “yes” to the gift the Lord was giving to my life.
I derive great joy from my husband’s respect and support for our experience; he didn’t think twice about donating the Mass offerings to the Fraternity. Just a small example of my husband’s attention: not only does he try to organize our time keeping in mind commitments with the Movement, but he is so aware that this companionship is for my–and for our–life, that when he sees me upset, even for something simple in our daily life, he reminds me to do School of Community, or he invites me to pray an Angelus with him!
The Great Resource
The following letter is from a young man (about 40 years old) who is wheelchair bound. He has a special car and is able to go to work.
Dear Fr. Gianni: I am writing to thank you for your advice, which I am trying to follow. Embrace the cross, and don’t accommodate it–this has been a great challenge, especially since I didn’t understand well what it meant. But I am not worried about it, because I asked and prayed to Jesus, and stayed attentive to opportunities. The most important was meeting Rossano, a fellow who is also in a wheelchair; we have become friends now. His way of being provoked me to change my attitude about the circumstances I’m living. I began to perceive all the situations that call me to action no longer as burdens or obstacles, but as opportunities for my happiness.
Certainly, I labor more, and I use up my body more quickly, but I am enjoying much more the Event of Jesus present through the vicissitudes of the Movement, and I am happier. Now, I no longer consider my illness a misfortune, but I see this “lack” as a resource that helps me to never forget Jesus, and to recognize Him more readily. Just an example: The advice I gave our cooperative, which offers assistance to the handicapped in boarding airplanes, has helped them improve this service–a lack (my poor health) as a resource!! Who’d have thought? Before, I was different, and I would have tried to dodge an obstacle with excuses about the toil, but in doing so, I diminished desire. Now, the toil is still there–growing, actually–and I am ever more dependent, but I have discovered that the toil has its own dignity.
We arrived at the airport, carrying the crèche built by our friend Gianni, as well as little figurines and various objects we’d bought in Naples, the material we planned to use for the meeting (organized by our Finnish friends, Manuel and his wife Katia) to present the origins and meaning of the crèche. At the hotel, we were met by two friends from nearby Estonia, Paul and Marika, who came from the city of Tallinn to spend a day with us in Helsinki. We went with them to Manuel and Katia’s, where we met Johann, a Lutheran from Iceland, who travels an hour every Friday in order to come to School of Community. During dinner, Rosi told us about the university students’ spiritual exercises in Rimini. “The fundamental point is the question, ‘Who am I?’ because only if I go deep down into this question can I come to recognize the Mystery who makes me.” And while we were there, in such an evidently different country from ours, we realized even more that the “I” of every man truly awaits Christ. The meeting was held in a hall at St. Mary’s, one of the two Catholic churches in Helsinki, and in his introduction, Manuel clarified that the initiative was born of a desire to “look more deeply into the Mystery of Christmas.” Our Finnish friends had distributed, on all the chairs, a flyer with the Christmas poster and the translation we had sent, which they had also used in the previous weeks as the invitation to colleagues and acquaintances. Gianni, a biologist who builds crèches in his free time, explained right from the start the motivation for his passion: “I am bound to this tradition because I am moved by the fact that God became man and that I can encounter Him today in a companionship of men.” During the presentation, we told how this tradition was born in Italy, how it represents the Event of an extraordinary birth that surprises and involves the entire people, and, above all, how it is the memory of an Event that happens again today. Marco, a Finn who provided the simultaneous translation, told us afterwards how he was struck by the profound meaning of the crèche, and introduced us to his wife. He told us that his wife is Lutheran, and he is Catholic, but that he doesn’t want to press her to convert to Catholicism because, “in a society like ours today, it’s already remarkable if there are people who live their faith in a true way, be they Catholics or Protestants.” We told him about Fr. Giussani, and how he always taught us that the most important thing was to live fully the tradition to which one belongs, in order to understand if this is what corresponds to one’s heart. Rosi gave him a Saint Riccardo Pampuri medal, telling him about the “simple saint.” At the end of the meeting, Johann, always attentive and curious, asked Gianni more about what he’d said in his talk, about being moved that God became man, and wanted to know what it meant in Gianni’s life. Gianni answered, “This being moved is not a sentiment, but a judgment born of the surprising discovery of a correspondence between the encounter with Christ and my desire as man.” Our friend from Estonia told us, before saying goodbye, that when her parish priest heard about the Helsinki initiative, he expressed his desire to organize a similar gesture in Tallinn for next Christmas, so Catholics of their parish could learn more about the meaning of this tradition. We donated Gianni’s crèche to St. Mary’s parish, with the desire that anyone entering the Church and seeing it would be surprised at finding himself before that Child, who is being born.
Genny, Maria, Gianni, Rosi, Helsinki
Squeezed by Joy
Today, while I was waiting for my daughter Maria, who has Down’s Syndrome, to begin her music therapy course, I happened to observe a very interesting moment. When a handicapped boy’s brother asked him, “How did it go?” he answered, “I’m squeezed by joy.” My first instinctive thought was that it was a chance answer, but this didn’t satisfy me, because it was the response given by a boy, by a person. The heart in that boy is the same as my heart or my daughter Maria’s. The Pope tells us, “We are not the chance, meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the fruit of a thought of God’s; each of us is wanted, each is loved, each is necessary.” It is marvelous to see the joy of these children when they are in a place where they feel welcomed as they are, a joy that they transmit to those close to them, and that accompanies them along their journey. That boy felt “squeezed by joy” because he had been with people who welcomed him, and because in that place he could express who he was. My daughter is happy when she dances or watches a good film together with someone who is with her not to pity her, but to enjoy what is there. May Fr. Giussani help us to be “squeezed by joy” in what happens to us every day.
of One’s Humanity
When I think about the weekend in Boston, I think about what each new day must have held for the first disciples of Jesus. They wake up thinking that they have this man, Jesus, figured out, only to discover that they have not even begun to uncover the depth of the mystery of His identity. It must have been both frustrating and exciting. Boston was, for me, a reminder of how frustrating and exciting it is to be in love. I was confronted, once again, with the original attraction that I experienced through the Movement for Christ in the faces of so many, in His face. Every experience of beauty in music and in liturgy, every experience of truth, every experience of goodness took me back to that original encounter with Christ in which He looked at me and made me look at reality in a different way. Boston was, in a certain sense, a rediscovery of my humanity, of my “I”, and a reawakening of my desire for everything. I have never felt so free. In gratitude,
Dear friends: Last November, I had the opportunity to gather together some of my young friends to meet Fr. Giuseppe (“Joseph”) Carrara and his two companions, who came all the way from the southern Philippines (Zamboanga) to us here in the central part of the country (Cebu). We had an Advent recollection. For me, the event was really a timely encounter with Fr. Joseph. Previously, I had tried to share my CL experience with my young friends through vacations, which included mountain climbing, reading of religious texts, and conveying to them the idea of a common fund for our use. The presence of Fr. Joseph and Malou of Manila and the companionship they offer is now my sure guide. The recollection was a great blessing to me–seeing and hearing again the very simple yet rich lessons of La Thuile and Rimini. Regarding my young friends, I hope and pray that they understood and had their eyes open to the riches of the Catholic tradition offered to them as they are. The sharing of experiences enables me to see my friends anew, being more understanding and willing to sacrifice for them.
Gabriel Santos, Cebu, Philippines