01-02-2006 - Traces, n.2

Fr. Giussani


The charism will fascinate us more and more only if it becomes an experience in our daily lives. This implies judging everything that happens with the criterion that an Other has put into us: our heart.
Fr. Julián Carrón

Michele, Milan, Italy
The Seed Planted
Years Ago
My first contact with the Movement was in middle school, at the Sacred Heart Institute. I knew nothing at all about CL and, up until a few months ago, the situation was the same. I remember well that the school trips, more than the day-to-day life at school, were organized in a way that was full of love. The songs, the games, hearing people like Fr. Giorgio or other teachers speak about the problems of life and how the love for Jesus should be the centrer of everything marked me in the best way and unconsciously the seed Fr. Giussani had given to everyone who joined the Movement had taken root in me. Last spring, the flame of faith rekindled in me a need for good and truth that events in my life had brought once more to the surface. This coincided with the death of Fr. Giussani, reported widely in the press, and this allowed me to remember my early youth and how Communion and Liberation had helped me to live better. I was looking for people with whom I could share the same values, and so the attention focused on the Movement gave me the answer. Here is where I could find the kind of people I was looking for. I decided to go directly to via Porpora in Milan, where I knew I would find the headquarters, and I simply asked, “How do I go about participating in your activities?” I was full of curiosity and very naïve; I had no idea of what it meant to belong to the Movement. They gave me the telephone number of a boy named Christian and everything began from there. I was immediately made welcome, introduced to a whole lot of people, some of whom became my friends and have done something concrete for me. The thread running through all this is that great teacher of life and faith named Fr. Giussani. His presence is still tangible in what everyone says and in daily actions; we go on reading his books and taking him for a model. Thank you, Fr. Giussani.

Mattia, Florence, Italy
At the Second-Hand Book Market
In June, I got to know the young people of GS when I went to sell my school books at the second-hand book market. I was struck by their happiness and the unity they expressed as they were working at the market. I, too, wanted to be like them and, as soon as Maria and some others invited me to join them in their work, even though they did not know me, I decided to stay because of that light that shone in their eyes and for the enthusiasm they put into what they were doing. In September, I thought everything would be just as before; I never expected Tommaso and Lorenzo, two boys older than me who I knew only slightly, to come looking for me during breaktime at school. I didn’t understand why they should be so interested in me. But that was the way I met Christ, through people who, without knowing me, bothered about me. So I decided to join in an assembly and was immediately struck by the fact that they were able to take seriously things that often are not even spoken about, things that I had tried to face up to but with poor results. I remember that I wanted to speak at the first assembly, but it wasn’t necessary because others were already talking about everything I had in mind, and everything I was waiting for was already there. The best thing in what I had met was that it revolutionized my whole life and so I began to approach everyone in a new way, beginning with my presence at school: as those two friends had shown interest in me, I wanted to do the same for someone, and I began to propose to my classmates what had been offered to me. When they asked me what was special, I answered that I didn’t know yet, but I sensed that it was what I had always wanted. I began to tell my teachers what I had met so that they, too, could have the chance that I had had, of finding in Christ the answer to my desire for happiness.

Father Luan, Portland, Oregon
An Newspaper Advertisement
It has been six months since I decided to be a part of the local School of Community in Portland, Oregon, USA. It all began with an advertisement for Traces in the Vatican’s paper, L’Osservatore Romano, which I happened across four years earlier. The ad sounded suspicious enough–what’s with communion, liberation, politics, and social problems? Perhaps a new attempt by proponents of liberation theology? I didn’t think so, not in the official paper of the Holy See! Anyway, I went to CL’s website and found something totally amazing: a movement, a philosophy, and a perspective that was absolutely different from what I had expected. Three words keep returning to me ever since: Presence, Being, and Encounter! I am not a philosopher (but we all have a personal philosophy, without which we cannot live).
I am a priest who have been ordained for more than eleven years, serving the Church in the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon. My priesthood is wonderfully enriched and fortified through my discovery of Fr. Giussani’s method. I used to be disheartened and discouraged at the de-Christianizing process that has been unraveling the American culture for a long time. I used to be resigned to the thought that nothing I say or do would rekindle supernatural joy in the hearts of those Catholics in my charge. I used to think these thoughts until I discovered Fr. Giussani. Now, I love to tell my people that Christianity is the only way to happiness, joy, and significance. Now, I see my ministry as necessary not only in preparing my people for death, but also for life–Church, the sacraments, prayers, devotions are now seen as critical for a joyful and meaningful existence. The Cross is no longer a burden, but a “method” of growing into the “Thou” who has given His life for me. I now call myself “an evangelical Catholic.” My message is now imbued with a hope that is based on this concrete event, the Christ-event, that addresses me in the here and now, a “Thou” who knows me with all my shortcomings, sins, and imperfections. The Word has become flesh, and dwelt among us: this is the reason for my joy and my hope, and Fr. Giussani has awakened me to this fact!

María Victoria
Lecturer in Theory of Art
at the Faculty of Information Sciences,
Università Complutense, Madrid
November 3rd Last
I met Emilio, the chaplain of the faculty, in a moment of my life in which I was searching for something more than my collaboration with the parish. I had read some short texts of Fr. Giussani that Emilio had given us. Attracted by his message, I bought Why the Church? and The Sense of God and Modern Man. I submerged myself in reading them. It was as if I were seeing Christ in a new way. The encounter with Fr. Giussani took flesh on November 3rd last year, when I took part in the School of Community with Javier and Carmen. They all welcomed me with open arms. I had never felt like that before. It was as if the Spirit was surrounding everything. The material and spiritual beauty of those who welcomed me was the reflection of what they had inside, much more than what appears at first sight. Fr. Giussani surprises me more every day. In the December issue of Traces, the reading of “Christmas, the mystery of God’s tenderness” struck me so much that the night I read it I was unable to sleep. It was a call that seemed like the voice that Matthew must have heard from Christ, as can be seen in Caravaggio’s painting.

Susana, Madrid, Spain
A Headline and
an Aeroplane

Seven years have passed since I frequented the life of the Movement during my university years, the camping and many other things that left their mark on me for ever. Now, at the age of twenty-seven, I have come back. I don’t often read the newspaper, but one day last February I had to take a plane to Barcelona for work. Before takeoff, the hostess offered me a newspaper which I accepted without knowing why. I opened a page at random and saw a headline that spoke of the death of Fr. Giussani. This news reawakened in me the memory of all that I had lived seven years before, to the point where I reached the level of absolute certainty. The best part of my life had been then and I wanted to go back to it. So I did it, accompanied by a series of simple signs, the most important of which was to meet Salva after many years, and find myself treated with absolute familiarity, as if the time and the distance had spoiled nothing, but, on the contrary, made more evident how a familiar relationship is always possible. The following Monday, I went to the School of Community with Móstoles, leaving my boss wondering and saying, “What’s happening to you? I have never seen you so happy to leave work.”

Vidal, Genoa, Italy
In the Railway Station
at Midnight

I came to Italy in February 2005, thanks to an exchange program, for a semester at the University of Genoa. I am from Ecuador and in my final year of engineering. I am a Catholic and was already one before coming to Italy, and used to frequent Catholic groups in the parish. I lived with great interest and emotion the death of John Paul II and the election of the new Pope, and so I decided to go to the Mass for the beginning of Benedict XVI’s Pontificate in Rome. Then things began to happen very quickly: thirty or so young Italians arrived at the station at midnight; they, too, were on their way to Rome for the Mass. One of them, Matteo, asked, “Who are you with?” I answered, “I’m alone.” “So come with us.” They welcomed me in such a familiar way, and we spent the day together. So it was that I discovered that that companionship and that friendship, that conviction and that joy they had was what I was looking for. I sensed I had found that something greater that I had been waiting for. The days and the weeks that followed that encounter confirmed it. It was obvious in all they were doing that Someone was moving them. Something was fascinating them! And I was fascinated, too. A new history began, a history of friendship, of meeting, of vacations, of study, of dinners… a history of certainties! It is the certainty of Someone I was waiting for and who came to find me at midnight on April 24th in a railway station, the certainty of Someone who loves me and shows Himself through this friendship I met gratuitously. In February I will go back to Ecuador, now everything has changed for me. I have something to tell everyone there at home; I can tell them that I have met Christ.

Saide, Santiago, Chile
“A Whole World in one Look”
This is how a poem of the Spanish poet begins and it was like this that I came across a photograph of Fr. Luigi Giussani. His magnetism attracted me in a way I can’t describe. It was not the transparent color of his eyes, nor his mature, tired face. It was undoubtedly that simple look of a child, almost remissive, attentive to his father’s instructions. The inclined chin, the lips closed and the deep look, serene, facing upwards. What will dialogue be? Will he answer the question, “Do you love me?” His look has the wise candor of faith. Which Jesus is he looking at, the One who walked on the water or the One who went up to Calvary? And peace dwells in his look because without a doubt it dwells in the heart of this man, blossoming from the clear blue lake to look at us with affection. So how is it possible that he doesn’t smile if he is breathing love? Joy paralyzes him, he is in ecstasy. He prefers to listen, since he has already answered the challenge with enthusiasm, though he knows that he will have to face it with painful joy. In the end, I understand the lesson: Fr. Giussani’s look has the faculty to show us his interior world that is fused with Christ, and which, in its turn, is joined with the other Christs, our brothers. I correct the poet, “A world in one look; a heaven in one (silent) smile.”

Teddy, Kampala, Uganda
A Book on the Table
My name is Teddy. I am a volunteer at Meeting Point International. My life had never been an easy one. Through the Meeting Point I met the experience of Father Giussani that made me begin to hope for the light, as if that Giuss saw all I was passing through and made the Movement purposely for me. I had a husband who drank alcohol day and night, and when he came home drunk he would beat me and make me sleep outside or closed inside the house like a prisoner. My marriage life was becoming a hell for me, and our children were always scared of what would happen. All the money my husband had would be spent for drinking only, with four children. I wanted to divorce, but my boss would tell me, “Your husband will change, be patient, he is not a bad man; the problem is alcohol. We will try to help him.” My boss would say that life will be better, but I never believed. She even tried to take my husband for treatment for alcoholism, but he refused to go. Fr. Giussani changed my husband. I don’t know how, but our family is in peace. In February 2005, I had a book by Father Giussani I was reading and I happened to leave it open on the table. My husband picked it up and read it, and he said, “This man is very intelligent.” I had baptized my son Luigi Giussani and he commented, “That is why this young boy is very clever, because of this man.” As he continued to read, one day in the same month he told me, “I am going to stop drinking alcohol.” It seems impossible, but one week, two weeks, one month, and now it is one year that we are happy in our family. Father Giussani is alive and has reached my family and changed me and my husband. I ask him to take up my little Giussani, to become like him and carry the Cross of Christ.