|01-03-2006 - Traces, n.3
To Be Educated
Last January, over thirty CL responsibles from around England and Scotland attended the second annual UK National Diaconia held in London
The Risk of Education was chosen in an attempt to respond to the desire of an increasing number of people to understand what it means to be educated, but also how to educate. The main provocation that arose was understanding what it really means to judge with our heart, trying to grasp the connection between our heart as the first authority and the perception that we always need to follow another in order to understand the needs of the heart and how reality corresponds to us. This drama pervaded the questioning from a teacher, Siobhan, who said, “I want to follow what God wants of me, but I also have certain desires I want fulfilled. Sometimes it seems as if they are not the same, or it seems that how reality replies does not seem to fulfill my desire.” Michelle gave a striking example of what it means to judge with the heart. She described how, when she was a teenager, she found that her experience of the Church (sermons about going to hell) did not fulfill her. Michelle’s mother is British and Catholic but her father was Chinese and Buddhist, so she thought maybe she should follow her father’s tradition. In Buddhism, she found that the aim of life was not to find a “supreme being” but to reach a “supreme state of being,” and her shelves soon grew heavy with books on yoga, meditation, how to improve your memory… But it was as illusory as it was attractive, and just created stress. Instead, when her old school friend, Jackie, introduced her to the Movement, she began to experience that fulfillment not by relying on her own ability or techniques for self perfection but by asking Another to use her hands and mind as His own. What re-awakens us is a Fact, something that happens. Amos, a university researcher, told of how he only began to ask what he really wanted when he first encountered the Movement. It was not something that he was consciously looking for but something that corresponded to him when he met friends who lived more intensely. This is how our friends help us, because, as Marco, a doctor, said, “the problem is not the circumstances themselves but how we face them–it is a question of our freedom,” and recognizing that the drama of judging everything with the heart is therefore a work that must be carried out every day. The afternoon finished with a discussion on how the work on education can become practical, concrete gestures. Gianluca, a university professor, proposed monthly seminars to discuss what it means to be in a university environment. We proposed a meeting on education in the workplace in the city. There was also the desire amongst parents to create a place for their children to live a true belonging to the community. It was only the need to finish for the 7 pm Mass that terminated this animated discussion. After Mass, we concluded the day–as we must in England–with dinner in the pub. But the discussion over steak pies and ale was not quite the usual banter one hears in a bar.
James Scoular, London
Praying the Rosary
Dear Fr. Carrón: I’m writing on behalf of a group of mothers. We began meeting on October 15, 2003, at the proposal of Cristina, to pray the rosary at 5:00 pm. This choice of hour has been very important for us, because it means that we have already picked up our children from nursery school or elementary school, and they, too, participate in the Rosary. With an average of about 3 children per mother and 5 mothers, we have about 15 children. Since that October 15th, the Rosary has never been interrupted, except for the Thursday of Fr. Giussani’s funeral. The older children say a decade with us, and the younger ones are slowly learning respect for our gesture. We meet in the home with the biggest living room so we have room to welcome the new people we invite. Last summer, we met in the town park of Meda. Our gesture has also caught on with other mother friends in Carate and Seregno, and they’ve begun praying the Rosary on Fridays. Our simple gesture of prayer has been marked by a series of particular intentions: the illnesses of the Pope and of Fr. Giussani, the election of the new Pope, and your participation in the Synod. Along with these, our “ordinary” intentions include our Fraternities, our children and our families, the illnesses of loved ones, and the priests and seminarians of the St. Charles Borromeo Fraternity. There have also been important “encounters,” one with Maria, a friend of ours from Seveso who has decided to enter the convent, and one with Fr. Pepe of the St. Charles Borromeo Fraternity, a missionary in Vienna, who encouraged us to pray for the small communities of the Movement in Vienna and Budapest. During these two years, some of us–Betti, Monica, and Roberta–have accompanied our mothers to Paradise, and others have had the gift of a new pregnancy. For all of us, the Rosary is above all the way in which the Mystery makes itself familiar and day-to-day, and also a place for inviting others and friendship. We are certain of the company of Fr. Giussani, John Paul II, and all the saints, just as we entrust ourselves to your prayers.
A Reawakened Heart
This is a letter written to some friends after the Diaconia of North America
“What are you looking for?” was the question that opened the Diaconia of North America, and as I thought of my response, I became aware of my superficiality. If I responded quickly, I would have said “coffee” or “sleep” or “a vacation”... in other words, small desirable things, one after the other, that point to something, but don’t satisfy. My superficiality strikes me because these things are not even BIG things... In fact, I think this is what a “dictatorship of desires” is: not the hedonistic fantasy land that my mind could so easily conjure up when I think of that phrase... but being stuck chasing after the next reachable thing, and not looking for anything beyond that. Lately, I have tried to avoid drama (it’s my New Year’s resolution!). And as I try to avoid the personal drama of my heart, and instead focus on the more “concrete” dramas such as the situation with my brother, I turn my back on the very thing that is able to save me and my family. The closing of my heart does not allow me to “focus on the real problems,” but instead closes me to every relationship. To not be able to answer Christ with the passion of my heart is a huge disconnect... an uncomfortable one that closes me to any true creativity or relationship. Thank God my superficiality is not the end of my story. He sends me friends that reawaken my heart, who give me the reason and courage to open my heart and risk in this drama! This is very humbling because I don’t make you. To be honest, at times I avoid you. And as you know, I certainly don’t deserve you. It is only because of an Other that we are able to begin again. My “YES” is possible if I stay faithful to whom I’ve met.
of the Movement
My high school years were marked by the experience of the Movement. In my school on the outskirts of Milan, I had a group of very close companions and an extraordinary philosophy teacher who had invited us from the beginning to mysterious meetings called “raggi.” The “adventure” of the Movement came naturally, because it fit perfectly with my idea of how to live Christianity and friendship. All of its expressions were a part of me, and I lived them deeply–the meetings, the School of Community, the vacations, and the engagement during the period of school occupations (we always responded to our classmates’ “protests” with a “proposal”!). At the foundation of all this, for me, was being in love with the Jesus that Fr. Giussani never stopped telling us about. When I began university, I started distancing myself from the Movement, because there was too much politics, and too many commonplaces. I didn’t feel comfortable any more. Many of my high school friends continued to follow the Movement and, notwithstanding my distance, our relationships remained strong. I continued my walk of faith alone. It was much more difficult, with many more swings back and forth. Sometimes I even felt a bit envious of those whose journey was clearer, better defined, because they “followed.” One evening in the autumn of 2004, at a particularly difficult time for me (I had just heard that I would be moving to Paris with my family), I turned on the television, and saw a program on the history of the Movement. Fr. Giussani’s face, his intensity, and his gaze deeply moved me. I saw faces I knew, and relived well-known situations. A surprise. I was even more surprised when I discovered that the program had been produced by Roberto Fontolan, a colleague of mine for several years, whose membership in the Movement I’d never suspected. Over the next few days, I started tracking down old faces to find out how they were, how they were living. However, there wasn’t enough time to re-establish the relationships. It was time to depart. One of the first Sundays after our arrival in Paris, the priest of our new parish introduced us to an Italian couple. We immediately liked each other. They kindly invited us to dinner, and my husband and I were very struck by their way of being. I also began wondering… (the CL lingo is unmistakable). The next day, I got a phone call from a high school friend who I’d spoken to about the emotions I’d felt from that memorable program, and she said she’d found the name of the person responsible for the Movement in France. Before she said it, I already knew. Another strong moment, increasing my desire for belonging, came with Fr. Giussani’s death. Right after, I began attending School of Community. Today, what is true and strong is that the encounter with two people, Silvio and Alessandra, represented for me the call to follow Jesus Christ with the modalities that most belong to me. My story is not that of someone who has come back to the Movement, but of someone who, thanks to some people in the Movement, has been able to understand more clearly that salvation comes from Christ.
The experience at the Haus des Barmerzikheit (House of Mercy) has been one of the most formative in my life. I have always been part of the group that sings for the more seriously ill patients who do not seem to have any contact with the external world. What we do for them is truly little: for an hour twice a month, visiting people who might not even know we’re there, and singing for them, in a far from perfect way, given that we haven’t exactly got great voices. But such a simple and poor gesture has truly helped me to grow and better judge the reality I have around me, first of all because I truly see that it doesn’t matter how good, capable, or gifted I am; just being there and saying yes with all my heart to that experience makes me grow and is a grace for me just as I am. I am truly experiencing how insignificant my faults and my virtues are. I see that I can do nothing for those people other than to say yes to the fact of being there and engaging myself fully. On the one hand, this creates an impression of discouragement. It’s glaringly obvious that I can do nothing to alleviate their pain or resolve their problems. And what’s more, what is the meaning of all this suffering for them? What can the Lord be thinking for them, and for their families? This is a very hard reality, and at times it forces my companions and I to sing with strong compassion in our hearts. At times, though, it happens that one of them turns their eyes in our direction, or begins tapping a finger in time with the song. Then, we see that there is a reason why we are wanted there, even though only a few of us are left, and we’re not such good singers, and at times we don’t even manage to be truly conscious of what we’re there to do. It is clear that it’s not through our merit that something positive happens in the day of those people and, in fact, that something happens notwithstanding our limitations. It simply happens because we have said yes. This changes the perspective on my whole life, and also educates me to stay with my friends.
This is the letter that Fr. Luigi, a missionary priest in Cuba, wrote about four friends after their visit to his mission
Usually, taking a holiday means forgetting everything and ranging like a stray dog after who knows what–more so, when you talk about going to Cuba, because people immediately think about women and/or men. But I have some friends who come to see me, spending their money to go to people’s homes to visit their sick, or their handicapped children, and to play soccer or cards with the young people, or to go to the beach to share the little things of life. This is perfect gladness. They return home happy, with many addresses and photos for continuing a true and beautiful relationship. They have encounters with people who rediscover the meaning of living because they see a way of being together that isn’t determined by convenience, or more or less calculated self-interest. Being with a person without calculating anything, just for the pleasure of sharing the needs and hardships of those who are worse off than you, is the source of true joy. This has been the experience of four friends from Azzano San Paolo who came to me and also went to Varadero with the purpose of meeting people for who they are, and learning about the social reality, the families, work, and the economy with its pros and cons. Doing so, they learn and become capable of expressing a judgment that enriches the mind and heart. True tourism is meeting the person with everything he is; it means beginning a relationship, knowing that it is destined to never end, that it is a continual beginning to look and listen. This enriches and is good for those you meet. This is how I saw my Italian friends and my parishioners live the New Year’s parties and the first days of 2006. My parishioners were happy because it was a party for everyone. I wish this for everyone, for the good of all.
Fr. Luigi, Cuba
In a moment of grave and unexpected economic crisis, caused by the loss of my company, I met Benjamín, who introduced me to some of his friends, who not only listened to me, but also found me a job at an age when no firm would consider me. I have started again from scratch, but this time with some true friends. During this recent period, I have been able to see how the spirit of the founder of CL has shaped his followers one by one. Even though Fr. Giussani’s presence no longer accompanies us in this world, his inheritance has increased, thanks to the teachings he left to those who knew him in life, and to those of us who arrived later and have come in contact with a fragment of his experience that, unexpectedly, has even reached us. Thank you, Fr. Giussani.
Patricio Ernesto, Chile
Teresa Alyoto of Hoima, Uganda, died on Saturday, February 4th. A widow, she was part of the Saint Joseph Fraternity and a leader in the Movement. Her daughter, Patricia, a medical student, is a leader for the CLU in Kampala. Fr. Edo Mörlin followed Teresa as she was dying, bringing her the sacraments daily. These are his words during her funeral
In Paul Claudel’s drama, The Announcement Made to Mary, so dear to Teresa, the author puts in the mouth of one of his characters, Peter of Craon, the following statement: “Holiness is not to die in battle against the Turks, or to kiss a leper on the mouth, but to do God’s holy will, always and everywhere, whether it means to remain where we are or to ascend higher.” This sentence describes Teresa’s life and witness (I am talking about the part of her life since I met her, in the eighties, when she encountered the Movement in Gulu through me). It was by obeying God and growing to love Him in this normality that she was prepared for the challenge of spreading what she had encountered in Hoima, together with some friends in the Movement and later in the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation.
And it was through the long years of tiring mission in Hoima that the Lord slowly prepared her for the new step, the “ascending higher” of recognizing in the Fraternity of St. Joseph the beauty of totality in virginity–precisely in the deepest meaning Fr. Giussani always explained to us: virginity means to be alone before God alone.
Again, by her living normally this total dedication, God made her ready for yet another “ascending higher”: the discovery of cancer the first night after returning from an international assembly in Italy for the leaders of Communion and Liberation. Those of us who were granted the grace of accompanying her through this illness, all the way to this morning’s final step into Fr. Giussani’s embrace, have learned a bit more what Claudel’s sentence can mean in our lives too.
Fr. Edo Mörlin
A New Day
When I think about the weekend in Boston during the Diaconia of North America, 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.