|01-05-2006 - Traces, n.5
The story of a departure from Italy and move to Madrid, the need for friendship as the most immediate form of Christ’s companionship
by Simone Mangiameli
A year and a half ago, when my wife Chiara and I came to Madrid for our work, they were faces known only by sight; we’d at best exchanged a couple of words. Now, they are the daily form with which Christ accompanies us. They are the friends of the “San Juan y San Andrés” Fraternity group in Madrid. The group began with friendships formed around Enrique Arroyo, a high school teacher who belongs to Memores Domini. These friendships continued during the university years, and over time new friends have been welcomed. Our friendship with them was born simply, in asking for help in house-hunting, getting together for playtime with the children, or for dinner to talk about Madrid. At a certain point, it seemed natural to ask to become part of the group, drawn by the need to have in Spain, as we did in Italy, that spontaneous liking–which is one of the “normal” miracles of the Movement–and to see it grow and become a Fraternity group, a network of stable relationships that is the most immediate form of Christ’s companionship. The members of this Fraternity group are mostly thirty-somethings, many married with (several) children, and a third Memores Domini. There’s also Pablo, a diocesan priest. Then, there are Pachi from Granada and Leonardo from Toledo; they come to us or we go to them whenever possible.
We get together monthly to read the Fraternity Exercises or the texts proposed by the Movement, and to share our daily experience. But the fabric of our lives is interwoven with the moments when we meet just to spend a day together, be it ushering for CL meetings, doing monthly charitable work at an old-folks home, gathering with other mothers for School of Community while the children play, or sharing weekends together as the occasion arises. Two points in particular about our Fraternity group have impressed me: the enthusiastic commitment with the Movement’s life and proposals, and the personal interest and desire to meet anyone. A clear example was when we sold special editions of Huellas (Traces) for the anniversary of Fr. Giussani’s death. More than just an obedient response, it was a glad, certain, and desired act to announce our experience publicly. Fr. Pablo said from his parish pulpit that he became a priest because he had met Christ through Fr. Giussani. At the church exit, we offered the magazine, and said that our noisy children and our families had the same origin. The other impressive aspect is the desire to meet anyone, both in inviting friends to the monthly Fraternity group gathering and in hosting anyone who happens to live in Madrid for a period. This happened for me and my wife, as it did for Silvia and Ivan, Peruvians, who lived with us for a couple of years before returning to their homeland, with the promise to meet again when God wants, and with the commitment to follow each other from afar.
Many of us travel abroad for work, and the tales of our travels and encounters fill our conversations. We hear about friends who met hurriedly for work reasons, or who engaged in CESAL projects (an NGO for international cooperation in countries of the southern hemisphere), such as Lucia, who has been in Albania for a year, or Marina, who lived for two years in Peru. This breadth of our experience, geographical as well, never ceases to amaze. The most recent testimonies will be Ana and Portu, who are leaving soon with their three children for a year of work in the Dominican Republic. What would normally be a separation is instead for all of us the confirmation of the total openness of the Fraternity of the Movement to the world, the same openness that lead many in our group to get involved, together and with others, in the complex and engaging adventure of EncuentroMadrid, a public cultural event that has taken form in Spain in recent years. This year it will be dedicated to “The Risk of Education.” So, then, it is through life, be it normal or extraordinary, that we educate ourselves to recognize Christ present, the most fascinating and complex task of becoming adults.