|01-05-2006 - Traces, n.5
Before my Eyes
As a resident of Kahawa Sukari, I met Fr. Giuliano when I went to church for confession and he introduced me to CL. I feel we are blessed to have the Fathers of St. Charles Borromeo. There is so much that can be learned through the teachings of Fr. Giussani and I believe that everyone should have this knowledge. People should be educated and everyone, especially the youth, should have this information so that they can live full lives and not become victims of society. They should be educated from a young age; we are lucky because there is the Emanuela Mazzola Kindergarten, which was inaugurated by the St. Charles Borromeo Fathers. I can see it all happening before my eyes, because I have a daughter who goes to Emanuela who has really opened up and enjoys her time at the school; she is eager to learn and asks me a lot of questions. I believe that there is real education going on in this kindergarten. I have met the teachers and they are a big inspiration. They are motivated and know what is good for a child. They are patient with the children and do not use harsh teaching methods like caning. Thank you so much for the gift of friendship that has been brought to this community through CL, because through these children and education for all we hope that a new, lively community will be born that brings hope and peace for everyone.
Me, Myself, and I… Finally
This is an essay written by a 16-year-old girl, after the reading of the first part of The Religious Sense in her religion class.
This year has been quite interesting already. Since the beginning of the year, I have noticed a great change in myself and I do not hesitate to recognize that this change came partly from religion class–more specifically, learning to look inside oneself to find truth and meaning. This realization was not easy, partly because of social pressures and also because it is not the easiest path. In fact, taking that path is incredibly difficult and often comes with consequences, as I myself have learned. When we first began examining the idea of “truth” and looking within oneself to find the answer, I kind of brushed it aside, deciding that I had already looked inside for answers and that what we were learning did not apply to me. But that single day of learning turned into a week, then two weeks, and by the third week I couldn’t ignore it anymore. This fact became abundantly clear to me when I saw the video on teens and marketing. As I sat watching, I was transfixed by how accurate the video was and how close to home it was hitting. It was at that moment that I realized that I was in fact incredibly influenced by the outside world, especially the world I lived in, the world of the teenager. In this strange little world, people are not merely affected by the media but also by one another. This world was by far the hardest to break away from. This fact was made even harder when I realized the strong grip this world had on me. It took every part of my being to tear away from the world I had grown accustomed to and look inside myself. The first time I was truly able to do this was when I went to my best guy friend’s house and turned down an invitation to what I knew would be an awesomely fun, but incredibly illegal party. The look he gave me was near hilarity. It was like I had lost my mind to him. But to me it felt so good and so right. It was also the first sign of resistance and difficulty I saw. From that day on, I knew I was changing for the better. As my inside transformation continued, my outer appearance changed, at least according to my parents. When we watched The Truman Show, I felt a strange connection to him. His entire life had been dictated to him without his knowledge. And in some ways (although not as dramatically), so had mine. From the way I dressed to the way I walked and talked, there was the “cool” way to do it and the “non-cool” way. And I had spent my entire life trying my hardest to follow the “cool” way even if it meant sacrificing the “true me.” I almost laugh now at the things I did to get acceptance from the kids I thought were “cool.” But the funniest thing to me is that now I can look inside myself and I see how annoyingly self-centered the “cool” kids are. As I found myself and continued this transformation, I also began to think about “the four truths of the ‘I.’ ” The one that got me thinking was the first one: I did not create myself. Of course I had known that since day one but something about it nagged me. And it was a slight epiphany when I realized that since I hadn’t created myself, I wasn’t able to do everything myself, nor was I expected to. Maybe, despite looking within myself, I still needed outside help to truly find myself. The next truth that I found myself pondering was: I expect happiness. It reminded me that I do not expect coolness or fashion, I expect happiness. The other two truths will continue to pester me, and that is the human problem (also known as: my desires are limitless and my abilities are limited). It bothers and plagues me even as I write these very words. Here I am on a mission to find myself and I am nearing what I feel is the end of my journey. Then I am informed that what I desire is limitless and I am limited. The old me would have given up and said that this was an impossible task and to just settle with my progress so far. But fortunately for me the new me was also paying attention and knew if I settled I wouldn’t be happy and this would break one of the four rules of the “I.” So despite knowing that reaching my desires is impossible, I am never going to settle, not even for near perfection. So in response to the question at hand, I give you this essay of the inner thoughts and inner workings of the new me. It is what I have learned that has brought this new me into existence. And despite all the hardships and struggle to reach this point, I realize that it was all worth it.
Emily, Washington, DC
Recently, I was preparing for the Lenten Retreat in Kansas and here in Minnesota on the second lesson of last year’s Fraternity Exercises: “What is the hope that does not disappoint us?” During the course of my preparation, a man named Bill came to see me. When Bill started to speak, I feared that it was going to be a boring and laborious tale, but I recalled (most sincerely) what Fr. Giussani would do with this guy. I slowed down and started to really listen to him. Bill is 62 years old and he has not been an active Catholic for over 50 years. He is now in Rochester waiting for a liver transplant with his second wife. He came to our parish for a Sunday Mass and we met afterward as he was looking for an appointment. Bill is an attorney and grew up on the East Coast as a “wild man,” information which he offers with a sparkle in his eyes. When he was ten, he was very close to the Church and recognized a peace in his heart that he longed for at 62 years. He said, “I have come to see you because I want to rediscover this grace in my life that I lost and that I know was at the depth of my belonging. I want to belong again as deeply and real as my 10-year-old experience.” He then began to concretize the lesson on hope in a very dramatic way without any coaxing. He stated, “There is a logic to faith as I look at my life and recognize the beauty and wonder of the world. Charity comes naturally to me and I have done pro bono work for years and really enjoy reaching out to people. But hope, my friend, I ask for every night. For as long as I can remember, every night, as limited as my prayer might be, I ask God for hope because it is the essence of my life with God.” Our conversation continued about his deep awareness and we talked about reconciling his marriage as he already has an annulment from his first marriage. I am going to validate his marriage at the 9:30 am Mass on April 30th, with hundreds of people present. He is not afraid to share his story as I encouraged him and his wife, Marge, to allow the entire community to witness their vows. I wanted to ask him more about his desire to rediscover his ten-year-old way of belonging and he reassured me that it would come from the grace of relying on hope. At a certain point, he asserted, “Hope is so rooted in my being that if I were given the option of receiving a liver and loosing hope, I would say no to the liver.” I have invited him to our School of Community, where I hope he can rediscover the wonder of a ten-year-old boy who encountered Christ and is waiting for a companionship in which he can rediscover and experience belonging.
Fr. Jerry Mahon, Rochester, MN
A New Road
Dearest Fr. Julián: I am 47 years old, and the mother of three children, ages 22, 21, and 15. I’ve been legally separated for three years, and unfortunately we are on the brink of divorce (my husband has decided to go live with another family). This great suffering led me in 1988 to Fatima, to ask Our Lady for the grace of my husband’s return and our conversion. It was the second Sunday of Easter, and the religious community hosting me was celebrating the Feast of Divine Mercy. Before the image of Merciful Jesus, I was converted. I found once again the Father’s forgiveness, His embrace and comfort, and my heart was full of gratitude; I could hardly hold back the tears. Thus, my journey began. It has been toilsome, with moments of discouragement and despondency, but “Jesus, I trust in You,” repeated every time I couldn’t see or understand where I was going, gave me strength. Then, in the year 2000, I encountered the Movement through some friends who were helping me and, bit-by-bit, I found an incredible correspondence to my heart. I have rediscovered the strength of my vocation, that is, faithfulness to my marriage and trusting abandonment to Our Lady. A new road has opened up for my children as well. Two of them follow the experience that has touched me so deeply: one participates in CLU and the other follows GS. I have told you my story because, for me, the encounter with the devotion to Merciful Jesus and the prayers on the Divine Mercy beads have been decisive for my conversion.
Counter and Life
One Sunday afternoon, I went to deliver a Food Counter package to a family we assist. As we lingered to chat, the wife involved me in her drama: Friday she was going to have an abortion. She was three months pregnant, her husband didn’t have steady work, and their other child has a handicap and has to do speech therapy far from their home. She is diabetic, and so, with all these problems, had decided to have an abortion. We realized that she spoke about it with us because her heart’s desire was for life. We got moving to help her. The Naples community told us about a good gynecologist, and he donated his services to help her. Reassured and seeing that we were involved with her, she did not have the abortion. Now we are helping her with various needs, and her husband is working again after many months of unemployment. All this has happened through the Campobasso Solidarity Counter, with whom we help three families, and through the Movement and its network of relationships, because being together, we grow in the certainty that everything is positive.
Adolfo and Pina, Baselice, Italy
A Gaze Full
Dear friends: Two experiences at school have particularly marked this recent period. The first was the cultural exchange program with the students of the Peutinger High School of Ellwangen (Germany), and the second was the trip to Prague with the class of fifth-year high school students that I do my best to teach. These two experiences shared a common factor, the gaze of “my” students, a gaze full of curiosity, striving to look at reality, determined to go to the heart of what one runs into. I have learned from this gaze, so much so that I had to radically change my position in the middle of the trip: I had gone to dictate the rhythms of an experience, yet I found myself following the direction of my students’ gaze. Probably this, and the fact that in both cases two colleagues were readier than I to do so, was why these experiences were fascinating, both for their continuous newness, and for the bond of friendship that was created. Thus, I have discovered that teaching does not mean organizing an experience, but living it personally. In order for this to happen, just one condition is required: learning from reality, from what you have around you, from those you meet! After all, you are truly teaching only if you are learning, just as you gain cognition of something new only if you let yourself be struck by reality.
Gianni, Abbiategrasso, Italy
Just as in the
Dearest Fr. Julián: We recently watched the The Risk of Education DVD and the video of Fr. Giussani’s funeral. Seeing his face again, listening again to Cardinal Ratzinger’s words and yours, I felt so moved! Thirty years of my life, illuminated by his gaze, guided by his words... Who was Fr. Giussani? For me, what was the power of his educational impetus? Just one word: love. I can’t separate my memory of Fr. Giussani from the words “love” and “charity.” He made me feel that my life was important to him. Once, I met him in Milan, years after the period I spent with him. He hugged me and asked about my family and my children, one by one. It makes me think, “What if I hadn’t followed or, actually, if I don’t follow this man? If I don’t look the way he indicates for me, where would I go? He gave, and gives, gladness to my heart. He sets me before life, at the age of seventy-two, for a new beginning, an adventure, and a positivity to seek. Twenty-five years ago, we welcomed into our home two boys, ten and twelve years old. They were alone–their father had been arrested that evening, and their mother had been hospitalized for a long time. I went to their home to assess their condition. I invited them to come to my home. They accepted, and later we formalized the foster care arrangement. Now they are the fathers of two splendid families. That evening, there was a great deal of hustle and bustle with my three children and my wife. When they were finally in bed, my wife and I entered their room to say goodnight and to offer a word of comfort. My gaze met that of my wife, and as if by tacit agreement, we began to recite the Angelus. Perhaps what we experienced was that “ineffable vibration.” All this for me is the memory of Fr. Giussani, belonging to the miracle that he brought about in our life: our unity.
Pinuccio, Ozieri, Italy
Dearest Fr. Julián: My wife and I have just gotten home from a meeting with the families of our parish. These monthly meetings have been going on for over twenty years, since we were married. We are the only members of the Movement, but even with difficulty and at times “crushed” by the prejudice against our experience, we have never abandoned this friendship. As we do every year after summer vacation, we gathered with the others and the priest to decide the itinerary for the upcoming pastoral year. Over the years, we have always proposed, discreetly but clearly, the use of instruments suggested by the Movement, getting a lot of yeses, nos and buts, though in the end they always decided on something else. This year, my wife and I dared to propose working on education, using Fr. Giussani’s book, The Risk of Education. Unexpectedly, almost everyone responded enthusiastically to what we thought would receive the umpteenth no. So we began reading it together. The most moving moment happened when we watched together the DVD issued with Traces, a copy of which we gave to everyone. Deep emotion best describes the silence that accompanied the viewing. Listening to Fr. Giussani’s words, it was as if everything we have read together in these months were unveiled with simplicity and clarity. Staying with these faces, without demanding any result or outcome, educates us to respect their freedom and grow in affection for them, their needs, and their lives. We thank them one by one because they give us the opportunity to be educated, to continue asking to be educated. We are sure that each of them has glimpsed the possibility of living Christianity as the way that is best suited to man, best suited to his needs. This will be the foundation for our continued dialogue.
Giuseppe and Silvia, Busto Arsizio, Italy