|01-06-2006 - Traces, n.6
Fr. Carrón: I am a Salesian sister, and would like to express my gratitude for being allowed to participate in the Fraternity Spiritual Exercises. This was my first experience of these Exercises, though I’ve been a “sympathizer,” because I’ve found that the Movement is very much in agreement with Don Bosco and his charism, and I follow its life reading Traces and other publications. It was a strong spiritual experience for me, and I feel moved to express my gratitude to the Lord, entrusting to Him the immense number of people who listened and took notes in absolute silence, following the indications given. I ask the Lord that our affection for Him may continue to grow and gladden our lives. May the mission He has entrusted to you bear great fruit.
Sister Feliciana, Messina, Italy
Dearest friends: For two years now, my husband and I have been following the itinerary for adopting a child. On March 23rd, my husband called me and said he’d received a marvelous gift, that the Juvenile Court had scheduled an interview with us for the upcoming Thursday! We can’t describe all that the week of waiting and uncertainty meant for us, but we were certain of one thing, that the Mystery had once again chosen us for a task. Thursday we went to the court and the judge calmly asked us if we wanted to welcome Giovanni into our family, and said that, if we wished, we could go get him on the following Saturday! Obviously, Saturday morning at 10:00 we were already at our destination at least an hour early, after a sleepless night and a morning of feverish preparations, but when they put him in our arms, a little bundle just 15 days old, it was immediately evident that everything is a sign of a mysterious and good Presence who asks us to participate with our humble resources in the building of His Kingdom. Once again, our vocation to marriage was made clear for us, and we, who believed ourselves to be sterile, had become mother and father in a totally gratuitous way, with a joy that has surpassed all expectations. The evening before going to get Giovanni, we were wondering why this event had happened to us, and at this precise moment. I revealed to my husband that recently I had been dedicating my daily Rosary to Our Lady, with the intention that the Lord’s will be done for us, and my husband confessed that he, too, had been praying the Rosary for a week with the same request.
Claudia, Pino, and Giovanni, Gatteo, Italy
Dear Fr. Carrón: The day after the Exercises, I was in the school library with some of my students. Enza, an assistant educator I knew only by sight, came in with a disabled boy in a wheelchair who could neither speak nor move. She excused herself, and began to leave so as not to disturb us, but I stopped her and encouraged her to share the room with us, since there was plenty of space. While I was working, I observed her. She was very tender with him, drying his saliva, hugging him, rocking him softly to the sound of music, and speaking in his ear. All of a sudden, I felt as if there were neither time nor space, and understood that I had the awareness that Christ was in that boy, and Enza was the arms, legs, and voice of Christ for that boy. I was receiving a grace, because everything I had heard at the Exercises, and the Opening Day for School of Community, and in the moments helping with Families for Hospitality, was there: I was living it. I thought of all the friends, lessons, initiatives, and gestures that helped me “see” this, like when Fr. Giussani, watching a mother trying to feed her spastic son while the spoon kept ending up everywhere but in his mouth, said, “God, make me be like her!” I thought of Giuseppe, who was capable of gratuitous hospitality for a disabled child he had adopted many years before. That afternoon, I told Elena about this, and she said, “Tell Enza about your experience.” So I did. She listened to me, and replied that it was natural for her to act that way, because she loved him. At the end of the morning, she hurried up to me and gave me a note. It said, “Thank you for what you said, and above all for what your eyes expressed. I believe that each of us carries God’s message and love. This time, though, the angel of God was not me, but that boy, and you understand it from his gaze. Today I’ve met two angels, him and you, because, through your tears, you have conveyed Love.”
Laura, Bergamo, Italy
Dear Fr. Carrón: I couldn’t come to the Exercises because on Sunday, April 30th, my daughter Beatrice received her First Communion. I offered to the Lord the sacrifice of not attending the Exercises in person. In explaining to Beatrice the sacraments (including Penance) she was about to receive, I spoke to her of Jesus’ encounter with James, John, Peter, Paul, Matthew, and Zacchaeus, the way Fr. Giussani did. Before her First Communion, Beatrice asked me to explain better what she had to do and say. I answered by telling her about Saint Peter, when Jesus asked him if he loved Him. I told her to go there thinking that it was a special occasion to tell Jesus, “Lord, even if I have forgotten You many times, I love You,” like Saint Peter, and to feel that she in turn was loved by Him. The day after Confession, she wrote me a note, saying, “Dad, I love you because you are a good father and because you teach me to love Jesus.” Being close to her at that time was a way for me to live more fully my belonging to Christ. I live the Movement this way, with simplicity. I look at the Lord, every time I manage to tear myself away from the distractions that tempt me, and I compare everything that happens to me with what the Gospels recount, how the Apostles lived together with Him, and how they lived in the early Church, as School of Community teaches us. All circumstances are the occasion for this comparison, and for letting the Lord change me. The Movement is the biggest circumstance, as Fr. Giussani used to tell us, through which the Lord has grasped us, and it helps us understand all the other circumstances and to love God ever more deeply.
Giorgio, Sassari, Italy
Begging for Another
My grandfather is a very simple, Cajun man who has lived a tough life, but full of faith. For the past couple of years, he has been sick, and last year he lost my grandmother. My grandfather loved Maw-Maw Lil in a way that words can’t explain, and the sadness of not having her next to him every day is seen in his eyes. In addition to this sadness, he needs dialysis each week because his kidneys don’t work. Dialysis is so painful that many patients choose to stop going and let their kidneys fail. And this challenge is faced even by my grandfather, who has a strength and a faith that sustains us all. He asked my mom, “Why can’t I just quit doing dialysis?”–implying the obvious connection with the question, “Why can’t I just die?” My mom said, “Because God ain’t finished with you.” My grandfather asked, “Why not? What does He want from me?” While he was visiting us during Easter, he picked up every issue of Traces that was lying around, I think four copies, and read them from cover to cover. I asked him if he would like a subscription, and he said, with a simple heart, “Yes, this is a beautiful magazine.” This is a miracle, because he never wants or asks for anything. But what was most clear is that our human question never goes away, is never made small. We always beg for Another, not just when we are young, but at all times we need this friendship that happens, is made new, and must be present, even when you sit in a chair, hardly noticed by anyone in the world. Probably our whole life of faith is to keep us open to this, so that every moment of our life may become evidence of something more. I thank God for the Movement. Only because of this experience am I able to say to my grandfather that life is still worth living. Even if I can’t feel or understand the pain of his treatments, I can say this with certainty. And his reading Traces assures me that our hearts never stop longing for Christ. We’ve bought many subscriptions to Traces, but we’ve never been so happy as when we bought this one.
Stacey Roussel, Houston, Texas
Sighs to the Lord
Upon reading the keynote for the Rimini Meeting of 2006 and Father Giussani’s own introductory notes (Traces n. 2, 2006, p. 35), I must say that first I had my doubts. Isn’t he given to some Italianate puffing up, delusions of grandeur? No, I don’t think so. I want to thank Father Luigi. How we need the sigh, the presentiment of the Infinite. Even while our amazing race can discover the dimensions of the finite, as Giusanni writes, the “breath and sigh” of the presentiment of the Infinite often “is suffocated.” However, I’ll say that even in America we have the old hymn, “Breathe on me, Breath of God!” We better outright designate this presentiment of the Infinite as the work of the Holy Spirit, elusive though She may seem to be. I am reminded of how Jacques Maritain broke out in: “. . . what is poetry?–that poetry which is to art what grace is to the moral virtues, and which is not the peculiar privilege of poets, nor even of other artists–it can also be found in a boy who knows only how to look and to say ah, ah, ah, like Jeremiah, or who intoxicates himself with it to the point of frenzy or suicide without every having said or done anything in his whole life.” (“Concerning Poetic Knowledge,” The Situation of Poetry; Four Essays on the Relations Between Poetry, Mysticism, Magic, and Knowledge, Jacques and Raissa Maritain, trans. M. Souther, p. 44. New York: Philosophical Library, 1955.) Or course, it is the sight of some Thing that may inflame that boy, as in Maritain’s intuition the poet is inspired, inscribed to write by some thing in the creation. Nor will we forget how Gerard Manley Hopkins so saw the creation in his presentiment of the Infinite, sighing to the Lord in “… and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear, fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion” (“The Windhover, To Christ Our Lord”), and sighing to the Holy Spirit in “God’s Grandeur”:
“And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs–
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.”
Sarah Freedman, Durham, North Carolina
In the Midst
On February 26th, our son Luca died suddenly, on the soccer field, in the midst of his friends from the ARCA, his link with the Movement. In this circumstance of pain, we can acknowledge how good the Lord is. As Fr. Fabio said in the funeral homily, Luca accomplished everything, brought everything to its conclusion, and left, was called away, in the best possible way. The evening of the 22nd, he had returned home from college so that we parents could go to Fr. Giussani’s Mass while he babysat his younger brother Matteo. They recited an Eternal Rest for Fr. Giussani, and then Luca stayed up all night to correct his thesis so he could turn it in the next day. (He had concluded his university career on April 7th, and was going to graduate in Engineering Management.) The evening of Saturday, the 25th, his girlfriend Elisa convinced him to go out with her for something unplanned–very unusual for an engineer like him! So they had a chance to see each other for the last time. Sunday the 26th, unlike most Sundays, we had lunch together at noon, before the soccer game, and we joked and chatted. Then we managed to see him again on the field before they carried him away in the ambulance. He was there, with his ARCA friends praying for him, as if to show us that he was “on his way.” You never know how your son is, who he hangs out with (outside the Movement). You know he’s there, he believes, but as parents you always pray that he “will always walk among us.” The Lord told us clearly there, on the field. We also learned that the priest of the parish where they were playing had seen him fall and, sensing the gravity of the situation, gave him extreme unction. At the hospital, we were joined right away by many, many of his friends and our brothers, accompanying our children Chiara and Matteo. So many people came running to be there! When I meet someone who says, “I was there,” I have no doubts: we felt everyone gathered around us. For this reason, the next Sunday we went to see the ARCA soccer team at their game, because we wanted to thank them and support them–it’s no small matter to see your own friend fall and die that way. If Fr. Giussani hadn’t educated us and led us, everything would have been different. It seems absurd that such a dramatic thing could happen, that Luca is no longer with us, but as Fr. Fabio and Msgr. Negri told us, we have to learn to feel him close to us in a different way–he is there, close. In the family, Massimo, Luca’s father, continues to repeat that we are the Lord’s chosen, but the rest of us can’t manage to say it out loud like he does, even if we do perceive it. The gaze among us is different. We often find ourselves together at the cemetary without having planned it, to pray, and then we go our different ways. Please pray for us, and for our Luca.
Franca, Massimo, Michele, Chiara,
My Italian and History teacher and I have never had a good relationship. Perhaps because she is an atheist, she always talked about the Church in the Middle Ages as a “congregation against the Empire, an institution that gave no space to those who did not convert to Christianity, a persecutor of infidels, people who did little other than burn at the stake those who thought differently,” a view of the errors of the age, to the extreme. Provoked by her position, I would often rebel, and earned myself the nickname in the class as “the priest,” the one who only thinks about God and religion.
During Italian class, we read the poem by Ugo Foscolo, In morte del fratello Giovanni (On the death of my brother Giovanni), and our teacher asked us to write a short poem for homework about someone who has departed, died, or whom we miss. The next day, she asked for the work she’d assigned, and one by one, my classmates read their poems, some about a dog, some about a cat, or others about a girlfriend. At the end, sort of like a consolation prize, she asked me to read mine. I was happy, and told her I’d written in memory of Fr. Luigi Giussani. When she heard the name of the founder of Communion and Liberation, she refused to hear my poem, and passed me over, as if it were nothing. I got upset and asked for an explanation. She responded that it was Italian class, not Religion, and that Fr. Giussani had nothing to do with it. I then tried to explain that even though he was a priest, he was my friend, and like my classmates, I too had the right to read my poem. My teacher maintained her position, repeating that I was the usual religious type and that there’s more to life than God, that there are other things. At that point, seeing she was irritated, I decided to let it go.
While she passed on to another subject, a classmate next to me asked to read my work. He hadn’t even finished it when he started complementing me enthusiastically out loud. The teacher realized that my poem was circulating and told me to read it. I said I didn’t want to read it anymore. She insisted and told me to hurry up, because there wasn’t much time left. So I decided to read it. When I finished, a big silence descended on the class–nobody spoke; everybody was quiet. The teacher was frozen where she stood, and looked at me in surprise. She asked me if I had written it, and complemented me. I could sense that the words had moved something in her, touched her, and marked her. She was amazed, because she hadn’t thought I could have such a profound bond with someone I’d never met physically. She became convinced that my attachment to God is something deep. In this clash with reality, the prejudice she’d always had against me collapsed all of a sudden.
Fr. Carrón’s letter to all
friends in the Movement
Milan, June 12, 2006
The meeting with the Pope in St Peter’s Square, on June 3rd is still vivid in our memory. I would like to take a fresh look with you at what happened.
The gesture of prayer that we lived with all the movements together with the Holy Father was an entreaty to the Holy Spirit. It is not purely casual that he chose this style of meeting. We can find this meaning for this choice in the Homily of the Mass of Pentecost, in which Benedict XVI expressed the conviction that “missionary effectiveness” does not depend “primarily on careful programming and its subsequent intelligent application through a concrete commitment,” but firstly, before any answer of ours, on the initiative of Him who is “the true protagonist of the Church”: the Spirit of Jesus. So what we need is this Spirit.
All of us present in St Peter’s Square perceived that this is truly the case, when we heard the Pope say what the work of the Spirit is: “The Holy Spirit, emanates from him and enters our hearts, thereby uniting us with Jesus himself and with the Father.” Is it not this belonging, closer every time, what we all desire? Only our letting ourselves be drawn into Him can enable the Spirit to bring life, freedom and unity to fullness. So the Pope has shown us the way.
He said, “We find life in communion with the One who is life in person–in communion with the living God.” This communion with Christ so fills our heart as to make us free, able to “show others by our lives that we are free.” In this way, through His Spirit, He builds up his Body, generating that unity that encounters the world and transforms it.
I ask you to take up again among you the words the Pope spoke to us, asking the Spirit that all he has told us become more and more our own, since we are the first who need that true life and that true freedom. We all know the awareness Fr. Giussani had of the urgency of this entreaty to the Holy Spirit, because of the insistence with which he invited us to repeat the prayer: “Veni Sancte Spiritus, Veni per Mariam.”
Only in this way can we contribute to the Church’s mission, answering the Holy Father’s appeal: “Dear friends, I ask you to collaborate even more, very much more, in the Pope’s universal apostolic ministry, opening doors to Christ.”
With friendly affection,
Fr. Julián Carrón
of Fr. Giussani
Tender your face,
intense and vigilant your gaze,
your reason open,
wonderstruck and smiling your expression;
this is how I remember you, my friend,
your embrace paternal,
in His presence,
that responds to the cry of my heart.