|01-05-2007 - Traces, n. 5
After the March 24th audience with Benedict XVI
to a Friend
Dear Father Carrón: While the Pope was blessing us in Rome, I realized that my three sons were in the square as well. My whole family was there, and not because I or my husband had invited them to come, but because each one of them had accepted the invitation of a friend. I was certain that I had somehow “entrusted” them to someone; I was certain that they were “accompanied” by an Other, that my prayers to the Virgin had been answered through certain specific people who led them there, as happened to me with the encounter with my friend Silvia and your letter of invitation. At the beginning, I decided not to come, because I work on Saturdays and I already will have to take a day off for the Fraternity Retreat. But when, talking to my friend Silvia, I told her that I didn’t really understand what “entrusting oneself” to Christ meant, she answered me that it happens through obedience to a friend. So I reconsidered your letter of invitation; I asked for a day off that Saturday too, and I started inviting people myself. I was also moved by all those families at the foot of the steps, with their handicapped children, standing in the rain and the wind, truly at the feet of Christ–themselves signs of Christ–happy even in the struggle, while I have my lame objections, my petty problems. And again, when I saw you greeting the Pope one by one, I was grateful, immensely grateful to have you as my guides, as companions to my destiny as well as my family’s. I can’t do anything but thank you again from the bottom of my heart for the letter you sent us and for the historical event of our encounter with this extraordinary Pope.
in St. Peter’s Square
Nine Siegling factory workers of Paderno Dugnano attended the CL meeting with the Pope, in St. Peter’s Square in Rome. They were not CL people or sacristy dwellers. Nor were they bigots. They came because they were fascinated by Pope Ratzinger. A simple invitation was enough! They endured two nights on the train and hours of an exhausting wait. On their way back, they were happy. What can be said about it? Starting Monday, they will go back to the “usual work”(as Leopardi would say), that is, to breaking their backs to pack and unload, to driving their delivery trucks, to cursing and going crazy in the Milan traffic jams. I was struck by the fact that the same invitation was extended to the parish, with no effect. Truly, the real Christian is not he who follows a moral code or a doctrine, but he who follows the beauty of an encounter.
I am so in wonder of the unanimous adhesion of those workers, who have convinced me that if one never shares with others what he lives, it is because either his beliefs are worthless or he himself is worthless (like Ezra Pound once said).
at the Children
Dear friends: The simplicity and the immediacy of my children helped me see the reason why we were in St. Peter’s Square: to meet a person, to wait, see, touch, and listen to a person present among us in the flesh. I lifted up my youngest daughter (nine years old) over my shoulders to allow her to see better, to make out the face that was hidden under the white umbrella, and she was mad because I couldn’t get closer. My children were not interested in knowing what he would say, what he would outline… these are preoccupations for adults. Well, what happened was the encounter, I dare say, with Christ present in my life, within this people, this companionship. It is beautiful to perceive being loved; it is beautiful to perceive that you have a destiny and that destiny is present. I ask that this beauty happen again every day for me, for my husband, my children, and my friends.
Dear Father Carrón: In St. Peter’s Square, Pope Ratzinger, recalling us to Father Giussani–the friend whom he met so many times, the man wounded by the infinite beauty of the Mystery made flesh–gave him back to me through the face of the people that crowded the square in respectful silence, a people that is the fruit of a yes, of adhering with simplicity to an encounter. He gave him back to me in the face of a new friend, whom I meet every Sunday. Every month, with the friends of my Fraternity, I sell Traces, and this person was at first bothered by our insistence in proposing the magazine. Time went by and, in spite of his reticence, a dialogue began and he even started participating in the Food Bank initiatives. Then I invited him to the meeting with the Pope in Rome, and he accepted. The following Tuesday, he unexpectedly showed up at School of Community, saying that he was constantly asking Christ to increase his faith. My asking is alive and well, and I understood that every gesture is not to be taken for granted; every time is a new event, it is the
re-discovery of the fact that we belong to something greater. And if, in your daily life, you have the courage to choose Him, Christ makes you feel His presence more and more.
I want to thank you for this opportunity that you have given me. I saw how far the power of a companionship can get. In front of that mighty power that only God can work, I saw my nothingness overflow, just like Peter in front of the success of a miraculous catch! It is just the same for me. The only thing I ask of Jesus is that I not lose the faces that have accompanied me up to that moment; I want every one of them, the little ones and the grown ups, just as they are. Even now my mind is fixed on that Man, on the face of the Pope, and the face of Father Giussani–whom I saw looking at me–and on the companionship that has accompanied me thus far. I can only say thank you.
The Power of Songs
Dear Julián: I wanted to thank the Choir for giving voice to my shout of joy in front of the Pope as he was meeting us. When his white figure appeared in the square, the thankfulness of our people rose immediate and bright (“Thank you, Lord, for giving me so many brothers to help me come to you,” said the words of the song). We instantly offered him our total friendship (Ho un Amico); we told him about our encounter with Jesus Christ (Noi non Sappiamo Chi Era); we abandoned ourselves to his faithful embrace (Tu Sei un Dio Fedele); we declared we are ready to fight (Estote Fortes); we contemplated the ineffable sweetness of the victorious Christ (Jesu Rex Admirabilis). These voices spelled our salutation. Benedict XVI could not hear my words. I was standing on a pillar, and all I could do was to open my arms to communicate my affection for him. But everything was taken care of: my words were the ones of our songs…
A People on the Move
Dear Father Julián: The Holy Father pointed out exactly what, for the past 26 years, has filled me with wonder: Christianity is no longer something oppressive, but something that, through beauty and truth, gives freedom and re-awakens the heart’s desire for Christ. I was greatly struck by the fact that you reminded us of the need to be beggars, which is expressed in the cry, “Give me a heart made of flesh!” Early in the morning, when I got to St. Peter’s Square, I met one of the people who left a mark on the path of my family: Rose. Seeing her again was an unexpected gift, a sign of the richness of the history that we have lived in the Movement. Then, there was the gesture per se: being able to say Morning Prayer that way, along with 100,000 others, is the demonstration that a people has been generated by an attractiveness. It wasn’t a disciplined army, but a community that listens while praying. And that is something very unusual. Both the readings that preceded the audience and the renewed encounter with many friends who have been important for my own path reminded me of my history in the Movement. My wife later commented, “All of a sudden, I understood that my life is no longer separable from this friendship, which gives it form and consistence. We owe our vocation to this friendship.” There were 300 of us from Germany, and many others watched the event on TV. Many were with us for the first time. The GS group was the largest one: they arrived by bus with Father Romano, Sabina, Ute, Father Francesco, and others. The kids were very moved, and they were an example for us. For them, the long bus trip, filled with prayers, songs, and laughter, was a pilgrimage in the true sense of the word. Those coming from Eichstätt got home at 3 am on Monday. Later that morning, one of the girls jumped out of bed, without many complaints, because she absolutely wanted to go to school and tell her classmates about the beauty of what she had experienced. Another big group was comprised of nurses from Fribourg, who had invited all their collegues at the hospital. We are deeply grateful to the Pope, because he helps us look at Him who is the subject of this newness in our lives.
Kneeling in front
of the Pope
The moment I found out I would be in front of Pope Benedict on the occasion of the audience with the Fraternity in Rome, I was overwhelmed by a feeling of inadequacy, because I am well aware of my poverty in the face of the meaning of the gesture I was called to. But, at the same time, I was filled with great gratitude. In Italy, I visited the Church of St. Louis of the French, where I saw the painting the Conversion of Saint Matthew, by Caravaggio. I could’t help thinking, “I’m like St. Matthew, with the index finger pointing at myself, in the act of saying, ‘Me? Are you sure?’” That image, so profoundly evocative of what was happening to me during those days, put me before the fact that every time Christ calls us, whether to something great or small, it is always an act of absolute gratuitousness on His part. Being with the Pope, kissing his ring, telling him that I was conveying the embrace of the whole Brazilian people, hearing from him that he will come to Brazil–as if to say,
“I’ll receive this embrace when I’m there”–carrying in my left pocket the names and addresses of the Fraternity and the Movement of Brazil, gave me great joy.
I recognized for myself what Father Carrón told us: “The Pope is a sure sign for our faith.” Which means, that gesture confirms our path, and gives us certainty to keep walking on it. Here
Christ becomes, as a matter of fact, the answer to my desires concerning my family, my work, and all the people who are part of my daily life. Along with the 100,000 people of the Movement that were there, I perceived that this Pope has a great affection for our history, because he has been a friend to us, and has helped us on our journey. As Father Carrón said, this gesture is the sign of a new beginning, the sign that Christ present in the Church is, through our Movement, the answer to the desire of the heart–a desire that, re-awakened in a moment like this of our meeting with the Pope, has to become the way that I look at my wife, my children, the people I work with, and all the people and circumstances in my life.
Live in the Daylight
Some friends from our School of Community gathered at our home to watch the CL audience with Pope Benedict on March 24th. We decided we wanted to watch the live broadcast, and so, at about 5:15 am, people began arriving. We started with Morning Prayer and then… coffee! It was amazing to see so many people from the Movement gathered in St. Peter’s Square and beyond, and even more amazing to see faces in the crowd we recognized. We saw Jonathan from N.Y., Msgr. Albecete, and our dear friend Lorenzo, a seminarian of the Fraternity of St. Charles Borremeo, who spent last year with Fr. Michael in Attleboro and worked with the GS students there, including our daughter, Amanda. We sang along to many of the songs we knew, and were struck by the beautiful readings from Fr. Giussani and the words of the Holy Father. I looked out the window at times during the broadcast as the daylight continued to brighten up the sky outside. I was reminded of the words of the hymn of Morning Prayer: “And soon the swell of morning will drench us in its sunlight…” This moment together changed the entire day for me. It was a reminder of the richness within the Church and the charism of Fr. Giussani, and of the fact that I belong to this, and it has changed my life. Because of this beginning, I was able to embrace everything I experienced on that day with more joy and certainty. My father-in-law was operated on that morning for a fractured hip, the second one in a year. His kidneys and heart are not good, and we were not sure of the outcome. After the meeting, at 8:00 am when the surgery was to begin, we all prayed a Hail Mary for this surgery. Even though the situation was difficult, it was not a burden, and I was filled with hope. Bob and I went to see his father after everyone left but he had to have dialysis after the surgery for his kidneys, so we were not able to see him. The nurse told us the surgery went well. We then went to do charitable work with the immigrants here in New Bedford. There was a raid of a factory a few weeks ago, and many families of the immigrants, most of them illegal, were affected by this. Many face deportation and have lost their source of income, so they are in need of food and clothing. One of the local parishes opened its doors as a donation center, and we have begun to help there. We helped transport food and clothing to another church where many of the Guatemalan immigrants go. We did not find out until the following week that Jane, the lady who coordinates the volunteers, was overwhelmed that day and did not know how she was going to get the food and clothing to the other church in New Bedford. She spoke with Fr. Wilson, the pastor of the local parish where many of the immigrants have turned for help, and he said, “Don’t worry, we’ll pray.” “And then you came, and you were a Godsend,” Jane told us. It was another opportunity to embrace and to follow the proposal of Christ, not on our terms or with a plan of our own, but free to follow wherever He may lead us. When I read the article in the latest Traces, “Familiarity with Christ,” I understood what happened to me that morning. Being reminded of what I belong to, I was overcome, as Fr. Giussani said, with “certainty–full of gratitude, full of gladness, and full of hope for the future, therefore all potentially fertile–and by the thought of Christ’s presence.” This new expression of humanity took hold in me, and I was able to take my eyes off myself and lift them toward Christ. I thank God for belonging to the Church through this Movement, because it saves my life every day.
New Bedford, MA
I thought it united us totally, globally, having all experienced an encounter in our lives which is liberating and faith-filled, showing us that we are only truly human when we acknowledge or even recognize the presence of the Divine in our fragility. God is ever present and is the armor we cry for, if we learn to listen to Him in our busy lives. CL gives us the opportunity to glimpse this pathway to truth.
Jenni Hutton, Perth
On the Edge
of the World
I thought that the distance made our watching rather moving–something about being on the edge of the world and being able to be at the Vatican at the same time. Also the gentleness of Benedict was remarkable.
Jenny Harris, Perth
Dear Julián: I am studying languages at Catholic University in Milan. During April, I was given the opportunity to travel to Boston and take a course to perfect my English in the United States. Even before leaving home, I contacted some members of the CL community there and I was astonished by their helpfulness, kindness, and happiness. All this took concrete form on my arrival on the first day of school when I met Alice (a girl from the State University in Milan, who was in Boston at the same school where I was studying English). She showed me the ropes in school and at lessons, and also all the gestures of the Community. So, immediately on the first Wednesday, I went to my first CLU School of Community, where we talked about the wonderful event of our meeting with the Pope in Rome. We read your speech and that of Benedict XVI. Then, some of the young people spoke about it until it was my turn to try and describe just what it meant for me to be in St. Peter’s Square that morning. As I listened to the Pope, I felt he was speaking to me, referring precisely to my life, to my friends and my family, especially at the end when he gave us our “task“–to take the beauty of Christ to the world. And so I tried to do this all through the month that I stayed there, without great pretensions, by doing the Stations of the Cross together with the others, going to lunch at Virginio’s home on Easter Sunday, going to school, but above all in the way you and Father Giussani always taught us to: with hearts wide open. And I must say that I gained everything by it! First, I learned a lot and I was able to throw myself into everything, both in learning the language and in living the experience, since it was actually during my stay that the massacre happened at Virginia Tech. And before my companions and my teacher, who continued to ask what reason could lie behind that act of madness, all I could do was to say that the only human position possible before such a tragedy was prayer, and then I left my teacher the leaflet that our friends of the CLU had written. At the month’s end, on the last day of school after the last hour of lessons, I stayed behind a little to talk with my teacher and a French boy and a Turkish girl with whom I had formed close ties. Our teacher thanked us for our attitude to lessons and the simplicity with which we tackled each day, and then personally thanked me for the leaflet. I cannot help feeling privileged to have experienced all this and I cannot find words sufficient to thank the people who helped me all through the month with their own hearts wide open. (I dearly hope to be able to return to study in the States on a permanent footing!) I also want to thank you for the help you give us every day, certain that everything, truly everything, is given for my happiness!