01-06-2007 - Traces, n. 6
A human advantage GS

An Uplifting Battle
The Muratori High School in Modena, Italy, denied permission to the GS students to present
the “Budapest 1956” exhibit. But the kids did not give up. Excerpts from a Raggio with the GS group there

These are notes on the Raggio that the GS kids of Modena held on May 19th, starting from a question that Father Carrón posed to their teacher Cristina, after she told him about the failed attempt to present the “Budapest 1956”exhibit at the Liceo Muratori.

Father Carrón asked, “In this battle, was your ‘I’ exalted or reduced?” He remarked that the only thing we care about is human advantage.
Benedetto opened the dialogue, recounting: “The other day, talking to a friend of mine, we started discussing the faith, God, and the Church. In the attempt to explain what the companionship and the Church are for me, I told him, ‘When you love something, you are set in motion, you are available to spring into action for it.’ And he said, ‘Yes, when you love something you hear bells in your heart!’ This generated in me the need for a change! So many times my ‘I’ has not been exalted, although that’s exactly what I feel the need for more and more.” Dodo continued, “I was among the most involved in the battle of proposing the Budapest exhibit, and therefore one of the most under attack by the students and teachers. I was uncomfortable, because I felt as if everything was conspiring to pull the rug out from under me. Since, by nature, I tend to compromise, my first reaction was to loosen my grip and go back on my words. But, every morning at school, I could see some of us who, before classes started, were setting up tables to collect signatures for the petition, or others who were giving out flyers–they were happy! Then, during a conversation with the principal, Giacomo clearly spelled out everything I cared for too, and in that moment I realized how telling everybody fully what I love is more reasonable and interesting. After what I had seen, I couldn’t help telling everyone who I am! The advantage of facing a challenging commitment like this lies first and foremost in the happiness I felt–which doesn’t make the situation less difficult–and in the depth of judgment that the circumstances forced me to reach. I had never put into play the reasons behind my actions in such a radical way before, and I realized that living at this level is so interesting that I want it for the rest of my life.” Caterina continued, “Some friends attending the Liceo Muratori asked me to collect signatures for the petition at my own high school. In three days, I was able to give them five full sheets. But I wasn’t really interested in what was happening there because, after all, that’s not my high school. I had collected the signatures and helped out my friends of the Muratori just because they had asked me to, not realizing that something happening to them could be important for me, too.” What Caterina witnessed is that there are times when we do not really put our whole selves into play. Sometimes, though, we suddenly find ourselves proclaiming who we are and what we care for 100%. How does this change take place? “When I was asked to show the ‘Budapest 1956’ exhibit at our high school [the San Carlo],” says Carolina, “I agreed, but I was totally lacking motivation. I might even add that I would have preferred to avoid it altogether. The fact that my friends had asked me wasn’t enough. I realized that I was unable to find a factor that could really make me believe in what I was doing. That factor was offered to me when we started talking about the petition organized by the students at the Muratori. At first, the whole situation appeared simply absurd to me (I think back to the fact that to me it seemed obvious that the teachers would let us go ahead with the exhibit). I realized that I took for granted something valuable that, evidently, wasn’t available for my friends at the Muratori: freedom. That was something I had never thought of or worried about. So, I immediately tried to ‘move.’ I went from total apathy to a great desire to put myself into play.”
By becoming one with the need of a friend, you can understand the reason why doing what is asked of you is worth your while. Then, to say “friends” means to broaden your own awareness: this “becoming one with” allows you to understand why doing what you do is worthwhile. As Caterina told us, though, sometimes saying “friends” is a reduction, when it doesn’t take into account those reasons. Saying “friends” in a truer way is not mechanical; it implies a certain availability on one’s part. It’s a matter of freedom, which can make even those things that are outside of me become things that concern and call me. Then Tommaso intervened: “One morning, during a break, Anna gave me the petition. Back in my classroom, I read it and I was struck by it, so I started working to collect my schoolmates’ signatures, and they gladly signed.”
What position can somebody like Anna take, in front of the heavy attack of her teacher? “When my teacher threw in my face that we are in CL and we have used everything that happened for our own ends, and she stressed that the teachers of the Muratori are able to identify a low-quality item, and they have the right not to propose it to their students, I initially felt discouraged. I had almost lost sight of the reasons for what I was doing. But nothing could really take away the fulfillment I had experienced. In the conversations with my schoolmates or my teachers, or in the way I was staying in front of my regular classes and of what was happening at school, there was an exceptional tension. I ask myself: how can this continue to happen, even when this event will no longer be a hot topic?” Elisa continues, “In my recent experiences, I have learned what it means to go against everything and everybody. If I perceive something as mine, I put myself into play, even if I realize that I have to face risks and sacrifices.” We need to have reasons for our actions. If what we fight for has to become more solid, it has to be tested in reality. Did we spring into action just to present the exhibit, or to please somebody? What kind of an ideal is ours if it is shaky in front of somebody who denies it? Pepi adds, “At the beginning, what was happening at our school did not interest me, partly because of my non-confrontational nature, partly because of my lack of seriousness. The turning point has been a dialogue with my friends, who were telling me how they experienced a new and unexpected intensity in their actions. At that point, I decided to trust them and to take a risk myself. The following day, I jumped into handing out flyers, collecting signatures, and selling the exhibit brochure. The hope with which I started all this did not disappoint me. On the contrary, all the unforeseeable and difficult situations that we had to face clarified and strengthened the ideal we were fighting for.” We need an ideal that does not censor anything; one that embraces everything; an ideal as big as all of reality. If we don’t kid ourselves, we realize that reality is bigger than ourselves. We cannot make up such an ideal–we can only see it; encounter it. As Pepi told us, if we do not get rid of that which strikes us within reality, our heart opens up and makes us able to see things according to a broader perspective. Freedom is that energy that makes reality, that once was extraneous, become mine! Why was this battle great? Because nothing was up to us, not even the decision to fight. Every day something would happen, and we would look at this something. We might start from an authentic position, but still we need to put ourselves into play, and verify in reality what we believe.