01-02-2008 - Traces, n. 2

fr. giussani AND I / Miriam Nembrini

Years of frequent meetings, then she saw less of him, but the relationship hasn’t changed…

by Maddalena Vicini

It was 1970. Miriam was 17 years old and attending school in Bergamo, where the wave of 1968 had just arrived. She began to frequent a group of young Maoists. She came from Trescore Balneario, from a humble and numerous family. The moralism and the cultural incapacity of her religious education had proved inadequate. The vivacity of those Maoist kids drew her on, making the certainties of her faith collapse and giving her the illusion of having found an answer to her dissatisfaction.
But in her family, the situation deteriorated; her father was sick and now her mother was expecting another child. Miriam had to stay home to help out. In the daily difficulties, she realized the falsehood of those friends who preached great social revolutions but were unable to support her. She decided to leave them, dedicating herself to her family and to her studies. Life became unbearable.
On June 28, 1970, a friend introduced her to Guido, a boy from Milan, who was vacationing in Trescore. He was a university student who had attended the Berchet High School. A few days later, Miriam broke down. “I had decided to throw myself under a train, and was walking along the road to the railway.” Just then, a Fiat 600 came past, and it was Guido. He picked her up and, as they drove, he asked her what was happening. From that day, he began to go to her house. “If I had to clean the windows, he would do it with me; he helped me to do things every day. I thought, ‘Either he’s crazy or he is looking for a girlfriend.’” But the reason was different. He told her, “I have met the Lord, and this fills my life with joy. I want it to be the same for you.” So Miriam began to pray and to go to Mass again. She rediscovered a taste for life. She began to meet other youngsters and tell them what had happened to her. A small band formed around her. In December of that year, she went to the Spiritual Exercises. The impact was enormous. When she returned, she related everything to her friends and her parish priest, but the priest did not approve. He refused her Communion and forbade them to say Vespers in church. This refusal created a new need.
That same month, Miriam went to see Giussani for the first time. He recommended that she pray for her priest every evening and not stop telling him what she was doing. For her, it was the first lesson in love for the Church. Two years later, that small band in Trescore had grown to over 200.
Miriam began the “verification group” every Saturday in via Martinengo, Milan. “There was no bus back in the evening, so I would stay until Monday morning, giving me the opportunity to be very close to Fr. Giussani. And every weekend I would find an envelope with the bus fare…” She ended up deciding to become a nun: “I wanted to make a radical choice of fecundity and beauty,” she says.
But neither the convent nor the Memores Domini she entered later proved to be right for her. “At a meeting of the novices, Gius asked me if I was happy, and I answered yes, even though, at times, I was overcome with a great sadness that I could not explain. He told me to begin to write down everything that happened to me–not interpretations, but the facts.” In those pages, Miriam talks, between the lines, about Tino. “He took note of this boy and asked me how I felt when I was with him. ‘A vocation is built on evidence, not on plans, however good they may be,’ he told me.” The following day, they got engaged.
Miriam is now married with four children. “The encounter with Fr. Giussani was everything. It was an encounter that was repeated and relived and that gave my life opportunities thanks to which I am certain I would not be what I am today. It was such a small yes for such a great outcome. I only have to look at my children to know that, today, Gius is even more present. And the friendship with him goes on.” You stop her and ask her how it goes on. She looks at you in silence, smiles and then says, “Like before. Entrusting myself to what has happened.”