01-06-2008 - Traces, n. 6


and the Lighter

Seven months after the meeting with Julián Carrón, 5,000 teachers (some belonging to CL and others not) met him again to deepen the work born from that challenge.
As we wait for the complete text to be published, here is an account of an assembly that was born in school classrooms but is of interest to everyone

by Paola Bergamini

“Hi. When did you get here? I set off yesterday, just to be sure.” “We left at dawn. I am here with a few colleagues… and the head teacher.” Milan, May 18th, 10:15 am. Five thousand teachers fill the floor and the galleries of the Palasharp Stadium in Milan, while many others are connected by video link. They have come from all over Italy, not for the usual convention on education, but to communicate what the challenge thrown out by Fr. Carrón last October 14th has aroused. It is no surprise that the topic is the same: “Education: communication of self, of one’s own way of relating with reality.” Away with formalism, schemes and discourses. What is at stake, once again, is the person in his relationship with reality, with what makes it worthwhile getting up in the morning and going into the classroom for the most fascinating of adventures–education. This is why many of those present took the matter seriously and invited colleagues who–we discovered–were hearing about GS and CL for the first time.
It began with two songs: Luntane, cchiù luntane (“Far, Farther Away”) and “The Monologue of Judas.” Franco Nembrini, responsible of CLE (CL Educators) was on the stage, along with Fr. Carrón. He began, saying, “We received 250 contributions, witnessing a work that is in progress. We will start off from these, and the meeting will have the form of an assembly. In October [at the first meeting], the overriding element was a lack of confidence, a sort of tiredness. Now, we start off from an effort already in action, a positivity, from an ‘I’ that has already begun moving again.” As Stefano witnesses, “The October meeting turned my life upside down; it was a breath of fresh air. It was like going back to the beginning. Once the problem of how to organize things was set aside, we were able to see reality in all its facets, in all its beauty.”

The impact with evil
The first element that emerges from the contributions is the pain that surrounds us, even in school. There are many cases of difficulties that, time and time again, among the students take the form of unease, anorexia, and even suicide or violence. As Lucia, from Verona, tells us: “The news appeared in all the papers: five boys killed a man for a cigarette. Elisa, a GS student, is a classmate of one of them. This crime left her uneasy, so she prepared a leaflet and a letter. She got everyone involved, starting from what she had encountered in her own life. She provoked us teachers to look at reality. We prepared a leaflet together and organized a public meeting. The question is this: How can we, who have encountered this certainty that fills the emptiness, sustain the hope of those around us? Where do we start?”
Carrón: “We have to look first of all at what is happening, like Elisa did. Let’s try to imagine ourselves in her shoes. What set her in motion? What was her point of departure? Not a particular intelligence, nor a particular energy or ability, but simply the capacity to adhere to Something that comes first. We just sang, ‘…for the hope He had aroused in me’. Here is the point: Elisa looked at reality through what she had encountered, what she had in her. We don’t let ourselves be struck by reality, so we are left at the mercy of our thoughts. It’s striking that the Lord should use a young girl to make us understand the method. It is the simplicity of the response of an ‘I’ before what God works, thanks to that hope He has aroused. But if we don’t let Him work, then we are defeated; we are overcome by pain and evil. It is just as well that the Mystery did not think it useless to have mercy on our nothingness and, through a fourteen-year-old girl, entered into history. That ‘yes’ was the most important fact in history, but we do not really believe it, so when we are faced with a difficulty or a failure, we are defeated. We talk a lot about family, society–all important factors–but do we have an ‘I’ able to communicate? This requires us not to be defeated.”

Nostalgia for unity
Another question. What teachers feel they need most is a friendship, a binding unity, but this desire often seems impossible, precisely with the people you find everyday at school, your friends. The risk is to close this desire up into an organizational concern. And everything is reduced to a series of things to be done.
Carrón: “Deep down, we think that that ‘yes’ is not everything. Unity is as necessary as it is impossible. But unity is a consequence. The first unity was that of the disciples around Jesus. How did that unity come about? Let’s try to imagine ourselves there with the first disciples, clinging to Christ. They were not looking for unity; they discovered it in their relationship with Him. At times, we are frighteningly naïve about our abilities! We can find ourselves united only if we find Someone able to respond to the desires of our hearts; only in this way can we be together, that is, united with Him who fulfills our expectation. In this way, it is possible to be glad and grateful, and the relationship with others changes; it becomes gratuitous. This is the central point–to be ready to receive the only One able to generate unity; and in order to be ready for this, we have to begin from experience, above all in doing School of Community. No comments! At times, we are experts at analyzing the darkness but, to dispel the darkness, all you need is a lighter. All discussions about the darkness are useless for dispelling it like a lighter does. For those who are ready, unity is generated, not skepticism. Thank God, our life is not spared!”
Speaking of organization, Cinetta, from Rome, narrates, “After the October meeting, I had great enthusiasm, but then, as often happens, I got all involved in things I had to do. In December, Nembrini came to see me, and his words were a challenge. We began School of Community for the teachers; that is, we took the risk of being friends, with no scheme, and not because of an organizational concern. And what was the first consequence? We stopped complaining. It is really true that the School of Community is a total proposal. Is it this that generates a new subject?”
Carrón: “You only have to start following, and things fall into place. What matters is how I arrive at school an instant before I climb the first step. If what determines me is what has happened to me, I will cross the threshold and will be present in class in certain way; otherwise, it will be the circumstances that define me. So, what changes things is not the context, but the novelty that is in me, in the way I go into school. It is in the relationship with reality that we verify our faith, whether or not what we have encountered stands up to the clash with reality. In this sense, faith helps us to stand before the drama of reality. The mentality of the enlightenment has accustomed us to transmitting Christian values, but without Christ. We need the Resurrection; otherwise, all we have left is complaints.”

Another point to tackle: the proposal and the presence. This was the most widely felt–half of the contributions were about this. In other words, it’s hard to speak about the extraordinary thing I belong to. Nembrini gives an example: “How many times have we heard it? ‘I am a good teacher, I have a good relationship with the kids, but when and how can I speak to them about Christ?’” And Caterina adds, “Christ cannot be like a piece added on to what I do, whether during the lesson or in company with the kids. What have we to look at? How is GS born?”
Carrón: “Let’s start by asking ourselves this question: What really is teaching? If you are a good teacher, what’s the problem? To explain means to connect the details with the whole. Normally, when we speak, the Mystery is something foreign that has no relevance. At best, we make the effort to attach it in some way, but this does not overcome dualism. Let’s go back to the basic point: Reason is becoming aware of reality according to the whole of its factors. So we said many times that we have to ‘broaden’ reason. To educate means to introduce to totality. This is what it means to be a good teacher! Otherwise, we do just what the others do and then add on GS. But this will never be the Movement; it will never be GS. My way of teaching reflects the way I use reason. This is the challenge: to understand the details in their relationship with the whole. ‘What has this to do with the whole?’ If a teacher does not pose this question, he goes to school already defeated, and then he needs to add something on–GS. What did Giussani do? He explained reality as a whole, he taught a new way of using reason, and all this without needing to stick something else on. It is only if we live reality intensely that dualism does not defeat us. So how is GS born? It is born from a person who lives reality intensely in such a unitary way that in those around him the question arises: ‘Who is he?’–and they want to follow him. GS is born like Christianity is born. First, it arises from the way you are present in class, arousing the demand for totality through the subject you teach. In this way, you enjoy yourself and the kids see something different, something interesting. Education is the communication of yourself, of how you relate to reality. We have to help each other to unmask dualism. Or do we want to stay forever on the threshold?”

GS and schematism
At times, though, it happens that the organization takes over. The GS “Raggio” meeting, charitable work, morning prayer…but in the end one of the kids tells you, “What I do Saturday nights has nothing to do with you. Keep your nose out!” “What is GS for me, then?” Martino from Padua asked. “Our history is linear: Raggio and the follow-up meeting, charitable work, choir, and weekly lunch for the teachers who follow GS. After our recent  ‘hot autumn’ [inspired by Carrón’s first meeting with the teachers], something is moving, albeit only the desire for renewal. There are a number of different tentative answers, but something seems to be missing, because the temptation is still that of getting things organized, reshaping the category of the teachers.”
Carrón: “‘What moves man from within?’ St. Augustine asks. That is, what is it that generates something? The way you present yourself at school provides the possibility for something to reawaken. It is not a problem of management or organization. It is not initiatives that attract the ‘I,’ but the proposal I make to the kids. This is what generates GS. The risk lying in ambush is that we close up in a box what we have encountered, what He has reawakened, and stifle it, so that all that remains is the management. The problem is all here: we fill the emptiness around us with things to do, to organize. But this is not fair to our kids. We have to acknowledge that it is Another who acts and that we have to follow Him. This is the fascinating adventure of life; in this way, the difficulties become a challenge rather than an obstacle.”

Verifying how I am living
At the end of the meeting, there were two announcements (anything but technical): One, the mission. We have been given this grace, which is for everyone. We contribute by traveling this road ourselves, first. Let’s set aside our concern for the Movement. What’s important is to say “yes” to what Another is doing. In this way, we collaborate towards the glory of Christ. Then, the School of Community is a help, a method. It cannot degenerate into pure nominalism. Every step is a verification of how I am living.
At 12:30 pm, the arena empties. Near me, I hear a teacher telling her friend, “I’m glad I came. I didn’t  know what was in store for me. You didn’t explain very much, but what struck me most was when he said to ‘stop a moment before going into class, and decide.’”
Everything is decided in that moment: what makes life worth living–for you, first of all.