|01-07-2009 - Traces, n. 7
not mean feeling good
Dear Fr. Carrón: I am an osteopath and I teach physical education. Last year, one of my students, a fifteen-year-old, got pregnant and missed a good chunk of the school year. Five months ago, she delivered a baby girl, and last Monday she came to visit me at the gym with her baby. Once we got over the first emotional five minutes, she handed the baby to a classmate and, to my question “How are you doing?” she started showering me with all the problems and the difficulties (some of which are of a serious nature) that her life and the presence of that baby were putting in front of her. She told me about her financial trouble, about the growing awareness of no longer being able to plan her life solely according to her own desires, about the sleepless nights and the struggle to study... But most of all she told me of the huge issues between her and the baby’s father and his family. All of a sudden, in the middle of the story, her classmate brought the baby back to her.
She walked over, took the baby in her arms, kissed her and said: “I love her so much!” That baby, who up until that very second was the source of all her life’s problems, had suddenly become its truest and most beautiful manifestation. I then understood that correspondence doesn’t have anything to do with tranquility, with “being all right,” or feeling at peace. Correspondence is an objective data in reality, a fact (a Fact) that is in front of you and urges you–if you are honest with yourself–to say “yes” and to embrace it. It is a fact that doesn’t leave you at peace and still fills your life with joy and meaning. What you keep telling us is so true: the method is always an encounter, not just at the beginning. It is an encounter with those who witness to His presence, like that sixteen-year-old mom. The proof of the truth of what is happening is that last year I had in my class an immature and problematic girl, while Monday I was in front of a mature, responsible woman (not just because she has become a mother), who thoroughly accepts life’s circumstances and asks for help. She educates me.
Antonio, Giordano, and the progress reports…
We publish here a letter from a math teacher to his friends.
Wednesday at Mass, Angela (the mother of a GS student who tragically died a month ago) talked about the beauty she sees; about how loving your children means leading them toward their Destiny (which Antonio has now finally met); about virginity, which now makes her look not at Antonio, but at that which he made her look, and how in doing this she possesses him even more now than before; and about the companionship of Christ coming through certain faces. Thursday morning, I had a meeting with the other teachers to discuss our students’ progress reports. As I was confronted with the usual patterns: the “executioners” who would fail every student to make school more of a serious matter; the “softies” who would give out passing grades to anyone and say, “What’s it to us, anyway?;” those who couldn’t care less and say, “Do as you please, as long as we get this over with quickly;” and the “strategists,” who think that if the class is crowded you can fail students, otherwise you can’t. All this and me: free from any of those schemes, and claiming my right to look at each student and decide what’s best for him or her. I usually feel a sense of total isolation and impotence, but not Thursday. If a mother can talk about her dead son like Angela did… well, Christ has really risen! So, during the teachers’ meeting, I was once again the one hated by the majority, I was once again in front of the usual patterns of behavior, but a certainty had invaded my heart and I gave witness to it as well as I was able to. I didn’t just try to do my best; I reaffirmed my point of departure. Later, back home, I wanted to talk to Angela, so I called her and she invited me to visit her. After I literally filled my heart to the brim with her words, I told her that I have been keeping company to a couple who three months ago lost their only son Giordano, who was the family’s breadwinner since the father became confined to a wheelchair. I had been Giordano’s catechism teacher. When I first went to visit them, his mother told me, “I was waiting for you to come; I have many things I wanted to ask you. If the Lord allows something to happen it has to be for the good, but right now I really don’t see what this good could be.” On the contrary, I see the beauty of all those among Giordano’s friends who have become like sons for this couple, regularly going to visit them, saying the Rosary every week, and having a monthly Mass for Giordano (attended even by those who have not seen the inside of a church in years). It is just as Rose says in the video: “You just need to look and be moved. If you are moved, then you move.”
Dear Father Carrón: I send you this letter that I received from an ex-student of mine who is now serving as a Carabiniere [an Italian national policeman, whose realm of duty includes both military and civilian populations] in the earthquake-stricken area around L’Aquila. Even though he has not had the possibility to meet people of the Movement for the past eight years, his ability to not only preserve but to further develop the beauty that he had encountered is awe-inspiring.
Dear Professor: I will take advantage of these rare moments of tranquility to write. It is the relative tranquility of a night spent in a tent to keep vigil on those who are forced by the circumstances to live in tents. I am used to such living quarters; I have lived in a tent in areas destroyed by war (like Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania, Afghanistan, and Iraq), areas where the stench of death was in the air. My love for Christ, and the awareness that I could make Him present, helped me go forward, believe, and hope that–against all evil–humanity could rise again and begin to live. His presence has erupted in my life like an explosion of joy after I met you, or better, after I met all of you. I always thank the Lord for that wonderful gift. I often think back to something that happened after I met the Movement, when at a meeting Marcello read this sentence: “Life is beautiful because it is a new beginning in every instant.” I always think about it, I repeat it to myself often, and I repeated it to people who were shrouded in desperation, and who later thanked me because of that sentence. Even now, after many years, I go back to that quote. Only Christ could think of something this great; only He could make me hear these words and permanently imprint them in my mind and heart. Only He could imagine that my life would be like this: spending time in places where life is surely not that beautiful, because it is destroyed and annihilated by evil, war, and death. Only He could know that I would make this quote the icon of my own life. My friendship with you, getting together, staying in touch although miles away, separated for many months at a time, makes me understand how vital the encounter with you has been, and how important the presence of Christ is in my life. This presence is alive in me today as never before, also because I am starting to understand the pain that these Abruzzese brothers of ours have to face. I feel their pain is my own, and I face it with an enthusiasm that these very people passed on to me, these people who find in God the will to go on. There is a sign at the entrance of the tent: “We will make it.” But that is true only because He is here, and this awareness fills my heart with joy.
Antonio, L’Aquila (Italy)
begun at fifty
I am writing this letter to thank CL, to thank all those whom I met, and in particular all those witnesses who took their humanity seriously and helped me meet Christ. This adventure has just begun for me…at fifty, and I thank my sons, who last summer took me to the Meeting. I didn’t know CL apart from being a Movement born out of the university, which catered to an educated elite. As soon as I participated in the first encounter–entitled, “Is It Possible to Live This Way”–I felt that which you call the “correspondence of the heart” and I finally felt at home. Everything that I lived at the meeting has been for me an unexpected gift. Back home, I started going to School of Community, to the meetings with Father Carrón, with Aldo Trento, Giancarlo Cesana, etc.… as well as to those organized by my pastor. With School of Community, I re-live the experience of the first disciples: “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6:68). Every time I am there, I feel challenged to take my humanity seriously, as well as my desire to follow somebody in front of me, a witness who make me feel Christ’s embrace, with the certainty that I am made to be happy.
To have everything and
yet to possess nothing
The letter that I enclose comes from Eleonora. Her aunt is in my School of Community group, and seeing that Eleonora was going through a crisis, she invited her to the Workers’ Spiritual Exercises.
I am twenty-two years old and I have everything: a beautiful family, successes at the university, a person who loves me, a life built through commitment and dedication. Yet one day, like a sudden jolt, that everything that filled my life and propelled me toward a guaranteed happiness crumbled under my feet. Restlessness, sadness, and a deep anguish took the place of a serene and peaceful existence. A thousand questions crowded my mind for months. So, even though it may seem strange–especially today in a society that deceives you with the sacredness of the material–one can be desperate at twenty two. One can be desperate for fear of losing everything, or for fear of not being able to stick to a certain established life-plan. Only now I understand that Somebody wanted to stir things up. Then, I received a phone call: “Do you want to come to the Spiritual Exercises in Rimini?” I went with no expectation–and above all without knowing what I would have to do once there (I thought it would be a group of around twenty people!)–I believe more out of habit than vocation, but in those three days I dug with my bare hands deep into my pain, and I found myself listening not only to my cry, but to the cry of 9,999 people. Even though my heart through the years had always perceived this cry, I had always found it easier (or more cowardly) to silence it, diverting my focus to a thousand commitments. Only now, after those three days when I found some answers, I understand that the pain I went through and I still go through had a deep meaning, too great a meaning to be ignored. God was calling me with the strength and the patience that only a Father has toward a son. With a liberating cry, within an embrace that I had never felt so strongly before, I said “yes.” I said yes to accepting my pain as the means that God used to reach me, and to accepting a path that, I already know, will be bristling with difficulties. I said yes to loving myself, in the awareness of a true faith, in the presence of Christ whom, I’m sure, I will not be able perceive every day with the same clarity as in Rimini, because daily life overwhelms us with its challenges. I had everything, but I possessed nothing, and with extreme joy I found myself poor and begging.
A heart moved by
This year’s most significant event has been the loss of one of my four companies, which has been an unfortunate occurrence both for me and for the many people who have been affected by it, and a trial that made me feel lonely and forlorn. I left no stone unturned. I desperately asked the friends of the Entrepreneurs’ Club for help, as well as the two banks that supported us, but I wasn’t getting any answers–or better, I couldn’t see any. In March, at the Club, Vittadini told me that the most difficult trial was to lay my faith bare and look at reality for what it was, and that I needed to learn to live Lent–in my situation as an entrepreneur–by becoming one with the Passion of Christ. The presence of my entrepreneur friends didn’t spare me the dramatic struggle ahead, but my horizon was opened up by looking at them while going through the same crisis. Their presence suddenly made me embrace what I had to live as a positive circumstance for me, one in which I had to keep asking to seek God. It was like when I first encountered Father Giussani at the Certosa di Pavia [a monastery complex in Lombardy, where the Giussani brought his youth group] in 1980, when I was desperately searching for something I didn’t know, and that something came to meet me through his words. From that moment on, the Lord has given me sign after sign to point out what I needed to do, as if to tell me: “Relax, the world is on Someone else’s shoulders.” This year, I was also moved by the San Martino School, a place where I heard my nine-year-old daughter and her classmates using these words to comment on a picture of a girl (working for the Department for Civil Protection) who was in tears as she rescued earthquake victims: “She is crying because she is looking for the happiness that was promised her and because she is missing something; what she can give to help others is not enough for her.” Time and time again, in the course of the past year, this school has opened me up and has given hope to my heart and to my need for happiness and fulfillment.
Marcello, Calvenzano (Italy)
Those Minutes Before Work
7:55 am: Morning Prayer followed by the reading of a page of School of Community, a cup of coffee, and my work day can begin. This has been how, for the past two years, my friend Silvio and I have started our day, sometimes joined by other colleagues. At 7:55 I am usually pretty sleepy and sometimes tiredness makes me skip a line or misread a word. I tell myself that it doesn’t matter, that tomorrow I’ll pay more attention, and the following day I get there five minutes in advance to have a read-through, in the attempt to make things better than the previous day. Delving into my work day, asking Christ in my heart to bestow upon me the grace to recognize Him in my colleagues, or in the difficulties of my work, or even as my boss is giving me a good telling off, allows me to live more seriously and serenely that which I am called to obey at each given moment.
My day is busy, and everyday life’s distractions are always ready to take up my time, but somebody’s gaze, a colleague, or Father Giussani’s picture hanging in a corner of my office, always reminds me of the question with which I start my day. When that happens, it is as if He came to grab hold of me again, or better, it is as if I decided to re-open my eyes and let myself once again be embraced by the Mystery, by that presence that I have felt near me since 7:55 am, in the awareness that He has been there all along to look at me, to guide me, and to love me.
Alessandro, Brescia (Italy)
To Whom Do I Belong?
Dear Father Carrón: I met the Movement in 1987, when I was eleven, thanks to my pastor and my Math teacher. From that day forward, the companionship of Christ, made flesh in the faces of those around me, proved to be fascinating and ultimately decisive for my life, accompanying me through the toil of studying as well as every circumstance that God has given me, including the ones that appeared to be contradictory. My illness is one of these. In June 2008, I was hospitalized for suspected multiple sclerosis, a diagnosis that was later confirmed. During my stay at the hospital, by simply yielding to what was asked of me (being patient in accepting the pain and my new situation, and in submitting to the necessary tests, etc…), a question was re-awakened in me like never before: “To whom do I belong?” The Lord immediately answered this question through the companionship of my friends of the Movement who, on the Sunday when I was hospitalized, took turns keeping me company for six hours straight. That day, I experienced Christ embracing my wounded humanity. These events, and the words of the article you wrote for la Repubblica before Christmas, made me come to the awareness that there is no other place for me if not the companionship of Christ because He made me encounter Him in this particular history. I experienced that only here is my humanity entirely embraced and loved, and that only Christ can support my hope, because He is my salvation. For this reason, I decided to say my “yes” by enrolling in the Fraternity, which is, for my life, the concrete place of the presence of Christ. Thank you, Father Carrón, for making my desire to give a face to my belonging to the Movement and the Church a reality. Thank you for the Truth that you keep announcing to us through School of Community–a truth that, thank God, is truer because, more and more, it becomes a reality.
Elisa, Porto Viro (Italy)