|01-04-2010 - Traces, n. 4
A friend’s illness: the road to the Truth of my self
Below is a letter from a student to a friend who lives in Kazakhstan.
Dearest Fulvio: The sudden aneurism that struck Gianni–my best traveling companion–has been for me like the most powerful earthquake. The following weeks were filled with never-ending surprises. The first occurred when Gianni seized. Three or four people helped him, holding his head and making sure he didn’t choke on his tongue. Within that immense confusion, the fright, and our disbelief, something else resonated. We could not separate Gianni from Jesus, from that Presence for whom he had lived his life up to that point. The following day, we all went back to school and the second surprise came along. In the past, we had complained about how the beautiful evenings spent together–our singing, and the encounters with great witnesses–often did not withstand the impact with everyday life, especially at school. This time, though, we went back to school, to our place, more attentive, passionate, awake, and alive than ever. We didn’t want to miss a thing because, like Gianni always taught us, when you want answers and help, reality is your greatest and most faithful friend. We then went to meet Julián, who told us, “What a Mystery! You have to pay attention and look at all the factors involved; do not waste this great opportunity. Through Gianni’s illness you are being led to the truth.” That was a turning point. We were in reality with a new, radical desire for the “truth,” for Him! We looked at each other and the dominating factor was pain; we missed a father. We asked each other not to censor the struggle, the tears, the anger, the superficiality, the sadness, or anything else. That newness generated a new, merciful, and moving way to look at each other. We then decided to study together, both because of the desire to do well, and to respond to the reality we were called to. We studied until 6:30 pm, prayed the rosary for Gianni, then went home. To make a long story short, what happened was something we had never experienced before; we studied filled with the question: “What opportunity is in store for me today? Come! Surprise me! I have never needed You as much as I need You now.” This question started to conquer more and more space. One morning, I was late for school and speeding to get there on time. There are two roads I can take to get to school: on one, the light is always green; on the other, always red. By mistake, I took the second and, as I approached the light, it turned red. I said to myself, “Darn, I am going to school to do what I have to do, and You hinder me with a red light! I am already late!” All of a sudden, I remembered Gianni; I prayed the Angelus and everything became clear. It was as if He had told me, “Stop. Where are you going? You have not remembered Me yet!” Now I always take that second road; each time, the light is red, and every day I pray the Angelus. One night, Giovanni was in the car with me. My car is an old wreck, and the windshield wiper on the passenger side doesn’t work. It was pouring rain and we were in traffic. At a certain point, I said to Gio: “See, my windshield wiper works and yours doesn’t. And what’s the difference? That I see the same things you see, but more clearly; therefore, the dangers, the potholes, and the turns are not taken away…” That was exactly what happened when Gianni became ill: that earthquake that had entered our lives showed us things more clearly, revealed to us their worth and meaning. We went out of town for three days to study, and something really amazing happened. While I was studying electronics, a subject I can’t stand, I offered it up: “Lord, I offer You the effort of these days for Gianni, who is undergoing rehabilitation.” Suddenly, solving problems and expressions was just like accompanying him, supporting him up the stairs that he had to climb every day. For about a month, I did not hear from him, then, a few weeks ago, he called me. I was so moved! Only in that moment did I understand the meaning of the flyer for the earthquake in Haiti: “Our life belongs to an Other.” Among those who accepted Julián’s challenge, a new capacity for forgiveness, tenderness, and fraternity was born. Gianni’s illness made everything more true. After his recovery, we went back to see Julián, who told us: “Guys, it has happened! It has happened!” Now we have to deal with the fact that it has happened! Since then, I always hear in my head the question Jesus asked the disciples: “Do you want to leave Me, too?”
Jaio, Abbiategrasso (Italy)
Recently, four students and I, with our teacher, had the great privilege of being invited to meet the Archbishop of Toronto. We arrived at the station and walked near the Cathedral. At the corner meeting point, it was cold and quiet. I had no idea what to expect. We waited five minutes and there was no sign of an Archbishop anywhere. I felt like saying, “I knew this would happen.” I honestly thought that people that high up in the Church wouldn’t have time for kids like us. While we were waiting, an older man approached us–it was the Archbishop. We walked into Fran’s Breakfast Café and sat in a corner booth. There, we asked questions about faith, belonging, and the Church. We were impressed with how he answered our questions. He was succinct and clear; he didn’t dance around the answers, which were meaningful and direct, and he gave examples for whatever he discussed. I stayed quiet beside His Grace not because I was shy but because I wanted to absorb the information being shared. I would never have expected a leader of our Catholic faith in Toronto to take time out of his busy schedule and meet with five kids. He told us that at Mass he gives out his number so that people can meet with him. This man really changed my perception of the Church. I realized that without Christ and faith you have absolutely nothing. Without the belief in God, you have nothing, because He is everything.
Adam, Toronto (Canada)
no rules, projects,
Many are the miracles that we have seen happening all around us after the death of our six-year-old daughter Maddalena. She died on December 6, 2009. We have felt the embrace of our friends, supportive through and through. We are witnessing the spectacle of our three children, who are asking Maddalena for everything. We have seen the deepening of our relationship with Father Mauro, which resulted in our availability to foster parenting. This is all thanks to the superabundance of grace that we have received, and that makes us say, “Lord, we are yours.” We have seen the relationships with our colleagues become more intense, particularly with an atheist doctor who, after Maddalena’s death, told me, “Losing a six-year-old daughter can only be a tragedy… Still, I am literally intrigued by and a little envious of your face.” We have witnessed my mother’s conversion–a woman who, at 70, with Maddalena’s death, finally understands what it means to be loved. She left her partner of 15 years (a man with whom she had a relationship based on self-interest), sold her house, and moved closer to us. My mother, who after our encounter with the Movement had left the Church, started attending Mass again and asked to speak with “one of ours.” Our 80-year-old neighbor (whom we met a year ago), the day after Maddalena’s death, told me, “I did not understand who you were. You are good parents; I understood who you were the day of the funeral. You have to tell who you are to the whole town of Lodi Vecchio!”…This way we witnessed the miracle of the birth of a new School of Community group at our house. There are no more measures, rules, or projects. God brings things to completion how and where He wants, and we, in awe of so much beauty, follow Him.
Sabina, Lodi Vecchio (Italy)
Six Years After that Invitation to “Stay”
This letter was sent to Stephen, now in Washington, DC, from a friend who met him years ago when he was living in Texas and began a School of Community there.
Dearest Stephen: In 2005, when you told me you were leaving our small town, I came to you a little sad and said, “I don’t know how to go on with my life,” and you responded to me with: “You should start coming to the School of Community.” I enjoyed the first meeting despite not having understood anything at all. You told me to “stay.” I stayed and, mysteriously, Christ appeared there, more alive than ever, a living Presence which has accompanied me every day since. You spoke of Fr. Giussani with such an admiration and a love that I could not understand. Who was this man? Christ could not go unnoticed when you spoke of Him with such passion. Then you moved to Washington and there arose the question: How will we continue without Stephen? You responded to me and our friends in the School of Community by saying, “It’s not me, but rather Christ that you have to keep following.” And that’s how it went–School of Community continues today, six years later. I recognized that all of my self encounters itself in congruity with the humanity of the Lord. That is to say, He manifested Himself, evidently, in the most simple aspects of life, thanks to that little voice that used to tell me “stay.”
Diana, Brenham, Texas (USA)
HE IS HERE: PROOF IN FACTS
Dear Julián Carrón: I am a doctor from Puerto Rico who came to Saint Louis to complete my sub-specialty in geriatrics. I chose Saint Louis with the knowledge that there was a CL community there because I knew I would not make it without this friendship. The Saint Louis community was totally different from Puerto Rico’s one. I entrusted this difficulty to the Lord and with time I understood that this was the reality that Christ was using to show Himself, to accompany me. At first I thought I could not live the beautiful things I saw in Puerto Rico. I was proven wrong by two facts. First, the joy I feel driving back home after School of Community. In preparing and doing School of Community, I realized that it corresponds to me more and more; it responds to my questions and to my reality. Second, there is the story of this photo. One Thursday night, after having supper together at the City Blue Deli, we went to the house of Michael and Bernadette, where I saw the new Traces issue. I opened it and found Daniel’s letter about Rose Busingye and Guido’s letter about his work in Los Angeles. So I gave everyone a copy and told them (most of them are new to the Movement) to read the letters that talk about my friends. At that moment, when we all had our noses in Traces, Michael took this picture. For me, it is amazing how new friendships are born, grow, and form in this companionship. Even those who are transient in Saint Louis keep in touch with me, not because I am wonderful but because Someone brought us together and united us on this journey. I used to get very sad when friends left Saint Louis or when I remembered my friends in Puerto Rico. But this experience of living with intensity and attention what the Lord offers me in Saint Louis has opened my eyes and heart because I realized that the friends do not belong to me. They are simply a gift from God on this journey and, even more, they are the face of Christ and He always remains, no matter where I am, Puerto Rico or Missouri, and no matter if I am with a new, old, or transient friend. He is here with me and that is enough.
Dulce Cruz, Saint Louis,
THat kiss on the subway Dearest Father Julián: When I was in junior high, I participated with my parish friends in a production of The Tidings Brought to Mary by Paul Claudel, and I was deeply struck by this line: “What is the worth of life if not to be given?” Then and there I decided that my life should be given, because only that would make me happy. During the following years, I did not pull back from my decision, in every aspect of my life: family, work, and society. I tried to give myself, to avoid considering my life as a treasure to be jealously kept, but as something to be offered to others. Lately, though, I realize that this offering is not enough to make me happy. My family is very demanding and that has given rise to a sort of rebellion on my part. This morning, I accompanied my daughter for a sonogram (she is pregnant). As we were looking at the monitor, I realized that we were both moved for that new creature. I asked myself, “Have I ever been this moved looking at my daughter? Yes, it’s true, I have sacrificed a lot for her; she gave me my share of grief and I never backed out… But was I ever moved looking at her, just because she existed? Was I ever moved just because of her eyes, or for her beating heart? My mother had looked at me that way, but was I doing the same?” It is not enough to give of yourself. The point is the adjective “moved”–the moved gift of self. Going back home by subway, I looked at her, thankful for her presence, admiring her beauty (she is very beautiful!), and moved for the hardships that await her. I gave her a heartfelt kiss (I had not kissed her in a while). I can’t say what she felt, but I started breathing again..
FROM ITALY TO MOROCCO: A NEW BEGINNING
Dear Father Carrón: The economic transition that we are going through led me to close my agronomy business–a dream of mine since youth–and, at 50, is asking me to get back into the game, uprooting all my certainties and my once-settled life. After a few months of temporary jobs, promises, disappointments, and unemployment, I was made an offer that meant moving to Morocco. Years ago, I would have reacted angrily at my inability to keep my business alive despite my professionalism, or at the undeniable difficulties that moving to Morocco would entail. I also would have lingered on the illusion that sooner or later something could change, and I would have stayed home. Instead, I have found the most authentic human position within our experience, working on the words that we share with each other. The truest judgment on this story of mine is that the circumstances that God gives me are an essential factor of my vocation, not a secondary one. That has totally changed my way of thinking; even being far away from my wife and daughters, the unfamiliar environment, the not-always-perfect relationships at work are all part of the task that Destiny has entrusted to me–that is, to affirm, through reality, that I have been taken by Christ, and that every day my life has to express this cry and this yearning for Him, so that through me, His kingdom may come. Therefore, the challenge can’t be reduced to securing a stable paycheck, to attaining professional fulfillment, or to hanging in there while I miss loved ones and my Western way of life. The challenge is to answer to reality. Obeying this, I experience the hundredfold: my family is growing in responsibility and my friends stay close to me via e-mail and phone messaging, and also I have met friends who work here.
Giancarlo, Casablanca (Morocco)