|01-06-2011 - Traces, n. 6
Edited by Paola Bergamini. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
NOT JUST ANOTHER
DAY AT THE LAB
I'm working at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD–a huge research center with people coming and going from all over the world. A few months ago, some colleagues of mine left my laboratory for new jobs and my boss told us about the arrivals of new post-doctorates. I was a little bit disappointed–first because every two to three years we need to restart new relationships, and second because the new people would come from the Far East, from very different cultures from mine, and so it would be more difficult to communicate with each other. I was already negative and not interested in new encounters. But, after a few weeks, I changed my attitude. In fact, these new people were very open and very collaborative. In particular, one person from Korea, who was surprised that I was interested in his life, moved me to tears when he recounted his story in a letter that opened my heart to seeing how Jesus is working! "Dear Ombretta: I had a very dark childhood. My father died when I was ten. As a traveling fortune teller, he went from town to town telling people their fortunes to make money, and he had a lot of women. I didn't spend any time with him, since he was always out of town. In addition, he was, one day, misunderstood as a pro-North Korean betrayer and arrested by a secret agent. He was badly tortured and maimed. He had to spend the rest of his life in bed. In anger, he became addicted to alcohol and died of alcoholism. So, I don't have good memories of my father. My mother had to bring up four children alone. She worked really hard but she was always poor. She ran a small bar in a remote town in which there was no police station. My mother often became the victim of violence–I grew up seeing my mother beaten by drunken men for no reason. I desperately wanted to become a powerful, rich man and avenge my father and mother. I always had anger deep in my heart. I became a very strong atheist. I couldn't imagine a God who allows all this to happen. However, God came to me and touched my heart. I fell in love with a girl and, when I proposed to her, she asked me to go to church for the wedding. I accepted. I was desperately looking for the truth and the meaning of life. One day, while I was singing a Gospel song during the church service ("Amazing Grace"), I started crying and I couldn't stop. It was the first moment that I encountered Jesus and I understood that He was speaking to me and He loved me. It's been ten years since then. Jesus became everything to me. He answered all my questions and He is accompanying my life. I became the happiest person in the world. I don't have anger, sadness, or desire for revenge anymore. Nothing can shake me because I have Him. My ultimate goal for my life now is resembling Jesus and leading others to God to give them a taste of the real happiness that I have now. I want to live and die for Him."
Ombretta, Maryland (USA)
A HORIZON OPENING
UP TO FREEDOM
Father Giussani was so right. The encounter really changes everything; one acquires a different awareness, a new passion for everything, and an unquenchable thirst for Truth. My heart demands honesty, and my mind searches for reasonableness–which has been the trademark of my every action. I always said to myself: "If something is not reasonable, it doesn't deserve my attention." The few times I attended the raggio ("the ray," a weekly meeting of the GS students in Italy), I always ended up asking myself, "How can they say that they see a man who died 2,000 years ago? Crazy people… I feel for them." Now, I still use the same method, and yet I have come to affirm the opposite; this encounter, in fact, is reasonable simply because it is real. Yet the true change of direction that I saw happening in me is the honesty that my heart demands. I know very well the difference between seeing something and pretending that nothing happened, and seeing something accepting what is happening, and I know that I kept my eyes shut for too long. Why did I do it? Because of fear, or mistrust? Because of lack of awareness? For sure, looking inside of myself and realizing "this is not working" is painful; it's something that requires courage and hard work, but if I commit to it…my horizon opens up. When I am with my friends I am not satisfied with idle talk; I start conversations that have something to do with life, because I care about the destiny of those who are close to me, and don't wish for futile things for my friends, more than I do for myself. Attending college doesn't look like a mirage anymore, or a course of action too difficult to commit to; it has become the continuation of a path, of an hypothesis that I will try to verify, one step at a time. I am not scared even by the need to work to pay for my studies, or to move to a different city, because I know where I am going. The tests I need to take in order to graduate are no longer an obstacle between myself and "freedom"–they are just one more possibility for a new verification process about myself and the burning desire for Truth that runs in my veins. Now that I gained a new capacity to understand and appreciate, to observe and accept, I can't avoid being grateful. I thank my friends, and in doing so I feel I may be saying "thank you" to Something really great–otherwise what has happened to me would be inexplicable.
THE BEAUTY OF THE MYSTERY AROUND THAT BEND
Dearest Fr. Carrón: Despite what I have experienced at the Exercises and in Rome, and despite the many witnesses that I have been showered with for the past few years, and the many events that truly made my life happier; despite having a huge number of friends, a loving husband, three kids, and a job… despite all this, after coming back home from Rome a great sadness has taken hold of my heart. For this reason, I felt our last School of Community really hit the spot for me, starting from the opening song. Nothing, really nothing, except those fleeting moments when I try not to think, can take away the sadness. At times, I ask myself: "What are we talking about?" And yet, I know full well what, or better, Who we are talking about. I know that Christ exists and that He loves me; that I have seen Him and that He has embraced me, but deep down I am just like the young rich man: I walk away filled with sadness. Last Friday, I had a moment of clarity while reading the fifth chapter of the Religious Sense; I began to understand that, at least, I am not alone. The questions I have regarding my life–Why am I alive? What is reality–the mountains, the sky, my children–made of? All those questions that are so clearly stated in that chapter are my questions. Does this mean that the encounter with Christ causes the religious sense to flourish? I have always thought that meeting the answer would finally make me feel at peace, but it is not so. The wound that I carry inside never heals. What is happening to me? Am I back to square one? Everything seems to give me little satisfaction, and at the same time my heart is bursting in the need for meaning that I have. I often think about what you told us many times: "It's a matter of knowledge." With that in mind, last night I went for a drive by myself. Around a bend (I live in the hills) I found myself in front of a spectacular view. I stopped the car to look at the beautiful sunset, and I couldn't but ask the Mystery to answer me. I couldn't come up with any objection, and I felt the disproportion between Him and me. All my claims vanished, and all that was left was my begging. Back home, I found a message from a friend, my adolescent daughter making dinner, my little one welcoming me as if he had seen an angel, and another dear friend of mine asking to come visit us for a few days… Is this how He answers me?
THE PRIEST RETREAT:
NOT "A CLASS ABOVE"
The recent annual CL Priests Retreat with Msgr. Albacete was, if it was even possible, more wonderful than usual. I can't say why exactly, but I think it was because Monsignor's humanity came through his priesthood, and his priesthood came through his humanity. Often, we priests like to act like "a class above." This is a mistake. We saw at the retreat that humanity is what makes a priest our brother. The sacrament doesn't take that away; it puts his humanity with all his gifts in Christ's humble service.
Fr. Rosa, Connecticut (USA)
THAT KISS ON THEIR
It was an ordinary day, one when complaint seems to take over everything else. A lot of work to do, and a lot of useless anger; as I said, just an ordinary day. I was working as usual, until I received a phone call. Carlo, a terminally ill person, needed Confession. He had been sent home from the hospital, because there was nothing the doctors could do for him anymore. People like him are often the most interesting, and at the same time the most difficult to deal with; you can't just offer them a discourse. On my way to Carlo's house, I was thinking about what to tell him, even though I still didn't know whether or not he was still conscious and able to converse. During Confession, he told me his story. I learned that he had been living with a woman for more than 30 years, but that they could not get married (because if they did, she would lose the pension she needed to survive). I called my bishop to ask if a marriage celebrated when one is in immediate danger of death could be performed without notifying the civil authorities. He confirmed that was the case. Carlo's expression changed; it was a mix of happiness and sorrow. When his son arrived, we told him the news. I was struck by his son's very beautiful four-year-old twin daughters, so I asked him why he wasn't married, and if he wanted to get married as well. He started thinking about my offer, and I saw it opening a breach in his heart. We decided to set a date. His father's wedding was the following day. We celebrated a beautiful Mass in his poverty-stricken house, where the presence of God performed a miracle: after a long time Carlo and his wife went to Confession and received Communion. We got to the exchange of the rings, and I realized that there were no rings. I asked why. Carlo answered, "We never had enough money to afford them." I was moved, but I pressed on. The ceremony ended with an applause and a kiss, maybe their last one. On May 17th, Carlo returned to the house of the Father.
Common Fund: One Less Thing to Worry About?
Dearest friends: I was struck by what Fr. Carrón said at the Fraternity Exercises [see the booklet enclosed] about the common fund. It is indeed a concrete gesture that has something to do with affection, and it is indeed something I don't care much for… My lack of interest speaks volumes about the kind of affection I have for myself and for those who help me live my life. This became clear just a few minutes ago, after I made my online payment. All I wanted was to get it over with, and have one less thing to worry about–this way, I would not be bunched up with those who don't pay, and I would be at peace with my conscience. What's even worse is that, being fully aware of my motivations, I just reacted, saying to myself, "Oh, well… It is what it is!" I was once again in a hurry to shut the door, and prevent something else from coming through. The encounter with Carrón brought about a change, that is, I don't let the nothingness seep in so deeply that the only judgment on my actions and thoughts I can come up with is: "Oh, well… It is what it is."
Roberta, Bologna (Italy)
"DINNER AND A MAGAZINE"
Last September, when we resumed our Fraternity meetings working on the text of the International Assembly, Davide pointed out: "Here, Carrón is asking us how we respond to Christ, how we answer to His initiative." I looked around and I realized that we had not been selling Traces for years, so I decided to begin again outside the church where I regularly attended Sunday Mass. Once I overcame my initial hesitation, I started offering Traces to my fellow parishioners and talking about the reasons why I was asking them to buy it. A woman approached me and, after purchasing the magazine, she complained, saying that she knew she would not have time to read it anyway. I answered, "Invite me over for dinner, and we'll read it together." She said that maybe she would, and left. I talked to my friend Giuseppe about what had happened, and he immediately suggested, "Don't wait for her to invite you; make the first move and have her over, with all those who buy the magazine, to read it together." The following month I did just that: I extended an open invitation to those who bought Traces, to come to my house to have dinner and read the magazine together. Back in November, it was just me, the woman who started it all, and two other people. Now, we are more than 20 people, and it looks like we will have to start searching for a bigger place, because of the growing popularity of our initiative. Furthermore, some of us will start making the same "dinner and a magazine" proposal to other parishes.
Gianfranco, Ostra (Italy)
This is a letter from an eleven-year-old boy who attended the Fraternity Exercise of CL with his mother in the Philippines.
Dear Father Ambrogio: Thanks to CL, I have met many friends, and I have learned many things about Jesus; one of them is that He is begging for our hearts. I have also met friends from different countries, like Italy and Taiwan. I am always happy whenever we can get together, because we can share our experiences. I am very happy that CL has become part of my life. We always pray using the Book of Hours that has just been published. We pray together before we go to sleep at night. My faith has increased thanks to CL, because my mom told me that Jesus watches over me even in the darkness.
Kenneth, General Santos (Philippines)
THE BEAUTY OF A CHANGE
When I say I am watching a miracle, I'm not lying. My mother has been separated from my father for years, and because of various vicissitudes she has suffered a lot in terms of lawyers, money, and other problems. All these years, I have seen her in a great deal of pain and very sad about this situation, but now, when I look at her, she seems like another person. Before, she used to come home almost always angry, but now, she's always on the telephone with her friends, who help her on this journey that is life. Little things, like her way of dressing, her voice, her cooking for me and my sister, her continual joking and laughing, and her housecleaning, make it clear that something, or better, Someone, has entered here and changed her so much. She has simply let herself be attracted and taken by Him, who makes all things. Before, she was weary and cynical, but now, conscious of what is happening to her, she can't help but behave accordingly, because she's seen that she is loved in everything and for everything. This was made possible by a new friendship she has found. She has let herself be grasped completely by the special thing these friends had encountered–something she had been seeking for years. Now, in a certain sense, she is able to "laugh" about the situation that had afflicted her for so long, because now, she explains with shining eyes, "I feel I have re-discovered what it means to be in love; when I got married I was in love with my husband, but now I am in love with Christ!"
Name withheld, Italy