01-02-2012 - Traces, n. 2

new world
north american diaconia

Beyond appearances,
the certainty of a gift

On January 16th, students and professors from different parts of the country (and Canada and Puerto Rico as well) gathered to dialogue with Fr. Julián Carrón. An eyewitness describes her discoveries of that day.

I walked to St. Michael’s Church in the frigid wind of the early morning in New York City to help prepare for the day the CL university students (CLU) were to spend with Fr. Julián Carrón. In all of us there was a great expectation for what the day would bring. Something exceptional instantly struck me–while I was setting up tables and chairs, I found myself so happy. Despite the exhaustion I was feeling, I was bursting with joy and life. The rest of the day, and in particular the assembly, was crucial in that it allowed me to look more deeply at the origin of the newness I was experiencing. For I was not the only CLU student who had experienced a change at some point during the weekend at the New York Encounter or during the previous semester at the university, as the assembly of the day demonstrated.
After a Mass celebrated by Fr. Carrón, we began an assembly on the experiences and difficulties of our daily life in school. But the first two questions turned the conversation immediately to a problem that I and many others face: we often see reality as exceptional, but not as a relationship. Fr. Carrón pointed to this as the root of our uncertainties and fears. During the assembly, students spoke of experiencing a newness of life in friendships, in classes, and at the New York Encounter. But most of the time, all we can say in front of this experience is, “That’s amazing!” We have trouble saying, “You!” with certainty. After describing a new ability to risk himself in his relationships with professors and fellow students, John Paul said to Fr. Carrón, “But for you, reality is a relationship, not just exceptional. I haven’t made that last step.” And Nate shared the question that arose in him in front of being changed over the weekend: “Is there Someone behind this? Someone responding to me?”
Fr. Carrón replied in a straightforward way, saying, “You don’t have a relationship because you don’t realize what that exceptionality means. If someone offers you a gift, it’s impossible that you don’t grasp someone else. If you look at reality as a gift, everything is simple.” Fr. Carrón emphasized that looking at reality as a gift is inherent in the nature of reality and is a “problem” of knowledge. We simply have to treat reality according to its truth. In this way, he said, we don’t miss out on the best, which is a relationship with the One who loves us so much that He gives us the gift.
With great tenderness and fatherly love, Fr. Carrón then took us by the hand and led us down the path that reason must take in order to arrive at the recognition of the presence of the One who gives reality. He said that the starting point is the change we experienced–the newness in school, the aliveness at the New York Encounter, my happiness in setting up chairs. This change is a fact and must be explained. Can we buy something that produces this change? A kind of tea? Is the change a gift or not? In us, the change is explained by sharing life with this group of people, the CLU. But who are these people, that being with them produces such a change? There is something, Someone, so present among us. The change implies that something exists, and it is the starting point of a relationship with this One. Therefore, seeing reality as a gift or as just appearances is the crucial decision of life. Fr. Carrón stated, “In two words, the mystery of life: appearance vs. gift.” How strikingly simple! And yet what a challenge for my positivistic reason that always wants to stop at appearances.
The rest of the assembly included more questions, but also witnesses from students who were clearly living in relationship with the “You” and were incredibly liberated from their fears. Costanza related the freedom she had from defining herself by success or a well-planned future. Nick spoke of feeling a liberation in the days at the New York Encounter that he had never experienced before. Melissa described how her studies became fascinating when she cared about the hypothesis of Christ in front of homework. 
What happened during the CLU day with Fr. Carrón? A Mass, a guitar presentation of moving music by Villalobos, lunch with friends who engage with reality, an assembly animated by the guiding love of Fr. Carrón. A sharing of life together. A gift. Through the help of Fr. Carrón and the witnesses of friends, I went home saying “You!” with certainty. This day deepened my relationship with Christ who is so real that I was changed even in my exhaustion and am now changed in front of all my life.
Annie Thompson, University
of St. Thomas, Minnesota