|01-09-2012 - Traces, n. 8
is not enough
When Father Carrón was speaking during the International Responsibles Assembly (AIR) at the end of August [see page 30], it sounded like he was talking to me, in this change-filled period of my life. Two years ago, my wife and I left for Burundi, shortly after getting married. Having received a work offer, we didn’t have any doubt about leaving our friends and families in order to follow Him in that adventure. During the two years spent there, we welcomed our son Giacomo. Last January, he had an episode of irregular heartbeat (tachycardia) and he had to return to Italy with my wife. I stayed in Burundi to work, hoping that my son’s health would get better, and that he and my wife would come back to Africa. In May, Giacomo had a new crisis, and he was hospitalized again. At that point, it became clear that coming back to Africa was no longer an option. My wife and I decided the whole family would relocate to Italy, which meant finding a new job and leaving our African friends–in a word, starting from scratch. When we made that decision I was disappointed and angry. I said to myself, “How can it be that just when we found beautiful new friendships, and my job was finally starting to take off, we have to go back to Italy?” Later, I realized that everything we had done–moving to Burundi, my job, our new friendships–was because we had obeyed an Other, Who had wanted us there. And I realized that our decision to move back had been made because of an act of obedience as well, not because of a whim. At that point, I found myself facing the urgent need of a new job and a new beginning. I tried to do my best to fix our circumstances, rather than letting them be an opportunity of growth for my life. To give you an example, once I found a job and the problem no longer existed, I set the whole issue aside, and didn’t let it challenge my life to the depths. In that case, as in many others, I realized I was just trying to fix the problems that I would encounter day by day. Every time I solved a particular problem, I felt I was done with it, and I depended on my ability to find a solution for the various circumstances that I had to face. For this reason, I want to thank Father Carrón for reminding us at the AIR that our circumstances can be an occasion to grow with the Mystery, and to gain a better understanding of our vocations. I realize that this implies a work that has as a starting point: the fact that “I am You who make me.”
Samuele, Varese (Italy)
entering the house
of one’s patient
Today I started a new job, which is to visit patients at home after they have been discharged from the hospital. One patient was a gentleman who was discharged after a hip fracture. Upon arrival, I was welcomed by his caregiver, who began filling me in on his illness and some problems related particularly to the Parkinson’s disease that affects him. When the wife of the patient arrived, I saw something that is very common in people who have a close relative with serious health problems: she was overwhelmed. I patiently listened to her complaints about the lack of home health services offered to her husband. Little by little, I was able to move the conversation to actually talking about her husband, his needs, and his health in general. I did my professional evaluation, and gave advice regarding the care that the patient needs. During all of this, I also discovered that the patient has a great passion for opera. About 20 minutes after my arrival, I found myself singing an aria from The Marriage of Figaro, together with my patient who knew it by heart as I do: “Non più andrai farfallone amoroso...” (“No more fluttering around, my little romantic butterfly...”). At that point, everything changed. The four of us were all surprised by the recognition of one fact: that reality exists, and that reality is good–providential, as Father Giussani taught us. I will probably never return to visit them. Before leaving, I had a private conversation with the patient’s wife. There were no more complaints; it was a simple and very human conversation about the patient and about her struggle. She asked me to come back and sing again with him, “because this is what he needs!” In fact, he doesn’t need more home health services. Like me, he needs someone who enters his house and embraces all of his being. This someone is Jesus Christ.
It is no longer I who live, but Christ Who lives in me
Dear Fr. Julián: Ivana died on August 5th. She was the mother of Gianluca, a young man who met the CL University (CLU) student group at the University of Padua a couple of years ago. Just a few days before the CLU summer vacation, Ivana’s condition worsened, and her doctors gave her two weeks to live. Gianluca thought that she would want to spend her last days with him but (even if she does not follow the Church) she told him, “Go to that vacation, because I see that it is the most important thing for you.” Ivana passed away just a few days later. Those who saw or ran into Gianluca during the following days, and the day of the funeral, were astonished by his attitude. He incarnated Saint Paul’s words: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” At the funeral Mass, he surprised everyone (especially the non-believer friends of the family) with his desire to give witness to his encounter with Christ through the Movement–an encounter that had changed his life, and that alone could make that moment meaningful. He ended the funeral Mass with these words: “It’s difficult to express the grief one feels for the death of one’s mother. The period of her illness has been a very painful struggle. At the same time, those days were rich with a human fruitfulness that those who were near her (and there were so many) couldn’t but perceive. How can that human fruitfulness come about? I found the answer in a quote by Fr. Giussani: ‘Looking at yourself in front of the crucified Christ is painful, but it is in this pain that, like the plant that will bring fruit is inserted in the black dirt, our liberation, and therefore our humility toward Christ, is inserted and takes root. Thus, our gaze becomes one of endless gratitude, of stunned wonder at what happened–we don’t understand and yet we know–and our humility becomes charity, love. The pain for my own self becomes joy for the certainty that Christ’s grace will change me.’ “Looking, with her, at the cross that was her illness, has been a painful journey; yet that pain was full of a gladness that all those who accompanied her along that journey have seen. For this reason, I saw my relationship with her acquire a new and fully human intensity, fruitfulness, and richness, which were able to dispel all the physical and psychological anguish we felt. She finished her journey with the certainty (as she told me a month ago) of having brought to completion everything she held most dear, and having reached her fulfillment. Therefore, I can’t but remember her with gladness in my soul, and with the same loving gaze with which she looked at me–that same gaze in which I could recognize He who was making us: Christ. Christ is alive and present among us, even now at her funeral. Christ is at work in reality and changes hearts–mine as well as the heart of many other people, as happened for John and Andrew. It is from Christ that, particularly now, I can start anew.”
CL University students,
The enthusiasm of
the first GS vacation
Emanuele came home around 9 pm. We saw his smile appear at the gate, even before we were able to see his guitar and his backpack. He was coming back home from the GS vacation–with his 14 years of yearning and uncertainty–to which he and some of his schoolmates had been invited by Father Lirio (even though they had only just graduated from middle school). The few times we had been able to talk to him by phone, he had cut the conversation short, with the usual: “I’m fine; we are having fun.” His words made us ask ourselves if he was really comfortable surrounded by older kids. Now that he is here, embracing me with enthusiasm, I feel in him complete, cheerful, and mature joy. I see him in front of me–all of a sudden a grown-up–with the need and the enjoyment of telling us everything about the hikes, the talks, the faces, and the stories of those days. For the remainder of the evening, our kitchen was filled with his smile as he re-lived the wonder of the past few days–from the witness of Father Andrea from Bologna, to the friendship with the kids from Pescara; from the joking with Father Lirio, to the songs he played at the final evening celebration; from the great games, to the extraordinary hikes. Everything in his recounting exudes awe and joy and, while he lists the titles of the Irish and African songs that I learned 20 years ago with the same enthusiasm, or while he tells us that Father Andrea often quoted that Father Giussani he heard us mention so many times at home, I feel a sense of gratitude and gladness grow in me. The disproportion between what we are able to convey and what he has received from others strikes and shakes me. It touches the nerve of the reticence and the doubt-ridden stepping back that my life has ultimately settled for. Yet becoming aware of this disproportion doesn’t make me sad; on the contrary, it fills me with peace and joy. I don’t know what path Emanuele will choose for his life. I don’t know if he will have the courage and freedom to follow the good that he glimpsed in these days, if he will be able or willing to recognize it as his companion and guide through the days and years to come. Yet, I am fully aware that our task is to lovingly take him to this threshold–free from claims and impositions, as well as from the false alibi of liberality or the quicksand of our (or others’) inadequacy–and to accompany him with our prayers and our example. Now, as we watch him peruse the newly bought songbook, we are moved for his joyful boldness and for our inadequate, and yet certain, love for him and for each other.
Alessandro, Messina (Italy)
“This is where my singing comes from”
Dear Fr. Julián: I took a lot of people to visit the rock ‘n’ roll exhibit at the Rimini Meeting. One day, I accompanied a jazz singer. She has been working in the jazz music world, replete with recordings and concerts, for many years. While we were walking through the exhibit and I was explaining the contents of the panels, I saw that she had tears in her eyes. I asked her, “Is everything okay?” She answered, “Yes, more than okay. For the first time, I understand what I have always tried to express in singing and performing on stage.” She was there, an agnostic, and found in the exhibit an echo of her own questions: What do I communicate? Where does that “something” that I feel the urgency to sing about come from? This was the most beautiful and intense moment of my experience at the Meeting. We are part of an immense history, which touches and reaches people in many ways–including through this exhibit.
Walter, Padua (Italy)
Lejeune and Giussani “meet” at the rimini Meeting
It was a difficult decision to leave a busy schedule at an important time in the new development of the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation, USA, to attend the Rimini Meeting. However, the generosity of the planners in their desire to present the life and work of Jérôme Lejeune compelled me to make the trip from Philadelphia, so that I could join my coworkers from the Foundation in France in presenting the Foundation to those from the English-speaking world who might attend. I had heard that the Meeting was large, but I was completely unprepared for what I was to experience. To say the least, I was overwhelmed by crowd, and moved by the almost 20,000 people who toured the exhibition, which was entitled, “What is Man that You Keep Him in Mind? Genetics and the Nature of Man According to Jérôme Lejeune.” The lives of two great men, Giussani and Lejeune, whose causes for beatification continue to move forward, clearly came together for me in their common belief that to have faith, one doesn’t have to put reason aside. Jérôme Lejeune was a great man of science who also had a profound belief in God and in the truths expressed in the natural moral law. Those who toured the exhibition in Rimini left with a profound understanding of the challenges presented by modern science to human dignity, but also inspired by a man who has been proposed as a model in the pursuit of human knowledge–knowledge rooted in a profound understanding of nature.
Mark Bradford, President Jerome
Lejeune Foundation, USA
The answer of children in front of music
Yesterday, as I was leaving the Rimini rock ‘n’ roll exhibit (or better, what was left of it, since we were dismantling it), I had tears in my eyes. I felt overwhelmed by the grace of the past days. Here is an example: I was giving a guided tour of the exhibit to a group of wonderful children, ages 3 to 12, with all the chaos that the situation entails. I started asking the routine questions: “What does rock music sound like?” They answered, “It’s loud!” I continued, “Do you know why?” A six-year-old, with colorful nerdy plastic glasses, got up and said, with a seriousness way beyond his years, “They play loudly because they are sad.” Another example: Again during a guided tour with a group of children, a twelve-year-old approached me and said in a cheeky tone: “Tell me another story! Not all rock musicians are sad and anguished! Mumford and Sons are different.” I hadn’t thought about it, but he was right. I had to answer that they are the exception to the rule because they have met the answer to their cry; they ask the same questions all those musicians ask, but in their music one can hear the presence of a hypothesis, a certainty. I am glad that the method that the exhibit proposed coincided with the work that Father Julián always asks us to do. Because of that, not only did I not get nauseated with the songs of the exhibit (which I had to hear over and over), but in some cases those songs became part of me, and gave rise to questions and issues that allowed me to understand who I am a little better.
Moved by our history Dear Fr. Julián: I apologize for being late in paying our common fund contribution. Thank God, our situation is not that bad; I have a fulltime job, and my wife is on paid leave for a few hours a day. Today, while I was taking care of the payment, I asked myself, “Why did we give our contribution as soon as we became able to?” The awareness of what I was doing moved me, while normally that was the kind of thing that I did on autopilot. The answer came very easily: we did it because of an enormous gratitude and love for this history that has changed and keeps changing my life, my wife’s life, and the life of many other people. For this reason, we have decided not to lower the amount of our contribution, hoping that we will be able to afford the payments–even if we might be a little late.