01-11-2013 - Traces, n. 10



At lunch with my collegue: “Who is God for you?”
Dear Fr. Julián: For the past weeks, a colleague from China came to work in our office. After working together for a few days, at lunch, he asked me if I attended Mass on Sundays. I said I did, and he pressed on: “Who is God for you?” I answered that He is the Creator of everything that exists, and that He created us too, because He loves us. He went on, telling me that he did not believe in anything, so I told him about the dialogue between Pope Francis and Scalfari. The following day he asked me if we, as Catholics, have to go visit the Vatican once a year (!). I said that it’s not mandatory, and he told me about his trip to Rome, a couple of years back: “When I went inside Saint Peter’s Basilica, everything was so beautiful that I thought that I could believe in God, too.” I gave him the letter that the Pope wrote to Scalfari, and I invited him to spend the following Saturday with my family. The next day he told me he had read the letter twice, and that he found it interesting. At my home, he was understandably struck by the fact that my wife and I have four daughters (he has a nine-month-old boy), which sparked a conversation about children, education, politics, and so on. When we were about to have lunch, I told him we always said a prayer before eating; he made the sign of the Cross with us! I then explained the meaning of that gesture. After lunch, I took him to Portofino; he was in awe of the beauty of what he was seeing, and invited us to go visit him in Beijing. I gave him the DVD of the Fraternity of St. Charles Borromeo in Taipei, along with a copy of The Religious Sense in English. He told me, “You know, I don’t know why, but I’ve had a great time with you and your family.” In short, I was impressed that, despite all our differences and the ingrained propaganda revealed by his words, we were able to find a connection at the level of the heart, at the level of the love of my soul and his.
Giovanni, Italy

Business economy? An
incredible adventure

Dearest Fr. Julián: I would like to tell you about the incredible adventure that I just embarked on, that is, college. After spending the summer second-guessing and doubting my decision to attend the Catholic University of Milan, I finally found my way. I have been overwhelmed by an infinite beauty: Beginning Day, the first School of Community meeting, the encounter with new friends, the Angelus in the morning, and the business economics class... Could a girl like me, coming from a classical studies high school, ever imagine how beautiful business economics could be? On the first page of the textbook, I read that the study of economics revolves around the human person. Man, not numbers, is at the center of economy. This new consideration made me realize that God gives me the possibility of seeing Him every day. At School of Community, we were asked, “When and how did you recognize the Christian event this past week, and what is the condition for such a recognition?” I believe the answer is simply that He is here now. Everything recalls you to the fact that He is here. The graduating friends and the older students taking interest in you; your family and your classmates who are struck by your enthusiasm in attending the theology class. Every single facet of reality, every single “I” is called by a “You.” We can’t always expect the signs to be evident; we have to search for and recognize them. This is the challenge and the beauty of life.
Marta, Rapallo (Italy)

How do you scout
a talent in sports?

I was invited to be one of the panelists at a seminar at the University of Salerno, for the students attending the Administrative Law class, on the topic “Sports and Law.” I thought I would have an audience of about 30 people, but when I found myself speaking to 200 students, my heart skipped a beat. The Administrative Law professor, lecturing before me, had a hard time keeping the audience interested in his speech about rules and regulations. I said to myself, “I am just about to give a speech as well!” I decided to change my approach, and talked about scouting for talent in sports, and the role of the sports agent, starting from the first and second premises of The Religious Sense. In order to discover sports talent, one has to start from the observation of reality, and of the “I” in action. I looked up, and I saw that the students were taking notes.  I realized that we were not talking about rules and regulations anymore; we were talking about life. For the next 40 minutes, there was a Q&A session, and through it all I kept wondering, “Why am I able to do all this?” As if to confirm my impression, both the professor and the students asked for the lecture notes, and the CONI (Comitato Olimpico Nazionale Italiano, that is, the Italian National Olympic Committee) representatives invited me to speak at more seminars. When, back home, I told my son about my day, he listened attentively and remarked, “Dad, does this mean that the world was made to be known?” In short, this week, the experience I’ve had about  knowledge and passion for reality is the same as the one I had looking into Father Giussani’s eyes, as well as into the eyes of any person among us who has a true experience.
Mario, Naples (Italy)

Beginning Day: somebody was calling me by name
ear Father Carrón: Four colleagues of mine attended Beginning Day, so the following day I asked them about it. One of them wrote: “Thank you for asking me. Trying to answer your question will help me understand what struck me about the encounter with Father Carrón. Before I start, let me pause to consider what I just wrote, without even realizing it: encounter. In fact, even if, technically,  I just listened to a man talking from a maxi screen, on an emotional level, I encountered a voice, other than mine, asking the same questions I have. Why are we alive? What is reality? How can one face the circumstances? What is our task? What impressed me the most was the serenity in posing these questions, and the certainty of the answers. In my family, only my two grandmothers prayed to God. They were both widows, and they used to tell me that prayers gave them consolation. Therefore, I grew up believing that faith brings you consolation in the face of the burden of a reality that would be hard to endure otherwise. Today, for the first time, I heard someone talking about faith in a different way. Faith does not merely soothe the anguish that the circumstances of life can generate; faith is indeed what allows you to break free from that sense of suffocation. I liked very much the way Father Carrón spoke about our wounds, which he defined not as painful filters preventing us from seeing reality, but as openings through which the gaze of Christ can reach us; He alone can give us back a new way to look at reality. Furthermore, I perceived a great love of life, respect, dignity, and positivity.” Later on, when we met, she added, “ I followed your advice; I kept my heart wide open, and I felt somebody was calling me by name.”
Patrizia, Rimini (Italy)

“In a moment
I was changed”

I started going to School of Community when a friend invited me and honestly everything everyone said went way over my head and I literally couldn’t follow anything they said. I know now that it was such an intense and almost unrecognizable experience that I just didn’t even know where to place it in my mind and heart. I came back though again and again. And the funny thing is, I would get angry when I went. These people were so real, so honest, they talked to you past all the polite banter and normal conversation, something that I had been craving for so long and yet it was painful to experience. All the walls that I built up, all the wrong things about God and people I had learned started to get chipped away and that can hurt even though it’s a good thing. I would go every week and end up in tears trying to explain myself and, every time I thought I had some concept of Christianity down, they would break it open and want to hear the heart of the issue I was talking about and not just the cliched words I was putting on it. It was like they saw me. They saw me even more than I could see myself. The Incarnation was affecting me in that moment. I was having an experience with the living God through the flesh of another. I was experiencing the love that I had desired. And they let me love them. They let me love them the way Christ would let me love Him, with humility and honest affection. This was the experience that the first disciples must have experienced with Christ... an awareness that this Man knew them to their core and loved them. He delighted in them. He changed them by being with them. I was changed in that moment.
Rhianon, North Carolina (Usa)

From the Solidarity Bank to Baptism
Dearest friends: A month ago, a Nigerian family we have been helping for a long time asked two of my volunteers at the Solidarity Bank if they were available to be the godparents at their youngest daughter’s Baptism. The ceremony took place at our parish, and the whole group of the Solidarity Bank volunteers where there to partake in the celebration and in the parents’ thankfulness to God. Afterwards, the numerous Nigerian friends who were there enlivened the party with beautiful music and songs. After lunch, the women performed songs and dances for us. I asked somebody to translate the lyrics of the songs accompanying the dances. They were simple verses giving thanks to the Virgin Mary, saying, “You see, we are women; we are close to Mary, we love Her and we thank Her for everything.”
Gianfranco, Ostra (Italy)

“In a state of such complete loss, you are AT YOUR strongest”
Dear Fr. Carrón: I am so touched by the outpouring of concern about our condition here in the Philippines from CL friends from around the world. We have been mercifully spared the devastation caused by the typhoon which was the strongest ever to hit us (200-miles-per-hour winds, causing storm surges–like tsunamis–as tall as buildings to strike houses and communities, washing everything away!) and has caused unspeakable horrors. The death toll is already at 10,000 and rising since we still don’t have any communication with other islands, which also got hit. Gabriel in Cebu (which was hit), is safe; we here in Manila and Sr. Giovanna’s group in GenSan are very far from harm’s way and are all okay. We, as a Filipino people, have known typhoons, earthquakes, flooding, and volcanic eruptions as a way of life, experiencing them regularly every year. We have learned to expect them and live with them. These things, although destructive–causing homelessness and shattering lives with the death toll–have been viewed as part of the natural way of our lives. We are neither cynical about it nor have we totally surrendered to it. We simply know that as soon as it is over, there is a time to rebuild and begin again. There is no escape of these things, so we have learned to face them squarely in the face and rise above them. It has not made us bitter or angry at God for sending down upon us such terrible things! No, in fact, it has given us more strength and hope that there will be another morning, another day when the sun will come out, and we can rebuild again. We have seen in the news the total loss to many of housing, livelihood, and even families and loved ones. It makes me think that when faced with such complete loss (everything taken away from you, leaving you with nothing but the clothes on your back, no food or water to drink, no shelter to stay in, with loved ones dead or missing), then you are at your strongest (instead of being at your weakest) because there is nothing left to lose! All you have is yourself and your faith in God, being the only One who hasn’t abandoned you, nor left you by yourself. I think the resilient spirit of the Filipinos comes from this inner strength that we draw from our faith in God, even in the darkest hours, even in the most impossible times. Please continue to pray for us and remember us in your Masses and rosaries. Knowing that people continue to pray for us will give us strength to stand up and begin all over again, with hope and trust in God who remains with us always. And to give you some added news: just today we had an earthquake (mild, at 4.5 magnitude) and spotted another typhoon that will enter the Philippine area in 24 hours and cross the same path (over the Visayas again) as the previous one. How much more can we take? By God’s divine providence, we will overcome.
Malou, Manila (Philippines)

A clear  wake-up call
This past weekend I went on the Equipe for all of the CLU communities in America. Getting there and seeing so many friends that I don’t get to see very often was great, but because we were only together for the weekend, we immediately started having assemblies. Saturday was an entire day of just talking and I quickly began to feel suffocated and confused by all the things people were saying. I was hearing about so many different things that were happening to people, yet it began to sound theoretical and intellectual. But one thing really stuck out to me: someone was talking about his community that was growing a lot this year and he said that the School of Community was the result of a bigger life shared together. This simple (concrete) witness to their shared life was the most helpful I heard all weekend. I was reminded of the reason why I follow the charism: because of this companionship that opens life up to us. I need to start from an attraction and a friendship and then the School of Community and everything we spoke about over the weekend will actually be relevant to my life, and not just become tedious and suffocating. I was so thankful that I was able to attend, for this simple and clear wake-up call  to a new beginning.
Rachel, Washington, DC (USA)

Emmanuel’s return to uganda
Dear Rose and Marco: We want to thank you for the opportunity you gave us of hosting Emmanuel for the past year. For our family it has been a truly beautiful experience, which is still continuing now that he is back in Uganda. During the entire time he spent with us, we were struck by how he never backed away from all that was happening, both in our household and to himself. For example, when our daughters had to face school tests, he was the one who most encouraged and believed in them. We have kept in touch since his return to Uganda, and we were particularly moved by an e-mail message in which he wrote how, during his year with us, he felt loved as if he was with family. His remark struck us, because it is as if he was able to see in our family more than what we are able to see on a daily basis; he opened our eyes to the Presence that is at the origin of this recognition, and for this we are extremely grateful to all of you. We are happy for what has been given to us, just by saying a tiny “yes.”
Alfredo, Orietta, Chiara, Maddalena, Francesco, Bresso (Italy)