International Assembly - LA THUILE


International Assembly


In a country immersed in grave crisis, restarting
from the desire for truth which nothing and no one can destroy.
Charitable work, discovering Giussani’s books,
and attending School of Community: the hope of rebirth




I have been in Russia for eight years, in Moscow, working for Parmalat. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, what Moscow is going through and has been going through in recent years can be defined as a falling apart from the social–and thus, the human–point of view. There is no work, there is no work training, and people who do work have lost their commitment to their jobs. The family does not exist, because usually girls want to have a baby around ages 18 to–20, and it doesn’t matter if the father is there, if there is no family. Then there is the total neglect of education. For example, a university professor earns $10 a month, which is the equivalent of 20 bottles of milk, and a medical doctor earns $30. This is just to give a brief idea.
What is astounding is that within a society like this, a humanity of this type, you see that people have an unshakable point no matter what, like a fire inside them; when they encounter the truth, they immediately cling to it.
I would like to recount three episodes that demonstrate how, in a situation like this, the charism that we have met and that generated us gives rise to a movement that spreads.
Our youth at Vladimir, a parish in the north run by Father Stefano, have begun doing charitable work with prisoners. The directors of these prisons have noticed the relationship that has come about between the young people and the prisoners; they talked about it with their families, with their children, proposing to meet with our friends, because what they have seen is an educational experience that has no equal. As they are Orthodox, they should not have contact with Catholics; thus they went to their priests and their bishop and asked, “Can we meet them?” And their bishop answered, “Yes, go ahead, I even give you my blessing.”
Another example: A deacon who teaches at the university happened to lay his hands on a book by Father Giussani. After reading it, he met Father Pietro (of St. Petersburg) and asked for all of Fr. Giussani’s books because he wants to teach his courses based on the contents of these books. Subsequently, he also saw an issue of Traces and, after reading it, said to Pietro, “I want this experience with the people I know, with my students, so I want to invite you to come and do, together with us, this experience that you describe in these books.”
The third example: Jean François, who works for Christian Russia in Minsk, has started doing School of Community with the students at the theological school that is headed by the Bishop of Minsk. The professors, seeing the relationship between these young people, said, “We teach theology, but we see that it remains something abstract for our students. Thus we want you to continue and go more deeply into what you have begun with the kids.”
One last thing: Many times, especially we Italians who are there, talk about relations between Catholics, Orthodox, etc. Instead, the relationship that the young people have with their Church (because the majority of our encounters are with Orthodox youth) does not introduce any doubt or division among them, in the sense that–enthusiastic about the experience they have with the Movement they have met–they live their belonging to the Orthodox Church completely, without any division, without any problem.
The most outstanding example is that of a friend of ours, Lena, who has been joining us for three or four years. At one of the last sessions of School of Community, she said, “I had been Jewish and was converted thanks to the encounter with Father Men. Then the Lord gave me the grace of meeting the Movement.” She has now entered the St. Joseph Fraternity. This is just to say how the charism embraces and fulfills the truth that a person has inside.
I went to see her in the hospital (she is very ill) and before I left she said to me, “Tell Fr. Giussani that I am here and that I live my witness to the Movement in this bed, and that I offer all my suffering and all my illness so that he can lead us all still for a long time to come.” While she said it, it was clear that her position as a sick person in that bed was a position of happiness, with a wonderful expression on her face and a testimony in that place there.
Everyday we find ourselves face-to-face with very great things, but we are not the ones to do them; it is an Other who does them. We must only give ourselves up to the charism, so that what happens may constantly be a witness, above all, for ourselves.