Stunned, but not Desperate

Mystery, the only reasonable alternative to absurdity. Testimony from the tragedy that also struck people in the Movement. In memory of Norina, Michele, and the 67 victims of the collapse of a building in Foggia during the night of November 11th

The tragedy that struck the city of Foggia the night of November 11th was so large that the shock wave of the news reached the most faraway places and people. Newspapers and television have amply described, reconstructed, and commented on what happened: a loud noise, a collapse, a crash, a building with almost 70 people in it falling in on itself in the space of a few seconds. As the hours pass, you find out that Laura, the little girl pulled out of the rubble alive, breaking through the veil of anguish spread over the dreadful event, Laura, 3 years old, little Laura, is the daughter of two of your friends, Norina and Michele. What has happened to them? After a little while comes the tragic confirmation. Our community is struck to the heart. Unfortunately, this is only the beginning. As the next days passed, we would learn that an entire family of three, close relatives of Marco, a friend of ours in the CLU of Foggia, was engulfed in the crumbled building in Viale Giotto. And that's not all: also for Luigi, a friend met a couple of years ago, there was nothing to be done. Why were Norina, only 29 years old, and Michele, 36-who were with you for a week during the community's vacation-ripped so early from life? You remember all the times you went with them to eat a pizza in that pizzeria that has seen so much of the history of our companionship, a history that began in high school with GS. What sense does all this make? Stunned, but not desperate, just as after the death of Enzo Piccinini, we are all asking ourselves this, with Rocco, Norina's brother, asking for a reasonable answer, one worthy of all this pain. And he is just the one who astounds you: "No," he says, "it is not an absurdity, what happened is a sign of the Mystery. If you pray, if you invite others to pray-as our friends at the university did immediately, with a flyer calling everyone to recite the Angelus in the chapel-it is because you recognize this." You discover then-and with you everyone who rallies around you, who comes to see you, and who prays with you for your loved ones, all over Italy and abroad-that it is not a case of railing against suffering, but of bearing the cross (as we immediately wanted to say in a letter to Fr. Giussani); that is, of accepting it as a circumstance that the Mystery has chosen to provoke you. The miracle lay not only in an awareness of this Presence, but in the realization that an entire people has felt this wound, as though affecting it in its own flesh, from the closest neighbors, who immediately offered their help, meekly and intelligently-from taking turns staying in the hospital with Laura to handling the first bureaucratic obstacles-to those farthest away, all united in the same surge of human caring because they are all part of the same body. The sensitivity and concern with which the Movement's center and our friends followed developments daily, testify to the profound truth of this unity, so much so that Rocco was moved to say, "If Fr. Giussani, one day forty years ago, had not climbed the steps to the door of Berchet High School, today I would be a desperate man. If this can be of help, I am happy to offer up my pain for all." Never before this period has School of Community shown itself to be not just words, but the flesh itself of existence, capable of communicating to everyone a suggestion of greater awareness of the event. If Laura was miraculously saved, it was because of the protection spread over her by St.Teresa of Lisieux, protector of children, called on by her uncle in the moment of peril. It is in that moment, in fact, that Rocco remembered the time Laura told him that St. Teresa did not love all children, but only her! And so he begged the saint's help there among the rubble, and here came the unexpected reply: a cry, and finally Laura herself, like a flower that springs up from the earth that seems to have covered it forever. The Mass celebrated with Fr. Angelo the same day as the disaster had the intent of highlighting and confirming, through sharing a moment of suffering, a greater unity, a personal one and one of an entire people, which witnesses to the victory of Christ even in the most traumatic and painful circumstances, as the source of a judgment stronger than any emotion, because fed by a love for the truth which only comforts, embraces, rebuilds.


Dearest Fr. Giussani: As you will certainly have heard from the TV news, at 3:15 a.m. today, for reasons as yet unknown, a five-story building collapsed in a residential area of our city. In this moment when we are suffering for the loss of our friends Norina and Michele and fear for the fate of the relatives of other friends of ours, your words, written when Enzo died, echo through our minds: "What does the Mystery of God ask of us in a trial like this of great suffering? It asks us to remember always that Christ is the meaning of life at all levels and in all areas: 'Christ is everything in everyone.' Thus it grows clearer for us, over time, that salvation, which is the positive affirmation of being, always implies as a condition the cross. This is in any case the contradiction that nothing in the world can resolve. Only in faith in Christ is there the possibility of the peace and joy that the Mystery of His redemption gives us in Him." As we recognize this evidence, we ask you to be near us with your prayers.

The community in Foggia

The Place of Education

Dearest Fr. Giussani: I am writing you this letter to tell you about the CL Retreat with the entire community of Kazakhstan which we held two days ago in Karaganda. There were 76 of us, coming from Karaganda, Almaty, and the new capital Astana (where Fr. Edo and Fr. Livio have gone to live). The first word that comes to my mind to describe my experience of these days is wonder. Wonder at how God operates and reveals Himself to us, so small and poor, but great in the encounter with Him. It was for me a great gift to be with these people looking at Fr. Ambrogio (who explained the passages) and at you speaking from the screen with your face filled with so much wonder. In our life, no one has ever told us these things, no one ever worried about letting us know the truth. Everybody's question was: "What has happened? Who is this one on whom we depend and who is coming to meet us?" The thing that was clear to all, even those who were there for the first time, is that this way of being in reality and connecting with people is too fascinating for us not to want to live like this at the university, at work, at home, everywhere. My new friend (she has been with us for four months) told me she was struck by this new method of knowledge of things which has drawn her out of the closed circle of her thoughts and her sense of being lost, and brought her onto the lighted road, where every step leads to the discovery of the secret of one's own "I" and of reality. Another, Vova, said that she has lived these years in the Movement trying to be an "I" in action in the face of the possibilities which reality brought her way daily, and that she has understood that, in order to know, one must be involved with life. She told us how at school she tried to exercise her memory with this, and that she tried to live more attentively all the things that happened to her. Our companionship is not simply an encounter that we have had and that has changed our life, but the place of education, free and continuing, where someone in love with life can live the continuous discovery of him or herself and of reality, something that Christ has made possible by sharing our humanity. In this encounter I have received certainty, and I felt ready there in Karaganda to give my life for each of the persons who was there with us.