The Reducciones of the Third Millennium

The ruins of the great Reducciones of Trinidad, near Encarnación.
In June, together with my niece, I went to see my sister Giò who lives and works in Asunción and like me is living a vocation in the Memores Domini. In Paraguay everyone calls her "Mama," she who according to the world's canons has chosen not to build a family. But this is not the least of the Christian paradoxes! I had been there already in 1996. Now after three years I can only express my wonder and emotion at what can be generated by belonging to a life event such as CL is for me. The Movement is present in Villarica, Encarnación, Caaguazú, Ciudad del Este. Just as families in the Middle Ages looked to the monasteries, so do the people in Paraguay look to the Memores Domini house in Asunción. Nine people live there (of whom four came in last month); they are happy and all get along well. Jorge is a high-level manager in a multinational company; Luca is a professor of computer sciences at the Università Cattolica and the CLU leader, which already has a numerous group of university students taking part; Pedro is a director at the Ministry. He started the charity work at Panchito juvenile prison, which has involved so many people and generated the idea of building a half-way house at Itauguá (cf. Traces, n.1, 1999) to help the boys, once they are released, to find jobs and places in society. The house is ready now and was built thanks to the contributions received from Spain through CESAL and from the local administration. The furniture (kitchen, bedrooms, etc.) and various pieces of equipment are already at Itauguá, the gift of an initiative in Brianza involving Giò's school friends. Marco is a graphic designer, teaching artistic design and preparing an illustrated text narrating the story of the Virgin of Caacupé. I met the new arrivals: Armando, Beba, Anna, and I saw Carla again. Carla and Beba are teachers and lead the GS "Secundarios" group with Father Aldo; Anna is an architect, and Armando works as an accountant in a firm.
The most famous sanctuary in Paraguay is Near Asunción, dedicated to the Virgin of Caacupé, under whose protection the entire Movement has been placed. A popular saying goes, "If God wants and the Virgin permits...." The people in the Memores house are greatly devoted to the Virgin of Caacupé and go once a week on pilgrimage to the sanctuary, reciting the Rosary and praying for Father Giussani and the Movement's needs. All the Fraternity groups, too, do the same once a month. I also went to Encarnación, near which are the ruins of the great Reducciones of Trinidad and where last year the second Memores Domini house was started, with Alis, who works at the court as a lawyer, Marcela who is in the pharmacy at the hospital, and Miriam who works in a bank. The Movement headquarters are in a central part of the city. The main building is a remodeled colonial house, to which some rooms have been added on two floors, housing the Solidarity Center and the Food Bank. A specific architectural study has allowed them to make the most of the space and at the same time to save some centuries-old trees. The large hall on the second floor is used for School of Community meetings and for Mass on Saturday. An average of two hundred people participate. At the headquarters cultural events are held, as are concerts and the annual Happening. In the courtyard there is space also for the Young Workers Club, where every day many in Asunción come to meet. In 1988 Father Giussani said to the friends in Paraguay, "I hope that you will be able to bring to life the same experience of a people as the Reducciones." This wish is beginning to come true, and many people are grateful to the Movement for a renewed awareness of the roots of their own history.


The Dawn of Civilization

The seed of a people, the shy yet bold first glimmerings of a history, an intelligent curiosity pressing to discover the mysterious source that is generating this experience of human newness: this is what I saw in Kazakhstan during my last visit, in June. In a country afflicted by an economic crisis that seems to have no resolution and plagued by emigration, the bewilderment of a people faced with the enigma of life degenerates more and more often into desperation. In this difficult environment, the germ of the companionship of the Movement, five years after the arrival of Father Edo and Father Massimo, increasingly appears to be a factor of new humanity. One hundred twenty university students participated in the community vacation on top of the mountains above the border with China; for fifty of them, this was the first time. "I want to discover what is behind this happiness I see: Human congeniality is not enough for facing life. There has to be something greater and I want to know it; for this reason I am going on vacation." This is what a girl from Almaty whom I met at the university two months ago told me. Reason, provoked by the newness of a friendship never encountered before, is awakened by the demand for meaning: thus we begin to build a new world. Judgment is the dawn of civilization. The journey is only beginning, the adventure of education to freedom is a task as captivating as it is arduous. There is no room for the illusion of easy optimism. The proposal that is the experience of the Movement involves the entire person completely: reason, affections, freedom. In the heart of Asia this adventure has begun, thanks be to God.

Father Ambrogio

The Heart Has Changed

Father Giussani: I would like to tell you so many things that have amazed me in the past few months, but I am afraid of tiring you. For this reason, I want to tell you only about a discovery I have made. I became a Catholic eight years ago (at Czestochowa in 1991), and in the years since then I have met many priests and nuns and have also worked in the Church. I have known so many strange, ugly things... I have tried not to think about these things, to think only of the positive things about people, I have tried not to give these things any importance, but I haven't succeeded. Suddenly I realized that I was becoming cynical, that I didn't believe even in the things that don't touch the Church directly: friendship, loyalty, honesty, love. How can this be? Because I was tired of life? I grew up in an atheist environment, my grandmother (who brought me up) is a Communist, I never heard talk of God until I was 14 years old. But I didn't doubt the existence of true friendship, real love, truth. And now, since I have entered the Church, I no longer believe in these things. I asked myself, "How is this possible?" I thought it came about because of the circumstances of my life. For two years I didn't think about it, but last month some things happened that made me remember all this, and I was struck by how my way of understanding things has changed. The circumstances of my life haven't changed, rather, maybe they have become more difficult, and I see even more than before what is happening in the Church. But in me I feel the certainty, the foundation, that gives me the possibility not to lose the way; the more I look around, the more I understand that there exist great things, that is, that God exists, and if this were not so, everything would be absurd. I must live true friendship, I must build truer relationships with people, I must love truly. I know that by myself I can do nothing, but I am sure that if I truly seek these things, God will help me.
If we Christians do not do this, whoever will be able to do it? Please forgive me if I repeat things you already know, that everybody knows, but I have just discovered them and they have really struck me. I wanted to tell you only that Sabrina (I know you know her), her husband, I, and another person have asked to belong to the Fraternity. If our requests are accepted then we will have a Fraternity group even in Moscow.


We publish here the lines that Enrico Crippa, age 43, leader of the community at Villasanta (Italy), wrote on the cover of a book, three days before he died of leukemia

In the piece of life,
the one you are having me live,
happy or not
I can do
nothing other than
ask you how it's done, (dear friend)
your life with me.
And I thank
I thank you all
day long
because you teach me how and I live,
I can live, the signs
of the face
which spread wide,
along with those
that lead to tears.
Thanks, dear friend