Cl in the world

3:30 p.m. in Lotto Square

On October 17th, more than 2,000 university students met for Opening Day in Milan. Impressions and thoughts of someone who heard that “without your ‘Yes,’ there is less of Christ’s glory in the world”


A wayfarer passing through Piazzale Lotto in Milan on October 17th, in the middle of the afternoon, could not have helped scratching his head and wondering. It might have seemed a usual autumn afternoon, lively and pleasant as only the city of Milan is capable of granting, with those four straw brooms that we insist on calling horse chestnuts, the warm drizzle that makes your hair frizz, and of course the dear old ever-present fog of the Po River Valley. These are the ingredients for an authentic Milanese patriot to enjoy an afternoon stroll. And yet the wayfarer, whom we imagine to be gifted with an active brain, this afternoon would be forced to slow his pace and ponder why the sidewalk near the stadium was invaded by a crowd of young people, even though there was no soccer game that day. He would have looked at us a while–I say “us” because I too was among the more than 2,000 individuals standing on that sidewalk–and would have been amused to see us waving signs and meeting each other with hugs and smiles. But let us leave our wayfarer to his wonderings, although not before agreeing he was right about the fact that piling together at the entrance to the Palalido, just as has been done every October for a good many years by now, has never been a silent and orderly operation. The chaos makes everything more complicated, especially if what matters most to you at that moment is ferreting out a girl about 5’2” and as thin as a Q-tip! This was in fact my foremost thought, to manage to say hello to my very irritating little sister, here for her first experience of CLU Opening Day. Forgive me if right then the words “what you are looking for is here” were not very comforting to me, just as I was not helped by the pygmy stature we inherited, which makes looking for someone even more difficult amongst all those people. So, when the sidewalk was finally empty (except for that genial wayfarer), I resigned myself to sitting in the midst of new faces, spying out every so often the sly foxes who took their places very early.

A new year and a new experience
For the first time, I am not sitting next to my friend Ceci, and this means that I can’t draw little pictures for her or tease her about the ease with which she is moved every time someone speaks. Silence: the spectacled women next to me do not seem open to pre-meeting chatter. This is not like last year, and last year was not the year before, and this is why it is worthwhile every year to relate what happened, those two hours that you carry in your heart for the next 365 days. And to have my sister immersed in that great pulsing heart which was the Palalido a few weeks ago was a real novelty. It is great to know that every time we engage in our favorite pastime (tearing each other apart), we will do it strengthened by this day. I sing, in the sense that I too participate in the opening song (unsettling for the women next to me, due to my very doubtful vocal abilities), because singing has always been a collective act, not in the ritual-sociological sense of the term, but in the sense of sharing, among variously assembled individuals, a position that strikes us, helps us, and directs our attention to a particular road. Not “a” road, but “the” road, the path that manages every live-long day to amaze you, because of the force with which it uproots you from a colorless absenteeism and hurls you into life. And pardon me if this doesn’t seem like much–we know that the game is worth the candle, but we must not underestimate the resistance, worthy of an Olympic runner, that we often put up in the face of the evidence.

“The” road
I learned that I am not alone, I learned to learn, I learned to follow. And yet I am always back at square one. Gius knows that there is a St Thomas in all of us, skeptical in the face of the evidence; we need something more. Ever since Rimini, he has been warding off this demand, but I wasn’t there in Rimini, and despite my time in the Italian editorial office of Traces during a university internship, never before has what is lacking for the longed-for total devotion to “the” road been as clear as it is today: hope. Fr Pino is patient; how many times has he traveled this road, and how many times has he had to take us by the hand so that no one would be left behind? Today, Fr Pino takes us all by the hand, the veterans of CLU, the new recruits (first and foremost, my sister), the folkloristic “fence-straddlers” (yours truly), and even the wayfarer who for a few seconds was forced to look at a vision somewhat out of the ordinary. He takes us by the hand through the stories of Tommaso, Umberto, Alessandro, and Davide. These stories might scandalize some because of the thought they immediately call forth: “I couldn’t do it,” “I wouldn’t have the courage,” “It’s a good thing it didn’t happen to me.” But these are stories that cannot scandalize, because of the faces of the kids who lived them, and that are now in front of this vast fauna of youth because there is something that concerns all of us, now, at this moment. And this “something” is what I earlier incriminated as the missing detail for the fateful Yes. Our friends convey too well the idea that this is not a mere detail, but the entire sense of our road. Hope. It is the great challenge to modern man.

Re-inventing the wheel
It is this immense gaze that I cannot limit myself to awaiting, treating it like a distant future, a utopia still in the experimental phase, a dream. I remember that in high school I scribbled a line from D’Annunzio everywhere: “We dream, as this is the time for dreaming. We smile, and this is our spring.” It is like re-inventing the wheel! It is the summary of the opposite of what makes us progress! It is the precise enunciation of the most reductive form of answer to human need, pronounced by him, my 20th-century literary love! “Hope is not a fantasy,” Fr Pino thunders. “There is something that exhaustively answers the desire of one’s heart, a heart that, by itself, is not self-sufficient because it is wounded.” It sounds like an admonition, but it is what I need, which is to discover that there is a You (other than me, it is always an Other; enough of these para-Zen introspections, this imitation yoga!), a You who wants my life and does not charm with poems about dreams. “You alone have the words of eternal life.” This is what should have filled the pages of my notebooks, this is what would have made me smile at life as it makes the kids smile with their own testimonies. This time as well, I am not asked for a mystical effort of the imagination, because there is someone who fulfills this hope and makes it accessible to us poor mortals (this is not a term to be used lightly–we are poor in everything, and as far as being mortals is concerned…): Our Lady, Jesus’ mother, our mother: the Mystery bound Himself forever to human flesh.

Living fountain
Mary, the “living fountain of hope,” embodies the certainty of a beginning that never ends. It is a beginning that has a history lasting two-thousand years, in the names of the Apostles of that time and of Tommaso and the others today. It never ends; it is history, it is a fact, it is the reason that makes hope worth having. As always, all you have to do is say Yes. Let us hope that Christmas, the renewal of the miracle, will help me to give voice to this “wounded” heart, and to defuse the desire to catapult this day too into the attic, to store it alongside trials never faced among the thick cobwebs that laziness multiplies infinitely. “Without your Yes, there is less of Christ’s glory in the world.” This is responsibility! But today there is nothing to object to–how much truth there is in these words! Especially if, as we go out, there is no trace of our wayfaring friend.