Giotto Among the Guaranì and the Reducciones
Through presences, the expansion of the Presence in the life
of a people. The journal of a trip to Asunción: meeting with friends in
the local community, the parish of San Rafael, the Happening and the Giotto exhibition
by Roberto Filippetti
the window of the airplane, Asunción seems caught in a web of red clay
tennis courts. These are the roads that lead to the huts of the campesinos. This
is a rich and fertile land, producing soybeans, corn, wheat, tropical fruit,
livestock… a land where countless poor, whom no one has educated to work,
Right here is where the spectacular educational experience of the Reducciones–which
amazed even Voltaire–took place. Fr Giussani told the first members of
the Movement who came here to propose again the experience of the Reducciones.
And in less than twenty years, a “little big people” of Christians
has bloomed, a people of educators because they have been educated. Giò–the
CL Responsible for Paraguay–and Luca took us first thing to see St Catherine
of Siena’s School. Its neat, brightly colored buildings stand in a lush
green garden, muy lindo, in the midst of the burning brazier of red earth. “If
you are all you should be, you will set all of Italy on fire,” todo el
mundo, as Catherine of Siena said. The young schoolteachers have this fire in
Next came a stop at St Rafael’s parish, to see Fr Aldo and Fr Paolino of
the Fraternity of St Charles Borromeo. What used to be an industrial shed has
been transformed in two years of industrious fervor into a beautiful church full
of light. A cycle of wrought iron works stands out in the windows, a complete
biblia pauperum. Various planets revolve around this “sun:” the clinic
(1,340 people given full treatment in a year) and the food center (I happened
to be present for the demonstration of how to get so much “milk” and
so much “meat” out of a few pounds of soybeans); the San Rafael publishing
house (Fr Aldo Trento has written ten or so splendid books on the Jesuit and
Franciscan Reducciones); the elementary school, in a castle-shaped building with
crenellations, watched over by Joan of Arc at its top; the museum of Guaranì art
and building methods; the shop selling books and artisan wares; and all that
green space–this manicured naturaleza–with its mini-zoo (toucans,
parrots, and monkeys). Raphael means “God heals”–He heals the
eyes and the flesh; the mind and the heart. For anyone who happens by here, just
as for anyone who enters the two Memores houses, among the largest and most beautiful
I have seen, it is first of all a feast for the eyes (and then, after the poetry
and music, the food and wine).
freedom for whom?
I understand why people like this manage to bring 500 people into a theater in
the evening. Intiglietta, my traveling companion, opened the 2003 Happening discussing
the topic Libertad para quien y Libertad de quien (“Whose Freedom, Freedom
for Whom?”). He told about the beginnings of Compagnia delle Opere [Company
of Works], then his political work and the attention to the individual when he
was Vice-Mayor of Milan, the city where he continues to work today, as Director
of the Fair, the enthusiastic adventure of service to the real person. The next
evening, it was my turn. With the help of the Provincial and Municipal Administrations
of Padua, the exhibition on “The Event According to Giotto” came
all the way here and was installed in the large hall of the CL headquarters.
Giò was proud. She had even managed to create the blue vault of heaven,
just as in the Arena Chapel; and all around the walls were big flower boxes.
I spoke to a crowded hall, with the Italian ambassador in the front row. The
300 seats in the other room, connected by an audiovisual hookup, were also all
full. Then came the guided tour for the distinguished guests, and the next day,
the preparation of those who would serve as guides, “not as disciples,
but as children”–children of the man [Giussani] who has taught us
to recognize and love all these gifts of God. Even the two Italian journalists
who interviewed me for an hour, live, on the most important radio station in
Paraguay, went from amazement to amazement.
At Yguazù Falls
In the following two days, while in Asunción the great closing festival
of the Happening was going on, I traveled 700 miles on the bus to visit the friends
in Ciudad del Este and Encarnación, and to go with them to see two unique
spectacles. With Armando and Sonia, we went to Yguazù Falls, the ones
in the movie Mission. In the Guaranì language, “Y” means water
and “guazù” means big. Man is he who gives names to things.
What majestic beauty! But also, how much greater it is in the company of these
two Movement friends: a sign, an ana-logy.
Then dinner with Marcela and Alicia in the Memores house in Encarnación.
One of them is there because of her encounter with Fr Lino, a priest from the
Veneto region of Italy. The next morning, we set out with Elisabeta to visit
what remains of two Reducciones. The stone monument in remembrance of Emilia
(three years after her death) stands right in the center of the various ruins
of what the Jesuits built. Reciting the Rosary and the Angelus with Sonia on
the bus, near that monolith, “From Heaven pray for us, make us untiring
rebuilders of houses that have been destroyed.” The sunset sky was afire.
A red evening in Asunción.