Dear Fr Giussani: Less than a week ago, I found out that I am pregnant with our third child. So many of our friends and family are happy to hear the news, but still others find this troublesome and have even called us “crazy.” Having a third child might not seem like such a big deal to some, but we feel that for us it is something rather extraordinary. My husband is a fourth-year medical student and I am a stay-at-home mom and part-time graduate student. We have no income and have been using loan money for our expenses. People think that my husband is crazy for pursuing his desire to go to medical school, and to have now three children is just inconceivable. Yet we know we are not crazy; what we are is grateful. We are so grateful for this companionship and for those who have truly loved us and desired more for our lives than we could have ever imagined for ourselves. We have a picture of you, Fr Giussani, hanging in our dining room, and every night my four-year-old son and I pray for you. Even though we have never met, I live with the certainty of your love for me and my family.
New Bedford, MA
Give to Caesar
what Is Caesar’s
Dear Father Giussani: As I write, it is two days before the presidential election in the USA. As you know, our country is in deep division over the anticipated outcome. Though I am greatly saddened by the state of the electorate and am conflicted concerning the two candidates’ stances on several issues, I am full of gratitude. There is a peace in my heart as I prepare to cast my vote. Last Thursday, in our School of Community, we read and discussed “Elections 2004; A Call to Freedom.” Never have I experienced a clearer assessment of what it is to be a Christian in this world! Never have I felt more renewed in my commitment to follow not a way, but “The Way.” I love my country and its freedom. However, the democracy we enjoy is often cunning in its desire to create happiness for its citizens. It is true that happiness is what we all desire. Too often what we ask of those in power can easily be attached to the ideology of a political party–often one which was shaped in our families or universities (sometimes even Catholic universities). My husband often remarks that he was baptized Catholic, but raised Republican. Ideologies creep subtly into our identities as utopian desires overtake the true desire of our destiny and destroy reality. We are more often the “modern man” than we realize. I gave the “Call to Freedom” piece to my son and asked what he thought. His reply was that you at Traces had “nailed it.” His words were, “Who wrote this? It must have been those Italians. They can see us as we cannot see ourselves!” At times, elections appear to Catholics as a challenge to determine the one candidate who speaks to our faith. Thanks to you at Traces, for helping me to see with certainty that no Catholic or Christian can enter the voting booth and in good conscience cast a vote for either candidate which will satisfy the call to our destiny. “No political agenda, however morally commendable, will create the perfect society or satisfy the desire that makes us human.” And so, I will cast my vote with a heart that says, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” I utter deep-felt gratitude to you, Father Giussani, for this method of judgment and for helping me to remember what has been forgotten. My commitment to being educated in this manner is renewed again. And even as I am certain to falter, I go with a greater certainty of Christ’s presence, to be a Christian in the world, but not of it–and with the hope of a truly great revolution.
Dear Monsignor Giussani: Please accept my sincere congratulations and best wishes, as you celebrate the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation. I pray that God’ s favor will continue to shine on this Movement for the good of the whole Church. It gives me great pleasure to know that members of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation reside here in the Diocese of Fall River. I am greatly encouraged by the commitment of these members of the Fraternity, who seek to bear witness to Christ in the Church, with particular emphasis on family life and the workplace, two areas where the Gospel values are in such great need today. I am also grateful for the profound spiritual approach shown by the members of the Fraternity, in the course of their collaboration in the pastoral work of the Diocese. I am likewise happy to accept Reverend Vincent Nagle as the Spiritual Assistant to the Fraternity here in the Diocese of Fall River. I am confident that Father Nagle will provide the necessary spiritual guidance and direction for the local activities and endeavors of the Fraternity. With prayerful best wishes for you and the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation.
Bishop George W. Coleman, Fall River
Experience of Faith
These days, I have in my mind the Pope’s February 22nd letter to Fr Giussani, where he points to the fact that the experience of faith generates a new outlook on reality, a responsibility and a creativity that involve every sphere of existence. I had the occasion to experience all of this a few weeks ago, when my wife discovered that she was pregnant and the obstetrician told us that the pregnancy would not continue because there was no heartbeat. A few days later, my wife experienced some bleeding, and we rushed to the hospital; when they examined her, they couldn’t see the placenta. My wife had to return two days later for the definitive exam and curettage. But that day, an exam done with more sophisticated equipment revealed the placenta, though with no sign of life. That same morning, we had gone to Saint Riccardo in Trivolzio, praying the Rosary and asking him for a miracle. Four days later, a sonogram by the same obstetrician revealed the embryo with a heartbeat, and she was amazed, saying the phenomenon could not be explained scientifically. This fact has generated in me and my family a new way of treating each other and looking at each other, beginning with the fact of praying together more often during the day, with the awareness that Another works in us and that everything in life is a gift. However, I am certain that it is difficult to experience this faith without a companionship, which for me came through the faces of Marco and Anna, who shared all this with us, keeping us company, and remembering us in their prayers.
Dear Fr Giussani: I’m a director in a government agency in Rome. My wife and my two children, like me, are in CL. We have problems like everybody else, the misunderstandings that everyone has, but also the little joys that almost everyone else has, and a desire, sometimes expressed, other times, no. A fact at work has broken open this “ordinariness.” Through connections at my job, I was able to present a charitable work of ours in Bethany (that of the incredible Samar) to a local administrator, much as I’ve had the occasion at other times to make AVSI or the CDO known to others. At a certain point, I was able to have this administrator meet Samar in Italy, and he was very struck by her. And here, something new happened. I began to “follow” this administrator. It was a very small perception, but absolutely different from “doing your duty well” or from “making known to others what I’ve encountered.” It was following what an action of mine had awoken in another. So, I didn’t stop. I joined a delegation that went to the Holy Land to prepare a televised artistic event on peace. Together with this administrator, there was an RAI [Italian national television] producer. During a leg of our journey, we were to have lunch with the orphans of Bethany. “Who are these kids? Where are they from?” the producer asked in his strong Roman dialect. “They’re my children,” Samar replied. The producer said, “You can see that there’s an education. Can I send you my daughter, too?” Samar answered, “Certainly!” Outside, there were bombs, while inside, a 7-year-old girl sang for us. She had been found abandoned in a cave, chained, and she had been raped. It was hard for us not to cry. “Can we have her sing in Bethlehem next Christmas for world television?” the producer asked. Samar couldn’t believe it, and answered, “Thank you, thank you.” Instead, the producer said, “No, thank you, because you’ve made us feel human.” At this point, the administrator, instead of just “writing a check,” began asking what he could do to help this charitable work. The idea of scholastic adoption came out, getting funding to open a pizzeria, and giving these kids work. A month later, three Palestinian boys arrived in Valmontone, near Rome, to take a course for bakers. The next ones who come will learn pizza making! The Rome newspapers ran a story about a special pizzeria that will open at the foot of “the wall.” The Zapping radio program initiated a campaign for a “flour bank for the bread of peace” in Bethany. I’m the same director, but now my eyes are more open.
Yesterday, I explained Christianity in history, and took as my point of departure Giussani’s arrow of human history and the X up above. In that class, four girls had come on the GS vacation, but only one of them had decided to come to the Loreto pilgrimage, and had invited a friend. Yesterday, the tone in the class was a bit tense. However, when I asked what the X up above could be, that is, what God means, Francesco said that it involved man’s search for meaning, especially in the face of the great question of death. So I drew the arrows that rise, speaking about how religions try to reach God, that is, happiness. Sara, who had come on our vacation, interrupted me right away, “But, Professor, you identify God with happiness. For me, it isn’t this way!” I answered, “For you, it isn’t this way, but for the people at the time when Christianity happened, it was understood this way, and also in pre-history, in the Valcamonica drawings, and also today, from Polynesia to Tierra del Fuego. God is the answer to Francesco’s question for man: ‘Does my life have a meaning?’ That is, thinking of the good that I want for each of you, what will become of you? Will all your desires for happiness be fulfilled?” Then, I drew the arrow from the X down to us, and I asked what had changed. Another Sara jumped up, “All the beliefs from before fall down!” Another said, “They don’t have to imagine anymore!” “So what has changed?” I asked. “The way. The relationship. The idea of God,” they answered in rapid fire. Then I read the section from At the Origin of the Christian Claim about the plain of the world and the people who struggle to build the bridge, and a man who stops them, saying that He is destiny. At the end, I asked, “What does this mean?” And Giuseppe answered, “That this man can be Jesus Christ.” During this hour, we also had two students from my other class, who the Vice-Principal had put in this lesson because they didn’t want to attend the hour of religion. Jesus really has a sense of humor, because I don’t believe they’d ever heard an hour of class that was more religious than this one!
Pia, Albano Laziale
Sunday morning, I went to Loreto to visit the Holy House, and I stopped in a shop on the main street to look at some items. Inside, the shopkeeper was talking with a friend from Loreto about what had happened the day before [with the CL pilgrimage to the town]. Both were very struck by the fact that so many people had come, “apparently only to hear three people speak” but, above all, by the tone that had distinguished the gesture--in particular, the silence(one, to underline this, said, “This morning I went to Mass, and there was only a hundredth as many people as those who had come yesterday, but there was so much noise and confusion, it seemed like we were at the market”). They were also struck by how many people stayed after the gesture, waiting in line to see the Holy House. The shopkeeper concluded, saying literally, “You could really see that the Lord was with them.”
Along the Roads
Saturday, we had the Pilgrimage to celebrate the 50 years of the Movement. It was stupendous and moving! Even though at the beginning we were very disorganized, with the grace of God and the fatherly help of Fr Tiboni the pilgrimage was transformed into a unique occasion for all of us! At the end, there were 195 people, plus others who joined us for the final Mass. In the days before the pilgrimage, there was a bit of concern, because there was the risk of not having the pilgrimage. About a week before, the parish priest of Kitgum had been arrested, accused of collaborating with the rebels (he, who was one of those publicly opposed to the war in North Uganda). He had been released after a few days (the accusers had not even shown up at his hearing). The situation remained very grave, in any case! For this reason, the curate, Fr Eric, was very fearful, because he was afraid that the authorities would think the pilgrimage was a protest march. After having obtained all the necessary permits, and after having received the blessing of Fr Eric, the procession started out from the parish church of Christ the King, through the roads of the town. Fr Tiboni led the procession with the help of Nars(the CL responsible of Kitgum), who walked next to Tibo and translated from English into Acholi(the local language). Fr Tiboni was a great model for us because, notwithstanding his age, he always walked serenely and was never tired, for the entire time, under a blistering African sun, and this was his third or fourth pilgrimage in a month! We made five stops, reading sections from the pilgrimage booklet, singing, and reciting a decade of the Rosary. Between stops we walked in silence. Our group included the small community of Kitgum, from Padibe and Paloga, the students from the Ugandan martyrs school, those from Msgr Vignato’s, volunteers from Meeting Point, orphans, and some patients. During the walk, many people, including a lot of children, joined us. As we walked along the roads, it was impressive how people fell silent and stopped working, as a sign of respect, uniting with us in prayer. I was most struck by the unexpected number of people, and by what Tiboni told us about silence, which should be a cry to God, asking Him for what we care for most dearly and, above all, asking Him for peace and faith. John Bongomin said that for him, it was like a “recall,” living again the encounter he had had years ago, with great devotion to Mary. Lucia underlined how we forget the importance of doing public gestures together that can be the occasion for encounter for many people. A worker of St Joseph’s hospital passed us while he was riding his motorcycle toward the town and, seeing us in procession, stopped, made the sign of the cross, and joined us. Our procession ended at St Mary’s Church, near the hospital, with a Mass concelebrated by Tiboni and another Combonian priest, who said that, even though he wasn’t part of the Movement, he was struck by how we always talk about belonging to Christ and how, for the people of the Movement, Christ is the point of departure and of judgment for everything! After Mass, about 200 of us got together for lunch at the Comboni Center!