Sao Paulo, Brazil,
Beyond the Strategies
The Sao Paolo I had known in the first three days of my time in Brazil, amongst established Italian businessmen and diplomats, looked good: wealthy, lively and full of initiatives. Then Gisela and Francesco invited me to meet Fr Ticao and his work, and I saw a different Sao Paulo, that of the people, and poor. We reached the Leste area (the city’s most populated) at nine o’clock and they introduced me at once to Fr Ticao, the Pastor, a man about fifty years old. He asked me what work I did, the reasons why I am in Brazil, and I answered that I am a controller of public administration. We got on well immediately, even though Fr Ticao is a man of few words. He speaks with his eyes, though, and embraces you with his straightforward look. Fr Ticao met the Company of Works when he took part in the first Latin American Convention at Rio de Janeiro, in his capacity as the pastoral director of the numerous initiatives helping the elderly, child-mothers, maladjusted youngsters, and the unemployed, initiatives born of a great impetus of generosity and an intense work of pastoral planning. But in Rio de Janeiro something had happened, for he wanted immediately to repeat the same type of convention in Sao Paolo between those in charge of his pastoral initiatives and the people of the COW. The latter recalled the simple and very explicit invitation given by GiorgioVittadini: “We have to serve this reality.” So they accepted willingly to take part in the meeting. It all began according to pattern: each local participant (there were twenty of them) introduced himself personally, then gave a brief presentation of the pastoral initiative of which he was in charge; four or five of them talked longer than the others in their explanations, offering the others a kind of witness. All in all, they showed an impressive generosity in a situation of such dramatic proportions that you almost feel like giving up and going home. Since the meeting was in Portuguese (and I understood nothing), I got up and went to help the ladies (peeling potatoes) as they were preparing lunch. All of a sudden, I was called to give a witness, at Fr Ticao’s request. I spoke of my encounter with the Movement in Rome, in the sixties, the leaflet-campaigns, the meetings, the demonstrations, the beatings, etc. Then how my life developed, my joining the Memores Domini, and at this point I had to explain something about this strange form of life. This aroused some curiosity, but most of all silence in the listeners, because they understood that in the experience of virginity lay the key to all the many initiatives they organize and support, and the origin of the energy spent every day in the attempt to make the world a bit better. At the end, one of these friends of Fr Ticao told me how surprised he was when he understood that all this had sprung from a simple meeting with two students at the Rome Faculty of Jurisprudence, who had invited me with a leaflet to one of their gestures, something very simple, which had nothing to do with pastoral strategy.
Oreste, Milan

Singing in the Wards
Dear Fr Giussani: Years ago, you asked me to “serve our experience, the Church’s experience, with the humility and the joy of song.” As I kept this phrase of yours, along with your look, in my heart, I happened to live it in the wards of the hospital where my father was admitted. From the simple idea of cheering up the environment by taking my guitar and singing one or two songs with the other patients sprang up the idea of three concerts, authorized by the medical personnel and involving about forty people, including patients, relatives and nursing staff. Then I was joined by a friend of my brother-in-law, a top medical researcher, who for years had wanted to accompany me on the guitar in some of my songs. I proposed the ward as a stage, and he accepted. The folk music traveled up to the floor above where they keep the patients who are very ill, and the relative of a young girl in a coma asked us to sing for her, too. We were a little anxious, but we went into her room, choosing two songs that matched both the “secular” tradition of my accompanist and my own request for a miracle. So, there, near that bed, we sang Gino Paoli’s “Il cielo in una stanza (Heaven in a Room),” and “I Wonder,” a spiritual from the soundtrack of Pasolini’s Gospel According to St Matthew. The doctor on call called the consultant, bringing us his thanks and asking us to come back. I was very struck by three things: the heroicness of the relatives who for months never abandon these people, transformed and defaced by coma; the truth of what you have always seen in song and that unites people so different from each other; and the possibility to find you in the reality before me, because in the end everything is born of the desire to see you in what you love.
Terry, Bergamo

Painting: Layers
of Experience
The unforeseen… is Someone who comes, even though apparently we seem to build reality, and shape it. No! It is not our ability. It is Someone who shows Himself within reality. Only the embrace of our life placates us—a true, cosmic, eternal embrace. Mary, the road to destiny…. There is no road more human than this for embracing the cross, and one’s own cross. Without passion there is no emotive feeling; and if there is no emotive feeling then life is not a gift and reality is what runs away, and not the face that you love. Yes, my wife is my wife, my four children are my four children, my home is my home—that is to say, the face that loves me. In the end, workers turn up in paintings who are building something that doesn’t belong to them, that doesn’t belong to us. As in other times: “Man’s work is to give glory to God. A construction on the sea (painting—eternal construction), so as to contemplate beauty without possessing it. There is no beauty without someone’s sacrifice. Only in Your name is the sacrifice of the instant able to build something for eternity.” Today, while I was with an art dealer, who was looking at me and then at my paintings, it suddenly came to me how painting, layer on layer, is a human construction, skin on skin… layers of experience! Grateful for the fact that the true face with which I look at reality I owe to the charism of a man, who is my father and master in a companionship, I understand that the Letter to the Fraternity received in June is a novelty for my life, to go on hoping and working. Dante and Giotto, two bosom friends, “vibrating” with the presence of Christ. Mary, the mother of all mothers…. Mary, mother of all history.
Palino, San Marino

Following the Señor de los Milagros
Dear Fr Giussani: In Lima in October we began the mes morado del Señor de los Milagros [The month celebrating the Lord of the Miracles], and on Saturday the 11th we opened the exhibition: a success! The Archbishop of Lima, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne, was there to inaugurate it, and it was a moving occasion. He quoted you twice, speaking of wonder as the main category of knowledge, and of encounter, saying that the Meeting at Rimini was an encounter for him. He was surprisingly familiar with everyone. On Saturday 18th, I went to the procession of Señor de los Milagros. We went at six in the morning with Angélica to watch it leaving Las Nazarenas. You could see people for half a mile, and we were all so squashed we couldn’t move. At the end of Mass, we went to Casa Osambela, where the exhibition is housed, because Señor de los Milagros was to pass there. The street was full of flowers, and people were throwing down petals from the balconies. When it came close, the street was filled beyond imagination, all walking backwards because they couldn’t turn around. Dado, Angelica and I had the honor of giving the flowers that decorate the anda del Señor, and to present him with the name-plate of the University! In front of Casa Osambela, the team of bearers (cuadrilla) was changing and when the team changes, the flowers of the anda are changed, too. We went up to present the new flowers. You pass between the singers and the incense bearers and go up very close, and everyone is speaking in whispers. We stayed there a moment, and the only thing you manage to say is, “I love you.” Then they gave us the old flowers as a gift. To be honest, we didn’t understand the gift at first, then the ladies on the other side of the ropes began to steal the flowers from us, with los hermanos de las cuadrillas who were telling them, “You mustn’t steal the Lord’s flowers,” and then they began to ask us for them, one for a sick relative, one for his mother who couldn’t come. It was then that we realized that they had given us something very precious. We saw a miracle, too. The house in front of the Casa Osambela is a bit damaged. A lady opened the window and it fell from its hinges and dropped down. I don’t know how, but she managed to catch hold of it again and pull it back into the house with the help of some men! As we were in the front, we were already imagining the disaster! But then, after all, He is el Señor de los Milagros! Then the exhibition was opened, and there were 1,440 visitors on the first day. The Bishop of Huari, a city to the north of Lima, came with some priests. He is Italian and he wanted to know all the details about every panel. He bought the catalogue for the Seminary and gave Huellas (the Spanish Traces) as a gift to the priests who were with him. He asked us if we can put on the exhibition again during the Episcopal Conference. They have already asked for it in Mexico and Venezuela, too. A group of youngsters spent the whole day copying the panels. There were people who recognized themselves in the photographs, and told you proudly that they were there for the Señor de los Milagros. A famous Peruvian historian came, too, who has her own theory about the religious syncretism of the conquest. In the visitors’ book she wrote, obviously, that this aspect was not dealt with in the exhibition, but that she had to acknowledge its value, because she had discovered things she didn’t know. And many, very many, are asking us what Communion and Liberation is, and to thank you.
Elena, Lima

New Fatherhood
and Motherhood
Dear Fr Giussani:  Your Letter to the Fraternity last June 22nd accompanied me all this time. It’s something out of this world that to us, poor men like all the others, is reserved the gift of participating in the charism that lives in you. The figure of Mary is now a little more familiar to me because, with you, in this way I perceive it at the level of my “I.” Since I read that “Our Lady respected God’s freedom totally,” when I say the Angelus what comes to my mind is “be it done unto me according to Your freedom.” In His freedom, God wanted me to say yes, forgiving the different way in which our little daughter, Anna, came into our life. When you say, “Virgin comes before mother,” I thought of the journey of conversion of the gaze, which, in imitation of you, happened with our daughter, Anna, in such a way that in the end she was no longer just a sick, innocent daughter to be loved even more, but that it was Being that was asking, in her, to be recognized, loved and adored. On reading your letter, I began timidly to understand that, for me and my wife, virginity began in treating Anna in this way, in loving her as we love Christ, a love that bears no comparison as regards depth and possibility of knowledge with the simple, albeit great love of a father and mother for a handicapped daughter. From that virginity, a new fatherhood and motherhood was born in us toward our other two children and the children we welcome in Casa Edimar. Simple pity or sensitivity to needs would never have brought us so far and would not have made us understand, or begin to understand, what happened to Our Lady and to other creatures after her, right down to you.

Mario, Padua
Enzo’s Diagnosis
Dear Fr Giussani: I work as a financial promoter and I am concerned with investments for families and private investors. Some years ago, a client’s daughter called me urgently to ask for an appointment to change the title on the investments in order to pay less inheritance tax. Her mother had been diagnosed with cancer. The consultant had given her little hope, and expected her to die within two months. I went to visit the two ladies and when I saw how saddened they were, I suggested they make an appointment with Enzo Piccinini for an examination. They contacted him and went to Bologna to see him. He suggested a further test, which proved the diagnosis to be mistaken, so the lady was operated on and is still alive. In fact, some months ago, during an appointment, she told me she was celebrating seven and a half years from the time they had given her up for dead. So this time, instead of the usual accounts of her thousand trips to Las Vegas, Sharm El Sheikh and all the pleasure-capitals, she told me of her pilgrimage to Lourdes. Then, four months ago, my father was diagnosed with a grave form of cancer, and was operated on urgently within twelve days. In this case, too, I prayed to Enzo, asking him to have the same care for him as he had shown for my client. The operation was a great success and there were fewer problems and complications than expected. The fact is that as he was finishing the various check-ups, I heard my father say to a friend of his, “Listen Franco, I would be a fool at seventy years old to resist such a natural thing as death. I have only been in hospital once, in 1947.” My father was so happy as he said this that I thought immediately of Claudel’s The Announcement to Mary. And if it’s true that the first miracle is change, then cheers for our great surgeon up there.
Francesco, Perugia

The Cardinal’s Blessing
Dearest friends: Today, during our School of Community during lunch break, Cardinal Tettamanzi came to visit us again. This year again, Msgr Franco Bignami took the occasion of the Cardinal’s visit to the Clergy House—where they are generous enough to host our group—to accompany His Eminence for the blessing. As he came in, Cardinal Tettamanzi asked us, “Are you the same people as last year? So this Christmas blessing has become a tradition, because everything in the Church is a tradition. It is the handing over in time to the present, for the future. The handing over from person to person…. So now some people say: there is no second without the third.” We thanked the Cardinal for what he had said at the Beginning Day, telling him of our intention and our attempt to keep his words, since the only thing we care about, as we learned from Fr Giussani, is to serve the Church where we are, in our places of work. Before giving us his blessing, the Cardinal added, “May Christmas, which we are shortly going to celebrate, give us the grace to know and contemplate the Mystery of God who becomes man through Mary. This is the dearest thing to Mary’s heart and to each of us—the greatest thing He can do; this God who became man, and uses each one of us as a means for reaching all men.” In the Cardinal’s eyes and in his words for us, we could see that what he had told us the year before, that he would remember us in his prayers, is true. He showed us a familiarity and a cordiality that cannot be the fruit of a casual meeting.

The friends of Milan