Traces in the
Today is the third Thursday in a row that we have sold Traces in our university cafeteria. The first time, there were four of us, but today there were seven. We also brought Albrecht, a young man from our hostel who, thanks to a friendship begun with the “Erasmus” students who preceded us, felt comfortable with us right away, and a short time ago began to follow us in School of Community and at Mass, even though he’s Protestant. Unfortunately, however, when we began the sales, he got shy and went outside to sit in the sun. The people, contrary to our expectations, treat us very well; they listen to us and, if they’re really not interested, they say “no” with a smile. I think many of them are struck by the fact that we’re foreigners. They see clearly how we struggle with German and do so to communicate something important for us. In fact, they all have shown a lot of patience, even when one of us got confused and said he was selling the magazine of a Katholische Mannschaft (sports team) instead of a Katholische Gemeinschaft (the Movement). Strangely enough, we sold most of the magazines to non-Catholic young men and women. In the beginning, they told us they couldn’t buy the magazine for this reason, but once we clarified that it wasn’t a problem in itself, and that the magazine tries to give a judgment on everything that happens, they began to get interested, to read the index and thumb through it. The same explanation applied for those who tried to cut us short by saying that religion didn’t matter in their lives.
Dear Fr Giussani: I’m a student at the Fr Gnocchi High School in Carate Brianza. I spent a stupendous week with a visiting Japanese friend, Yuichi, who I had met two years ago in England. In the past few months, I’ve been struggling in all aspects of my life, from school to GS meetings, from tests to School of Community. Weariness and disappointment were beginning to get the upper hand. During that week, everything changed. I’ve re-discovered the experience that struck me two years ago, precisely in England. During the trip to England, I had met some GS friends and I had begun to go out with them, following them, and a friendship was born that brought us to meet many people, among them an Irish Catholic priest and some foreign young people, includingYuichi. They invited me to my first GS vacation and to the meetings.
With Yuichi now here on vacation, some friends and I brought him around to see cities, towns, and mountains. We visited many different churches, spent afternoons sledding in the snow, ate cazoeula in the evenings, played hide and seek, spent mornings together at school to have him tell us about his experience, and, finally, we even went to Mass together. There were so many positive, unforeseen moments that made these days extraordinary. For example, when he and I went to Church, he accepted my invitation to pray together (he’s a Shintoist), listening to the Hail Mary (I translated it into English for him). He listened with extraordinary attention to our explanation of the meaning of the frescoes in the Church of Saint Abbondio in Como. It was also extraordinary that he accepted our invitation to come to Mass. It was so beautiful and so unexpected because he is a 25-year-old Shintoist Japanese who had never set foot in a Catholic church and who, in his own country, had almost never heard God mentioned (and he’s far from convinced of His existence). I certainly wouldn’t have expected the friendship that was born. How has all this been possible? We told him about our experience, but above all we lived it together, because he always kept an open gaze; he was always critical and intelligent about what we proposed to him. His gaze was so positive that, at one point, when we were together one evening in a pub, he said, “You’re very enthusiastic about the Christian experience–why don’t you tell those bored people about it as well?” (He was referring to some young people in the pub.) One of us answered that the experience of Christianity that we live, following the Movement, isn’t something you explain by standing up in a pub in front of everybody, but it’s something that first and foremost you experience together, just as it happened with Yuichi, whom we asked to follow us, and so he too experienced Christianity, and made us more aware as well. At the end of the week, Jacopo and I gave him The Religious Sense, in the certainty that it will be a big help for him in his life, seeing how it has already been one for us.
A Touch of Class
A business manager, now unemployed, wrote to us after a dinner with bank functionaries organized every month by Claudio Bottini (the Milan responsible for workers in CL)
Dear Claudio: I want to thank you for your sensitivity with me. This feeling, I note, grows stronger with each convivial get-together. My life has drawn me close to you all after a long struggle in pursuit of God. I don’t know if or when I’ll reach Him, but you all are helping (let’s call it a “touch of class”) the way, at the time, the study of theology helped me. Before meeting you all, I wasn’t ready to know you; now, I’m ready to learn. I don’t believe that the cause of my meeting with you was my personal problems. In reality, I think that it’s a meditated journey that–starting from a common reflection in the Barnabitic milieu (from whence come my scholastic-religious roots)–has reached you all, through a professional vocation to serve my political-social neighbor. May I and my family’s home serve to serve! With authenticaffection,
Dear Fr Giussani: My husband and I were going through a period of “limbo” in which our desire to be parents kept us suspended between the awareness that we could not have natural children and the wait for a child to adopt. One day, we got a call from the Juvenile Court: “Can you adopt a child who comes from two experiences of abandonment?” We immediately said a “yes” full of fear and doubt, but also certainty. On Holy Thursday, Ioan Tiberio arrived. An earthquake. We found ourselves faced with a five-year-old little savage who bore two wounds: first, from having been abandoned at birth, and second, from a failed adoption. More than once we told ourselves that the court probably was mistaken when it chose us. But no. During the hardest times, our friends from Families for Hospitality helped us to save even one single good episode during an entire black day. After the first difficult months, it was surprising to perceive how that little iceberg was slowly beginning to melt. Slowly, slowly, we began to see our child flower again, and we felt full of trepidation when, after a long time, for the first time, Tiberio told us he loved us. We are amazed and moved as we continue to reassure him daily, responding to his numerous and insistent questions about the certainty of staying together forever. It’s difficult to describe what we feel as we discover, step by step, right under our own eyes, how that little “gypsy” is becoming a man, re-acquiring the dignity that had been taken from him. Our life has changed radically and the habits and timetables of our days have been overturned, but we’re never abandoned by the certainty that we’re not alone. I have never known so clearly my limits as I have since Tiberio’s arrival, and I’m happy about it, because each time I succeed in forgiving him, I learn to forgive myself, too. I see everything–family, work, and friends–with different eyes.
Dear Fr Gius: Full of gratitude to God for having created us, having had us meet the Movement, and thus re-converting us to Him, putting us together with each other and, above all, for having you as a father, we want to share our joy on our wedding day and understand more deeply your words in your letter to the Holy Father for the 25th anniversary of his pontificate: “…and this humanity, this identity between humanity and Christian faith, the greatest sign, that not even all the distortion and forgetfulness has erased from the human heart, the most complete and best-known sign to anyone, is marriage.”
We entrust your intentions and ours to our Blessed Mother. With affection,
Pietro and Stefania, Limbiate
Dear Fr Giussani: The Feast of St Joseph is imminent, and I was thinking to myself of my responsibility as a father, both for our three natural children and, as you know, for those who in these years have passed through our home and still are in the experience of foster care that we are living. I remember what Enzo Piccinini told us about a conversation with you, about how to look at your own children, how you said that, looking at them, you need to take a step back and help them to go to the destiny for which they were made. With these things in my heart, I asked St Joseph and our Blessed Mother to help me. One day at the table, someone said that the Feast of St Joseph would interrupt the Lenten fast and, talking about life in the times of Jesus, someone else said, “But Jesus was the greatest,” and then, with a simplicity and speed that struck me, my nine-year-old daughter Paola, between one forkful and another, said, “Jesus is the greatest because He’s still here.” This is what I wanted to make you part of, and to thank you for, because, certainly, this consciousness, so simply expressed, carried through my and my wife’s fragility and limitations, is possible only through God’s grace and mercy, made present to us through your fatherly embrace in the experience of the Movement, and reaching us in the companionship of the Fraternity. In facing our daily problems or when, with the children we have in foster care, the rejection of the love we offer them is so evident and humiliating and it becomes hard to go on, we feel supported by the example of your fatherly love, for the destiny of each one of us, by an untiring prayer to our Blessed Mother, and the certainty that the good destiny for each of us will not be left unfulfilled.
Dearest Fr Giussani: Peace! The simple fact of writing to you fills me with joy. Do you know that through you, Jesus attracted me strongly to Him, and led me to the monastery? Now, March 19th, the Feast of St Joseph, I will make my solemn profession, and I want to thank you because you are truly a gift for me. I received “the call” when I was 18, but as the years passed I hid from His voice and left this monastery after having made my simple profession, and He… what patience and what love He showed me! He has always placed along my path friends who have led me, and who lead me, to Him. Among these friends, the ones who took me most seriously were those of CL. Fr Diego, seeing me at the university, told me, “Your vocation is to virginity.” Through him, Jesus held me strongly, because otherwise I would have gotten lost following my own caprice. Once I returned to my monastery (after six years), the kids came to see me and one said, “Don’t let them let you go.” He wasn’t one of my community; he came from Argentina, and was passing through; he referred to those of my community and I said to myself, “I don’t need them.”
After a few years, though, I understood that I really do need them; I understood that the sentence “Don’t let them let you go” was like telling me, “Without them you can’t go on, you need them so you can be what you are.” The Movement is indispensable for me in order to be a Christian. Belonging to the Fraternity, being in contact with the Movement makes me more a nun, more a Carmelite; it makes me live my vocation in the Church better. Being a Carmelite nun and being in the Fraternity are not two disconnected things: everything makes me unified. Dearest brother, thank you for your “yes” to the Father during your whole life. See how your “yes” today reinvigorates my own? All of us here pray for you, because we love you deeply.
May the Virgin continue to shower you with gifts.
Sister Ana Julia de San José, Santo Domingo
The Lord Gives
and the Lord
Dearest Fr Giussani: On April 20th, while I was on a train returning home from work in Rome, I received a call that Graziella, our dear friend of the Fraternity who has been gravely ill, had died. We knew of her physical conditions, her progressive deterioration, but, until the last moment, we had never stopped praying to the Virgin Mary for her healing. I was praying the Rosary silently when I received another call about the birth of Sara, the daughter of a young woman from our School of Community group, precisely a half hour after Graziella’s death. I didn’t know how to react in the face of these two particular events. One life reaches the light of heaven, chosen from among us by Jesus, and another joins us in the light of day, sent to us by Jesus. “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Surely, these words have never been so real for me as they are now. But how can I live them in a way that the sentimental and ephemeral aspects of this particular moment don’t prevail? During the Easter vacation, I had the possibility of meditating more on the School of Community and, consequently, of living better the whole passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. I carried inside me, impressed on my heart full of pain, the sign of His arms open, nailed to the cross, as the sign of His greater love for me. For me! In the same way, I carried within me also the joy of seeing Him again, His resurrection; and He re-appeared to Peter, to Thomas, and to the other Apostles, just as He appears to me, now. For me! Here is the true aspect of the whole question, that it’s for me, that it’s for us. “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Everything has happened in Jesus’s arms–life, death, pain, joy–and everything happens for me, now, through this companionship that reminds me every day, with the faces of the Fraternity and of my School of Community group. I simply wanted to say that when I live every moment of life with the awareness that this encounter shatters my indifference, it increases my faith, and becomes the glue among us all, even with those who encounter us for the first time.
Ambrogio, Paderno Dugnano
An African Brother
While visiting Chicago for a few months, this brother from Africa, member of the Fraternity of the Immaculate Conception (based in Holland), encountered the Movement and sends his thanks
Thank you for the farewell dinner for me at your place. What a miracle. Many things have happened to me since I joined CL, and for me they are great surprises. I felt at home in our School of Community–I didn’t contribute a lot but you respected my presence. And I appeared in the February issue of Traces unexpectedly! Indeed my desires were fulfilled every time I was with the School of Community friends. I have seen
many places through this fraternal group of CL. People of God showed their love by paying for me to see for away places. I am really grateful and I appreciate whatever you have done for me since I met CL in Chicago. It’s my hope that this group of Msgr Luigi Giussani will one day reach Malawi so that people who haven’t yet tasted the sweet message will at least have a taste. Let us pray for one another. May God bless CL in Chicago especially its leaders who are working tooth
and nail as servants to their fellow sisters and
brothers. May God bless the entire CL all over the
world. May God bless the one who founded the CL by the help of the Holy Spirit-Rev Msgr Giussani.
Brother Thomas, Malawi