edited by Paola Bergamini pberga@tracce.it

in Christ’s Victory

I am a twenty-five-year-old girl. I graduated brilliantly in Physics in February 2003, and married in May 2003. In July 2003, they found I had a tumor; since then my life has completely changed. I found I had friends I never knew or never knew were friends, and I lost others. The miracle, though (because it is a miracle), happened from the moment I began to ask Our Lady to show me Jesus, not on the cross, which seems so evident to me now, but rising from the dead. I asked and still ask Her before anyone else, Her who first of all is a woman and therefore can understand completely what I am living, Her who suffered so much and again can understand what I am living, Her who is so close to Jesus and can therefore intercede for me. Two thoughts have been with me recently. The first is that I have a great desire in my heart to have children, but apart from waiting for the OK from the doctors, it is so highly probable that I can no longer have them that I have been sad for a long time. In all this, a light now seems to be dawning. Yes, because just last week I was very sad at the thought, with a sadness that crushes your heart and doesn’t let you live, but only implore. Then a friend from Pescara called me, someone I had met in the hospital, who is more ill than I am. She asked me to help her and told me she is desperate, weeping over the telephone. I thought that the Lord is asking me to be a kind of mother or father for her, and that this could be my way of being a mother. I felt so small and completely in God’s hands. The second thought is that my husband got to know some colleagues of the Movement and would like to meet with them to form a group of School of Community. I said, “Why don’t you meet at our house? If you want to eat together, tell me and I’ll have something ready.” He thought about it a bit and discussed it with his friends. They were amazed that he should offer his house. He came back to thank me for being his wife and for the help I give him, I who always feel so inadequate and my being ill (though I don’t like to say it) makes me feel so wrong for him. I thanked heaven who lets me and makes use of me to help him. Last night, as we recited the Angelus before going to sleep, I asked to be truly the handmaid of the Lord and that Mary hear my prayers. My husband keeps on asking me to pray for life, but oddly I always forget to, and ask rather that my life belong completely to God. I have been offering my life to God for a long time, and I believe that He has accepted it and that now I am carrying the cross with Jesus a little bit. But I have one advantage, I know that He is risen! And I see Him every day! I ask to see Him, Jesus who rises from the dead. I do see Him and so I can’t be angry at what has happened to me. I ask only that my husband be accompanied as I have been and that he be happy. It’s strange how life can change, and the evidence that there is a plan behind everything is even stranger. Even my work is part of this plan! Following an instinct, I started work in a hospital with cancer patients. My knowledge makes me able to help. Then I began a specialization course, although the chemotherapy made me unable to study; yet I was accepted where others were not. They have offered me a scholarship, though I am unable to prepare myself for it, but magically (or, better, miraculously) what I do is enough, or even more than enough. You see, before the miracle of my life I feel smaller and smaller and I ask to be more and more humble. Now I pray for the people who come for therapy with me. What a miracle! There, I have told you everything. I give you a hug.
A reader

to Witness the Truth

I was born in Somalia, where I completed my studies, graduated in veterinary science, and lived until I was thirty. I came to Italy for veterinary studies and a week after I left home civil war broke out there. My country was devastated; I was forced to stay in Italy in order to save my life and not meet the same end as my dear ones who were slaughtered. I went on with my studies and graduated again in veterinary medicine, so I could work in this field in Italy, where I married and had two children. One day, Pierluigi, a young vet, came to my surgery and asked if he could work with me. After we had worked together for a while, I noticed something in him different from other people I had known. After a lot of questions and discussions, I saw his positivity in life and I started to ask him what made him so. Without answering me in words, he came one day with a book and told me, “Read this.” It was a book by Luigi Giussani called At the Origin of the Christian Claim. I asked him, “Why are you giving me this book when you know I am a practicing Muslim?” He answered, “Don’t be prejudiced. If you want to know why I am a positive person, the answer is in this book.” When I had read it for the first time, I felt a strong desire to go deeper into the argument. I asked him if he could give me more information, and he introduced me to some of his friends, happy, like him. I began to attend School of Community and then went to a meeting in Rimini. From that time, something changed in me: hope was born in me again; I became different from what I was and in my way of seeing things. If, in the past, I was prejudiced about everything and everyone, now I look at what is positive; I have met true friends, whom I never had in the past. From my point of view, and given what has happened to me, I can only imagine that Fr Giussani is a prophet, because he can change our hearts, lovingly showing us the right road to travel. I am very happy because of this and I would be even happier if I could take his message to the world where I grew up: a world without hope, a world where all the attempts at rebuilding peace and stability have failed. That country needs you, Fr Giussani, your teaching and this School of Community, which I have had the fortune to know. Only through this reality can people be changed and can we build hope in my country and in the world.
Abdulkadir Abdi

Within Prison walls
Dear Father Giussani: I am a Roman Catholic priest from the Diocese of Peoria and I am serving a 70-month sentence for drug use. I was in the federal prison located in Rochester, Minnesota. During this time, I have been greatly inspired by your books introduced to me by Fr Jerry from Rochester. He has helped me stay open to meeting the presence of Christ in all the reality of the other inmates in prison and I am grateful for his help on my spiritual journey. Fr Jerry mentioned my former roommate, Justin, from the federal prison in Rochester. He has been sentenced to 30 years in prison. I was not very strong when I came to prison in Rochester and made some very serious mistakes. Justin was a true friend to me and helped me face reality and to discover the most important relationship in my life, that of Christ in the circumstances of this prison life. God put both Justin and Fr Jerry in my path for a reason. In December, I was transferred to another prison to complete my term. I will always remember my journey through Rochester and my friendship with Justin for it has made me a better person and priest. Thank you, Father Giussani, for helping priests like Fr Jerry bring the message of your charism and the love of Christ to those in need (even priests).
A reader

Dancing in the Slums
Dear Fr Giussani: I am twenty-five years old and I work for AVSI [Association of Volunteers in International Service]. Now I have been transferred to Uganda to work in the field of education. On Wednesday morning, I went to the Kireka slum, where Rose works with sero-positive patients. Rose is a real hurricane. She took me to meet all her patients. I greeted them, held their hands and embraced them. I tried, more or less, to do what she did, not hiding even the small shred of fear I had. I was struck by the fact that someone was greeting me who had a sickness inside that was slowly destroying him! I was struck by the way they pass time with Rose. They sing, dance, laugh and have fun, despite the fact that they know they are dying. To see these sick people living, in the real sense of the word, is incredible. They are the happiest people in the world. Rose told me, “I am not here to relieve their suffering; an anesthetic would be enough for that. I am here to help them understand, to give meaning to this suffering, to their sickness, and to their life! This is the Meeting Point!” Then I danced the Rakaraka with them, a courtship dance of the Acholi (my tribe, since I was born in Kitgum in 1978, because my parents came to Uganda in 1977). Then, when I told them my name is Otim (which means, “born outside one’s own land”), they all went mad, jumping and shouting to the sound of the drum. They we so amused to see me, a white man, with a different culture and tradition, dancing there with them. The whole of the slum had gathered around. At the end, one of them asked me, “When are you coming again?” They are all sick and on the verge of death, but they all have a tremendous desire to live. They make no distinction between tribes and this, for an African, is a miracle. In this journey, they are all together, united, with Rose leading them. They are a witness, a reminder of what we are all truly made for. A thought came to my mind. In Holland, they are discussing euthanasia, whereas here, every day, they discuss the right to life. How paradoxical! In Kireka, I took a child in my arms (one supported by AVSI’s long-distance support project) who was christened with the name Luigi Giussani. It made me smile, but the meaning is deeper than it might appear; it’s simply a sign of belonging.
Samuele, Uganda

Pointing to the Road
Dear Friends:
I would like to share a few thoughts and observations with you regarding our Way of the Cross this year. Both Teresa and I noticed something new. We were approached by several participants afterward and most were struck by the readings this year. For example, Greg C. thanked me several times for holding this event and specifically mentioned the readings and pointed to the booklet. He was truly grateful for the event and the meaning it had for him. Maria Ruiz inquired whether it would be possible to get the readings we used in Spanish so she could share them with her large Hispanic community of friends. Before the Way of the Cross, I had a beer with Mike Scaperlanda and, partially in jest but with a serious undertone, he asked me whether we would use “social justice” readings that are so commonly found in Way of the Cross readings. “Of course,” I reassured him, knowing that we would use Fr Giussani’s writings. I mention this example after having read Fr Giussani’s Letter to the Holy Father earlier today. In it, Fr Giussani insists that all he has attempted in the past fifty years is to present the Christian message in its originality: Christ is a fact, an event that occurred 2,000 years ago but can be encountered today in the present. What the Way of the Cross and the comments afterward made clear to me is that we possess a special gift in belonging to this charism. It is the gift of belonging to a guided companionship that insists on presenting Christianity in this original, novel, essential form. We do not insist on a certain spirituality or idea that binds us together. Rather, what unites us is that we have encountered Christ, the Church, in a new way through this Movement. It is due to this fact that we can organize these events and then again marvel at the event in front of us. What we propose with the Way of the Cross is not necessarily a PR gesture for the Movement but our desire to share this way of viewing the faith, this method of living our faith that is in one sense a particular way, but ultimately in its particularity has only one aim: to point ourselves and others to the road, which is Christ. Taking part in the Way of the Cross again last Friday, I personally experienced that the beauty of what we live lies simply in pointing ourselves and others to The Road. Our experience is for everybody, since it is a mere method to see Christ in His fullness, in His true meaning for my life. This meaning became very clear to me again this Holy Week.
Peter, Norman

Looking Forward…
Dear Friends:
I attended the Way of the Cross in New York City today and I just wanted to express my enthusiasm. It was absolutely wonderful. The best part was the magnificent singing of the choir. It was certainly some of the most beautiful religious singing I’ve ever heard. What a great and humble way for Christians to gather and commemorate this most holy day. I look forward to participating again next year.
Natalia, New York City

The Embrace
of All My Life

Dear Fr Giussani:
I encountered the Movement three weeks ago. This was the direct result of a proposal made to me by a close friend, Patrick, who had met the Movement a week before me. Before I encountered the Movement, I had the desire to look for and understand who God is. This question has always provoked me, and caused me trouble. With the encounter of this friendship, I have realized that “God became human and lived like and with man, facing all challenges of human life,” and that it is possible to live with Him through our friendship. In fact, God decided to become human and live with man, and this is the same dynamic I’m experiencing now. The Movement and the friends of the CLU [CL university students] have helped me to understand what kind of faith I profess through friendship. I have begun to understand my religion, the Catholic faith and its practices, which include the Rosary, the Way of the Cross, and Baptism. CLU is friendship and this I have experienced in all ways, especially with Sasà. He proposed that I be more active in the St Augustine Community (the Catholic Community of St Augustine Church on the university campus). Now I’m deeply committed in the executive of the St Augustine, representing the Movement as a whole and you (what a responsibility!!), as I was elected Treasurer. I have a concrete friendship with the friends of CL, which embraces all my life and I’ve learned that this is the way toward happiness. Thanks to all the CLU members who have altered my life exponentially to a considerable and immeasurable level of happiness. I’m grateful to God for giving me the grace of encountering you, Father Giussani, and may God always bless you and all of the CL community in the world.
John Francis, Kampala

Van Gogh’s
Meaning of Work

Dear Friends:
I am writing to tell you about the experience we had in proposing a presentation on Van Gogh at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles).
The idea came about in a conversation with a colleague with whom I had begun a friendship. I thought that it would be nice if there were something to help us better understand the meaning of work. In order to do the presentation, we formed an official campus student group and with the help of other friends we used a pre-existing presentation based on the letters and paintings of Van Gogh. My colleague, who has no interest in religion as such, became excited about the idea of being one of the readers of letters and Margie offered to come up from San Diego (a two-hour drive) to be the other reader. We put together a flyer that said, “A genius is a person who reveals in an exceptional way what is inside all of us. That is why we invite you to an encounter with Vincent Van Gogh, through a presentation of his paintings and letters to his brother.” On the day of the presentation, we were caught by surprise: we ran out of seats for the more than 60 people who came. After it was over, thirty people left their e-mail addresses in order to know more about us and to receive information on other events. Many of them came up to ask us who we were. One lady, when she heard that we were Catholics, asked us if she could come to our meetings even though she wasn’t Catholic. At the introduction of the presentation, we said that what strikes us about Van Gogh is the power of his desire for beauty and happiness. His work was to find the way to express that desire, that quest. We wanted to form the student group as a way to be together to help each other to keep this desire alive, because this is what allows one to see the beauty of reality. The most amazing thing about making this proposal at the university was recognizing that the desire for happiness puts us on the same path as everyone else. Distraction stops you from starting from the Encounter that strikes you, and one of the consequences is that relationships lose their goal. Instead, there is an Encounter in our life that is the path to the answer to all needs and that gives meaning to everything we live and all the relationships we get involved in. Soon after the presentation, we got together to read and talk about one of Van Gogh’s letters. Adding to the usual group, we were joined by one of the people from the presentation, as well as by my colleague!
Alfredo, Los Angeles

The Cardinal’s Letter to Fr Giussani

Dear Fr Luigi: With these few lines, I want to thank you with all my heart, on behalf of the families of the victims and on my own behalf, as well as in the name of the whole pilgrim Church in Madrid, for the expressions of sympathy and nearness before the awful terrorist attack on March 11th last, which provoked the bloodiest of massacres in our city, Madrid, causing over 200 deaths and 1,500 injuries, and which filled us all with immense sadness and profound, unbearable pain. In these moments of such great suffering, the fervent supplication is born spontaneously from faith in Him and from hope of everlasting life. He alone, infinite love, gives us the only true consolation, because “eternal is His merciful love.” So I want to thank you most of all for your prayer, in particular for the eternal rest of the deceased, for the swift healing of the injured, and that the Lord give His consolation to their relatives who are passing through such a painful trial. With all my affection and my blessing,
Antonio M. Rouco Varela
Cardinal Archbishop of Madrid
March 16, 2004