The Face of CL in Asia
Mario was anxious about taking this flight to Thailand; his wife hadn’t been feeling well and she had to take care of their 2-month-old first born. With a heavy heart, he took his seat on the plane when he noticed his seatmates. He eyed them curiously and was intrigued to see one of them reading Riscoprirsi Uomo by Massimo Caprara.. “Are you of Communion and Liberation?” His “Yes” changed everything from that point on. Marcello and his travelling companion, Paolo, lost no time in inviting Mario to participate in the Asian CL Vacation/Retreat in Pattaya. For it was truly an unexpected surprise for all of us of CL living in Asia to be able to come together for a second time to have a simple vacation and retreat. Choosing Pattaya, Thailand, wasn’t easy at first because of the recent tsunami tragedy in Phuket. In the end, the choice couldn’t have been better, especially when Fr. Ambrogio, our visitor, exhorted us to “look at our personal tsunamis and how we have endured them like a lighthouse standing bravely amidst crashing waves, firmly rooted in the foundation of our faith.” Simple but not easy. For Marco and Emanuela, who are expecting their first child, living in Indonesia away from family can be difficult. But having discovered that, in small details of their daily lives, they are “reminded that everything is a sign of the Preference that touches us,” reality becomes a living testament they embrace. For Alessandro, who was perhaps speaking for the rest of his friends, he shares with us how “this second chance to be with Asian friends was a sign of Jesus’ faithfulness and a confirmation that we are never alone in our destiny.” The retreat was made even more special with the presence of our Buddhist friend from Japan, Wakako Saito. Even Rev. Mettanano Bikku of Thailand, a respected Buddhist monk and scholar, visited us for a few hours, making everyone reflect on how familiar it was for our Christian ears to hear this remark. By the second day of the gathering, it was clear that everyone had bonded with the rest of the group. Even Thomas, a young man from Kenya working with an NGO in northern Thailand, found it easier to open up and join in the animated conversations during meals. His shy smile warmed up when he spoke of how he had known CL way back in Kenya. It belies the fact that in order to be with us on this retreat, he had to take a 10-hour bus ride, one way, from Bangkok, to reach his base up north. This is not even counting the 2-hour trip from Pattaya to Bangkok! The young mothers in the group, who divided their time between babysitting and listening in on the group discussions, amazed everyone with their stamina and determination not to miss out on anything. By the time we said our good-byes, we had come to realize that our short weekend retreat had blessed us with several refreshing insights: Although we come from different cultures and places, we share the same experience--Jesus is constant and the same to all peoples. The face of CL in Asia is forever changing, embracing our many different backgrounds, experiences, and difficulties. Throughout all these diversities, a oneness in “ Christ who presents Himself as the You to whom man can cling, the answer from a God who is more than a philosopher, who does not define the human condition, its contradiction and pain, but looks at it compassionately and shares it by overcoming death through an act immeasurably greater than death.”
Malou Samson, Manila
My son Simone was ill for a long time and certainly, for him and for us, the last three years were not easy. What God gave us to live was difficult to accept, even though inevitable (many times I found myself thinking this was like a sick joke Destiny had thrown my way, or a bad dream that certainly must end). But Simone, even in the midst of this weary struggle, was with us. I asked daily in prayer for the miracle of his healing. It was a prayer that didn’t countenance any alternative. Simone had to get well; I would have accepted nothing else. It was the only right thing for me. Now, Simone is gone, at least physically. I don’t know why the Lord decided that it should go this way. What I do know is that in the last days before Simone died, I prayed to God, asking that His will (not mine) be done, for Simone’s good (not mine). It is truly incredible to discover through grace that the Lord was there, and had never abandoned us; He was only waiting for our “yes.” What profundity of awareness, what gratitude derives from this. It makes sense; the value of everything has emerged. The continuous closeness of our friends, who were not there by chance, was a flesh and blood sign of Christ. Thus, saying “yes” to Christ coincided with being certain that Simone’s death is the accomplishment of the good design that the Lord had for him, and that the fruit of this sacrifice, which is also ours, is great, and changes the world, beginning with our hearts. Saying “yes” to Christ is possible, beautiful, and desired because the mystery of Christ is not an invention of ours. It’s not a pretty fairy tale with a happy ending to help us get through hard times. A You, within the flow of history, has arrived by grace even to us, through Baptism and then more consciously in the exceptional and fascinating form of Fr. Giussani’s charism within the experience of the Movement. Our gaze, our thoughts, our sadness, the absence that is there and that makes itself felt, all are overwhelmed, lovingly overwhelmed and embraced. What emerges, the positive that is there in reality, is Christ. It is a new and more aware beginning, not something to do or good intentions, but acknowledgment of and abandonment to the locus in which He has put us, because only there can we live our destiny deep down and to the fullest. Everything that has happened to us is not something private to keep hidden. In fact, there is a great desire to testify to how, in the faith in Christ, even such a sad fact can generate so much grace. Now, looking at the people whom life puts before us is an occasion for us to say who we are, who makes us exist, whom we have met: Christ. We have received many letters from people thanking us, but everything for us is in that “yes” to Christ, because He is the one who accomplishes. We entrust Simo and Fr. Giussani in prayer to Our Lady, so that certainly now, even more than before, they may accompany us on the journey of life until we can enjoy their company “totally.”
The Gift of Fr. Giussani
Dear Fr. Luigi Giussani: I’m a nine-year-old boy and I’m writing to Traces because I want to tell about a very beautiful thing that happened to me. Three days after your funeral, a kidney arrived for me (I’ve been doing dialysis for six months) and I was sure that you had given it to me, because I’d asked you at your funeral, so I would like to thank you because now I can do a lot more things than I could before. For catechism homework, we had to write a sentence: What are you going to offer this Lent? I offer to Jesus the courage to get through all the difficulties I have now and I’ll have in the future. I wrote it because I wanted to be like you.
In Line to See
On the evening of the 5th, we waited by the side of the road for the four busses that would take us to Rome, which in the beginning we thought would be too many. Instead, the waiting area ended up being too small for all of us, 130 young people in all. We were well aware of the weary effort that awaited us, but it certainly was not greater than our desire to pay our respects to the Pope, to present ourselves before him, to entrust our lives and those of our loved ones to him. At dawn, we arrived at Castel Sant’Angelo, and joined the line and the nineteen-hour wait. Here, the great miracle of John Paul II was manifested for us: thousands and thousands of people in line in the sun, moving along at a snail’s pace. But the most moving thing was seeing our classmates pray the Rosary with us and support each other with determination in the hardest moments of the pilgrimage to reach Saint Peter’s. In fact, without a reason it would have been a nice gesture, a courageous one, but useless, done for pure sentimentality, which sooner or later would pass, as Fr. Mauro always says. At 1:20 in the morning we entered Saint Peter’s, and our tiredness vanished. Here was the reason for such a long trip, to thank this man, who, together with Fr. Giussani, was a father for us. Thanks to these two fathers, we can say today that we are Christians, because they helped us recognize Jesus Christ present in the unity with our friends, and desire (and ask) that it may be so concrete for all those close to us, first of all our classmates.
Lucia and Vera, Crema
In the Pope’s
From March 18-22, 2005, sixty students participated in the CLU (CL university students) Easter Spiritual Exercises held in Olsten, a Polish town six miles from Czestochowa, the first to host Fr. Giussani way back in 1983 for a meeting with the Movement in Poland. Giulio and I participated as well, since for three years now we have been going there to meet with the Polish young people, and host them here in Italy when there are summer vacations and spiritual exercises. On Saturday the 19th, we had an encounter that was as unexpected as it was meaningful, with Cardinal Naghi of Kracow, the eighty-four-year-old theologian of the Church, and great friend of our late departed Holy Father John Paul II. Having learned of his presence there in the same complex for a spiritual retreat of the local diocesan priests, we asked if we could meet to give him Fr. Giussani’s memorial card and the Easter poster, and so it was that three or four of us met him. He asked us right away for news of the presence of the Movement in Poland, and about Fr. Giussani’s successor in guiding CL, so we told him of the great friendship and affection that had always joined Fr. Giussani and the Pope, about Carrón, and then our good fortune two years ago in seeing Fr. Giussani. On that occasion, we had thanked Fr. Giussani for the company he gave Giancarlo, Fr. Pino, and Fr. Fabio, because his love for them taught these men to look at us in the same way, and immediately Fr. Giussani had said, “This is the point! In this way, the Movement becomes a history.” After our brief private dialogue, the Cardinal wanted to meet all the CLU young people, and told them, “I’ve always been skeptical about Poland’s admission into Europe [as is a large part of the Polish Church], because the latter by now is devoid of values, shorn of an identity; it is losing its Christian tradition and cultural relativism is spreading everywhere. But you have the grace of belonging to the Movement that, thanks to Fr. Giussani’s charism, has saved Italy. You must desire that the wind of the Spirit blow through you in Poland as it has blown and is blowing in Italy, because, as the Pope said, the movements are the springtime and the hope of the Church.” Before leaving us, he added, “I think that the death of this hero, this great father that you had in Fr. Giussani, is not an obstacle, but an incentive for you to live to the fullest the charism that has caught you.”
Teldo and Giulio, Milan
Ten Minutes of Prayer
I’m an employee in a big furniture factory. For the Pope’s funeral, the company management was willing to grant just one minute of abstention from work, although I had asked time off from 10 to 12 to see the religious function in Saint Peter’s on a big screen set up by the Movement in the convention hall of a luxurious hotel. At 8:30 am on Friday, a young co-worker asked me to help him hold a brief moment of prayer in the factory with the workers who wanted to participate. I agreed, and at 10:00 am, the time for the “minute of recollection,” he brought two votive candles, a photo of the Pope, one of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and one of Fr. Giussani, and placed them on the work table, and then asked me to lead the little moment of prayer. Visibly embarrassed in front of thirty co-workers, I recited the Our Fatherand Eternal Rest, moved by a gesture that was so small and yet so charged with passion and faith (and that lasted well over 10 minutes!). The young man confided to me that he had met Fr. Giussani in Bergamo many years ago, after he had said Mass in a parish, and that his life was changed by that encounter. I was struck by this event, for it helped me better understand Fr. Giussani’s words: “The response to the question of what Christianity is, is a piece of space and time…an event through which a man said I am God, and I will continue through history within the visible reality of the people who will be united among each other.”
Five Is the Same as Forty Thousand
February 24th, Delft, Holland. We were watching Fr. Giussani’s funeral in the living room of Jvb71, an enormous dormitory in which each apartment houses 16 (!) people. We two Italians, crazy enough to spend a sunny afternoon in Holland (!) closed up at home watching a Mass 1,200 miles away, slowly but surely were surrounded by everyone else in the apartment. Roland and Lotte asked, “Hey, what’s going on at Saint Peter’s? Did the Pope die?” For them, it was very strange that so many people would join together in the rain, and that we here were so attentive to what was happening. Bart asked, “What’s going on?” and we responded, “It’s the funeral of a priest.” “So many people for a priest? That would never happen in Holland…” We said, “It’ll happen, don’t worry… He was someone we loved because he was the founder of the Catholic movement we belong to.” Bart said, “Ah, nice. But what’s a movement? And why do you belong?” “We encountered some people who lived in such a beautiful way that we wanted to follow them. Then, we discovered that they were this way because of the presence of Christ in their lives.” In the meantime, Bas, Roland, and Cheryl had stopped to listen to the songs, with their mouths hanging open. “Hey, what’s Berlusconi doing there? This priest must have been an important person.” Then the cameras did a close up of Emma and Carlo, and we said, “Those are our friends!” and then Fr. Pino, “He’s a friend of ours, above all.” They reacted by exclaiming, “A priest?” “Yeah, I mean, it’s not like we go out every evening for a beer, but he’s really a friend of ours.” So what should have been a private moment for us became the meeting point of the entire apartment for that afternoon. The next day we said, “Hey Bart, you know that by the end there were 40,000 of us?” Jean Paul asked, “Where?” and Bart answered, “In Milan, for the funeral of Fr. Giussani. See, Eli, I remembered his name!” It didn’t matter whether we were in Milan with 40,000 people, or in Holland with 5 (with Laurens and Mart, who don’t let you get distracted for a moment). The intensity and the beauty of the Christian life are always possible, and strike anyone!
Maria and Elisa, Delft, Holland
On an Outing
with Fr. Giussani
It was one of the first vacations in the Val di Fassa, one summer many years ago. My brother and I happened to be there almost by chance, and everything was new for us, the tranquil friendship among the fifteen-odd young men and women, the games, the songs, the hikes, and that serene priest who would get rid of his cassock and head out in the morning with knickerbockers and a big white handkerchief knotted on the four corners clapped on as a hat, to guide us in the discovery of mountains and paths with the same vibrant passion with which he celebrated his “short and fervent” Mass. Ciampedie, Puez, Contrin: he guided us to these places, giving us the reason for each step, why we should climb in silence following the person in front of us, how to look with your eyes wide open and your heart amazed by the small stone by the side of the path, or the evening sky full of stars, and the beauty, the beauty of the mountains and the songs. That morning, we climbed the Piz Boè gravel field (the cableway hadn’t been built yet); then, along the snow-covered path, we reached the Alpine hut and the peak; we ate, played, and sang, and while we descended to the Passo Sella, “the Gius” taught us to jump and slide down the gravel field. We got caught in the rain, and then good weather returned. But it had gotten late, and we had missed the last bus. In those years, not many people had cars, and Fr. Luigi busied himself speaking with the drivers of the few cars parked there, requesting and getting rides for us. Slowly but surely he got almost all of his kids loaded up, always making sure to have at least one boy and girl in each car. Three of us were standing a bit to the side, watching him hustle about. Suddenly, partly to ease his burden, partly out of bravado (we weren’t tired like the others!), we yelled, “We’ll go on foot!” and started out without waiting for his reply. First we took a shortcut, then a path, and then we had no choice but to take the asphalted road. A car passed us, and then stopped a hundred yards ahead, and the Giussani stepped out, warmly thanked the driver, closed the door, and waited for us on the side of the road. “Poor us! Now he’s gonna bite our heads off.” Preparing our defence, we caught up with him. But he welcomed us with a smile, “Buck up, kids! We’re halfway there!” and set off walking with us. “But if you had a ride, Gius, why did you get out?” “If you walk, I walk too!” he answered, then switched the subject to other facts, and other questions. “ Mercy I want …” How many times over the ensuing years have I remembered that gesture, in which for the first time I encountered the companionship of Christ!
Dear Fr. Carrón: In 1988, a young priest, Fr. Attilio, was sent to serve in our parish in Caravaggio, and a beautiful friendship was born among us. After his transfers to other parishes in the diocese, we lost touch with him for a few years. But on the occasion of Fr. Giussani’s death, he sent me the following letter. Dearest Giovanni: Maybe you’ll be surprised to receive this letter from me, but for some days now, hearing what the newspapers and television have been saying about Fr. Giussani, I felt the desire to thank those who led me to know this priest, not through their words, but with their lives. It’s true that we rarely talk or get together, but in my heart I have a great affection for the many friends who live the experience of Communion and Liberation. In places where Christianity at times is only stuff for Sundays in church, I think with longing of the fraternity, the welcome, the esteem, and the friendship born when I met you, Marta, your daughters, and your friends. You are, we are, a great gift for the Church and the world. So many people have remembered Fr. Giussani with the expression, “He was a father for me,” “He gave me back the joy of living,” or “He made me encounter Christ.” In your life, in your experience, I have seen these things. With great gratitude to the Lord, who in my life as a priest has given me the opportunity to meet you, I wish to thank you. In my office I have the Easter 1988 poster, which was the excuse for a chat. For me, too, what I hold most dear together and in Christ is your friendship. I ask of you the kindness of praying for me, that the Lord may accompany my life. I assure you of my grateful prayer for you and your family, and a prayer of suffrage for Fr. Giussani. Thank you again, because you have given me the testimony of a tremendously “human” Christianity, incarnated in the fraternity and in the communion of life. In the companionship of Christ, a brotherly greeting.
In our relationship with Fr. Attilio, my wife, my friends, and I never did anything particularly extraordinary; we just tried, just as we try now, in our day to day life, with all our poverty, to keep clinging, even with great toil and with humility, to the companionship that the charism of Fr. Giussani has made us encounter.