Making a Family
Serving the People

In 1972, they celebrated a “Communist wedding.” Then, Aldo encountered Fr. Giussani, a revolution that changed his life, to the point of deciding to “get married again” in a church

by Luca Pesenti

The day of fulfillment was April 9, 1994. Aldo and Teresa had lived together for 22 years, beginning in long-ago 1972, when the couple, both divorced, promised eternal love to each other in front of 200 “comrades,” marrying symbolically with the “Communist wedding rite.” Aldo Brandirali was the charismatic head of the Maoist organization, “Serve the People,” the ranks of which included Teresa. And so, they had spent 22 years of love and ferocious fights; difficult, wonderful years, through the birth pangs of a long, slow change, marked by the encounter with the great Presence.
Neither the sad bourgeois rite of a civil wedding, nor a Catholic one in church with a white dress attracted them in 1972. “We weren’t Christians,” Aldo explains today, “and so to be coherent we rejected the idea. But we loathed the secular replacement even more, if possible. Yet we needed a rite; we needed to vow faithfulness before the world, to live our love in the name of something other than us. The experiences of those two divorces had shown us that the challenge of unity had nothing to do with ritual, that something else was needed. We sensed in our own way that the duration of our love could not be put in the hands of our own coherence, but entrusted to a striving toward that which founded our lives: ideology.”

In search of beauty
And thus, they got married. But it wasn’t enough, above all for Teresa, who was always in search of verifiable reasons, never at ease. She began to pull Aldo toward the one thing, more than anything else in the world, that succeeds in moving man: beauty. Art revealed to Teresa that ideology couldn’t be enough. “It was the beginning of salvation,” Aldo reflects today, “even though for me, it was evident that not even aesthetic satisfaction held up. Paradoxically, Teresa moved first, but then I was the one in oxygen deprival; I was the one to push myself further onwards.” And here, another story begins, a new life starting in 1982, after ten years of Communist marriage, ten difficult years that had left their mark, especially on their two children, Marco (Aldo’s son from his first wife) and Luca, born from the union with Teresa. Aldo met Fr. Giussani, and a new life began. Teresa watched Aldo, perplexed; she neither blocked nor helped him; she simply let him do what he wanted, even though she feared the umpteenth ideological infatuation, another cheating of desire. As Aldo mixed with the CL people, his old comrades began to deride him, and little Luca, who attended the Party’s school, suffered, not understanding. “It was a terrible time. But I began to change, and with me, Teresa too, notwithstanding her distance from the world that I was beginning to know. We were still atheists, and yet everything was changing. Luca was helped a great deal by this newness that made us fight less every day, made us capable of embracing our limitations. Finally, we could be an example for him.”

Proposal of freedom
Then came the day of fulfillment, that day in 1994 when they became one before God and His people. They got married in church; he had converted by this time, but she was still searching for the answer to the great question that never abandoned her. Teresa accepted getting married in church because she understood that for Aldo it was an issue of life or death. She didn’t receive Communion, but she accepted putting herself before the Mystery. Two months later, Fr. Giussani invited Aldo to a meeting, saying, “Bring your wife.” Teresa went, and met the priest from Desio, telling him, “Look, don’t get the idea that I’ve converted.” He swept all that away with the response, “No problem. You should feel free.” Starting the day after, Teresa began attending Sunday Mass, because, “in the face of this proposal of freedom,” Aldo relates, “all her objections and preconceptions collapsed in an instant.” And the vehement fights of the years of cohabitation? “Everything ended. Contradiction in our relationship remained; in fact, maybe it got stronger. But there is a point at which we stop, acknowledging that there is something that comes before contradiction. We fight, but we get over everything. This is what Christ inserts when you get married.”