of the Meeting
I slowly stroll through the great spaces of this mammoth that has accompanied my summer for twenty-six years, and I have the perception that everything is changing, that everything evolves. This year, I have chosen contemplation: to be in front of the vacation photo of Fr. Giussani, a skinny little priest with the face of Don Quixote, surrounded by his Sancho Panzas. And then Enzo’s bullfight, wanting to play the toreador with a friend. Friends we have met, hung around with, hugged, and loved… I cross paths with friends who for decades have been carrying on their work, diligent, happy, entirely dedicated. At the end of the day, I find them “doing an exhibit,” tired, but committed to not missing the splendor of the mosaics of San Marco, explained by a girl who studies in Venice and is carried away by the words she manages to get out at the end of a long day, shortly before she gets the broom to clean up the stand. The Meeting for us “old guys” is a timekeeper of eternity, the narrated story of the miracle of our friendship, of the relationships that an Other has knit, plotted behind us, that we have had the freedom to acknowledge from one end of the world to the other–a map of the Fraternity of Saint Charles Borromeo gives me a geographic vision. We have had the freedom to say yes, the freedom to be loved like Cilla, like Anna, like Piergiorgio, whose features, I don’t know why, I recognize in the festive impetuosity of my friend Marco, who has made Frassati [St. Pier Giorgio Frassati, from Turin] his traveling companion. In a video, Enzo Piccinini is still talking about freedom, to you who are there today: “Freedom moves free if it has a point of reference that is recognizable and loved.” Here, the Meeting for us “oldies” is an undistorted house of mirrors: everything reverberates something else, and everything reverberates Him. This is the prize for having wanted to come here every year, camping or in hotels, with little and big children and their friends, with the kids who come with you, and those who didn’t want to come and then came, because freedom still works, and it is the starting point. “If you are a point of reference, you love the freedom of the others, and so you should tell everyone, ‘Come with me!’” continues Piccinini. At this Meeting, I’m accompanied by a sms message from a girl we helped find work for before summer: “Thank you for always being willing to listen to me. You are the only ones who have done this. I have always wanted to have someone next to me, supporting me as you do. First, I used to ask myself what I had done wrong, but now I ask what I’ve done that is so right, that I have deserved this. I am so happy, notwithstanding everything.” This is the true secret of the Meeting: an “I” in action that challenges society, work, school, politics, and the economy, and builds, starting from itself, that city in the city that is the true sense of history.
The World at Table
During last year’s Meeting, a family from my Fraternity and parish had the joy of hosting the young people from Kazakhstan. On that occasion, the young people and Fr. Livio told us what had moved them to face two days of travel, as well as considerable expense, to come work for free at the Meeting. It was a true “slap” of freshness in the face of our incredible laziness. Our contacts with them continued by e-mail, and the friendship that was born with them and with the priests who accompanied them drove us to invent ways to cobble together some money to lighten their travel expenses. We all eagerly awaited their return and the inevitable dinner that we would have, once we were all together again. In the meantime, Anna Maria, a Memores Domini member who has been in Nigeria for about 15 years, spoke to us with such warmth about her young people that it was only logical to invite them to the same dinner! Fr. Giuliano Renzi, who spent many years in Brazil on mission, always hosts some Brazilians during the Meeting, and this year, for the first time, two Colombians as well. Why not invite them too? Having heard about the initiative, the International Meeting Point suggested we also invite some Lithuanian girls who were at the Meeting for the first time, and a Ukrainian journalist who was also new to this experience. After a typical Romagna Region menu, the “extravaganza” began, an amazing sight indeed. The Nigerian young people, between mouthfuls of tagliatelle, had jotted down a “thumbnail sketch” for the evening. With a young Nigerian man (in Italian!) and Anna Maria (in English!!!) as emcees, each nation sang and danced one or two songs. Imagine a samba danced by a Nigerian and a Brazilian, a four-part choir of Lithuanian girls, a Russian song played and sung by a 14-year-old girl and accompanied by the Kazakh young men, and a serpentine dance line to a samba rhythm joined by everybody, including the journalist. At a certain point, the emcee announced, “Now we’re going to sing a song that’s topping the charts all over the world,” and then launched into “Sul pajon.” Well, I looked around and everybody was singing! Nine different nationalities singing “sul pajon de la caserma…”–an Italian Alpine mountain song. At that point, I thought of Fr. Giussani. It was clear to me how his charism has reached the whole world. Then it was time for good-byes, and people who had never met before, from different continents and very different languages, took photos together and exchanged addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses. At that point, it came spontaneously to entrust ourselves to Mary through the song Romaria, sung as everyone stood.
Out of the Routine
There is a link… found again… a link that does not break. I was an average CL member, used to living surrounded by my own CL friends, engaged in “that routine” of relationships, things to do, meetings, nice discourses, true friendships, etc. Then my life became more burdensome, with problems, dissatisfactions, disappointments, and my insecurities. That routine no longer felt familiar to me, and hope no longer had anything to do with my life, but was only an illusion to be avoided with all my strength. I avoided it, and avoided everything that could keep that hope alive. My life went on, in perfect solitude, and “that routine” always remained there, more or less close, but always unbearable. Then Fr. Giussani left us. I was at the airport when I received a sms message announcing his death, and instinctively I told my boss, who was there with me. At that moment, I felt my “belonging to the Movement.” From that moment on, this has been my awareness. I found myself at the funeral to pray and say goodbye to the one who educated me, who taught me to live, and to look at reality with my heart and my reason. I was there alone, and yet I felt bound to the multitude there, much more aware than me, united. That thin link, hidden under the burden of life, was still there, intact, thin but intact and indestructible. Back at the office, I found myself commenting on the Pope, on Europe and her Christian roots, on the referendum on assisted reproduction, and I couldn’t pretend and keep quiet. Probably for my colleagues I’m “the CL member.” For my old friends of the Movement I’m no longer one! Then there was the vacation. I just couldn’t make myself get involved in the routine (actually, it still frightened me). Then the Meeting… I wanted so much to go, but I couldn’t get organized, so I gave up trying. What a sad renunciation! What I don’t want is to have to resign myself to this sad renunciation. I don’t want to give up being able to look at my life with the mercy, with the love, and with the freedom that belong only to God, and that I can find only where God is alive and present. To tell the truth, now I really don’t know what I’m going to do (the story of my life!), but that thin link found again is here, and I am certain that the mercy of God is infinite.
At the end of May, through a series of negative circumstances, I lost my job. Obviously, my first decision was to cut a lot of expenses. For this reason, I very regretfully decided not to renew my subscription to Traces, which I have always loved. The reason wasn’t economic, though, but due to a negative state of mind and loss of faith that invaded my life. Unexpectedly, even though I hadn’t renewed the subscription, I received the July/August Traces, and I can tell you that this thing moved me, and made me happy at the same time. It was as if the Lord had knocked on my door, telling me, “Have courage! Don’t give in; even in such a difficult moment, continue to have faith in Me.” So, I decided not only to renew my Traces subscription, but also to pay the Fraternity common fund. Dear friends, thank you for helping me understand even more that we can deprive ourselves of everything, but not of Christ, who represents the only reason that life is worth living, even in negative circumstances.
A Family for Desirée
On April 22nd, Tonino and Enza welcomed a foster child, Desirée, a seven-and-a-half-month-old girl with cystic fibrosis. In July, the court found her an adoptive family. Here is the letter that the foster parents wrote when she left.
Dear Desirée: Today, you are leaving our home, but not our hearts. You are going to your family with your mother, Cristina, and your father, Spiro, and your young sisters, Anna, Sara, and Marta. For us, you have been our own baby Jesus. Your gaze, so deep and sweet, made us understand that your life has been a great gift for us; every day, you have been memory of the Mystery. Thank you for having entered our life (even if the modality was totally unexpected), for having filled it with love and strengthened the love we have for each other. You have made us become greater, and helped us to love Jesus more. We welcomed you in a delicate moment of your life; your health was so precarious that it made us love you right away. As Francesco said, “We have helped you begin your first steps toward your destiny, which we are certain will be great, and now your new family will accompany you in the next steps.” We are certain that Jesus has chosen the right family for you, even though now the separation is very painful for us. But you are serene, and this consoles us. We are grateful to Fr. Giussani and John Paul II because, with our insistent prayers, they gave you to us. You arrived on April 22nd, two months after the death of Fr. Giussani; for us, this was not mere chance, but a sign of the truly great love the Lord has for us. A beautiful friendship has developed with Spiro and Cristina, and it will always accompany us, so we will see you grow up! A kiss,
Mamma Enza, Papà Tonino, Francesco, Milan
Under the Spires
of the Cathedral
Dearest Fr. Carrón: After 12 years of no longer “following” the Movement, the morning that TG5 announced Fr. Giussani’s death, I was deeply moved, and melted into tears that concerned my own life. At the funeral Mass under the spires of the Milan Cathedral, Christ absolutely bent down to me, kneeled next to me, with a mercy, a goodness, a gaze like the first time 23 years before. There, I understood the faithfulness of Christ. Dear Fr. Carrón, from that day on, I have been crying, moved, and, made a friend of all, I run after Christ, among the last of you; I limp after Christ, I, who have already been grasped by Him. Everything has changed; everything is a prayer that He come more. Now I desire a fraternity, a communion, and I ask it of the Lord.
with a Question
Dearest Fr. Carrón: In long-ago 1977, I had the grace to meet Fr. Giussani for the first time, and we had lunch together, he and I, alone. My professional and sentimental life were beginning, and there were many things to ask him and get his view on. I have thought many times about that first encounter with him, and the more I think about it, the more it seems to me like a passage from the Gospels. It is a present memory, here and now. Among the many questions I asked, the most important for me in that moment was about my marriage. I was already in the Movement, but my wife wasn’t. Fr. Giussani asked me, “Do you think that it is possible to build the Church with Marilena?” I understood that what he was saying was important, but I didn’t fully understand its significance. But I entrusted my life to that word, the sacrament of my marriage. From then on, every morning, I have prayed a Hail Mary to Our Lady, as he asked me to do, so that it would be possible to build the Church with Marilena; in a word, that it would be possible to live. In the awareness of my poverty, I am conscious that Fr. Giussani’s question, and the daily prayer to Our Lady, are the meaning and consistence of my life. Our daughters, Lucia, Chiara, and Francesca, are the human transparence of the greatness and goodness of the encounter I had. The New School in Pesaro, the University in Milan and in Lugano, with the experience of CLU, the engagements, the weddings, and the grandchildren that the Lord has given us, are the evident fruit, the miracles of my yes, trembling, but full of expectation, in that first encounter with dear Fr. Giussani.
Here, a letter written by a prisoner to a friend
My dear friend:
I should feel flattered by your judgment about me; that is, considering me a great man. I feel like an abject being. No doubt, the experience that binds us, and that thanks to Gigi I have had the chance to meet, has given a new direction to my life, but you could never make such a consideration. My wife is a great woman, yes. She told me I should consider myself like a hermit, so the solitude wouldn’t weigh so much on me. But I wasn’t worried about this; what worried me was what happened afterwards, my transfer to Novara, where I had to live again in the most boorish hubris. This led me to close in on myself even more, with the choice of having no relationships with anyone. It convinces me even more about how great my wife is. If it were possible to offer my imprisonment for the salvation of the world, I would truly be the happiest person in the world, but I don’t believe that this is possible. But if it is possible to decide to say yes to this condition to offer to the Lord, then my yes is yes, yes, yes, yes, if it could serve for the salvation of just one man. Never again will I be a victim in my mind to lies. Saint John identifies sin with falsehood, and it is normally called falsehood. (“What is man, that You think of him?” asks our dear Fr. Giussani). Also, I have these good readings, and I read this repeatedly, almost every morning. Nor, as I have read in this book, will I use the enemy, the evil that is also inside us; it is obstinate, and hides snares, saying, “Who will ever be able to see these snares?” I never want to fall back again, because I was miserable, and He saved me. This is my great regret, not having learned these lessons much earlier, instead of thinking about the ephemeral and wealth. But I haven’t always understood late that there are very important things, and this is what makes you great; it is the teaching of Fr. Giussani: “How can I contribute to the good of the world?” I have already transformed my imprisonment into freedom, because He has broken my chains, and thus I will fulfill my vows to the Lord. The chain by which we are bound is something very concrete, and identifies with any moment of our life, with any expression of ours, with any action, in every action, something must be broken, but I don’t believe that this can lead me to undertake the road of holiness. Truly, you moved me with your letter, moved as only my little daughter Carla can move me; she makes tears well up without my even realizing it. I am always in search of truth; may I be able to reach it, with an encounter that I have been awaiting for a long time with the messenger of hope: another uncle for my daughters, in addition to Gigi, you too.
SYNOD OF BISHOPS
Fr. Carrón’s message to the communities of CL
Milan, September 27, 2005
The Holy Father has offered us another demonstration of esteem for our experience by nominating me a member of the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will take place in Rome from 2nd-23rd October on the theme of the Eucharist.
To see that Fr. Giussani’s educational method and the history of Christian friendship that started with him are deemed useful for the universal Church’s self-awareness moves us profoundly and gives us great responsibility.
I ask you to pray to Our Lady for the outcome of the Synodal Assembly, and that my awareness, and that of each of us, be ever more dominated by gratitude for the event of Christ present, of whom the Holy Father is the supreme sign, and by the will to spend our whole existence in order that the Church’s life flourish in the world as an embrace of hope for every man.
With my thanks to each one of you,
Fr. Julián Carrón