|Responsibles’ International Assembly
The Experience of an Impossible Correspondence
by Renato Farina
By now, the suitcases are closed and the buses and cars have started their engines to bring bodies, souls, and all their luggage to Rimini for the Meeting or to the airports for the return trip home, but Ramzia has a request: “Would you really send me the history of the persecutions of my people? I don’t know anything about it; my parents don’t say anything or don’t know about it, and not even the University has books about it.” Ramzia is a lovely girl from Kazakhstan. This nation of 15 million inhabitants is a hodgepodge of peoples. She is a pureblood Tartar from Crimea. Stalin deported the Tartars to Central Asia, and during the transfers millions died in the cold. Ramzia explains, “Being now part of our Christian people gives me the courage to want to look at my roots without fear or the desire for revenge. I see the positivity of reality, of the presence of the Lord who has come to me. It is possible to live in peace, in whatever condition you were in when the Lord caught you.” Her father and mother are Muslims. They see that she is happy, and they accept and admire her change. And, at the University of Almatì and of Karaganda, an experience is flowering around her and her friends, welcoming everyone. Ramzia says, “Here in Kazakhstan, there are Germans, Koreans, Kazakhs, Russians, Tartars, and their mixes. There are about 350 religions.” “All around us is the steppe, but the land is fertile,” adds her friend Dima, a young university law professor.
The experience of a people
The International Assembly of Responsibles of Communion and Liberation lasted five days, from August 17th to 21st, in La Thuile, below the peaks of Mont Blanc, gathering 800 people from 70 countries. Fr Giussani supplied the meeting title, “The Victory of Christ is the Christian People.” Fr Julián Carrón’s lesson cannot be summarized in a few lines here [but it is included with this issue of Traces.] Rather, one can recount how the burning core of these days was precisely the event of Christ present, and how, in the face of the culture of the women and men of our times, wherever they live, only the experience of an “impossible correspondence” can shatter the chains of the nihilist prison. Under every sky, one lives at the mercy of interpretations; nothing seems to have the strength to impose itself as fact, because no matter what happens, it is boxed into the range of opinions. Here, instead, there are testimonies to a fact that happened in history, that happens now, the impressiveness of which is awe-inspiring. The victory of Christ, which makes everything positive (excuse me if words fail here), is documented in the Christian people, in the experience of belonging to it. At La Thuile, there has been a formidable education in the face of nothing more or less than reality itself.
Not an ideology, but a presence
In the moments for reflection on the first lesson, when we prepared the questions for the assembly conducted by Carrón and Giancarlo Cesana, we were grouped according to language or “trade.” I participated in the work of the teachers (the educators.) It was spectacular. There were Italians from every region, but also teachers from Chile and France, professors from Argentina, from Asia. Here are some examples of the witnesses we shared: In the Latin American schools, the students and their families live the drama of a no-exit depression. The alternative isn’t a good brand of CL religiosity pills, but, simply, education–taking the students by the hand and accompanying them within a meaning. The questions proposed by Asia, where people are going hungry, and by Bologna, “the glutted,” point to the same need–wherever people are, there is a cry. The response is not an ideology, but a companionship, the purpose of which is something greater than itself, and of which it is a sign.
The evening testimonies, the outing, the Holy Masses, the meals eaten in the huge Planibel restaurant all seemed cenacles where conversations interwove in ten languages, and one re-encountered friends who had become more certain of their common journey. The friends from Venezuela explained how the confusing mess of their country is so grave and requires help but, yet, the fact that this little Christian people is there, that it is present, in any case documents freedom, reaching out toward brother men, even those who want to choke off Catholicism.
Fifty years have passed since the birth of the Movement, but there wasn’t the feeling of celebration; rather, there was the sense of wonder at this miracle that has happened. Scanning the days, the faces, and the music made it impossible to bury it as a memory, because it was happening now. Even as I write now. Exactly in this instant, while you read. No particular ability, sensitivity, or acuteness of vision is needed, as Carrón repeated continually. Not our muddle-headedness, our anxieties, nor even our doubts can block it. “Christ doesn’t care a fig about our doubts. He comes and meets us. Don’t go away.” What simplicity in these 50 years, with 70 countries of the world represented, 800 people with life stories that can’t even be dreamed of, from the heart of Kansas to the slums of Lagos! A color wheel wouldn’t suffice to represent the various tints of all the faces. And yet, the unity is visible; each person has been assigned the clear, unique message: simply, to live–not to “do the Movement.” Vocation and task coincide. Just be fully human in the African bush, in the London financial district, in the favelas of Belo Horizonte, and even in the newspaper editorial offices of Milan. Giancarlo Cesana introduced the testimonies from Canada and Nigeria. Cecilia Zucchi, an Italian, met her future husband from Québec in Russia, and now in Montréal there is a new life. Cecilia recounts, “The mothers of my children’s schoolfriends want their children to play at our house.” Francis from Lagos tells about his hard efforts to find work and money to get married. “At the root of my home is peace,” he says of his harsh and beautiful life. This Fact entered in the life of his people. Mario Dupuis from Padova told about “life with Anna,” his daughter who was gravely ill from birth, and who died in 1993. She was an amazing gift that generated unthinkable fruits of hospitality and love, and it makes you wish everyone in the world could hear Mario’s story. They would say, “This is a man! How great is God, who has come among us!” This is CL. Cesana commented, “The fascination of Christianity is this: it shatters the banality that makes up 90 percent of our days.” He cites Cecilia Zucchi and the women who don’t dare approach the Movement, but who send their children to breathe the air of that home of Christians. “This is the Movement. Those women are in the Movement, which isn’t a label to stick on: it’s the movement toward Christ.”
The adventure of meaning
Javier Martinez Fernandez, the Archbishop of Granada, told how in his city, where there is a strong Islamic presence, he presents himself not as a speaker at an inter-religious roundtable, but as a witness of Our Lord, who died and rose for everyone. And the miracle of an encounter happens. Each person has this possibility; nothing is so strong as to exclude grace. The challenge is a living presence, not another ideology or another sword, “The purification of the faith,” he says. From New York, Lorenzo Albacete, a deeply touched Monsignor and an excellent ham actor (at the Meeting in Rimini, he put on a show of Christian intelligence and clowning), spoke about how you can’t respond to the laicist culture of the left-wing in crisis and well-disposed to religiosity, with arguments that are correct and appropriate to the need. “My error was to respond to an argument with an argument. Only a fact is unassailable; only an encounter can bring liberation.”
Msgr Albacete had been an actor, as Fr Fabio Baroncini had been. Baroncini re-read and commented on T.S. Eliot’s Choruses from the Rock, showing how the English poet in 1934 had intuited the tragedy of the following decades, and how the Movement was the surprising way through which “the Timeless, the Eternal enters time.” The adventure of meaning continues ever-new, after 50 years.