At the Heart of this Longing
Marina's experience of the Kansas vacation: "I went, full of boundless expectation."
As the current circumstances with COVID-19 restrictions began to loosen, the Mountains and Plains Region began talking about the possibility of summer vacation, but a limited number of participants was still in effect in Colorado which pretty much left Kansas completely out of the planning. When a family with young children in our community shared their desire to have a family vacation, a group of friends got together to look at the possibilities. Our point of departure was never in “doing” or “not doing,” rather in "why do we want to do it?" “What do we want to communicate?” Even with the uncertainty of the pandemic, it was clear to us that the “anticipation of a vacation together was evidence of our will to live!”
As we prepared, we were invited to consider Father Carrón’s proposal for the vacation to look at the experience we have had during these months of global pandemic in the way we lived our companionship and to compare ourselves fully to the experience of what it means to belong to each other.
What has happened to me all these months? Why did I remain? Did it help me face everything? What made it possible? Has this pandemic been for me an opportunity to challenge the common mentality in the way I belong to Christ? These were the questions I brought with me to the vacation.
Our theme, “At the Heart of This Longing,” was the criterion of judgment of the life of the vacation in comparison with my needs in the circumstances I experienced during this time. I needed to verify the meaning of these words in my concrete life as so many times I take them for granted. To go on this "new" vacation as if nothing had happened to me would be for me to make a "carbon copy" of previous years, as if I had forgotten what has happened to me throughout all these months without the awareness of that “something that remains” which makes everything new again, allowing me “to discover that something unexpected is the only hope,” as Father Carrón said during the Spiritual Exercises.
So, I went to the vacation with boundless expectations, open to see what would fulfill them!
At the very beginning, we gathered at the center and we were as loud as children can be in summer camps--screaming and hugging each other. I don't intend to make a sentimental analysis, but the joy of being together again after so long was so evident. And at the same time, it was for me as if we had been together all this time of pandemic, in whatever form in which we have accompanied each other. I saw the same faces I saw online during all these months, each face with the same history that started more than 2000 years ago, the sign that I have encountered Something that “remains” and from which the “fragrance of belonging” originates.
Those of us who planned the vacation were only the ones who said
"On your marks, get ready. . . . " The “Go!!!” was loudly given by the whole community on that weekend.
The sense of belonging to one another as a sign of unity was implicit in the way we stayed together; a sense of community with a dominant Presence, making it possible for me to recognize the true companionship I need to live. Everybody had a participation in something: setting the room for the gestures, cleaning up, taking out the trash, refereeing the games, taking charge of the bonfire and BBQ, etc. We all watched the children; babies went from arm to arm. . . . This was truly everybody’s vacation!
The time of the hike in silence was a paradox for me. Walking in silence awoke in me an experience of correspondence between the beauty of creation around me and myself. As Giussani says, “all of reality is a sign.” This silence reminded me that what sustained me during the time of isolation due to the pandemic were those moments of silence and prayer full of a Presence.
However, it did not cease to be the most challenging gesture that forced me to compare everything with my vulnerability and face the way I look at the questions of life. There were many obstacles on the hike. I was getting tired and thirsty; there were moments when I felt I was not going to make it by myself, it was a rocky trail, some rocks were small but some others were big, and it was muddy and slippery. I was “stuck” and I had to cry out for help to be able to reach the top.
When we got there, we stopped to sing a few songs. “Singing,” said Father Giussani is “the highest expression of the heart of man” and indeed this moment of singing made everything new again. The hike was the sign of my life, of the journey I need to make that educates me in the way of looking at the unexpected as a possibility that changes me and in my way of looking at the whole of reality.
Father Michael Carville always reminds us that vacation is a paradigm for life. However, to verify this I need to pay attention to what happens to be able to understand its meaning, to recognize the nature of my “shift” and in this way experience a correspondence that becomes the knowledge of the paradigm of my existence.
My friend was right when he said that “the test comes after the vacation.” This is how we lived our time of vacation. Those days are over now, but the experience of this new way of living can become the experience of every day. After all, as Father Giussani would say: “we are showing the world whether the faith we live is able to generate something that is relevant to everyone”
We did only ordinary things, but the beauty of belonging to something greater than us made everything extraordinary.
And, as this man who came for the first time said as he was walking out:
“We have to do it again!!!”
Marina, Overland Park, Kansas