"Do You Know What You Desire?"
Natalie writes about her many brief encounters with CL that led to a deep belonging
In 2000, while working in Washington, D.C., I was invited to a dinner party by people who were part of Communion and Liberation. I remember there was a lot of singing and I met a woman, Elisabetta Seratoni, who invited me to School of Community where they were reading The Religious Sense by Fr. Luigi Giussani. Initially, I was attracted to this work because of the philosophical similarities between Giussani and Gabriel Marcel, on whom I was writing my master's thesis. However, during this time of life, I participated in other Catholic groups and my intellectual attraction to the Movement was not enough to keep me there.
Two years later, while studying law in Omaha, Nebraska, the Movement resurfaced in my life when a friend invited me to attend School of Community at a local parish. Similar to my initial experience, there was a great conversation but nothing more. Returning to Washington, D.C. in 2005, however, I met the Movement again through the Crossroads Cultural Center. I began attending their events with great enthusiasm because the intersection of faith and culture through the lives of passionate and artistic people appealed to me. In fact, it was at the D.C. Crossroads event The Life You Save May be Your Own on the lives of Flannery O'Connor, Walker Percy, Dorothy Day, and Thomas Merton where something began to draw me in. At this event, I met my former CUA philosophy professor, Dr. John McCarthy who encouraged me to read O'Connor's essays in Mystery and Manners (which I did and loved!). O’Connor's passion for writing, her sense of vocation and ability to judge reality moved me and my interest in her continued to grow.
While attending a conference on Flannery O’Connor in Chicago, October 2011, I met Dr. Stephen Lewis, professor of English at Franciscan University. At dinner one evening, I commented to Dr. Lewis how wonderful it was that so many young people were introduced to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at the university’s Steubenville conferences. He replied, "Yes, but what happens to these young people when they go home?" Surprised by his question, I remember thinking, “I don’t know – hopefully, they get plugged into their local parish or youth group.” Our conversation about the life of faith continued and concluded with Dr. Lewis essentially describing my views as Protestant. Provoked and annoyed by this conversation, I later asked myself, “what does he have that I am missing?” Two months later, after moving to Austin, Texas, I decided to see if there was a CL community in the area.
In January 2012, I began attending School of Community in Austin. I recognized something attractive in the people of CL in Texas who did not want to take their faith for granted and sought to experience Christ in all areas of life. In June of that year, I attended my first CL Family Vacation in Texas and recall a vivid moment during one of the hikes. While following behind my friend, Francesca, her daughter approached complaining that she was having trouble with the thorny stickers on the path. At this point, we were walking by the river, Francesca turned to her daughter reassuring her, "Okay, pay attention to the danger and to the beauty." Francesca’s statement struck me and stayed with me. I perceived that this was what Christ was saying to me, "I love you and I don't want you to miss anything."
This is the greatest gift that the charism of Fr. Giussani has given me – namely, the more of Christ. All of my life, from the person of Jesus and the Catholic faith that my family witnessed to me, to the formation I received in Catholic higher education, is magnified and intensified within the experience of CL. The Movement became a place and a way for me to take my desires, needs, and attractions seriously so as to recognize Christ in the circumstances of daily life.
In fact, the question “Do you know what you desire?” asked by a friend in Houston in 2013 ignited a deep search and work of verification in my life towards the discovery of my vocation, now lived within the company of the Fraternity of St. Joseph.
I am grateful that Christ does not give up on me and that He continually comes to my door offering everything so that He may be allowed to give us life and the fulfillment of our hearts.
Natalie, Houston, Texas