Love Without Measure
By Letizia Mariani
Raffaella and Ilaria share how their lives have changed since they encountered the "Miracle of Hospitality."
In the summer of 2017, Raffaella met Marco and Elisabetta, one of the five couples who live in Cometa. After returning to the United States and sharing her awe and her desire to somehow live like them, that very fall she and a group of families from across the U.S. met in Washington, D.C., with Marco and Elisabetta for a weekend together to delve into the experience of hospitality. The families included but were not limited to couples with adopted, foster, or disabled children. To guide the weekend, Fr. José had excerpts from Luigi Giussani’s The Miracle of Hospitality translated into English and grounded the families’ time together in those readings. The weekend of hospitality ignited strong friendships among its participants, and this life of hospitality continued for many in different forms.
The dialogue between the families never stopped, and eager to sustain this life together, they met a year later in Minnesota, again with Marco and Elisabetta. This second weekend, once more centered around hospitality, showed these families the fruit of a year of communal and independent work—it had not only changed them, but also their relationship with each other.
The work on hospitality, buttressed by the now fully translated text The Miracle of Hospitality, continues to this day for each individual who has partaken so far, in their friendships with each other, in their family lives, and in the intimacy of their hearts. In the conversation that follow Raffaella and her friend Ilaria reflect on this experience.
Editor's Note: Those would like to participate in this work on hospitality, may contact Raffaella at email@example.com
Raffaella: This initiative for me began with the Disarming Beauty proposal. That book was like receiving a key to delve into those aspects of reality that were most fascinating to me. The summer we worked on Disarming Beauty, I was on vacation in the Alps, and Marco and Elisabetta from Cometa were also there on vacation with all their kids. Their family, who lives this experience of hospitality in Cometa, was like a magnet for me. I couldn’t stay away from them because they lived their absolutely simple daily life—everything that moms, dads, husbands, and wives do—doing everything before the Lord, so that everything was charged with beauty and meaning. At first, I did not understand why I was so strongly attracted to their lifestyle since I don’t have any adopted or foster children. But I remember how, after I’d spent the day with them and then came home and picked up Disarming Beauty, I thought, “Today I saw this thing that Carrón describes in the way Marco and Elisabetta treated their friends or stayed with their kids.”
I came back home to Minnesota filled with wonder and awe. I did not want this to be done as a good memory. I wanted it to generate something in my life—If anything, just a change in my daily life. So, I called Fr. José and I told him about what happened to me, and I asked him if I could invite Marco and Elisabetta to the United States to give a witness. Instead, this turned into a whole weekend during which they came and met many families from the States.
Ilaria is my best friend. Her family is very open to the needs of others, and she also has a very open heart in her relationship with Jesus, so I was certain she would have understood my desire in front of this thing.
Ilaria: Life in the Movement was essential to educate me to recognize that I am in communion with others, that the other is given to me to discover who I am. I cannot know who I am without the other; my nature needs the other. Coming to America made this so evident because we were welcomed in such a way that we understood we were important to someone. And we also saw this working in reverse, so that others were also discovering who they were because they were in a relationship with us. That is when we started opening up our home. We had never done that in Italy for various reasons, but when we came here, we started opening our house to others when asked to host someone, for example. And this experience of hospitality continued. And in time, I came to understand that this wasn’t just about hospitality toward a stranger who came to stay at our house. It was about the friend coming over for dinner, or about my kid, or my husband.
With Raffa, when she started talking about the possibility of inviting Marco and Elisabetta from Cometa, it was like heaven to me. I was dealing with one of the things I hold most dear, hospitality, lived out with my friend in an absolutely real and concrete way. So, I said, “That’s great!”
Raffaella: I agree wholeheartedly. For example, we never adopted or fostered any children, and opening our home up to those who needed a place to stay was never an issue for us. It was more difficult for me to embrace those closest to me for who they . It’s much less heroic and it does not have an expiration date. Loving the other just as they are, though, opens up the possibility of an Other to come through, and then you really experience that Jesus is someone outside yourself. In order to love Jesus, I have to love reality because that’s the way by which He comes. This experience taught me to love in a non-sentimental way and to make room for another.
Even with everything we are going through right now—it’s a way of life we wouldn’t have imagined or wished for ourselves, this being stuck at home with our lives up in the air-- it’s as if, with the experience of hospitality, the Lord prepared me to accept reality exactly for what it is. And so even now in front of these trying times it’s perhaps less difficult to say, “Okay, let’s see what You are preparing for me in these things I did not want.” I think that we really discovered that hospitality is not something that only pertains to a select few involved in hospitable activities, but it’s a dimension of everyone’s lives. Don’t you think?
Ilaria: Absolutely. In fact, neither Raffa nor I have adopted children, foster children, or children with disabilities. Formally speaking, we’re don’t really fit the canon. But at its core, it’s exactly the same experience for all of us. Just like Fr. Giussani would say, it’s really true that hospitality is the epitome of the Christian experience. It’s the truest manifestation of the Christian person, someone who embraces reality because it’s truly a positive hypothesis and because every person and everything has a definitive value. We are called to this—to give ourselves fully to Jesus in the concrete relationship with what’s in front of us. And paradoxically, this is much harder to do with those you hold most dear. Those dearest to you are also those on whom you project the most images, expectations, and anticipations. And so, this really changes relationships, particularly your most intimate ones, at their very roots.
Raffaella: In terms of the origins of this, I saw something so beautiful, so corresponding, that went to the core of who I am, and so I had the desire for as many people as possible to encounter the same thing. I thought Marco and Eli could tour the United States and share their story. Fr. José, however, had a better sense of the needs of the families across the country. I had no idea there were so many people desirous to delve into and understand the experience of hospitality. So instead of just having some talks, Fr. José proposed we have three days together.
And in fact, this turned out to be a much richer experience, because among those who attended, this life of hospitality had already taken hold. We had previously spent one weekend together in Washington, D.C. in which the families from the local community offered to host those who were coming from out of state. Each family took it upon themselves to give someone a place to sleep, and they all cooked our meals and helped as much as they could. It was very beautiful because we didn’t go there as spectators watching something happen, but we really dove headfirst into this experience to really live it.
When we met in Minnesota with Marco and Elisabetta the following year, it when was a little different, but the core of it was essentially the same, and again, living the three days together was really helpful in keeping hospitality a concrete thing. When we made our invitations, we reached out to families with adopted or foster children or children with disabilities, and also to those who were thinking about adopting or fostering.
Ilaria: The second time in Minnesota back in September was an opportunity to delve deeper into this experience of hospitality with each other. And we saw and heard witnesses of people who live without measure. We saw and heard about experiences of love without measure by people who welcome the other in this way. I do think some people have a special way with hospitality; that is, some people are called to hospitality more strongly than others. If I think about Erin and Jason or Marco and Elisabetta, for example, these are people who live love without measures and this is so beautiful, so true, and so desirable.
Raffaella: The lack of measure, for me, is a sign of the presence of the divine. Because generosity is different, it has an expiration date. You don’t give yourself a lack of measure.
Now it’s not over and done with for us. No one has extinguished the desire to move forward with this or our questions about this. To me, this question of hospitality is very present, particularly when facing family life or even life in my Fraternity. For example, after meeting Marco and Elisabetta, I actually entered my Fraternity group with a better understanding that similarities are not a prerequisite for people to be together. The other is given to you. The truth inherent to another person is not contingent on how much you like them; it’s a whole other way of being with somebody. Staying with your friends, your husband, or your children always entails a kind of education to hospitality. This was so helpful to me and it still is! Now we’ll see what the Lord gives us next.