United by More than Interstates
Friends share their experience of the Lower Midwest Beginning Day.
Saint Mary of the Woods in Terre Haute, Indiana
Responding to an invitation from a friend to focus on unity in our friendship, the communities from the Lower Midwest region (Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, and Tennessee were represented) came together for this year’s Beginning Day. The day was spent at the the campus of Saint Mary of the Woods, a college and home to the Sisters of Providence, as well as the Shrine of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, Indiana’s first canonized saint. Located in Terre Haute, Indiana, a considerable drive for many, the day became a true pilgrimage for all. The time spent sharing a meal, listening to the lessons of Father Carrón and Father Giussani, and learning about the life and witness of Mother Guerin became a moment to truly “begin again.”
Seeing the beautiful church that was, at the time in which it was built, truly in the middle of nowhere, is a sign that Something Else was always already at work. It served as a reminder that though many of our communities are far from each other, Christ works even in these remote places, and we are bound together by much more than interstates.
Emily, a friend from Evansville, Indiana, wrote of a conversation she had with her children while preparing to leave for the day. They peppered her with questions like, “Where are we going?” “How far away is it?” “Why are we taking food?” “Who is going to be there?” Emily responded by telling them, “Our friends will be there.” Her children didn’t understand, though, as Emily could not identify exactly which friends would be there.
“Then, how do you know our friends will be there?” they insisted.
“Because in this place, I know that whoever shows up is our friend.”
As we were driving, I thought about the reasonableness of driving approximately five hours in a single day with my husband and eight children, infant to teen, to a remote place when I didn’t even know who might show up. What made me so certain that those who would show up are my friends? Is it ever reasonable to say, “My friends are coming,” when you don’t even know who will arrive?
Christ did not disappoint. He surprised me with faces of old friends and new friends, people I hoped would be present and some for whom I didn’t even know to ask. And the greatest gesture of friendship were the words from Fr. Giussani during the video lesson. His words expressed a bold tenderness for my heart, for my humanity. I was completely moved by the fact that in that moment (though the lesson was recorded long ago), he was expressing a greater tenderness for my life and my relationship with Christ than I have been living. The overwhelmingness of my daily tasks had lulled my heart into a type of boredom, into a lack of hope. I could not stop crying tears of gratitude as Fr. Giussani spoke: gratitude for the love Christ was showing me through Fr. Giussani; gratitude for the words of hope that were moving my heart; gratitude for this friendship He called me to live more than twenty years ago.
After hearing the lesson of Beginning Day, my heart is more my own because Fr. Giussani took his heart seriously. My life is more free and full of hope because Fr. Giussani was a true friend to me in his words. And I know with certainty that it was reasonable to bring my family that day without knowing who would arrive because the One Who loves me always arrives.
Meghan, Nashville, TN