What We Have Seen
Some of the US participants at this year’s International Assembly of Responsibles share their experiences
This year I was able to participate with twenty-three others from the USA in the International Assembly of Responsibles (AIR) in La Thuile. The impression I had was exactly the same as that which I had many years ago when I first participated: a true experience of communion. The twenty-three of us together with people from seventy nations around the world, for a total of five hundred participants, together, drawn there by the same desire. We had lessons and assemblies with Davide Prosperi, who is currently called to lead our Movement, and with three bishops, each of whom found the origin of their vocation in their experience of living the charism of Communion and Liberation. I always find the lessons extremely helpful because they lay bare, and render explicit to the mind and the heart the reason that we are there. All of this generates a sort of a symphony, a powerful song of Christ alive and present among us.
For most of the meals I had already planned to sit with someone in particular. But on one occasion, on the third day, I deliberately avoided a commitment to sit with someone and I walked in the dining room to see where I would end up and ended up sitting at table with my good friend and brother Fr. Diego Garcia and three ladies from South America, whom I had never met before. We had a conversation without limits and went to the depths of what it is that brings us there. Those ladies became my friends and will always remain in my heart as people to whom I belong and who belong to me. Towards the end of the assembly we had dinner with the Americans, all squished in around a small table but making room for everyone, and we spoke about what those days meant for us and our desire to live for Christ by building this particular history which has bound us together as His presence in the world. I am very grateful I attended the AIR and for the way in which that moment makes it easier to be filled with gladness and gratitude.
Fr. Michael, Broomfield, CO
During the trip to La Thuile, I begged for a simple heart, able to recognize Christ and to follow Him. When I arrived, I perceived a climate of joy – already a sign of Him! Then, Prosperi's introduction strongly impacted me. I was extremely moved when he described the position of Fr. Giussani in front of the event of Christ, immediately recognizing it as the ‘accent’ of our charism. I didn’t know before that I needed so much to hear these words, but I found in those words a clear and reasonable proposal to work on. When Prosperi quoted the “beautiful day”, I thought: “this is what is happening in me!” After the introduction, I ran to the secretariat to ask for a printed copy of these points because I wanted to read them again and again. The question of what the Mystery wants to say to us and what answer He asks of us remained in my heart and shaped my conversations during my time there. When talking with old and new friends it was easy to immediately go deep in our desire, looking at what really matters. As a friend told me: "the difficulties of the last period are melting down, an Other is winning". The lessons, the assemblies, the witnesses, the hike, the songs – everything spoke of Him. At the conclusion came the answer to the question we were given at the beginning regarding our responsibility for the charism. It is clear that my responsibility in front of this immense gift is first and foremost to beg for Him. This gives me a different perspective on what life is for. I came back with the strong desire to live an even closer friendship among us in the US, to go deeper into the event that has taken us.
Maria Teresa, Bethesda, MD
Without movement there is no Movement. This is what I witnessed in La Thuile. On top of a mountain staring in disbelief at a group of Ugandan friends singing their hearts out during Alpini songs or cupping my hands around my ears in the loud dining room to catch bits and pieces of the story of a newly-found friend from Myanmar, I often mulled in awe at the presence of so many people whose lives have been touched, gingerly or clamorously, by the person of Christ and His Church. The textile of His mantle is being woven in the faces I encounter. We too have touched its hems. The tone of the conversation among us shifted after a few days together because the truth that we claim to pursue through dialectic has become flesh.
Desa, Gainesville, FL
In many conversations during our time in La Thuile, one question that frequently came up was: “How did you meet the Movement?” This was a great reminder for me to recall the initial encounter that drew me to Christ through the Movement, but even more, it was fascinating for me to see all the unique and individual ways Christ calls us to Himself! Although we live all over the world, we are united by the fact of Christ in our lives.
On the bus ride back from La Thuile to Milan, I was asking what others were doing that evening. I didn’t yet have plans, and after the experience in La Thuile, I wanted to share more time together. Through my ‘begging’ (asking what plans others had) Emad offered to share a hotel room and for me to join him for dinner with a few friends. Although a little hesitant because I was afraid to impose, I said ‘yes’ to that plan. Before dinner, we visited the tomb of Fr Giussani, and ran into Maria Teresa and another friend while we were there. After dinner, we walked around the Duomo and other areas of Milan, with Daniele explaining things as we walked. The whole evening was more beautiful than I expected or could have planned. When we got back, Emad reminded me: see what a ‘yes’ can do?!
Brad, St. Cloud, MN
For me, the meeting was beautiful on many levels. I have been in CL for over twenty years but I am continually amazed at how Christ reveals himself to me through these people. I saw among everyone there – from Davide, to the bishops who spoke to us, to the attendees – a positive and open, almost childlike, disposition concerning what we are. I discovered even more that we are being invited into a position of exploration and recognition of the relationship between the Movement and the Church. It was more clear to me than ever that we are together because He is with us, among us – not just an idea. This is great for the Movement, but more importantly it is for me. Who am I that Christ should come to me this way?
Fr. Lee, Germantown, Maryland
The days in La Thuile filled my heart and my eyes of the gazes and radiant faces of friends for whom, unmistakably, Christ is everything. Before them, I was surprised by my heart leaping like the Quincke’s resonator, "which [Giussani says,] I studied in secondary school. It is a tool to identify which note dominates in a given chord: when a given column of sound passes in front of Quincke’s resonator, if the dominant note is a D, the resonator will echo that D, overwhelming the other notes." In front of an unexpected starry night, a young friend overwhelmed by gratitude for his first year of marriage and another who tells me of his life in mission where he let himself be led wherever Another calls him, the resonator kept vibrating with a new immediacy, as if fine-tuned by the urgency of this period.
Martina, Omaha, NE
What struck me most in La Thuile was the incredible variety of people: I met two girls from Taiwan, Allegra and Anna; Matt and John from New Zealand; Stefania from Ecuador and Roland from Nigeria. I asked them: “why are you here?” and then everyone started telling the story of their encounter with the Movement. Different places, different stories but a common thread: they were all looking for more, for a greater meaning in their life. And Christ met them there, through the invitation to a School of Community, or a Summer Vacation. I realize that every time we share the story of our encounter with Christ, we experience the same joy again. This is part of the reason why I love to be a missionary priest. In La Thuile, so many people told each other the story of their first encounter that the joy was overwhelming! Someone said that our charism is Catholic and Missionary, and I see in this joy a great sign that both features are strongly present in CL!
Fr. Matteo, Broomfield, CO
The beauty and diversity (of backgrounds, of personalities, of preferences, of preoccupations) present among all of the faces was undeniably the sign of the presence of Christ among us – an ‘impossible’ unity, an experience of total gratuity. I was particularly grateful to meet the people who traveled from Uganda, and two women from there – Clare and Priscilla – have quickly become dear friends. They are my sisters; we have met and love the same Person. How is it possible that their stories, while set in such a radically different place, are the same as mine? The story of a Father who loves his daughter, who gives her more fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters that she could have ever imagined. Really, we are nothing but loved!
Camisasca said that we are all responsible for the gift of the charism for the fact of having received it, and that the best way to make this gift become ours is to make it become our life. I arrived back home to my husband and three children with these words implanted on my heart, wanting to discover more than ever what He has to say to me each day, with the awareness that everything that happens in my life – from changing a diaper to grading quizzes to preparing dinner – is His act of tenderness towards me.
Hannah, Cincinnati, OH
Davide opened the meeting by asking us to take seriously Giussani's now-famous exhortation: that the circumstances in which we live are essential factors of our vocation. In particular, he asked, “What does the Mystery want to say to us through everything that has happened in our history?”
In the past two years I have spent lots of time talking about the changes in governance of CL and Memores Domini, of statutes, constitutions, and the general cultural situation in which we live. However, I usually engaged in these discussions without much skin in the game, as if these changes did not ask much of me, and thus were a bit extraneous. And, if I am honest, these events have not been “essential factors” to my work, relationships, or vocation. What is happening in CL often seemed to be a parallel path to my life.
The meeting in La Thuile was a correction to my position. It was a time of listening to bishops (Camisasca, Santoro, and Baturi) recount the history of the charism within the Church’s history, of discussion and assemblies, of sharing concerns and elaborating on what we heard. It was a time of work, and for me, it was a return to taking personal responsibility for the beloved charism I bumped into thirty-eight years ago. Once again, I am acutely aware of the Mystery speaking to me about belonging to Him through what is happening, in my history, through the companionship of the Church, in this little piece of Her called CL.
Holly, Broomfield, CO