Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Reality educates us

A question and response taken from the Communion and Liberation Responsibles' Meeting in La Thuile, 2007:

"So, there, you can either live or suffocate. What does it depend on? On how you answer to the way in which the Mystery is calling you, to this vocational circumstance in which the Lord places you. The road is a thrilling one" (Julian Carron).

I can attest to what Father Carron is saying here. How many times, when I was in "difficult" or painful circumstances, have I resorted to counting the days until I can escape? I remember the first time I did it -- I was ten years old, in the fourth grade. After that, it became a habit of my life. And I can promise you that each and every day that I spent counting was a day that I spent suffocating. What makes us stop and recognize that this is the life that we're given and these are the moments we have? Precisely here, precisely now? Because I can face them, fully alive and with intensity, or I can miss everything. Father Giussani, more than anyone, has helped me to see that the faces in front of me are the faces that God himself has placed there, and that these are the only faces in which I will see the face of Christ. But even before meeting CL, I received the insight, from my work in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, that Christ is present through concrete signs in the present. I don't mean I didn't know this fact before, but the parable method, by examining small elements of reality with great intensity, trains the heart to seek him where he may be found.

What can I tell you now? How can I communicate the wonder and amazement I feel almost continuously? Read on...

Context for the above quote:

Question: I have been living in Boston for two and half months with my family, and I work at Harvard Medical School, probably one of the best universities in the world. It is true that living defined by the relationship with Something greater, with the Mystery, is a novelty, a revolution. When I live this relationship with the Infinite there, I find I am free from the measure that the people who work with me use on me. I am happier, and they notice it. Here it was said that to last in this position is possible because of a love that comes first, a pity that is present now. In the lesson, it was also said that this mercy and this reminder of the relationship with the Mystery are the aim of the Church. At times, though, the nearness of the Church and the Movement to my life there seems small and almost suffocating. What kind of work and responsibility does this imply for me in this situation?

Carron: What do you do when the situation of the Church is different from what you would like? Reality educates us. You realize (and this goes for everyone, because it happens to many of us, as it has to you now, to have no one nearby, to be alone. In the U.S., often the nearest person is 300 miles away) that if it weren't possible to live what we have encountered even there, we should all go home. So what is the type of work and responsibility in this situation? You have a spectacular opportunity now to verify there what you have encountered here. How? The test of the experience you have had here -- in the way you have encountered Christ in Italy -- is how you live reality now.

In what way does reality come to meet you? In what way does the Mystery reach you now? Through the circumstance in which you are. The circumstance is the way the Mystery is calling you (it is called vocation, life as vocation), so that the circumstance is the occasion given to you in order to recognize the Mystery. If you recognize Him, as you said in the beginning, you are free and happy. Whatever may be the circumstance, even at Harvard, with no one else beside you, nothing can stop you from recognizing Him there, and experiencing this happiness and this freedom. This is crucial for you, because then you can go anywhere, you have all you need for living, everything is an occasion for that recognition of the Mystery that makes you free and happy.

What is your responsibility? To answer the Mystery who is calling you through the circumstances. It is the same responsibility I have every day, before every meeting, every assembly: I can sit still, waiting for it to finish, or I can be there with my whole self, trying to answer to the way the Mystery is calling me in that moment. What is the difference between you who are there and me who am here? None. You there can answer and I here can fail to answer. What does it depend on? On freedom. The point is not the condition that may be more or less favorable. Starting off from what has happened to us, we can recognize that the whole of reality speaks of Him and everything can be an occasion for relationship with Hhim. "Reality is Christ," St. Paul says. If you answer, you will see the victory of Christ there. How? In a gladness, a freedom; and this will make you start making the Church present where you are, whatever the situation. No one stops you from answering to the Mystery there, just as no one guarantees my doing so here, before all of you. This is fascinating, because no one can think that he is spared something because the situation is favorable or unfavorable. We are all placed before the way in which the Mystery calls us, and you can answer or not answer. When you do answer, you see what happens, and what you experienced is a hope for everyone, because each one of us will be called more and more to live the faith, to live what has happened to us, in a world that seems to be going away. We could, for example, become fewer and fewer -- would that situation prevent us from living what we have said? We don't depend on numbers, we don't depend on having a group beside us, because even with a group one yard away you could still fail to answer the circumstances and suffocate (many people, who have the Fraternity around them, are always ill at ease). If the Fraternity, the School of Community,the friends, etc, are not a help in my responsibility, they are of no use. When they are, even if in that moment I am alone, the companionship constitutes me. You could not be there as you are, if you were not constituted by the companionship that generated you. Your "I" is generated by this companionship, so even if you are alone, you are in company. (From "Friends, That is Witnesses")

So, there, you can either live or suffocate. What does it depend on? On how you answer to the way in which the Mystery is calling you, to this vocational circumstance in which the Lord places you. The road is a thrilling one. It is an adventure without a safety net, but it is the only way to see the victory of Christ, which does not depend on "combined forces," as many think, but on the answer to the way in which the Mystery calls me. This is our nature as laity. This is why we can live in any situation and in whatever situation the Church is in there. It is an opportunity for everyone, even for China.

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Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."