Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Accompanied

I just returned from the GS winter vacation. GS is the high school arm of Communion and Liberation, and it is the place where the charism of Father Giussani first made itself felt and evident, when he began to teach high school in 1954.
Participating in GS allows me to come closer to the charism of this movement than during any other thing that I do in CL. The presence of Christ is most palpable at the vacations and in the school of community with the kids. So, I find myself asking, "Why?"

What is most remarkable to me is the sacrifice, or total gift of self, made by Chris Bacich and the other adults who lead GS. A lot of the ordinary sacrifices are easy to identify: the sacrifice of sleep, comfort, time, effort. But none of these sacrifices would carry any persuasive force with me except that they are a part of a more global sacrifice that is difficult to name or describe. In any given moment, Chris and the other adults give their undiluted attention to the persons in front of them, particularly to the kids. This attention has several qualities. First, it is passionate, full of passionate questions: "What are you looking for?" "What do you want?" "What has happened to you?" These questions aren't repeated like slogans. Sometimes they are not even formulated in these words but are rather communicated in everything that is said and in the way that each person is looked at and recognized. The gift of self is also present in the way every activity, talk, and meeting is thought out and prepared. These things aren't planned out or strategized in any programmatic way. No one ever chooses something to set before the kids in order to elicit a particular response from them. That would be manipulation and abuse of power. No, what happens is simply that the adults work at preparing everything with intensity and passion, a passion for Christ and for the humanity of each of the kids, and then the adults dive into the games, or the singing, or the presentations, with the same passion and intensity that was present as they prepared. Everything that Chris does matters to him. Not only does everything he does matter, these things carry the weight of total meaning. And what give his life total meaning is something outside of him, something greater than he is, something present in his relationship with all of reality. Out of dedication to this "something," he gives all his attention to whatever or whomever is in front of him. And the same can be said of the other adults in GS. This work represent a sacrifice, not because it is work they wouldn't ordinarily want to do -- quite the opposite. This work, in service of another, is the only thing that gives life savor and joy.
And the kids come out and say things like, "You care more about my life than I do." They recognize that this "something" that the adults live for and give themselves to is in them, among them. Or rather, in us, among us all.
Even the hairs on your head are numbered.

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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."