Tuesday, August 26, 2008

This woman for president

This morning at breakfast, my husband Stephen, told me some details from a witness given by Cleuza and Marcos Zerbini at the Communion and Liberation Responsibles' International Assembly, in La Thuile, 2008:

In São Paulo, the Zerbinis had made an arrangement with a local university to provide reduced tuition for the landless students in their movement. The university also provided them with a room in which to meet. Then, suddenly, the university reneged on this arrangement. The Zerbinis had a contract with the university that stated that even if it wanted to raise the tuition for movement members, it would allow those students already enrolled to complete their studies at the reduced rate and would also allow the movement to continue to use the room until all those students graduated, but now university officials were insisting that the tuition rates would change for all the students, even those enrolled, and they were demanding that the movement vacate the meeting room.

Cleuza and Marcos had planned to go on a short vacation that weekend, and they decided that they might as well go because it takes so long for anything to happen in the courts of São Paulo that nothing would change while they were away, but during that weekend, they received a call that the clerk of the court had arrived at their meeting room with the police and they intended to remove all the chairs.

Marcos suggested that they call someone to go there to deal with the situation for them, but Cleuza insisted that they leave immediately and go there themselves, saying, "Are all the hairs of my head counted or not?"

When they arrived at the room, the clerk of the court was in the process of removing the chairs. Cleuza told him he must stop, immediately, because each of those chairs represented a human being, and it was wrong to treat them like things.

The clerk asked her where she got the authority to tell him not to move the chairs, and she laughed and said, "It took me 15 years to discover the answer to this question for myself, and now you want me to explain it in two minutes?" But she began speaking with him about the history of the Landless Workers Movement of São Paulo, and then about meeting Communion and Liberation. Somewhere in this explanation, she told him about the ten lepers, cured by Jesus.

Then the lawyer for the university arrived and insisted that the clerk of the court continue to clear out the meeting room, but the clerk, pointing to Cleuza, said to him, "Oh no! It's clear to me that she's the one in charge around here."

Then he began to tell Cleuza that he had done many bad things in his life, but that he wanted "to be a leper, too." Since that day, he and Cleuza have been speaking weekly.

Meanwhile, she and Marcos knew that they had to find another room in which to meet. They owned another meeting room in the city, but it was too small to meet with all the students from the university there. Next door to this room, there was an evangelical church that was for sale -- evidently, the church wanted to move out of that location because too many of their congregation were attending the School of Community next door! The church had been on the market for some time, but they were asking too much for it. The Zerbinis offered to pay them a more reasonable price and to give them the money right way, if they could begin to use the church space that weekend. The church leaders agreed to the sale, the Zerbinis knocked down the wall between their meeting room and the church, and the new space was even larger than the meeting room they'd had at the university.

2 comments:

Fred said...

this is the best story!

Suzanne said...

Yes, I can hardly wait for the transcript, which I think will be published in the La Thuile booklet.

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."