Here is something to read. This is what happened to me:
Using the heart
How do you become aware that it is real? How do you become aware that this encounter saves your humanity? Many of you said it is because it draws out the original structure of your humanity, it brings out the heart as need and evidence. I throw myself into reality by using my heart, which means that it makes me use all of my humanity–both as reason and the need to know, the need to give a name to things, and as affection, the discovery of a capacity to embrace and love everything. The continual rediscovery of how I am made, of how I am made as a need for reason and a need for love, is fundamental. You have the fortune of living in a country where there is a huge attention to religiosity. There is a great attention to man’s freedom, unlike Europe that is sick with nihilism, imprisoned in a doubtfulness that suffocates and strangles man’s freedom and creativity.
Nevertheless, we have to be careful, because this passion for man’s religiosity is not the exaltation of feelings or moods, of moral values or passions, because otherwise everything would revert to man’s measure. You can become violent in the name of religiosity, translating it all into an ethical claim that winds up suffocating man after having given him hope. When we speak of religiosity, we mean the experience of the encounter, of this impossible correspondence. What does it awaken, what does religiosity mean now in my life? The need for reason, hunger and thirst for meaning. The need to name things, from the relationship with your wife and children to the meaning of your work, the meaning of your studies, the meaning of the responsibility you feel for your country and for the world. Religiosity is the apex of reason. It is where my humanity as the need to know and love is opened to recognize Another. This is the content of the word experience. It is neither a simple feeling nor the enthusiasm for a moment, but the entire impact with reality judged by the heart, by the original tension toward happiness, by this tension to which the encounter with Christ begins to respond. The encounter with Christ saves one’s life not because it resolves the contradictions, but because it is companionship to life as meaning. My life remains full of contradictions, trials, and insecurities, but in the encounter, it becomes full of certainty.
The encounter is a fact
Certainty, what is certainty? It is the recognition of the real, physical bond with Christ, companionship within life’s circumstances, even to the point of extreme drama. So, what is Christian experience? Why do we insist so much on the term experience? Why are we not afraid to use this term? Why do we make it the fundamental point of knowledge and action? Because experience describes precisely the objective dynamic of the event. What happens in the encounter? The encounter is a fact.
You can leave tomorrow morning and say, “I’ve had it with all of you.” In the entire history of the Movement, nobody who has ever gone away has gotten better (this is an aside). You can go away tomorrow morning, but you can no longer deny the fact of the encounter. Experience means to live with this encounter, with this presence in your eyes. It means becoming aware of what makes my life grow. Experience is what makes me face reality. In other words, the relationship with reality is no longer what I can do, no longer a measure, but is a new awareness, a new love, the awareness and love of Him for whom we live. The challenge of experience as the criteria to face everything can be expressed as, “For whom do you live?” This is why experience also becomes the criterion for verifying, making true, realizing what is true in my life. What is true, what makes everything true, is He for whom one lives.
This knowledge frees us from the outcome, from the anxiety over results, and, at the same time, makes us full of passion, full of longing. As St Paul witnesses in the 5th chapter of 2 Corinthians, “I long for the love of Christ, He who died and rose for us.” This longing is a judgment and a love that leaves us full of passion and a desire to risk, without being afraid of making mistakes or being prisoners of our own sins, ready to start over, ready to receive pardon, ready to give reasons to everyone for what we have seen and heard.
The great sacrifices of our life are not the penances we choose; the greatest sacrifice in our life is to stay with this experience and to go to the very depths of the reason why I live. What do we have to sacrifice? Appearance, that which is immediate, which is instinctive, in order to arrive at the root of things. This gaze that looks at man and things, that looks at the person I love and at the stranger is called virginity, which is a new possession, with a detachment because it is a physical detachment that allows me to look at you full in the face and recognize that the root of your face, the ultimate meaning of your destiny, is Christ. This is a possession and tenderness, a possession that is new, that never ends–with a detachment within. This goes not only for those Christ calls to live this form of life, virginity, but for whomever is married, for whomever is seeking his vocation. It is a gratuitousness.
- From "The Strength of the New Beginning," The talk at the National Diaconia of North America, Ft Lauderdale, Florida, Jan. 14-17, 2005, by Stefano Alberto, an article in Traces