Wednesday, June 4, 2014

How Can One Live?

Giotto di Bondone, Annunciation, Scrovegni Chapel

(from the slideshow prepared for the 2014 Exercises)

Welcome! I greet each of you present here, all our friends joining us in different countries by satellite link-up, and all those who will do these Spiritual Exercises in the coming weeks. Two facts marked our journey in recent months: Beginning Day and my audience with Pope Francis. During Beginning Day we focused on two questions: “How can one live?” and “What are we doing here in the world?”. Asking ourselves those questions on that occasion, we saw that what we need most is to become more and more an original presence, not a reactive one. Fr. Giussani reminded us, “A presence is original when it springs forth from the consciousness of one’s own identity and one’s affection for it, and finds its substance in this”. Since then, many months have passed and we have been challenged by many events. What has happened in the face of the provocations that reality has not spared us? These days are a precious opportunity to see what verification we have done on the proposal we set out for ourselves on Beginning Day. Has the impact with these challenges caused our originality to emerge? Have we verified our substance, or have we let ourselves be dragged along by the common mentality, failing to go beyond a reactive position?  - Spiritual Exercises of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, Fr. Julián Carrón

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"How can one live?" and "What are we doing here in the world?" How often do we ask ourselves variations on these question in School of Community? Does my living and doing spring from an awareness of who I am or do I react to challenges in the same way that everyone else reacts?  In order to know, I have to look at myself in action. So, a simple example: in a conflict with my youngest daughter yesterday (I wanted her to accompany me on a short trip, and she didn't want to come), I tried the usual things: bribes, threats, arguments. But as we both grew more frustrated, I recognized that this argument was not what defines us. I turned and embraced her and held her for some time, all the while feeling a huge abundance of gratitude for her life and for the presence of Christ that reaches me and embraces me through her arms. Then I asked her, "Can we start over?" and she just nodded. We got into the car without any drama at all, and trip went smoothly. 

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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."