Courtesy of Peter Fields.

Rediscovering a Presence

On April 2 and 3, the New York City CLU presented an exhibit on the life of Msgr. Luigi Giussani at New York University. For Peter this was an opportunity to delve deeper into his belonging to Communion and Liberation.

On April 2 and 3, the New York CLU presented an exhibit on the life and work of Father Luigi Giussani at the New York University Catholic Center. The exhibit originally appeared at the 2018 New York Encounter and was curated by CLU students and professors from across the United States and Canada. The aim of the project was to highlight key events and teachings from Giussani’s life and the life of Communion and Liberation and to relate them to the experience lived in the CLU now. Since the 2018 New York Encounter, CLU students have been displaying the exhibit in universities across North America.

I am in my last year of college, and I have recently felt a growing need to judge what I have met and found so attractive through following CL these past several years. I know myself well enough to understand that I would not follow through with this desire if I only attempted it during moments of idle contemplation. After hearing stories from friends who presented the exhibit in other parts of the country, displaying it in New York with the help of my friends from the New York CLU seemed like the perfect way to approach an understanding of my experience in CL and what it means for my life.

Giving tours and explaining the exhibit was incredibly helpful to this end. As I was detailing various panels on Giusanni’s understanding of man’s neglect of the “I,” the encounter with Christ that reawakens it, and how this encounter informs how we live the different aspects of our lives, I found myself searching for my own experiences that would better help me communicate these points.

On one panel titled “The ‘I’ is Reborn in an Encounter,” there was a quote in which Giussani describes John and Andrew’s first encounter with Jesus. Giussani spoke of how they were struck by Jesus because He was an exceptional presence, something that touched them deeply and corresponded to their hearts' desires, but at the same time something beyond what they could have imagined. While explaining this panel, I remembered how when I first started following CL in high school its adherents would always ask me what I thought of things—of the meetings we had, of the vacations we went on, of the songs we sang, of the things I learned in school, the things I did in my free time … basically, of everything! I was surprised by this. “Why are you asking me?” I would always think to myself. I was surprised to find a place that would not let me neglect my “I.”

In another panel titled “Living the Real,” Giussani described what he understood morality to be: every moment must be full of meaning, nothing can be banal, the whole of life is like a painting and each moment is a detail in that painting that relates back to the whole somehow. To better explain this point, I illustrated how my encounter with CL makes me want to find what is interesting in what I study. My schoolwork is no longer only about getting the grade and getting through it.

In another panel, where Giussani described mission, he pushed the point that “only what is totalizing can allow for the person to put up with the humiliation of the attention and care for details.” When describing this panel, I recounted the following experience. After giving a presentation on a summer research project I had been working on for two months, I hung out with Lele, a close friend and one of the adult leaders of CLU. We began talking about all the beautiful things that had happened to us recently. I remember describing how my presentation went, how I made many friends that summer, and how I learned a lot over the course of the project (and it was a project that required a lot of care for and attention to detail). All these things went well but sharing them with my friend Lele was like a moment in which I could enjoy them all at once—it was the “totalizing” moment that put everything into perspective.

For the other CLU members that presented the exhibit, the experience was similar. One person made the observation that while describing her experiences of the charitable work, of engaging with culture, and of the various gestures CLU does together, she saw how this companionship has been an event in her life—not something huge and loud but something constant and underlying everything else.

For me, presenting the exhibit has truly reawakened my desire to continue discovering where else I can find this Presence in my life.

Peter, New York, USA