Photo: Unplash/Basil Samuel Lade

Basel: "What allows me to walk?"

During the pandemic, the discovery of the true root of friendship, and the possibility that everything becomes an opportunity for the discovery of the self and of the world. Like an encounter with a Nigerian doctoral student…

Exactly one year ago, at the beginning of 2020, at a meeting of CL leaders here in Switzerland, we were reminded of that phrase by St. Paul that says: "You are not lacking in any gift.” Today I ask myself, "Was that true? Is it true?" I can answer yes, just as I can say that the past year has been a year of the Lord's grace, to the extent that I realize how certain words become "mine," take on the content of experience. For me, the only way for this to happen is by following the movement. Let me give some examples.

In the past few months, I have often heard some friends of the movement say, in different ways, that "we are no longer (or not really) a community, because we do not see each other." I have had to ask myself: what or who keeps me company (and therefore makes me part of a "community")? What allows me to walk? What helps me to live? I think of Fr. Carrón in Milan, Francesca in Rome, Tommaso in Geneva, Fr. Giussani... These are the relationships in which my relationship with Jesus is sustained and lived in a more transparent way. They are not the most immediate relationships, in the sense of physical closeness, yet, I cannot think of companionship without thinking of these people. And I do not feel that they are any less. This is not to say that I do not demand and desire the same intensity of relationship where I live as well.

On the contrary, this desire opens me up to recognize the truth in those people who are given to me here in Basel (whether they are from the movement or not, and I am thinking of the parents with whom we are opening a school because we share the question of what it means to educate, even if they are not from the movement). This is the only way to understand, Fr. Giussani’s words: "Companionship is in the I". Or, as Fr. Carrón said in his letter to the Fraternity: "It is at this level – the recognition of the all-embracing nature of the encounter, which becomes the true shape of every relationship – that presence who are truly ‘friends’ come to our aid, bearing witness to the road that will allow us to live through a situation like today’s.”

For me, the pandemic (my pandemic) began again when we received Carrón's letter to the Fraternity in March because it changed my perspective, and thus opened a window unto a possibility to be verified (i.e., to make my own): "At this time, in which nothingness is rampant, our recognition of Christ and ‘yes’ to Him, including in the isolation each of us might be forced to maintain, is already our contribution to the salvation of every man and woman today, before any legitimate attempts to accompany one another, which should be pursued within the allowed limits. Nothing is more urgent than that self-awareness.”

From that moment on, everything became an opportunity for verification. This does not take away the drama, the fatigue, the pain of a difficult situation. Yet I found myself, in these times of pandemic, at the end of my difficult pregnancy, saying "I am not afraid of being afraid". This, in my opinion, is another world, faith that can challenge everything, without avoiding something or waiting for it to pass.

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This empowers me to enter the waiting mode. I recently received a letter from a Nigerian doctoral student of mine, who had finished and returned to Nigeria. On the day of her viva, she had said to me, "There were difficult moments when I would say to myself ‘who is making me do this, I will just drop everything and go back home’. Then I would think of you and realise that that was not right, that it was not true.” She now writes to me, "Thank you so much for everything you have left in my life; my life story cannot be written without mentioning you. I am indebted to you and the only way to show my gratitude is to continue to have a positive attitude and to be as good to the people I meet as you were to me."

I understand the "Responsibility and Decision" and the "Temple in time, dwelling place", mentioned in the School of Community, thanks to these two judgments that my Nigerian doctoral student made. But I am made aware of her, of her heart, of the truth of what she lives and says, because I follow Carrón, that is, I identify myself in the steps he indicates during his online School of Community. For this reason, I am jarred by the reduction of the meaning of companionship or community, which would cut off my relationship with the Mystery.

Ilaria, Basel, Switzerland