CLU vacation in Italy

The beginning of my search

Claudia happened "accidentally" to go to the CLU summer vacation. She considers herself agnostic, but accepted the invitation. Something unexpected happened during those days. "Now I have a fire within me that I want to nourish."

This summer I found myself accidentally participating in the vacation organized by the CLU of my university, the Catholic University of Milan. I say "accidentally" because, a few months earlier, a series of "random" circumstances had brought a dear friend of my roommate to have lunch at our house and, during the meal, she had begun talking about the vacation, trying to convince her to go.
I had nothing to do with it and I had no idea what they were talking about. I was simply there, at the table, sitting and listening as I continued to eat my pasta.
However, hearing how she was recounting her experience of the vacation in previous years, I was drawn by her enthusiasm and moved by the curiosity to see what might happen for myself; I thus decided to sign up and go with them. I simply trusted her story, without having any particular expectations.
Those days of vacation that were so full, so intense, had begun to stir something new and unexpected. I could feel it within me but, taken as I was by the continuous discoveries I was making, the people I met, the places I explored and the gestures I was taking part in, I had not yet had the chance to stop and try to identify and define it.

I remained in a state of semi-unconsciousness until, one of the last evenings of the vacation, I found myself talking to someone very dear to me. That evening she looked at me straight in the eye and fearlessly asked me, "I would like to understand if this vacation has been able to change your perspective at all on what your relationship with the Divine is." That question made me vibrate.
I instinctively smiled. I immediately thought about how our relationship had been characterized from the beginning by heated conversations on this topic. This memory moved me because, in light of what I was experiencing, I realized that I could finally understand the meaning of what she said; until then, I had only heard empty words.

Let me now briefly digress slightly: when someone asked me The question, I would always try to answer by defining myself agnostic rather than atheist, specifying that my position (or rather "non-position") on the subject was dictated by the urgent need I felt to achieve certainty based on tangible data and persuasive arguments before I could express myself.

Up to that moment, the only arguments that had seemed the least bit appealing to me had come from my high school Italian and Greek teacher. He, a staunch atheist, had made the class read, with a strong critical eye, some passages of the Gospel in Greek and then translated them into Italian, pointing out all the inconsistencies within the text and that emerged from the translation. He then went on to criticize the figure of Christ from a historiographical point of view, providing us with evidence that seemed plausible to me and that kindled my skepticism. I had allowed myself to be influenced by what he had said without, however, pursuing it more deeply for myself.

Looking back, I admit that until then I had never had the opportunity (perhaps even the desire) to listen to what "the other side" had to say.
The only direct contact I had with the Church was through the catechism I went to whilst I was at elementary and middle school. For me, going to church was a strain; I felt I did not belong there. It was the same for most of my peers. I remember how, during those meetings, we always just talked in catchphrases that had no power to attract young people.
I also perceived going to Mass as a duty rather than an intimate need because the context in which I grew up led me to perceive it as "morally right."
Thinking about it, I recognize that I never really paid attention to what was being said during Eucharistic celebrations: I was there physically but with no commitment to listening.

That midsummer evening, on the other hand, touched my soul. "Yes, the vacation has turned my outlook completely upside down," I replied without hesitation. I finally met people using an approach that I could understand and experience. I worked on myself as I had never done before, trusting the method that was being proposed to me: starting from experiences of daily life, from precise moments that struck me during those days and that led me to reflect (not from the abstract speeches that I had heard up to then!).
I was constantly reminded to ask myself what the origin of what I was experiencing was. It was a question that was bigger than me, but it was asked with the right delicacy, almost whispered, and for this reason I did not perceive it as frightening and unintelligible.
The suggestion to start from concrete signs of this Presence greatly facilitated my work. In those days I saw it, felt it and touched it continuously. It was evident that it surrounded me and I felt blind to have ignored it until that moment. I had not even considered that people I perceived as so detached from me, from my way of thinking and living, could ask me the precise questions I needed, aiming for the center of my heart. I can say without fear that I had that insight into what is True through my experience.

Read also - Enrico Ruggeri: "The world is not just tissue paper"

Right now I have a fire within me that I want to nourish and that I will not easily let go of. For the first time I have not been conditioned or influenced by what another person is telling me. I am genuinely trusting my instincts and I feel like I cannot be wrong. I consider this as the beginning of a long journey in search of myself, which will help me try to give a name to this Truth that I perceive I intercepted in that place and in that different and special humanity which I came across. I want to dedicate myself to this with the ardor that I recognize comes from those who were beside me during those days, and which was contagious and overwhelming for me. I am grateful for this encounter. They were days of rare beauty, perhaps unique, that I will treasure in my heart forever.

Claudia, Milan, Italy