The exhibition on Fr. Giussani at the Meeting in Brussels

Brussels: Something precious, for everyone

Meeting Ambassador. The possibility of taking what happens in Rimini all over the world. This is what happened in Belgium a few days ago. Emanuele recounts what happened to him and his friends.

A few months ago, with a group of friends who study and work in Brussels, we began to think about how we could join the proposal of the Rimini Meeting to take its conference sessions to various cities around the world and to make known this event that is so linked to our history and our charism. Each one of us set off with our own interests, but Marine, a French friend who has known our community for a short time, took the first step. She had heard about the Meeting so often and, having never seen it, became so curious that she invited others to the online meeting with volunteers from all over the world.

At this meeting, a dear university friend from Portugal, Ana, spoke about how she had proposed the Meeting in her city last year and how it had been a great opportunity to encounter, becoming something precious for the whole community. I had already heard her story, but hearing it again triggered the desire within me to propose something similar here in Brussels.

Meeting Brussels. Conference session

In particular, I longed for that “occasion for encounter" of which she spoke; in the course of the year, with a small group of university students and some young workers, we had begun to get together in a library that had not closed because of the lockdown, in the Jesuit College, a very important institution in the city.

At various lunches together in the library cafeteria, the mix of ages, backgrounds and occupations did not go unnoticed, so much so that other people began to ask who we were, why we were friends, what CL was... Interesting dialogues developed, and a real friendship was born with some of them. Thus, when the proposal of the "Meeting Ambassador" came up, that experience and those faces came to mind.

In proposing this idea to others in the 'working group', I perceived my own interest. We began to think about it, first of all to see if we could ask the College to host us, and then to extend the proposal to others in the community. Here was our idea: we would propose a ‘three-day’ Meeting in September, after the holidays, hosted by the Jesuits.

During the summer we got to work, especially with the desire to create a space to meet interesting people from the country. We screened the sessions from the Meeting that we had enjoyed most with a French translation, accompanying them with the exhibition on the life of Fr. Giussani "From my life to yours". In addition, we organized original initiatives, with three "local" contributions from people living in Belgium, as well as an evening of songs related to the Meeting’s theme and moments of conviviality in between the sessions.

Step by step, we realised, as Emilio said, that we were together not “to organise the Meeting for others, but for ourselves. And seeing that the proposal was growing and taking shape, with the talents and ideas of each of us, made us even more intensely willing to make those days something beautiful".

The days of the Meeting were a surprise, starting with the meeting with Fr. Manuel Barrios Prieto, secretary general of the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community (Comece). Talking about inter-religious dialogue and Fratelli Tutti, he reminded us how a fraternal relationship is only possible if we recognize ourselves as children, and that sonship can only be verified in experience. In many, the desire emerged to meet with him again. These days made many new relationships possible. Two in particular have remained in my heart. One is with Benedicte, a high school philosophy teacher, who was struck by the exhibition on Fr. Giussani, for his original intuition that faith founded only on tradition, but which did not touch life, would not have been able to withstand the challenge of secularization. She said that she herself faces this challenge every day in the classroom, and that her Muslim students are sometimes more open than others. And then I think of Karen, who has just finished university. She received the invitation by e-mail and without knowing anyone, she came to the mass and to the screening of the interviews with Edith Bruck and Frére David (the latter made by us), a monk from Wallonia. At the end of the meeting she told us that she did not expect to see such young people. During the presentation of the exhibition on Fr. Giussani, quoting one of Frère David's phrases, Karen pointed out something to me: the monk told us that, after a very serious accident, he had realised, going "from the head to the heart", that he was loved by God, through his brothers and his family who visited him every day. Karen picked up on this in the exhibition: faith corresponds to the 'fundamental and original needs' of the human heart, and is therefore reasonable. "'From the head to the heart’,” she repeated.

A dear friend I met at the library, Marie Hélène, came by on Friday evening to say hello and browse, despite having other commitments. Fr. Claude, who has known us for some time, told his Jesuit brothers about the exhibition at breakfast in the morning and invited them to visit it. The director of the library was also enthusiastic about what he saw: "You must do it again next year.”

I was struck to see so many 'volunteer' friends moving around gratuitously, without any particular experience or organisational skills. Some had perhaps only recently arrived in Belgium or in the community, and yet were companions in the desire to share our charism, which is the fundamental tool for me to live my faith. And we are aware that it is for everyone, that it is a valid proposal for everyone. I have been able to clearly recognize Someone greater who is behind this friendship, which goes beyond a certain affinity or organizational need.

Thinking about these moments, with the awareness that everything is useful and on a path, I said to myself that it was worth moving thus. I have been offered a clear example of what is said in the exhibition on the life of Fr. Giussani: a primary interest in the "generation of a subject, for a revolution of the self", which comes before the "social enterprise" of any proposal. What I need, as the exhibition says, is to discover "that Presence in our flesh and bones, the immersion of our being in that Presence".

Emanuele, Brussels, Belgium