(Photo: Gabriele Bravi)

CLU exercises: familiarity with the mystery

The lessons of Javier Prades, with Charles Taylor, Lady Gaga and Edith Stein, and the testimony of Guadalupe Arbona Abascal. Three days to learn to look at oneself and one's life in a new way.

This morning, as I woke up and walked into the dining room, I realized that I was already implementing my usual strategies to start the day productively, to avoid too many obstacles.
For a moment, as I sat down for breakfast, however, I felt the desire to stop, to look at myself, and to take myself seriously totally. This desire actually always arises within me, but I almost never decide to give it space. Today I found myself, with amazement, thinking that I am too precious to let myself be lost, to let my desire go. I felt that if I let go of myself, I would lose everything the day had to offer. Amid the silence, a breath of gratitude began to break through. This way of looking at myself, so far from how I usually look at myself, is a fruit of what has been given back to me during these days of the Spiritual Exercises, during which I experienced again, through the face of Fr. Javier Prades and my friends, a promise that is so great, and which is already at work so as to make myself interesting to myself.

On my way to university, I listened to Adriana Mascagni's song, Il mio volto [My Face], which accompanied us during the days of the Exercises, and so many moments of my story began to come to light in which I was able to say, "amar non sai e sei amata, farti non sai eppur sei fatto" [You do not know how to love and yet you are loved; you do not make yourself and yet you are made]. I thought: this is enough for me to live.
Coming back from the Exercises, I thought: "This is what I need," and at the same time I felt my desire grow, as if to say: "This is not enough for me." There are faces in my life before which I can truly say both things at the same time, without one ever having the last word over the other, without being condemned either to dissatisfaction ("nothing is enough for me") or to death ("I no longer desire anything"). What I have experienced during these days looking at Prades' face is enough for me, because it corresponds to the constitutive needs of my humanity, and that correspondence does not have nuances; but at the same time it is precisely his and other faces that constantly send me back to something else, which asks my gaze and affection to begin a path. This path is a whole life, and which during these days we have helped each other to tread.

During the introduction, Prades made us perceive the cry of our time, through many voices. He painted the picture of a humanity intent on tearing off the many masks that cover its face; a humanity that does not accept superficiality, but which seeks authenticity: "The world in which we are may be called 'the age of authenticity'" (Charles Taylor). Often, however, in this attempt to be authentically ourselves, we are either satisfied with cheap solutions, illusions, or we realize that saying "I" alone is impossible. Pirandello writes: "I felt the eternity and the chill of this infinite solitude. To whom should I say 'I'? Why was it worth saying 'I'?" A “crazy narcissism" leaves us alone, therefore unable to say "I". It is here that the longing for something else is born. Lady Gaga sings, "Are you happy in this world or do you need more?" Even Pirandello senses this: "We are condemned to feel the suspicion that there is something mysterious to us, from which - although present - our spirit remains distant." Reason can go so far as to affirm that something else must exist, but without the possibility of knowing this "other", of reaching it; it remains an anguished and unrealizable hypothesis.

Continuing along this path, Prades gave me back and reminded me that what I have discovered over the years is the only way to walk toward what my heart yearns for: the method that Giussani illuminated and that Julián Carrón brought into my life, which is that “reality becomes evident in experience." We have seen how loyal Edith Stein was to this method; she was aware of her nothingness, of her non-being, and at the same time that being was given to her every moment: "In every moment I am in front of nothingness and I must receive being anew, moment by moment (...), and yet it is precisely this non-being of mine that is 'being', and that is why I touch the fullness of being at all times.”
I am called to compare this and other provocations with my own experience, to verify if what Stein says is true. And, as I think about my own story, I can say with certainty that not only is this true for me, but it is everything for me. I can no longer talk about myself, and say "I," without speaking of the encounter I have had, that is, without speaking of the movement.

Prades invited us to go to the origin of this fact. He promises and documents that, as we delve deeper into what has happened and is happening, we will become more and more familiar with the Mystery that entered history two thousand years ago and that made possible, for those who met and welcomed it, the same experience I have now. Life is sustained by this self-awareness: "I am the relationship with You". It is from this that a united, balance self is born, capable of loving.

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As Guadalupe Arbona Abascal testified to us on Saturday evening, only in the relationship with a You who generates me, and who in her experience has passed through the face of Carrón and other friends, is it possible to love. Guadalupe recounted a few fruits of that generation, such as the friendship born with a professor who seemed to be so distant from her, in every sense, and with a boy “in the back row". It was a goodness that passed through those very subtle cracks that were their passions: languages, for the former, and literature, for the latter.

I, too, wish to say "I" and love like this; that is why I want to continue on this path.
After these days, Christmas assumes its value: real and mysterious, decisive for my existence. Without that fact I would not be me, and this path would not exist for me.

Sofia, Milan, Italy