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"You do not know how to love and you are loved”

Maria was set to go to the CLU Spiritual Exercises with her friends. "For the first time, I felt a great need." But she was unexpectedly forced into quarantine. Here is what she discovered during those days…

I was very psyched. It was time for the Spiritual Exercises for university students and those of us in Bologna were going to follow them together. For the first time, I felt a great need: I felt like I was doing so many things, but not getting anywhere, and I really needed to get back on track. Everything was ready, as in Montale's poem: "Everything is for the best and everything is ok." Car ride over, suitcase packed, only one thing was missing: a lateral flow test. And then came Montale's unforeseen event: a housemate tested positive for Covid. The whole apartment, plus a few other close contacts, had to quarantine. There are six of us so we split in order to isolate ourselves properly. Since I am one of the eldest, I isolated with a freshman. At first, I was a little angry, even with God. For once I wanted to go to the Exercises, and I could not. Why? That "why," however, stayed with me throughout my week of quarantine, at the end of which, thankfully still negative, I discovered a number of things.

People, whether you ask them or not, are there. Some friends, just back from the Exercises, came to say hi to us from a distance. Some came with prosecco, some came with pandoro, and others just brought their presence. They have been a great help, especially in reminding me that I am preferred. I realize that I am in so much need, that even seeing one person at a time, outside my front door and with the window open, helps me to realize that I am not alone.

The same situation can be experienced in different ways. A friend who was locked up at home just like us reminded us of a fundamental aspect: our companionship is not a given, whether in quarantine or not. This involves answering others' questions by exposing ourselves. The freshman who was with me helped me not to get lost in everyday things, like cooking for both of us, watching a TV series together, greeting people from the window, talking seriously late into the night.

Our relationships with family should not be taken for granted. I always call my mom at least a couple of times a week, and my grandmother at least every weekend, but I hardly hear from my dad. This week, however, we called each other twice and talked about normal things: the last Formula One race, the Silmarillion that I had finished reading during those days, my grandmother's situation in Puglia... It struck me, though, that we treated each other seriously.

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Once "out" again, you can never be the same again. It was very different from the last lockdown; then it had lasted two months, not knowing when we would get out. This time it was only a week. But this time there was the world outside, and there was someone who could go out and do normal everyday things. As soon as I got out, I realized how much a number of simple things, like riding my bike to my department, made me happy.

Knowing myself, the Lord has found the only way to make me stop without having the ability to fight back. He knows that if I do not bang my head, I do not get it. This week has helped me to understand and deepen so many relationships, so many things in my life that I had let go of, like keeping quiet or saying my prayers aware of what I am saying. I now sing Il mio volto [My face], the song by Adriana Mascagni that I heard during the Exercises, every day whilst cycling. Because every morning I always need to remind myself that "you do not know how to love and you are loved.”

Maria, Bologna, Italy