(Photo: Eduardo Garcia/Unsplash)

Peru: Do you need more?

University students from Peru participated in the CLU Spiritual Exercises in Latin America. Here are some testimonies that recount what those days provoked...

When I got the message inviting me to the Spiritual Exercises for university students, I immediately began to think about everything I would have to do to participate now that we could finally experience them in person, and I did not want to miss them. I was a little worried because I had to change my shifts at work, and at the same time I kept thinking about the proposed question: Are you happy in this world or do you need more? It is a question that touched me even more deeply after a dialogue with a friend on her way home from work. She was telling me about her experience in various religions, and I then told her about my life in the movement and in my parish. She confided to me that she needed something to believe in because she did not want to be stuck in nothingness. Arriving at the Exercises, I listened to Fr. Lorenzo from Chile's introduction, "The Mystery creates all sorts to change our lives." I immediately thought of my friend; the Lord always does everything to get to us, and He put this friend on my path for me to accompany her. The Exercises helped me to understand that we all need something more; we cannot find answers in ourselves, but in Someone who looks at us with tenderness and responds to our infinite cry. What I want now is to continue this work; as Fr. Giorgio told us, "The work we have to do is to gain self-awareness of ourselves. Self-awareness is the memory of the recognition of this Presence; when we forget this, everything is useless." Wearing a mask limits me, makes me forget that my ‘I’ is reborn when I recognize Him. This is how I want to live every day.

Like many university students, I have to work in order to study. After the CLU Spiritual Exercises I returned to work with the knowledge that Christ is the One who makes me, who generates me in every moment. This year I had been put in charge of a group of colleagues who did not do what was asked of them. When the same thing had happened on other occasions, I had simply gotten angry, told them off, and walked away. But this time it was different, my gaze was different. I wondered why they were acting this way. I longed to get to know them, to know who they are, so I asked them what was going on and why were they not working well. We began talking, and one of them said to me, "I have to finish quickly to get to another job, because all the prices have gone up and I cannot support my family." My perspective changed, I understood that dealing with problems means knowing the person, as Christ knows us and loves us. This the judgment I am learning and that has become concrete thanks to what I experienced at the Exercises.

Ever since it was announced that the CLU Spiritual Exercises would take place, I was reminded of the words Davide Prosperi said to us earlier this year about School of Community: "The comparison (of the text with our lives) is a factor of conversion, both personal and communal. And this tension towards the conversion of our gaze and our life serves to build the movement." This was, and is, my desire. The week of the Exercises was approaching, but on the previous Monday a transport strike began in various parts of the country, including in my city. As the days went by, the strike became violent, there was even a death, and this prevented my friends from making the trip. I was sad, I would have to live the Exercises alone.
On Friday, having lunch at work, I was surprised at how thirsty I was for Christ. I had an open wound, but perhaps this was the "right" position. That evening at the Exercises a Demi Lovato song was quoted, "I need someone, anyone, please send me anyone. Lord, is there anyone?"
It moved me and made me better understand the title of the Exercises as a question addressed to me: Are you happy in this world or do you need more? Everything that was said was a call to me, to conversion; through that screen I received a gaze full of affection towards me.
I do not want to let go of something that was decisive for me in those days, which was Julián de la Morena’s reflection on silence: "Taking this moment (of silence) seriously is a sign of maturity. It is an act of intelligence. Being alone. There is a diamond inside you that you cannot discover unless you look inside.... Silence is an awe, not an emptiness." We are on a journey.

The Spiritual Exercises with our friends from Latin America helped me to recognize my fragility and my need to be looked at with tenderness; the many mistakes I have made have made it difficult for me to look at myself in this way. The Exercises have given me hope to live, which if it were not for my friends I would have forgotten. Distraction is a constant in me, but they look at me with love and make me start over, make me love and feel good about myself. This is a clear example of my need for Another, which awakens in me the desire to live and feel alive.