When our day of departure from the Munich Haar bus station came, along with our anticipation for the meeting with the Pope, we were also aware that the journey would not be at all easy. A 12-hour bus ride awaited us before we reached the place where we would be staying overnight. Our tiredness immediately made itself felt. But we were kept company by the presence of so many friends from the German community who, during short dialogues – some quite unexpected – felt free to recount their experiences, share their wounds and questions. It is good to discover that the journey of life is never undertaken alone. Even the recitation of the Angelus and Lauds, the songs, were gestures that put us in the state of mind to look forward to the meeting with the Pope. On Saturday morning, we were scheduled to meet in St. Peter's Square at 8 a.m. and immediately we ran into the faces of people, students, adults, tired like us, but full of anticipation for what was about to happen. People who, like us, had been touched in their lives by an encounter that has been so decisive that they decided to travel there to gather for half a day in St. Peter's Square.
A people is much more than a mass of people. How different is the union of 60,000 people in a soccer stadium who are experiencing the same thing but remain strangers? What united the thousands of people in St. Peter's Square was precisely the before and after of a story. The meeting with the Pope, the songs and texts read during the meeting were the radiance of a humanity that drew people from all cultures and continents and set them in motion. It is a large community, but at the same time it lives only by the vibrancy of each individual self.
Andreas, Francesco and Giuseppe, Munich
What happened to make us move and cross the ocean? What happened to make us travel to Rome?
In Peru, our story began in the 1980s and has come down to us, fragile people, through witnesses who are "sons of Don Giussani." How can we remain still before the mercy of the Holy Father who welcomes us once again to make a living memory of this great story of love?
In order to go to Rome, many friends worked longer hours at work, others borrowed and used up their days of vacation. There was no shortage of questions and worries, but there was also an irrepressible gratitude. A few days before the Audience, a friend who was supposed to come with us fell seriously ill. This event made us beggars begging for a miracle, His love and our conversion through the circumstances Jesus gives us.
With these facts in our eyes and hearts, we were protagonists of a celebration, an encounter with living people, as in Solomon's Porch, whose common denominator was that they followed Jesus in simplicity, in a perhaps seemingly impossible situation. This common denominator made sure that nothing is left out, that there is one reality, that the life of our friend was also embraced by what was happening in the square, by Pope Francis and the good face of the Mystery.
The Audience on October 15 in St. Peter's Square gave me back, suddenly and in deep unity, the whole story of my life. My sister Antonella was there with her husband Massimo (my family!); there was a group of friends from Gerenzano, the town where I was born and raised; I was reunited with Daniele, Giampiero and Rocco, the friends from the Memores house in Campeche, Mexico; and I saw Conchita from Campeche again after 25 years, who now lives and works in Paris, along with so many other dear faces. There with me from Puerto Rico were Amanda and Tatiana, Edrian and José Francisco. We were all there because of a story that has seized all of us and all of our lives, a story that would not have happened without Fr. Giussani's faith and affection; we were all there because they were part of a people born from his love for Christ and for each one of us; we were all there as sons and fathers, thanks to his experience as a son of the Church and as a father within the Church.
The intensity and beauty of the gesture made it clear that memory is not a past, but the consciousness of belonging that makes you say "I" today with certainty, and that makes you look at everything with tenderness. I am not ashamed to say that I was moved on several occasions: during some of "our" songs; during Rose and Hassina's testimonies; looking at those thousands and thousands of faces, all so different and yet so united, objectively one.
And the anticipation for the Holy Father's words. He too was grateful to Fr. Giussani, he too was also happy and proud of all his children; and also concerned, like all fathers, who see their children growing up and know the difficulties and dangers they face. He almost pleaded with us, "You have received a great gift. You have in your hands a huge treasure: please do not squander it!" And then, "I expect even more. The potential of your charism is still largely to be discovered, still there is much to be discovered." A father's esteem! A father's confidence!
Today, on Monday, October 17, I was already back at work in Puerto Rico: happier, more certain, more aware, and perhaps a little more humble because of that.
Giuseppe, San Juan
Having had the grace of being in St. Peter's Square, I became more aware of my "yes." A simple reflection, but one that has affected me deeply, because I understood that Our Lady's "yes" generated the "yes" of Peter, that it generated the "yes" of the apostles, that it generated the "yes" of Fr. Giussani, that it generated the "yes" of so many friends, and I too said and say my "yes."
In Rome, in meeting so many people, I was able to experience a familiarity with everyone and everything. This "yes" of mine was confirmed by seeing that sea of people together to give thanks for Fr. Giussani's life. It was moving to hear his voice in those moments before the Pope's words, because it was as if he was alive, and indeed he is, because with his yes he generated us, he generated a people who, as the Pope said, found Christ, the only reason for life.
The awareness of my yes made me feel loved, preferred, special. There with so many people, I had confirmation of what Fr. Giussani meant when he said, "This nothingness that we are, each of us, we can be taken by God and become great things." I am not great because I do things or have things, but because I am aware of saying yes to the One who makes me now.
In the days leading up to the meeting with the Pope, Fr. Giussani's words resounded in my head, "Everything is grace." And, in fact, I cannot imagine what my life might be far from this story that I met 18 years ago, that has generated me and that continuously generates me. Every day I feel more in need of this companionship that helps me face life. It was impressive to see the crowd in St. Peter's Square and I was moved to tears thinking about how many lives are saved by the charism given to us by Fr. Giussani who in his simplicity educated us to see Christ present here and now and because of that life has truly become a beautiful road.
When I heard about the Pope's Audience, I took it as a personal invitation, not only because Fr. Giussani changed my life, but also because, thanks to him, I made the decision as an adult to be part of the Church and therefore wanted to see the Pope. I wasn't sure if my circumstances would allow me to make the trip, but then all the factors began to fall into place: I had vacation days and the support of my family and girlfriend. So I left with joy. In St. Peter's Square I was struck to see those thousands of people in silence. Thousands of grown men and women singing like children. Could Fr. Giussani have imagined, when he was alive, that through the charism God gave him, thousands of other people would be so connected to the Church and the Pope today? For me it was a joy to see so many people finding a certain path to seek the meaning of life; this path that is the companionship of Christ, of the Church. At the same time, I felt filled with tenderness for our human condition, which is so fragile, and it came to me to ask, "God, preserve in us the purity of our hearts, so that we can continue to recognize that we always need the companionship of the Church." Pope Francis arrived as we were singing "I have a great, great friend." How beautiful this realization was that the Pope is not a distant person, a formal authority, but he is a friend! Then, to hear him say that Fr. Giussani's texts were important in his journey of faith and that they were a theological contribution to the Church moved me. Speaking with many Brazilian friends (I met more Brazilians in Rome than in São Paulo!) we were very grateful, with the desire to continue to understand the Pope's words addressed to us better with such tenderness. In the evening we were welcomed by people of the movement in Rome, in a place where university volunteers work, and after dinner we sang together. It was impressive to see how many people came for this celebration, the fruit of the encounter that the Pope had reminded us of that morning, which is manifested in a Life that continues to attract people: Christ, the Life of life.
Thiago, São Paulo
I went to the Audience out of gratitude to God for the gift of the charism that I have received and that has saved my life, bringing me out of the nothingness I was living in. Such an attractive and fascinating event, which led me totally to give my life to Christ, through the Memores Domini. When the Pope arrived in the square and sat in front of us, I was moved; my eyes were fixed on him and I couldn't move. I just wanted to stay there, looking at him. I felt immense joy and cried. But it was not sentimentality, it was a joyful and grateful emotion for belonging to a people, which has a name and a surname. I had the experience of being a daughter of the Church, within the charism. One can have the experience of "returning to the first meeting, returning to the first Galilee," as the Holy Father said. Also during Rose and Hassina's testimonies, I was able to experience an incredible familiarity, identifying with their experience, and I realized that they and I are one, daughters of the same father. Thus the desire to cry out Christ to the whole world grew in me, the desire for mission, so that others may experience the fullness that I experience.
The occasion of the centenary of the birth of the Servant of God Monsignor Luigi Giussani was the first time in my life that I had travelled to another country on the occasion of the centenary of the birth of the Servant of God Monsignor Luigi Giussani. I entered St. Peter's Square with a heart full of gratitude and wonder for being part of an immense people who learned to love Christ and the Church thanks to Fr. Giussani. Long live Pope Francis who welcomed us as his children that day.
Claudiana, San Paolo#100Audience