The weekend in Xanten

Cards on the table

A weekend in Xanten, northern Germany, to face life’s questions. They talked about a preference "that restores sleep," and "life as vocation." Bernardo’s letter from Cologne

Gratitude is definitely the word that came out of the weekend spent together with other young workers and young families in northern Germany. 65 of us met in the city of Xanten, from December 2-4. While last year we had organized a similar gathering to catch up after the community summer vacation, this time it was instead about following people's desire to want to spend time together in the face of the real questions of life that have arisen in recent months.

After working on the Fraternity Exercises, we wanted to ask "if" and "where" we see that Christ is the only thing we need in our lives. It was amazing how everyone really took these questions seriously and how, during those days, one could not only hear but breathe the concreteness of Christ as the answer to the drama of life. It is an experience that, if your heart is awake, you can have even if you live alone in some remote town in the country.
A friend from Darmstadt said, "There were people living the fact that Christ is everything. I had 'allies' at my side, thanks to whom I could put all my cards on the table. After the weekend, I went back into everyday life with the desire for Jesus to pick up all the pieces of me and make me feel united and full."

During the vacation we had an assembly and the interventions all revealed a living humanity and the beauty of being a Christian. Another friend from Hamburg said, "The first half of the year was very difficult; a time full of challenges that brought me anxieties and fears, even to the point of not being able to sleep at night. And nothing could give me peace of mind again. In August, through my sister, I met a community of Dominicans. I started attending their Eucharistic adoration every week. That place, with time, became dear to me because, through those hours of silence, I was experiencing that all my worries and fears were placed before Someone. I also breathed again and experienced a new momentum towards my friends from the CL community in Hamburg. Thanks in part to their companionship, I felt again Jesus’ preference for me, and the desire to entrust myself to Him. The difficult circumstances had not changed, but this new consciousness restored my peace. And sleep."
The "first Galilee" of which the Pope spoke to us at the audience last October 15 comes to mind: not a memory, but a fact that returns as a protagonist in our lives in the flesh.

During those days we also sang and played with the children, and many of us were struck by how some event put their hearts into those moments, as if they were the most important thing. Putting one's heart in was evidently the result of gratitude, not a personal effort. "Present to the present," even in the smallest details of being together, because they were grateful and eager to see Him happen again. As happened during the Saturday morning assembly or during the Friday evening introduction, listening to an excerpt from "Recognizing Christ" by Fr. Giussani: "In this instant, if I am sincere, thoughtful, I understand that there is nothing more evident, not even you who are only two meters away from me, nothing is more evident than the fact that in this instant I am not making myself. I don’t give myself hair, I don’t give myself eyes, nose, teeth, I don’t give myself my heart, my soul, my thoughts, feelings. Everything is given to me, so that I may fulfill His plan, a plan that is not mine.”

Two friends of ours from Mainz, married with four children, helped us understand this better on Sunday morning. Their testimony was a beautiful provocation for all, because they spoke with simplicity of how within the difficulties of life, the criterion was always to follow what Christ pointed towards. Speaking about their vocation to marriage, the husband said, "It was clear that what I had at heart was my relationship with God. That is why I had found myself several times thinking about the path of the priesthood. Your vocation, however, is not your choice; it is God's call. In fact, as I got to know her and remained honest with what I wanted most in substance and not in form, I realized that it was precisely my relationship with her that helped me to know Jesus more deeply." The point, then, is to follow where Christ calls us every day, because to live our vocation daily is to do everything by responding to an Other. A friend of ours from Hamburg expressed it well after the testimony, "Thank you, because you show us how we would like to live everything in our lives."
A friend told us at School of Community that after that weekend together nothing was lacking: when something happens, you no longer have the question of whether you are tired or not, you simply have your eyes full of what happened, you are "seized."

Read also - "A chance to risk my whole self"

Personally, I experienced the following days with nostalgia. I am convinced that, if we stop and think, there are not many things in life that can make you feel this nostalgia so powerfully. So much so that it makes you admit, "How concrete was what I experienced to cause me to feel something like that?" Sometimes when I travel a lot for work, I do not even feel this level of nostalgia for my wife and child. So what is the truth of my relationship with them? The truth is that my wife, who was among the first to devote herself to organizing these days, was Christ's instrument for this weekend. And thanks to her "yes", and that of many friends, I was able to see again what really matters in my life, also and especially in my relationship with her: Christ Himself. Thus, and only thus, do I rediscover that I really love her.
In the days following the vacation, while we were discussing how it had gone, amazement emerged for what walking on this wonderful path all these years has generated in us, and to have seen happen – by grace – what the Pope invited us to at the Audience: to continue this journey today with freedom, creativity and courage.

Bernardo, Cologne, Germany