CL young people visiting the Porziuncola (Andrea Grossoni/Fraternity CL)

Assisi: with new eyes

Questions about pain, being parents, issues at work... And the surprise of a faith that "informs life" in a lived communion. The meeting of over four hundred young people from CL
Maria Acqua Simi

Assisi in November is beautiful. The bitter cold empties it of tourists, the winter light makes it seem new, while the Porziuncola becomes accessible without endless queues. Here, in the land of Francis and Clare, over 400 young people from CL led by Fr. Paolo Prosperi and Francesco Cassese met from 23 to 26 November after their first meeting at the end of March. Morning Lauds, assemblies, the Rosary for peace, daily Mass, the Angelus, classical music in the hall. The evenings were organized by those present. So everyone listened to friends play and sing songs from the most diverse genres (from songs from Abruzzo to Brunori Sas to Marta sui tubi) On another evening, they were moved during an online connection with the Holy Land with Alessandra Buzzetti (Tv2000 journalist in Jerusalem) and Hussam Abu Sini (oncologist, from Haifa) while Giacomo Gentile of Associazione Pro Terra Sancta spoke from Aleppo.

In the moments of free time there was time to visit the tomb of Saint Clare and Blessed Carlo Acutis. Among all, it was immediate to share life and exciting to discover how this, enlightened by faith, can be fruitful. Frank and free dialogues: the hardships of being parents, friendships, critical situations at work, questions about marriage or vocation, the inability to give the right priority to things, the challenges of education and teaching, pain for the evil committed or suffered, the rediscovery of fraternity and docility to correction, the joy of feeling protagonists because they are instruments of Another, but also the fear of giving in to the mentality of performance even within the life of the movement.

A moment of the assembly with Fr. Paolo Prosperi and Francesco Cassese

The key words – the leitmotif of those days – were creativity, generativity, responsibility, memory and communion in the wake of the first meeting in Assisi in March and the Beginning of the Year Day. "We are here to accompany each other on a stretch of the journey," introduced Cassese, "to enjoy the companionship that the Mystery gives us through our faces. And to give Christ space again, to draw us to Himself.” This was witnessed by the cry of Matilde, a young mother who for three years has been called to accompany her daughter in an incurable illness alongside her husband. The same cry of those who have lost their fathers or wives suddenly, or of those parents who have had their children who were to be born torn from their lives.

Within this fatigue, a new perspective emerges. This was recounted by, among others, Giovanni. He is a doctor, is married and is the father of Paolo. In the last two years he and his wife have had to cope with the death, late in pregnancy, of two sons: first Matteo Enzo, then Manuel. The second time his wife also risked her life. When they returned home from the hospital, the eldest son asked his mother where his little brother was. She replied that he was with Jesus. Months of anger followed, where Paolo took it out on everyone and especially on God who had taken his brother away from him. Then, the unimaginable happened. Giovanni recounted: “At one point Paolo said to my wife: ‘Mom, ask Jesus if he will give me another little brother.’ She answered him: 'Look, Mommy's tummy cannot have any more little brothers.’ He replied: ‘Well, he will find a way. My wife replied: 'Why do you not ask him?'". A few days later, on the big bed in front of the image of the Holy Family, the parents heard the little one say: "Jesus, it is OK that you took my little brother, it is OK, but I am asking you for another one. You decide when and how." He stopped, and added: "And thank you that you brought my mommy home!". That child's freedom became that of his parents: "It amazed me," explained Giovanni, "because my son had clarity in his relationship with God, a familiarity, a fatherhood that I looked up to. It often happens to hide and say: 'Yes, it is OK, he went to the Lord' as if to soothe the pain. Instead my son had the freedom to get angry in a relationship of sonship that made him tell the truth: 'You decide' and 'Thank you that mommy is home'.”

Many young people in Assisi said they wanted to get to know Jesus more and more and to be able to witness to the world a new way of looking at things, one that frees them from the logic and cages of modern times. Fr. Paolo Prosperi also provoked them in the lesson given on Friday afternoon: “Faith is not only a form of inner contact with Jesus; faith introduces us into a new way of seeing the whole of reality. Faith brings us into the point of view of Christ, which is then the truest point of view. But what are these new eyes that faith gives, and that memory – which is none other than lived faith – allows us to develop?" To answer this, Fr. Paolo accompanied those present to rediscover some episodes from John's Gospel, which are particularly dear to him. The first: the man born blind. The second: Peter's dive after the miraculous fishing. Rereading this passage thinking of the call that Christ makes to each of us today is like listening to him for the first time. The disciples returned to shore with empty nets. From afar, someone asked them if they had food, but there were no fish. John noticed that the man on the shore was Jesus and pointed him out to the others. Peter "tied his garments" and dove with impetus towards the One who had changed his whole life. "Even someone like Peter needed a friend at his side to point him to the Lord", Prosperi emphasised: "In order to get to know Him again, we too need someone to open our eyes, a vocational companion."

A bit like what happened to Gioia, who works as an assistant to a judge. When she asked for time off to go to Assisi, she was cornered by a colleague and thus found herself recounting her experience in the movement and what she had experienced during the March meeting, which was on the topic of work, the 'society of tiredness' characterised by performance as a measure of one's worth, the mentality of the self-made man... The judge and colleague were impressed, they felt described. Just before she left, an emergency broke out in the office. The magistrate summoned her and asked her how it was possible to face that problem in light of what she had recounted. And then he wished her to spend four full days with her CL friends. A half miracle? An exception? No. It was an acknowledgement born of having adhered to the proposal to return to Assisi.

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These four days were a gamble. “We did not know where they would take us,” Cassese concluded, “but it is significant that everyone present had the question of how to transmit what they had experienced once they returned home. That is, how this new gaze can be for the world. Which is, in short, the theme of responsibility and mission.” A superabundance of grace was breathed in Assisi. The reverberation of the perfume that spread in the room of the house of Lazarus, more than two thousand years ago, when Mary of Bethany sprinkled the feet of Jesus with all the most precious ointment she had, because He had wept with her, He had resurrected her brother, He had loved them and looked at them as no one ever had. "This 'waste', this giving without measure is the reflection, it is the mirror of the amazement before the measureless giving of Christ. Thus it is not a question of worrying about being creative, but of deepening this amazement. If we do not love, if we get stuck, as is normal, it is simply because we are still on a journey,”Fr. Paolo concluded. A journey in which we are not alone. As happened for Simon Peter. What triggered his dive? The presence of John who pointed him to Christ. What can trigger my momentum today? "It is that you can be put before the splendour of this love, but you need someone who can put you there, who has seen it before and better than you.” A vocational companionship, indeed. Like the one touched in Assisi.