Ponce, Puerto Rico. Wikimedia Commons

Challenge in The Caribbean

The Meeting's exhibition inaugurated in September with over 900 visitors within just 3 weeks. The presentation of the book At the Origin of the Christian Claim broadcast by the university TV channel. The creativity of a small but certain
Giuseppe Zaffaroni

Puerto Rico, an island in the Caribbean: buffeted by the rough waves of the Atlantic on the north and cradled by soft breezes in the south; a land scorched and blinded by the sun all year long and sometimes suddenly blown apart by hurricanes of untold force; a people marked by disarming hospitality and kindness, wounded by daily, widespread, hidden violence; a land teeming with fruit and beauty, where everything is an invitation to live the moment with an immediate, ingenuous adherence, where it seems impossible that pain, tragedy, and death can exist, and yet boredom, solitude, and lack of meaning, dressed up in drugs and alcohol, can rapidly tear a life to bits; a people with African, Latin, and Antillean origins, who grasp hold of the Spanish language and a dream of independence founded mainly on words in order to arrest the collapse of a memory of something that no one knows any more.

Here, too, the exhibition "From the Land to the Peoples" made a stop, installed in the splendid museum in Ponce. It arrived, in the beginning, like a surprise, something "from another world."

With the crucial support of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Puerto Rico and its Chancellor José Alberto Morales, as well as the support of the Art Museum, and of the Diocese of Ponce, for the entire month of September, the people (young people in particular) of Ponce and its surrounding areas were challenged by a fact: the exhibition, with the strength of its images and texts, the possibilities of encounter offered through the material testimony left by men and women who two thousand years ago experienced in their own lives the certainty of a Presence that was stronger than death and who, propelled by that same energy which brought Jesus back from the dead, became the protagonists of a new people and a new civilization. With this, the affirmation of the faces and words of those who say they have met this Risen Christ today, and who tell of the beginning of a new humanity in the present, in the Puerto Rico of everyday life, in the heart of its concrete situation.

Wednesday, September 15th: Three hundred university students heard a lecture by Father Fidel Gonzalez on the spread of Christianity and the life of the early Christian communities. Wednesday, September 22nd: Some Puerto Rican students took part in a debate at the museum on "Christianity and Art in the Early Centuries." Tuesday, September 28th: the Chancellor of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Puerto Rico, José Alberto Morales, and the Auxiliary Bishop of Ponce, His Excellency Ricardo Suruñach, presented Monsignor Giussani's book, Los origenes de la pretensión cristiana (published by Encuentro). The Chancellor's remarks took up the theme of man's religious sense, its correspondence with the nature of the self. The Bishop followed the thread of the chapters with intelligence and sensitivity, emphasizing more than once that he shared completely the text's approach and expressing his admiration for the love of the event of Christ shown by its author. The presentation was broadcast live by the university's TV channel.

Within just three weeks, more than 900 high school students saw the exhibition, aided by ten university students who had prepared for this task. Hundreds of university students and adults visited the exhibition or attended one of the events connected with it; thousands of Puerto Ricans listened to them on the radio or television, or at least read the account of the exhibition published in the newspapers or the museum's bimonthly magazine.

The soul of all this activity was the small community of Communion and Liberation in Ponce and the Memores Domini house. It found itself suddenly in the limelight, visible, like the city set on a hill or the lamp hung in the house so that everyone could see by it. The community unexpectedly discovered itself to be even smaller and more fragile, but also more clearly loved; the handiwork of Another.

Saturday, October 2nd: The exhibition was officially closed with the benediction of the Bishop of Ponce, His Excellency Fremiot Torres, and a concert of sacred music by the university choir in which the voice of the most ancient tradition joined with the artistic expression of contemporary spirituality.

To the question asked at the exhibition's opening, paraphrasing Dostoevsky-"Can a Puerto Rican of our day believe, truly believe, in the divinity of the Son of God, Jesus Christ?"-some during these days replied with a resounding "Yes," grateful to be able to carry, in the fragility of their earthen vessels, a richness and beauty that are already there for all.