Pentecost. Wikimedia Commons

More than a Group of Friends

For 4 days 65 university students and professors from the Eastern US met at Blue Knob Ridge near Altoona, Pennsylvania, for the annual summer vacation, whose theme was “Utopia and Presence.” Notes from the closing moments of the vacation:

The Face of Mercy
There are lots of things I want to say… When I came here, when I watched the movie, I thought I was a little bit like Forrest when he asks his mother: Mom, what is my destiny? And there’s no answer to that question... Sometimes it gets like that for me. Even though I have good friends and this experience is with me every day, some days I just don’t see it anymore and I wonder what my destiny is, I wonder about things like why someone is dying… Why is this happening to me? Why is this relationship going this way? I’m happy I came here because I discovered again what you saw here, and I discovered this destiny in the flesh. Vitta said that prayer can be like something that you add; instead, here it was this destiny in the flesh. So I understand what Vitta was saying: accepting reality is not settling for something less. Often, I want to change things, I get really angry, but I saw again on this vacation the face of this mercy… And now I look at Monica in a different way–I couldn’t look at her this way a few days ago–and then Elise struck me with her openness. This thing is what made us study the way we did during the year, and this is why for me Fordham changed this year, because we were there together studying at Fordham and from there talking about life, how is your boyfriend, etc. So thank you for this.

A New Judgment
What I saw at this vacation that really struck me was a new judgment on everything. It struck me starting from the movie. I had seen it before but I never heard it explained the way Vitta did and it was much more intelligent than any judgment I had heard about this movie.

What we said about love, school, Fedi and Monica’s testimonies… It’s a new start because you have to rethink the usual things you do. It’s like when you love somebody, it’s something given to you, so everything changes. I have to restart, everything is different, even in school. I understand that this new judgment, this new thing that we saw, doesn’t come from us but from a Presence we saw, because otherwise it wouldn’t correspond so much, we wouldn’t sing all together like this. In these moments, it’s clear that it doesn’t just come from us.

An Idea of Simplicity
What really struck me at this vacation and everything that happened this year is that the more I go on in life, and the more I do everything I have to do, I am always very stubborn and I don’t want to give up on myself and my ideas. But these last three weeks and this vacation made me realize how much more human it is for me to give all of myself to this place, instead of holding everything back. The simplicity we were talking about and the positivity come from something else, from affirming something other than myself and what I think about everything. I came here this year, hoping. I see I’m getting older and everything becomes more serious, and it’s always so easy to pick out what is not good in life, but I saw that attitude this year destroyed me. When I do that, it doesn’t correspond to me. Instead, this simplicity makes me love what I have to do more and it makes me give all to this place. This is what I got at this vacation and want to bring with me; I want to give myself completely, like Silvia said: if she didn’t give her life completely to Jesus it wasn’t worth it.

Affection as a Beginning
I go to school in Boston. We had a meeting today to talk about what goes on in our CLU meetings. It has been hard lately. My experience in the Movement started not because I was attracted to the book, to what Giussani had written, or because I loved Christ, like the prisoner, but it was the affection I had for Fedi that kept me coming. That friendship made me come to the GS meetings and slowly from that I began to love Christ; that for me was the connection, that the friendship came first. In Boston, we were all coming together one hour a week, but everybody seemed so scattered, and during the two years that I have been there, we keep trying to get friendships started as a base so that it’s not just us sitting together at a meeting.
It’s that division between the two worlds that makes it a formal thing to go to the meeting. I don’t know, I keep hearing that even if you are alone it’s not the friendship that will sustain you, it’s what Giussani says and it’s his presence, that not only are you able to live it by yourself but it’s a challenge and you can do it. I keep going back to what got me started and that friendship.

The Taste of a Certainty
I think about my life before the vacation, not just before I met the Movement, but recently the things I have done, sins committed, and how I recognize myself as a sinner, feeling that there is something really broken within me, and the thing is that I have been in Movement for four years…When I first came it was a whole new experience, but over time, I know I have developed a certainty that in this place lies the answer to my desire. What I found recently is what Vitta was saying yesterday about the positivity–eliminating the “buts.” I met this place and I know Christ loves me but… I have done this or that, etc. It’s always been a matter of holding myself back because I don’t want to scandalize what I have here by sharing my faults. In my head, I understand that only through this place my sins can be redeemed, and at this vacation it has been evident that it’s true I might be a sinner but at the same time what defines me isn’t that, but it is the fact that I met this place and I know that Christ has a deep love for me, he loves me, so what if I have done that… Like Forrest, I’m not intelligent, but I know this place loves me and I stick with that certainty. I want to stop the division of my sins and my worldly life–you can still be completely alone if you are around a million people but not sharing your life; that’s the division, that’s the but that has to leave for my life to become beautiful. That’s what I want, that’s the great desire that has sprung up for me in these days.

The Mystery Begins to Appear
I am Msgr Albacete. This is my first CL vacation. I am a priest. Christ, Jesus, Church. That’s my “business.” So to speak. I have spent a lot of time among many other priests, theologians, and bishops, etc. It seems to many Christianity is declining, that it has begun to bottom out. Last Monday, I was with a prominent cardinal, whose words of despair were sad. All he sees is anger, hostility. Everywhere. But from my experience in the Movement, I have to say to him and to my fellow priests, especially during the scandals of the last years, “That’s not true!” I see other things occurring. It is as if we were reliving the acts of the apostles. Things are happening very fast. Perhaps the Lord has given me this opportunity to be with you because I needed it more than many other of my priest friends; I needed to see this: Christ alive, risen, and active. This vacation turned out to be an occasion for us to be together, to act together, and suddenly the reality, the face of the Mystery begins to appear. And I recognize it. I see Him in your faces. I see Him in your smiling faces: “Tell your brother priests not to be afraid. I am here, the world hasn't killed anything.” One last thing, a message I have for you: I have been, since February, in (practically) daily communication with 15-20 people of your age, starting a CL community in Havana, Cuba. Through e-mail contact everyday, I am able to follow them. We already have 2 people interested in Memores Domini. This is the effect of the miraculous power of Christ present in our simply being and acting together. If I had seen Christ rise from the dead, I don’t know if I would have been impressed as much. I found messages from them last night in my computer. They know where I am this week and asked me to tell you, especially the Americans, that no matter how the world separates us, they are part of you. They are praying for success and for a miracle to occur at this vacation.

Msgr Albacete

A Companionship for Every Day
You said almost everything. This is something that brings a positivity in my life; a positivity means something good for me, moments that correspond to what I desire and need. From this experience, I will share two things:
The first is that if I look at us I can see that this was possible not because of our capacity. If we had only our capacities of loving, of desiring truth, and of looking at reality, it wouldn’t have come out like it came out these days, and I can only call this a mystery; there is a mystery among us in these days, and someone told me that the name of this mystery is Jesus Christ. I don’t really know what this is, but I am interested in Him; I want to meet Him and become more familiar with Him so that it can be a companionship of my everyday life. This is what I bring back with me.

The second point is that this changes everything. Circumstances remain the same–I have to go back to my studies, life is a whirlwind, I have desires, friends, a mother and father, everybody wanting something. These are circumstances; how are they changed?

I have seen that circumstances cannot be objections but are the conditions for finding answers to my desires. Coming here or meeting you was following circumstances that happened in my life. As it was possible to find what I want in life here, now I can go home and say: I saw that it’s possible to encounter what I want and this means that what is changed is me–in fact, I agree with Kate, I need friendship; companionship and friendships are important for me because they sustain me, and they remind me that it’s possible to find answers–like for Kate in Boston. Kate, you can meet there the answer to your desire, because you have Fedi in New York with you. This is the aim, to allow you to live circumstances you have in Boston, so that they can be a condition and not an objection to your desires.
What really strikes me is that living this positivity in my life, having an experience of this positivity, is not linked to my capacity to apply what I understood here or to keep in mind things said but it is linked to accepting that I was chosen by something else. For me, the challenge is to discover that this being chosen doesn’t pass through exceptional moments but passes through concrete circumstances in life, and adhering to the reality of everyday life can be adhering to what has chosen you in your life.

A New Look on Things
What particularly struck me at this vacation, what changed in me was that I realized something. I was looking at everyone who was here, I was looking at Mary, Rob, all the people who are here, and thinking about my question: How can what I saw here be sustained when I go home? After hearing everything and having this vacation I was really struck by how scandalous Jesus Christ has become for me at this vacation. When I think about all the work I have to do when I go back home, sitting reading about algorithms (I do not want to read that)… the claim is that even when I sit down and do that it is Christ for me, and I haven’t accepted that yet, I am so unused to that, it bowled me over. I am not saying that I am going to go home knowing a new method, but it’s that I have seen something–like I had never seen a car before, and you see keys on the ground, I saw you put the keys in the ignition and you go. So I can go home with a new look on the things I have to do.

A Goodness in the People
About a month ago, I was introduced to these wonderful people. I was invited to this vacation and I didn’t know anything because I am Hindu. But I saw a goodness in these people that I don’t usually meet in people I see every day, and I asked myself, “Why should I give up meeting more people like these?”
Also, I am interested in learning more about religions and cultures. Coming here, not only I understood about this religion, but being here has brought me one step closer to faith and believing. So I want to thank the guys from Chicago for bringing me here and everyone here for accepting me.