Minneapolis, MN. Wikimedia Commons

The Discovery of a Different Humanity

Four very intense days of lessons, witnesses, the presentation of "Why the Church?," and the projection of a video of Fr Giussani. A great challenge and a great promise.
Maurizio Maniscalco

Minneapolis, Minnesota, the land of ten thousand lakes, Hyatt Regency Hotel.

It was here that this year, from January16th-19th, roughly 350 responsibles met for what we call the “National Diaconia,” in order to tell each other of the miracle so powerfully expressed by Victorinus, the title and the question of this year’s Diaconia: “When I met Christ, I discovered myself a man.”

The arrival of CLU [CL University Students]! We are not expecting a lot of them for this appointment in Minneapolis. Life for university students is not easy. When there are no classes, they have to work because the university costs a lot and many of them have to support themselves. It is striking to see thirty young responsibles not only from the East Coast but also from places like Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana.

The arrivals from almost all the states: the greatest thing is to discover the “face behind the e-mail.” Even contacts kept up for months via e-mail and telephone with the National Diaconia lead to the discovery of a “new humanity.”

We enter the great hall of the hotel to the notes of Mozart and Schubert. On the big screen are flashing images of Christ’s face; then after Christ’s face come some short messages from new-found friends, from tiny new and unimaginable communities that have sprung up this year: Thomas and Jacintha from Alaska, Chris from Sioux Falls in South Dakota, Patrick from New Orleans, and many more, more than twenty new points to add to the boundless map of the United States. A hundred points, up to today, where, as Fr Giussani said in the greeting he sent us at the end of our meeting, “By means of us, Jesus shows who He is.”

Jonathan begins to speak: “I’ve heard this experience in all of you that there’s this accent of humanity that’s come through, an accent of the terrible vulnerability of life, the accent that there’s an answer to it, that you’re accompanied.”

Msgr Lorenzo Albacete describes how this new humanity makes us “one,” in the relationship with the materiality of things, in affections, in work, in social life, in history. “What is required is to remain faithful to this Event, to this method as it reached us, to be aware of how it has reached us and saved us, to remain within this life together with all that it implies.”

The day opens with Mass celebrated by His Excellency Peter E. Pates, Auxiliary Bishop of Minneapolis. The Church embraces us at once and now it’s up to us. It’s the moment of assembly, and many get in line. Giorgio Vittadini presses those who speak: “What relationship is there between my humanity and the immensity of my desire? And between desire and reality? Why is there no room at work for all that I am? What is it that limits my desire? What is the difference between being simple and simplifying?” “There is Someone,” he goes on, “who loves our desire more than we do. But what does Jesus ask me so as to answer my desire?”

Saturday evening, on the stage Paolo Carozza, Lorenzo Albacete, and David Forte, who accepted our invitation to spend these days with us. What is going on? We try to open a door, an initial effort in our young American history to judge society, politics, and economics.

We start off with another embrace by the Church. H.E. Bernard J. Harrington, Bishop of Winona, celebrates the Mass. Today, many will get their first look at Fr Giussani in a video of March 1986, filmed in New York (cf. Traces, Vol. 4, No. 2, 2002: “Christ, All We Have”). The video was preceded by three short testimonies (Greg, a university student; Fr Rich, a priest; and Marcie, a mother) and the songs born from the history of the Movement here in the USA. The room fills up, and here we see on video that man through which the Lord has mysteriously chosen us and put us together. He is there, in the basement of St Patrick’s Cathedral, New York City, engrossed with a small group of people he had just met.

“ I had read the address in Traces at least ten times,” said Henry at the end of the projection, “but to actually see him….”

Julián Carrón has the task of summarizing all that happened here: ; what happened, because our method is that of starting off from experience. It is certainty of Christ that animates us, the certainty of His presence, the acknowledgement that He and only He is the protagonist of our change. Mary is the method because “the concrete way in which He entered the world never passes away,” and that indestructible company has been given to us so that our happiness may be full, may be assured. This is why following the Mystery present in our company is worthwhile. This is how the great and deep religiosity of the American people can blossom with new life, instead of emptying itself in the impoverishment of the desire for happiness. It is a great challenge and a great promise. “Let’s not be afraid!” concludes Julián.
Fr Pino launches the School of Community. “We are carrying the world’s expectation, even though the world doesn’t know it. This is the School of Community. It is a dialogue for learning life, for learning what work means, what is meant by responsibility for the life of this country and the life of the world.

Vittadini closes the afternoon by proposing the various expressions of life in the community: Structured prayer, School of Community work and other proposed reading (including Traces), charitable work, public presentations of the books of Fr Giussani, and other cultural gestures (wich are a form of charity), retreats, Fraternity gatherings, vacations, and music.

It is the closing morning and also the day when H.E. Sean O’Malley, the new Archbishop of Boston, comes to see us. His is perhaps the most disturbed diocese in the United States.

Also present is the Minnesotan mass media, curious, not wanting to miss the opportunity to meet him. The room is full to overflowing. After the Mass, the Archbishop, introduced by Brother Louis De Thomasis, President of St Mary’s University of Winona, and with Msgr Lorenzo Albacete beside him, communicates to us the certainty of his faith and his love for Our Lady. “When God knocks at the door of man’s humanity, Mary says, ‘Yes,’ giving God permission to enter into history.” This is how he answered, with his testimony, the question “Why the Church?”–the theme of this day’s meeting.
Now at the conclusion of the Diaconia, everyone returns home, with the certainty of being called to form part of this indestructible company.