Fr. Carron with Pope Francis. Traces

A Road that Begins Again

More than 80,000 people attended the Audience of Pope Francis with Communion and Liberation in Rome. It was an historical event in which the Pope invited the whole Movement to be–centered in Christ–the hands and heart of an “outward-oriented” Church.

I wonder as I wander... out under the sky... The voices and notes hang in the air. Everything stops and the eyes of eighty thousand people turn to the image that suddenly appears on the screens. He’s here! The Pope has arrived. Everyone was waiting for him but even so, the surprise transforms the Square. In front of the Basilica everyone is standing on their chairs; wonder rolls through the crowd like a wave, all the way through to Via della Conciliazione, and in one voice everyone begins singing: Ho un amico grande grande!... [I have a great, great friend!...]. It is a people’s explosion of enthusiasm for a man. Just one man, like you and me, but the fact that he is there makes them feel that everything is true, the faith is true and life is true, every morning: work, studies, suffering, raising children, loving.

This moment perfectly captures the first audience of CL with Pope Francis. Julián Carrón’s letter inviting the Movement to Rome clarifies what is happening. We have it before our eyes: everything has its “substance in the bond with the fragility of a single person.” Like Zacchaeus, a young man has climbed up a lamp post in the middle of the Square. The Popemobile makes a long circuit alongside the thousands of hands outstretched at his passing. “I have not been left alone,” thinks Barbara, 26, as the crowd applauds, sings, and waves booklets: “I arrived here angry for various reasons, but everything changed when I saw him.”

“The event of Christ reaches us, too, wretches that we are. That Grace began to penetrate into the world through Our Lady, and today reaches us, too, to fill the empty amphora of our hearts. Let us prayerfully ask that it also find the same welcome in us.” Carrón’s words to introduce the gesture had accompanied the waiting time of those who had been filling the colonnade since early morning, arriving from every part of the world (47 countries) and by every means of transport. Then there was Morning Prayer, the video and the words of Giussani, the songs of a clear beauty like the air this day, from the Ave Maria in Chinese to the Argentinean Zamba dedicated to don Francisco. “There is no other Christ than the one who happened to Mary,” the leader of the Movement continued: “From then on, there is no other Mary than the one defined by the call of Christ.” The same thing is happening now with the presence of the Pope, with everyone’s emotion filled gratefulness for the life of Giussani, for the “profoundly human” road that this man travelled for his own sake and to give it to everyone, and with the Holy Father’s closeness, his oneness with what the Movement lives.

Already There
“The privileged place of the encounter with Jesus Christ is my sin,” he says in his speech: “Only those who have been caressed by the tenderness of mercy truly know the Lord,” know what He has given back to us. The forgiveness of today. The Pope says he often stopped in front of The Calling of Saint Matthewby Caravaggio. The Pope’s arrival in the Square is like the gaze of Jesus in that painting, while you are there with the money still in your hand, holding onto what you are unable to give, while you err or try to do good, to wait well or while you are not even seeking. “He comes and invites us.” He comes and chooses us, now, to follow Him. “When we arrive, He is already there, waiting!” the Pope says forcefully. Jesus is the almond tree that is the first to flower in spring, and following Him makes life blossom.

Immediately Bound
After speaking of the good that Giussani did “for me and my priestly life,” he warms to the topic of the encounter. “Everything in our life starts with an encounter,” the encounter with the carpenter of Nazareth, “a man like everyone else and at the same time different.” He recounts how the first disciples felt themselves looked at deep down, “known intimately,” and how this “immediately bound them to Him.” Only this can give rise to Peter’s yes and ours: “Christian morality is a moved response.”

Carrón’s son-like request for help “to not let wither away the freshness of the charism” finds sure guidance in Francis: the Pope does not take for granted the vitality that “the original charism has not lost.” He shakes up the journey of the Movement and of our personal life: “Be free!” Be free from closure, from your own belonging and habits, from decisions already made, from the ashes to which you are devoted, whatever form they may take. “Learn from everyone.” Listen to those who are not like you. “Christianity is the principle of redemption that takes on the new, saving it,” he will say at the end, quoting Giussani. Francis forcefully asks us to be outward bound, to be “decentered”: “at the center there is only the Lord!” There is love, that is, there is “what comes from God.” And there is one task: “Adopt fully God’s own approach,” this mercy He has for us, a surprising mercy, unexpected, even “unjust” according to our criteria: He is “One who knows me, knows my betrayals and loves me anyway, esteems me, embraces me, calls me again, hopes in me, expects of me.”

Before closing, asking everyone to pray for him, he draws upon another passage from Giussani: “the genius of the Movement that I saw coming to birth lies in having felt the urgency to proclaim the need to return to the elementary aspects of Christianity, that is to say, the passion of the Christian fact as such in its original elements, and nothing more!” he says with impetus. Then he gives his Blessing and spends time greeting leaders and friends of the Movement from throughout the world and also from different traditions and faiths. The Pope embraces a group of prison inmates and caresses them, blesses and kisses a little girl with a unique fondness, so unique that it responds to the need of each person. In the meantime, the people slowly make their way out of the Square, still bowled over by the unexpected good they have experienced: “What happened? Who passed by?” says Lucia with few words and a radiant smile.

Like a Baby
The big questions that fill people’s hearts cannot wait, and are shared among friends as the colonnade empties. There are greetings and hugs, the last photos. Andrea reflects on the Pope’s admonitions, which wound him and cause him to desire a road that begins, that begins again: “He told us many things; I want to enter into them, to live them.” For Alberto it was his first encounter with a Pope. Behind his sunglasses, the forty-five year-old cried like a baby the whole time. Why? Giussani had answered in one of the videos, recounting how John and Andrew met Jesus: “Kids, without putting too fine a point on it, this happened.”