Latin America assembly of responsibles.

You Cannot Fake the "Hundredfold"

A veteran who, after years, returns to be amazed, a seventy-year-old new to CL, and stories of violence in Mexico and of starvation in Venezuela in the report of the annual assembly with Julián Carrón and the responsibles in Latin America.
Davide Perillo

“Instead, John and Andrew…” The revolution arrives here, right in the middle of the assembly, and it is told by Alejandro, an Argentinian from Santa Fe, in front of Fr. Julián Carrón and the 300 in the room. A member of CL since the beginning of the movement in South America, among those that met Fr. Francesco Ricci, he recounts a journey in which the Gospel, tradition, and even “what struck me the most about don Giussani, was the invitation to live reality intensely”, had become, almost without noticing, a series of words; words-real words- repeated without having any influence on life, on his relationship with his wife, his kids, and his work as a lawyer. In one word: “ideology.” Instead, living the movement, “reawakens the human sensibility, intensifies life. It’s a change of mentality. It makes you see things in a different way. It is a revolution.” Carrón interrupts him: “How did you learn this? What changed in you to make you realize what you are saying?” It’s there that Alejandro pulls in “the first two to encounter Christ”, like Giussani talked about: “Instead John and Andrew, following that exceptional person, learned to know differently and to change both themselves, and reality.” “Here. That is what is happening to me. Being in the movement, almost by osmosis, I realized that it’s true.” That following, one can discover more and the relationships bloom or flourish again. “You enter more into what surrounds you. It is a revolution.”

This has always been God’s method. It will emerge often and in many ways in the 3 days of Assembly that reunite the CL responsibles of Latin America in Santa Fe Center in San Paolo, Brasil. People come from 22 countries will come to work on a title that does not need translation: Recuperar o Inicio.

The importance is explained by Carrón in the introduction on Friday evening. It goes over Beginning Day and the provocation of Don Giussani: at the beginning of the movement “we built upon Christ, maybe too naively, but the theme of the heart, the persuasive motive was the fact of Christ” Then the tension moved, gradually, on its “cultural translation.” The consequence is dramatic: we no longer know Him. “A few months have passed, we have walked on a path. Now we can ask ourselves: do we know Christ a little more? And how can we prove it? If we can’t, our walking is useless. We do things, projects, but the essential is missing.” And to help this verification, he points to a simple criterion: “Our way of facing life. He who does not have this familiarity starts from an impression of reality, not from an event. If Christ entered in the heart of life, He is seen when life challenges us, not when we debate.”

There are many challenges in this continent that is beautiful and troubled like the sea in the song that we will hear often, during l’Aral: Debaixo d’agua, under water, where “everything is more beautiful, mbreatheure, colorful…But I need to breath, every day.” I need to live in the everyday hardships: the hunger that besieges Venezuela, the violence that makes Mexico suffer…. or the “taking for granted”, that touches us all.

It is the same challenge proposed by the Pope during the two trips over a few months, between Colombia, Chile, and Peru. And the evening starts exactly from there, from that visit that struck everybody, “but that of which we risk losing the overall meaning if we do not keep working on it.”, observes Julian de la Morena, a Cl responsible in Latin America. He refers to having heard of a dialogue between don Giussani and John Paul II, in which the latter said: “the problem is the truth”, and don Giussani responded: “Your Holiness, allow me, the problem is Peter”, because without the bond with his historical rooting, the truth fades. And Peter visited the countries of Catalina, Luis, and Silvia, who are right now there on the stage to tell.

The first, Catalina, is Colombian, teaches music, and lost her job right before the arrival of the Pope: “I was wondering how this fact could be an occasion. In front of Francesco, my position was to beg.” All around, there were millions of people. “Why were they there? We ask ourselves many times what it means to be a presence. Well, he was the incarnation of this. They were looking for him like Zacchaeus. And it was impressive to see how he looked at people.” At one point she found herself near the person who had fired her: “we were there united, like two women in front of a presence that was imposing itself on both of us.”

Luis, from Chile, says that Francesco “generated a wide space of dialogue, in between and others”, because “we all need an embrace.” Silvia, oncologist in Lima, was struck by those who were asking “heal me, look at me.” “People who wanted to touch his cloak to feel loved. You would see them arrive and you would ask yourself: what are they looking for? What do they need?” She tells of surprising conversations with coworkers. She also poses another big question: “What does it mean to follow the Pope? Because it is only possible to build upon something that is happening.”

Alberto Savorana, from Italy, gives a summary of the path made by the Pontiff. He starts from something just heard from Cleuza Zerbini, the responsible of the Sem Terra Association: “For me following the Pope is not a problem: I follow Carrón, he follows the Pope, therefore I follow the Pope…” Simple. Like the 3 points that Savorana pulls from the discussions: the context, “the society which is changing” and sometimes leaves us off guard “like the disciples after the crucifixion.” The Pope responds to this uneasiness by saying: Christ and His question to Peter, “do you love me?” that makes him feel all the mercy and the joy of being children, because “we aren’t called to substitute the Lord with our works. It all depends on the grateful remembrance of the hour in which we were touched by His gaze.” And the task is a witness. “Jesus calls through others”, of a company that, as the Pope said to Puetro Maldonado, “organizes itself like a community around His person.”

The assembly was the next morning. Carolina, from Argentina, opens exactly starting from Debaixo d’agua and from her “need to breathe, always.” She tells of how she found herself moved in front of a poor family, thinking of how Jesus was moved, and of the necessity of “recognizing the measure of the Mystery”, because this is what, as the prayer to don Giussani says, “makes fruitful the soil of hearts.” Then Daniela, from Peru, who found herself waiting for the Pope (“I asked myself why I waited for him like this, and I understood: his relationship with Christ, that is what interests me.”) and right after felt “fake” in front of the parents that come to the conferences at school: “It seems like I do not say everything completely, it seems to me that I do not arrive to His name.” “But would whatever sentence you may say be enough?” replies Carrón, “How can you introduce these people to reality? If we think to solve the existential insecurity of another by saying the right words, we are not following the way in which God does things. What did the Mystery do to respond to your question?”

The response will come one step at a time, like a journey. Full of surprises, like the one that Max speaks about in front of the unexpected conversation with his boss (“I asked him for days off, and he asked me where I was going. From this predictable exchange, I found myself telling him of my life here. When one looks at things the way they are, God reveals Himself.”) Or Carlos, from Venezuela, who discovered himself surprised by how he responded to the need of a friend who was left without the only pair of shoes he had: “It is not for granted, that I can have this gaze, it is thanks to who has looked at me in a different way.”

The first change arrives with Alexandre, from Ecuador. “Many things scandalize me: the limitations of the community, of the responsibles…but life becomes a disaster when you look at it like this. It’s a lie to think that the little that I know of Christ allows me to walk on my own. After the first steps I would get lost. I need a place that welcomes me with all my humanity. And this place exists.” It is the characteristic of the Christian community, Carrón underlines, “It welcomes everyone just as we are. It is the only one. The communication with Christ passes from the change that happens in you with all your limitations.”

Then it is the turn of Giovanna, who is from Brazil. “I read Giussani and I underline many words: adventure, attraction, discovery of myself…but adventure for me is a revolution of reason. A new way to living and working, and it is a achievement of my I.” She uses an image, strange but effective: “It’s as if I were only a skeleton and every day, in staying here, I gain a piece of flesh, and in this way, I am able to make a movement that I could not do before.” She tells of a conversation she had with a colleague, who has a partner and had artificial insemination: “One day she came to me in tears saying, ‘Giovanna, will you help me understand what it means to be a mother? How do your friends live?’ She came to me, who is memor Domini…” “And how did you meet Christ more in this?” asked Carrón, “What did you discover?” “For me it was like I was born again every day. Reason opens, and I realized that if things were like I had in mind, I would not be happier at all; mine is too small of a measure.”

“Here, the measure!” insists Carrón, “We think that suffocation comes from things’ limits, not from the fact that our desire is infinite. Imagine being able to inflate your house and put anything inside that you desire. After a while you would want to leave. Reason is need for totality. We better realize this, because when we notice that everything is limited, we stop getting mad at things and with others. It is not their fault if they cannot fill us. But if one understands the true adventure is that of reason, he starts to breathe in circumstances even if they are limited. The point is if I live with the knowledge of the infinite inside the limited. What grace to have encountered a place that introduces me to this totality. Thank goodness that Christ exists and that he introduced in life a new gaze on everything. For this your colleague asked you how to live…”

Milena, from Salvador de Bahia, notices that going back to the beginning means “paying attention to where it happens again: so we learn to love reality, and this presence can be good for everyone.” “This is our contribution: that one may see that a full, beautiful life exists”, underlines Carrón. But this happens only “living immersed in this history that has taken us” And that has also taken Mariela, from Honduras, recently baptized and who confessed that sometimes her trust falters. “Remember that the act that Christ performed with Baptism lasts forever”, responds the CL guide, “with it He said to you: you are mine, no matter what happens. We have a certainty not because we are coherent, but because of what He does with us.”

Then lunch break, filled with conversations and colored with the joy of the volunteers in teal t-shirts. A show within the show. Then we begin again. Alejandro erupts with his new discovery that “instead, John and Andrew…” “It took me 23 years to understand it”, he says jokingly, but only a little. “It doesn’t matter how long it took, the important thing is that the loyalty to your experience showed you it”, replies Carrón, “it is enough for one to do this journey for it to become evident to everyone. How long it will take for each of us to do it, we will see. But nothing can obscure wat we have felt.” He continues, “we have the gift of what don Giussani says, but it is not enough to parrot it to not make it ideological. One must live the reality. And to belongs to a place that continuously gives back new knowledge of reality, a new gaze. This is what the contemporaneity of Christ does: it generates a new creature. And we see that we are following because this happens. We want to know if we follow Christ? Let’s see if we are living the hundredfold. The verification is this.” It is what that De la Morena, right after, calls “Christ’s victory, that traveling in many countries in these moths I am seeing in the most unexpected and unforeseen ways.”: people that live happily, who breathe even under water.

Cristina, 70 years old, from Uruguay speaks of a recent encounter with the movement and, it seems like listening to Paula, the Brazilian girl who in an assembly with the University students with Caron, before the beginning of l’Aral, struck talking about “treasure that I discovered and changed my way of looking at everything.” Is I like this also for her, after a history made of commitment and leftist union fights and with a present that is filled with one question” How do I communicate what I am living now I live to my sisters? Because I want the same also for them.” “And how did Christ do with you, Cristina? How did He make himself present? We need to follow his method.”

The method, a path. That becomes even richer with the witnesses on Saturday evening, simple and powerful. Guillermo tells of the struggle of living in Venezuela, were everything but violence is missing, and many are leaving. With a wife and small children, he loses his job and is crushed by guilt of being someone who cannot bring home bread, before he opens up and asks for help. To discover, “that not all help is the same: some destroys you because it tries to replace you, other help make you grow, because it respects your liberty.” He tells about his son Samuel: “There wasn’t any sugar in the house. And he said, “don’t worry dad, it will get here with the friend’s groceries.” It is the bolsa solidaria, organized by the community. “At 7 years old he realized that dad could not solve the problem, but the friends could. In that moment I thanked God, because everything we are going through is worth it if my son is educated in this way: not with the idea that one can do everything, but that one needs everything.” Now he has created a new job, and his situation is improved. “But I put my hope only in Christ, because He is doing good for all. Including the good that we do not understand.”

Giampiero tells about Cuba, where he sees people growing, “people and moments of people that surprise you, and make you understand that it is truly Another who acts.” Olavo, from San Paolo, speaks of his 5 children, of his lost job, and of a reality that “seems contradictory, but the more I embrace the circumstance, the more I feel I am a protagonist.” Marco Montrasi, know as Bracco, responsible in Brasil, closes by saying, “sometimes we live in situations that are like tombs. But we can verify if the Easter Poster is true: if after the Resurrection of Christ, everything can be changed.”

The synthesis goes over many of the recounted events, it verifies that the challenge has been taken up, that in many occasions “we started from the event and not from the impression.” And it proposes again that constant preoccupation don Giussani had, continuously repeated throughout the years: the I, the person. “The beginning of the movement was dominated by that: the person.” It’s the only “resource to oppose the power.” This is why the decisive point is what allows the “I to be generated”, and what allows the person to grow. “And the method, we have seen it, is the event of Christ that happens”, now, in a particular place and history. “Only in following this can we be generated.” The alternative is to indulge in one’s own analysis. “But the verification, if we are following Christ or our ideas, is inexorable, it’s the hundredfold. We cannot fake that.” If one lives with more intensity, intelligence, and fullness, he will see it, and so will others. Because our task, the reason why we are in this world and can contribute to it, coincide with that fullness that is gained by following. For this John and Andrew…