Portugal: “Confront my questions, without fear”

A Portuguese presentation of Reawakening Our Humanity will take place today. Manuel, 18 years old, after reading it during quarantine, told his friends about it. Here is what he said, and the dialogue that followed.

In Portugal, a group of university friends has begun a series of online cultural encounters, entitled: "What does this have to do with the stars?” Every week, they share their discoveries by reading a song or a poem. In one of these meetings Manuel, 18 years old, presented Julián Carrón's book, Reawakening Our Humanity (which today, June 23, will be presented online in a dialogue with the author, economist João César das Neves and historian Rui Ramos). Here is Manuel’s intervention, and the questions and answers that followed.

«I read Reawakening Our Humanity during isolation, a time when boredom often prevailed within me. Many questions arose within me during these days, particularly about how to come out of boredom. The first thing I can say is that this book has helped me to deal with these questions. Because I tend to be scandalized by the questions that arise, whilst in these pages, such questions are confronted without fear and this has helped me. During the days of quarantine, what Carrón describes happened to me: "All our ideologies, big and small, and our convictions, are being put to the test." In that situation, I had to question my convictions. This book helps me to take the right stance in front of my questions: that is, to not be shocked by them, but take them seriously.

I was very struck by the pages which say that religiosity and rationality touch each other: "The irruption of these questions (What is the meaning of life? Why is there suffering and death? Deep down, what makes life worth living? Where does reality come from and what is it for?) communicates to us reason’s vocation and what I consider to be man’s authentic and unavoidable religiosity.” It is easy to reduce faith to sentiment, as it says a few pages earlier, while living it as the search for answers to fundamental questions changes everything. At least this is my perception of the journey I am making through Communion and Liberation: now I do not go to School of Community looking for emotion, but I try to face the ultimate questions that arise in daily life, trying to find an answer.
Another point that helps me is the invitation to live circumstances as a "yes" to a call. The example of St. Therese of Lisieux on this is very beautiful: a cloistered nun proclaimed patroness of mission, because her "yes" has changed the world through her testimony of life, leading many people to conversion.

This invitation to adhere to the circumstances and say "yes" helped me to face the days of isolation, which were so difficult for someone like me, accustomed to spending so much time away from home. Only the possibility of being able to say "yes" to Jesus made me respect my obligation to social distancing.
Yesterday, a friend told me that for her faith is often a source of confusion. During these days of quarantine, I have often reflected upon what sustains my faith. At a certain point in the book it is says: "Those affirmations are only believable if we see people whose lives, here and now, show the signs of God’s victory, of his true and contemporaneous presence, and therefore of a new and different way of facing circumstances, one full of hope and an otherwise unimaginable joy that is channelled into indomitable industriousness.” In other words, what sustains my faith is to see the presence of people who overcome nothingness and boredom and who make me look at myself and think about the possibility that I too can do the same».

You said that this book helps you face these questions. How?
Questioning the meaning of life is something heavy, difficult. My parents once told me that religion and faith are heavy. Yes, these questions, if you do not have someone to help you look at them, can easily become a burden in life. Something hard to look at, to face. Thus, a book like this, where you find someone who asks questions and is not afraid of them, does not avoid them, at least makes you admit the possibility that you can too.

How does this book help you not to be shocked by the questions that arise?
The scandal for me is aroused by several things. I am shocked because I seem to begin to think that this is it, that there is nothing else and that my questions can not be answered. When this happens, I begin to feel suffocated. But if you find, as the book says, extraordinary presences, people who face these questions and try to find answers, you understand that these questions are not a condemnation.

What makes you think that everyone's little "yes" can change the world?
I do not know, I think a lot about the relationship that I have with my friends in the movement, with the teacher who made me meet CL. I now know Christianity because she said "yes" before me. And, before her, someone else said their "yes" that allowed her to meet it. Our "yes" can have an effect on others. When I see someone say "yes" to Jesus, or to circumstances, I am impressed. This challenges me and I want to follow that person.

Read also - Austen Ivereigh. Return to the people

You said that faith is not a sentiment and that religiosity coexists with reason. What does that mean?
Reason and religion touch.

Yes, but an event that is a "phenomenon of religiosity" is not a rational thing.
There is a part that touches me a lot in this book: the one at the beginning, where Carrón talks about the rationalist measure and the fact that we are closed within our small world and within our vision of how we see reality. But reality is much bigger than that. Our rationality only sees the obvious and religion makes you see more, it makes you go further. Because the world does not end with the walls of your room and it does not boil down to what you see.