Fraternity 2021: Where you would never have gone

"A lifetime would not have been enough to understand, indeed even to only vaguely imagine, that it is possible to live like that." A testimony on the Spiritual Exercises entitled: "Is There Hope?" (a preview from the May issue of Traces).
Stefano Zurlo

I was looking forward to them this time and I also prayed to the Lord to tear that catalog of temptations away from my hands, which can be summed up in one sentence: "I agree and I would like to be there, but I do not have the time, it would be too complicated with work, home, children, I cannot.”
This year, however, something was burning inside. Strong, increasingly stronger, like a fireplace that begins to burn again. How strange – I said to myself as I looked in the rearview mirror of my life – the more the years go by, the more affection grows. In the morning you long to go to Mass, to meet the Lord. Three years ago, this thought honestly did not even cross my mind. I had squandered treasured friendships and neglected many relationships, until one day I reappeared at a small School of Community. I still remember the way my friend Alberto hugged me, as if seeing a ghost reappear.
From then on, almost without realizing, other things began to happen and, in the end, Cesare and Paola, with whom a relationship has begun to flourish during the last year, invited us to their house, at least for the Saturday.
The result: my wife Manila and I went. It was her first time, with her questions and doubts. For me, it was the “first time” in ten years, giving thanks not only for this proposal, but also for this exceptional situation that wiped out my usual objection to travel, now reduced to a few steps and a click.

I do not know how we will go on and what will happen, but I do know that I again felt that deep vibration of the beginning, of those distant times at the Berchet, following my brother Marco, and then at university. There is no other experience capable of defeating time and giving us back the novelty of that time, which is possibly now even more overwhelming. It is something that you wait for and that reaches into the depths, where you cannot cheat and where nostalgia and bitterness disappear. Throughout the Exercises, many words touch you. Some slip past my obtuseness, but I know that one day they will come back to knock on the door of my mind and heart; others instead pierce me like arrows.

But the greatest evidence for me during these days has been the explosion of humanity and hope – which was the theme of the Exercises – that Fr. Julián Carrón transmitted and described to us. The story of the two women who were ill and hospitalized in the same room, for example, in an instant takes you to a place that you would never have reached on your own. A lifetime would not have been enough to understand, indeed even to only vaguely imagine, that it is possible to live like that – with that strength, with that impetus, with that certainty, even in the face of evil, in the face of suffering, in the face of death. I saw Manila's eyes, and indeed those of some of our friends glued to the screen, misted with tears as Carrón spoke of the mother with her disabled son.
It is really true: Christianity opens up paths you would never have travelled, makes you perceive tones that you would never have focused upon, and makes you grasp reality with a force that goes beyond your strength, beyond your thoughts, beyond your abilities.

We, like Andrew and John, do not directly see Christ’s divinity. But we do cross paths with signs of that Presence within our lives: the change that overcomes skepticism, the ever so-slightly lifting of the handbrake, and the truth of those who have taken this path seriously, even in the most difficult circumstances. Truly, that something else that they have witnessed to me cannot be diluted under the banner of sentimentality or redirected towards the bubble of suggestions.
Certain accents make it clear that you are further along, you do not really know where, but you are further along. Where you would never have gone. Peter's affection was stronger than his remorse, but what about mine? Will my affection go beyond regrets, mistakes, indecisions, and everything else?

The work to strengthen human muscle is not at the beginning, but lies behind the urgencies and sharp edges that life poses. Even though I had already begun many years ago. I dismissed that continuous comparison somewhat to the fringes of life, to the periphery of my personal sphere, dominated by my egocentrism. Me and me again. Not my self, but my ambitions – albeit legitimate –, the bare minimum of traditional Christian life, many good intentions, many presumptions and a pinch of vainglory, even if tinged with self-irony.
I am going home with a challenge in mind: Lord, give me the strength to risk that comparison more, and not to be afraid to take up the challenge in all spheres and in all situations. It is better to play this game, without wanting to know all the rules in advance.

Read also - "The origin of our hope”

Before, I was more aware of my objections, obstacles; in truth, I still perceive them, and they are not small. But right in the previous instant, I see those testimonies, those faces, that humanity and that Mystery – which is still a Mystery but is a little less alien – knocking at the door of my life. I feel less alone. Some things have changed inside me, others have not, and at a certain age they begin to weigh like a burden upon my shoulder, but I know that I want to go on. At fifty-eight years old, I feel an almost frantic surge of happiness inside, like never before.