The GS Way of the Cross during the Triduum in Rimini (Giacomo Bellavista/Fraternity CL)

"The promise that awaits us"

A young teacher recounts what he saw happening at the Easter Triduum of Gioventù Studentesca in Rimini.
Bernardo Cedone

The first evening. My students and I entered breathlessly as the large hall was already packed with thousands of people, young people and adults who had come to Rimini from all over Italy for the Easter Triduum of Gioventù Studentesca. On the big screens, images portrayed the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, an episode that would accompany us over the next few days. The event had opened, shortly before, with a surprise: Matteo Severgnini read the greeting of Pope Francis, who personally sent a message to the GS young people, inviting them to "renew the joy of being God’s children" because it is He who "says to all of us: 'With age-old love I have loved you; so I have kept my mercy toward you’ (Jer 31:3)." My group and I arrived just in time to hear the notes of Billie Eilish's What I was made for and Povera Voce. As I listened I thought about how at home I felt entering that from the very first moment, with these songs, with the words of Davide Prosperi's greeting ("a friendship filled with promise [...] friendship with Jesus, which opens us up to everything"). It put me back in front of the truth of myself: an immense need to be that has encountered a place capable of welcoming it and responding to it fully, as each of the more than three thousand young people I saw around me was beginning to discover.

The GS Triduum in Rimini (Roberto Masi/Fraternity CL)

My attention increased even more when Fr. Fabio Colombo re-proposed the most urgent questions that he had received in the numerous contributions. Can one live a united life, without being "one person" when they are at GS and "another person" when they are at school or in their family? Alcohol and getting high are my attempts not to think, but I am dying inside and want something else: who can I follow? Is it possible to love without blackmail?

Faced with the words of Jeremiah that give the title to the Triduum ('With age-old love I have loved you; so I have kept my mercy toward you') one might remain incredulous: an everlasting love, for me? For me, who is one among many? For me, who does not even have the time to become attached to those I have met before already becoming afraid of losing them, or of being a burden?

Anna was at her first Triduum, she knew very few people: on the bus she had her hood up and her headphones on. But within a few hours something changed, until she said: “You certainly are a family here.” In her words, however, I sensed a veil of sadness. "Yes, because it is not for me. I always fear that others are with me for charity. It is crazy how much attention there is here among you, but I always live on the 'who goes there'. I do not know what free love is these days.” Yet Anna was there. She was there because she was desired by friends who did not wait for her to become capable of living relationships in a "mature" way, as she says. Do you not realize that the adventure has already begun? And that the affection of these friends already gives battle to your fears?

The video of Fr. Giussani screened in Rimini during the GS Triduum (Roberto Masi/Fraternity CL)

Giulia came from Puglia and listening to the words of Fr. Fabio she found herself: "It is true, when I look at myself I am always full of pretensions, but the purity with which Christ looks at the Samaritan woman is the same gaze that is among us. This is how we look at each other: without masks, without filters.” Filters: those with which we retouch our photos, but above all those with which we disguise ourselves in front of others, "a bit like silencing a shame" or "an ineffable hope", as Rilke would say. There is a place where all this is contradicted: one does not have to run away, one does not have to – as the Samaritan woman did – look for the farthest well to avoid uncomfortable encounters. There, what they are, mysteriously, could come out into the open, and those there immediately felt the impact of this. Lucia, at the Triduum for the first time, came from Basilicata. "I have always been sceptical about faith, but since meeting you I have been amazed. Now I have another question: what is it that is really between you? It is wonderful, but I still cannot say why it is so.” At last feeling looked at and considered deep down, not because of a particular talent or a particular problem that one is experiencing, but loved because we exist, for no other reason. Hence the affection for this companionship and the curiosity about its origin. Gabriele, 15 years old, was struck by the force with which Fr. Giussani, in a short video, spoke of mission ("I have been given the gift of faith, so that I may give it, communicate it!"). When we become aware of this received love, in fact, in an unexpected way we discover that communicating this gift is perhaps precisely the true task of our entire life.

The same affection, undeserved and without measure, is what Fr. Francesco Ferrari spoke of in his testimony. It struck me and many to hear him speak of his youth, in which he bitterly experienced friendships “in which there was always something to prove.” It was precisely at that time that Christianity revealed itself to him in these guises: a companionship interested in his life. "I still remember the first meeting. We were working on a sentence by Giussani: 'Man's greatest mistake is to neglect himself'. That day I felt understood, and when we feel understood, we feel that we have found a home.” On the first evening Billie Eilish's song dramatically asked who or what life is worth living for. Francesco offered a hypothesis: “Who was I really? I decided to bet on that friendship to find out.” It was those friends, Francesco continued, who often repeated: “Here we are happy, because God is here.” At first I really only understood the first part of that sentence, because I experienced that happiness. That is precisely why it became so interesting to discover the truth of the second part too,” that is, the origin of that happiness. It was striking, at the end, to hear him say that the source of this love is revealed in a story, made up of names and surnames – among many, one in particular, that of Marta Bellavista – a story in which something more than the faces themselves is revealed over time. "I am certain about a story. The more I walk into it, the more it gives me the testimony of a love greater than the sum of these faces.”

Read also - "We are interested in happiness, nothing less"

It was then time to go back home. I returned home grateful and amazed for all that I had seen and heard, and for one thing in particular. I have not been teaching for many years, but I still taught for long enough to realize that ‘strangeness’ with the colleagues and young friends with whom I took part in the Triduum: a familiarity, a mutual sympathy, such a great passion for each other's destiny. And until a few months ago we did not even know each other. It is this that, even though the school year is ending, renews in me the sense of promise and the curiosity to see what lies ahead.