Antique Map of North America. Wikimedia Commons

Our Arrows and that X

Alongside the New York Encounter, 200 CL responsibles from North America gathered for the Annual National Diaconia. Eschewing all formality and going beyond expectations, the three days with Fr. Julián Carrón introduced "reality as a symphony."
Fr. Luis A. Rivero

Can you recall the last time you were on an airplane and browsed the corporate magazine found on most airline carriers? In the final pages of this publication, each carrier boasts of the various destinations they provide service to and from. These lines illustrate a complex network that seeks to build aerial bridges from city to city. While contemplating this impressive network on my way to New York City, I could not help but to think of the human trajectory diagram that Fr. Giussani used to educate his "GS" high school students, which is proposed to us all in the third chapter of his trilogy: At the Origin of the Christian Claim (p. 29). From January 14th–17th, 200 responsibles participated in forming those aerial bridges at the National Diaconia in the heart of New York City. Men and women from a great diversity of nationalities, geographical locations, socio-economic backgrounds, cultural upbringings, professions, and vocations all gathered for a reason.

They convened to share how we are struggling and to witness to each other how it is that we attempt to be faithful to the title of the Diaconia, "Living is Memory of Me." Almost every one of the states of the union was represented, as well as Puerto Rico and Canada, coming together with great anticipation. Nonetheless, while it was a national holiday weekend, the intention was not a vacation in the heart of the Big Apple. Furthermore, it was not a meeting of the elite to decide the direction in which the Communion and Liberation Movement is to go or to decide what operational adjustments need to be made. Rather, it was something greater, for Someone had called us there.

The Pressure of a Presence
Like the diagram Giussani used in the classroom, the intention of these days together can be summed up by Fr. Julian Carrón's introduction on Friday night. Fr. Carrón, in freely spoken English, welcomed each and every one of us. He qualified that this welcome "does not intend to be a formal one, because we do not do formal things." Rather, such an embrace is one that intends to encompass each and every one present, "with all your pains, your worries, your difficulties, your history."

Beginning a meeting of this kind with an embrace beckons us to question and to verify the very reason each one of us accepted an invitation to come. We had come from different circumstances that affect us, yet, in regarding all of our friends, as Fr. Carrón reminds us, "we can see the presence of the Lord, which is so powerful that when we look at one another the pressure of His presence is clear." To accept an embrace, which Fr. Carrón offers, is fairly easy, for all we have to do is to "accept." Yet the temptation to reject this embrace is part of our common mentality, which we sometimes hold dearer than we thought. This resistance is always a great disservice toward our very selves and reality.

Our meeting serves to overcome this common mentality that we fall into, which sometimes inspires a flurry of activity that will eventually exhaust itself. In reality, we are "powerless to change"–in other words, we cannot survive with our own efforts, our own energy. For the embrace, if accepted, is one that can only come from God. With a "gesture of love," we are challenged on the very eve of our arrival to "decide if we accept this embrace, this Love that allows us to believe that it can change history and can be decisive for our own change."

So, in effect, the Diaconia is not a time of leisure in which we roam the streets of New York, marveling at its beautiful skyscrapers, subway bands, shops, and tourist sites–a temptation I faced when looking out of my 29th-floor window which overlooked the great metropolis, and when seeing friends I had not seen in the past two years (since when I lived and worked in New York). These distractions were quickly put to rest when Fr. Carrón exclaimed, "We are here to help each other understand this work a little." Because, "if we do not help each other understand this, we can be like everyone else… we remain at the superficial level of the rest of society." Attentiveness, openness, and movement is what we are challenged toward–not remaining in the status quo of the common mentality but allowing ourselves to be moved, in the very same way we were moved to board the airplane, drive, or take some form of transportation to the The New Yorker Hotel. This movement is a response; we "are moved because of John and Andrew and only another one can be moved by us because of John and Andrew," as Carrón quoted from Fr. Giussani. "If we are moved like John and Andrew for this Presence that struck them like it struck us, we need to be attentive, to be open. We need to ask for this grace."

It's Not Automatic
Chris Bacich reminded us in the early morning after this introduction that we are called once again by the Mystery to "refocus… look at what's happening in front of us and keep this in mind with questions and witnesses." Our friend Marco from Houston, in speaking of his experience with his work and education, begged Fr. Carrón for a response in his concern about doing what is ethically right in his dealings with family, friends, and colleagues. Fr. Carrón exhorts us, using the experience of Marco, to contribute with a Christianity that witnesses an "intelligence of faith, because it is the intelligence of reality. This is something that is not automatic, but a newness of our person, a new creature." In other words, in the contemporaneity of Christ–that is, Christ is present in an experience–we can see people growing as human beings. For it is not our own doing but "a Presence in their midst that changes life, to verify, to testify. In this recognition, in this verification of faith, we are different. We are different when we have become a presence, even without speaking, for it's a way of dealing with reality that is a symphony. A newness! A symphony of life!"
While the witnesses and experiences were many, humor was not absent from our gathering, in which we all recognized our "ironic attempts" within the embrace of the One who called us together. Inspiring our time together was the desire to witness to each other and to be challenged at the very heart of our "I." Friends from all over shared their experiences and brought up their needs. Yet, time and time again, Fr. Carrón reminded us that "the question is the same." For "the Mystery chose the same method, that is the human method to awaken our 'I.'" This method, the method of human trajectory, begs us to follow "the things that are not of our making… These signs point toward the reality that Christ is at work in the middle of us." As in the diagram of Fr. Giussani, we attempt to build up to reach the heavens yet our efforts never bring us to the heights we are attempting to reach. For this reason, it is the Mystery Himself who comes into our very midst and establishes a relationship. On our end, "we have to accept that this is a relationship, in order to experience in our lives this newness." It is precisely "a human experience, a human journey. If you have the patience to be with the people who have struck you, little by little you will be able to see with your own eyes this newness."

This newness requires that we abandon our energetic efforts, which will get us nowhere, and abandon our ideologies because these are feeble attempts to create an event. Rather, we ought to recognize and become a "presence, which is determined by a Person, not activities." This presence was clearly seen as our friends, 50 feet away, gave space to the Mystery with the New York Encounter, which was taking place simultaneously. This is now an annual cultural event, born from the desire of our friend Angelo Sala, without compare in the United States. This Encounter illustrates clearly what it is to be a presence in the heart of Manhattan, with over 120 volunteers and speakers of the highest caliber serving and presenting to large audiences.

The Tool of the Mystery
Our Diaconia gathering would not be complete without addressing the educational factor that affects us all. This education was synthesized in Fr. Carrón's public presentation of the Religious Sense, starting from the education of the "I." This educational factor is one that challenges us to use the tool of our "I," a tool that "the Mystery has given us," the tool that moves us "in every occasion to strengthen the criterion to judge." It is one that "we cannot manipulate, we cannot add and/or move chips to create anyone to our desires. [Education is about] our 'I,' which gives us freedom." In short, "education means to arrive at the deepest core of the 'I.'" The many intersecting lines published in the airplane magazine, like the arrows pointing to the X in Fr. Giussani's diagram, remind us of our own efforts. They can be read as the many circumstances that challenge us, and which we respond to, in our daily lives. Yet, the proposal is clear that, in the midst of this, the Mystery appears continuously. The Mystery comes down, as it did 2011 years ago, to make His dwelling amongst us in the human trajectory. The invitation we receive from Fr. Giussani and Fr. Carrón is one that pushes us to recognize this Mystery, to allow ourselves to be embraced by that Love which speaks to the very core of our "I."