Dublin: The seed of a storyTheir encounter with Fr. Giussani, marriage, their yes to mission. "By always remaining attached to this story, things began to happen…. The testimony of Margaret and Mauro Biondi.
"Why are you getting married in Sicily?" asked Fr. Giussani. "Because that is where our story began," Margaret replied. But he pretended not to understand, recalls Mauro, a Sicilian who has lived in Ireland for almost forty years. "Fr. Giussani knew that I had met Margaret in Dublin, and he repeated the question. Margaret answered that everything had started in Sicily, that is, the story that through me had reached her as well."
Margaret and Mauro Biondi were married in September 1985. This story "has its own mysterious beginning, where your father and mother gave you life, with its human content and the content of faith," Giussani said during his homily at their wedding. "But a beginning, or a life, becomes history when it discovers its own meaning. When Christ, who is the meaning of the life of every person and of the whole world, becomes by grace and by the mystery of the heart a familiar reality, that is, understood and accepted. That moment when life begins to be meaning is totally in the hands of the Lord."
Today, 36 years later, they cannot perceive their marriage except within a larger story. "The other is a 'companionship to Destiny,'" they say as they look at each other. "The companionship Fr. Giussani referred to in his homily: something that began there, at the altar, but which would grow over the years, verified every day, all to be disentangled and built up within daily life."
Mauro remembers that beginning as if it were yesterday: "I was at university, in Catania. I entered a room and heard Fr. Francesco "Ciccio" Ventorino, a priest who was a friend of Giussani, speaking to some young people from the CLU." It was love at first sight: "We had never met and he seemed to be talking about me. How was that possible? I thought that I could not walk away from someone who knew me like that without knowing me. And so I began to follow the movement." He describes it as falling in love: "It does not matter if you go to the cinema or to eat pizza. You just want to be with that person and get to know them better. That is what CL was for me." And when the request for availability for mission came, Mauro's yes followed without conditions. It was 1980.
There was no community on the Emerald Isle. "I was studying English and working towards the exams I would sit when I returned to Italy. Erasmus did not yet exist. I was living daily life with another Italian there.” His first acquaintances, in a then strongly Catholic country, slowly began to arrive. "A friendship flourished with some of them, including Margaret, struck above all by the fact that faith was not a private matter for us, or to be reduced to mass on Sunday. Two years later, a month before returning to Italy – it was Easter Day 1982 – Margaret and I got together."
"Where are you going to live?" asked Fr. Ciccio immediately. "I replied that maybe it was too early to think about that," Mauro recounts, "but he replied that the point was how our relationship could serve the movement and the Church, because if it served the movement and the Church it would also serve us. He told me: 'Write to Giussani.'" He did, and this was Fr. Giussani's reply: "The Holy Spirit has surely already made you decide, but it would be nice for a seed of the movement to mix into Irish soil.”
This seed sown has sprouted over the years. Today the Biondi have three grown-up children and two granddaughters. And over the years a small community of the movement has blossomed in and around Dublin. Mauro is head of the Emerald Cultural Institute, an English school for foreign students that often takes him around the world. "But it has not always been that way. Fr. Giussani had warned us when we left, with no job and no structured plans: 'There will also be moments of bitterness, but they will make you remember the reason why you got married and why you are there.'" Difficulties are not long in coming. Mauro could not find a job; Margaret was the first of the two to have stable employment. "The bishop asked me to set up a pastoral center for the family according to John Paul II's teachings in Familiaris Consortio," she recounts. "At that time I was going around parishes, having meetings. But I would go home and say to Mauro: if these people do not encounter Christ, what good is all this talk? They would always say ‘how nice,' but no discourse holds up or can change lives.'"
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"In those years we never lacked the awareness of what filled our lives." Fr. Giussani was not there, there were no friends, there was no community, "yet everything was there, we were there because of the encounter we had made." Then, over time, "by always remaining attached to this story, things began to happen." First with Irish friends and then with friends from various countries who were passing through Ireland for various reasons.
There was a key issue at stake: "Over the years we have discovered that our companionship was not and is not primarily a place to deal with problems of money, family, work or education... For us, this companionship or a fraternity group is a place where our relationship with Jesus is sustained. It is from there that a new way of dealing with things is born. It is not a problem of structures or lack of them. If I think of us, we had nothing but that history to which we belonged, and that did not stop us from living the promise that Fr. Giussani told us about."
"Today, like 40 years ago, we have everything we need. By remaining attached to this history we are continually helped to live in that position of surrender that Fr. Giussani spoke of during our wedding homily as 'the most beautiful thing, humanly speaking, of Christ's freedom.... Just as you feared nothing as children in the arms of your father and mother, do not be afraid of the path that lies open before you, abandoned to the mercy of God who has esteemed and loved you.'"#100Testimonies