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USA. Stories of Change

A CL vacation at Lake Tahoe for about twenty university students from California, each one with a story to tell. Three testimonies.
Michele Carugno and Tommaso Mauri

Her parents belong to the Scientology sect, which has numerous adepts in California. Basically, Scientologists believe that man’s salvation lies totally in his own hands and depends on his capacity for understanding his own individual spirituality. They also believe in reincarnation. However, when Jennifer encountered the Movement while she was in high school and was touched by this total love for her as a person, which she had felt only here, she asked to be baptized. Following this decision, her mother did not speak to her for two months, and the tension is still not completely gone. Now, this girl, who bears the burdensome weight of her parents’ complete refusal of the experience she is living, was a real sight to see when she was there with her friends; she acknowledges with disarming simplicity that the Movement is the only place where she is loved, valued, and saved, and where she discovers that not even the dramatic situation she is living at home is an obstacle to living fully the promise of the Christian experience.

At the age of nine, he moved to the United States from Russia. Nikita is an atheist and adores rave parties, those parties that go on for several days non-stop, when you can only stay awake by popping pills morning and night. He was there because a friend from Los Angeles invited him. For the first three days, practically the only words we heard pass his lips were “Hey” when he met you in the hall, and “Yes” whenever you asked him something like, “Are you enjoying the vacation?” He often kept to himself, and took part in the gestures without much enthusiasm (but not missing even one of them, including Mass). Then, on Sunday afternoon, some of us thought of putting together a football game, so we chose two teams and started playing. During that football game, Nikita was a different person: he ran right and left to ward off his opponents or ran towards the goal to make a touchdown. After the game was over, it seemed he had never been so happy. What is more, after this episode, during Mass one of us noted with surprise that Nikita was singing the Alleluia; he probably didn’t even know what the Alleluia was, and above all, in the days before that, he had not even tried to sing it. Here was a personality that bloomed only because we proposed to him something simple like a football game, to which he answered “Yes,” because he intuited that it was a chance for joy in his life.

A big, tall 20-year-old who grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere, he was there for the first time. During the year, he works part-time as a welder, and on the job he has to wear heavy steel-toe boots, to protect his feet in case he drops a metal plate on them. So all during the vacation (including a rock-climbing field trip) he ran around barefoot, saying that finally he could give his feet some rest–an incredible character! Perhaps the most sensational thing happened on the last evening, when some of the older friends (Margy and Bryan) asked him to prepare the skits with them. Joseph had never seen skits before in his life and did not even know what they were, but he was willing to help. It was spectacular to see him happy and enjoying himself as he did the skits.

These are just some examples; these kids are a great witness to the fact that nothing is an obstacle to man’s being happy. Even if your family situation is a disaster, even if you are an atheist (and thus in the world’s eyes you have nothing to do with the Christian experience), even if you are one of the craziest kids ever seen, if you say “Yes” to this experience even for just an instant, you bloom, and you bloom for the whole world: Gloria Dei vivens homo [the glory of God is living man].