The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Tomb by Eugene Burnand via Wikimedia Commons

The Rose of Texas Always Starting Anew

The everyday life of a group of Americans, with lots of Italians “passing through:” judging life and sticking together, to open up to the world while not getting lost in it.
Maurizio Maniscalco

The small groups of Fraternity may be the most beautiful bloom of the flowering of the life of the Movement in the United States. The blossoms are all different, but they all sink their roots in the fertile ground of our companionship, whether they bloom among the skyscrapers of New York, the snows of Minnesota, or the sun-scorched land of the South–like in Houston, Texas. My wife Doni and I are particularly fond of the small group in Houston; when we can, we go to visit, we keep in touch, we accompany each other. And we have seen it coming to life. Paolo and Lisi, Jay and Stacey, Michele and Rossana, Marco and Francesca, Kristine, Amy, Eveline: a group made up of families collected from around the world (as often happens in this country) with small children, and a few “young workers.”

“A number of Italian families have passed through over the years,” says Paolo, an engineer who works for a company that produces valves for oil plants. “Unlike us, they all eventually had to go back to Italy. At a certain point, getting closer to those who stayed here became indispensable for us.”

One Small Step at a Time
We are on a bus, on our way to visit the Franciscan Mission in San Diego. We are all squeezed in the back and trying, between road bumps, to tell how it all came to be: “Inch by inch, row by row,” a small step at a time, with a couple of false starts, because one has to have a simple heart in order to understand what it is that one really desires. Jay and Stacey, respectively a computer programmer for an oil company and a “country mom,” who are also the parents of two children, tell us how getting together at their house became a habit. Amy, an elementary school teacher, explains, “What we did had a name, Fraternity, but it took us a while to become aware of it.”
Paolo continues, “We knew that getting together was important, but we were a bit confused...” Then, laughing, they all start talking about their ironic attempts: the first few meetings, the “prayer rule” they gave each other (which not even a cloistered monk would have been able to keep up with), the tendency to slide down the slippery slope of pseudo-psychological discussions...

But after the Fraternity Exercises and the summer vacation things became more gripping, as the small but vibrant community started to grow. A few new School of Community groups were born out of the one original group, and each one of the friends started to boldly invite new people.

“By then, learning and living the method of the Movement had become essential,” they say almost in chorus.

Companions on the Adventure
Thus, without pushing it, the meetings resumed once a month with those who really wanted to adhere, praying the Angelus in the morning and the Memorare in the evening, keeping the gaze and the heart fixed on Father Giussani and on the companions on the adventure. “Stacey always reminds me of the rule. And when, for some reason, that doesn’t happen, I feel like there’s something missing, because this is what keeps me tied to the others,” says Jay. And Stacey adds, “Many times, friendship is not easy. The Fraternity always gives me the possibility to start anew. That’s why I stay attached.”

“I would get lost without a point of reference,” insists Francesca. “Here, one learns to judge life, to open up to everything and everyone.” “You learn to judge even things that would seem banal,” goes on Eveline, a young research scientist and a woman with an all-encompassing passion. “This ‘judging together’ brings an unimaginable fruit. For example, in putting together the New Year’s Eve party, we asked ourselves what we really wanted. In the end, we found ourselves with some fifty people who wanted to celebrate with us!”
“I would not be able to stay here, so far from the place where I was born and raised, if it weren’t for this small group of Fraternity. It is like the root that keeps my life and my family together,” concludes Lisi.

A Few Surprises
The monthly gathering is the occasion to work on the text of the Fraternity Exercises, play with the children, sing, and have dinner together. The last meeting was spent preparing for the National Diaconia, reflecting on the questions that were posed.

On December 7th, the small group was received by the new Archbishop of Houston, Daniel Di Nardo–a big step for such a newly formed group. It was a simple and beautiful encounter, replete with some offerings for the Archbishop from us–first of all, the CL Christmas poster and second, an invitation to dinner.

A few days later, two surprises: a quote from the Christmas poster in the diocesan weekly paper, and a phone call from the Secretary of the Archbishop: “What about that dinner...?” As the most popular song in this neck of the woods says, “The rose of Texas is the sweetest little rosebud that Texas ever knew.”