Lunch with Fr. Carrón before the presentation.

I Have Someone to Call "You"

Marcia's witness at the 2018 National Diaconia focused on the "Disarming Beauty" event in Houston in October.
Marcia Otto

I was asked to talk about our Disarming Beauty event in Houston back in October. The event started way before Fr. Carrón got to Houston. The whole community was invited to go out and meet people outside our circle, to bring Disarming Beauty, send people a few chapters, and ask if they would like to discuss the book. It was really interesting. The proposal was simple and very clear.

Differing from other places, the whole community really embraced that. They said, “There is something there that is for me. This has to do with who I met. This book, this gaze, has to do with my life and I want to go out and I want to suggest this to others.” We started to receive many names from people in our community because they wanted to enter into this dialogue. The structure was a little bit interesting. While brainstorming, people were shouting out names. “Let’s go meet George Bush!” “Let’s go meet Terrence Malick!” Paolo really wanted us to bring in the actor Matthew McConaughey. We wanted to start from the top and really go and meet these people. I found it interesting that there was no limit, that we wanted to take the risk. The song that we sang this morning really resonated with me. It says, “How can I follow unless I call You?” The proposal was clear: Go out and meet people and see if this truth reflected their lives too. As I said, the structure was a little hectic. At some point, we had people in Austin stalking some celebrities. Paolo had the idea to throw a book across the fence of Matthew McConaughey’s house. This was the level of our structure.

Then, slowly, in that relationship with each other, we decided to approach and write messages to special people. We wrote to the president of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, which is the third largest Islamic Society of the United States, and we prepared a very detailed message to him with one quote from the book where Fr. Carrón talks about Charlie Hebdo. He immediately responded to us and said, “I am most impressed by these words. Where can we meet? When can we meet? I want to meet you.” We went to meet him, even though we didn’t know him at all. Paolo, our friend Christina, and I went to meet him full of the certainty of who we had met. We didn’t talk about what we were going to say or anything, we just wanted to meet this man. And he found the recognition in those worlds that there was something there for him. That meeting was incredible. It was Ramadan and the man couldn’t eat and he kept whispering to the waiter so that the waiter would only bring him water, but the waiter kept bringing him the menu and he didn’t want us to feel bad he couldn’t eat. Anyway, it was a beautiful dialogue. At the end, he said, “I feel like we’ve been friends for the longest time. These questions that we shared are my questions too.”

That was the same experience I had with the other speakers too. We invited a literature professor from Houston Baptist University, who is a friend of ours from previous events. We also invited an anthropologist and filmmaker who works with broken African American communities and families. The reaction was the same: “What is this? There is something here that is for me.”

The proposal was fully embraced by the community because it was clear: I have someone to call “You,” and, therefore, I can go anywhere. I can throw a book over a fence, I can stalk George Bush, I can do anything because I have something to say and I don’t need to make anything up; I have a life.

On the day of the event, Fr. Carrón was arriving at noon and there was a lunch with some members of the community at Paolo’s house. People were there from different Texas communities. At a certain point, the door opened, and Fr. Carrón was there. This event that we talk so much about, the talk, could not have occurred without that one presence that changed my life. When the door opened and Fr. Carrón entered, we could have just stayed there, we didn’t even need to go to the talk, we could have stayed there and faced this beauty of what happened to us. We had that beautiful lunch and then, at a certain point, he said, “Okay, let’s go.” We couldn’t stay there forever, we had a mission, we had to go. And it was a wonderful evening.

When I was asked to come here and talk, I was like, “Holy moly! I don’t remember what happened. What am I going to say?” But there were people here I asked to remind me what they saw and what had happened. Sarah was there. She’s new to CL, and she said, “When I was there, I didn’t know many people, but there was a unity there that I could touch and that’s why I’m here today.” It’s the same thing for me. There is a unity that becomes concrete when we are facing the questions of our lives together. When the proposal is clear, we go with that desire to meet Him. I may not know you, but we are together with attention, and then something happens, and we continue. I can go around and ask all of you, “Can you tell me what you saw? Because I forgot.” I forget a lot, but I have you, and, therefore, I can walk.