Fraternity Exercises in Kampala

Belonging to a people

Rose Busingye speaks of the impact of the Fraternity Exercises, which for her and her Ugandan friends have been an explosive novelty. “You felt like jumping on the chair and shouting to everyone that life has meaning. And you are no longer afraid."
Davide Perillo

“It is something inexplicable. You felt like jumping on the chair and shouting to everyone that life has meaning, that it does not just happen. It has meaning, and it is there, it is present! And then you are no longer afraid of anything.”

Rose Busingye says this with a smile in her eyes as she recounts the impact of the Exercises, which for her and her Ugandan friends have been an explosive novelty in so many ways. First of all because they too were connected live: no registration, no voiceover to be watched at a later date. “We asked to be connected live because we wanted to live them simultaneously so that what happened to others might also happen to us too.” Forty-two of them got together at the Comboni Centre in Kampala (“thank God, Covid is less severe here”); others connected online. “Each one of us was grateful for that contemporaneity, of feeling like a people. It is what you are made of: your nature, your skin.” Rose also uses another word: “Surrender. Initially we thought of all the practical issues: the eight-euro fee, the translation…But it was only a matter of surrendering, to embrace an event that is happening in that instant. In surrendering you say: ‘yes, let us go’. We were there, focused on that man speaking. Through him, Jesus spoke to us.”

He did so by touching the heart of Ketty, one of the women of Meeting Point International: “She asked me: how can Carrón know me like that? How can he know my history, my sins... Have you spoken to him about me?” Or that of Hanifa, a Muslim woman, who said to Rose: “I always want to return to that gaze. It allows me to live more than my Ramadan.” “We asked her: ‘How can you stay here all day, are you not hungry?’. And she said: ‘This is my home’. She made use of her savings to pay the enrolment fee.”

Rose also speaks of how she felt “at home, in peace. In front of a fact like that you can only say: What am I scared of? I have everything. It is as if my nothingness, my sin, were embraced. Nothing of my life is to be left out. What saves me is there, present. It speaks to me.” She was most struck in hearing Carrón speak of the “Mystery as reason and affection. God is not something intellectual: He is an affection that precedes you. You are thinking of something else, and He has already embraced you. For me, to look at God thus is something else. It has to do with me: how I live, what I eat…My flesh. In realising that God becomes flesh within your flesh, you get goosebumps. And that this loving yourself is eternal, and does not have any limits. It leaves me with a huge question: What is man? Who am I for You to care for me? It is something from another world.”

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The reverberation is simple and radical: “You feel good. When Jesus is present, He fills you. You only want to be there, with Him. There was a moment in which Carrón was speaking and I thought: I want to go and see this God. I usually fear death, but there you saw such greatness…” Had this never happened to you before? “Once, with Fr. Giussani. Seeing how he looked at me, I thought: ‘I wonder how God…If he [Giussani] looks at me in this way, with such tenderness, who knows how God looks at me.” And in that moment I had the desire to go and see Him. See, it has happened again. I jumped on my chair: ‘I want to see Him!’.”