Jesus Carrascosa (Fraternità CL)

An 84-year-old boy

The testimony of a friend of Jesús Carrascosa, who died on January 9, at the most recent Assembly of Latin American Leaders. From the May issue of Huellas.
Ettore Pezzuto

"Life has been given to us to know Him who is its meaning: Christ. And our task is to make Him known to the whole world. Our greatest sin is not our wretchedness, but forgetfulness and distraction from His Presence: without the memory of Christ we miss the new dawn." These words of Carras describe well the extent to which his life had become an exciting adventure since he had got to know the movement of Communion and Liberation.

Until then he was very involved in the anarchist movements. He had given his life for them, but the impact with Luigi Giussani's charism changed him so profoundly that he always called it 'the new dawn', which was nothing less than a hundredfold. How many times did we hear him say that he had eaten and drunk the hundredfold! For if there was anything that Carras testified to the whole world, it was that joy of constantly receiving the hundredfold. Even a waiter asked us about him during these days in Brazil: “Didn't that guy who always brought liqueurs and always smiled come by?” The image of a man enjoying life, with his liquor and his smile.

I arrived in Madrid in 1989 and got to know him straight away because Enrique Arroyo introduced me to him. The first thing I saw was his humility. For him, the person right in front of him was the most important person in the world. When we went to Rome for Fr. Giussani's centenary a couple of years ago, it took us one hour to walk 300 metres from St Peter's Square to where we were going to eat, because people from all over the world would stop and he would hug them one by one, as he had done all his life. He asked everyone how they were and had something to say to everyone.

His priority was always to follow. For him, the charism was God's gift to his life and he always, always, lived his belonging to the movement as a simple and faithful following, within an affable obedience to its leader, not only with Fr. Giussani but also with Julián Carrón and Davide Prosperi. Carras had introduced the movement to his friends in Nueva Tierra, but when it came to following Julián he did so wholeheartedly. And the same happened when Prosperi was appointed President of the Fraternity; he did not pause for a minute to regret the past, but set out like a child to follow Davide, who was much younger than him.

He particularly cared for what he called the education he had received in the movement, namely that to follow one must take care of one's own self. He had learned this from Giussani, and he always spoke of caring for one's self, not out of self-love, but out of a concern for one's own destiny. For him, caring for one's self consisted in living memory. Last summer we spent ten days at the seaside and he would spend whole mornings reading the Fraternity Exercises. And then he would read us long passages, moved by what he was discovering, at eighty-four years old, like a child!

He was someone who always hugged you. His motto was 'he who hugs the hardest always wins – not once but always.’ And he put it into practice throughout his life. How many of us have been won by his embrace! And he did not say this out of naive enthusiasm. I have known very few people with a realism like his. It was an embrace that stemmed from the knowledge that Christ is at the origin of our relationships, and that is why true communion can only arise from the memory of Christ present. He always loved the people he met above all because they were a gift of the Lord to his life. And this was immediately perceived in his gaze and in his embrace.

I remember what he said to me when I had to embark on my new assignment as international leader: “Do not exalt yourself because of the function you have or the successes you achieve, always think that you are a humble servant in the vineyard of the Lord and that our task is to build up the movement as a collaboration with God's work.” For Carras, the mission was the building of Christ's work in the world “for His glory, not for our own vain glory.” And this is what I always ask whenever I have to speak in public or in private.

His last years as head of the movement in Spain were precious for how he restored to us the value of the School of Community, which was sacred to him. He used to say that going to School of Community was like going to the 'fifth fig tree'. It was the image he had formed thinking of John and Andrew returning home after meeting Jesus. As they said their goodbyes, they would surely have said goodnight and Andrew would have said to John: "Tomorrow I am going to see Jesus." "Ah, I am meeting him too." "Where did he tell you to go?" "To the right bank of the river, under the fifth fig tree.” "Me too!" "Then let us go together." For him, going to School of Community was like going together to the fifth fig tree, where Christ is waiting for you.

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Until his last days he never stopped repeating this to all those who visited him: “Safeguard the unity of the movement because this is the mission we have been given.”

I will conclude by saying something about his death. It was very quick. After the examinations and the terminal diagnosis, when they told him, he paused for a moment with his usual smile and said: “I am ready for take-off!” He did not worry for a minute about the pain he might have felt. Carras taught us how to live and he also taught us how to die.