Traces N.10, November 2004

That Car on the Road to Loreto

To tell the truth, it wasn’t a car but a coach, otherwise there would not have been room for all of them. It was a mixed company: a policeman and his fiancée, a former wide guy and his friend, a nephew of anarchist bombers (himself a kind of anarchist) along with his wife, a couple of quite ordinary girls, and a wealthy driver. This strange brigade has already covered a good stretch of the highway to where the hill is crowned by the Shrine of Loreto. Along with 45,000 others, this odd brigade has arrived at Mary’s house, each one with his own history, come to take part in a simple but profound gesture.

The power of this pilgrimage, which has gathered the whole Movement for prayer at Loreto on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the birth of Communion and Liberation, begins there, in the formation of that strange brigade, and of all the others that have gathered on that hill overlooking the sea. At the beginning of the decision to set off, to go, is committed all that is expressed in that great, orderly, common gesture. The great vitality of the pilgrimage to Loreto emerges firstly in the contrasting awareness in which each person, with his own history and his own sincerity, decided to spend a day in a simple gesture of belonging to a history greater than his own. Why did he do it? Why do such unusual groups like this, and others even more strangely mixed, all get together to form a people? And why is that people not a group of bored, disorderly men and women, as many observers noted, the press included?

That gesture re-proposed the Christ Event as something present; the only fact that has struck people’s hearts in an exceptional, unparalleled way; the fact thanks to which the Mystery of Being has revealed itself lovable and its immeasurable nature familiar in dealing with the things of life.

So, participation in the gesture was the sign of a people, that is to say of the Church as life; not a fellowship of the blameless, nor a company of bigots, but men and women touched by something that they cannot deny, that gives them a fascinating certainty and a continuous means of recovery in life.
“ I had no intention of ‘founding’ anything” was the most-quoted phrase of Fr Giussani, referring to the birth of the Movement. That impressive pilgrimage was not the sign of an ingenious act of will to carry out a plan, but the far-ranging course of a gesture of obedience to astonishment at Christ, begun fifty years ago on the steps of the Berchet High School in Milan.

Over a meal with a group of friends who had reported the general astonishment at the order and the silence during the pilgrimage, Fr Giussani replied, “It must be clear to the people that there was an obedience at work, because each one was taken hold of by an exceptional event.” Then he added that two things are “highly” evident. First, at the origin of everything is an Event and this already defines it from the gnosiological and historical point of view. Second, it is an unearthly surprise. In other words, reasonability is determined exclusively by the fact that reason feels the jolt of something exceptional. For rationality requires the perception of a clamor that invests the whole field of experience.”
In the unforeseen arc described by these two poles, a people composed of strangers, as are Christians in today’s world, has come to life and become aware of itself.