Traces N.10, November 2007

It Is the Mystery Who Makes Us Protagonists

“Life is a web of circumstances.” In Moscow, it is a tepid Saturday, October 27th. In the hall of the Holy Spirit Library, Fr. Paolo Pezzi is addressing the Russian CL community, meeting a few hours before the ceremony during which he will be consecrated Archbishop of the capital. The exceptional nature of the event fills the air with questions and expectation. What does this circumstance tell us? Fr. Romano Scalfi, who initiated the presence in Russia fifty years ago, does not mince words: “It was impossible to imagine what would happen when I was dreaming of becoming a pastor of a small parish in Russia. Only the Lord is able to answer the deepest desires of the heart. From this desire of mine He produced Bishop Paolo! After fifty years, I have to thank God for the unforeseen successes.”
What is most evident this Saturday, if not that it is an Other who guides a man’s life? But it is just as clear that “He needs a yes from us, who are nothing,” as Fr. Carrón said. This is the same yes that Paolo said the first time, when he met a fellow-soldier during his military service. That unforeseen circumstance was the way the Mystery was knocking at his door, drawing him to Himself, as if to say, “I am the Lord of your life and of history, not the power of this world.” It is easy to think of it as you move through the streets of Moscow, full of development, full of lights and colors, unrecognizable now compared to the dark, gray city of 1989. A regime that believed itself eternal came tumbling down, defeated by its own presumption to govern the “life and destiny” of men, as Grossman says.
The drama of the world unfolds in the heart of each person. Fr. Pezzi said, “We do not understand what Christianity is if we do not grasp the most elementary thing: I am a stranger to myself; something new is needed to overcome the strangeness” and make me say “I” with that familiarity which is a sign of a new way of relating to reality. If we resist, then the desert advances through us. If we accept, then the world begins to change in us.
In the last issue of Traces, we spoke of the need to “look together at concrete examples” and of the need to be educated as the only possible point from which to start over in the confusion. This need concerns you and me, the “I,” always, and in all ambits, culture, love politics, and work.
The stories we recount in these pages are precisely this–concrete examples of education at work. Or, if you prefer, works, provided the word is understood in the broad sense, i.e., people at work, people who live reality intensely, and who therefore can offer companionship to everyone, true companionship, because it reaches the heart of humanity. Remember the phrase that touched forever the life of Vicky, the HIV-positive woman who encountered the Meeting Point in Kampala? “Vicky, you have a value. Your value is greater than the weight of your sickness and of death.” Here are the examples we invite you to look at: In-presa in Carate Brianza, the school that helps to insert “problem” youngsters into the work environment; young people in Milan helped to reach maturity by the company of an adult; and the AVSI refuge in Novosibirsk. They all reach that point, that “you are valuable” point capable of inserting anyone at all into history as a protagonist. Whether it is a youngster with problems who is trained for a job, a young adult who has recently set up home, an unmarried mother who is all alone in a tough environment like that of Siberia, or a priest in Russia chosen by the Pope to be Archbishop of Moscow, it is the Mystery who makes us protagonists.
“You have a value.” This means taking the other person’s need seriously, accompanying him in the concrete things of day-to-day life–education, work, children–and supporting him continually, but never taking his place by doing everything for him (parents know this all too well).
People need examples like this in order to live; they need to be educated in this way.
At the conclusion of the Beginning Day in Milan, when he read Vicky’s letter to 20,000 people, Fr. Carrón said, “These are the friends who give me companionship, even though I probably will never see them again. After having found people like this, there's no circumstance that I can't look at face on; everything can change if you look with this wide openness that Christ has made possible. This is for each of us, in any circumstance. Maybe we would be smart to embrace it.” It certainly is worth our while.