Traces N.2, February 2009

At a Fork in the Road

There are moments when the impact of reality becomes more violent. Think of the barbarities surrounding the case of Eluana Englaro,* the thunder of war in the Middle East, the grip of the economic crisis. They seem to be placed there on purpose, all together, to shake us with their reverberations. In these cases, the normal effect is a reaction and, in many ways, this is rightly so. It’s a good sign, because it means that the heart isn’t numb. But is this reaction enough to fill the heart? Is it enough for facing reality deep down, for freeing us from fear, for hoping? Within those blows, so violent as to make us feel sick (how can you not feel sick, before the case of Eluana?), isn’t there something more, a deeper challenge?
We have to look at our experience, in order to realize this deeper challenge, starting out precisely from what happens. Defending life is very right, and indispensable, a battle to be fought with all the weapons at our disposal: laws, culture, newspapers, education (especially), and even street protests, when useful. Everything. But that “everything” isn’t enough for us. Defending the principle of life isn’t enough for us to live, just as affirming with words the mysterious and infinite value of suffering isn’t sufficient for facing suffering. Defending the family, another good battle to be fought head on, isn’t enough for us to live our marriage well. “Everything” that we can do should be done, and the battle should be fought head on. But it’s not enough. In order to truly understand what’s at stake, we need someone who lives to the fullest, who makes us see the fullness of meaning in even the worst illness, who shows us the boundless beauty of a vocation and the fascination of educating children, who makes us discover in these circumstances a correspondence to our heart that was previously unthinkable, and who helps us meet the One who makes all this possible, the Only One who can make it possible, because we ourselves aren’t capable: Christ.

We need Christ, and witnesses who make Him present. As Fr. Julián Carrón said a few weeks ago to a group of CL responsibles, when we acknowledge this, “life challenges us and becomes a fascinating adventure, because it introduces us more and more to the meaning of reality.” This reality is a continual challenge, a collection of challenges to acknowledge Him present, occasions to verify our faith and see hope flower. Any battle, all our battles, put us before a fork in the road, even before the alternative between victory or defeat–are we certain or not of His presence, of the good destiny we’ve encountered, of what we’ve seen and touched with our lives? If the answer is yes, we can “hope against all hope.”

All this may seem like just a “spiritual discourse,” a spiritualism incapable of withstanding the violent impact of reality. Actually, it’s exactly the opposite–first of all, because it doesn’t make you abandon the battle, but rather, it makes you enter the field with even more will to fight. It makes you enter into the heart of problems with more acumen, taking into account all the factors. Even more important, it frees you from fear, making you certain and thus free, because hope, the one hope, is only born from the certainty that He exists.

*Eluana Englaro, in a coma for 17 years since a car accident when she was 19, died on February 9th, 72 hours after she was deprived of water and food. Considered the “Terri Schiavo” case of Italy, this event has been the subject of searing political debate.Experience is the place where this is tested. If you lose your job, a “correct” understanding of work is not enough. You have to have your feet on solid ground. It is not even a question of technical competence, of being good at your job, of what you are able to do. A person is truly competent if he can face up to life, if he witnesses to a more human way of facing up to tough situations.
Experience and witness is something that can be seen and that, therefore, unlike discourses, helps everyone. This is why we went into the backstreets of Naples, where we met an experience that is victorious even in a difficult environment; then to London and Washington, where the crisis is burning, but where there are people who witness to the same thing. There will be a follow-up over the upcoming months, in search of facts and witnesses that can help everyone.

What you are reading is Traces with a new face. It’s by no means a revolution. There was no need for that. If anything, we needed to keep going along the same road marked out since the magazine began and which, in recent years, under the direction of Alberto Savorana, became clearer and clearer, as well as richer. Traces informs, explains, and develops. It tries to “test everything; retain what is good,” acknowledging what is good and true in what we meet, wherever it comes from. It tells of the Christian experience of Communion and Liberation, offering as a contribution to everyone’s life–and putting at the service of the Church–what the charism of Fr. Giussani gives rise to. Finally, it is an instrument for an educative journey, “a gaze that educates us about reality,” as the ever more pertinent slogan accompanying the magazine says. The new graphic design aims at helping us to read and to look, making everything more essential, so as to bring out more clearly the value of the contents, which, as you can see, are the same as before: stories, witnesses, the life and the judgements of the Movement, and the instruments for working on this journey.
Traces is, above all, this: witness to an experience, like a friend who, despite his limitations, is astonished at the grandiose way the Mystery is at work. So he nudges you and says, “Look! Look what great things Christ is doing before our eyes. Let’s help each other to see them better, and judge them.” Let’s help each other to know Him. Happy reading!