Traces N.3, March 2020

A proposal for life

The state of our universities may seem to be a topic for specialists, something of interest only to those who study, teach, or have 20-something children. Actually, though, a combination of factors makes the university a point of observation that is useful for everyone because it brings to the surface factors that touch us all.
The first of these relates to the context. Everywhere, but perhaps in different ways in different places, universities are becoming increasingly focused on “seriousness,” “efficiency,” “evaluation,” and so on, employing a tangle of bureaucratic abbreviations and references. In this depersonalizing context, people generally feel more and more alone while studying and living, trying to keep up. There are fewer common initiatives and associations, and even a reduced emphasis on politics, while a subtle individualism and a tendency to measure oneself solely in terms of performance is spreading. It is as if the often suffocating characteristics of life after the university relating to the world of work are prematurely making themselves felt.

But the other, and crucial, factor is the young people, who today, generally speaking, face the impact of this crucial period of life with less certainty and apparently greater fragility than ever before. Precisely for this reason their need is ever more laid bare and pressing: the need that something happenin that place, that a spark be kindled, that true teachers can be encountered. Students need such maestri, masters, authoritative adults and companions on the road who do not limit themselves to filling their students’ bag of tools and skills, but instead offer them “a proposal charged with meaning” for their lives, to use a succinct and powerful expression of Fr. Giussani’s, and who get involved with them to verify its truth; if there is one thing that is evident, it is that for a 20-something person today ideas and speeches no longer suffice. (But isn’t this true for all of us by now?) In short, we need fathers.

For this reason, this issue’s Close-Up on the university is full of questions that touch everyone. How is it possible to encounter paternity in action, a proposal for life that lives up to the measure of our desire? Where and how can this happen? What happens to our humanity, to our desire that is thrown wide open, when this encounter occurs and a spark is kindled? In these pages you will find stories and testimonies that offer some tentative answers to these questions.
Enjoy reading, and have a good journey.