Traces N.5, May 2009

“What Are You Afraid Of?”

Looking through and beyond all that happened that night of the earthquake in Italy on April 6th gives room to the truest desire of the heart, that which opens up an instant after the great–and dramatic–question, “Why?”: the desire to start again, to get on with life; a desire which, in its turn, is full of other questions just as dramatic. From where do we begin again? How? On what can we rebuild, if all we had was lost in a moment?

The great surprise begins here, in the unforeseeable experience of many of our friends in Abruzzo, where the earthquake struck, who have lost everything; it begins in their looking around them and discovering in themselves–or in the face of someone nearby–something that has not collapsed. They are discovering a terrain, more solid than the rocks of L’Aquila, on which to plant their feet, and on which many have already planted their feet: the faith, the recognition of the presence of Christ, of His mysterious and imposing embrace.
It can be heard quite clearly in the thousand witnesses communicating to us from that wounded land. It could be seen with extreme clarity on the day Benedict XVI paid a visit there, just a few days before his visit to the Holy Land. In the young, calm faces that surrounded the Pope in front of the site of the Student House (where L’Aquila University students had lived); in the people’s gratitude for the embrace of a Holy Father more a father than ever. There was nothing sentimental in that embrace, but the certainty of the Resurrection, of a Presence stronger than the walls coming down and than death. One of our friends who was present at those meetings told us, “It was like seeing children scared by an animal and a father who comes and says, ‘Now, what are you afraid of? I know what you have seen, but it has already been defeated.’”

And on that terrain the crucial challenge is played out–the verification of the faith. This implies a re-flourishing of hope, of that which enables us to look to the future without fear, because we are now certain of that Presence. It is a challenge that involves everyone, not only the wounded people of Abruzzo; it concerns us all before the challenge of what happens in life, before the provocations of the small and great earthquakes that shake our day-to-day lives–tiredness, crisis, pain–or, on the other hand, the beauty, the breaking in of an unforeseeable taste for things. What does it all mean? What does it point to? Who is calling us through these circumstances?

“For us, the circumstances are not neutral, they are not things that happen without any meaning; in other words, they are not just things to endure, to bear stoically. They are part of our vocation, of the way He is calling us, challenging us, educating us; they are the way through which God, the Good Mystery, is calling us, challenging us, educating us. For us, these circumstances have all the density of a call, so they are part of each one’s dialogue with the Mystery present,” said Julián Carrón during the introduction to the Spiritual Exercises of the Fraternity of CL preached in Rimini at the end of April. (The retreat booklet will be enclosed in the upcoming issue of Traces.) The content of the retreat starts off from there, from the challenge of the circumstances, and develops the question of the verification of faith. Following the road to the end, digging deep down, is worthwhile because only here can we find the foundation on which to build–or to rebuild. Always.