Traces N.7, July/August 2008

Our Assignment for the Vacation

There is always something fascinating about vacations. Fr. Giussani often recalled it, with the formula that shattered schemes and pinned one down at once to an unimaginable responsibility: “It is the time of freedom.” In other words, it is the moment when you are free from obligations and constrictions, so your choices reveal, almost imperceptibly, what you really have at heart–freedom is not disengagement, then, but the opposite. Whoever reads Traces knows this very well, because we repeat these words almost every summer.
This time, though, there is a new factor: the coincidence with the School of Community. We started off at the beginning of the year with faith, and we reached the start of the vacation period working precisely on the word freedom. Freedom is synonymous with satisfaction, with fulfillment of desire, with relationship with the Infinite. It is also a test, an incontrovertible proof of faith, because only the acknowledgment of Christ present can give rise to such an experience–an experience, not a discourse. Christ does not explain freedom; He makes it happen in us. It is impossible not to experience it, impossible not to fill your lungs with it when it happens.

If this is the case, what do we mean when we say that vacations are “the time of freedom?” When a group of friends went to see Fr. Julián Carrón just before summer, he told them, half-jokingly, but seriously all the same, “The vacation is when you discover the Mystery, when you spot Him again at work amongst us. So the task we assign ourselves for these holidays is that when we come back and meet in September, we have to tell each other facts, things that have happened and that have made us aware of Him at work.”
We look for facts, things that happen, because in order to spot His presence, we have only to be true to what we see happening around and within us. We just have to recognize Him at work inside reality, not outside it. If that unimaginable correspondence happens, if our breath expands, if we experience that satisfaction that does not leave a bitter taste of disillusion, but the taste of a fulfillment already begun, we cannot fail to recognize it. And the more freedom happens, the more we desire it, because once we have tasted it, we can no longer resist it; we have to do violence to ourselves in order to prefer something else; and we have to go against our very nature in order not to ask that the One who makes this experience possible, and who is making it happen, become more familiar, a closer friend.

This is the source of the breath of life, always, “whether you eat or drink,” in the mountains with friends, or at the seaside with a book to read, or perhaps waiting tables at the Rimini Meeting, where, every year, hundreds of adults and young people have that surprising experience of freedom discovered while offering their time for the work of an Other.
The breath of life comes from there, from Him. And the vacation is the unique occasion for discovering it, and for beginning to choose Him.