Traces N.7, July/August 2009

The Beautiful Thing About Summer

The beautiful thing about the summer is that you get down to serious work. Not that during the rest of the year you’re just twiddling your thumbs, of course (at least, not always, and not everyone...). But between July and August, when your obligations lessen, commitments ease, and circumstances become (apparently) less pressing, the challenge becomes greater, because it drives straight at the heart of the importance we give to “the time of freedom,” as Fr. Giussani always called it, that “moment in which one engages as he wants with the value that he recognizes as the most important in his life.”
The beautiful thing about summer is this engagement, which touches every aspect: eating, having fun, singing with your friends, or admiring a sunset in the mountains. Every aspect of free time carries within this possible experience of a full, deep gusto, that makes us “breathe with full lungs” as Fr. Giussani used to say about vacations. There is no circumstance that isn’t “part of the dialogue of each of us with the Mystery present,” as long as you pursue the circumstance to its core.

This is why vacations are a work, and for this reason, like any serious work, they need instruments. The first instrument is continual review of the Spiritual Exercises, which we’ve been working on already and which will accompany us well beyond September. But also, there is Benedict XVI’s gift for these summer days: Caritas in Veritate, his third encyclical. It’s a “social encyclical” in that it speaks of work, economics, and development, starting from a rock solid foundation that anchors all the rest: “Only in truth does charity shine forth; only in truth can charity be authentically lived. Truth is the light that gives meaning and value to charity. That light is both the light of reason and the light of faith.... Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way.” Charity and truth. Reason and faith. So, he is speaking of a “journey of knowledge,” to use an expression whose profundity we’ve been discovering in this period of time.

The Pope says this in the beginning, and repeats it constantly, as you will discover as you read it, all the way to the nth reference in the final pages, which seems to refer in a singular way to another summer “work instrument” (and instrument of summer gusto): “Knowing is not simply a material act, since the object that is known always conceals something beyond the empirical datum. All our knowledge, even the most simple, is always a minor miracle, since it can never be fully explained by the material instruments that we apply to it.” All our knowledge, even the most simple, is always a minor miracle or, in other words, “an event,” just like the title of this year’s Rimini Meeting. Well, that gives us plenty of beauty to enjoy this summer, doesn’t it?