Traces N.8, September 2018

The Impact of History

"We want everything” was one of the slogans of the demonstrators in 1968 and became the title of one of the most visited exhibits during this year’s Rimini Meeting. These three words struck many during the week of the Meeting. It is also a cry that expresses the urgent need for fulfillment–for truth, justice, and happiness–that is present inside every person at all times, including today. That cry seems impossible in these times. We are so alone, feeble, and worried by what we see that a demand of that intensity seems out of place. We aspire to avoid trouble, seeking to find ways of protecting ourselves from the impact of history, creating environments that are as “safe” as possible, to use an expression that’s all too common in Anglo-Saxon societies, in which it has become normal to pile on rules and restrictions to make sure no one feels “attacked” in a work meeting or college lecture by a different opinion or “upset” by the violence of a chapter of history. Basically, we’re playing defense.

Yet that cry sounded once again this summer. You’ll find many examples in the following pages, in the letters and in the report from the Meeting, full of facts both great and small that, among other fruits, brought one guest speaker to say, “Let me stay with you, because for the first time God has become a possibility for me.” It can also be heard in the story of the young people called to Rome by the Pope for a pilgrimage in the middle of August, which became an opportunity to discover an unimaginable fullness, even amidst the brutal heat and chaos of the capital. Or in the way Pope Francis surprised everyone in Ireland during one of his most difficult trips by issuing a wake-up call for the entire Church. There were all the usual presuppositions that we’d return home disappointed, but something else happened. So then, what was it that happened? Who can reawaken the “I” like this? What makes the impossible possible, to the point that we see it happening and can ask for it?

We need to recognize the answer. What happened reveals to us, once again, the only thing we need in order to live: an event. A presence that is so exceptional that it reawakens our “I” to the point of reawakening that radical demand: “We want everything.” It’s the humanity we see surging up in us again that allows us to recognize the face of that presence, that allows us to say, “It’s You, Christ.” And this is the face we can seek wherever we are, “with tenacity in following a path,” as Fr. Giussani himself said. “It’s very important that we close one phase and begin another: a definitive, mature one; one that can stand the test of time; in fact, the test of all of history because that announcement that began to impress […] John and Andrew two thousand years ago, that announcement, that person is exactly the same phenomenon that attracted us to come here.” It’s the phenomenon that makes us ask for everything.