Traces N.8, September 2020

Hope and certainty

If one says “school,” other words immediately come to mind. For example, “future,” because the "tomorrow” of any society, at every time in its history, is shaped there, in the classrooms. Or we might think of “hope,” a close
cousin of the expectation for happiness that dwells in the hearts of young people and those who care about them, including their parents and teachers. Deep down, school exists for this reason: guarding that hope and cultivating that expectation is in the very nature of its mission.
Yet, if there is one environment that was sent into crisis more than any other by the pandemic, it is the academic one. It was deeply shaken, split between the need to protect young people (and their families) from the virus and the importance of not snatching them away from their world, which is based
on their fundamental ties to their classmates and teachers. The pandemic threatened to take them away from an institution that exists for the purpose of helping them grow into men and women capable of confronting reality, even when it wears the unpredictable face of a global crisis.

This is why the challenge of these weeks is so decisive. As we write, the reopening of school is still hanging in the balance, and not just in Italy. Students are going back, but the pandemic could threaten their return to their desks at any moment. Schedules, spaces, and teachers remain unknowns for many. We decided to go ahead and talk about the school as it may happen
for one simple reason. Whatever it looks like–in person, distance, or blended learning, as they now say–the new academic year carries with it very precious cargo: the experience of the previous months. Taking a look at its content and understanding what we are learning today is critical if we do not want to miss the opportunity to face tomorrow, the future, with greater awareness. And it is critical to rekindling our hope.

It is no coincidence that “hope” was one of the key words
for a turning
point that came in this strange summer shaped by Covid: the event of the Rimini Meeting. It was not at all to be taken for granted that it would happen this year, but it was a superabundant grace to see the wealth of content, encounters, and judgments flowing forth from the decision to take the risk of holding it anyway. The method was new, and offered a contribution that truly reached the entire world, thanks in part to its virtual components. We covered the Meeting online at, and our next issue will offer additional coverage. On the website, though, we have posted what was at the heart of those days: Fr. Julián Carrón’s talk on “where hope originates.” In this conversation, a line from Fr. Giussani emerged that summarizes what is at play right now: “Hope is a certainty in the future based on something real in the present.” This is what we need to grow and to live.