"You are the outpost"

The weekend with Fr. Julián Carrón and the Northern European CL communities, from countries where life becomes more and more difficult and complicated. But precisely because of this "a truly human gesture" is easier to recognize.
Gianluca Marcato

In recent years, CL communities in the English-speaking Northern European countries have grown. This year, nearly five hundred of us (including ninety children!) found ourselves ourselves near London with Fr Julián Carrón over the weekend, between January 9 and 11, after weeks of intense waiting.

The title given to these two days together - "The journey to truth is an experience" - was already well known: it was the eighth consecutive year, and yet there was a strange movement of people who were very curious. The arrival on the Friday evening, with people coming from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Holland, Luxembourg, Sweden and Norway confirmed this impression, with greetings and hugs that revealed a great desire. For some some, the journey had been long, such as those who took a plane and various means of transport or those who, determined to come with their children and given the cost of transport in Great Britain, decided to come by car from Edinburgh travelling for 10 hours.

The challenge was launched immediately during the mass that opened the gesture: "What conquers the world?" What overcomes confusion? What makes us certain in the face of the recent terrorist acts, the economic crisis, everyday challenges, at work, with family, with friends? "Christ is the answer", but this can remain a name or become an experience. Are Christ and His proposal powerful enough to deal with any situation? Can we say that His testimony is true and wins against everything? "Whoever has the Son, has life." This is the promise. Do you have life? Are we alive? Is our life intense, interesting?

You cannot help but think of Stephen, whom Carrón had just met at dinner. A 13-year-old boy, who had cancer surgery three years ago, who had recently been invited to a meeting for school principals in his county. In front of two hundred people, he recounted his experience to tell everyone that it is possible to face this disease thanks to family and prayer, and that he is first of all not sick, but a child with dreams and desires and wants to live as such. Thus, at the end of the meeting, a fifty-year-old headmistress approached him and, in twenty minutes of close dialogue, finally found someone (a 13-year-old boy!) with whom for the first time she could look at the loss of her sister due to cancer.

This is the testimony that Christ gives to our lives. He changes us from within, manifesting himself with an exceptional humanity. This has happened to Francesca who, after an attempt at a cooking school and an hour of weekly physical activity, began - at the request of a friend - to meet with a group of mothers to read the Bible and compare it to life. One day she heard someone say to her: "I like the way you talk about the Bible, because I can see that you are wise.” It is not a matter of form. This human diversity is distinctly perceptible. Which is what happened to Fabiano who, spending two months in Texas for work, was told by a colleague: "I have never seen anything like this." It is the surprise of an uncommon humanity, who lives the same life but differently, who has a way of being themselves that was unimaginable before. It is the same surprise present in the Gospels and it surprises us when we hear about it.

Thus begins the assembly on Saturday morning. And when one feels this fever of life in oneself, one is no longer afraid of anything, not even of one's own desire. This is what sometimes blocks us, as Jack helped us to understand: "When we discovered that the baby in Giulia’s womb had died, we felt immense pain. And to hear people say to us: "Now you can pray to your baby" seemed abstract. After the operation to remove the fetus, looking at Giulia and her suffering face, my baby became a presence to me. Now I can really turn to him (his name is Christopher) asking for everything." If it is a Presence that is so real, then one can also leave their job (in a time of crisis) to move and follow their wife who has begun a PhD at the University of Southampton. Carrón urges: "What is the value of memory in this experience?" The immediate answer: "Facing circumstances, I am never alone. Memory is being in dialogue with Someone who makes you free."

The two traits of intense life: freedom and happiness. As Stefano reminded us: "Often, we are blackmailed by the idea that we must deserve to be loved and accepted. While beginning the day living the desire to meet the One who never abandons us already changes me, because I am no longer alone and so I face work, my colleagues starting from a fullness. And I am happy." And this can be seen: three colleagues have gone separately to their manager to ask for their expiring contract to be renewed.

In this experience of fullness, one is then also willing to change their approach during their university lectures, like Veronica in Copenhagen: "My course is difficult, and my students’ assessments were not good. Thus, I thought I would make the course easier to improve their assessment results. Going to the Beginning of the Year Day, however, I realized that I was using the wrong method, because I first of all had to arouse the question in the students. I could not take it for granted. So I restructured the course based on this intuition."

But this is exactly the same method that Christ uses with me, awakening my desire continuously and showing me patience that has no limits. The issue is: am I patient with Him? Am I willing to wait for Him to reveal to me what I really desire? This challenge is even more challenging when it comes to children, as an Irish friend used to say. "When one of our daughters did things that we as parents did not approve of, the first reaction was fear, as if what we were experiencing had nothing to say to this situation. Immediately, however, this fear ceased, thanks to the work we were doing on ourselves. Forbidding her was not enough and, therefore, we began to provoke it by asking (and asking ourselves): what do you want? This work bore fruit. First of all, we began a real relationship with her and then we discovered that this new situation was for us parents. And the path, which has always been an attempt of mine, has now become an involvement with reality. Thus faith, instead of being another burden to add to the drama of life, has become the only possibility for me to always start again."

The problem is not making mistakes. But to always start again: to be on the road. As Gisele has been in these years. From a great disobedience she understood the value of obedience, like the prodigal son. In fact, after divorcing and having had a child with her current husband (married civilly), she has always remained attached to this companionship. "But at first I wanted to live it as I wanted. Then, going to Mass on Sundays with my son and in a dialogue with Fr. Christopher (who died two years ago), I discovered that I missed His body and blood. I could not take Communion because of my situation and Fr. Christopher had asked me: "But do you want to share your son's life to the end, accompanying him in his preparation for his First Communion?” And so I began a journey that led me to ask for the annulment of the first marriage (later obtained) and now to desire to marry my husband in Church. Now I truly feel in communion." It is exactly the same belonging that Richard experienced when preparing the crisis exhibition for last year's London Encounter: "At the beginning, my perception of religion was: I cannot live with it and I cannot live without it. Working with a small group of people on the exhibition I discovered many things about the crisis, but above all the beauty of this lived communion.”

One thing struck everyone, and Carrón first and foremost: not even a single intervention with lament inside. This is the sign of a people on a journey. Thus the final challenge: "In this environment, you are the outpost of the movement. You are the first point of battle in this world. So the truth of what you live is crucial for the whole movement. This is the trend of history and you are called to live Christianity in this context, simply by witnessing how Christ changed your lives. The witness will be ever simpler, because it will be ever easier to recognize a different human gesture in the midst of an increasingly distracted society."
You really have the desire to see this happen, again and again, in experience.