"A desert, but after a short while you find water"

More than 500 people gathered in Reading for the Norther European assembly with Fr. Carrón. The theme, "Back to the Origin". Many testimonies of faith, so as not to forget the novelty that is lived in the present: "The origin is in the present".
Gianluca Marcato

Ready, steady, go: Fr. Julián Carrón's weekend in Reading, from 8-10 January, with the Northern European communities, began with dinner with the Bishop of Portsmouth, the local Diocese. Monsignor Philip Egan talked about the initiatives he has proposed, because "in England there is a desert, but if one digs, not even too deep, you reach a basin of water.” Fr. Carrón then talked about the series of meetings he had in Italy with people of different cultural backgrounds, who were eager to enter into dialogue. The Bishop suddenly interrupted him: "Beautiful, I understand! The question is not to make plans or programs, but to watch and follow what the Spirit makes happen."

Back to the Origin, this was the title of the assembly attended by more than 500 people from Denmark, Great Britain, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Holland and Sweden. But "origin of what?", Carrón asked in the introduction on Friday evening: "Origin of our present, of the newness that we live in our present."

Yet, in certain moments in life, darkness reigns. Like for Emma, who lost her mother-in-law in the last year, has seen her mother's condition deteriorate (in bed without being able to move) and her father fall into depression. "I have had many moments of darkness and rebellion. And I felt that the effort was too great. And it had become difficult even to cook or take my children to school." But inside this darkness, Christmas reveals that a light enters the world, into our lives. For Emma, it was her mother's "shining" eyes, her way of accepting her illness. "It was like drinking from a fountain. It became so fascinating that I told my friends: Come and see. What I am living now is an enormous nostalgia, I miss those eyes."

Lee has been part of CL for thirty years, but often experiences the gestures of movement as a burden. He went to the last Beginning of the Year Day without expecting anything. But something unexpected happened: "An attraction that left me full of joy." Fr. Carrón: "If you were waiting for nothing, why were you so moved? One word: your humanity." That humanity that even Oscar Wilde discovered was the only possibility for Christ to enter the heart of man, as Marco recalls: "Christ cannot enter into man’s heart unless it is broken.”
"Christ enters through this crack," Carrón replied: "But I am not interested in the wound, I am interested in Christ." For Lee, that new beginning of the year was a return to the origin: "It produced a real participation in things, I am present in what I do. It has generated greater freedom within me, so much so that for the first time I invited my colleagues to our Christmas carol service. And a waiting: it is possible to wait for something else in everything we live, even the gestures of the movement."

What can help us to understand the Grace we have received? The reality, the circumstances. Through them, we are offered this light that we can accept or refuse. And this light can also be seen in the face of the challenges that society poses today. The Saturday afternoon assembly began with Fr. Carrón's question: "How can we live our faith in this multicultural society? What is the contribution of our faith?"

Mitch and Francesca live in Durham. She struck a friendship with a lady, whom she had met in a car park, and after having been in Italy she told her about the days she spent with some friends. Reaction: "Next time you go to Italy, I want to go with you. I want the same happiness as you." Or their meeting a Methodist couple, about whom, after a few dinners together, Francesca said: "After three years since we first arrived in Durham, this is the first time we can call someone friend." It then happened that an Iranian friend invited her to a dinner with twenty other Arab women. At the end of the evening one of them, whom Francesca had never seen before, approached her and said: "I have not spoken to you tonight, but you are different..." And the next day, her Iranian friend called her: "Our heart is the same." Dialogue is always born from the encounter of two hearts. Carrón immediately urged her: "The others have seen something we have not been able to see. Are they visionaries? These small facts are the signs of what is happening today that we cannot see. The problem is our rationalistic approach, we are no longer able to see and we take things that are exceptional for granted."

Maria, 20, went to Dublin to try to work out what to study at university. She is an au pair in a difficult family. She brought The Religious Sense with her from Italy, because she had met the movement two years earlier and understood that the only important thing in life is to be serious with yourself. After a few months, she decided to return to Italy: "Now I have a clearer desire to be baptized. Even alone, in the normal circumstances of life, it is possible to achieve this kind of certainty.”

From the recognition of the origin of what we have received, a gratitude is born. This is how one can go so far as to give life, living gratuity. And yet, at times, one realizes that the tension is lessened, as Amos points out. "Only by recognizing Christ in what we receive each day can we live a gratitude," Carrón replied: "This is the meaning of virginity: to put this light in the midst of life. He overwhelmed you with His presence, so you gave your whole life to Him.”

Like Fr. Jacek, who was ordained six months ago in the diocese of Plymouth after working for twenty years in consultancy: "Christ kept knocking at my heart and so in the end I had to give in.” Recently he has been following a group of young people interested in deepening their faith. They wanted to do something together but did not know what. They had talked about it with their Bishop. Monsignor Marc O'Toole, who had met the CL community in London, introduced the group to Andrea, who is in England for a doctorate. He told him: "Go to Fr. Jacek and his young people. I think that School of Community is an adequate proposal for them." They have already met three times and there are about ten of them. Fr. Jacek, after the Saturday morning assembly, ran to Andrea: "We must transcribe everything and read it to the others. The next meetings will be on these things."

Thus, there is no need to wait until tomorrow. The possibility of discovering the origin is in today as happened to many of us during these days. Anna, who has been in the movement for some time, has stopped going to School of Community in the last year. She had only resumed in November. On Sunday afternoon, with a big smile and lively eyes, she asked: "How do you enroll in the Fraternity? I belong to this place."

Then there is Maria. She met the movement three months ago. Two years ago, she had met a group of CL students who had spent the summer in Glasgow and shared an apartment with them. A few months ago, on the day she was to receive her Baptism, she told the Bishop that she did not feel ready. The Bishop replied: "When you are ready, we will be here waiting for you.” Maria, how are you? Someone asks her in Reading. "After these days, I want to become Catholic."

On the last day, Joseph, a waiter in the hotel’s restaurant, where the three-day event took place, asked if we meet regularly here in Reading. Why are you interested? "Because I have seen the companionship amongst the people here. They are not just here to eat and drink, but take care of each other. And I want that companionship in my life as well."
Laurentius the Hermit said it: "I was told, everything must be taken in without words and held in silence. Then I understood then that perhaps my whole existence would be spent realizing what happened to me. And the memory of You fills me with silence".