Fr. Giussani's tomb

A Unity We Do Not Create

Traveling alone from Alabama, Mandy finds herself among thousands of brothers and sisters, all united by the ‘yes’ of Fr. Giussani.

When I received the email with the invitation to join members of the Movement in St. Peter’s Square for the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Fr. Giussani, I immediately went online to look up flights. I didn’t know whether I would have trouble getting free from work, who I would meet there, whether other friends from the US would go, or whether I would spend a week in Italy by myself. But all these uncertainties were nothing compared with the certainty of my heart’s desire to be there. As has been the case for the last few years, I marveled watching myself in action “from the outside” so to speak, to see the immediacy with which I move in front of a proposal to share life in the Movement, be it an Advent or Lent retreat, the Spiritual Exercises, or our Southeast summer vacation. These moments have become points of stability in my life from which I can look out, as from a vista, at everything in my life, assisted by the familiar companionship of those along the same path who help me to see it all more clearly.

I also love Rome. But even the history of my life that brought me to love Rome long before I met the Movement I now see as a miracle of cohesion, absolutely unplanned and unexpected and yet, in hindsight, a preparation that the Lord knew all along even for a moment such as this.

Having traveled alone from Alabama I entered St Peter’s Square on Saturday morning surrounded by thousands of friends most of whose names I will never know. I met friends from Florida (who I did know!) while waiting in line and moments later introduced myself to the young people next to me who came from Puerto Rico — Adrian, who loaned me his hat to prevent the left side of my face from becoming asymmetrically sunburned, and Amanda, who traced her presence in the Movement back to Msgr Albacete though she never had the chance to meet him. There, in front of the basilica of St Peter, without whose following none of us would have been together, it occurred to me how each of us can trace our lineage of belonging to Fr. Giussani from the concrete witnesses of those who have generated us. Listening to his voice over the loudspeaker with his characteristically passionate commentary on certain Gospel passages, I was deeply moved at the unbroken chain of events that has occurred between Fr. Giussani’s life and my own. And from Fr. Giussani, the unbroken chain of events all the way back to St. Peter and then to his friend, Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God.

Each person there in St. Peter’s Square followed the attraction of a Presence that they met somewhere in their lives (for me, in 2006 in Washington, DC). The unifying factor of each life present in that piazza was the “yes” of Fr. Giussani. As Fr. Lepori reminded us in the assembly of the Fraternity Exercises, “our unity is the work of Someone, a Presence… it is not a pact among us, but is generated by Someone.” Recognizing that Christ had “showed up” in St. Peter’s Square when we all sang together “La Strada”, I was bowled over by the unity I experienced with all of my hundred thousand friends, those like Sr. Annie and Margaret, two of my longest-running and dearest friends in CL, and those whose names I will never know.

It was full of this awareness that I arrived the following day, thanks to Marco and Alessandra who drove me and hosted me in Milan, to the tomb of Fr. Giussani. On my knees, overcome with gratitude for the richness of my life which would not exist were it not for this man’s particular witness, I thanked him by name for all those people I have met on this path. I left him a small note, simply to say, “THANK YOU for Annie, Margaret, Tobias, Michele… etc, etc.” Thank you, Fr. Giussani, for your witness to the unity that we do not create (could never create) but which holds us. I will return to the US a member of a people whose mission is to recognize and respond to that unity which precedes us, in front of which I am ever-more in awe.

Mandy, Auburn, AL