“Who is this man?”

Encountering Fr. Rich, Emily desires to discover who Fr. Giussani is.

Fr. Rich Veras came to Cincinnati last March for our Lent retreat and it was my first time meeting someone of the Movement outside of our Midwest region. I went to confession during the retreat and accidently ended up going face to face. Frustrated, I sat down and looked up. Fr. Rich looked at me straight in the eyes; a gaze that pierced my soul—it was as if Christ Himself was looking at me and filled the depths of my heart with His presence. I was immediately overwhelmed with three questions: Who are You, Jesus? Who am I? Who is this man—Fr. Giussani?

I had been attending School of Community off and on for a handful of years beforehand, but at that retreat I understood, through meeting Fr. Rich, that this place – Communion and Liberation – is the place where I grow, where I become more myself. Hearing Fr. Rich speak about the woman at the well who was called by name, I felt myself called again by name. Called to go deeper in my understanding of this place and of who this man, Fr. Giussani, is.

After that retreat, I began reading a little bit of the biography of Fr. Giussani every day, starting from the beginning. I am married with four children and I found myself spending every free moment – while the kids napped, in the evening after they were asleep, when they were out playing – picking it up to read as much as I could. Often I would find myself reading with tears running down my cheeks, overwhelmed by the constant way his life helps me to better know and live my own life. In these months Fr. Giussani has truly become a father to me.

A few weeks ago, on October 15, our community in Cincinnati celebrated the centenary of Fr. Giussani’s birth with a community day at a park. Francesca, who lived in our community for two years but who we have not seen since the pandemic, came to share the day with us and to share with us who Fr. Giussani is and her experience of coming to know him, even though she has never met him. In her witness, she shared that at one point in her journey a friend said to her, “You have one thing to do: become a daughter of Fr. Giussani. Read these things and do not worry about proving that you understand them, but let those words sink into you and be something for you.” These words of Francesca echoed the core of my experience in these past months – the simple following that helps me to become a daughter of Fr. Giussani in the same way the people here who I met him through have become sons and daughters. And, I have to admit that this path of following involves a bit of imitation: of bringing into my own life the way I see my friends living that is more beautiful. For example, at our Lent retreat the tables were set with flowers and paper for the children to color on – a sign that we care for each other down to the most simple details. The same for our community day on the 15th: at this suburban park, we had beautiful paper table runners decorated with mini pumpkins and fall leaves gathered by the children, along with a delicious homemade meal thoughtfully prepared by everyone. I want more and more to live my daily life with this kind of attention (down to even the little details of setting the table in a beautiful way).

After gathering for some songs with the children, we prepared to watch the Pope speak, and I really felt that he was addressing me as if I was standing with those thousands of people whom I have never met gathered in St. Peter’s square. As we circled around the screen and speakers Marco had set up in the park pavilion, the children ran ahead of us to get the “front row seats”. My friend’s four-year-old son said, “I can’t wait to hear what the Pope has to tell us!” which made us laugh but was also a sign to us that our expectation and excitement was so great that even this little one among us perceived it and wanted not to miss anything.

I hope someday to stand among the people of this Movement that I now belong to, visiting the Holy Father, but on October 15, 2022, I understood that even from a suburban park in Ohio I was already with all of those gathered in Rome, because we together are living the same desire to be sons and daughters of Fr. Giussani so that our ‘yes’ to God is always more.

Emily, Ft. Thomas, KY