The Christian Way

Maddie reflects on her experience of meeting CL during her graduate program at Penn State

Just over a year ago, I was invited to my first School of Community. Before I started my Food Science Master’s program at Penn State, I had never heard of Communion and Liberation, and I knew little of what to expect. Admittedly, it took me a while to get the hang of things, to begin to understand who Luigi Giussani was and why we spend so much time poring over his writings. While I still have much to learn about Fr. Giussani’s teachings and how they play into my own understanding of faith, I want to share a few moments from the past year that have reassured me that I’m where God needs me to be at this time in my life.

When I first started participating in the CL University student group (CLU), I doubted whether this was actually the way I wanted to live my faith. Of course, there are many beautiful movements and orders within the Catholic Church, each with its own tenets and principles, and I pondered whether this path in particular was the “right” one for me. During this time, a friend reminded me to be present to the reality God has set before me in this moment, and I was moved by her wisdom. I have spent a lot of time dictating my own life – what and where I want to study, who I want to spend time with, what I want to do with my life in every respect. The life of Communion and Liberation asks a lot of you, but this is precisely the point: faith is meant to be a complete dedication of self. Instead of choosing yet again what I deemed best for my own life, I wanted to give dependence, humility, and surrender a try: surrender to this beautiful experience of faith that was right in front of me, a new practice in obedience to a way of living that was greater than myself and what I thought I needed. In America, we’re sold this idea that we create ourselves and our futures, that nothing is given to us unless we make it happen for ourselves. But by moving through the world in this way, you miss the many gifts that can be received by simply being and submitting to an Other. CL has shown me how to be more responsive to that Other.

Even in my moments of doubt, I found that there was something attracting me to CL. Despite my skepticism and resistance, I knew there had to be some reason why I was still considering fuller immersion into the movement. In time, I’ve realized how drawn I am to the radical openness that CL invites us into. Again, our Catholic faith requires a wholehearted gift of self, and I see that lived out so beautifully in the hearts of people of the movement; it is something I have never seen anywhere else. The way families I had never met welcomed me into their homes as if I had known them my entire life, or the way there is an innate invitation to vulnerability in conversation – so many demonstrations of a presence to the reality of this moment, this person before you. I am touched by its profundity.

Being a part of CLU has yielded such wonderful fruits in my life. This time has abounded with serendipitous moments, moments only God could have picked out for me. The souls of people I’ve met through the movement are some of the tenderest I’ve known; members of my School of Community at Penn State have become dear friends who wish to know my heart more fully, just as I wish to know theirs. True friendship like this has been something I have desired for a long time, and it is so freeing to find myself unfolding in ways I hadn’t thought possible. Recent events, such as the New York Encounter, Lenten Retreat, and 40 Days of Friendship, have encouraged me to wrestle with the parts of my heart that most need to be open to grace. I have been inspired by the witnesses of the many people I have encountered over these past few months, leading me to recognize that we all walk this path together, carrying different crosses, but helping each other carry them.

This academic year, our School of Community had the privilege to speak with Padre Vito D’Amato, spiritual father of Servant of God Chiara Corbella Petrillo (which my friend Carolyn reflected on here), and I was struck by the message Chiara lived with her life: let yourself be loved. When we open ourselves up to the love of others, we can most fully experience the joy of a life lived in obedience to Christ. And I think this is the biggest way CLU has shown me its goodness: the Christian way is a life lived in togetherness. In our communion with each other and with God, we are free to live in peace and joy. Without this relationship, obedience to the proposals of CL – and to the Catholic faith more broadly – can feel like rules to be followed. But by letting go of that pull to make our own lives happen in isolation, we can be opened to our fullest, freest potential. I am grateful for every way Communion and Liberation has worked in my life over this past year, and as I wrap up my degree and contemplate where my life will go from here, I trust that continued surrender to God’s plan – challenging as it may be – will yield fruits in the years to come as well.

Maddie, Penn State CLU