It is just past midnight, and I am returning home after attending the first showing of Barionà, an opera written by Sartre for the celebration of Christmas in the concentration camp of Treviri where he was a prisoner. I feel my phone vibrate: it is a message from Sebastián, a student in the CLU who writes me: “Lorenzo, in front of so much beauty, in my heart has been born the desire to give my life for something beautiful”. That is how the third annual Santiago Encounter began, which this year was entitled Testimonies of Beauty. Three days of round table discussions, music, theater, and many encounters.
As was done in the previous years, the main exhibit of the Encounter was entrusted to the university students (Clu). I remember the day that the idea was born to present on the life of Chiara Corbella, the 28-year-old Roman who after having decided, with her husband, to carry to term two different pregnancies, knowing that the babies would not survive, was faced with an even graver decision: to sacrifice her own life, postponing the care she was receiving for her tumor so as to protect the baby in her womb. José had the idea: “Chiara is for us a witness of the beauty of the Christian life. Looking at her and her husband Enrico made us desire to learn to love in the same way. This is what we want to tell to everyone!”. And so began the work that became a source of many questions in the students, with particular regard to the relationship between Chiara and Enrico. What does it mean to really love? What permits us to affirm that God fulfills his promises? We asked this directly to Enrico in an email, which to our surprise, he responded to. He spoke to us about his experience of feeling loved as a son, witnessed the fulfillment of the promise that God had made in his life, never abandoning him. This is exactly what we all desire, a love that fills our life with His presence.
During the days of the Santiago Encounter, many people visited the exhibit. They were all struck by the faith of Chiara. What was most beautiful was the kindling of curiosity concerning the origin of that which the exhibit presented. It is not a story for heroic people, but the story of a Christian journey, possible for those who let themselves be attracted by the beauty of the Lord. It was evident during the presentation, when a young Italian woman, Susanna, who lives in Santiago spoke about how the encounter with Chiara and Enrico illuminates and accompanies her being a wife and mother. “I was very struck” she recounts “that Chiara and Enrico had an engagement similar to ours, which helped them to look at the other as a gift and not as a right. It was the same way for me and my husband. We were together since high school, but when we left for university we discovered that the world was much bigger than our sentimental relationship, and so we left each other. For almost three years we pursued separate paths, in which the Lord helped both of us to understand that what was most important was to love Him, and therefore even to be disposed to lose the other”. Susanna told us of a new group that has started to accompany couples towards marriage using the story of Chiara. “It is surprising to see how they begin to understand themselves as always more open to the world! The vocation to build a family has the world as its ultimate horizon. The world that awaits something from my marriage, and Christ who awaits my yes.”
This is what we lived during the days of the Santiago Encounter: Christ calls us by making us desire to participate in his beauty. As Sebastián wrote, “In my heart a desire has been born to give my life for something beautiful.”
In the photo, Fr. Lorenzo Locatelli, in the center, with a few young people of Santiago.