It is the same but different beautiful story that is repeated after many years and kilometers. It is the story of an encounter that changes life, either when one is 40 years old or 20 years old, from Fuenlabrada, a no man’s land, just a few kilometers from Madrid, to Vienna, the capital of European culture.
A new meaning to life
Angel is 60 years old and has the secret smile of those who love life. “From my friends of St. Charles,” he says, “I learned to be faithful to reality, having an attention to things without letting them pass by without a judgment. It is like when you squeeze a lemon to bring out the juice: it is what one does with life.” When Franco died in Spain, he was a liberal twenty year old like many of his peers. But his path lied elsewhere: “It was an ideology that was not interested in the human being.” When he was 41, he met Julián de la Morena, a priest of the Fraternity of St. Charles, who recently became the parish priest of San Juan Bautista. It was Christmas night of 1996. “I’ve never walked into that church. Homilies were usually quite formal, but he was different: he spoke of life, of everyday things. The next day I kept asking myself how it was possible that the priest in his homily, without knowing me, spoke as if he was speaking directly to me. And I thought about it during the whole vacation. It was what my heart wanted. ” A coffee and some dinners together started a friendship that soon extended to another priest who came from Siberia, Alfredo Fecondo. “The story of Don Giussani and all his works,” Angel says with simplicity, “saved my life. They gave me meaning. One can live in this world for a hundred years and not know the reason for living. Following Don Giussani, who I did not know personally, meant increasing the gusto for things. I was a fan of classical music and now I like it more. After thirty years of marriage, I love my wife today more than when we got married. I also became a grandfather. God always fulfills his promise.”
In twenty years, many missionaries of the Fraternity have passed by Fuenlabrada, the satellite city of the Madrid metropolitan with a population of 200,000 inhabitants and Europe’s highest rate of young people. “Fifteen, seventeen priests. With all of them, we have shared a friendship. I owe Julián de la Morena the gusto of life as a gift. It was easy with him. In the fall we went on a hillside near Fuenlabrada. We sat and watched the sunset and talked. It did not take much: a dinner, a good movie, a concert.” It is an eternal friendship, the one with Fr. Alfredo Fecondo. “He came to cook for us on Sundays. He took possession of the kitchen with my little son. He would call my wife when he was the responsible of the university students, saying, ‘Maria Luisa, can I have the kitchen tonight?’ He took the boys to eat. Then there is Anas, who was here for ten years. He is someone who provokes you just because he exists.” With Fr. Antonio Anastasio, Angel opened the House of St. Antonio, which assists 225 families in need. “It’s a work that seals the relationship between two friends, not a project born at the table,” he says. “In 2006, a petition had been convened to ask the Municipality to make a hotel for the homeless. I told Anas that I did not want to sign it. ‘I was educated in this companionship to ask myself before asking the State to respond to a need.’ That is how we proposed it to a small group of friends. ” What was the secret? “Patience. Because it is always God who answers and you’re just an instrument. ”
“Angel is a key person for the presence of the Fraternity in Spain” says Tomasso Pedroli, today’s young responsible of the Movement in Fuenlabrada and pastor of 40 thousand souls. “He built the community together with the priests of St. Charles that have taken place here. He is a person who is very alive. Our charitable and educational works are all born from our dialogues with him. Angel embodies what Giussani proposedç the passion for life in all its dimensions.” Passion and realism: while Tomasso tells the story of a friendship that comes from looking at the same thing, behind him there is a movement. It’s time for the young boys. “They ask me: ‘How is it possible to have so many young people?’ ‘They come to us,’ I respond. They come because I open the parish in the afternoon so that they can study here and because I make pasta for them. It starts that way. Then one goes to confession, and another one begins to think of vocation. They are things that make your pulse tremble. Proposing Christianity is easy: just meet people as they are. It is what we have learned from Don Giussani. We do not have a minute of rest. If we want to rest, we have to look for it. There is a lot of work to do.”
From La Mancha, the homeland Angel shared with Don Chisciotte, we move to the austere Vienna. Those who want proof of the fact that Christianity is for the whole world and not to a few priest and a select few can call Thomas. He is a nice young man who studied Economics and Computer Science from the Polytechnic of Milan and then went back to Austria. He is someone who prefers facts than words. He deals with telephone infrastructure, has five children, and is responsible for the movement in Austria. He heard of Don Giussani in 2000, first by some university students who arrived in Vienna for the Erasmus, then by the priests of St. Charles called to Vienna by Cardinal Schönborn. “They invited me to dinner,” he quickly said. “They spoke of this Giussani that I did not know. I’m not complicated. I was interested so I went in Milan.” Not everyone does this, following an interest so radically in their twenties. Thomas parries. “It wasn’t that extraordinary. Even the girl I married did the same thing. And so did my other friends. ” Then he explains what happened: “I was already Catholic, but faith had nothing to do with life; I lived a total dualism. What I was doing, what I was studying, had nothing to do with God. They were separated situations that I could not hold together.” This way one loses everything. “I was not happy. Before arriving in Vienna, I prayed, ‘God, I do not understand anything anymore. Do something or I will lose my life.’ He responded immediately. I met people who believed and I began again. I went to live in a Catholic theologate. It was the parish of the campus ministry entrusted to the priests of St. Charles.” In 2001, Thomas went to live in an apartment where the university students of Common and Liberation lived. “It was nothing special. I just lived with them. I studied with them, reciting the Angelus together, and went to School of Community. One day I asked a friend: ‘How do you belong to this movement?’ And he replied: ‘But you have already been in CL for a while.’ I did not know it but I was already in it. I trusted normal people who lived with this presence in their eyes. ”
Fr. Giovanni Micco comes from Friuli. He is a priest for nineteen years but looks very young. He describes the movement in Vienna as “a numerically small company, lively, taken care of in all of its dimensions: charitable work, the School of Community, and missionaries gestures.” Thomas especially appreciates the ability to keep contact with the origin of the movement. “It is an essential element not to lapse into a kind of federalism so that we do not become a province that exists by itself.” It is the only real task for the priests and the laity, “Following is always liberating, moving.” Of the Fraternity, which helps and supports it, Thomas emphasizes the objectivity that it represents and the friendship grown over the years. “We have the same task, proposing to everyone the experience we have encountered.” It is an evidence that Fr. Micco also encountered several times: “The idea that people leave their land, their language, their tradition to come here, after all is a reminder of the radical nature of the Lord’s presence in everyone’s life.” What is held in common is the concern to propose gestures “that compelled us to go out,” says the priest. “Because in these cold countries, one feels well at home with the fireplace, with the Sachertorte and something warm in hand. Thomas is good at getting rid of this inertia. ” He goes out into the world, “accepting the challenge to understand, in a dramatic moment, whether Europe can move forward or end” says Micco. One also needs to verify the urgency that has imposed a new charitable work, with 58 underage refugees that priests have found themselves as neighbors.
They speak of Don Giussani, someone who they have not known personally, as someone present here in Vienna, once the capital of the empire. “I feel that he is close to my life,” says Thomas who has just seen again the video of the lesson Recognizing Christ given by Don Giussani to university students in 1994: “I am touched by his humanity, his sincerity, and, above all, by the serenity with which he speaks. ‘Where shall we go?’ These words of Peter describe exactly the experience I have encountered and that I continue to have today.”
A trip with young people of the parish of San Juan Bautista in Fuenlabrada (Madrid).