Contrary to what one might think, mission in the United States is no easy task. It is a land shot through with deep tensions that seem impossible to harmonize. On one hand, it is a fascinating country, characterized by a great vitality and surprising entrepreneurial energies. In American society, personal initiative finds fertile ground in which it can express itself to its full potential. It is a nation that is never tired of restarting, that is not satisfied with its achievements, but that continually seeks new ways to improve the social and economic environment. On the other hand, alongside the undeniable achievements in favor of the individual, one must also recognize the bitter fruits of so-called “modernity”: the pronounced individualism that looks to personal success as the ultimate goal of social life, the widespread loneliness of a nation whose idea of limitless freedom abandons men to themselves. The recent massacre in Uvalde, Texas tells us of an unease hidden behind the apparent well-being of the self-made man, of the tension between individual and society that runs through this land at all levels. There is, however, a deeper current flowing through this tension. It is the divine initiative, the only one capable of generating harmony where the tension seems insurmountable.
The CLU vacation was an opportunity to observe this force at work in human history and in the heart of this country. Led by Fr. Pietro Rossotti and Emanuele Colombo, about one hundred students from all over the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico gathered in Denver, Colorado. Some of them are children of families of the Movement, others met it through their classmates and professors. All came with a common desire to know and be pierced by the experience of Christ in which they were involved. Trips, games, songs and testimonies. An afternoon dedicated to discovering that study time is not extraneous from the life of faith. In a land where people often move in search of the best study and job offers, Holly Peterson, a Memor Domini, testified that vocation is the ultimate criterion for making any decision. During a trip to Italy in the 1980s, Holly had met a community of the Movement and Fr. Giussani himself. With no job and not knowing a word of Italian, she decided to settle in Imola so as not to lose her new companionship. In the final synthesis, Fr. Pietro recalled that Christianity is always an event of a people. Such an experience is a bearer of novelty in a society where the lives of the individual and of the people around them are fragmented into spheres – family, work and leisure – that do not interfere with each other.
An evening was devoted to R.H. Benson’s book Lord of the World. A professor and two students were present at the table. After a brief introduction, a dialogue began involving the three presenters and the entire assembly composed of university students as well as priests, Memores Domini, and fathers of families. To be able to see such different and seemingly distant lives harmoniously united by the common desire to know Christ is a small great novelty. Small in size, big in meaning. It is the novelty of a people whose different members contribute to the building up of the one body. It is the newness of God’s life-giving work, which does not waste too much time — alas, as we often do — with the bitter fruits of the world, but continues to raise up shoots of new life whose light attracts people of every age, origin and culture. Even in these modern times God, who is not a solitary being but One and Triune, continues to gather His people using the thirst men have for Him, within and beyond historical contingencies.
Tommaso Badiani is in mission in Washington, DC, USA. In the photo, a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, in Wisconsin.