We all have the intuition that life, even with all of its hardships, is fundamentally good. Its original appeal is continuously being reawakened by things and people – an appeal we can resist, but never eliminate. And yet, we have a hard time relating to many aspects of life: family, work, politics, society, even our own bodies and the very food we eat. In the end, since life does not bend to our desires and its meaning remains elusive, we use our ingenuity to construct our own reality and give sense to life. We believe this is the pinnacle of human dignity and freedom. But the reality we try to create, when put to the test of experience, does not deliver on its promises, and too frequently the ensuing frustration turns into anger and violence. What are we missing? Whey do we often perceive reality as disappointing? What can help us reconcile with reality and engage life as it is? Reality as it emerges in experience is so positive that it presents itself as inexorably appealing. Instead of appealing, we might use another word…promising.
Luigi Giussani – Catholic Priest & Founder of the Communion and Liberation Movement (CL)
If the stories I heard over the past several days were the highlights of cable and evening network news, I am convinced that the world would be a more peaceful and empathic place. I just returned from a brilliantly executed New York Encounter, that attracted the likes of NY Times columnist David Brooks and actor Richard Cabral. The theme given to the encounter was“Reality Has Never Betrayed Me” and the event was beautifully produced by the Communion and Liberation movement, founded by Father Luigi Guisanni. Over the course of these few days, I discovered a building block to my faith and experienced a deeper sense of freedom in Jesus than I have ever felt. The encounter featured speakers of all different backgrounds, faiths and walks of life. Never for one minute was there a judgement or a superiority among them. Open and real dialogue between scientists, priests, rabbis, and secularists was exchanged, unfiltered, challenging many ideas, all without pretense and never condescending.
Because this was my first encounter with the CL movement, I don’t pretend to be qualified to analyze or dissect its teachings but I do feel the need to give a testimony to what I experienced. The speakers were so compelling and their insights as they applied to modern life were so keen, that I can only highlight a few favorites here, but they will shape the way I encounter my faith from here forward:
Surrender in todays society is a very countercultural idea. When I am not present, I can be lured into a false reality that does have the ability to betray and lead me astray, but reality starts fresh with each new day and is always available and within my grasp. When I am suffering or my heart is troubled, this is a sign of false reality, one God does not intend for me, yet is available to me based on my free will. As author and recovering addict John Waters brilliantly put it, “thank God the pain doesn’t go away, because sometimes its the only way God gets in.” He went on further to explain that the crisis of our time is that we are looking at a reduced reality, more cells touching cells than hearts touching hearts. It takes courage and energy to enter into this process but only when suffering is used as a catalyst can it be used to improve the human condition. Our longing will never cease until we connect it with the source who created us and in that connection is where the freedom lies. As John Waters also said “Darwin might explain you, and you and you and you…but he does not explain me.”
A crisis becomes a disaster only when I respond with prejudice or judgement. Instead, I should let the crisis allow me to consider how I am living and create an opportunity, rather than a obstacle to rethink my perception…a reality check you might call it. Am I living my true reality? Faith must give us something beautiful to overcome the tendency for religion and culture to feel more like judgement and less like the grace that God is always so ready to grant. Hearing Dan Jusino, President of Emerge, a social enterprise dedicated to building the skills of the formerly incarcerated, the question isn’t what is wrong with you, but rather what happened in your life to bring you to this day and where do you go from here to reunite your soul with the freedom that comes from living the reality that God intended for you. Morals and ethics do not satisfy our human longing when they are cut off from the source. They become powerless, angry and condescending. That’s a lot to consider I know, and this is just the tip of the iceberg as far as the powerful words that filled my notebook and my heart.
Do I have the courage to confront reality as God intended for me? Yes, the peace is unimaginable. If greater numbers of people could spend the time I just did with these members of the Communion and Liberation movement and see the joy and freedom with which they live, I believe that we all could. I am thankful to my wonderful Italian friends, Simo and Vanessa for being God’s presence in my life, I hope that I could be this presence for someone else. It feels like the world could use lots of us.