As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Is It Possible to Live This Way?

For the past few years, Jeff and I have been following a group called Communion and Liberation.  People ask me all the time what that is, and I struggle to articulate it properly.  My husband gave the best description of it this past Sunday at our church, when he made an announcement inviting parishioners to attend a retreat we are having this week.  He said that it is an ecclesial movement within the Church that proposes a way to encounter Christ that the Church has found to be beneficial, and that we have found to be beneficial, through the sharing of our personal experience.  Officially, Communion and Liberation (CL) describes itself this way:

Communion and Liberation is an ecclesial movement whose purpose is the education to Christian maturity of its adherents and collaboration in the mission of the Church in all the spheres of contemporary life.
It began in Italy in 1954 when Fr Luigi Giussani established a Christian presence in a Milan high school with a group called Giovent├╣ Studentesca (Student Youth), GS for short. The current name of the movement, Communion and Liberation (CL), appeared for the first time in 1969. It synthesizes the conviction that the Christian event, lived in communion, is the foundation of the authentic liberation of man. Communion and Liberation is today present in about seventy countries throughout the world.
There is no type of membership card, but only the free participation of persons. The basic instrument for the formation of adherents is weekly catechesis, called School of Community.

We became involved in the movement (as CL is often referred to) quite unintentionally.  It began out of a friendship.  A dear friend of ours found himself unexpectedly (and unwillingly) back in Saint John, after his plans to live and work in America were dashed due to problems obtaining a work Visa.  Frustrated and missing the community he had been a part of in the US, he reached out to us.  We were in a similar boat.  We live in the middle of nowhere, and had a very difficult time being part of any regular community.  Friends came and went, but few really invested themselves in us.  Having come from a place in our youth where community abounded and in which our faith came alive, we felt we were spiritually starving, and longing for more.  When we did manage to attend community events, we found ourselves to be so superficial, not at all like we were in our youth when faith was so easy. And then came our friend.

We began a journey of friendship where he opened his life to us and we to him.  He decided to start coming out once a week, on Saturday, and he would spend the day toiling at yard work with my husband, or entertaining the kids with me, sharing in our family meal and evening prayer.  After the kids went to bed he would stay late into the evening, and talked about everything.  More importantly, we talked about the most important things - what is life?  What does it mean to have faith?  What is the purpose of my life?  And not in a superficial, fluffy, "everyone loves Jesus" sort of way.  We tried to go to the deep places of our souls, to the places where the answer was, "I don't know", and to seek it out.  It was, and continues to be, a real work.

Our friend is really well-read, and would often send articles for us to read (which my husband is always better at reading than me!) The two of them would read these articles and sit and talk about them over beer late into the night.  I loved listening to them, and learned so much from their insights, things I never would have delved into on my own.  There were of course many differences of opinion and many arguments (and still are) but I think that's what makes our friendship so strong - the courage to question one another, and to provoke each other.

He was reading a book called, "Is it Possible to Live This Way?", and he would mention it often during our discussions.  I was intrigued right away by the title, which was meant to ask whether living a life of faith really is possible and realistic in the world today.  I borrowed the book when he was finished, and related immediately to the way it was written.  It is a series of talks given to university students, and having come into my faith under similar circumstances, through retreats and conferences, I could picture the people I love and admire so much speaking these very words.  I wish I could remember off the top of my head some of the great things I took away from that book, but I encourage anyone who is interested to read it.  I definitely will be reading it again soon.

So it came to be that we were meeting once a week, studying articles we had read throughout the week and discussing them together, talking about what it meant in our everyday lives and how it helped us to find Christ, when our friend suggested we align ourselves with CL.  A school of community is essentially that - a work that a group of friends undertakes together with the purpose of helping each other find Christ.  Following the movement meant simply that we would read what they were reading, and operate in the way they set out.  While we have struggled trying to implement the style into our meetings, the most fruitful gatherings we have are when we dedicate ourselves to the study of the readings of the movement.

CL was established by Msgr. Luigi Giussani, who is the author of this book that causes me to go so much deeper.  People are always hesitant when I refer to "the movement", and I'm not very good at explaining it.  But Msgr. Guissani is.  In Is it Possible to Live this Way? he speaks very simply of a faith that is born very much the same way that mine was born.  Someone who lives in such a way that causes you to say, "I want to know more about what you do". And then in learning, in friendship, you find that you want to be around them more, to hear what they have to say, because you see something of value. Their witness causes you to see life in a way you never had before, and in such a way that you know you never could go back to the way you were. What begins as a relationship of curiosity develops into friendship and mentorship, with Christ at the center, such that being around this person makes you want to be a better person, makes you want to know God even more in your own life.  By engaging in this work together, we challenge each other in the same way, in the hopes of pointing each other to Christ.  This is the work of the school of community, and reflecting on it in this way makes me think it is incredibly accurate to describe it as a movement, because that is often how the Holy Spirit is referred to.  And for me, the Holy Spirit has definitely moved very deeply in my heart since I became involved with CL.

On a daily level, it causes me to question everything.  To not let my life sweep me away but to really seek Christ in reality, here and now.  In particular it changes the way I see the difficult things in my life, because while I had tried to "look on the bright side of things", now I am encouraged to be in those difficult moments, and to seek Christ.  More and more I am realizing that my own brokeness, manifested in the things in which I am most insecure, is the very thing I need to dive into, because more than anything it reveals how much I desire God.  After the birth of my sixth child (and my most difficult delivery) last year, I was talking to my husband about my experience, in awe that something I had been so afraid of both before and during now seemed to have faded away into the background, completely taken over in the euphoric happiness that is bringing home a new baby.  And he commented that the ressurection causes you to see the suffering of the cross in a completely different way.  It's so true!  And that's what the movement does for me.  It causes me to see my own crosses in a completely different way.  Not to run from them, not to look for the quick answers, or the quick ways out, but to really embrace them.  To dive into my woundedness and search for the Lord.  Often I don't find Him, often I am struggling.  But a struggling person is an alive person.  And that's how I want to be.  That is how I want to live my life.

Thank you dear Lord, for not allowing me to remain still.  As Saint Augustine says, may my heart remain restless until it rests in You.



If you are in the Saint John, NB, area, and are free on Saturday, November 9 at 1:30 pm, I encourage you to attend our Beginning Day event, whose theme is, "How is the Presence of Christ Born in our Experience?"  You can email saintjohncl@gmail.com for more information.  If you would like information on our weekly school of community, please feel free to contact us at the same address.

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