How many friends do you have that can tell you what life is really about, try to live it themselves, AND actually know what they're talking about? My parents, first and foremost, are my guides. Their wisdom and values that they transmitted to us are ones that I keep discovering daily. I was so fortunate to be part of a family who truly unconditionally loves but also doesn't let you slack to be something lesser than your true self.
When I left my family and went to college, I was given another set of wonderful people who continued to teach me what life was all about. It all started with Julia, a girl in my psychology class, who invited me to answer phones for this telephone marathon thing. So, here I am, my first weekend in college in a brand new city, volunteering for an organization I can't remember with a girl I hardly knew.
Throughout my freshman year, my friendship with Julia grew and I realized that I was being hit by someone extraordinary. Julia was cool--she liked line dancing, country music, playing games, watching movies, telling jokes--but she also had a huge Catholic faith. Until that point, I had never recognized anyone in my life who integrated their faith life with real life so well. I started going to her all the time with questions about why Catholic believed what they believed (even though I had been in Catholic schools for the past 7 years, it didn't interest me until I met Julia.)
Then, a life changing event entered. She invited me to this meeting called "CL" where a group of people got together, read a book, and discussed it for an hour on Monday nights. I politely declined, but I saw her go to this meeting every week. It didn't matter what else was going on, she made this "CL" thing a priority.
After about a semester of observing this, I decided to go along with another girl from my dorm. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I was probably expecting something really WOW. Turns out, I hated the meeting. The book was hard. The leader was kind of scary and I walked out thinking I would never return. But Mandy, the girl from my dorm and still a great friend, challenged my thinking saying, "But Julia goes every week. Maybe we should try it just once more." Events evolved and beautiful friendships were formed by a simply weekly commitment that I stuck with! I'm not even sure how it all happened....
Fast forward 8 years. Julia is now "Sr. Gemma" taking her vows with the Little Sisters of the Poor on July 16th in Queens, New York. If you know me at all, you know how this "CL Thing"--Communion and Liberation, a movement in the Catholic Church--pretty much dominates my life and has made it SO INTERESTING.
I've been able to see Yosemite National Park, the Grand Canyon, the Rocky Mountains, New York City and Milan, Italy all due to CL events--vacations, meetings, cultural events, etc. I've traveled ridiculous distances for weddings and could probably tell you someone I know in almost every state.
I started going to daily Mass because I had friends who did. (Just to show you my growth, I missed Mass two days in a row last week, and was so sad. When did that attachment happen?) The guys I've dated? Yep, they've come from CL, too. And despite the heartache that's inevitable, are all wonderful men.
For eight years, I've been going to weekly meetings where we discuss texts from the founder of Communion and Liberation, Fr. Giussani, and also the president of the Movement since he has passed, Fr. Carron. For circumstances beyond my control, I found myself leading the small communities I'm a part of and had the privilege of meeting and befriending so many interesting people who I never would have picked as friends on my own.
I'm promised to the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation which is a commitment of daily prayer, tithing and attending an annual spiritual retreat led by the leaders of Communion and Liberation. In short, the charism (a gift of the Holy Spirit that has been verified by Pope John Paul II that exists in CL) is intrinsic to the way I live my life now.
But, Erica, aren't you living in a bubble?? It scares people when one is so committed to something. In my lesser moments, it scandalizes me. I think it's a downfall of society these days. We are expected to be skeptics. But, when something brings you immense life and joy and opens you up to a "self" you never knew, why WOULDN'T you commit to it? And, how can I be in a bubble with such diversity in my life experiences?
Through the eyes of how Fr. Giussani saw the relevance of the Catholic faith--a Christ's presence--in relation to all of life, I've found myself truly changed. I'm a better daughter to my parents who gave and continue to give so much. I'm a better teacher, loving my students because they ARE, not because of what they achieve. I stay with my friends from high school because I love seeing them mature into adulthood--I'm not just stuck reminiscing on the past. I give everything I can to my community at St.. John's Church because it was God's direct answer to a begging at a time in my life when I felt so so alone.
Classical music has a new spin, movies, books, hiking, poetry, my PRAYER LIFE, looking at the stars--life ILLUMINATES under Christ's light and for my life the instrument shinging that light (a flashlight, or spotlight, if you will) is Communion and Liberation.
My prayer for all of humanity is that everyone can find something rooted in the truth of Christ so much that they illuminate under it's Light. It doesn't have to be Communion and Liberation of course, although you are all invited to everything all the time. All human beings long for truth, belonging, and a path on which to walk where they are certain they are taken care of. So, don't just sit there. Precious life is passing and you might be missing a lot of it! Ask God for the grace to be given people who point out the fullness and beauty of life to you. It will change everything!