Sunday, December 11, 2011

This Advent: To Be Eager in Our Search

I've been trying to mark Advent by slowing down, staying away from the mall, praying more and increasing my awareness of God's presence in my day-to-day realities. This afternoon, I drove with my CL friend T. to St. Rita's Church on Staten Island for my first-ever Advent retreat. I came home reinvigorated for the "home stretch" of this season, eager to become one of those souls who is truly alive.

The retreat I attended was hosted by Father Rich Veras, pastor of St. Rita's Church, as well as chaplain to the Communion and Liberation movement. As usual with every CL event I have attended, my mind and heart are so full of richness that it will take me several days to unpack all the wisdom offered. But here are a few points I walk away with tonight.

 *Father Rich began his talk with a comparison of the two great Tuscan writers, Dante and Petrarch. Referring to Father Giussani's writings on the subject Father Rich said Dante's love for Beatrice led him to the Infinite; Petrarch's love of Laura had more to do with his search for glory than a connection with the Infinite.  At home, I found notes from a talk Father Giussani had given in 2003 at the Spiritual Exercises of the Memores Domini:

"Dante is the summit, the end of a road twelve centuries long from the time Christ came; and that of Petrarch is an entrance where all those who don’t have a sure meaning of life take their places.
The vocation God has given us makes the hours of our days a song of the salvation that finds its contingent and eternal praise only in simplicity."

*At the retreat, one witness explained that as a penance two weeks ago his pastor asked him to read the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. The young man, who has little free time, said he read them on his train ride to work and that, absent a spiritual community with which to contemplate and share, he found Jesus' stories not believable.

"It can't be just the Bible," he said. Father Veras agreed: (and here I am paraphrasing without the benefit of notes) our faith makes sense as lived out in community; while reading Scripture is important,  the experience of Christ moving in us and among us that makes our faith come alive.

My Christian community in these days is mostly School of Community. As with the rest of the CL movement,  we are reading Giussani's seminal work The Religious Sense. Tomorrow night we will meet in a coffee shop to keep talking about the book and how its lessons apply to our lives.

At the conclusion of Chapter 10, Giussani urges us to stay faithful to the circumstances we face - to find Christ embedded in the people and places before us. This to me, is a great way to mark Advent. And it is difficult work.

"A trivial relationship with reality, whose most symptomatic aspect is preconception, blocks the religious dimension, the true religious fact. The mark of great souls and persons who are truly alive is an eagerness for this search, carried out through their commitment to the reality of their existence."


  1. A retreat- what a treat! So glad you got to get away and do a proper preparation of Christmas. My husband and dream of going on a retreat someday. Before kids it used be so that he works weekends it's almost impossible. Someday, Someday...

  2. @Sarah: There is no way with little ones I could have managed this. Then again, perhaps if you can find a mini-retreat - such as this one - it would be possible. Or find a gf with whom you can share watching little ones while the other one goes on a miniretreat.

    There were babies at this retreat - no toddlers though - and parents tag teaming. Minus the mass, the retreat was about three hours.