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Saturday, February 23, 2008


Today, February 22, 2008, marked the third anniversary of the death of Monsignor Luigi Giussani, founder of Communion and Liberation. In memory of this great man of God, I am presenting here a letter I wrote to my sister in January of 2001:

In the beginning... I was looking through one of my copies of L'Osservatore Romano and saw an ad for Traces magazine, which had just begun being published in English. It caught my interest because L'Osservatore Romano doesn't have advertising, other than for Vatican coins and stamps for collectors, and so I thought this must be a pretty good magazine! Traces advertises itself as "the monthly publication of Communion and Liberation, the international Catholic Movement founded by Luigi Giussani. The magazine expresses the life and the viewpoint of people in this Movement which is now a lively reality in the Church's social and ecclesial horizon."

The ad gave the email addresses of Communion and Liberation (CL) offices around the world, including one in the U.S., in New York, called the Human Adventure Corporation. So I contacted this office, asking about subscribing to Traces, and was told that they didn't have subscriptions to the magazine. Instead they just send quantities of issues hither and thither. But after an email conversation, Valentina Oriani offered to send me a copy each month for the cost of the magazine ($30/year), and for a year the issues arrived faithfully...to our door by Federal Express! After a year, subscriptions did become available, and now I have every issue of Traces published in English.

I've read a lot of Catholic publications, but this one is different. It's even more intelligent and more profound than most, using a fresh vocabulary and outlook to express the Faith in a new way. Every time I turn a page, I open a new exploration. Much of it I didn't understand, and much of it I still have to learn, but it hit me as important enough to pursue and study. Meanwhile Valentina and the rest of the staff there were impressed by my enthusiasm.
Pope John Paul II and Msgr. Luigi Giussani
On the back of the magazine were advertised three books--a trilogy series (called the PerCorso)--by CL's founder, Fr. Luigi Giussani: The Religious Sense, At the Origin of the Christian Claim, and Why the Church?

"The Religious Sense, the fruit of many years of dialogue with students, is an exploration of the search for meaning in life. Luigi Giussani shows that the nature of reason expresses itself in the ultimate need for truth, goodness, and beauty. These needs constitute the fabric of the religious sense, which is evident in every human being everywhere and in all times. So strong is this sense that it leads one to desire that the answer to life's mystery might reveal itself in some way.
"Giussani challenges us to penetrate the deepest levels of experience to discover our essential selves, breaking through the layers of opinions and judgments that have obscured our true needs. Asserting that all the tools necessary for self-discovery are inherent within us, he focuses primarily on reason, not as narrowly defined by modern philosophers, but as an openness to existence, a capacity to comprehend and affirm reality in all of its dimensions.
"Part of the so-called new religious revival, The Religious Sense avoids any sentimental or irrational reduction of the religious experience. It is a forthright and refreshing call to reassess our lives."

"In At the Origin of the Christian Claim Luigi Giussani examines Christ's 'claim' to identify himself with the mystery that is the ultimate answer to our search for the meaning of existence.
"Giussani argues that if we accept the hypothesis that the mystery entered the realm of human existence and spoke in human terms, the relationship between the individual and God is no longer based on a moral, imaginative, or aesthetic human effort but instead on coming upon an event in one's life. Thus the religious method is overturned by Christ: in Christianity it is no longer the person who seeks to know the mystery but the mystery that makes himself known by entering history.
"At the Origin of the Christian Claim presents an intriguing argument supported with ample documentation from the gospels and other theological writings."

"From its beginnings, the Church has presented itself as a human phenomenon that claims to carry the divine within. A social fact, its reality given form by men and women, the Church has always affirmed its conviction that ontologically it surpasses the human reality of its components and has presented itself as the continuation of the event of Christ in history. Why the Church?, the final volume in McGill-Queen's University Press's trilogy of Luigi Giussani's writings, explores the Church's definition of itself as both human and divine, and verifies the truth of this claim.
"Giussani begins by focusing on the categories of the Church, a community composed of people who are aware of themselves as being defined by the gift of the Spirit, from which derives a new conception of existence, the fruit of conversion. He then describes the development of the Church's self-awareness throughout history of its dual elements of the human and divine. Concerned with verifying the Church's claim, Giussani situates the locus of verification in human experience, arguing that a different type of life is born in those who try to live the life of the Church.
"Why the Church? is a seminal study that will engage both the scholar and the general reader."

"Luigi Giussani is professor emeritus of the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan, Italy, and is the founder of the Catholic lay movement Communion and Liberation, which is flourishing in Italy and has spread to over sixty countries throughout the world, including Canada, the United States, and Britain."

Meanwhile Valentina and I continued a correspondence, and then, too, a man by the name of Barry Stohlman contacted me. He's a cabinet maker in Kensington, Maryland, near Washington D.C., and Valentina told him about me. We kept up these correspondences, until Barry told me about the national meeting to be held at Washington D.C. from January 12th through the 15th, and said that I should attend it. I told him that I'd love to, but there's no way I could afford the trip. He asked how much I'd be able to afford, and I said nothing, that I have to work overtime just to make ends meet, and that I didn't know if I could get the time off either. He said that if I could get the time off, they would take care of the cost from their end!

I did get the time off, and Barry came through. They bought an electronic ticket for me via the Internet, round-trip to Washington D.C. on TWA Airlines. That's about $300! Last Friday morning, Micki drove me to the Springfield airport, and I walked up to the counter and said, "I have an electronic ticket," and showed them my I.D., and the next thing I knew I was in a jet above the clouds.

Barry was very good about sending me instructions about all sorts of things, including when and where to be picked up at the Washington D.C. National Airport, and so there I was, in the front passenger seat of a van filled with eight other people, all CL members--the first I had ever seen in person! Except for me and the driver, Mark Danner (who's from D.C.), all the passengers were from Minnesota.

When we got to the 4H Conference Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland--the actual location of the meeting--I went in and saw the registration table and went up to tell them my name. The lady found me on the list and said, "Have you paid yet?" I suddenly got a rush of fear, because I had only $50 in cash (and they didn't take credit cards), and I said no and asked how much it was. She said $250! I suddenly saw myself as a street-person in Washington D.C. for four days waiting for my flight home, and said, "I...I think I'm staying at Barry Stohlman's house." (Barry had suggested this, saying he had plenty of room--even with a wife and four young children.) But the lady at the table looked down and shook her head and said, "No, we've got you down as staying in a room here." I was panicking inside. Then she said, "You want to talk to Barry first and see what's going on?" I said that I'd better do that, and began to swoon across the room, when I noticed a woman next to her lean over and talk with her in Italian. Then the lady called me back and said, "Okay, Mr. Lund, it's all taken care of. Here's your key. Your room number is 4167," and she showed me a map on how to get to my room! I was floored. Someone had paid an additional $250 for my room and meals!

The room was very nice, like a nice hotel room. It turned out that I had a roommate that arrived later--a biochemist--but he would come in late after I had gone to bed, and I would be out in the morning before he got up, so I didn't get to visit with him much.

The meals were served in the conference center's cafeteria, and the food was very good. After my first meal, and before the introductory meeting, I went back to my room and sat around. These people were very friendly, and I had always had an aversion to socializing, so I was feeling a bit uneasy and lonely. Then suddenly I felt like stepping out of the room for some reason. Rounding the corner of the hallway I saw a woman waiting for the elevator. I immediately recognized her--Valentina! (I knew what she looked like from the Bay Ridge Band CD. I had bought this music CD performed by six CL members as soon as I learned of it, as soon as it came out last year; and liked it so much that I dubbed it onto a cassette tape and played it good and loud in my mail truck on my route here in Branson, and bought more copies for gifts. Valentina's voice is beautiful!) She also recognized me from the family picture I had recently sent her, and we hugged like old friends...which I guess by now we are. Suddenly my fear of socializing was gone, and soon, after Valentina got on the elevator, I was out to meet others.

The meeting was about to start, so I went over to the main building, where there were a bunch of people waiting for the event. And right away I spotted Valentina's new husband, Cas Patrick, another member of the Bay Ridge Band. He recognized me, too, and turned out to be a really neat guy, and he and I talked until Valentina came and joined us and the meeting started. But in the meantime I met all of the members of the Bay Ridge Band except for Molly, who couldn't get off work and didn't arrive until Sunday. They were all enthusiastic about meeting me, because they had heard about how I played their CD in my mail truck around Branson. (It was strange to find out, though, that most of the people in the Northeast don't even know about Branson. Anyway...) The band and I became fast friends.

The routine they had for these meetings was that everyone (except those setting up and the ushers) would wait outside the door until the time came and the music started playing. The music came from the CDs of the Spirto Gentil series promoted and explained by Fr. Luigi Giussani--a series of beautiful classical music. Then we would quietly walk in single file and follow the ushers' directions to our seats. We would pray the Angelus and pray (in monotone monk style) from the Book of Hours, then sing a few songs from a stapled songbook until the spoken part of the meeting started. The songs we sang were as diverse as "Hoy Arriesgare" and "I Cieli" to the beautiful "My Father Sings to Me" to the very hip "Midnight Special" and "Solitary Man." During "Solitary Man," the GS kids (the on-fire teenage group--GS standing for Italian words meaning Student Youth) would go up front and sing the "da da da dahs" and really make it sound great! It could have been recorded and sold!

Up front there was a long table, and during each meeting they would have at least two people at the table, and sometimes even a panel discussion, including some men of renown. Jonathan of the Bay Ridge Band was the monitor, and he began the first meeting by mentioning that we had several "responsibles" from several new areas, and the first one he said was, "From Branson, Missouri, we have Dale Lund."

I was shocked to hear my name mentioned in front of all these "strangers." After a slight pause, he said, "Dale, are you out there? Will you please stand?" So I did, and Jonathan added, "This is the mailman." And suddenly came a burst of applause and a cheer so loud that I burst out laughing! I sat down bewildered, and Ann from Minnesota, sitting to my right, whispered to me, "How did you like that?" No one else got quite that response, and I wondered what happened. Eventually I found that by email and word of mouth, it had gotten around about me and how I learned about CL, how I "subscribed" to Traces when I wasn't even in the Movement, and how I played Bay Ridge Band music out of my mail truck around Branson. Throughout the weekend, others would come and introduce themselves and ask me who I am, and I'd say, "I'm Dale Lund from Branson, Missouri," and they'd happily shout, "You're the mailman!" It was the first time I ever felt so good being a mailman.

The first meeting was the introductory meeting, talking about what the weekend would entail, and giving us copies of the article that would be our main focus throughout the event--"Faith is Acknowledging a Presence"--taken from notes of a talk given by Fr. Giussani to a group of adults in Milan, Italy, in 1977. The eleven-page article is excellent, and profound enough to keep us busy for the weekend+. By the way, Giussani is a good friend of Pope John Paul II, and he founded Communion and Liberation about forty years ago when he was a high school teacher in Milan.

The main leader of most of the meetings was Giorgio Vittadini (nicknamed Vitta), also from Milan, who came all this way for the National Meeting, and who is the overseer of CL in America. His English is poor, but his enthusiasm, faith and boldness make up for it. He's also quite a character.

When told before coming that they pray from the "Book of Hours," I thought they meant the regular Christian Prayer: The Liturgy of the Hours, or "Divine Office"--the 2,075-page book that priests pray with daily--and so I brought my copy. But it turns out that CL uses an abbreviated and much more useable, 331-page Book of Hours, published in Milan. Mark Danner loaned me his copy for the weekend, but later when the book table was finally available, I bought my own copy, and also the recommended "book of the month"--Lord of the World, by Robert Hugh Benson, first published in 1907. I was happy to see that the other great selections on the table included The Theology of the Body, by Pope John Paul II--perhaps his most profound and potentially world-changing work. They also had all the CDs of the Spirto Gentil series, and I kicked myself for not having more money to spend on this neat stuff.

I still hadn't met Barry Stohlman, the man responsible for my free vacation to D.C. After that rousing cheer at my mailmanhood, the woman on my left leaned over and whispered, "I'm a friend of Barry's." I asked her if he was in the room, and she pointed him out--a big, rather scary-looking man standing by the door. During a break later, he came over to meet me in person, and his initially stern appearance gave way to one of the most barrier-melting smiles I'd ever seen. He brought his super-nice wife Laura over to meet me, too. Barry turned out to be the friend I had hoped for.

The Friday night meeting was concluded with a Mass, and it took place right there. What a great way to end the day! Saturday night, Sunday morning and Monday morning we also had a Mass, usually concelebrated by several priests.

Giorgio Vittadini
All meals were included, and breakfast was at 8:00 a.m. Saturday's series of meetings began at 9:00 or 9:30 a.m., I forget which, with prayer and singing. Most all the singing was led by Valentina or Riro of the Bay Ridge Band, with Jonathan on guitar. And through the day we pored over Giussani's article, with Vitta leading. The meetings were very free. No matter if there was one or several speakers seated at the table up front, at any point anybody could go up to the microphone to the left of the table to ask a question or make a comment...and there was a line of people wanting to do so. If someone went up and made a comment, even a very personal one, but didn't seem to say enough to satisfy Vitta, he (Vitta) would almost rudely dig more out of him, until the person had more insight into his own being. It was fascinating. People were also free to holler out comments from the audience, or even correct or help with Vitta's English.

Saturday's "road trip" was to Rock Creek Park, including a pleasant hike to a tremendous waterfall on the Potomac River. It took four school buses to transport those of us who went, and we sang on the bus most all the way.

The weather was sunny and beautiful, but cold, so I wore my Dale of Norway sweater. It was a pleasant change to be cold and not have to wear my postal jacket. By the way, Micki was so happy about my going on this trip that she stayed up until 3:00 a.m. the night before I left, making me the first article of clothing she's ever made for me in 25 years of marriage--a bright shirt picturing clocks and lions--one she had started many years ago but never finished. It turned out great and I proudly wore it at the National Meeting.

There were about 200 of us on the hike, and I visited with several people along the way. When we were crossing a neat foot-bridge, over a pretty view of a stream cutting through rocks and snow, I stopped to take a picture of it. Someone interrupted me, saying, "Don't you want to be in this picture?" and they took my camera and snapped a shot of me and the view. That's an example of the kind of people with me there--very thoughtful.

I tried to get pictures of some of my new friends, too, and the best shot was of Alan from Sacramento, California, also taken on the foot-bridge. He's a brick maker, and a wonderful result of Communion and Liberation's charisma. Although his wife was strong in her faith, Alan used to be weak in his, and spend all his spare time hiking and fishing until it almost became a religion in itself. But then he came in contact with CL, and found there what he had been lacking. Now he's excited about his faith, and although his has seldom been out of California, he ventured out and came to the National Meeting. At home he's an enthusiastic participant in School of Community--a local CL gathering that mainly studies Giussani's PerCorso, in union with all CL members worldwide.

I was thinking that the beautiful stream was the object of our hike, so when we finally came to the Potomac River I was awestruck. When one thinks of the famous Potomac, they don't think of this! It was tremendously beautiful, and this was low-water time. During the year the water rises higher than the rocks, and I hear that's spectacular, too. I should have brought more than one disposable camera, because I used up most of my film right here, and there was so much during the event to take pictures of!

While at the falls, we all crowded around a huge rock in the middle of the observation point. Several people got up on the rock, including the members of the Bay Ridge Band, who led us in singing. Among the songs we sang were those from the CD, and it was really fun. When we were about to go back, someone climbed up on some rocks far enough away to try to get us all in a picture for Traces magazine. After reading this magazine cover-to-cover and getting so much out of it, it sure would be fun to find myself pictured in it! There will be a write-up about the National Meeting (actually called the National Diaconia), because it's the biggest CL event in the U.S., and you can bet I'll have a great time reading it.

At one meeting on Saturday I had the privilege of being an usher, simply directing people down the center aisle. By that time many knew who I am, and smiled at me as they passed.
It was also nice eating meals in the cafeteria, where people would come and join me and we could openly talk as if we had been friends all our lives. After all, we did have enough in common to have been so. At one point I turned to the person at my right and recognized him from Traces. He turned out to be a book distributor in Italy who promotes Fr. Giussani's works. Another time, I sat across from a black man I had noticed before because of his very dark skin and African accent. Figuring he had come to the event from Africa, I asked him where he was from, and he said Sudan. I thought of how violent things are in Sudan, with all the civil wars, etc., and asked him if he was just visiting. He said no, and that he came here as a political asylum refugee, and now lives in Houston, Texas. Both of us had gotten a banana from the food line, and I began to peel mine. He said, "That is not how you peel a banana." I looked at him peculiarly and asked him how he does it. He said, "That is how a monkey peels a banana, because it is easy," and he pushed the long stem of his peeling over and showed me how the peeling then split open. "See?" he said, "it is easy...and that's how the monkeys do it. Human beings peel bananas at the other end." And he flipped his banana around and stuck his thumbnail into the side of the tip and began peeling. Then he said, completely straight-faced, "That is how you can tell a human being from a monkey. You see," and he pulled on the short hair on his arm, "the only difference is the hair." I cracked up laughing.

Again on Saturday, the meetings lasted until 11:00 p.m. Then after a night's sleep, Sunday morning breakfast at 8:00, and a beautiful Mass to begin the Lord's Day, an especially interesting day happened. Our "road trip" that day was to the U.S. Capitol.

We all sang on the bus again, but this time I sat next to Cas Patrick, Valentina's husband. It had been 30 years since I was in Washington D.C. and it was fun to see it again. But while my first tour of the U.S. capital, in 1968, was given to me by a homosexual who had picked me up hitchhiking, and the second time, in 1971, was to participate in the anti-war Moratorium, this time was a joy. We passed the beautiful Basilica and National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where right now as I type this (January 21st at 7:15 p.m. central time) is taking place the tremendous Mass for Life, the day before the National March for Life. On we went to the United States Capitol. The buses let us off across the street from the Supreme Court. We looked at the Supreme Court building, where Roe v Wade so disgraced America, and then walked the block or two to the Capitol. At a halfway point, we stopped and listened while a CL member who had prepared an interesting lecture jumped up onto a short concrete wall and told us a lot about what we were looking at--the Capitol building modeled after the ancient Greek and Roman architecture, a break from America's Christian roots, with the House of Representatives on the left and the Senate on the right, and a statue of Lady Liberty dressed like an American Indian on top of the dome. He went on to tell about the motives and ideals of the founding of America, and not skipping over its errors, his talk was very positive. Then the 200+ of us walked to the Capitol and gathered on its steps to sing. Jonathan led this choir with wild gusto. Among the songs we sang was "Climbing Up the Mountain" (from the CD), and Jonathan alone sang the verses at the foot of the steps, without a microphone, and got so carried away that he was dancing and whirling around and pointing at the passers-by who would stop to watch and listen and applaud. Incidentally, the police were quite nervous, not knowing who we were, and were visibly concerned but didn't cause trouble. We never entered the Capitol. After several songs giving witness to our faith and joy, we came down off the steps and returned to wait for the buses.

While waiting, Danny and Alan and I ran across the street to the Supreme Court. I took a picture of them and Danny took a picture of me. Danny Patterson is from Sacramento, too, and is now my friend. This big, bald and bearded man looks like a biker, but today came this message from him:

Hey Dale;

Wow. It sounds like we "all" had a great time there. I know I did. Alan has not stopped talking about it too. I am so glad to hear from you. You too are a great witness to me. I was just talking this morning to a young woman who we love. She is a university student in San Diego (she was in D.C. with us). She was talking about her boyfriend, who sees what she lives, the joy she has. I told her, you must invite him to SoC [School of Community]. You must insist that he comes. It is the only way that we can become educated to what we have encountered: Christ. Because for me, Dale, those moments once a week when I am with my friends, the begging and asking Christ the meaning of my life takes on a real substance. It stops being talk, and becomes a longing to know him. Fr. Giussani says that after John and Andrew first met Christ, when they went home they embraced their family/wives with an affection that they had not done so before. Their families could see that they were changed, that something wonderful had happened to them. I am sure that this is exactly what your family sees has happened to you. I am with you. I am glad that we have met. I hope and pray that we stay in communion with Christ, and with each other.

Hello to your family, your wife Lilith and your children. I will remember you in my prayers.
I had sort of an uneventful return trip, no delays, good weather, bad airline food, and arrived on time, which is exactly what I want when I fly. My father picked me up, and I had a nice talk with him on the way home. It was so nice to see my family. I have been telling Juanita (my wife) about the weekend. We are hoping that perhaps next year we can both go. Okay my friend, God bless, see you soon. I see from the email that you are either an early riser or a nocturnal beast like me. At any rate, I am glad to have heard from you. I am a big Sacramento Kings fan, and yesterday they beat Portland to take the lead in the West. Yippee. I do love that game.

Cheers buddy, Danno

When the four buses were loaded, we headed back to the 4H Conference Center for more meetings, going around the Capitol on the way out. The other side of the building was being prepared for the Presidential Inauguration, with grandstands set up at the sides of the steps, huge flags draped from above, and many hundreds of folding chairs set up on the lawn. Clinton was to be out of there within a week. Tick tick tick tick tick...

To my left I saw the Washington Monument. I was sitting again with Cas, and told him about my first visit to D.C., hitchhiking at 18, and when, to save a dime, I skipped the elevator and walked up all the steps to the top of the Washington Monument. I talked with Cas all the way back, and for once tried to be a listener--because I was interested in him--and he told me about some of the sorrows in his past, like how his parents broke up when he was in his 20's and his sister was graduating from high school; and he shared his joys, too. He and Valentina now want to visit Branson and the Ozarks. They've never been to this area.

The next meeting involved a panel discussion, presenting the third book in Fr. Giussani's PerCorso--Why the Church? The book won't be out until March, but the panelists had unbound copies of the book and had read it. The panel included Dr. David Schindler, an author and editor of Communio: International Catholic Review--a prestigious and intellectual quarterly that I subscribe to, and two priests, and the moderator was the fascinating, funny and profound Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete, who writes regularly for both Traces and the New York Times Magazine.

Sunday night we had a real treat, as well as something entirely unexpected by most all of us. Molly Poole had come down from New York to complete the Bay Ridge Band, and they performed for us! Here after enjoying their CD so much, I sat so close to them that I had to take two pictures to get them all in. If they wanted, these people could have a Branson theatre!

After the Band, a woman came up whom I had never seen before, along with a man who accompanied her on guitar. She was a classical folk artist of the Sixties style, and she sang "Me and Bobby McGee" in the style of Janis Joplin, and another song I recognized as something Bob Dylan sang. She got a rousing applause. Turns out that she's the daughter of David Schindler who was on the panel earlier!

Meanwhile there was what looked like a bum, sitting at the table up front. He was thoroughly enjoying the music, and I was wondering if he had come in off the street to "crash the party." After the music, though, he was flanked by two young CL women. The woman on the left gave an oral presentation on the Beat Generation of the early Fifties--focusing mainly on Jack Kerouac and his book, On the Road. I had once studied the Beat Generation and had read On the Road--even got into the jazz music that Kerouac had raved about in the book--and so I was thoroughly interested in what was happening at the table. After her talk, the other woman introduced their guest--Philip Lamantia, one of the original "beats," a friend of William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, and he had even lived with Kerouac for a time. The woman on the right had heard about this man and about his recent conversion. Although baptized Catholic, Philip hadn't been raised a Christian, and other than his severe seeking as a beat, had never developed religion in his life. But there, in San Francisco, he had felt compelled to enter the Shrine of St. Francis and St. Clare. No one else was in the church and he went up before the relics of the two Saints--bone fragments. Suddenly he had a conversion experience, and heard a voice say, "Welcome home." The priest there, who had known Philip before and after, said that this was the first miracle he knows of at the Shrine. Well, the CL woman said that she went all out trying to find this man, and managed to do it just in time and got him to come to the National Meeting. She was thrilled so much that she was almost giggly. Then Philip Lamantia spoke. He was dissipated from his past life and his mind was so crippled by alcohol and drugs that he rambled and couldn't stay focused on one thought. It drove some listeners crazy to hear him begin one thing and veer off onto another, but it was all fascinating to me. As wounded as he was by his past, he's extremely knowledgeable; and if he could stay focused, he could be a college professor, especially in history or poetry. As a matter of fact, he is a poet. And after more than a late hour of rambling and constantly being put back on track by his CL host, he was persuaded to read a poem he had written after his conversion. He still continued to ramble a bit, and I like his definition of a poet. He said, "A poet is a writer who can't write."

When he finally got to his poem, he became very quiet for almost a minute, during which he brought a hand up over his face and evidently went through a lot of emotion. His poetry is very important to him. And when he read it, he spoke well and with much skill...and his poem was beautiful. The room burst afterwards into applause. Finally the meeting came to an end, and after the Angelus I left. Later I found out that about fifty people had stayed behind to talk with Philip more, and to find out more about his conversion, which he didn't get to cover in his talk on the Beats, etc. During this later talk with the people, he became so emotional that he cried. And David Schindler, editor of Communio, spoke with him for some time, and then offered to publish his poetry! What wonderful work God can do through His people!

I was surprised to hear Janis Joplin and Bob Dylan songs and a presentation on the Beat Generation at the National Diaconia of Communion and Liberation. But this Movement is not afraid of diversity--not afraid of reality. It is reality. These people understand that the presence of Christ is in all human beings, who are created in the image of God. They often dialogue with Jews and those of other faiths, and even atheists, and often you'll see these people included in their panel discussions. Giussani deals with the very fundamentals and meaning of our lives, and does not try to monopolize on the God who creates all people. And yet he is very faithful to the Catholic Church, and often the teaching of Giussani and Pope John Paul II is so similar, even in terminology, that one can hardly tell the difference.

It was also fun to sing some of their songs (but I had trouble struggling through the Italian ones). Most songs were actually written by CL members, but some were old songs I was familiar with, although never having paid much attention to the words before. One of these was "Solitary Man." Here are the words:

Melinda was mine
'Til the time that I found her
Holding him Loving him

Then Sue came along
Loved me strong
That's what I thought
Me and Sue But that died too

Don't know that I will
But until I can find one
The girl who'll stay
And won't play games behind me
I'll be what I am
A solitary man Solitary man

I've had it to here
Bein' where love's a small word
Part-time thing Paper ring

I know it's been done
Havin' one girl who'll love me
Right or wrong
Weak or strong (Refrain)

At breakfast the next morning, Monday, Martin Luther King Day, Valentina came to join me at the table, and we talked longer than we had before. Other friends were around me, and it was fun and interesting to hear Valentina telling them my story. She said that I was the first person not in the Movement who wrote asking for Traces magazine. I commented how hard it was to believe that, seeing as how the magazine is advertised around the world in L'Osservatore Romano, and she said, "But you were the first." She described the CL National Office in New York to me--two suites in Manhattan, displaying posters on the walls. She works there part-time, and said that Mary is full-time, and she told us how Mary smokes. (Valentina doesn't.) Another lady who works in the building on the same floor would often pass by the CL office. She saw the sign on the door that says "Human Adventure Corporation" and wondered what kind of place it was--thinking it probably arranged safaris and such things. One day she came in to ask them what they are. She said that by reading the posters she understood them to be good people, with references to Christ, etc. And when she came by and noticed the ashtrays full of cigarette butts, she understood them to be her people.

It was fun finally visiting with Valentina, the person who introduced me to Communion and Liberation, and who introduced me to Barry Stohlman. And according to Cas, they had talked about my coming to the Meeting for a week-and-a-half.

I also talked with Barry and finally asked him how my trip and everything were paid for. He said that people had donated their frequent-flyer miles to provide my transportation, and that a friend paid the $250 for my room and board at the Conference Center, saying that originally he had planned for me to stay at his house, but thought it would be much more convenient for me to be at the Center rather than 45 minutes away. Assuming they were doing all this for me in order to get something started in Missouri, I voluntarily asked Barry how we do it. But he said that Communion and Liberation isn't really into proselytizing; instead, what's important is how the presence of Christ is realized in my life. This wonderful act of theirs was totally unselfish, other than simply wanting to meet me.

During the final meeting they gave us each four pages of announcements stapled together, telling about other gatherings--including CL Vacations and Spiritual Retreats. How I wish I could go to all of them. But next time I'd like to take Micki along.

Later that day, I was taken to the airport (several volunteers shuttled about a hundred people to and from the Meeting) and the next thing I knew I was in the air again. It was a cloudy day, but the plane lifted me high above the clouds and into a brilliant sunset, fighting against 115 mph winds! It was good to get home and tell my family all about the wonderful weekend. The following night we began School of Community right here at home.

Micki and Dale at a later date with Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete.  See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lorenzo_Albacete

For the complete contents of the Butter Rum Cartoon, click here.

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