Thursday, June 23, 2005

okay... so I haven't really written in a long time. i've been busy, ok? Well, actually that's not the complete truth. I've just been too lazy. About Utah... it was good... and not too hot at all. my friend Mayela from the wondy city explains more on her blog, which I will just nicely lift from here (thank you beautiful for your experiences!!) and add a few comments...

It was 4 p.m.
I am back and all I can say is THANK YOU, JESUS for choosing me, pushing me forward and being a presence that can be recognized through an expectant heart that searches for beauty.
Almost a week in Orderville, Utah. In the midst of Zion National Park and 1 hr. and a half from the majestuous Grand Canyon. 88 persons. 4 Italian visitors. People from all over the United States: from New York to California, from Texas to Boston, from Chicago to Kansas. Our testimonies that are "those of a life in urgency".
The days started with a racing heart, with the desire that my life changes, because once Tommy told us that saying YES to Christ requires your freedom because if at the end you dont believe that in one moment, in one instant, your whole life can be changed, it doesn't really matter. And I arrived like this, first excited, with butterflies in my stomach to see my friends... then when the butterflies dissipated all i could feel vibrating through my body was: but what will be of me? What awaits us?

The drive to Clear Creek Ranch from Las Vegas airport was long, too long in fact [it was 3 hours from Vegas... us Californians drove a full 7 hours before that]. My friends consoled the pain because not only were there new faces that had been struck by this Fact, but also because my friends kept pointing out things on the road. Like the stars [i arrived earlier and saw one of the most beautiful sunsets through Zion Canyon]. About a billion, if I am correct. A true starry night that was eternity itself, an eterny that witnessed our destiny. And at a certain point I exclaimed as I looked out the window: I must fall in love in this vacation! Everyone laughed. But it was true. How could you not experience such open, clear, radiant sky with someone else? This was all made for us, like Albacete said.
The house where the girls stayed was called "the stables" and the name does not represent what it was. [true, but not. the stables looked like stables, with small stable-sized rooms, just made nicely into a hotel-like atmosphere]. It was rather luxurious! The opening to our room was like that of a stable..where they put the horses. The heavy sliding door that hid behind a queen size bed with a huge mirror, a small closet, two small tables and air conditioner. Royalty, even if in the middle of nature's wonders (or Mormonsville) can not be left without the little treats of life. We dropped everything off and immediately headed to the barn where the secretaries were registering people and where the assemblies were gonna take place.
Here we go! Let's look for this place, but it's so dark and so cold and the road may have snakes! Matt, can you give us a ride? Thanks! We arrive to the barn, thank God we drove! It's hidden like a national treasure. When I enter my heart leaps with Elizabeth when Mary goes to visit her! I am in front of a place that holds a promise, a place where the Lord reveals himself...and I read: "It was 4 pm". The time when John and Andrew met Jesus for the first time. The precise time written at the end of the passage in the book of John. For what? To point to a fact in history. At 4 pm. an event, a story happened. And like Albacete [google this name.. you might find some great instuff...] kept repeating throughout the vacation: it's something so unexpected (Christianity) that at 3.59 pm there was nothing and at 4.01 pm a newness had been introduced into our lives through the modality of the encounter. WHY ARE YOU HERE? WHAT HAS HAPPENED?- Albacete's voice resounds throughout the room as he says this. Look at your experience (without reducing it to sentimentalisms)-he adds later. The answer has been given: Because what constitutes me is a desire. A desire that carries within this restlessness. The desire that my life becomes a fulfilled promise. Too bad we, poor earthlings, often settle for less.

We sing "oh when the saints" and as I traditionally do, I screw up. When Illinois comes up I dont get up since I am used to hearing Chicago, instead of Illinois. We have grown in this past year! And though my clumsiness gets on the way I am happy for this. Everyone laughs, but it's ok, they are all my friends, and then again, I have a reputation for making people laugh. [California kicked ass on this one... for once we are beginning to overcome the NY'ers...] The fun part is yet to come! The slide show begins with pictures from all the USA CLU communities with small written testimonies of what it's been like during this past year. It's impressive, a miracle I should say, this unity of ours. This unity given to us by Someone else and that is characterized by this desire to belong to a history larger than ours. At the end, there is a picture of a few of us with Fr. Giussani that reads what he so eloquently and fervently told us on that occassion: Pray always to Our Lady to understand what she has given you (Christ). The slide show ends with his face and the phrase: In the simplicity of my heart, I have gladly given you everything.

The emotion rises as we see Rich get to the front! The introduction to the games is about to begin! There are 3 teams this year. Gosh, do i want to know how we will deal with those that get hurt! Each team carries the name of the conceptual theme from the last three vacations. Gangs of New York (aka The Best!) [ I believe these were the Gays], Matri-X-Men (aka the Gay Men) [the matress men] and Ring Wars (aka the Ring Worms). We kick off with the introduction mini-movie from "CL TV" (). It's a Surreal Life episode in which the characters of each of the above mentioned movies live together. They stop being polite and start getting real when they run outta booze and cigarretes. To alleviate the matter and release some of the tension that keeps building up, they decide to start a spelling-bee contest. Little by little, the contestants start dropping outta the game and thus get kicked outta the house. Who will win? Who will stay? It's up to us at the vacation to defend our team's honor!

I will include the things that we heard and the testimonies later on.
What a day...what a night...what a week. It was 4 pm.

What we do in life echoes in Eternity
The first morning here and we are exhausted. We gather at 9 am for morning prayer at the barn. We carry our song books and book of hours along with a pen and a small notebook. Classical music [there is a musical series of classical music we listen to called Spirito Gentil.. it's awesome stuff!!] is on and we are told where to sit. In silence, always in silence. I read on Jackie's [It's a he, and it's Giachi] t-shirt the phrase "What we do in life echoes in Eternity". I smile thinking: THIS for sure, will echo. Don Gius' life echoes louder now more than ever. His simple YES has reached me today. After the hours and a few songs, the assembly begins. We are invited to share what has happened during this past year in our communities. The risk is enormous, it is the fruit of a place that has nourished us, generated us:
"I got rejected over 15 times from Grad school. I had bad grades. Here I have been really taught to look at my studies, at reality. To be humble in my situation...I finally gave it my all because of the gaze of a person...I got accepted to a university in NY!" [that's me!!!!!... but the bad grades statment is false... it's wasn't bad gades, because goody tooshoes me was on the dean's list my last two years of univ. It was my GRE scores that sucked!!!]
"When I met Fedi, she invited me to the Saturday night dinners in Brooklyn. I saw something wonderful...I was curious. Then I started doing school of community and this is what has brought me here. Something more important than my inertia. I would like to have the confidence that what I encounter is inseparable from me. Sometimes I want to reject it all"
"Either I am a fuck up or there is something else that has the power to change me. But I know I am not alone in it because it was 4 pm. There is a fact."
"We base our relationship with Christ on good feelings. But we can easily water down all these feelings, "4 pm"! Our experience requires a judgement that requires reason."
After many of these interventions, Don Pino (aka Fr. Pine) says: I have to thank you for what I have heard. It's the fruit of a life in urgency. I was very struck by what Lorenzo said: "we cant follow Christ for a feeling" The desire, the question is a fact. The answer is a fact. Carlo finishes: thanks to your expectations I can live mine.
At the end of the day we have a presentation by Chris Bacich, History High School professor [from NY, but really, born and raised in CA]on Dante Allighieri's "Purgatory" (from The Divine Comedy). Though I snoozed a few times, it was beautiful! He is such an expert. Then we sit around the boys lounge and start singing. Our hearts already receiving but still expecting. Still saying HI to people. Still remembering names. I look out the door: what a clear starry night! [his presentation was awesome... maybe someday i'll pull out my notes and share!]

The Problem of Our Life is a Problem of Attention...
The third day. So many things have happened. My memory starts to vanish and my notes come to my aid. The third day. The GAMES.
After breakfast we all get ready for some major whoop-ass. I am so scared of the turn out of the event. We'll we fight a lot? We'll we make fools out of ourselves? We'll we get wet and dirty? Yes, indeed, all of the above. Even though I have butterflies in my stomach during the explanation of the games, i feel relieved when I notice who I have on my team: the coolest ones. Para muestra falta un boton: Don Pino, Jonathan Fields, Tommy, Carlo, Michele, and...all the rest. So, even if we lose , who cares? The best are on the "Gangs of New York"! Davide get's really upset as he hears me say this. The tension starts to build up. [actually, as it turns out the Matri-x-men.. my team... was the best!!! gangs of new york lost almost every challenge, and in the end.. my team won overall, so not to toot my own horn or anything, but WE ROCK!!! for once i'm proud to wear my shirt around and say i won (i've lost the last two years!!)]
The first game is rather nice, clean and simple: passing balloons from one person to the other in a zig-zag fashion. If it bursts, you have to start all over. We accomplish the task the fastest and start bragging. We celebrate and I start singing "we are the champions" by queen. 10 min. later they told us it was a tie among the 3 teams!! My face: PRICELESS.
Long story short my team gets the lead followed by the the ring worms. Then falls behind when the matri-x-men pull off great stunts during the triangular "steal the bacon". Jenny starts hitting people (that's my girl!), Fedi steals one ball but afterwards gets knocked out and Riro has to carry her in her arms. We all go like: aaawww! . Jennifer gets on top of Irene and myself, therefore we lose. Margie gets a swollen lip. Aubrey gets bruises. [aubrei was on my team.. none of the others were.. see.. who's the one who got hurt.. my team.. who was doing the beatings.. .the other 2 teams... GOSH!!! and we still kicked ass!!] And the girls in my team are darn nervous they might have to run against Katie and so, decide to switch numbers among themselves...but no one is brave enough! ooh Mary Kroetz comes to the rescue! So, yeah, pretty much a typical day of games.

Assembly with Albacete. Notebook, song book and a sharp pencil. We already prayed the hours in the morning. Among the many things he says:
"Fr. Giussani said that all the movement wanted was to redefine, rediscover, the constituent components of Christianity and nothing more...The movement begins to help us to guide our attention at that experience, in doing that it's already doing its work."
"events are grasped by experience. Today we ask: What's happening? We try to find ways in which to propose it and confess it, like at the assembly. We are directed to look at our experience and this is already the movement at work."
"Our problem is distraccion and badness, so life is not a problem of intelligence, but of attention. We are here to be able to realize that he's here. Something has happened in order for us to be here!! Otherwise, why in the hell are we not in Las Vegas, now? Or why did we stay at the 4H Hotel? What is here is what happened to John and Andrew and is what sustains us. Only understanding this experience can we start to deal wit the questions that arise in our hearts."
"The Christian event happens with and because of an intense desire. There was an atmosphere of expectations, people wanted for soemthing to happen, a manifestation of the mistery. The baptist expected an event like those that shaped the history of Israel."

[and that's all she has.. and even though it's a lot, it's not all... here's a short list of what else happened, maybe someday i'll explain in more detail, but really.. doubt I ever will!!]

-first full day hike in Zion... to a lookout point.. the hike was only like 1 mile
-trip to grand Canyon to lookout point.. never made it to the visitors center, the most beautiful parts of the canyon, but thats ok for me because i've been a few times before. ate lunch and had mass there.
-presentation on book Fr. Joe by Rich and Jen.
-more testimonies/ questions
-more games.. relay race that ended in a beer chugging... classic ;)
-discussion with Don Pino
-last night assemble with 'silly' songs, a slide presentation of our trip, and friezes (aka.. skits making fun of things that happened.... go Brian for making perfect fun of Carlo... love it, love it.. always will!!)
-mass and final assembly on last day
-drive back to Vegas to see everyone off and then back home to Sac


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