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Thursday, September 1, 2011
This testimony by Jordi Illa, a Catalan who holds no religious beliefs, shows that you do not need to be a "hero" to make yourself available to others grow spiritually.

I belong to the generation of “rebels”. I was raised in the Catholic faith without understanding or living it in a coherent way. From the time I was young, I questioned many things. Above all, it took a great effort to attend mass every Sunday. I found the solution: I gave up believing, but I continued to hold on to Jesus’ message of love as my point of reference.

I met M. Angels, my wife, and a long period of transformation began for the both of us. She is a believer and a member of the Focolare Movement. Actually, as time went by, I discovered that I had married an “activist” in the Movement.

We were immediately faced with the decision concerning the rite of matrimony. We married in the Church. Nevertheless, on my side, I didn’t give up any of my ideas. I not only accepted a religious ceremony, but I actively participated with great interest and respect.

The other important concerned the education of our children. Once again we followed a simple principle which has always worked well when it came to these difficult decisions: I told my wife “a Catholic education would be to our children’s advantage. It would make them sensitive, more complete, happier.” I said to my wife, “ You have the faith, I have emptiness.”

It wasn’t all as easy as it might seem. For example, I didn’t understand my wife’s enthusiasm about Focolare events. Was it a sect? I must admit that I was a bit jealous. Little by little, with effort from the both of us, we found our balance. I was a bit curious about the Movement and she found ways of discreetly telling me about it.

A significant event was when I attended a meeting. I recall the welcome I received and the atmosphere. I began to learn the spirituality of Chiara Lubich, which I tried to make match with my personal beliefs. One significant thing was how it led me to understand the word love in a new way. This word has lost its relevance in today’s world.

This was a spirituality that centres on the message of Jesus, in an explicit and radical way, and is concretised in the small events of everyday life. My interests in the spirituality grew, and also the desire to live it with my friends, acquaintances, colleagues at work and – in the most difficult setting – in my family.

One obstacle remained. It seemed to me that the Movement was reserved for Christian believers. I was truly surprised when I learnt that it also included persons who held no religious convictions, not only: I was even invited to be actively involved.

I’ve learnt to see my neighbour as a brother and to think and act accordingly. I’ve learnt that you don’t need to be a hero. I’ve experienced that it requires constant effort, but we are helped in this by a spirituality with a high communitarian component.

In recent years I’ve had the good fortune to direct a group of young musicians. It was fortunate, because being with them has given me the opportunity to share not only in their musical growth, but also their spiritual growth. This has required a lot of hard work and much patience in adapting myself to their requests, knowledge, age and their desire to play and live.

I now look back on my life as a trajectory that allowed me to grow on spiritual ground and to fill that emptiness that I seemed to carry with me, compared to my wife’s fullness of faith. This evolution has required me to move on from being a spectator to becoming an actor.

Jordi Illa