I was there too, with my husband, at the congress for volunteer couples, 600 persons, 14 languages. It was a representation of society, with participants from 5 continents. But let’s start from the beginning. The day before I had a look at the program. I knew that being the 3rd March, there would be at the same time an event dedicated to the tenth anniversary of the death of Chiara Lubich at the congress. And on the other days? The life of the family and the couple, made up of many facets, was to be at the centre of various in-depth moments, with the guide of experts.
We have been married for nearly twenty years and we have two children aged 18 and 16 years. Having overcome the tunnel of sleepless nights, of nappies and child centres, having finished the phase of elementary and secondary schools, of geography charts to colour in, and of repeating the story of ancient history, we are sailing through the adolescence of our children and through ours as parents, in search of a serene present and of a future that one uncovers day by day. A web of affections, difficulties and obstacles, amazement in the face of innovation, suffering for the sad events, at times humiliation and the pulling up of our sleeves to start again, but also joys, social passion, a taste for the beautiful, openness towards new things and those unforeseen, racing through difficulties amidst the thousand duties of each one of us. A normal family, at any rate.
I read the program and felt a little disappointed. The insistence on the theme regarding the “couple” suffocated me. What about the world? The reality of our times? Art, culture, social relations? Will we be concentrating on looking ‘inside’, to analyze ourselves once again, after so many years? I am a volunteer, used to looking “outside” rather than “inside”, to dream big, to be in close contact with reality and share people’s trials, trying to offer a helping hand, as Chiara Lubich has taught us, to build a more united world.
I found the first day of the meeting hard to digest. After all my husband wasn’t there because of work. And in the evening, I confess, I willingly left for the inauguration of an exhibition at the Vittoriano, in the centre of Rome, as a way of refreshing my mind.
A little disillusioned I faced the second day, this time as a couple. I tried to reset my thoughts and get more involved, with all my being. I discovered that my husband was making the same effort. This altered attitude helped us to take in the talks that followed with new eyes. It was like for the first time we were receiving insights to inwardly renew our ‘yes’, pronounced many years ago together with our family, the stone on which even we compose society, in this historic moment. I cannot be a good Mum and a professional and give my little contribution if it does not come from the relationship with my first and only companion in life, from the renewed unity among us. How can a house stay upright if its foundations are not deep, solid, strong, healthy?
On the third day, together we solemnly renewed our ‘yes’ forever, before the sacred image of Our Lady at the Shrine of Divine Love. It was not a formal act but one that was substantial and free, in the presence of 598 witnesses.
In the afternoon, whilst the hall was slowly filling up where the event of the tenth anniversary was to take place, I sat by chance next to two of the participants. They were a couple attending the congress like us. I had not yet seen them. There were a few presentations. I came to know that they had lost a son two years ago. Out comes a photo of him: a splendid boy, with light-coloured eyes, a brown beard. He was only 25 years, in the prime of life. The mother’s eyes welled up with tears. I perceived in that mother the semblance of the Mother, figured in Michelangelo’s Pietà. That’s what a family is: a bulwark, a rock, a heroic foundation of society, without which everything can collapse.
It was necessary to stop and focus on the couple. It was indeed necessary.