Letter from Carlo and Maria Carla VOLPINI
SIGNS AND PRESENCE OF THE LOVE OF GOD IN THE WORLD
Longing for the infinite
Our human condition, our ‘finite’ awareness leads us to live in a perpetual longing to attain the fullness of life, to fill the void at the depth of our being, to reach out to the infinite which, we know, exists. We have a longing for the infinite which only God, who is infinite and eternal, can transform into reality.
Everyday life, with all its commitments to family, work and society consumes us and causes our days to go by in a flash. But beyond it all, we always experience, as human beings, the desire to seek the deep meaning of things, to seek God who alone can give meaning to everything. Our longing for God is hunger and thirst – hunger for words and thirst for silence: words to help us know and understand, silence to seek His Face in the depth of our being. It is a search that can last all through life until we discover that God reveals himself to us through the most human things, the nearest and simplest things, in places it would seem unthinkable to discover his divinity.
The meeting places: absence, search, presence
Life is sustained by hope and our strongest hope is of knowing and meeting God. But can we truly meet God? Can we, who belong to the human world, contain the ‘infinite’? Can we, as creatures, think of understanding our ‘Creator’?
Absence: The infinite distance between man and God seems like a void that cannot be filled. And yet, in this absence we can experience God. The disciples of Emmaus understood that they had met Christ only when he was already far away, disappeared beyond the horizon. Sometimes, it is simply by looking back at past events that we understand that we have met Christ. But, more simply, when we long to meet God, it is our invocations and prayers that make the encounter possible. Indeed, prayer is a deep experience of an absence that becomes presence.
Search: To search for someone means to take the road, to come out of our home and of ourselves, and set out to meet the person we wish to catch up with – it is to allow ourselves to be caught up with. Our consumer culture can lead us to the temptation of wanting God immediately. But for a longing to remain alive, it must be sustained, fed, cultivated; for longing takes time, discipline, waiting. To commit ourselves to a constant search for God – as we are reminded by our Movement and its methods – itself becomes the meeting point, for God is always beyond, never reached; it requires our permanent exodus.
Presence: Today, it is faith itself that calls us to an awareness that is very different from that of old. To seek God today means to seek him in the face of another. The Word of God ‘is the face of another’, as Emmanuel Lévinas says. On that face, God asks us questions, examines us, makes us think… and looks for answers. The Word of God is a dead letter if it remains printed on paper – even in the case of a sacred book like the Bible. But it becomes a saving power for each one of us and for humanity if it feeds on exchanged glances, shared actions, choices made.
It is a long journey for man to get to understand that God, Creator of the Universe and Father of humanity, is not outside History, that he does not dwell in a distant heaven but in every corner of the earth, that he does not present himself as some idol that is so far from us that we can never see him, a God to adore inside churches, but a God who reveals himself to us everyday in the smile of a child peacefully asleep in its mother’s arms, in the tears of despair of this other starving child who finds no comfort in its mother’s arms, in the tenderness of two young people who, hand in hand, seek together their way for the future, in the young marginalised person dying of a drug overdose, in the knowing and deep glance of a man and of a woman who love each other, in the sombre look of one who experiences the end of his/her loving plans, in the elderly person who shows wisdom and availability to those around him/her, in the old drunkard who staggers in the night, dragging his solitude along the street.
The face of God is ‘the other’ and it is in the other that I can look, search, meet, run away from, reject or welcome God. The face of the other scrutinises me, observes me, questions me, calls me to a fullness of humanity in which I can find the meaning of life and the significance of faith. The other’s face is the prophetic place open to all possibilities, in which I can see the little and great events of history, the little and great signs of God’s coming Reign. The other’s face is offered to me as a human place in which to seek the presence of God and of his Word, in which to look and respond with the great generosity of love of which we are capable. God has not only one face, for He has that of the whole of humanity. He is not in only one place, for he dwells in the created universe. He has not got only one name, for he has that of Hope that becomes the faithful promise of all our desires. He has neither beginning nor end. He does not belong to a particular time for He is Eternal. He is not born nor does he die for he is within Life.
CARLO ET MARIA CARLA VOLPINI
Who are we?
We are an Italian couple, living in Rome in the shadow of Saint Peter’s Dome, and have been married for 30 years. Maria-Carla teaches graphology at the Faculty of Psychology where she is working mostly on the stage of adolescence. Carlo is a financial adviser. Giuliano and Gabriele, that we adopted in 1978 and who are 25 and 24 years old at present, have been the most wonderful gift of our life as a couple.
The other great gift was discovering the Teams. We joined the Movement two months after our wedding and it has been the guiding line of our life, accompanying us on our married journey without preventing us from experiencing some very fine social, religious and political experiences. We have carried out various services within Teams which have each been a source of riches and joy. As we leave today the service of the Italian Super-Region, we begin a new adventure: that of being, in the International Leading Team, the couple who animate and co-ordinate the work of Satellite Teams . We thank the Lord for this new opportunity for growth and we thank each one of you for your presence in Teams and for giving meaning to this new service.
Letter from the Spiritual Counsellor
– Father François FLEISCHMANN
GETTING IN TOUCH WITH THOSE WHO ARE ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD
Wonderful secret of the couple: two human beings, most strongly united for life together, only truly fulfil themselves by being open to others. Spouses welcome children given to them through their love, and we know that a couple will only find their full vitality in sharing further elements of their happiness beyond their intimate circle.
We are familiar with the Samaritan in the Gospel. He looked at the side of the road. Couples in Teams, how many times are you not called to see, to get in touch with, to pick up those you find on the side of the road?
If, through grace, you go through life on a straight path, or at least one that is not too stony, you can look to right or left and you will stop for a moment to get in touch with life’s wounded people.
Among those that you rub shoulders with, Some are wounded in their very love: they have lost their ardour; they no longer recognise the inexhaustible source of God’s infinite love and they move apart from each other.
Some are physically or emotionally wounded.
Some suffer from not being able to be parents, or they are distressed that their children are evolving in ways that are contrary to their expectations.
Some struggle in evident or hidden material poverty.
Some loose sight of the basis of hope and can no longer look to their faith for support.
Each of us – whether we are ourselves happy or unhappy – can put faces and names against the lines in the above list and can look further and wider.
We must not shrink in the face of the difficulty of truly getting in touch with those whom we call life’s wounded. To see in every human being a brother or a sister, to listen to his/her voice or to what they cannot express, to stretch out a hand when necessary, to open your door and – very often – to simply be there, is not this part of the vocation of a couple who mirror the Covenant of the Christ’s love for humanity? Are these not essential ways of being a Christian couple in the Church and in the world?
You well know that the good Samaritan represents Christ himself: He who is present in your marriage and makes you capable of loving beyond the possible. You know too that the wounded person on the side of the road is also Christ who sees himself in the least of our brethren. Do not go past without seeing him on your way !
– François Fleischmann
The Guide to the Teams of Our Lady
Since 1995, the International Leading Team and College have worked on drafting a “Guide to the Teams of Our Lady”. This document is based on the Charter of the Teams, on the “Second Wind”, on “What is a Team of Our Lady?” and on various founding documents of our Movement. It is an explanatory summary of what are the Teams of Our Lady.
It starts with an introduction which recalls the beginnings of Teams, the contribution of Father Caffarel and of the first couples and the Decree of Recognition, and it tries to discern the signs of the times. It then goes back to the Charter of the Teams of Our Lady and to the reason for their existence. It explains the spirit of the Teams, what they have to offer and describes the means the Movement gives to couples who want to join the Teams in order to follow Christ.
It is an excellent instrument for knowing the Teams better and for speaking about them without any danger of misrepresentation. It is a unique reference document for our Movement. All team members should have a copy of the “Guide to the Teams of Our Lady”.
Meeting of Regional and Super-Regional Couples in Rome, in 2003
At its meeting last July in Houston, the International College decided to invite all Regional and Super-Regional Couples and their Spiritual Counsellors to an exceptional meeting in Rome in January 2003. This important meeting, half way between two International Gatherings, will provide the opportunity to review the situation of the Teams of Our Lady throughout the world and their spiritual development, and to discern and prepare the Movement’s orientations from 2006 onwards.
In “Novo Millennio Ineunte”, the Pope invites us to “put out into the deep” (“Duc in Altum”). All Super-Regional and Regional Couples, their Spiritual Counsellors and the International Leading Team will be invited to reflect on how our Movement is to respond to this call, following the end of the Jubilee of the year 2000.
This meeting will also be a very special time of prayer and sharing between all the countries of the world and the opportunity to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the birth of our founder, Father Caffarel.
Study Topic “To be a Couple”
After the Gathering in Saint James of Compostela, many teams throughout the world have adopted the orientation “To be a Christian Married Couple in the Church and in the World”. Some countries have started to study the first topic: “To be a Person”. The International Leading Team are completing the draft of the third topic: “To be a Christian Married Couple in the Church and in the World”
The Movement as a whole is therefore harnessed to this work of reflection on the Christian couple at the beginning of this third millennium. It should lead to individual and collective actions (in our parishes, in our dioceses, in our small communities) and play a part in changing the world. Intellectual reflection alone, even done in a prayerful spirit, is not sufficient.
“Male and female, he created them” – a Christian study of sexuality
Following the survey on sexuality, carried out by Team members in 1991, and the summary of this work published after the Fatima Gathering in 1994, the International College has just produced a study topic on man, woman and their sexuality. Seen in the light of salvation, this study topic invites every Christian couple to rediscover with wonder that, from the beginning, God has united in one act a man and a woman’s expression of love and their ability to give life. Through the study of this topic, which can be widely promoted outside the Movement, all are invited to let themselves be challenged by the Word of God and by the Church to form their conscience on these delicate and most essential questions.
Since the Houston meeting of the College, the International Leading Team has set up five “Satellite Teams” to help it in its work of reflection and action so as to further the progress of the Movement in the following areas:
Reflection on the couple and marriage,
Formative way of the Teams of Our Lady,
Formation of team members and leaders,
Mission of the Teams of Our Lady internally and in the work of Evangelisation that pertains to our Movement.
The Movement’s internal and external communication.
Carlo and Carla Maria VOLPINI, who are members of the International leading Team, are responsible for these “Satellite Teams” which are animated by Australian, American, Portuguese, Spanish and French couples. They started their work in February 2002 and we ask you to pray for them. Their tasks is immense and our expectation is great.
International College 2002 in Melbourne
For many years, our Australian friends, who lead a Super-Region that contains almost 200 teams, have expressed the wish for the International College to meet in their country – a veritable continent. For reasons of distance, we have not been able so far to accede to their wish. It will, however, come about this year and we anticipate that this meeting will give that Super-Region even more dynamism for Teams to develop there.
We remind you that the address of the Teams of Our Lady’s international web site is as below. It is developing and improving daily, thanks to our Web-master and to the Communication Team at the Secretariat. Visit : http://www.equipes-notre-dame.com
You are most welcome to do so.
– Gérard and Marie-Christine de Roberty