In her autobiography, Renata Borlone remembers the encounter that changed her life… It was May 8, 1949, the day she would define “extraordinary”. She took part in a meeting in Rome, where Graziella De Luca, one of Chiara Lubich’s first companions, spoke about the rediscovery of God-Love and the new evangelical life begun in Trent during the war.
“I sought God in works of art or music, as well as in the exact sciences. I heard that a spark of God’s genius could be reflected in great artists, in musicians. I myself felt, for example, in front of Beethoven something that transcended me, elevated me, and almost operated a wonderful catharsis in me. […] The beneficial effect, however, lasted little. I vaguely sensed that everything that came from outside of me could illuminate me, like a reflection, warm me like a fire that touches, but not penetrate me. My will made a weak turn-about and then continued to proceed as before, without too many changes.
“It was May 8, 1949. We went into a room where there was a small group of young people. Graziella sat in an armchair. She was 24 years old at the time and had two beautiful, blond braids that crowned her face. I sat in front of her while she continued to talk. She spoke a language that was simple and mysterious at the same time. She spoke of her experiences, of her companions, and now and then quoted words of Jesus: “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted'(…). As I listened to her, it was as if my soul was freed. I had an intuition of God Love. It was not the result of some reasoning, but an experience of Him, luminous and warm that penetrated the depths of my being. I wept from start to finish. I felt God close to me. The image I had had of him up to that point disappeared. He was no longer primarily a judge who punishes the wicked and rewards the good. I left with an extraordinary sense of lightness, like when I had gone to confession for the first time as a child, and I felt many burdens fall away. My companions just looked at me and made a few comments; they did not understand such an “exaggerated” Christianity… that meeting seemed like something protestant … a girl who speaks of the Gospel … I said nothing; I felt transformed, like a different person. On my way home, I ran all the way down Via Nazionale.
It was at that moment that my new life began.”
July was approaching and I took my high school graduation exams; I was moving into my new life like a child who sometimes tries to walk and stumbles and falls. I had one of the highest grades in the whole school. I had reached my goal, for some years I had been dreaming about university, the chemistry faculty, and diving into it – the laboratory, research, and discovery: all my life; yes, all my life. It was worth postponing everything to dedicate oneself to science, to penetrate what I defined as the intimate essence of things. Until then, that was the way, the only way that would lead me to God.
Almost as a reward for the goal reached, I had planned a visit to Rome and a trip to Assisi. In the last meeting with Graziella I had heard that at the beginning of October some of the group would have gone there. The basilica of St. Francis, Giotto… but by now I felt irresistibly pushed to search for other faces… In Assisi, I looked at the people, here and there, to recognize in some of them the light that I had seen in Graziella’s eyes. My father had given me a sum of money, which, for those times, was quite a lot… It was “mine”, I could dispose of it as I wanted, but it seemed to burn in my hands. I distributed it all to the poor people whom I met, keeping only what was strictly necessary for my return trip home.
I wondered why the works of art did not give me the inner satisfaction I had dreamed of; after all, they were a reflection of the God I wanted to meet in the intimate essence of things. The question, however, fascinated me only at the level of reasoning; the answer already vibrated in my being, even if it was still weak and confused: I had to look for God in persons, in any person.
da Renata Borlone, La gioia di essere tutta di Dio, Città Nuova 2011