She recalls attending her first Agape event, Cara Donna, a photo exhibition celebrating International Women’s Day. Before that evening she never talked about religion with others. She found it “strange, but in a good way” that many of those in attendance were overtly talking to her about Jesus.
Now a year later at the same event, the scene is reset for Mariagrazia. After becoming a Christian in December, she is more relaxed and joyful. A year ago she knew hardly anyone. Now in the room, she and her friends joking and laughing with one another. Not only did she help arrange the portraits throughout the day, but she is also one of those photographed.
“You should embrace your differences and not be like anyone else,” says Mariagrazia. Over her shoulder, the clamour of a crowd of over eighty raises to meet the tall ceilings. Guests press toward the walls, along which the portraits of forty-seven women hang. Mariagrazia, meanwhile, swivels in her chair, reflecting on all that had transpired in the past 365 days.
Her message, “You can do it, but will you?” written in Italian across her forearms is striking but mysterious. Inspired by a stray quote, the message has been part of her life for several years. “It’s a really personal message [for me],” says Mariagrazia, “because a lot of times when something gets difficult, I search for a lot of excuses to not do it.” In the past, this applied to her pursuit of success in school and other domains, but more recently the quote began to translate into spiritual terms.
Intrigue compelled Mariagrazia to frequent Agape events and meet with Agape interns. She understood the Gospel for the first time. “For me it was really difficult to believe,” she says. “I could do it, but it was me that didn’t want to.” Just as in other areas of her life she made excuses. “I felt it was right to believe. I really liked what [Agape] talked about Jesus and the Bible and the community,” says Mariagrazia, “but part of me was like, ‘No you can not, you don’t have to believe this.’ I was really struggling with that.”
She was finally persuaded to believe after her Christian friend, Isabella, told her,
“You don’t have to think about it, you just have to do it.”
Adopted from Oxford Student Life’s “Speak Out” in the UK, the exhibition in Bologna features portraits of women, predominantly university students, who have written on their bodies a message of encouragement for other women.
Mariagrazia hopes her message will empower women to understand their unique value and that they, too, can overcome fear and choose to act. She says, “A lot of times we don’t do what we want because we think that we can not, maybe because we are not strong enough, or not intelligent enough. In the end, that is not true. The real question is, ‘You really want to do it; will you?’”
To see Mariagrazia’s message as well as others from Cara Donna, check out the full album of portraits on Agape Bologna's Facebook page.
Agape has a vibrant ministry in Italy, called Agape Italia. One of our main focuses in Italy is on helping young Italians encounter God in a personal way during their university years. If you're a student in Italy, check out Agape Studenti to learn more.
A lot of time we don’t do what we want because we think that we can not, maybe because we are not strong enough, or not intelligent enough. In the end, that is not true. The real question is, ‘You really want to do it; will you?’