01-01-2006 - Traces, n.1
Buddhism Habukawa and Fr. Giussani

“I Think of Him
Every Morning”

Professor Habukawa, a Buddhist spiritual guide, spent a week in Italy. He spoke of his esteem for Fr. Giussani, marked by an ecumenism centered on the desire for happiness

by Andrea Bellandi

“The melancholy expressed in the song Torna a Surriento, and that leads me to remember now dear Fr. Giussani, is also mixed with the joy of being here together with his people. It is as if he were present here.” These words, spoken by Professor Shodo Habukawa–spiritual guide of Shingon Buddhism–at the close of an evening of songs performed by the Florentine CL choir, could be said to summarize an entire week lived with him and other monks and professors (including the Rector Namai) of Japan’s Mount Koya University, part of a cultural exchange the latter initiated with Florence’s Theology Faculty of Central Italy. It was a week lived “in companionship” with Fr. Giussani (or Giussani-san, to use the Japanese), looking at reality with the method he left us in Chapter Ten of The Religious Sense, the origin of immediate reciprocal recognition and sincere, profound friendship, full of gratitude.

With Traces in hand
It was a moving sight to see Professor Habukawa, holding his ubiquitous copy of Traces with the photo of himself and his dear priest friend, as he told the Palazzo Vecchio authorities and the press about his friendship with Fr. Gius, as strange as it was decisive, lived in light of an ecumenism centered on the heart and the desire for happiness. It was equally moving to watch his amazed, curious eyes as he was struck by the beauty of Beato Angelico’s Annunciation in San Marco, and of the Christ Pantocrator in the apse of San Miniato, and surprising to see him kneel every time he crossed the threshold of a church or delicately asked that a prayer be recited before eating. Finally, I felt jolted by a repercussion of memory, sensing his vibration as he listened to the Gregorian chant of the Olivetan monks, or heard about the life of Saint Francis (in Assisi) or Saint Catherine (in Siena).

Never to part
Now I begin to understand why he and Fr. Giussani met, never to part: “Looking at the sun from my window,” he confessed to us, “I always think of him.” They possessed the same heart, the same vibration in the face of being, the same wonder at reality and the Mystery to which it leads, and, consequently, the same gladness and simplicity of gaze, that of children, but with the wisdom of adults.
For me and for Fr. Filippo, with whom I shared entire days with Professor Habukawa and his escorts–but also for all those who had the chance to meet him during the week, from Fr. Silvano, who celebrated a Mass in their presence, to the Memores Domini, who hosted them for dinner; from the professors of the Theology Faculty, to the friends of the Movement who guided them to discover the beauty of Christ expressed in the artistic works of our tradition; from the representatives of other religious faiths present at a conference on “Art and Religiosity,” to the CLU students–for all of us, Habukawa’s presence meant the encounter with a man who lives religiously, thus humanly, every detail of experience, and thus it was an encounter with a true friend, witness to an authentic passion for the real and What it communicates, in the company of Giussani-san.