|01-02-2006 - Traces, n.2
The anniversary of his death places us all before his heritage, which is not merely something of the past, but an event in the present, which goes on challenging our reason and our freedom.
Fr. Julián Carrón
Archbishop of Boston
New Fruit in America
Certainly Father Giussani’s death was a very critical moment in the life of the Movement. But he has made such an impact on so many lives already through his writings, through his friendship, and I believe that he prepared CL for this moment very well. I have no doubt that his charism will continue to flourish. It is growing here in Boston: we have the Memores Domini, and a number of our young priests have become involved in the CL and are taking it to the campuses and to the parishes. I think that the Movement will grow and bring many blessings for the Church of Boston and the United States.
CL International Centre, Rome
The Same Impetus in the World
Since I began working for the CL International Center, visiting the various communities worldwide, I have got to know so many people, mainly young people. Few had the chance to meet Fr. Giussani personally, but they all spoke to me about him and asked me to greet him or take him a letter. It was not something sentimental, because the Movement had touched the heart of these people and had changed them. This is the greatest miracle. Seeing these experiences, I began to understand what it means to have found a person whom God has marked with a charism. For a charism is like the DNA that is transmitted and that marks you and is greater than the person who generated it. So everywhere I find someone who has been touched by the fever of life that Fr. Giussani had, I feel at home, I am welcomed like one of the family, not because I go to repeat a nice talk, but because I am really part of the same history that, thanks be to God, goes on every day. I will always remember the first time I went to Uganda, at the Meeting Point where Rose takes care of the AIDS patients, I got to know a Ugandan woman who had very few months of life left. As soon as she saw me, she asked me if I knew Fr. Giussani and if I had the chance to see him. I told her I would see him two days later. She took my hand and showed me The Religious Sense, saying, “Thank him, because thanks to him I have found someone greater and stronger than this horrible sickness. And I die aware of my dignity because I met Christ.” Going to see people in the five continents was to see the same thing. From the power of this correspondence between Christ and the heart of each of us, I saw many works being born, many initiatives at the cost of great sacrifices–sacrifices that were bearable, though, because of the power of the ideal. I am thinking of Pedro, in Paraguay, in the house for rehabilitating young criminals, where he lives with them day and night, until Saturday when he goes back to the house of the Memores Domini in Asunción. I am thinking of Kazakhstan where there is a clear contrast between a culture that has nothing to do with Christianity and the genius of Fr. Giussani who understood that man’s heart is the same everywhere, and was able to arouse the religious sense, the desire for the ultimate meaning of life and of everything. After his death, this past year has been the proof of the power of our experience, thanks to the power of the charism. Most people in the Movement do not yet know Fr. Carrón, and they are waiting to meet him, but they follow him because they know that to follow him is the same thing as to follow Fr. Giussani, with the same power of communion and true friendship that he had. This for me is the awareness that Fr. Giussani is present, not as many say sentimentally of people who die, like the idealists said of Che Guevara; Fr. Giussani is truly present in his charism, which the Lord aroused in him. This is our strength, living in our communion.
Professor of Cinema History School
of Visual Arts, Manhattan
A Giant of Faith
In my life, I have met one or two individuals who can properly be described as spiritual giants. It is a rare breed indeed. Some of these individuals are resolutely secular, but religious faith does not disqualify one for this exalted position. The sign of these enlightened ones is generally not any specific works that they have left behind, but rather a radiance of the spirit which is entirely positive and inclusive in nature and survives even their physical death by continuing to inspire and motivate legions of followers illuminated by having been touched by that vision. I never met the late Father Giussani, but it is clear to me that he was one of those noble souls. His light survives him in the minds and eyes of those who knew him or came under his influence. Even someone as religiously challenged as myself, recognizes his essential goodness and his belief or intuition that the path to enlightenment lies exclusively in affirmation rather than negation. “Yes” instead of “No.” “Truth is Beauty and Beauty, Truth.”
It is in the word “glimpse” I think that Hilton captures the spirit of such a soul. We are not exalted enough to constantly see what is about us that is “eternal.” We can only catch sight of it fleetingly, from the corner one’s eye as it were. But once we have caught that glimpse we are forever changed. It is giants like Giussani who open our eyes to the eternal and, indeed, become eternal guideposts themselves in this dark and frightening world.
with Fr. Joe
In writing Fr. Joe, I discovered that there are three stories–not just one–in the life of a non-fiction book.
When my book came out, Father Joe’s uniquely wise and funny nature struck a chord with people of all denominations, even those who had no faith at all. Then one day I was interviewed by a thoughtful young man from CL, Tom, who had reviewed the book for a popular Catholic website [Godspy]. During our discussion, Tom suddenly said that his reading of the book was this: Father Joe had been, for me, Christ. A forthright, deceptively simple insight, which, frankly, had never occurred to me. Yet, it instantly illuminated so much of what I had written about Father Joe without quite knowing what I’d meant; as if I had been groping in a darkened room for something and while being able to establish its outlines, couldn’t quite identify what it was. That Father Joe attached such importance to the normal, the everyday, the routine; that it was here you experienced God. That Joe was a saint of the ordinary. That only through the humanity of another could you touch the divine. And this young man had summed up all these half-seen truths in one word: Christ. In his life and words and his unwavering love, even in his funny, lumpy, big-eared self, Father Joe had demonstrated for me as no one else could, the possibility, no, the reality of the Incarnation.
I’m not a “joiner” so I can’t say that I’m a ciellino, but after that a bond developed with CL. The more I spoke to my new CL friends, the more I realized not just that they felt a particular bond to my beloved Benedictine, but that they were able to illuminate my experience of him in unforeseen ways. Obviously, I studied further the thought and history of CL and as I did it became clear to me that this clarity sprang from the central source of Father Giussani’s emphasis on the humanity of Our Lord, and on the immediacy and normality of our experience of Him in the modern world. I have discovered much else in my own book that I never knew was there, thanks to my contacts, visits, and talks with Father Giussani’s sons and daughters. A dramatic example occurred during an interview last year at the Meeting in Rimini–whose theme was freedom. I suddenly found myself saying that while physical, intellectual, and spiritual freedom is a universal right of man, “true freedom only comes from forgiving and being forgiven”–a thought which had never occurred to me before in my life. I could not have said at that moment whether it was Father Joe or Father Giussani who inspired it, perhaps even–I should be so lucky–put the words into my mind.
I’m not sure Father Joe knew of Father Giussani; being a contemplative it’s possible he didn’t. He certainly never mentioned CL to me. But I believe both men found similar ways to bring back to life the reality of the Incarnation in the hostile and unpromising landscape of the 20th century; both gave new meaning to the sorely battered notion of spiritual fatherhood, linking the paternal once again with the eternal. And I would be most surprised if, when the two of them did finally meet–as they surely did–each did not instantly recognize, in the other, a kindred spirit.
Trappist Monastery, Humocaro, Venezuela
Fr. Giussani’s heritage is one of faith, vision, passion and culture, of disconcerting vitality. It is a precise vision of life and of man, which is still present as a choice and a judgment, as up-to-date as ever, a way of living, an education in relationship and in how to meet others, a decisive will for communion which is the breath of an experience that endures with time, through pain, through death, through the contradiction of limitation. The risk we can run is to reduce this immense breath of faith that has overcome us and filled us with meaning to a mere discourse. It is much more than that. The few times I met Fr. Giussani, I perceived as predominant in him a person radically in love with Jesus Christ, and with such a powerful passion for man and for reality that is was impossible not to let yourself be fascinated by the density of his experience. Perhaps the nucleus of that flow of faith from his heart to ours was the certainty of an event that he was touching, that we, too, could touch and that would never be cancelled either by the history of humanity or by the history of every man, something indisputably rooted in the very breath of being, like the experience of Peter and Andrew, James and John… “And you, who do you say I am?”, “Peter, do you love me?”, “Go and preach the Gospel, forgive…”, “Love each other as I have loved you.” We have walked within a voice that was the prophecy of a presence that became vital awareness in each one of us, and now there remains the question, “Why, father, were you given the gift of touching the Lord, of breathing His presence, of being so powerfully invaded by the encounter with Him as to be able to announce without a pause, with the wonder of a child and the faith of centuries: He is here, He is all, without Him you can do nothing, He is the meaning and the destiny of life, in every instant I receive myself from Him, here in this moment He makes me…Whoever reduces man, made for the Mystery to an ephemeral project, let him be anathema…”
We are so opaque and so burdened with indifference that perhaps we do not allow ourselves to be shaped by his cry, but he who lives in the bosom of the Father is already pervaded by His divine omnipotence and does not cease to guide his people. This is our hope in the day that is passing.
From that irresistible faith of his we received the passion for the Church, for that blessed companionship that Benedict XVI has so intensely evoked on the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus, “A companionship of friends which will never abandon us in life or in death, because this company of friends is the family of God, which carries in itself the promise of eternity… Companionship…family that will give us words of eternal life, words that respond to the great challenges of life and give the right indication about the road to take.” We need to go on living at the heart of a companionship, of a people, of the Church. From here comes the passion for the beauty of creation, for the fascination of reality, for poetic intuition, for musical genius capable of composing universal harmony in instrumental voices: ah, the insistent cry of that violin… To inherit his interior vibration for the beauty that blossoms always in the eyes of someone able to see, this would indeed be to grasp an essential message and make it true within us. From here, too, comes the passion for freedom, the great inalienable dimension of the human spirit, which, as Archbishop Caffarra said at the Rimini Meeting, coincides with love, in its supreme expression. Not to betray the gift is the humble prayer that sustains the heart.
Editor of the Italian daily la Repubblica
His Provocative Newness
“Let them keep in mind that Jesus Christ existed.” Fr. Giussani’s witness can be summarized in these few words, which Woland spoke in the patriarch’s pool, interrupting the ideological discussion between Berlioz and Bezdomnyi, in the first pages of Master and Margarita. While Woland calls them to him, and they lean down from the bench to hear that whispered affirmation, I realize that I was emphasizing that phrase, many years ago, the first time I read Bulgakov. Peremptory, sure, it communicated a certainty, it guaranteed a witness, it did not allow repetitions. Years later I was to discover that that phrase had struck Fr. Giussani, too. He quoted it in a book of his.
I discovered Giussani in the early eighties, when Giorgio Fattori, the editor of Turin’s daily newspaper La Stampa, asked me to research Communion and Liberation. I spoke with a lot of people, divided the material into four parts, and wrote what I had collected. From that time, I always had the feeling that I had understood something that can be defined in many ways, but that I explained like this: there is an Italian God who is walking, in the country that has never had an Italian way to Catholicism, supposing itself to be–as it was said–“naturally Christian,” and was actually becoming de-Christianized.
What I mean is that in a gray, resigned Catholicism, as that of Italy in the eighties, the eruption of that formula of Bulgakov forced a believer to take up a different attitude. If Christianity is not a philosophy or a culture but an “event,” as Giussani was telling everyone, then someone who believes can meet his God. And if he meets God, if he truly meets Him, it is possible that he cannot “eat and drink as he did before.”
This inversion of the way of conceiving faith seemed to me a great novelty, a great provocation from Giussani. Then I never understood how this conception could have been lived out by CL with methods and numbers that always seemed contradictory to me, sometimes clamorously so, like the choice of an ultra-worldly pagan and paganizing right wing, populist and oligarchic.
When I first met Fr. Giussani, at lunch during the nineties, with my friend Angelo Rinaldi, we spoke of everything, but not of this. He asked me about my children, my friends and my work. He knew my opinions, he knew my secularist ideas, but he was interested in talking. I remember how he looked at me. And I remember that we promised to meet again.
In fact we never did. I believe that having tried to understand Fr. Giussani’s thought from that journalistic interview helped me to understand better what happened and what is happening in Italy between faith and politics. I would like, though, to be able to ask Fr. Giussani one thing: If Christianity is an event, and not a political culture, a precept and a philosophy of life, is the political use that the so-called devout atheists make of it not a patent betrayal?