01-02-2006 - Traces, n.2
Fr. Giussani

“He Is Never Alone”
For a whole year, Fr. Francesco has witnessed the life that comes into the “Famedio,” where Fr. Giussani is buried. “On Easter Monday, after the Mass there were all these children playing and jumping about, and I thought, “We are in a cemetery, but it seems more like a public park. What joy!”

by Paola Bergamini

“Please, where is the Famedio?” One of the wardens of the Monumental Cemetery leaves a group of his companions, glances at the woman approaching, and says, “Are you looking for the priest? Go straight ahead, not up the stairs; it’s down on the right.” “Thanks.” She sets off, pushing her baby carriage. At the tomb she begins to pray silently, a rosary in her hand. A few minutes later, she goes up to the gravestone, touches Fr. Giussani’s photo, then goes back to her child and has him make the sign of the cross. “Now we can go,” she says. As she goes off, a man comes along, puts down his briefcase and prays; then two girls. It is a cold Friday morning in January. “It’s always like this,” Fr. Francesco, the chaplain of the cemetery, tells us. “There is always someone at Fr. Giussani’s tomb. His presence this year has changed life here at the Monumental Cemetery. It brought many people back, many Christians, even people not belonging to CL. People come and ask where he is buried and stop just for a few minutes for a prayer. Do you see how many vases of flowers there are? There are always flowers here.” “Did you know Fr. Giussani?” “Only by name. I always had great attention and affection for him and for the Movement, because I know it did a lot of good. Now that I see so many people coming to pray, I have more and more admiration and attention.

Prayers and songs
A woman interrupts us to ask when she can have a Mass said, adding, “Are you speaking of the priest? He is never alone.” “What she says is quite true,” Fr. Francesco says, “He is never alone. On Saturdays and Sundays you cannot even get through. At times I have to go around the long way so as not to disturb them. During the Mass, the chapel is always full. There are buses coming from all over Italy and even from abroad. They come, attend Mass, recite the rosary, and sing at the tomb. They sing the “Salve Regina” and some modern songs that when sung by a choir are full of meaning and very beautiful. Most of them are young people; a lot of children with their parents. This I find very striking. On Easter Monday, during the Mass there were all these children playing and jumping about, and I thought, ‘This is a cemetery and it seems like a public park. What joy!’ I remember that I had to tell them that we were near closing time. Usually, when I celebrate a funeral for an elderly person, there are very few people present, but when the opposite happens, it means that the person did a lot of good. Like Fr. Giussani. This good is still happening, and the witness does not die, Jesus’ presence is for ever. The Lord has everyone taste the bitterness of death, but those who live well and stay close to Him have the consolation of His presence and His love, as it was for Fr. Giussani.”

Flowers, notes
and votive offerings

As we are speaking, two girls write on some sheets of paper which they place in a basket near the tomb. “This struck me a lot, too,” Fr. Francesco says. “All these notes. Some are to say thank you, some are asking a particular favor (on the tomb are three silver hearts, signs of graces received), others ask simply the gift of faith, others are just a long list of people entrusted to Fr. Giussani’s protection. Do you see? Those were two very young girls, who perhaps had never met him. Recently, three coaches came from Trent. The chapel was completely full. The priest who came with them said, ‘You see, we have to thank Fr. Giussani because if he had not given rise to the Movement, to this friendship, perhaps you would not be here in the Church, perhaps you would never have been born.’ He said this to all those youngsters who had never even seen him.”
As we leave the cemetery, the words Fr. Giussani wrote to John Paul II on the 50th anniversary of the Movement come to mind: “Not only did I have no intention of ‘founding’ anything, but I believe that the genius of the Movement that I saw coming to birth lies in having felt the urgency to proclaim the need to return to the elementary aspects of Christianity, that is to say, the passion of the Christian fact as such in its original elements, and nothing more.” He witnessed this to us constantly all these years. He revealed to us–and goes on revealing to us–the beauty of Christianity amidst the joys and struggles of every day. The passion for Christ that is revealed, through grace, in all the aspects of each one’s life, filling it and making it attractive… this is what makes for happiness. This, in the end, is his heritage: friendship with Christ and the way to reach it; that people that the fever of Fr. Giussani’s life generated, and since one year ago calls to the Monumental Cemetery