01-03-2006 - Traces, n.3

Fr. Giussani

Promises that became an experience
A testimony published in the Italian daily, Corriere
della Sera, February 23, 2006

by Giancarlo Cesana

When I was a young boy in catechism class, they explained to me that the Church commemorates a person’s life not on the day of his birth, but on the day of his death. I didn’t understand it; I thought it was sad. Later, the experience of my life made me understand. In fact, the meaning of a man’s life is revealed more and more when that life comes to fulfillment. This is the thought that comes to mind now when I look at Fr. Giussani’s photograph on the windowsill near my desk. It is the same thing that flashed into my mind this time last year, during the funeral in the Cathedral. It was a dull day, like today, and drenched by an icy drizzle. There was much sadness, but no despair, not in the least, when forty thousand of us (so they said) sang Dulcis Christe as the casket was carried down the central aisle.
“Life is sad, but it’s just as well, because otherwise it would be hopeless,” Fr. Giussani used to say. He used to teach us not to restrict our outlook on life, but to accept all of it, with its satisfactions and contradictions, with its imperfection, sadness, as he said, because only from sadness comes true happiness… and fecundity. And he proved it with his Movement, which is numerous, which is not afraid, but marked by the “naïve boldness,” as he used to describe his nature and ours (God preserve it!). The hope of resurrection, of being stronger than death, is the “feeling for things” that Fr. Giussani has left with us, not as a heritage that wears out, but as an on-going event of life.
Fr. Giussani was a Catholic priest–in other words, above all, a Christian, a follower, and a very “lay” one. A book of his bears the title Layman, in Other Words, Christian, meaning someone belonging to Christ, the witness of a God who, in order to speak to man, Himself became a man, sharing completely in his condition, including death. In this way, Fr. Giussani did not give ideas, but gave life. He clothed the ideas with flesh, and “remade” them; he removed them from “ghostliness,” and gave them a body that made them accessible, “embraceable.” He called it a “method.” The message, even a verbal message, had to be a “gesture” in the original sense–an “action loaded with meaning.” The “what” had to coincide with the “how.” Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, with the stress on “way.” As Giussani told me one of the last times we talked, “You cannot love God without loving man and you cannot love man without loving God.”
So we, too, (me, too) became Christians. We joined that unbroken chain of men and women who for twenty centuries have announced in Christ the invincibility of life and of its desire for happiness, a promise that is not generic, but experienced personally in a “friendship guided towards destiny.” That this awareness be possible on the anniversary of a death means hope. I say this in all modesty, but with “naïve boldness.” This is hope for everyone.