|01-04-2007 - Traces, n. 4
Standing Before the Great Presence
When the Holy Father finally arrived, as he went around the piazza
in his Popemobile, there was the expected joyful expression of gratitude for his paternal embrace of the experience of our particular charism and his obvious appreciation
of the fruits of Fr. Giussani’s obedient faith
By Lorenzo Albacete
I was privileged to be in Rome for the audience of Pope Benedict XVI in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the pontifical recognition of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation. Waiting for the Pope to arrive, seeing the immense crowd that not even St. Peter’s Square could contain, the atmosphere was not that of festive celebration that usually characterizes these events. For a moment I thought it was because of the rain, wind, and chilly weather. Instead, I realized that the occasion had taken on a meaning that, frankly, I had not expected. The atmosphere was that of a serene, wonder-filled prayerful expectation. Expectation of what? Of the Pope, of his words, of the direction toward which he would point us for the future? Yes, there was that, of course, but there was more.
When the Holy Father finally arrived, as he went around the piazza in his Popemobile, there was the expected joyful expression of gratitude for his paternal embrace of the experience of our particular charism and his obvious appreciation of the fruits of Fr. Giussani’s obedient faith–both in his own personal life (he spoke of Don Gius having become a “dear friend” of his) and as a gift to the Church now entrusted to his pastoral care. There was still something else, though, which became clearer and clearer as he spoke to us. We had gone to Rome to be before the Successor of Peter to express our devotion and fidelity to him and his office, to receive his blessings and guidance for the future, but it was as if the geography of the event had changed.
It was as if the Pope himself had joined us to stand with us–instead of before us–and point toward another Presence; to accompany us in standing before this other Presence, to marvel at it, to understand it better, to experience its beauty, its warmth, its gracefulness, its immense power delicately entering into our hearts, with a serenity and peace that withstand any turbulence. The Pope was with us before this Presence. Indeed, Father Giussani was also there with us, facing in the same direction, so to speak. And the Presence was that of Christ Himself–but even this is not precise enough. The Presence was that of the Holy Spirit. It was the reply to the prayer Father Giussani taught us that accompanies all our prayers, gestures, and meetings: “Veni Sancte Spiritus. Veni per Mariam.” The Pope himself said this prayer in his address. This is what was happening: led by Fr. Carrón, the thousands and thousands in the Square and those in all parts of the world gathered to be with us (through TV and Internet and later through video tapes and DVDs) were all with the Apostle Peter, and through the intercession of Our Lady, Christ was allowing us a taste–a serene and graceful taste in the heart–of the gift of the Spirit.
The Pope explained it to us. Personal charisms, he said, like that given to Fr. Giussani, are the work of the Holy Spirit for the good of the entire Church. They make possible a “communitarian expression of faith” not born from an initiative of the hierarchy, but from a personal encounter with Christ brought about by the Spirit. This “makes it possible to live the Christian faith in a profound and concrete way with a spontaneity and a freedom that allow for new and prophetic apostolic and missionary realizations.” Still, this does not happen “outside” the Church or “together with” the Church. This occurs “within” the one life of the Church, and its purpose is precisely to build up the Church. Both the “charismatic” and “institutional” dimensions of the Church are “co-essential.” These two dimensions have the same origin in the work of the Spirit, and are thus inseparable, working together to make present the mystery and salvific work of Christ in the world. Just as the movements born from these personal charisms must be faithful to the guidance of the Church by the Pope and the bishops, the pastors of the Church must make sure not to “extinguish” the charisms, even if sometimes they may seem “uncomfortable.”
This is an important lesson from the Holy Father. But on the day of our meeting, this was, for us (and for him, I believe), not only an important teaching, but a personal experience.