01-04-2008 - Traces, n. 4

The Enthusiasm for Truth Is Called “Faith”

On March 8, 2008, the Central Diaconia of the Fraternity of CL met for the nomination of the President, as the mandate for Fr. Carrón–who on March 19, 2005, had succeeded Fr. Giussani in guiding the Movement–was due to expire. Almost all the members of the Diaconia participated. The election was held by secret ballot, with Msgr. Massimo Camisasca, Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of the Missionaries of Saint Charles Borromeo, serving as chairman, and the results, with only one blank ballot, unanimously reconfirmed Fr. Carrón for another six years. We offer here notes from the talk he gave soon after his re-election.

1. What we hold dearest
I accept this decision of yours with the same spirit with which I said yes to Fr. Giussani: seeking to obey the modality with which the Mystery calls me to respond–now perhaps more aware of my total disproportion in the face of the task that is given me. Before, I saw things from further away, but now I have a more direct awareness of my responsibility. The first thing I would request is that together we ask the Holy Spirit, through Our Lady, to make me more attached to Christ, because this is the only guarantee for carrying out this task for your good, that of the world, and my own. What I most desire is described by what Fr. Giussani proposed to us years ago as the permanent poster of the Movement, and that succinctly expresses what our life has been and the responsibility we find before us: “Most precious to us in Christianity is Christ Himself–He Himself, and everything rests on Him, for we know that in Him all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily.” (A Tale of the Anti-Christ, by Vladimir Soloviev, Holmes Publ. Group). This is what I want to live; in my life, I desire to have nothing dearer than this.
Thus, I request that together you ask for this for me–this question is in the best interests of all of us–so that my re-election may not merely be the ordering of the last piece of the mechanism of the organization, but a decisive gesture for faith, for the acknowledgment of Christ, that is, for the truth, the newness, the intensity, and the hope of our life. Being conscious of the meaning of this election goes beyond my ephemeral “I”–to use Fr. Giussani’s expression. In fact, it would be the same were anyone else elected, because we always need an ultimate point of reference that becomes decisive for our faith. We see it looking at the life of the Movement. Three years have passed since Fr. Giussani’s death, and one since the audience with the Pope. In all this time, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many communities in Italy and abroad, and what I’ve seen, to put it in a nutshell, is part newness and part fragility.

2. Newness: Christ at work among us
In these years, on many occasions, we’ve seen Christ so at work among us that we’ve seen Fr. Giussani more present than ever. This fills me with wonder and gratitude, because we can’t take for granted that it should be so. This is the first thing we have to look at. All our fragility can’t undermine this fact, can’t hide or erase this imposing modality by which Christ shows Himself before our eyes. There are numerous signs: so many people at work, in movement, especially starting with School of Community, which slowly but surely is becoming for many people–who might otherwise remain static–a point of starting fresh and of ever more true impact. This is a hope for everyone.

3. Our fragility
At the same time, we all see our fragility, even though the signs before our eyes are powerful. We see it evidently, for example, in the difficulty many among us have with the elections, and we’ve seen and continue to see it in so many families and young couples who, after a while, begin to weary. There are so many signs that tell us how much road we still have before us, and that put all of us before a responsibility (above all, those of us in the Movement’s Central Diaconia), because of the charism we have received, because it is decisive for the Church, the world, and each of us.
This becomes even more important if we look at the current context: in these past years, the horizon has become more complicated.
Added to the fragility of people is the drama of the social and cultural situation in which we are called to live the faith. Hostility to the Church is growing, a hostility against a conception of Christianity–like the one we are trying to live–that is not limited to the private sphere, but wants to be fully present in society. At the same time, we see that our way of living the faith inspires wonder in many who do not belong to the life of the Movement: it inspires a curiosity about who we are. But the general context doesn’t change, and we all recognize that it’s complicated. Perhaps now the words Fr. Giussani said in 1982 are truer: we are truly “without a homeland,” and for this reason have an even greater responsibility.

4. The challenge before us
The challenge before us is the same as always–the Movement was born for this, the challenge of education. Fr. Giussani said in Riccione, Italy, in 1976, “The purpose of the community is to generate [educate] adults in the faith” (Dall’utopia alla presenza [From Utopia to Presence], Bur, Milan, 2006, p. 58). The difficulty today is finding places in the life of the Church where an educative journey can be realized that truly permits the generation of an adult. This was Fr. Giussani’s constant concern, as we’ve been able to see once again with the publication of the CLU Equipes. In Certi di alcune grandi cose [Certain of a Few Great Things] (Bur, Milan, 2007), he says that the most urgent thing is “the need to personalize; the awareness that the Movement is born in my person, that my life is engaged in it” (Ibid., p. 155). This is why “the crucial problem” is “the personalization of the life of the Movement, that is, the new genesis, the new self-conception of the person” (p. 196). In many people, this is still fragile. We see it in the difficulty of conceiving of the faith as a new kind of know- ledge–activities or sentimental moments are added, but the old conception of looking at ourselves and reality remains the same as ever. Fr. Giussani said that already at the end of the 1970s, the hope was that a sort of “Movement within the Movement” was born (pp. 15-18), in which that personalization would begin to happen. It seems to me that I am seeing this also today: there are many people in the Movement who are beginning to generate signs of this newness everywhere. This means that when taken seriously, the proposal of the Movement is able to generate a conscious “I” capable of facing circumstances, obstacles, and difficulties, capable of  facing the battle of life, as Fr. Giussani said.

5. The genesis of the person
This is why he insisted that the true challenge is “the genesis of the person.” What educates us to reach this genesis of the person? A companionship. But he asked himself, “When does a companionship help?” Not just any form of companionship will help this genesis of the person, the new creature. A companionship helps when it is composed of “people striving toward the truth.” Therefore, “what’s needed is a companionship that helps, and it only does so when it is composed of “people striving toward the truth” (p. 199).
And what generates this new creature, this community made up of people striving toward the truth? Not an analysis, a memory, a dialectic, but a fact, an event. Therefore, the method isn’t a dialectic of the various positions, nor is it a consensus among us; communion can’t be conceived of as coming to a consensus. What challenges our reason and our freedom is a fact. Communion is born as acknowledgment of this fact, and in order for this to be possible we need the contemporaneousness of Christ today. Without this, we won’t be able to generate it. It has to happen right before our eyes. Something is happening right before our eyes, something we have to yield to in order to acknowledge and experience this communion in our life.
What is the modality of this contemporaneousness of Christ? When is His contemporaneousness manifested? We’re seeing it in the School of Community: through a witness (cf., L. Giussani, Is It Possible to Live This Way?, McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal & Kingston, 2008, pp. 4 onwards). Each of us knows very well that without this, there’s no possible newness. And who is the witness? Whoever makes Christ present more persuasively is this witness.
I said recently to the Memores Domini that I don’t know what modality the Mystery uses to bring you to fulfilment (just as I don’t know for each of you, much less for each member of the Movement); I don’t know how He draws you to Himself. You know how the Mystery attracts, provokes, and invites you. This is what each of us must respond to, because Christianity is the Mystery present in the flesh, in history, and we have had a witness–Fr. Giussani–who marked out the road, a journey for the present time we’re living in history, which has no comparison with any other time.
So what does it mean to identify ourselves with the modality with which the Mystery has reached us, that is, with the charism? It means identifying ourselves with those who most live the charism that has reached us. It doesn’t necessarily have to be me, and I ask Our Lady that, as the final point of reference, I may be the most willing of all to acknowledge it where it manifests itself. Without this, we’re at the mercy of interpretation, our thoughts, because we’re not the ones who generate the fact. A witness is the person who shows us today what it means to follow the charism, and the question that arises is: are we willing to recognize this person? We who are here have no more important task in life than to yield to this.
Fr. Giussani said at the summer Spiritual Exercises of the Memores Domini in 1989, “The newness is that the acknowledgment of Christ is ever more continual and familiar. The rest changes, as God wants or as you want.” Look at the order of the factors: the newness is that the acknowledgment of Christ is ever more continual and familiar. All the rest is a consequence. We are called, therefore, to obedience to “that form of teaching to which we have been consigned” (J. Ratzinger).

6. The risk: an ultimate dualism
in our conception

We have to beware of what Fr. Giussani described in the text we recently published in Traces: Gnosticism, which he defined as thinking that “truth is what I select to be true of what I’m told” (“Faith: Yesterday and Today,” Traces, Vol. 10, No. 2 [February], 2008, p. 8). Each of us has to be accompanied all the way to the end in order to conquer what I believe to be the great risk we run: living an ultimate dualism of conception. In fact, communion can only be born of the acknowledgment of Christ; it doesn’t depend on something we agree upon. It is born simply if we are able to yield to this acknowledgment; otherwise, we’ll always be at the mercy of interpretation, even if we agree. We don’t want to come to an agreement and in the meantime lose this; the Movement like this doesn’t interest me in the least. For Fr. Giussani, “the indicator of our faith’s truth, its authenticity or lack thereof… [is] if the faith is truly in the foreground, or if in the foreground there is another kind of concern; if we truly expect everything from the fact of Christ, or if we expect from the fact of Christ what we decide to expect, ultimately making Him a starting point and a support for our projects and programs.” This “lays bare the ambiguity possible at the root of every human inflection” (“The Long March to Maturity,” Traces, Vol. 10, No. 3 [March], 2008, p. 20). We have to look this square in the face and talk about it, because if we don’t do so, even if we come to an agreement, we’re bound for ruin; in fact, we’ve seen in many signs that we’re not immune to this risk. Prades noted it, for example, regarding the position of some of us on the situation in Spain, and we see it here with the elections in Italy. I think this is the greatest challenge we have before us. Giussani said, “Following the Movement is following it in its real direction, and its real direction is the one with the absolute and only passion of making Christ known again, that Christ become the judgment of life and affection, that He become memory and affection, because this is what changes the world. This is what changes the world, folks! This alone changes our life, nothing else–not [our] opinions on culture, not [our] opinions on the way to live the life of the community, because, if we follow on this level, we understand that even the way of living the life of the community has to be learned and followed. The Movement has gone ahead because of its unity, certainly not because of the autonomy of its members’ opinions” (Certi di alcune grandi cose [Certain of a Few Great Things], p. 80). This is always a challenge for each of us, because without this we won’t have an original face in history; the Movement would be finished, even if the organization remains, because a presence is possible if it has this “awareness of itself as relationship with Christ” (Ibid., p. 141), as Fr. Giussani said, that is, as “an overflow of the religious consciousness of itself” (p. 142). Therefore, this is the origin of our cultural position. “Culture is nothing other than the profound dignity of a human experience that expresses and communicates itself, that becomes capable of expressing itself and becomes capable of communicating” (p. 256). What does this culture consist of? “The enthusiasm for truth is what generates a culturally alive position.” Enthusiasm for truth is called “faith” (p. 258). Therefore, it seems to me that this year’s School of Community is absolutely pertinent to the historical moment in which we’re living. Again, Fr. Giussani told university students, “Enthusiasm for truth is the acknowledgment of this fact that exists among us;  it’s the acknowledgment that truth has become a man; that it’s no longer the term of our studies, but is an encounter along the road, words said at table, a reminder carried in the gaze a man directs at his beloved, the acknowledgment of a fraternity that all of a sudden eliminates ethnic extraneousness–an extraneousness of temperament, a geographic extraneousness, a historical extraneousness. Enthusiasm for truth is our companionship” (p. 258).

7. Assessing ourselves in terms
of the charism

In “The greatest sacrifice is to give your own life for the work of an Other” (in L’avvenimento cristiano [The Christian Event], Bur, Milan, 2003), Fr. Giussani says that the true question is “assessing ourselves in terms of the charism” (p. 69). We are here precisely for this ultimate comparison, because we have the ultimate responsibility for the charism, not because we are better, but because we’ve been chosen.
As Fr. Paolo Martinelli said last summer at the Memores Domini Spiritual Exercises, in order to be heirs of the charism, we have to become children, and in order to be children we have to let ourselves be generated by the charism itself that we have received.
For this reason, in taking up the road again, I ask myself and I also ask you: what conversion is the charism asking of us today? Only in doing this, accepting this conversion, can we truly realize the task to which we’ve been called, to watch over the charism; otherwise, our being here is formal. We have before us a fascinating adventure, if we accept being continually regenerated by the charism, if we desire and ask the Spirit more and more to become children.