A New Beginning
Notes from the intervention of Julián Carrón at the National Council of Communion and Liberation, Milan, March 19, 2005
On March 19, 2005, the Central Diaconia of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation met in order to nominate the new President, the successor of Fr. Luigi Giussani, who died on February 22, 2005. All the members of the Diaconia took part, 27 in person and 2 by delegation. The election was carried out by secret ballot and was presided over by Bishop-elect, Msgr. Luigi Negri. Fr. Julián Carrón was elected unanimously, with one blank ballot. It was with him that Fr. Giussani wanted to share his responsibility of leadership for the whole Movement of Communion and Liberation, calling him from Spain a year ago, with the full approval of his archbishop, Cardinal Rouco Varela.
We offer the notes from Carrón’s intervention at the beginning of the National Council of Communion and Liberation that took place in Milan on March 19th
“And the Word was made flesh and dwells among us.” This gesture of the Angelus, which we have just made, recalls the ever-present beginning of a history that reaches us and overwhelms us even today. It is Him, yes, really Him, Christ, who entered history with this novelty that draws us along even today. It is to this Christ that I want to say, “Thank you,” with all the emotion of my heart, because without Him life would be flat; living would be truly awful, it would be breathless. It is precisely with Him that a human intensity has entered into life, a fullness before which it is impossible not to be astonished.
This history has reached us–this is the first thought that came to me today–through the person of Fr. Giussani, who is so dear to us. We would have been unable to say “Christ” with this intensity–at least that is the case for me, I don’t know about you–without him, without the encounter with him, without being drawn along in this whirlwind in which I found myself, which today reaches its full import, without this preference that the Lord aroused before me and before all of us. Fr. Giussani drew all of us along with him, making us experience in a real way what Christ truly is. It was really him, it was in living together with him, sharing life with him, that Christ moved our lives right to the marrow, bringing us an intensity we could never have imagined.
So, in a moment such as this, so crucial for our history, we cannot begin–it would not be right, it would not express our heart–without saying thank you, a heartfelt thank you to Fr. Giussani for his yes, for the witness of his life which has overwhelmed us all.
For us, it has never been like living an association, but it has been a sharing in his fever of life. It is quite the opposite of formalism; it is really sharing in this whirlwind of charity with which Christ reached us. The more you are aware of your own limitation, of your own nothingness, the more you are unable not to be moved at this experience. So we ask Fr. Giussani to keep on drawing us along with him, now that he is no longer limited by time and space, now that he is sharing in the lordship over everything, Christ’s own lordship, as we have already begun to experience. Now he is at work–we already see it, every day–more than ever. We can look at this moment quite serenely, with certainty, without fear, without dread, not because we are good, not because we are up to it, but in the certainty that he will never abandon us, as he never deserted any one of us throughout these years. Every one of us knows better than anyone else to what extent it is true that he gave his whole life–his whole life–for us, up to the last moment.
It is into all this mystery that my poor “I” is inserted, from the time Fr. Giussani took his responsibility before God of bringing me here. It had been years that he had wanted this (as you all know, because he told you so last year, the last time he was here at the National Council; I was not here that time). I thought–as some of you told me–that it had been five years. But it had been even longer than that, because in the summer of 1997, at the end of the Spiritual Exercises of the Novices, Fr. Giussani said before everyone, “Lord, make me tell everyone that if Carrón were to take over the functions I have, I would be very glad.” I had forgotten it, as usual, and you were the ones to remind me. This means that he had had it in mind for some time.
As I had forgotten this, I had forgotten a lot of other things because I thought it would never happen. Getting everyone to agree, even my archbishop, was really difficult, as I told the Memores Domini some months ago. So I had not committed myself much over these years; I thought it would never come to this. But when Fr. Giussani–as I told you–decided to write to the Pope and make the request to him, I began to think that perhaps it would happen after all.
If I am telling you this, it’s because all these particular circumstances, through which the Mystery works out His plan, were accepted by me for what they are, as the Mystery that is at work, because getting everyone to agree is only the work of the Holy Spirit. So, I found myself deciding not only something not secondary (to move to Italy or not, or an appointment), but I found myself answering the Mystery, who was calling me through those circumstances. I was aware all these months that, in answering Fr. Giussani’s invitation to come here, I was answering the Mystery present. Without this, there would not have been adequate reasons for such a decision, because if the Mystery is not involved, then there is no adequate reason.
I am telling you this because what happened to me is now happening to you. We are all before this mysterious fact that we find ourselves living today, that acquires the import it has after what we sadly had to live together–the sickness and death of Fr. Giussani. It is as if we were all taken up in a mysterious design. The aggravation of Fr. Giussani’s sickness and his death made us experience his paternity. All of us, drawn along by affection for him, were truly generated as children, because we had to surrender to that mysterious plan that was working itself out in him. I was the privileged witness of the development of his sickness in the last months, in which, instant by instant, we had to surrender to the way in which the Mystery was bringing it to fulfillment. In other words, we had to learn obedience to the Mystery in the way in which He brought Fr. Giussani’s life to its completion, and we did it full of emotion for what tied us to him. So, he generated us as children of the Father who had this plan for him and for us. This was acknowledged by everyone, even by those who do not belong to the Movement. How many people came to us to offer their condolences for Fr. Giussani’s death, aware that we had lost a father! Even they acknowledged this, his paternity, in us. At the same time, along with the pain of separation, we have experienced his permanence, and never so strong as now.
For the time being, it is as if he has left us everything, as a father leaves everything ready to help his children. As we read the text The Greatest Sacrifice is to Give Your Life for an Other’s Work, it is as if it was prepared for us now.
To give your life for an Other’s work; this “other,” historically, phenomenally, as it appears, is a particular person; … I am the one,” Fr. Giussani said. But this “I” is destined to disappear. “No sooner is the word ‘I’ pronounced then it becomes blurred, and is lost in the distance, because the historical, describable, photographable factor, which can be indicated by name and surname, is destined to disappear from the scene where a history begins. …So we have reached a very serious moment, which urgently requires everyone, as a matter of loyalty and fidelity, to become aware of his own responsibility. It is the moment for each of us to take up his own responsibility for the charism.”
What is the charism? The essence of the charism can be summed up in three points: “First of all, the announcement that God has become man (the astonishment and enthusiasm for this). Secondly, that this man is present in a “sign” of concord, of communion, …of a people in unity.” And thirdly that “only in God-made-man, and therefore only in His presence and, so, only… through the form of His presence, can man be man and humanity be human.” Hence, morality and mission.
Before the ever-menacing temptation, in our frailty and our evil, of reducing it, to live it partially, so as to avoid living it partially, stressing “some aspects at the expense of others (making it monstrous),” bending it to our “own taste” or for our “own profit,” he said, we need a comparison with the charism. “So our greatest concern must be for this comparison with the charism, methodologically, practically, morally, and pedagogically. Otherwise, the charism becomes a pretext and an inspiration for what we want; it covers up and endorses what we ourselves want. We must make a normal practice of comparison with the charism, as correction and as an ideal to be continually re-awakened. We have to make of this comparison a habit, habitus, and a virtue. This is our virtue: comparison with the charism in its originality.”
A third step is needed so as to make this possible. “At this point, we are back again at the ephemeral, because God makes use of the ephemeral. Here again is the importance of the ephemeral: for the moment, the final comparison is with the person with whom it all started. I may dissolve, but the texts I leave behind, and the uninterrupted following–God willing–of the people indicated as the point of reference, as the true interpretation of what happened in me, become the instrument for correction and re-awakening; they become the tool of morality. The line of the references indicated is what is most alive in the present, because a text can be interpreted, too; it is difficult to interpret it wrongly, but it is possible. To give your life for an Other’s work always implies a link between the word “Other” [with a capital O] and something historical, something concrete that can be touched, felt, described, photographed, and has a name and surname. Without this, our pride imposes itself–this is ephemeral, yes; ephemeral in the worst sense of the word. To speak of charism without a historical reference is not to speak of a Catholic charism.”
Just reading it now makes me tremble, because now we can truly understand the gravity of what he told us years ago.
The charism itself has told us how it goes on: the texts and the point of reference. So the election today (i.e., Julián Carrón’s election as President of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation) is the first occasion offered us to show our sonship. With this vote, you have shown you are his children, because you have followed what Fr. Giussani indicated as the point of reference. This is a good beginning for the permanence of our whole history. Our obedience is a promise, because everything depends on obedience to Him who, through Fr. Giussani, generated, generates, and goes on generating us. The words of St. Paul cannot fail to come to mind: “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience many will be made righteous.” From disobedience a history was born, and from obedience another. From the dawn of history, it has been either an act of disobedience or an act of obedience–Adam and Christ. So the fact that we have been given the grace of obedience today–it is always a matter of freedom!–is already a good sign, a fine promise for all of us.
Here is the whole program we have before us: that what we have done in the voting today coincide with us, become habitus, so that our existence coincides with our being. Because it doesn’t all finish here with the voting and then everything goes on as before. It’s not just a detail that has changed; there has been a mutation!
In that retreat in 1997 that I referred to, Fr. Giussani commented on the phrase from St. John, “It is better for you that I go.” He said, “When a friend with whom we have traveled a stretch of road changes, in the flesh, visibly, sensibly changes, a friend who has taken up all our weariness after the confidence of our beginning, this becomes a negative reason for our vocation and–you get the idea–‘Now we will be helped less, we will be less sure, less…’” The loss of the contingent factor that Christ has used so as to enter into our life makes us afraid. If the person through whom we have given ourselves, who has accompanied us, dies, it becomes a source of fear, of dread.” And, following Jesus, he said, “It is better that this happens. When we lose the attachment to the mode with which the truth communicates itself, when we take up an attitude of freedom as regards the modality with which things were said, it is then that the truth of the thing begins to emerge clearly.” So does there come a moment when we overcome the carnality, this historical contingency? No! Fr. Giussani went on, “Christ reaches us, the Mystery reaches us through very concrete things, through a humanity, through a human reality, but it does not depend on a person who is able to speak well or on the person you trust; it doesn’t depend on this. The security from which you draw substance in your journey is not tied to him; it depends on Jesus. This is what makes us secure: it depends on Jesus; you have come into direct relationship with the mystery of Jesus, the mystery of Christ, who governs history through the lives that He takes hold of.”
So, in following this contingent point, you are really living a relationship with Jesus. It is not a matter of filling up the organizational chart. What is at stake is our relationship with Christ, our life itself! Just like me, you are all before the Mystery in these same circumstances, ephemeral as they are. We all have before us the tool for morality, as I quoted before, and this is the point of reference, before which our freedom moves. This is the path for our life that is waiting for us, because the sacramental method is always the same: to follow one person whom the Mystery takes hold of in a way so clearly mysterious, because it is the permanence of the same thing in a new historical mode. It is not a reproduction of what was there before; the expressive forms have changed–I am myself, with all that is ephemeral in me and, in a sense, this is truly a new beginning.
We have before us the whole adventure of getting to know each other and becoming truly companions on our way to destiny. I want to be your companion on the way to destiny, nothing else. I don’t care about organizational charts. What I care about is walking toward destiny; I care about Christ, because only He is able to make me feel the thrill of an intensity of life that no organization can give me. I’ve no interest but this. The relationship with you interests me for this. I want to have true, honest relationships, and not formal ones, for this reason. I don’t care about anything else; I can’t bring myself to care for anything else, even though I may fail for the evil that is in me, but what I have to surrender to, as awareness and as judgment, because of what I experience, is that there is there is nothing that interests my life like Christ. So I invite you to this, to a relationship for this.
The other day, I happened to come across a text I like very much, because it truly indicates the task we have. “A moment has come,” Fr. Giussani said in 1991, “in which the affection among us has a specific weight immediately greater than even dogmatic lucidity, the intensity of theological thought, or the energy of leadership. The affection we have to carry among us has one single urgency: prayer, affection for Christ. For the moment has come in which the Movement walks exclusively in virtue of the affection for Christ that each of us has, that each of us invokes the Spirit to have.”
“The Movement walks exclusively in virtue of affection for Christ.” This is our program, nothing else. This is our challenge. The Movement walks exclusively in virtue of the yes to Christ of each one of us, of each one’s affection for Christ. If this affection grows, then it is the hope for us and for the world, for the whole of mankind, because in this case we will go on, through our experience, like Fr. Giussani, to show the world who Christ is–not by words but through experience.
The School of Community says, “The dynamic law of Jesus’ moral conception is based on a uniting force, the method of preference, a choice.” The whole of morality is there. So, in giving us this point of reference–this preference and this uniting force–God gives us a tool for morality. Before this God-given method, “man’s problem is that he resists this logic.” And we, sinners like everyone else, are no different. Hence, the need for entreaty, as Fr. Giussani concluded that retreat for the Novices: “Pray God to make you faithful also to the contingent factor which this companionship of Christ uses in order to enter our lives and, through us, the world.” Let’s ask for this simplicity of adhesion, which lies at the origin of our unity. Because it is God–as we learn from the School of Community –who joins together those who are His. It is not we, by agreeing amongst ourselves, who bring unity; what generates this unity is each one of us answering to Christ; it is our affection for Christ.
Let’s entrust our history to our Lady, “living spring of hope,” and let’s ask Fr. Giussani, too–he who had each one of us and the whole world at heart–that, in these historical circumstances that he defined as “brutal loneliness,” he hold us by the hand, for our good, and for the good of the world.