EDITED BY PAOLA BERGAMINI
I can still see myself in the lively halls of Volta High School in Milan. Life, the life that seemed more interesting and promising, went on outside the classroom, or at least outside of class time. In the 1970s, ideology dominated in an open and accepted way; it pushed students to generous action, but one that nonetheless manifested a serious human partiality. Any newness was expected to come from a change in something outside oneself; it was a protagonism that would soon show itself to be ephemeral, even tragic. On the contrary, twenty-five years after Gian Maria Fumagallis death, his witness remains intact, which was his ability to be always inside every aspect of the stormy student life of those years without deviating from any truth. I see again this young student right in the spot where the debates, the encounters, the clashes, were most fervent. Often he would hold onto the lapels of his jacket, looking the person he was talking towhether teacher or classmatein the face, full of attention and awareness. Gian Maria, in his restless, impassioned search, had found through some classmates and adults of CL the exhaustive response to the pressing crowd of whys that ideology glorified, but that it was powerless to satisfy. He lived the experience of communion with Christ, acknowledged as present in the community, in a clear manner and with overwhelming simplicity. What was most striking about this boy was the all-encompassing aspect of his faith. In everything, he measured himself in the encounter with Christ that grew in his life. Everything. In his studies, he opened debates with his classmates and teachers; compositions and oral examinations were opportunities to explain and to explain himself, to the amazement of some teachers and the ill-concealed disappointment of others. With the music of his guitar, he made his friends retrace the significant steps in the life of CL. Even vacations in his parents hometown in the Val dIllasi were charged with the desire to communicate the experience that made his life joyous, so that in that valley, too, a community of the Movement was born. His passion for the mountains, which had inspired him to climb to an altitude above 12,000 feet when still a 12-year-old boy, became even more enthusiastic with the first vacations with the community of the GS high school group. He lived the Movement all around: at school and at home, in the parish and in the places he went on vacation. But above all, Gian Maria amazed and edified us by the way he lived a year of illness and prepared for death at the age of 18. His identification with Christ led him to make a total offering of his suffering, infusing in us his serenity and his courage. The life and reason of the youth of this unforgettable friend are well described by Fr Giussanis words on which we are meditating in this period: Christ, the reason of existence, Christ the reason for our creativity, not through the mediation of interpretation, but suddenly.
Fr Carlo Casati
Reverend Msgr Luigi Giussani: On my own behalf and on behalf of this Office, I wish to express my gratitude to you, and through your venerable person, to the numerous young people of Communion and Liberation, who with generous and exquisite willingness, offered their services on the occasion of the Pilgrimage of the Holy Father to Assisi for the historic Day of Prayer for Peace in the world. The Holy Father and the illustrious guests especially appreciated the joyous and at the same time attentive service given by so many young people toward the orderly procedure of the various moments of the unforgettable Day. I am certain that in them, too, the memory of those moments will remain alive and will contribute to keeping ever vigilant in each of them the commitment to a life of witness in favor of Peace in the various spheres in which they are called to operate. I beg you, then, Reverend Monsignor, to extend to all the young people and their responsibles my most heartfelt appreciation, while I gladly take this opportunity to repeat to you my devoted esteem.
James M. Harvey, Prefect of the Pontifical House. The Vatican, February 20, 2002
A Gift to a People
Dearest Fr Giussani: About six years ago, I encountered the Movement through Fr Lorenzo who, thanks to Carriquiry, had arrived at our house. I was already in the seminary, studying philosophy and, together with my brothers and some friends, slowly a friendship grew, a companionship full of new things, that determined my whole life. On April 6th I will be ordained to the priesthood and I wanted you to know it because, thanks to the charism that I have received through you, I confess that the step I am about to take, by the pure grace of God, takes on a greater awareness, because I belong and I am giving myself to a people, because I see more clearly the call that I have received, because I experience every day with greater certainty that the way of living the house as the place of memory, in accordance with the experience of the Studium Christi, is determinant in my life. Thank you, Fr Gius, because everything becomes new and meaningful when in every instant of my life I can attempt to understand that I am You who make me and that my supplication in every Angelus enables me to recognize with a new face His presence among us.
An Encounter of Gazes
On Tuesday, March 12th, my wife Jan and I were honored with an extraordinary and unexpected invitation. We had been in Italy for several days visiting our dear friends Claudio and Marta Chieffo, Renato and Carla Crepaldi, and Fabrizio Scheda, when the call came that Don Giussani would receive us in two days time. And so, on Thursday, March 14th, we journeyed from Forlì to San Remo to meet at last the man who has been the source of inspiration and strength for so very many people, a man whose work and thought have had a profound effect on my own life as well. We arrived at the appointed hour of 18:00, just as the setting sun reflected off the waters of the Mediterranean and cast a soft golden glow over the beautiful cliff-side house. Once inside, we were welcomed and shown into the room where Father Giussani awaited. He was seated near a large picture window overlooking the sea, and light filled the room. The warmth of his smile as he greeted us, the look of serenity and kindness in his pale blue eyes, made us feel instantly and completely at home in his presence. Giorgio Vittadini carefully translated Father Giussanis remarks so that we shouldnt miss the full meaning with our limited understanding of Italian. He began with a gracious welcome that made special mention of his feeling for the Jewish people and what Jewish culture and religion have brought to the world, and specifically to the Christian tradition. The next hour flew by, during which we discussed music and work and marriageall the parts of our lives, it seemed. We were happy to see that Father Giussani seemed well and content, despite the ravages of illness. In fact, his sense of humor and lively conversation belied the difficulties he has faced. Even so, perhaps the most eloquent moments were non-verbal, because his gaze is so unfaltering, and his manner so direct. We shared a glass of wine and sat for some photos together. Soon it was time to go, and we departed feeling a certain awe and sweetness after an unforgettable visit.
A School Assignment
Dearest Fr Giussani: For a Lenten school assignment, our son Vincent was instructed to construct a three dimensional cross using materials of his choosing. He and his father, Joe, fashioned a cross from old oak slats from our wine press, which were recently replaced after 90 years. My father-in-law, Franco, who is 69 this year and suffers from Parkinsons disease since 1990, used this same press for forty years, and zio Rosario before him. I returned from School of Community on the eve of Ash Wednesday to find the finished cross on our table. I saw not only the simple beauty, but was immediately struck by the history in this wood, the tradition and the memory. It provoked me to sacrifice and to embrace the cross. In crushing our will and dying to our resistance we become new wine, a new creation. Fr Giussani, I write this in gratitude for your paternity, for giving our family new life in the Movement, for rediscovering our history, and for this belonging which is the reasonable way for us to truly seek our destiny daily in Christ, moment by moment. We unite our joys and our sorrows with yours. Be confident of our affection and our prayers for you.
Mary Ann, Maryland
Holiday in Wales
Jeremiah went to live in England from Nigeria. This is a letter he sent to his friend, Anna, who still lives in Nigeria
Dear Anna: My heart shouts with joy as I write this. First, I want to thank you for encouraging me to stay in the community. Now more than ever before I feel like a child, one in front of a mystery, a presence that always corresponds to my desires. I went for the CL holidays in Wales. We had a great time visiting places, singing together, playing together, and studying together. What struck me most is the simplicity and love with which we stayed together, especially the simplicity and love which was shown by the friends of Memores Domini. There were 3 of them: Amos, Gianluca, and Joe. They see and live Christ in the faces of everybody. The wisdom with which they talk is amazing, as is the happiness on their faces, and the way they see Christ in each of our faces. The most amazing thing is the way they play with each other and with us as if they are playing with Christ Himself, with honesty, gentility, and most of all, love. There was a game we played (flag game) in which I was running after a girl with the flag. I knocked her down and she fell heavily on the ground. When we got back to the cottage, Gianluca told me that even though we were playing a game, I shouldnt have been so aggressive. He asked me if it had been Christ that I was running after, would I have been so aggressive in knocking Him down? My answer was obviously no. That girl, he said, is Christ. This touched me a great deal. I thought about it and resolved and prayed to see Christ in everybody and everything I do, to be gentle always and to live the mystery in my everyday life. In the answer of Fr Giussani to the Popes letter, he recognized the challenge the Pope is giving to the Movement and he said what an imposing work emerges from this letter! We are starting afresh; always what has to happen is something new, an extremely weighty step in our history. For me, this holiday is a challenge more than ever before for me to become an echo of the event of Christ, to become myself an event. But I cant do it all alone. I place myself in His hands.
The Whole World
Two years ago, my husband and his brother gave their grandfather (who will be 90 in September) a gift subscription to Traces. When he renewed the subscription this year, he thanked us saying, The whole world is in it. Thanks, Fr Giussani! Recently, after seeing on television the news report about the Mass said by Cardinal Martini for the twentieth anniversary of the recognition of the Fraternity, he decided to give a small offering every month (which is large in proportion to his tiny pension) to support the needs of our Movement.