Guardian Angels

Father Giussani: Since I have known you, which is almost eight years now, I have always wanted to write you at least a few lines. However, I never really knew what I wanted to say. Every time I heard something you had written or said, through my close friends, new questions arose in me which fed even more the “labyrinth” that I had built up around you. But just today, after so many years wasted in indifference and silence, I realize that what I wanted to do, above all, was simply to ask, “Who are you, Giussani?” To know who this person was, he who was an instrument for other creatures to better understand life and the world–this is what my 19 years wanted from you. I wanted to understand the group of persons who gathered together in a university classroom with “Communion and Liberation” etched on their faces. These were the things that were bothering me then, Fr. Giussani. Then time passed and–don’t be offended–I forgot about you, for a long time, while I lived the life of a 23-year-old, puffed up with false freedom and a desire to fly high. I am almost sure that if I had run into one of those “nuts” (in quotes because that is what I thought at the time) in the Movement and had seen a copy of The Religious Sense in their hands, I would have asked, “What’s that novel about?” That’s the way it was. I tell you this frankly. In that period I had even forgotten about God. I was rather resentful toward the Church and everything that had to do with her. My faith in culture as the redeemer of souls had led me to abuse rationalism, to become drunk on nihilism, and to define myself as proudly agnostic. A couple of years later, however, I ran into you again. Here once again was the hand of Fr. Giussani, held out through the smile of one of his own: those persons that I easily recognize for their way of giving smiles, beauty, and hope to all they meet and their ability to teach others to love life in its true meaning. And yet, not even then was I able to shed the blindfold that covered my eyes and to discern the truth that was springing up on the path in front of me. Not even then did I face the risk implicit in accepting a change. I forced you to be patient some more, to wait until I myself broke the glass that was keeping me from seeing who I really was. Now I am 26 years old, Fr. Giussani, and I intuit that already this glass does not exist any more. Now I feel you very close to me. Now I know many things that I did not even imagine I could understand. Now I believe that angels exist and that you are the “elder angel” of the family–one of those creatures who, by the sheer brush of their wings, are able to create words that can light up the desert. A being who, with his unique philosophy of life and of the religious sense, prepares others to continue to sow beauty, peace, and love throughout the world. I think that you believe that whoever cultivates art in its manifold manifestations is a person who feels God in his innermost being, and that if he denies God he denies himself–just look at how the world turns! Now I too am convinced of this. Do you know how I imagine you now? I imagine you as happy. Happy to see your immense work and your many children who are accomplishing a marvelous task, on both sides of the ocean, to the right and the left, to the north and the south. I imagine you as happy, sometimes jumping for joy, especially when you see all these thousands of men, women, and children proud to belong to a movement that is so full of life. I imagine how much your hands must want to caress their faces one by one, when you hear that “the people sings” as it celebrates an encounter, an event. I wonder if, sometimes, you have imagined seeing many, many people at a meeting called by you. I believe so. Great souls have a foretaste of greatness. Currently I am working with many of your people on a wonderful project: a university that offers an education to young people who have limited financial means but an enormous desire for improvement and a great thirst for knowledge. And you do not know how happy and lucky I feel to be doing this with the help of your angels. They are, Fr. Giussani, dedication and sacrifice. They are the ones who have taken your hand, who have absorbed your wisdom, and who today transmit it in the form of poetry, song, and knowledge. A few months ago they invited me to a Fraternity meeting (it was just one of the many invitations I have been receiving ever since I was nineteen) and, for the first time, I went. I felt like an outsider, but they did not treat me as one. On the contrary, they acted as though I had always been coming, and talked and sang and laughed and commented on one of your texts. So I too talked, sang, laughed, and said what I thought. And in the end, instead of a speech of thanks, you know what they did? They “patted” me! I don’t know if you know what this means, but I’ll explain it to you: in my country whenever anybody does something really good or unusual, or for the first time, everybody gives them pats on the back and shoulders and everywhere, as a sign of the joy they share with you. So, I took part in a “Fra,” as they call it here, and then another, and a “School,” and I began to know Communion and Liberation a little better. Now I know that it is a “movement” because those who are part of it are always in action, they are never still, but are always lending a hand and giving hope, running here and there, sowing and then sowing again the truth, the path, salvation. They are always so full of gladness, peace, and freedom. This is the great thing about your angels, Fr. Giussani. It doesn’t matter what time it is, or where they are or with whom, because they always have something to give, to share. A few days ago, a person who took part in the Movement died. I confess that I barely knew him. However, as far as I know, he was greatly beloved by everyone. The day that I went to work and they told me what had happened, I thought that my friends would be sad and not feel like working or laughing like we always did, and so I prepared to keep quietly to myself. Instead, just the opposite happened. Your angels did their work as usual. And they laughed if something was funny and they got angry if there was reason to. I understood, just by observing how they acted, that saying that now our friend was much happier, being united with Him, with the Lord, and that one day or another we shall again see him smiling, was to return to one sole Truth: death is what opens to us the gates to eternal life. This is a life that you and your army of angels have engaged in to make us “taste” today and desire for tomorrow. Fr. Giussani, as I said at the beginning, I only wanted to write you a few lines and reveal to you what I had always wanted to do without, however, knowing very well what it was. Now I do know what it is. And knowing this fills me with joy, and with sadness for all those years that make up my “ballad of wasted time.”
Enrique León

Dinner with the Cardinal

On October 22nd, on the occasion of World Missionary Day, Cardinal Piovanelli–after conferring in the Cathedral the “mandate” on Fr. Giovanni Paccosi, who will go to Peru–came to dinner with our Studium Christi Fraternity group of priests. Our encounter was very cordial, and after two days I received this handwritten note from him: “My dear Fr. Andrea, after wishing you a happy 40th birthday along with your other friends, I wanted to reiterate my good wishes with this note, and to bless once again your coming together in friendship. Praying together, reflecting on the word of God and the Magisterium of the Church, and even sharing a meal are all so important as to be crucial toward fidelity to one’s Ordination promises or, at least, toward joy in this fidelity. Would that many priests had such an experience! They would realize that the promised hundredfold is neither so lofty as to be beyond grasp nor so distant as to be out of reach! Affectionately, Silvano Cardinal Piovanelli.”
Father Andrea