The Beginning of What Happened
Twenty years after the death of Archbishop Enrico Manfredini, Fr Giussani remembers him anew with an article appearing in Anche tu insieme (no. 5/6, second semester 2003), a periodical of the Cooperazione e Sviluppo association in Piacenza, Italy
by Luigi Giussani
As often happens, the Lord acts for His glory, making a small spot in our memory renew the beginnings of a portentous development. It is an obscure moment, the last moment in a tedious November day, in the first-floor hallway of the first year of high school in the seminary of Venegono Inferiore. All our classmates were trying to entertain themselves with the usual “dormitory” games.
But three members of that young company seemed restless and in search of something unknown to the others. In math, the smartest boy was Enrico Manfredini, who was also the quickest to think, to imagine, and to decide.
“ What does Christ have to do with mathematics?”
Nobody talked about this because nobody was interested in it. But then, what reasons were there for their vocation, and what did faith represent in terms of the new and, indeed, the definitive? “We have to do something…. Let’s start doing what becomes possible for us.”
In other words, let’s start looking for these mysterious connections among all things and between all things and Jesus Christ. Free time can be used also to attack a problem ignored by everybody…. To tell the truth, not by everybody; “the formidable” Fr Gaetano Corti, a philosophy teacher–whom everyone admired, even if no one followed him–placed himself at the head of this sparse little group, which rather quickly increased the number of members in Studium Christi. The enthusiasm for the purpose identified and loved spread not only to the whole first-year class, but to all three classes in the high school.
The arduous pain that always accompanies the Lord’s work dealt a heavy blow to the still small group of the most impassioned. A little group of seminarians, mainly from Como, was made uneasy by the fact that the ones in Studium Christi were depriving them of cultural supremacy in the class.
They promoted the first initiative of religious investigation among students. Thus, one morning, the students in the classical high school of Como found on all the desks of the school a sheet with this question, “What is Christ for you?” All this led the most enthusiastic adherents to Studium Christi to disseminate their ideas and research in a magazine called Christus, in which the connections between Christ and all the conquests of human culture were justified, or “demonstrated.” The battle had begun to give to Christ youth aware and free of the preconceptions that the dominant secular and Masonic mentality provided in the schools and the mass media.
The sheets with the negative, hostile responses of the students contrary to the initiative were signed Studium Diaboli.
The head of Studium Diaboli, Luigi Gaffuri, was the very one who organized this poll of the students of the city’s classical high school.
The rector of the entire high school of the seminary of Venegono, Msgr Giovanni Colombo, who was also a well-known teacher of Italian literature at the Università Cattolica, summoned the group of Studium Christi faithful and told them, “What you are doing is fine, but you are splitting your class between Studium Christi and Studium Diaboli, and this is contrary to good order. Therefore, I forbid you to go on.”
The victory was not what the rector expected: before the end of the school year, the two Studium Diaboli boys left the seminary.
On the contrary, the group of those faithful to the study of the Christian Magisterium not only did not fall apart, but grew larger and larger, to the point that at the beginning of the twenty-first century, it had become a great Catholic movement, from Alaska all the way to Australia, from the republics of northern Europe to the Tierra del Fuego of Argentina.
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Enrico Manfredini was born on January 20, 1922, in Suzzara (province of Mantua), Italy. After completing his studies at the seminary of Venegono, he graduated in philosophy from the Università Cattolica in Milan. In 1945, he was ordained to the priesthood. He became a parochial assistant in Monza and was a teacher of seminary prefects at the Archbishop’s School in Porlezza. In the 1960s, Cardinal Montini called him to lead Catholic Action in Milan, where he fostered the rise of ecclesial initiatives, following in particular the early development of Communion and Liberation. From 1963 to 1969 he was provost of San Vittore in Varese. In 1969, Pope Paul VI named him bishop; his first see was Piacenza. On June 14, 1981, as Bishop of Piacenza, he recognized Memores Domini as a “pious lay association” by a decree of canonical erection. In 1983, he was named Archbishop of Bologna, a see that is normally occupied by a cardinal. But he did not live to receive the cardinal’s hat, dying of a heart attack on December 16th of that same year.