Gloria Dei Vivens Homo
Exercises of CLU (University Students) Rimini, Italy, December
Lesson Saturday, December 13, 2003
Fr Pino (Stefano Alberto). During Lauds, we recited, “But Zion said, ‘The
Lord has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me.’ Can a woman forget her
nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may
forget, yet I will not forget you.”1
I will not forget you.” Being, the Mystery, lives this drama. The supreme
drama—Fr Giussani wrote in the Letter to the Fraternity—is that Being
should ask to be acknowledged by man.
Do you remember the title of this year’s Meeting? “Is there a man
who desires life and longs for happy days?” This is the question the Mystery
asks man. Receiving life, being called from nothingness into being, coincides
with letting yourself be asked this question, “Is there a man who desires
life and longs for happy days?” How is this possible? This question has
to enter into life, it has to enter into time and space to become a factor of
experience, a factor of provocation, a blow to the heart.
Our great friend, Fr Pezzi, sent me from Russia a passage from the dialogue between
Dona Prouhèze and Don Camille: “It is not enough for me that God
exist, that He remain God and leave us in our nothingness. God put on our honest
work clothes, He came to seek out that nothingness all the way into the womb
of a woman.”2
One of you wrote to me, “I am struck by the title of these Exercises, taken
from Fr Giussani’s letter to the Holy Father, but I am also struck by how
Giussani goes on to say, ‘The glory of God is man who is alive in the truth
of the light, God present in the history of mankind.’ A man cannot say
any more than this, and we moderns, understandably, so often hesitate to say
it, we who act like intruders in the mystery of the fleshliness of Christ. And
yet, these words contain all man’s desire to live and to be the glory of
someone, that is, to love and be loved truly. In order to see that this is true,
one needs for the person who loves him to stay by him. But often this is not
possible, because men abandon and betray, they die, they suffer physically, they
play games with you, or are simply busy somewhere else; you can put in all the
evil we are capable of doing and incapable of admitting. This is a mankind in
danger.” We are all somewhat in danger; we are all divided.
1. What happens in our life that can reawaken our humanity, put back together
what is divided, let loose what is bound up? What does it mean to begin to experience
God present in history? How does this happen? It is only through an encounter.
It is not a reflection of our own, not an effort on our part. It is only an encounter,
an encounter with an exceptional human Presence, as happened to the cripple—we
too are all a bit crippled.3
Imagine the scene.4 It’s around noontime, Jesus is talking by Peter’s
front door, and all the people are blocking the way to the threshold because
they want to hear Him speak. He cannot even manage to eat; rather, He has even
forgotten to eat. It is as though, faced with all these suffering people, He
could not tear Himself away. And up come two people carrying a stretcher with
a cripple on it, someone small for his age, shriveled up, and they say, “Make
way! Make way! Make way!” But the crowd doesn’t let them through,
they won’t get out of the way (it’s like seeing ambulances in traffic
jams, as happened in Milan two weeks ago). The two don’t give up, but go
around to the back of the house. Since the houses were one story high, just one
story, and normally had roofs made of mud and straw, they carry him up to the
roof, and push away the straw and lift the mud, and let the cripple down right
behind Christ. Christ turns around, looks him in the eye, and says, “Your
sins are forgiven you. Take heart, your sins are forgiven.” Christ intuits
the depression and moral weakness that normally accompany a long illness; the
cripple had been paralyzed for twenty years. Then He heals him, as a challenge
to the Pharisees there in front, scandalized because He said, “Have faith,
have faith, son; your sins are forgiven you.” Who can forgive sins?
Let’s imagine this scene, let’s imagine this man who feels himself
being looked at in this way, who finds himself freed, standing up, with everyone
looking at him in slightly frightened curiosity because of this strange occurrence,
the exceptional thing that has happened. Later he will begin following Him, and
will understand, will begin to understand many things that this Man says. In
any case, the main thing could be understood by everybody. He said, “Messiah,
the One who is sent.” This truth of Christ came to him tied to a fact:
he went there on a stretcher and he came out of the house a free man. It changed
everything: his relationship with life, his relationship with the Mystery, the
way that man prayed that afternoon, the way he then went into the temple every
day, the feeling about life he had when he saw the sun go down or come up when
he went to work. The consciousness of that encounter, the consciousness toward
that Man, the way he began following Him, the way He went among the villages
announcing that the Kingdom of God, the promise, was already in their midst,
the way He did everything, changed the way he thought about himself, the way
he thought about his past, all the mess he had left behind him—the base
acts, the discouragement, the curses, the way he had treated his family—and
the way he treated people now, everything, was all actions, all his life started
out from this consciousness, the consciousness that this gaze, this gesture,
this Man had reawakened in him—how Jesus had grabbed him, how Jesus had
run over him, how Jesus had treated him, the way he had met this Man.
It is a gaze, it is a gesture, it is an encounter that is fully human. Just as
it was for the woman, rejected by all, a sinner:5 Mary Magdalene is there on
the sidewalk, curious, watching the crowd behind Jesus who says He is the Messiah,
who says He is God (this is why they would kill Him a few months later). Jesus,
passing that way, without even stopping for an instant, looks at her. From that
moment on, she will no longer look at herself, she will no longer see herself
and will no longer see men, people, her house, Jerusalem, the world, the rain
and the sun, she will no longer be able to look at all these things except within
the gaze of those eyes. When she looked at herself in the mirror, her aspect
was dominated and determined by those eyes.
This is the way Being re-creates us: through a fully human encounter, through
a gesture that liberates us, through a gaze that possesses our destiny—more
than the possession of a mother or a father.
The way the event of Christ reaches us re-creates the person, my personality.
What does “re-create” mean? Not that our physical features change,
but that what is divided, this strange division we feel between the dynamic of
reason and the dynamic of affection, what Gesualdo Bufalino called “mental
reservation,”6 this uncertainty, this fear… everything is overcome
by the force of attraction, the beauty, the reasonableness, the exceptionality
of this Man who looks at you, impacts your life, and speaks directly to your “I,” your
The encounter with Christ coincides with this question, “What are you looking
for?”7 In the first instant of the encounter, in that hour of the afternoon,
to those two who were starting to follow him, Jesus says, “What are you
looking for?,” which is like saying, “What do you want?” This
is the exceptionality of the encounter with Him; it is an attraction that corresponds
to desire, and at the same time increases the desire, makes you discover an even
more profound question, an intensity of questioning that had been hidden until
that moment. Unity of life is not an effort, not the fruit of a particular technique;
this re-creation of my “I” comes about within this encounter.
Thus the discovery of my value as a person comes about. The term “person” is
going back today to the usage it had in ancient times, in the pagan world, in
the sense of “mask.” “Person,” on the other hand, indicates
something absolutely original, something absolutely unique and unrepeatable. “For
what will it profit you if you gain the whole world but forfeit your life? Or
what will you give in return for your life?”8 Christ did not only ask this
question two thousand years ago, but He is asking it again now. This dynamic
is now. Ines writes, “I am an Albanian girl, in my third year at the state
university of Milan, studying political science. I want to tell you what has
happened in my life. Until the age of 18, I lived in Albania with my family,
and I have personally experienced every sort of evil. Thus, when I was 10 years
old, I went into a deep depression; I kept drinking to forget what I had seen.
When I got a little older, I went through civil war and its horrors. It is hard
to see a building full of people collapse a few yards away because of the explosion
of a bomb. When I finished high school, I won a scholarship to come study in
Italy, and I enrolled in the University of Bari in political science. The following
year, I transferred to Milan. Here, I fell back into a deep depression; I was
alone and I only managed to take just a few exams. Last summer, I met someone
who is now one of my dearest friends (at the time, she was a disaster like me).
In September of this year, I went with her to the university because she had
to get information about the Faculty of Philosophy, and we met the kids who man
the tables welcoming freshmen. While she was asking for information, one of the
boys, looking at me, said, ‘And who are you?’ I think he asked me
in order to find out my name, but at that moment, for the first time, I asked
myself this question, ‘Well, who am I?’ Then I got to know these
kids better; they invited me to a meeting for freshmen with some professors.
After three months that I have been with them, I can say that I have finally
found that I am happy, and this had never happened before. Until the age of 20,
I had been treated by everybody, even my family, like an object; that is what
I had been reduced to as a person. Now, finally, I feel like I am living again.
Two weeks ago, I put together a party with all the friends I have met, and before
it started I told them what I think: for me, having met you is a stroke of luck.
For three months now, I can truly say that I have risen again, after being dead
because of all the things that had happened to me. The other night, I read in
the Bible a passage where God says to man, ‘I will bless you on the twenty-fourth
day of the ninth month.’ I realized that September 24th is the day when
I took part in School of Community for the first time.”
For the first time, I have found that I am happy.” This coincides with
being able to say “I.” Do you remember Giancarlo Cesana’s observation
at the Meeting? “Is there a man who wants to be happy? I do, I am that
man!” Reality, the Christian adventure, the adventure of life, life itself
begins with this answer, and this answer is a discovery inside an encounter,
inside the reality of a fully human encounter, inside the reality of Christ who
makes you live, who makes you live again.
What does this mean? That happiness becomes a possibility that is not generic,
but concrete, here and now. It is what Cesare Pavese observes (and we too could
very well say it ourselves, who live in the uncertainty of a situation of confusion
inside the university, to the point that we could begin to suspect that we may
already risk being a lost generation…): “There are no lost generations—there
are workers and idlers, muddleheaded and intelligent people. If even just one
generation had as its cultural destiny to end up lost, to sacrifice itself totally
for the next one, then it would be like this for every generation, and people
would ask themselves what purpose there is in going on working. Those who do
not know how to be happy ‘here and now’ will never be happy.”9
What does it mean to be able to say “I,” to be able to answer this
question: “Do you want happiness? Is there a man who seeks life?” “I
do!” What does the blow of this encounter mean, the blow with the humanity
of Christ, with this Man who—alone—has said, not “I show you
the way, I point out the truth, I tell you how to live,” but “I am
the way, I am the truth, I am the life”?10
First and foremost, it means that life has a meaning, it has a purpose, it has
a destiny, and this destiny is a Man who is present—You are present among
us, Christ. This Presence is the substance of reality: “Reality is Christ,” cries
St Paul.11There is nothing that is not part, there is nothing that is not a sign,
of His presence. This is why we love reality, this is why we are interested in
reality, this is why the encounter with Christ is the wellspring of a new reasonableness,
a true use of reason that illuminates experience; it makes us live reason as
the demand for a meaning through which reality is illuminated, illuminated above
all in its positivity, because it exists.
The encounter with Christ, the answer, “I want to be happy,” takes
away fear, and you begin finally to bring into focus what you desire, what excites
you. What is experience as the source of knowledge? What is the discovery of
experience? Not the simple experiencing of something, but what you experience,
what you feel, what attracts you, what satisfies you, what interests you, illuminated
by the judgment of the heart, illuminated like a powerful beam of light by the
original criteria of your heart.
It is a new reason, a new affection, and it is the discovery of freedom as the
possibility of embracing everything, of embracing all of experience; the entire “I” embraces
all of reality. All of reality is this Presence, without losing anything of what
exists, of what emerges before our eyes and touches our hearts. Pietro Citati,
in the interview you can read in Traces [Vol. 5, No. 11, Dec. 2003], speaks of
Catholicism as the “blessing of all the forms of creation,” and goes
on to say, “The reduction of religion to ethics is a real catastrophe.
At the origin of Christianity we have thieves, a crime, anything but ethics!
In any case, ethics is so boring that, if this were just a matter of ethics,
being religious would not be worthwhile. Christianity is a religious event, but
hardly anyone says so these days.”12 Hardly anyone… but I have heard
this news. We have heard it. We have had this human good fortune: in our lives
someone has told us this very thing, Christianity is an event! I remember very
well that May afternoon at the PIME [Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions]
in Milan, when I heard Fr Giussani speak for the first time. I did not understand
everything immediately, but I was struck by his human passion and by these two
sayings that echoed continually throughout the crowded hall: “Christ saves
reason,” “Christ is the happiness of man, of the whole man, of all
that is human.” Ever since that instant, for me still unawares but laden
with promise, this promise is coming true; this promise is true, it is more true
now than when I listened to it for the first time more than twenty years ago.
My freedom is to adhere to this evidence; my freedom, in this encounter, becomes
the opportunity to embrace everything: “Reality is Christ.” The root
of what I desire, the root of the heart is this Presence. Experience is born
out of consciousness of this Presence; my “I” is united by this Presence,
without having to censure anything, not even contradiction.
A pre-med freshman, who was asked to summarize a paragraph from the School of
Community text at the beginning of a meeting, found herself having to take up
this observation again and compare it with her experience, “There is always
something which makes our life worth living in our own eyes, and while we might
not reach the point of wishing to die, without it everything would be colorless
and disappointing.”13And she tells in this letter about her boyfriend who
is seriously ill and had to undergo major surgery. She says, “During the
moments in the hospital, faced with all the hard work of the university, all
the times when I want to say, ‘Enough!,’ that is when the heart rises
to the surface, because you ask yourself a thousand questions about why, what
is the meaning of all the toil and suffering already experienced the year before.
Think if the Lord only had to do with the nice things that happen to us—we
would never find a meaning for suffering; we would no longer live. But these
are the moments when we are called to become more aware of the given fact of
the unavoidable, total dependence that exists between man and What gives meaning
to your life.”
Becoming aware of this “given” is called faith; it is a new and more
profound use of your reason. Think if the Lord only had to do with the nice things
that happen to us. It is becoming aware of the given fact of unavoidable, total
dependence that exists between man and What gives meaning to one’s life. “It
is on this occasion, in this circumstance, it is staying attached to my friends
and this companionship, that I understand that School of Community is I, we;
it is for us, everything is for us, reality is for us.”
Faith is a new consciousness and a new affection: I recognize that You are present,
I recognize you, I entrust myself to what You have promised (“I am the
way, the truth, and the life”), for what I see, for what happens.
2. Faith is a judgment, it is a judgment and a new affection. How does it happen
in our lives? How does this encounter, how does this new thing impact my day
now? How can it happen?
There are two attitudes—School of Community this year will help us go more
deeply into these passages—that are very widespread today, that leave Christ’s
presence at an unbridgeable distance: either what happened to the cripple remains
something of the past, two-thousand years ago (it is thus at the most the object
of nostalgia; the presence of this Man is only a remembrance), or it is something
that I “feel” only inside me, it is a feeling, an innerness, through
a willed effort of the imagination.
On the contrary, it is the experience of an encounter, now. But what form does
this Presence have, now? What face does Christ’s presence have, now?
What is your experience? When can someone say, as Antonia of the Milan state
university writes, “Through another, I have been reawakened”? How
can our above-mentioned friend say, “Everything is for me, even suffering,
even illness, even limitation”?
It is a life that reaches ours: Christ’s life reaches us through a fully
human encounter. It is a fully human reality that has a face, the physiognomy
of our companionship. This companionship is Christ present, through His force,
through the force of His Spirit.
The characteristic of this companionship is that it coincides with the mystery
of Christ present, but without exhausting it. It is not merely the friends you
choose, the friends with whom you enjoy being, the friends that you “feel” to
be yours, what you manage to understand about them! It is His life that reaches
you now, it is His life that now bursts into yours as a fully human encounter,
it is His presence.
What is this force called that makes Him present now? What is the possibility
called of the experience of the Spirit of Christ now? It is called charism. Charism
is the experience that in us—in a precise locus, through a particular history,
through a beginning that has a name and a face—Christ reawakens all my “I.” It
is for me, it is for me as a person, it introduces it into the acknowledged mystery
of the unity of His Body: “As many of you as were baptized into Christ
have clothed yourselves with Christ… for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”14
We are the Body of Christ, His physical reality present now, His mysterious Body,
where each one is himself and each one becomes a new reality, a new person, a
In this companionship, “the ‘you’ of the person”—this
is the second point of the Letter to the Fraternity—“is the place
of guaranteed generative nobility, through the continuous awareness… of
the great promise that dominates all the action of the Spirit.”15
It is in this locus, it is in this companionship that life—as we have been
powerfully reminded—becomes the opportunity for an attention “to
the objectivity of the true and beautiful, the new, the loving, that accompanies
the Christian’s presence in the world, always.”16 And Fr Giussani’s
reminder focused on the esteem for and the fidelity to two conditions that make
this experience possible. The first condition is unity, the unity with the one
who guides us, the unity with the one who initiated and is now guiding this companionship,
a companionship guided to destiny. To have an experience of what? Of the new
power that entered the world with Christ—it is the power of the correspondence
to your heart. Following this unity, obeying this guided companionship, you obey
yourself, you obey the nature of your heart, you go to the depths of what you
really want, you go to the depths of your true desire for happiness. And the
second condition is a fraternity, “a unity that corroborates and makes
more possible the fraternity, the fraternal love that is prompt to forgive any
error of which we are victims, prompt to listen to any alternative that others’ anguish
and others’ uncertainty may suggest, so that fraternity, forgiveness, and
listening may become part of the climate of this being together for Christ.”17
Our companionship is a new reality, it is not a utopia-companionship. Giussani,
speaking a few days ago, said, “Watch out—it is still possible to
be together hoping in a utopia-companionship,” hoping in the friends that
we ourselves choose according to instinctive likes, to what suits us, to how
we understand things, to our own measure of satisfaction.
A companionship guided to destiny: it is the method that Christ has chosen, so
that we might experience His new power entering the world, as salvation, as total
passion for the destiny of each one. It is no coincidence that these days Giussani
insists especially on the term “oboedientia et pax”, obedience and
peace, “obedience, from which flows a peace that is a desire—even
when it is unconscious, it is a desire of man’s heart, always.”18
It is a cordial obedience—by adhering to, following the one who guides
you, you discover your nature, you discover what corresponds to you, you obey
yourself, that is to say, you obey the original root of your heart.
Following this companionship is not obeying some rules, it is not adapting to
an organization, but is an identification, it is the chance to verify your experience,
your desires; you become truly yourself.
3. What happens in life by participating in the life of this companionship? The
great opportunity expressed by the word “verification.”
You can be here, still skeptical, still doubtful, still burdened with your “mental
reservations”… “Come and see.”19 Experience is the great
criterion for verification of the promise that the Lord, through this companionship,
makes to your life, which is the promise of a true humanity, a new humanity “in
an era of defeats, this victory, over death, over evil, over unhappiness, over
the nothingness that looms in every human whisper.”20 This passion for
the “secular essence” of Christian life, for eating and drinking,
for friendship, for affection, for generation, for enterprise, is not just empty
Among the many letters I could continue to read, I chose one sent to Fr Giussani
and published in the December Traces. A young man whose wife is gravely ill writes: “Dear
Fr Giussani: As we take up again this year’s Annual Retreat, we immediately
come across a word that cannot leave us indifferent: happiness. To the eyes of
the world, someone like me is already cut out of the argument. My wife has a
tumor. Along with my three children, I see her fading day after day. In the end,
you can control the pain with morphine, and before I expected, in the hardest
moments, I began to consider that if the Lord were to take her, she would no
longer suffer and we would no longer see her suffering. The other temptation
is to ask the miracle of healing only so as to change the circumstances, which
seem to me not an occasion for conversion, but an unbearable burden. I have been
doing it every day for over a year, with a fidelity greater than faith itself.
But something in me agrees at once with what Cesana said, ‘To want to be
happy means to want it now, with what I have, not living time as an indefinite
interval that separates me from what is waiting for me.’ [To want it now,
with what I have]. I, too, want to try to imitate our Lady, to respect God’s
freedom. For my life could be still shuffled like a deck of cards, and yet still
go on with the same circumstances as today for ten days, ten months, or ten years.
I want to believe firmly what you have always taught us: that not only is reality
not evil, but that everything, really everything that happens to us, is for our
good. This is the Christian paradox. If we believe in the one God who has become
flesh, we are condemned to a positive prejudice about reality. But it is an advantageous
prejudice because life is more human, more beautiful…. I can no longer
limit myself to giving just medical bulletins to those people who ask me for
news, not even the most cynical and distant colleagues. I want to try to tell
them that the hope rooted in my heart is also for them; that most of the cares
that stifle us are just small things; that by having a purer gaze on our life
we should all be less inclined to lament and more ready to be thankful for the
many things we have. Then I leave diplomacy aside and ask everyone—even
non-believers—to pray for me and for my family. And to those who object
that my prayers seem to have no effect, I answer as best I can what you tell
children in your book on prayer: ‘If it seems that God isn’t listening
to us, it is only to teach us truly to have trust in Him. He knows if what we
are asking for is good, and He knows when it is good to give us what we ask.
We can ask Him for things that seem to be good, but the Lord, who sees all things,
can understand that they would not be good, or that there is something else that
would be even better. If we insist on asking God for the things that seem right,
then we always get something beautiful and great for our lives: either what we
imagine or what God knows.’ This quote of yours is the only thing I managed
to answer to a friend of mine, a mother who had lost her baby and had asked me
to explain God’s deafness to her prayers. Now it’s my turn. Clearly,
the mission I am called to consists of repeating these things. Dear Fr Giussani,
it’s late at night and I’m tired. How nice it would be to rest a
while in your arms, because life is hard, and even more so when you have to live
it in the face of death every day. It is like walking on the edge of a precipice;
it can drive you crazy. I was thinking this a few hours ago, but I had to concentrate
on toasting the sandwiches for the children’s dinner. The nice thing about
reality is that it doesn’t cheat on you, but keeps bringing you down to
earth; but it’s also the great sign that refers you back to an Other, because
it is to be loved just as it is, because it is. Gratis.”21
It is the experience of this gratuitousness, of this love for reality because
it is there, for the woman God put by your side because she is there, for your
parents because they are there, because the woman is there for your destiny,
your parents are there for your destiny. This gratuitousness, which my thoughts
cannot imagine, which my efforts cannot reach. This gratuitousness, possible
like the gratuitousness lived by the mother of one of us who, after three years,
after raising and feeding a foster child, accepted having to hand him over to
another family that adopted him along with his brothers. The mother writes, “We
have realized that the more one loves, the more one suffers, just as it was when
we accompanied your little brother, the other children, and our children, and
this love leads you to take steps that are unthinkable.” And our friend
observes, “The glory of God is man who is alive. As far as I can see, the
man who lives is the man who belongs. It is one who—as my parents are demonstrating
in this period that is also toilsome and painful—says ‘yes’ constantly,
radically, to the vocation of mother and father, in a truly gratuitous, virginal
way, and thus humanly fertile. I bring to mind… I see in them what Giussani
says, said to us in the letter, “Virginity coincides with the nature of
real being, in the form of the totality of its revealing itself.” Virginity,
this purity, this gratuitousness, is real being. This is really true, so much
so that the position of my parents, even within the sacrifice, is so profoundly
fertile that it is changing our family, changing my community. It makes my journey
easy, because I have in front of me people who risk their freedom for something
more, that they are already living, that they live now, here and now.”
This is what it means to live: in everything to say “yes” to the
One who is among us. Our life in this “yes” becomes His glory, the
reverberation of His presence within reality. Our life becomes the locus of His
presence, the human glory of Christ; it is the locus of this gratuitousness that
is possible, the locus where it is possible to feel moved, the locus of this
freedom that says “yes” within every circumstance.
What is the value of life if not to be given?”22 What is the value of life
if not to say “yes”? What is the value of this instant if not to
say “yes” to Being, “yes” to Him who makes us life? In
this way we become—right there where God has put us—presence. It
is not a question of numbers: saying “I,” wanting happiness here
and now, is not a question of outcome. It is a consciousness, it is a consciousness
that moves our freedom—and this is the most beautiful verification, the
most beautiful verification of the truth of this experience—to give our
life, to give it gratuitously, give it as Christ asks you for it, give it for
the purpose that men may know Him, may love Him, that this new humanity may flourish
within everybody’s lives: getting married or not getting married, living
like Him, living virginity also as form. Giving in gladness what we have, this
is true life!
I mention one last example of this new humanity, this being a “presence,” these “I”s
that become desirable presences also within the most apparently tragic and absurd
circumstances—because it is not the things we do, the initiatives we take
that make us happy; above all, it is this consciousness of passion for the real,
it is this awareness charged with gratitude and affection for the flesh of the
present Mystery, for Christ within reality, the experience of the “hundredfold
here below.” It is the testimony of our friends who are studying at New
York University, following after Giovanni Cesana, who was here with us last year
and is now a researcher and surgeon in America.
In the space of just a few days, several university students committed suicide.
In the face of widespread indifference, several [precisely four or five] students
in the newly formed CLU of New York proposed a flyer and a moment of prayer.
They wrote: ‘Our motto is judging reality. For us, too, this death is a
mystery, but we have encountered this mystery: it is called Jesus Christ. The
university, on the other hand, solved the problem by putting up Plexiglas on
the library balconies off which the kids jumped.” A debate grew out of
this; our kids badly wanted these things to be talked about, to be judged, not
turned over to the psychologists—as the president of the university wanted
to do—or resolved by putting up barriers of Plexiglas, as people do with
sparrows and wrens. Our friends also wrote, ‘The university should not
protect us from reality, nor be only a place that prepares us for the future,
but a place where we can discuss the present, a place that introduces us to the
meaning of reality, that educates, because reality is all you have, and you encounter
good there. Staying in reality means going more deeply into this good: studying
together, eating together, welcoming this friendship that puts life back together
iendship that puts life back together again.’”23
It is because of this affection, it is because of this love, it is because of
the love that this Presence has within our life that we are together, that we
are—each one of us, with simple, courageous gestures of friendship and
testimony—presence. For it is through the life of each one of us, it is
through our life that Christ’s passion for man, Christ’s yearning
for man—even in the place that wants to protect us from reality, wants
to isolate us from the world, wants to make us more stupid and arid (as so often
the university is and risks being)—flourishes as a passion for reasonableness,
flourishes as passion for your freedom in the face of the world.
We find ourselves, just as we are, in the halo of this gratuitousness, in the
passion for reality, on the threshold of the infinite, that is mixed in with
our life, with our flesh, with the materiality of existence. Fear is vanquished,
uncertainty is vanquished.
4. All this is a journey in time. There is nothing more unrealistic, more un-Christian
than an image of happiness reduced to affluence, reduced to comfort, reduced
to the immediate result.
Man who is on a journey knows that life, this journey, is “approximation
to the ideal that is there in every human moment.”24
Our life is happiness through sacrifice, which is love, which is affirmation
and entreaty for a greater Reality. It is not a search for affluence and comfort.
Hannah Arendt reminds us, “A search for happiness that entails the complete
elimination of tears is destined, in the end, to erase laughter too.”25
Man’s life is a struggle (“Militia est vita hominis super terram”26),
as a continual starting again, as a tension towards freedom, as a wait, but within
our history the truth of St Thomas’s great saying begins to be evident,
as a dawning of gratuitousness: “Man’s life consists in the affection
that principally sustains it and in which it finds its greatest satisfaction.”27
This is the experience of our daily journey, of our work, of our hope.
1 Cf. Is 49:14-15.
2 The quotation comes from the original French edition of Le soulier de satin
(The Satin Slipper) by Paul Claudel.
3 Cf. Lk 5:17-26.
4 Cf. L. Giussani, Dal temperamento un metodo [From the temperament a method],
Milan, BUR, 2002, p. 3ff.
5 Cf. Lk 7:36-50.
6 “I had reached my majority not long before, when from one day to the
next I realized that I could no longer make a gesture or a speech inside which,
like a worm in fruit, a ‘mental reservation’ so to speak did not
lurk. I would caress a woman and in the meantime be thinking, ‘What next?’… This
was the poison of my youth, which I was cured of quite late. I had, it is true,
the most wanted gifts: beauty, rank, health.… And yet, coming home in
the evening, whether from a party at court or from a day hunting, it never
happened that I put out the light and went right to a peaceful sleep, but with
eyes wide open I looked for hours and hours at the darkness and saw written
there, like on a blackboard, the irresistible nothingness” (G. Bufalino,
Le menzogne della notte [The Lies of the Night], Milan, Bompiani, p. 59).
7 Cf. Jn 1:38.
8 Cf. Mt 16:26.
9 C. Pavese, “Non ci sono generazioni perdute” [There are no lost
generations”], in C. Pavese, La letteratura americana e altri saggi,
Turin, Einaudi, 1990, pp. 261-262.
10 Jn 14:6.
11 Col 2:17.
12 “Christianity is an Event,” edited by Luca Doninelli, in Traces,
December 2003, p. 41.
13 L. Giussani, Why the Church?, Montreal, McGill-Queens, 2001, p. 7.
14 Cf. Gal 3:27-28.
15 L. Giussani, “Moved by the Infinite,” Letter to the Fraternity
of Communion and Liberation, June 22, 2003, in Traces, July-August 2003,
16 L. Giussani, “Unity and Fraternity: the Synthesis of Every Day,” CLU
Equipe, September 7, 2003, in Traces, October 2003, p. 1.
17 L. Giussani, “Unity and Fraternity…,” p. 2.
18 L. Giussani, “Oboedientia et pax,” talk at the Memores Domini
Novices Retreat, September 28th, in Traces, November 2003, p. 1.
19 Cf. Jn 1:39.
20 Cf. L. Giussani, “Letter to the Holy Father,” in Panorama, October
30, 2003, p. 38, reprinted in Traces, November 2003, pp. 48–49.
21 “Stronger than death. Christianity as Victory,” in Traces, December
2003, pp. 16-17.
22 P. Claudel, The Announcement Made to Mary, Milan Vita e Pensiero, 1987,
23 Cf. “New York: suicidi in università” [“New York:
suicides in the uni versity”], in Tracce, December 2003, p. 63.
24 L. Giussani, “Letter to the Holy Father,” Traces vol.5, No.10
(Novem ber), p. 49.
25 H. Arendt, “Cristianesimo e rivoluzione” [“Christianity
and revolution”], in Archivio Arendt I. 1930-1948, Milan, Feltrinelli,
2001, p. 188.
26 Vulgate, Job 7:1.
27 Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, II, IIae, q. 179, a. 1.