Gloria Dei Vivens Homo
Exercises of CLU (University Students) Rimini, Italy, December 12-14, 2003
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 heart.
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 new creature.
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.

. 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 words.
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 again.’”23
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,
p. 2.
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, p.169.
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.

Fr Giussani’s Closing Words
Sunday, December 14, 2003
Have a good trip, and merry Christmas to all from me! But above all, I thank God for having been able to hear the lesson Fr Pino gave on the first day. It is out of this world! And indeed, it is the certainty of the other world as the purpose and end of the journey of this life. And joy finds in this its plan of attack and ability to make life over, in the sureness that this destiny is for each one of us, has been made for each one of us, is built for each one of us, year after year, hour after hour, moment by moment, by the love of a Man who is God, who is “the” God.
This is why I recommend just one thing to you after the Retreat, preached so well and heard with such fullness of attention: be certain, let us be certain of this joy!... The Mystery became Man by descending among us so that we could fasten our life to the shoulders of this joy, like a child who climbs on his father’s back and is carried through the streets of this world. We only need one thing, because this joy is as much joy as it is certainty! Without this certainty, it would be irrational to live.
Let us thank God! Thank You, Lord, Gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam; we render You thanks for the great capacity for victory You hold in Your hand, that resonates in our hearts and must reveal itself in our faces.
May our joy, the certainty of it, the endurance in it of our journey, make us happy; may they not deprive us of the happiness for which it has been granted to us to live what is true.
Truth and joy, truth and sureness, truth and companionship, in a unity that no one can believe, except for those who have harbored Jesus’ word, Jesus’ face, the presence of Christ along the sometimes shadowy—even when shadowy—steps of life.
Thank you, Fr Pino, because rarely can we hear such an edifying word, so fervid with certainties, so dense with promise; a companionship so charged with all relationships, so capable of overcoming all difficulties and uncertainties.
“ The angel of the Lord brought the announcement.” This announcement has been brought to us, too. Enough! That’s enough!
Best wishes to all!
Fr Pino: Thank you, Fr Giussani. Best wishes to you, too!