Memory, Faithfulness, Responsibility

Stanislaw Rylko
(Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity)

“In the life of an ecclesial Movement, memory is important. This memory then must become faithfulness, so as not to betray the gift; it must become responsibility, so as not to waste the gift: it must become the soul’s wonder in front of the greatness and gratuitousness of the gift received”. The Greetings and the Homily during the Mass

The Fraternity of Communion and Liberation is living a great day today. For the Eucharist that we shall celebrate is the high point of the pilgrimage that you have chosen to make to Loreto for the twentieth anniversary of the recognition of the Fraternity by the Church, a milestone in the history of your Movement. You are here today in such great numbers to sing your joyous song of praise and thanksgiving for the great works that God has chosen to accomplish in the life of each of you, in the life of your Fraternity, and through you, in the life of the Church in our time. You have chosen to sing your Magnificat in Loreto, together with Mary–Mother of the Church and your Mother–here in her house.

The greetings I extend to you go far beyond the confines of this square to spread out to all the members of the Fraternity, the companionship of friends present at this point in so many countries of the world. The whole Fraternity is spiritually present today in this Sanctuary and joins in this solemn Eucharist of thanksgiving for the gift that your Movement is for the entire Church and for each of you. With the Psalmist we can truly say, “How can I repay the Lord for His goodness to me? The cup of salvation I will raise; I will call on the Lord’s name” (Ps 115 [116]:12-13).

Our thoughts go spontaneously to the person of Fr Giussani. We feel his presence in the midst of this assembly in prayer. Physically, he is far away, but spiritually, he is here guiding and encouraging us. We are profoundly grateful to him for the Marian meditations with which, over the recent months, he has, so to speak, prepared the Fraternity for this historic pilgrimage. With affection and esteem, we ask him to be close to us with his prayers. And we in turn, remembering his 80th birthday, surround him with our prayers as his spiritual children.

With hearts full of praise and gratitude to the Lord, let us prepare for our Eucharistic celebration by acknowledging our sins and asking forgiveness for all our infidelities.

The reason that has brought us here today, to the Sanctuary of the Holy House of Loreto, is the twentieth anniversary of the recognition of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation. This official act by the Church opened a new phase in the life of your Movement, because it gave the charism–which is its vital deep root–the seal of authenticity. With this gesture of motherly concern, the Church recognized in your Movement and your experience of the Christian event “a gift of the Spirit and a hope for mankind,” as John Paul II says.

But today, I am certain, your memory will not stop with the past twenty years. It will go back much further, retracing all the steps in the history of the Movement until it gets to that little group of students in a high school like so many others, which in the Milan of the early 1950s gathered around Fr Giussani, a priest like so many others. Everything seemed to enter into the ordinary scheme of things, but this was not the case. Because under the appearance of the ordinary, something was being born that went beyond all human plans: an ecclesial Movement was taking shape, one of the many surprises that the Holy Spirit always reserves for us whenever He intervenes. And there has been no lack of these surprises in your history: from a tiny mustard seed, Communion and Liberation has become a big tree–an ecclesial reality present today in some 70 countries on five continents. How far you have come! How much history and how many personal, concrete, fascinating stories! How many stories of true holiness! You all know this much better than I do! There is a lot for which to thank the Lord.

In the life of an ecclesial movement, memory is important. We must learn this especially here at the Sanctuary of the Holy House of Loreto, the house of memory of the great works that God has accomplished for man’s salvation. We must learn from Mary, the Mother of Jesus, about whom the evangelist Luke says, “His mother treasured all these things in her heart” (Lk 2:51). But what must we remember, of what thing above all must we make memory, as a Movement? We must remember first of all the originary experience and charism out of which your Movement was born almost fifty years ago. This is the vital root from which the Movement was born and is continually reborn. This is the living wellspring from which the “spiritual affinity” flows that links persons, generation after generation (cf Christifideles laici, no. 24), the companionship and friendship that we call the “Movement.”

I said “first of all” because this memory must then become faithfulness, so as not to betray the gift; it must become responsibility, so as not to waste the gift; it must become the soul’s wonder in front of the greatness and gratuitousness of the gift received. Such a memory must, finally, become ceaseless gratitude, praise, and adoration aimed at the Giver of every gift: God rich in mercy. You have come on pilgrimage to Mary, to her House, to learn from her what is meant by faithfulness, responsibility, wonder, praise, gratitude. Her lesson is simple: “Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word’” (Lk 1:38). With these simple words, Mary said everything. Your pilgrimage to her House says that, in her footsteps, you want to embrace with renewed faithfulness and enthusiasm the precious pearl of the charism of your Movement in order to serve the Church and her mission; that you want to deepen your identity as a Fraternity.

2. Today you are celebrating an important anniversary in the history of your Movement. On the occasion of the Great Jubilee, John Paul II explained the significance of an anniversary in Christian life. Far from being a mere sum of numbers, an anniversary is a special year of grace (cf Tertio millennio adveniente, no. 15). Whether they are personal or community anniversaries, in the Christian view these special dates are like little tributaries flowing into the great river of salvation. And the proper background for today’s celebration is precisely this: the history of salvation. In the life of the Church, the ecclesial Movements are not accessory phenomena. They are an integral part of the history of salvation that is made concrete in the Church and by means of the Church.

The history of salvation has its central point in the event of the Incarnation of the Son of God, who took on human nature in order to redeem it. In the Letter to the Galatians we read, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children” (Gal 4:4-5). These words of St Paul take on special resonance among the walls of this Sanctuary that testify to the great mystery of Christ, God made man, the Way, the Truth, the Life. And the history of salvation is nothing other than “Christ begging for man’s heart and man’s heart begging for Christ,” in the very beautiful words of Fr Giussani. It is right here that the drama of the destiny of every man and every woman in all times is played out. And the Movement chooses to indicate–as the Pope says–not a road, but the road toward a solution to this existential drama (cf. “Letter to Msgr Luigi Giussani,” February 11, 2002). This road is Christ, a living person, the only Lord and Master. How many persons, thanks to the Movement and thanks to the Fraternity, in these almost fifty years, have encountered Christ! How many lives have been changed to their very roots by this fascinating encounter! There are many, and you–who have crowded into this square–are the proof of this. How much missionary fervor has the rediscovery of the Christian’s baptismal vocation brought into the Church of the third millennium! How many married couples and how many families are truly happy because they live their vocation in faithfulness to God’s plan! How many persons–men and women–have fallen in love with Christ to the point of consecrating their lives to Him! How many works at the service of man have been dictated by the spirit of Christian solidarity with those in need!

For all of you, the Movement and the Fraternity have become home, your dwelling. Today, so many people, even though they may own a luxurious apartment, do not have a dwelling place. Their life has no roots: it is empty, meaningless. How important it is for men to have a home–a place where they can recognize and discover the essential things of life. A house built on the rock… Here in Loreto, in the Sanctuary of the Holy House of Nazareth, fixing your gaze on Mary–the dwelling place of God made man–we can understand fully what is meant by home, dwelling place. Behold Mary as the model of a true dwelling: “You are she who ennobled human nature so that its Creator did not disdain to become its creature. In your womb.” The Movement and the Fraternity will continue to be the dwelling and home for many to the extent that they become one with Mary, with her gentle “yes” in reply to the Angel’s announcement: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). It is no coincidence that Fr Giussani says, “Let us ask this grace from Our Lady: to continue her piety…”

3. The Fraternity as home, dwelling place in which a strong experience of the presence of the Mystery is lived, is not a closed reality, turned in on itself, but–on the contrary–it is an open reality, stretching out toward mission. This is why today, celebrating its anniversary, the Fraternity presents itself to Christ and the Church with the prophet’s words: “Here am I, send me!” (Is 6:8). You are gathered here, ready to take up your journey again… The tasks and responsibilities that await you are great. During the unforgettable meeting with the ecclesial movements in 1998, the Pope said, “In our world, often dominated by a secularized culture which encourages and promotes models of life without God, the faith of many is sorely tested, and is frequently stifled and dies. Thus we see an urgent need for powerful proclamation and solid, in-depth Christian formation. There is so much need today for mature Christian personalities, conscious of their baptismal identity, of their vocation and mission in the Church and in the world! There is great need for living Christian communities. And here are the movements and the new ecclesial communities: they are the response, given by the Holy Spirit, to this critical challenge at the end of the millennium. You are this providential response” (May 30, 1998). Voicing these words from the Successor of Peter, I want to repeat to you today, too, that the Church needs you; she needs your Movement and she needs your Fraternity. The Church is counting on you!

One usually extends best wishes to those who are celebrating an anniversary. I would therefore like to add the good wishes of the Pontifical Council for the Laity and my own personal ones to the many good wishes the Fraternity has received this year. With John Paul II, I say to you, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets: ‘Duc in altum!’ (Lk 5:4)… These words ring out for us today, and they invite us to remember the past with gratitude, to live the present with enthusiasm, and to look forward to the future with confidence: ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever’ (Heb 13:8) (Novo millennio ineunte, no. 1).

May Our Lady intercede for us all, and be to us all the teacher and model of a Christian life lived to the utmost. To her, “living fountain of hope,” we entrust the present and the future of all the Fraternity and the entire Movement of Communion and Liberation.