To the Holy Father
The letter sent by Fr Giussani to John Paul II on the 50th anniversary of the birth of Communion and Liberation
Your Holiness, the beginning of this new year has been marked by your words in the message for the World Day for Peace, in particular when you spoke of Christianity as the “victory” of Christ’s love and of everyone’s commitment to hastening this victory, which is the deepest hope of every human heart.
On our part, we cannot fail to feel this pressing invitation for life at the dawn of this year, which marks the fiftieth anniversary of that unexpected beginning, which arose and developed as a “movement” of thousands of people, young and not so young, throughout the world, starting from those first encounters in October 1954 in the Milan high school where I asked to go to teach religion.
A prayer of the Ambrosian Liturgy sheds light on our feeling in these moments:
“ Domine Deus, in simplicitate cordis mei laetus obtuli universa.
Et populum Tuum vidi, cum ingenti gaudio Tibi offerre donaria.
Domine Deus, custodi hanc voluntatem cordis eorum.”*
We offer the Lord our entreaty for this fidelity in which our company–acknowledged as a precious and particular gift of the Spirit–becomes a sacramental part in its belonging to the Church.
I feel I must entrust once more to Your Holiness, as vibrant as ever in my heart, the deep emotion aroused by the most authoritative and clear judgment on this fifty-year-old experience of ours. It was when Your Holiness wrote, in the letter sent to me on February 11, 2002 for the twentieth anniversary of the pontifical recognition of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, “The Movement has chosen and chooses to indicate not a road but the road toward a solution of man’s existential drama. The road is Christ.”
Not only did I have no intention of “founding” anything, but I believe that the genius of the Movement that I saw coming to birth lies in having felt the urgency to proclaim the need to return to the elementary aspects of Christianity, that is to say, the passion of the Christian fact as such in its original elements, and nothing more. Perhaps it was precisely this that awoke the unforeseeable possibility of encounter with personalities of the Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Protestant and Orthodox worlds, from the United States to Russia, in an impetus of embrace and appreciation of all that remains of truth, of beauty, of good and of right in whoever lives a sense of belonging.
The capital problem for Christianity today, as Your Holiness suggestively announced, right from the programmatic encyclical of your Pontificate, Redemptor Hominis, is that Christianity is identified with a Fact–the Christ Event–, and not with an ideology. God has spoken to man, to mankind, not as a discourse that in the end is discovered by philosophers and intellectuals, but as a fact that happened, and that is experienced. Your Holiness expressed this in Novo millennio ineunte: “We shall not be saved by a formula, but by a Person, and the assurance which He gives us: I am with you!” If our educative and communicative passion has a characteristic, it is the continuous reference to this ineffable focus of the Christian experience, over which many glide, as if taking it for granted as an obvious premise.
In the great riverbed of the Church and in fidelity to the Magisterium and to Tradition, we have always wanted to bring people to discover–or to see more easily–how Christ is a presence. So the way to be certain that Christ is God, to have no doubt that what Jesus Christ said of Himself is true, finds its true answer in the attitude of the Apostles, because they were always asking, “Who is He?”, struck in their experience by the exceptional nature of that Presence that had invested their human existence.
In the letter to the Fraternity, Your Holiness wrote again, “Christianity, even before being a sum of doctrines or a rule for salvation, is the ‘event’ of an encounter.” For fifty years, we have wagered everything on this evidence. It is exactly the experience of this encounter that lies at the root of the shaping among us of many Christian vocations–to marriage, to the priesthood, to virginity–and the blossoming of lay personalities committed in life, with a creativity that invests day-to-day life according to the three educative dimensions always recalled from the very start: culture, charity and mission.
For this reason, we do not feel that we are bearers of a particular spirituality, nor do we feel the need to identify it. What dominates in us is gratitude for having discovered that the Church is life that encounters our life: it is not a discourse about life.
The Church is humanity lived as the humanity of Christ, and for each of us this marks the value and the concept of sacramental fraternity that, although difficult for us in its fulfillment, evidently indicates a higher intensity of life.
For this reason, I dare to consign into Your Holiness’ hands the desire to be able to serve the Church with our charism, even through the inadequacy of our human limitations. But it is precisely these limitations that urge us to a responsibility of conversion as a change of mentality, of a new humanity.
As we are thus being continuously brought out of nothing into being, we look to her whom Your Holiness continually recalls as the way, the method for greater familiarity with Christ: Mary, who, as we have now the habit of repeating in Dante’s “Hymn to the Virgin”–which has become our daily prayer–is the “living fountain of hope.”
Each one’s tending toward the good is the end and the conversion that Christ has made possible in the world. So conversion to Christ, and therefore to His Church, is the source of a hope that impacts on real life, for which one can give his life, as the Christian martyrs do.
It seems to me that, in recent centuries, this faith looks at daily life and considers human work almost bereft of eternal value, of solid hope. So the glory of the Word needs to be pursued in regard to everything, in the impetus of every conquest, and the salvation brought by Christ–albeit through every cross–needs to burst out in every new dawn.
Your Holiness, may Dante’s verse, “Here to us you are a noonday torch of charity,” come true in all the relationships that it is possible for the Christian people to establish, under the leadership of pastors who know to invoke the Spirit of Christ through Mary’s mediation.
May our Movement, which the Spirit of Christ has aroused and brought about in obedience and in peace, fraternally inspire the whole of Christian society, so that in all the places where the faith is proclaimed there may be found traces of Mary’s holiness (“In you is mercy, in you pity, in you munificence, in you is found whatever of goodness is in any creature”).
Imploring your blessing, I declare myself Your Holiness’ obedient son,
Fr Luigi Giussani
Milan, January 26, 2004
*Lord God, in simplicity of heart I have joyfully yielded you everything.
And with great joy I saw your people acknowledge existence as an offering to you. Lord God, safeguard this, their hearts’ desire.