Classmates at the Seminary
Fr. Giovanni Marengoni, missionary in Africa, offers a witness of when he was a young seminarian with Fr. Giussani. Faithful to the Church and to Christ, right from that time. “Liberation comes from Communion”
by Giovanni Marengoni, MCCJ
On this past March 5th, a Mass was celebrated in Nairobi Cathedral in memory of Fr. Giussani, presided over by the Archbishop of Nairobi, Raphael Ndingi. Present at the Mass was Fr. John Marengoni, a Comboni missionary priest who spent the first years of seminary life with Fr. Giussani. Despite his poor health, as soon as he heard of Fr. Giussani’s death, Fr. Marengoni, who is several months older than him, came to our house on the outskirts of Nairobi to speak with people who knew his dear old friend. He recalled with great emotion the years spent together in high school.
Nunzia Capriglione, Nairobi
The witness given on the day of the memorial
Mass for Fr. Giussani
“Almighty God, I have gladly given You everything.” Fr. Giussani, you prayed and lived this prayer since you were a boy. We met on October 3, 1933, both of us eleven years old, with a vocation to the priesthood, at the minor seminary in Milan. Happy to meet you. Five years together in the minor seminary. Unforgettable that seminary and those years that produced great men, and you are there amongst them, Fr. Giussani. Five years, young adolescents pursuing our vocation. With certainty, no doubts, no compromise: preaching, preaching communion and salvation. Vocation: in my case a missionary vocation for Africa; in your case, Fr. Giussani, for the whole world, through your great Movement, Communion and Liberation.
How did you fulfill your call? Jesus Christ at the center. The centrality of Jesus in all events and all situations. Jesus as the center. And He is the center truly present; making memory of You–not the memory of a Jesus of the past, of history–but memory of You present, here and now. My worries, my difficulties, including my mistakes and my limits, looking always to Him and serving Him with love. He invites me: “Look at Me, look at Me! I am coming with you, follow Me, follow Me to eternity.”
Fr. Giussani, pray for us, that we, too, might live this centrality of Jesus every day, through Communion and Liberation. Communion, communion–together, together, being together–first with Jesus here and now. Communion with Jesus and communion with everyone, near and far. Fr. Giussani, this is your spirit. Liberation comes from communion! Freedom from sin, from worry and from evil…
Being in communion with God and with all other men.
Fr. Marengoni’s written message after
his visit to St. Kizito Vocational Training Institute, Nairobi
I came to know Msgr. Giussani when he and I were adolescents, from the age of eleven to sixteen; from the time we entered the minor seminary of St. Peter, Seveso (Milan), in 1933, until I left Venegono Seminary to become a missionary. We were classmates at adjacent desks, very close friends; we knew each other intimately and, though we were to live and work physically far apart, we always helped each other.
I was moved as I read, with great interest, the message the Holy Father wrote to all the “spiritual children of Fr. Giussani” on the very day of his death! I was filled with joy as I realized that Fr. Giussani’s main spiritual and human attitudes were present as a seed in Giussani when still an adolescent. I summarize them as follows:
To the glory of God.
To the glory of the rule that St. Charles Borromeo gave his seminarians, preserved up to now in the Milan seminaries “with few changes and short additions” (as Blessed Cardinal Schuster said, when he presented the new rule for Ambrosian seminarians).
I write to the glory of Fr. Giussani, pointing out his constant fidelity to the impulses of grace and of the sound human and Christian education he received as an adolescent, above all in the minor seminary.
I write to encourage all educators to give maximum importance to the “adolescence” of their children-pupils.
These are the human virtues of Fr Giussani which the Pope praised in his message:
- “Ardent faith!” Evident in Giussani as an adolescent, who almost always had his hands joined when he prayed (and he prayed very often).
- “Coherence without compromise.” Some people made fun of him because of his great, adolescent piety, but he persevered, overcoming every fear “of being made fun of,” all human respect, always coherent with his convictions.
- “Fr. Giussani was always courageous in his service to the Church.” As an adolescent, he was always decisive in defending his superiors and his teachers, even though they were not always excellent.
- “Fr. Giussani was always resolute and frank in inviting many youngsters to a personal encounter with Christ, so as to find in Him the definitive answer to the deepest expectations of the human heart.” As an adolescent, Giussani was always humble, but firm and resolute in inviting a companion to go along with him for a “visit” to Jesus in the Eucharist, explaining, “You will be so happy!”
- “Fr. Giussani proposed ‘Christ’s companionship’ to many youngsters.” As an adolescent, he explained “friendship with Christ” to many seminarians, so as to avoid other friendships dangerous for seminarians.
- “Fr. Giussani set aside all prospects of an academic career.” As an adolescent, Giussani won the “gold medal” every year for the highest achievement in studies (I remember Blessed Cardinal Schuster, who came every year to present the medals, one year, when he saw Giussani coming to receive the medal, exclaimed with delight, “He’s always the first!”). But as an adolescent, Giussani was always humble! He never made his being top of the class weigh on the less able; rather, he would help them in their work with great simplicity.
- “Fr. Giussani always showed docility to the magisterium.” As an adolescent, he never opposed his teachers, and never criticized them, even if some did not excel in their role.
- “Fr. Giussani was able to involve many in his impassioned missionary journey.” As an adolescent, Giussani was able to gather “many adherents” in the “missionary groups” which produced “many missionaries.”
- “The synthesis of Fr. Giussani’s life and apostolate: Christ and the Church.” As an adolescent, Giussani showed himself to be in love with Christ the Lord, with his frequent and fervent visits to Jesus present in the Eucharist, and proved to be full of zeal for Holy Mother Church, repeating often, “Ubi Petrus, ibi Ecclesia” (“Where Peter is, there is the Church”), adding without any sense of vainglory, “Ubi Petrus, ibi Ecclesia mediolenensis” (“Where Peter is, there is the Milanese Church”).
- “Fr. Giussani was a defender of human reason, a champion of human piety, a teacher of humanity.” He was the founder of a worldwide movement, of a religious institute (the Fraternity), and of a lay association (Memores Domini), all of which are inspired by an ideal–communion and liberation.
As an adolescent, Giussani, so far above all his companions in goodness, piety and intelligence, was able to make of everyone a “communion, freeing them all from every temptation to envy, to opposition and to offence.”
Yes. The adolescent Giussani, by a special call and by the grace of God was formed as the founder of Communion and Liberation in the years of his early adolescence.
O Fr. Giussani! Go on in heaven impressing on many adolescents the ideal of a true Christian and human communion, of a total liberation from every instinct of selfishness and violence so as to be “faithful servants of the Gospel,” as the Pope described Fr. Giussani in his message, written on the day of his departure for heaven.