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from issue no. 01 - 2007

Judgements of comfort and hope

Passages from Don Luigi Giussani two years after his death

Edited by Paolo Mattei

Don Luigi Giussani

Don Luigi Giussani

The sweet memory of Jesus

Two years have now passed since Don Luigi Giussani died on the morning of 22 February 2005, and his last words addressed to us all, a few days earlier, as prayer intention for the Holy Mass on 11 February, echo more dearly in the heart and grow in the experience of those who loved him in their poor fashion: «Let us recall Jesus Christ often, because Christianity is the announcement that God has made himself man and only by living our relations with Christ as much as possible do we “risk” doing as he did».
How similar these last words of Giussani’s are to the words of Paul in the last of his Epistles, the second Epistle «to my beloved son Timothy» (2Tm 1, 2). Giussani: «Let us recall Jesus Christ often». Paul: «Recall that Jesus Christ, of the tribe of David, has risen from the dead» (2Tm 2, 8). And that «we “risk” doing as he did» recalls the verses of the same Epistle (2Tm 4, 6-8) in which Paul mentions his coming death.
Always, and above all in the latter years of his life, Don Giussani repeated that this «Let us recall Jesus Christ often», this «sweet memory of Jesus» (Iesu dulcis memoria is the hymn he most invited people to recite and sing) is not produced by us, but is the gratuitous response of the Lord to the poverty of our repeated prayer. Jesus, in what he said at the last supper, promised that it would be the Holy Spirit – the Comforter that the Father would send in His name – to recall him in our hearts (cf. John 14, 26).
Thus Giussani, in the interview in Avvenire of October 13 2002 for his eightieth birthday, said: «My prayer is the liturgy and the continued iteration of a formula: “Veni, Sancte Spiritus, veni per Mariam”. Come, Holy Spirit, come through Mary, make yourself present through the womb, the flesh of Our Lady»; and on 16 October 2004 he wrote: «I invite you to pray the Holy Rosary each day for it is the contemplation of the Mystery, it is the contemplation of the Holy Trinity».
This repeated plea to Our Lady remained in Giussani’s gaze and heart even in the face of the condition of the Church and of happenings in the world, even in looking at the front page of the newspaper, as he said in the interview of August 2002, perhaps remembering the recommendation of Monsignor Figini, on the day of his ordination, to read, even better, to look at the newspaper each day.
And Giussani’s judgements that we print on these pages is a gaze of prayer at the current condition of the Church, judgements that testify to that freedom of the sons of God which the sacrifice of the obedience to ecclesiastical authority makes clearer and more amazing.

To “do justice” first of all it is necessary that hope be so clear…

May 1979, an interview by Giorgio Sarco

In some way the start of the cultural attitude of Christians is delineated by the exhortation of Saint Peter to «do justice to the hope that is in you» (1Pt 3, 15). This supposes an interrogation that starts from the world and reaches the Christian. To «do justice» it’s necessary first of all that hope be so clear as to strike the observers, constitute an encounter for them and force them to ask.

(Da quale vita nasce Comunione e liberazione [From what life is Communion and Liberation born], in Un avvenimento di vita, cioè una storia [A happening in life, that is a history], Edit Il Sabato, Rome 1993, p. 352)

Don Giussani in Saint Peter’s Square, 
Palm Sunday, 23 March 1975

Don Giussani in Saint Peter’s Square, Palm Sunday, 23 March 1975

The life begun in Mary and Joseph is as if rekindled in the heart of people

December 1986, an interview by Luigi Amicone

In one of our conversations during this trip [to the Holy Land] you said that the Church and hence the experiences of living Church like those of the movements, of your movement, are continually called upon to choose between «presence and power». Could you clarify the terms of that alternative?
Seeing those places where only a living humanity, even if so embryonically and seminally determined, was able to take root and have the force to resist, to be communicated and to overwhelm the world, it becomes clear that in the life of the Church today what counts is the vitality of a renewed faith and not a power derived from a history, from an institution that affirmed itself or from an intellectual theological ordering. What counts is really that the life begun in Mary and Joseph, in John and Andrew, is as if rekindled in the heart of people, and the crowd be helped to a meeting incising on life as happened at the origins of Christianity.

(Sulle tracce di Cristo, [In the footsteps of Christ], in Un avvenimento di vita, cioè una storia, [A happening in life, that is a history], Edit-Il Sabato, Rome 1993, p. 28)

A happening that surprizes

August 1987, an interview by Angelo Scola

Instead your pedagogical proposal hinges on the religious sense of the person; is that so?
The heart of our proposal is rather the announcement of a happening, that surprizes mankind in the same way in which, two thousand years ago, the announcement of the angels in Bethlehem surprized poor shepherds. A happening, prior to any consideration on the religious or non-religious person. It’s the perception of this happening that revives or strengthens the elementary sense of dependence and the core of original evidence to which we give the name of “religious sense”.

(Il «potere» del laico, cioè del cristiano [The «power» of the layman, that is of the Christian], in Un avvenimento di vita, cioè una storia [A happening in life, that is a history], Edit-Il Sabato, Rome 1993, p. 38)

Don Giussani and John Paul II

Don Giussani and John Paul II

The sole remedy is to return to faith in the supernatural as determining the life of the Church

August 1988, an interview by Renato Farina

In that month of August [1978], with one Pope dead and while another was in the making, what did you hope for the Church?
A man who continued the intuition of the tragic situation in which the Church lay. And of the only remedy which is that of returning to faith in the supernatural as determining the life of the Church: to the authenticity of the Tradition. In short I was awaiting a pope who would continue on the path that Paul VI had loudly indicated in his last years.

(I volti segreti di Pietro [The secret faces of Peter], in Un avvenimento di vita, cioè una storia [A happening in life, that is a history], Edit-Il Sabato, Rome 1993, p. 78)

The reawakening of the person. Earlier I used the comparison of David and Goliath

December 1989, edited by Giovanni Testori

Because this is the time of the rebirth of personal conscience. It’s as if one could no longer engage in crusades or movements... Organized crusades; organized movements. A movement is born precisely with the reawakening of the person. It’s a startling thing. Earlier I used the comparison of David and Goliath. Precisely the person, who faced with a mechanism like the one you have described is the most ridiculous, most laughable thing there is, the most disproportionate thing there is, and can have no possibility of success, precisely the person is the point of the resurgence. And that’s how the concept of movement is born, according to me. The greatest social value now for a counterattack is precisely the concept of movement, which is as if it had neither head nor tail, nobody knows how it comes about. In fact its birthplace is in the most helpless and unarmed particle that exists: that is the person. [...]
I can’t find any other index of hope except the multiplying of these people who are presences. The multiplying of these people; and an inevitable liking or, I’d almost use an ugly term, a new “syndacality” between these persons; as the term we use expresses it: recognition.

(G. Testori, Il senso della nascita. Colloquio con don Luigi Giussani [The sense of birth. Conversation with Don Luigi Giussani], Il Sabato, December 1989, pp. 74,79)

Catholics who act in the simplicity of Tradition

April 1992, an interview by Renato Farina

A real persecution?
That’s how it is. The anger of the world today doesn’t rise up at the word Church, it keeps cool even at the idea that one calls oneself Catholic, or at the figure of the Pope depicted as moral authority. Indeed there’s formal homage, sincere even. The hatred gets unleashed – barely held in, but soon it will break out – before Catholics who set themselves as such, Catholics who act in the simplicity of Tradition.

(Un evento. Ecco perché ci odiano [An event. That’s why they hate us], in Un avvenimento di vita, cioè una storia [A happening in life, that is a history], Edit-Il Sabato, Rome 1993, p. 104)

Giulio Andreotti interviewing Don Giussani, Milan, 15 October 1994

Giulio Andreotti interviewing Don Giussani, Milan, 15 October 1994

Nihilism as inevitable consequence of anthropocentric presumption

October 1994, an interview by Giulio Andreotti

Nihilism is, primarily, the inevitable consequence of the anthropocentric presumption according to which man is capable of saving himself by himself. But so false is this that all those who live their lives defending such a position, ultimately come to realize their own stark ‘dissolution’ within a type of Manichaeism whose bitterness they try to banish through flights of fancy taken from eastern religions or other spiritualist movements that the western world offers. These images from the eastern world or from certain spheres of the western world, at bottom always bring about a pantheist ideal. Thomas Mann, for example, in his Buddenbrooks paints the portrait of the last man in the family line left to defend the vast wealth the Buddenbrooks accumulated. It is a dramatic, even tragic story. In him it becomes tragic. During his long day’s work, exhausted by his efforts to hold on to his father’s, his grandfather’s inheritance, he can allot himself just ten minutes, a quarter of an hour of repose. Sinking into his armchair he catches his breath. Thomas Mann says, thinking constantly of that last moment in time when the drop of water (as he sees his life) will fall back into the great ocean (I don’t know if he says the ocean of ‘being’, as we would say)... into the great ocean of being, and thus vanish, with his individuality, and become immersed in universal, peace-restoring homologation. I believe, perhaps paradoxically, that this passage of Thomas Mann is significant of the positive aspect – if we can talk of a positive aspect – of this ultimate nihilism whose dominion over the world has been growing since the rebellion of the 17th and 18th centuries, and before that to a degree since the birth of Protestantism itself, and it continues to grow today.

(He is because he is present, in 30Days, no. 10, October 1994, p. 10)

The human glory of Christ in history itself

January 1996, an interview by Pierluigi Battista

Italy continues to describe itself as “Christian”. Does CL insist in saying that Catholics are a “minority” in Italy?
True, real, authentic Catholics are a small minority. I mean those who see the essential contribution of Tradition as the synthetic principle of life and social relationships and, above all, identify the ultimate aim of history as a whole (which comes before Apocalypse) as building the human glory of Christ in history itself, not through hegemonies sought at all costs, but through the enigmatic power of God. The problem is that of who leads. Yet a limpid exposition of Tradition is met with the systematic opposition of the cultural world and of power.

(Idols and extremism on the part of the legal system are threats to us, in La Stampa, 4 January 1996; also in 30Days, no. 2, February 1996, p. 30)

The Mystery can be understood by poor ignorant people

August 2002, an interview by Renato Farina

The characteristic of the Mystery is that it can be understood by poor, ignorant people. Thus, the work of the Spirit, Creator of the universe, is Our Lady. I am not saying this out of pious devotion, but because it is objectively true. The Spirit makes itself experienceable as Charity in Mary. I would like to write an article on Our Lady, anything She touches becomes human, and at the same time is placed inside the Mystery. The fact that Mary is the first sign of this Presence of God causes scandal. But only those who understand this can be truly interested in the divine. Discovering how God became flesh in the Blessed Virgin makes everything become part of this discovery: the front page of the newspaper, the number of hairs on the head of the person you love.

(Jews and Christians will in the end reunite, in Libero, 22 August 2002; also in 30Days, no. 9, September 2002, p. 50)

Don Giussani in one of the last photos, in 2004

Don Giussani in one of the last photos, in 2004

Jesus of Nazareth is the winning back

October 2002, an interview by Dino Boffo

How much has the sense of time rushing past had an impact on the work you have brought into being? In other words: has your life unfolded under the banner of urgency?
I hope that my life has unfolded in accordance with what God expected from it. One can say that it unfolded under the banner of urgency because every circumstance, indeed every instant for my Christian conscience has been to seek the glory of Christ. My bishop, Cardinal Tettamanzi, at his entrance in Milan, said: «The men and women of our time, even if unaware, ask us to ‘speak’ to them about Christ, or rather to make them ‘see’ Him». Precisely Jesus Christ, His human glory in history, is the only positive sign in the world of an otherwise absurd movement of time and space. Because without meaning, Eliot would say, there is no time. Life is full of nothingness, of negativity, and Jesus of Nazareth is the counter. In me, this is clear. Thus hope is the certainty by which we can breathe in the present, we can enjoy in the present.

(« Io sono zero, Dio è tutto» [I am zero, God is all], in Avvenire, 13 October 2002; also in 30Days, n. 11-12, November-December 2002, p. 67)

If this astonishment happens...

October 2004, an interview by Gian Guido Vecchi

My point of departure was a way of looking at things as a “passion for” as “love”, an open attitude that doesn’t let you start off alone and generates a relationship. It is impossible to tackle a situation that has to do with life without this context causing bewilderment, a surprise. If this astonishment happens, then enthusiasm in speaking to the youngsters becomes logical, all the commitment will be subordinated to the work of intelligence: for it would be a mistake to follow someone without a reason, in the human brain there is a linchpin that demands the explanation of the reason. In other words, without the surprise of reality as launching point, man would remain more or less bogged down by the mere need to do things, but to do what? And he would feel anything he attempts to be useless.

(Io e i ciellini. La nostra fede in faccia al mondo [Myself and the CL. Our faith before the world], in Corriere della Sera, 15 October 2004)

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