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CHRISTIANITY
from issue no. 01 - 2008

“The faith requests”


The 22nd of February 2008 will be the third anniversary of the death of Don Luigi Giussani. Remembering him with gratitude and hope, we reprint some words of his on prayer. One could sum it all up in the expression of Saint Augustine: “What the law commands the faith requests”


Some phrases of Don Luigi Giussani on prayer


The last meeting of Don Giussani with JohnPaul II, Saint Peter’s Square, 30 May 1998

The last meeting of Don Giussani with JohnPaul II, Saint Peter’s Square, 30 May 1998

The desperate outcry of Pastor Brand, the character who gives his name to Ibsen’s play, (“Answer me, O God, in the hour in which death swallows me: is not the whole will of a man sufficient to achieve a single shred of salvation?”) is answered by the humble positiveness of Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus, who writes: “When I am charitable it is Jesus alone who acts in me”.
All that means that man’s freedom, always enfolded by the Mystery, has as supreme, unassailable expression, prayer. That is why freedom presents itself, according to all its true nature, as request to belong to Being, therefore to Christ.

Words pronounced before John Paul II, Rome, Saint Peter’s Square, 30 May 1998


Christ is [the] presence that saves. Then it is up to us to ask Him: the “the request for the presence of Christ within every situation and occasion in life”: the whole of asceticism can be summed up in those words of the Pope.

L’opera del movimento. La fraternità di Comunione e liberazione [The work of the movement. The fraternity of Communion and Liberation], San Paolo, Cinisello Balsamo (Milan) 2002, p. 177


And asceticism is just this: that, in spite of everything, the request for the presence of Christ become familiar to us in every situation in life: to Christ, presence that saves. It is up to us to make our way without ceasing to ask.

Alla ricerca del volto umano. Contributo ad una antropologia [In search of the human face. Contribution to an anthropology], Rizzoli, Milan 1995, p. 92


“The request for the presence of Christ within every situation and occasion in life” – it is a phrase of the Pope’s – that is asceticism.
That the request for the presence of Christ become familiar to us in every situation and occasion in life, that is asceticism.

L’opera del movimento. La fraternità di Comunione e liberazione [The work of the movement. The fraternity of Communion and Liberation], San Paolo, Cinisello Balsamo (Milan) 2002, p. 176


“Between saying and doing lies the sea”. It was one of first titles of our gatherings the first year at the Berchet: “Between saying and doing lies the sea”. Instead there is another formula, that is almost equal – almost equal in words –: “Between saying and doing lies asking”.

Si può (veramente?!) vivere così? [Can one (truly?!) live like this?], Bur, Milan 1996, p. 377


Then the force of the request is the other that is present, not you. This is the difference between all the greatness of mind of man – be he epicurean or stoic, according to the various versions – and the Christian. For the ordinary man what is important is what he is able to do, able to go beyond (stoic or epicurean). And for the Christian... he is like a child: he is all intent on the presence of the mother, the father, the other. It is the force of God.

Una presenza che cambia [A presence that changes], Bur, Milan 2004, p. 122


Is this the work?
Sure; where it is understood that the work is ultimately prayer, that is a request: the request to God that sets you right, that sets you back on balance, that makes your eyes lucid again, that gives strength to your heart. Then you understand that reading the Psalms of Lauds, of Sext, of Vespers and of Compline, reading the Psalms with attention renews all of you, serves to renew all of you.

Una presenza che cambia [A presence that changes], Bur, Milan 2004, p. 115


Cathedral of Monreale, Palermo, 
XII century; Jesus cures  the woman with the issue of blood, detail

Cathedral of Monreale, Palermo, XII century; Jesus cures the woman with the issue of blood, detail

He [Jesus] is the destiny, because He is God, who passes through the proposal and the indication that He gives to your freedom, He is the destiny that submits to your freedom, that so loves you as to condition Himself to your freedom. And not to your freedom as heroic event, because faced with the choice of destiny the theme is such that it would enjoin on the imagination a heroic gesture: freedom, the choice of freedom (and everybody, in fact, inflates this thing here!). Whereas instead: Jesus is the destiny that indicates and proposes itself to your freedom in its most childish aspect, most ingenuous and good, most elementary, that is tears or request.

L’attrattiva Gesù [The Jesus attraction], Bur, Milan 1999, p. 290


We must request the strength of the Father, the strength of God. The strength of God is a man, the mercy of God has in history a name: Jesus Christ, says the Pope in the encyclical I have quoted. We must request Jesus! “Come, Lord Jesus. Come, Lord” is the cry that sums up all human history, the history of the relationship between man and God in the Bible. Go and get the Bible, on the last page, the last words are these: “Come, Lord”. We must pray. It is a begging, it is not a strength, but the extreme weakness, the extreme expression of the knowledge of the weakness that is in us. The awareness of our weakness becomes begging. Begging is the last possibility of strength fitted to our destiny, it renders man fitted to destiny. It is normally called prayer.

Avvenimento di libertà. Conversazioni con giovani universitari [Event of freedom. Conversations with young university students], Marietti, Genoa 2002, p. 56


Is therefore even the request a miracle?
Certainly, nobody can say “Lord Jesus” if not in the Spirit. It’s as if someone presumed to be – at least in three hairs – alone. Not even in one hair! You cannot add even a hair to your head (yes, you can use Pantène, but it serves nothing!).
The real problem is that the request is already a miracle. It is the first mode of being consistent, the fulfilment of oneself, of one’s own freedom. Praying is a miracle and one must accept the miracle.

L’attrattiva Gesù [The Jesus attraction], Bur, Milan 1999, p. 216


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