Communion & Liberation: September 2009 Archives

On the Thirtieth Anniversary of the Founding of Communion and Liberation

Rome, September 29, 1984

Dearest Brothers and Sisters! I wish first of all to thank Msgr Giussani for his introductory remarks, as well as all the others who took part in this introduction.

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1. I express my great joy for this meeting with you, who have come here to Rome to celebrate thirty years of your movement and to reflect together with the Pope on your history as persons who live in the Church and are called to cooperate in intense communion, to bring it to mankind, and to spread it in the world.

Looking at your faces, so open, so happy on this festive occasion, I experience a deep feeling of joy and the desire to show you my affection for your decision of faith and to help you to be ever more mature in Christ, sharing His redemptive love for man. The photographic exhibition which I was able to admire as I entered the room, words (testimonies, accounts, and songs) that I have just heard have allowed me to retrace, as from within, this period of your life, which is part of the life of the Italian Church (and not only Italian any longer) of our time. These words have given me the possibility of seeing clearly the educational criteria of your way of living in the Church, which imply a vivacious and intense work in the most varied social contexts.

I am grateful to the Lord for all this, who once again has made me admire His mystery in you, which you bear and must always be ready to bear, with humble awareness of being pliable clay in His creative hands.

Continue with commitment on this road so that also through you the Church may still more be the environment of the redemptive existence of man, a fascinating environment where every man finds the answer to the question of the meaning of his life: Christ, center of the cosmos and of history.

2. Jesus, the Christ, He in whom everything is made and subsists, is therefore the interpretative principle of man and his history. To affirm humbly but equally tenaciously that Christ is the beginning and inspirational motive for living and working of consciousness and of action, means to adhere to Him, to make present adequately His victory over the world.

To work so that the content of the faith becomes understanding and pedagogy of life is the daily task of the believer, which must be carried out in every situation and environment in which they are called to live. And the richness of your participation in ecclesial life lies in this: a method of education in the faith so that it may influence the life of man and history; in the sacraments, so that they bring about an encounter with the Lord, and in Him with the brethren; in prayer, so that it be an invocation and praise of God in authority, so that it be a guard and guarantor of the authenticity of the ecclesial path.

The Christian experience so understood and lived generates a presence which places the Church in every human situation as the place where the event of Christ, "a stumbling-block to the Jews... foolishness for the pagans" (1 Cor l; 23-24), lives as a horizon full of truth for man.

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3. We believe in Christ, dead and risen, in Christ present here and now, who alone can change and changes man and the world, by transfiguring them.

Your presence, ever more numerous and significant in the life of the Church in Italy and in various nations in which your experience is beginning to spread, is due to this certainty which you must deepen and communicate, because it is this certainty that moves mankind. It is significant in this regard, and it should be noted, how the Spirit, in order to continue with the man of today that dialogue begun by God in Christ and continued in the course of all Christian history, has raised up many ecclesial movements in the contemporary Church. They are a sign of the freedom of forrns in which the one Church is expressed, and they represent a secure newness, which still awaits being adequately understood in all its positive efficacy for the Kingdom of God at work in the present moment of history.

My venerated predecessor, Pope Paul VI, addressing the members of the Florentine community of Communion and Liberation on December 28, 1977, stated: "We thank you also for the courageous, faithful, and firm witness that you have given in this somewhat disturbed period because of certain misunderstandings you have had to face. Be happy, be faithful, be strong and joyful and carry with you the witness that the Christian life is beautiful, strong, serene, and really capable of transforming the society in which it is lived."

4. Christ is the presence of God with man, Christ is the mercy of God towards sinners. The Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, and the new People of God, brings to the world this tender benevolence of the Lord, encountering and supporting man in every situation, in every environment, on every occasion.

In so doing, the Church contributes to generating that culture of truth and love which is able to reconcile the person with himself and with his own destiny. In such a way the Church becomes the sign of salvation for man, whose every desire for freedom she welcomes and values. The experience of this mercy renders us able to accept those who are different from us, to create new relationships, and to experience the Church in all the wealth and depth of its mystery as an unlimited desire for dialogue with man wherever he is found.

"Go into all the world" (Mt 28;19) is what Christ said to his disciples. And I repeat to you: "Go into all the world and bring the truth, the beauty, and the peace which are found in Christ the Redeemer". This invitation that Christ made to all his followers and which Peter has the duty ceaselessly to renew, is already interwoven with your history. In these thirty years you have been open to the most varied situations, casting the seed of the presence of your movement. I know that you have put down roots in eighteen nations in the world: in Europe, in Africa, in America, and I know also the insistency with which your presence is sought in other countries. Take on the burden of this ecclesial need: this is the charge I leave with you today.

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5. I know that you well understand the indispensable importance of a true and full communion between the various components of the ecclesial community. I am certain, therefore, that you will not fail to commit yourselves with renewed fervor in the search for more appropriate ways to carry out your activities in harmony and collaboration with the bishops, the pastors, and with all the other ecclesial movements.

Bring into the whole world the simple and transparent sign of the event of the Church. Authentic evangelization understands and responds to the needs of the individual man because it helps him to find Christ in the Christian community. The man of today has a particular need to have Christ in front of him, with clarity and evidence, as a profound sign of his birth, life, and death, and of his suffering and joy.

May Our Lady, Mother of God and of the Church, guide you constantly on the pathway of life. Knowing your devotion to the Holy Virgin, I hope that she will be for all of you the "Morning Star," who will enlighten and strengthen your generous commitment of Christian witness in the contemporary world.

And now I cordially give you my Apostolic Blessing.

Pope John Paul II

Some have called Liliana Cavani's Francesco (1989; DVD 1998) a gritty alternative to Franco Zeffirelli's Brother Sun, Sister Moon. And I agree. Zeffirelli, while a brilliant filmmaker, can ruin a saint. And whatever may be said of Cavani's work, Francesco is neither a saccharine nor romantic portrayal of the 13th century's radical saint, Francis of Assisi. His sincerity is strikingly beautiful. This movie is based on Herman Hesse's book Francis of Assisi. Cavani's film won three awards and was nominated for a fourth. The legendary actor/boxer/dog lover and practicing Catholic, Mickey Rourke, played Saint Francis. And as a side bar, he credits his Catholic faith to saving his life.

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Liliana Cavani, born in 1933 in Capri, is the director of many television and cinematic productions.  Her religious tendencies are basically unknown to me but I did hear that she leans or leaned toward a communist ideology. But I can't help wondering what really inspired Cavani to direct a film on such a figure as Francis of Assisi. Certainly it can't be the wacky-ness that often surrounds the figure of Francis!

Francesco is an interpretation of the person of the 13th century Umbrian saint, Francis of Assisi. He died in 1226 and founded what is today called the Franciscans 800 years ago. What the Franciscans looked like in the 13th century isn't what they are today. The movie is a series of flashbacks with various friends telling the story of the man who led them to Christ. Cavani brings out several central questions that all of us have to answer viz. our Christian faith: To whom do I belong? Do I belong to these people, or do I belong to Christ? How do I know and why?

The period in which the real Francis lived was a chaotic time in secular as well as ecclesial history. His world was faced with civil strife, wars, disease, extreme poverty in many sectors, illiteracy not to mention heretical movements tearing the fabric of faith to pieces. And, let's also not underestimate the wounds of the Church faced as a result of heresy: lack of true community, negligence of the human body, despair, lack of reasonable understanding of the faith and Truth and no reasonable response to the human reality. Hence, the notion of Francis rebuilding the Lord's Church took on significant importance for many people.

Why Francesco? It has little to do with the fact that his October 4th feast day is next Sunday. But it has everything to do with the fact that in our School of Community (Communion & Liberation's weekly catechetic meeting) we are reading Father Giussani' chapter on poverty in volume 2 of Is It Possible to Live This Way?  There we are confronting the real, and truly theological reality, of possessing without possession. Giussani is raising the concern of restraining the possibility of grace in our lives but how we live our lives. So many of us can't face life in the manner in which it is given. We create escape mechanisms to mask the real life issues: pain, love, sorrow, faith, hurt, joy, lack of happiness, etc. Francis gave his whole life away to another person. He confused his parents and siblings; his friends and civil authorities were shocked. All could not understand Francis turning on end what was conventually known as "normal." He found something wonderful among the poor that became a contradistinction to the bourgeois normativity of Umbrian society. Renouncing self and possessions and following Christ crucified became his "normal." As Saint Clare says in the movie, God spoke to him again and His love made Francis' body identical to the Beloved's.

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Cavani deals with poverty in a gritty manner--it is terrifically human. And she never moralizes poverty or religious conviction. Even when the pope asks Francis "and what are you criticizing me for" and Francis says "nothing" we can't believe our ears. Two men come back to Francis' family and friends looking to explain what they experienced and thinking that the men would point out the ugliness of poverty and extreme raw life of Francis, they said, "there's something beautiful there." You then realize that Francis isn't following "poverty"; he's following someone; he's closely adhering to beauty. But it is not ordinary beauty--it is the beauty of believing that he promises of Christ are true.

Why Francis? Because he points to Christ. His faith, courage and thinking he could live like Christ is what Giussani wants to suggest is the reason for our life. Giussani asks, quid animo satis? (what can satisfy the soul?) It has to be the Gospel at it's word or all is rubbish. Francis, by the way, is the only person the Church calls an alter Christus among the saints.

This past summer some members of Communion and Liberation gathered for the second time to discuss important educational matters at a conference which met in Cambridge, MA. The 2009 theme of the Education Conference was "The Risk of Educating: The Student-Teacher Relationship."

"[Msgr. Luigi] Giussani talks about this need to live this question, "To educate means to propose something.  But it would mean to dump something on someone externally, if it were not the proposal of a response to the question that you live.  If you don't live the question, the response you propose is fake" (Chris Bacich, read more of the Keynote address)

The keynote address was given on July 18, 2009, by Mr. Christopher Bacich, a master teacher, a public speaker on education, and the leader of the lay Catholic movement, Communion and Liberation in the United States. 
Rooted in Jesus Christ (RiJC) is an Adult Faith Formation Community whose goal is to offer everyone the opportunity to explore ways to ratify, strengthen, and renew their knowledge of, and love for, Jesus Christ. If you are interested in deepening your faith, then we invite you to join us at one of our Friday night gatherings. RiJC meets at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church (East 90th Street, NYC, btw 2nd & 3rd Aves). For dates of the meeting read the flyer here

RiJC is a personal initiative of members of Communion & Liberation.

The Rimini Meeting, mentioned here before, invited Carl Anderson, the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus to address the more than 700,000 attendees on August 28, 2009. In his address he spoke about the common, practical spirituality of the Knights as influencing works of Charity. Knowing that "Christ plays in ten thousand places, Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his", Anderson advocated a life of charity that spurs all people --at least it ought to-- to build a civilization of love based on real, lasting hope.

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The point for Catholics is not to set up another group of "do-gooder" structure no matter of the brilliance of the idea which has no grounding in the dignity of man and woman and/or with some vague understanding of Christianity, but to form a companionship, friends who are rooted in Christ Jesus. Only then can we truly, actually care for another. Many can argue rightly that people who have no faith or don't share faith in Christ can build a loving and caring society. True and there are bountiful examples of this being done all around the world. But for those who claim to be Christians, substance over sentiment is what drives. I don't do something and meet Christ. Rather, I have met Christ and therefore I live differently with myself and with my brothers and sisters around me. Otherwise we have beige Catholicism and we don't need more of that stuff.

In my opinion, Carl Anderson touches on this point: our Christian lives are not sustained by a something but a someone: Christ who sacrificed himself for us on the cross and then rose from the dead. This is the hope Christians have. If we forget this point then we Catholics are no different than the Elks lodge and that may be OK for some but I think being Catholic means something more: that we come to know our God is a personal way through helping others. Ask yourself: How am I different after I've done something for my neighbor? Has my life in Christ changed, or not? Mr. Anderson draws on sacred Scripture & Theology as well as the works of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Particularly re-read Deus caritas est.

Carl Anderson's talk can be read here

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]



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This page is a archive of entries in the Communion & Liberation category from September 2009.

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