conversion (and let me echo the words of St Augustine used speaking about his
own conversion) is simply the passage from his dedication to God to recognition
of what God has done and does in Jesus.

Augustine describes his conversion
thus: “When I read the apostle Paul [and immediately afterwards -because it is
not enough to the Scriptures–he adds:] and when Your hand healed the sadness of
my heart, then I understood the difference inter praesumptionem et confessionem
/ between dedication and recognition.” Praesumptio does not indicate a bad
thing. In the long term it decays into bad presumption, but initially it
indicates a person’s attempt to achieve the good ideal intuited. Christian
conversion is the passage from this attempt to do good (good works, said Pope
Benedict) to the simple recognition of the presence of Jesus
. From praesumptio,
dedication, to confessio, recognition. The confessio, recognition, is like when
the child says, ‘Mamma.” As when the mother comes towards the child and it
says, ‘Mamma.”

Christian conversion, for Augustine and Paul, is (let me use the
image of Don Giussani’s that, in my opinion, has no equivalent) the transition
from the enthusiasm of dedication to the enthusiasm of beauty; from the
enthusiasm of one’s own dedication, which in itself is good, to the enthusiasm
aroused by a presence that attracts the heart, a presence which gratuitously
comes forward and gratuitously makes itself recognized. Paul had done nothing
to meet Him. His gratuitous coming forwards accomplishes the transition from
our dedication to the beauty of His presence that makes itself recognized
through attraction. And between recognition and dedication there is no
contradiction. Giussani says simply that “enthusiasm of dedication is
incomparable with the enthusiasm of beauty.” It is the same term St Augustine
uses when he describes the relationship between the virtue of men and the first
steps of those who put their hope in the grace and mercy of God.

We might also
say that when by grace a person happens to live the same experience that Paul
went through, his same experience, in the infinite remove from him, it is as if
all the Christian words, the word of faith, the word salvation, the word
Church, were transparent of the initiative of Jesus Christ. It is He who stirs
, Faith is His working. It is He who saves. Bestowing salvation is His
initiative. It is He who builds His Church. “Aedifcabo ecclesiam meam” (Mt
16:18). Aedificabo is a future tense [verb]: “I will build my Church” on the
profession of faith of Peter, on the grace of faith given to Peter (cf. Mt
16:18). It is He who builds personally, in the present, His Church on a gift of

Giussani was speaking to a group of young people. At a certain point he
asked: “What puts us in relationship with Jesus Christ? What, now, puts us in
relationship with Jesus Christ?” People said: “The Church,” “The community,”
“Our friendship,” and so on. At the end of all the suggestions, Giussani
repeated the question: “What puts us in relationship with Jesus Christ?” And
then gave the answer himself: “The fact that He is risen.” Because were He not
risen, were He not alive, the Church would be a merely human institution, like
so many others. One burden more. All things merely human in the become a
burden. The Church is the visible term of the gesture of the living Jesus who
meets the heart and attracts it.

Don Giacomo Tartandini, 30 Days, no. 6/7 2009