Category Archives: Communion & Liberation

Man has an inexhaustible desire for the Infinite

Why does faith still have any chance at all?… Because
it corresponds to the nature of man…. Man possesses an inextinguishable
, full of nostalgia, for an infinite. None of the attempted answers
will do; only the God who himself became finite in order to tear open our
finitude and lead us into the wide spaces of his infinity, only he corresponds
to the question of our being. That is why, even today, Christian faith will
come to seek out man again

Joseph Ratzinger

Now, with our failing muscles,
with our exhaustion, with our propensity for melancholy, with this strange
masochism that life tends to favor nowadays, or with this indifference and
cynicism that life produces nowadays as a way of avoiding the suffering of an
excessive and unwanted fatigue, how could we ever accept ourselves and others
in the name of a discourse? We cannot sustain love for ourselves unless Christ
is a presence, as a mother is a presence for her child. Unless Christ is a
presence now
– now! – I cannot love myself now and I cannot love you now.


(quoted from the Communion & Liberation Christmas poster, 2009)

Rule of Saint Benedict

St Benedict giving the Rule.jpgThe monks of Saint Benedict’s Abbey have put on their
website Father Boniface Verheyen’s translation of the Rule of Saint Benedict. The monks at this Abbey have a terrific college and get a steady stream of vocations. This year they have 7 novices: three for Kansas and four for Brazil.

I would recommend reading a chapter a day or a portion of it since some chapters are longer than others. My recommendation echoes to significant voices:

Christ present!
The Christian announcement is that God became one of us and is present here,
and gathers us together into one body, and through this unity, His presence is
made perceivable. This is the heart of the Benedictine message of the
earliest times. Well, this also defines the entire message of our Movement,
and this is why we feel Benedictine history to be the history to which we
are closest
~Monsignor Luigi Giussani, Founder of  Communion and

Familiarity with the Word, which the Benedictine Rule guarantees by
reserving much time for it in the daily schedule, will not fail to instill
serene trust, to cast aside false security and to root in the soul a vivid
sense of the total lordship of God. The monk is thus protected from convenient
or utilitarian interpretations of Scripture and brought to an ever deeper
awareness of human weakness, in which God’s power shines brightly.
~Pope John
Paul II

New York Encounter 2010

Each year Communion & Liberation gathers for the
National Diaconia over the ML King weekend.  In addition to prayer and
Mass, there are the conferences and opportunity to meet friends and focus on
the work of living the path proposed by Msgr. Giussani. All the events have the purpose of meeting Christ, working on the gift of holiness and deepening our companionship. No CL event is truly a
CL event without a cultural component, hence, there number of public events
will accompany this weekend. This is what we call “New York
Encounter,” the ‘Rimini Meeting’s little brother’. The proposed program is NY Encounter 2010.pdf; please consider the possibility of a weekend of culture and beauty in

Communion & Liberation received a letter from John Paul II 25 years ago

On the Thirtieth Anniversary of the Founding of Communion and

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.

Luigi Giussani.jpg

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

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.

Cristo Redentore Rio.jpg

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.

JP Giussani.jpg

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

To live without reservation: what Francis may be pointing to

Some have called Liliana Cavani’s Francesco (1989; DVD 1998) a gritty alternative to Franco
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.

Liliana Cavani.jpg

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.

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.

St Francis detail.jpg

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
among the saints.

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]
coat of arms



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