Category Archives: Communion & Liberation

What is Luigi Giussani’s Contribution To Catholic Theology?

The preceding account [see who is Luigi Giussani] might lead one to believe that the
Luigi Giussani5.jpgsignificance of Luigi Giussani is primarily that of a teacher and spiritual leader.  It would be an unfortunate mistake, however, to view him in this way if it led one to dismiss Giussani’s vast literary output, and its contribution to the intellectual life of the Church and our times.  In this essay, we want to give a brief outline of the central thesis of the book by Giussani that has recently been published in a scholarly edition in English, entitled The Religious Sense.  Here, we hope, it will become clear that Giussani’s thought presents a profound theological analysis of human “psychology” (in the classical sense of this term); indeed, it represents a tremendous resource toward the development of a fully adequate Catholic theological anthropology. 

 

Giussani proposes what he calls “the religious sense” as the foundation of the human person’s awareness of himself and his concrete engagement of life.  The term “religious sense” does not imply that Giussani thinks that man’s need for religion is part of the organic structure of his bodily senses, nor does he mean that religion is to be defined as a mere emotional sensibility or a vague kind of feeling.  Rather, Giussani uses the term “sense” here in the same way that we refer to “common sense” or the way that John Henry Newman sought to identify what he called the “illative sense.”  “Sense” refers to a dynamic spiritual process within man; an approach to reality in which man’s intelligence is fully engaged, but not according to those categories of formal analysis that we call “scientific.” Giussani’s understanding of the “religious sense” in man has a certain kinship to Jacques Maritain’s view that man can come to a “pre-philosophical” or “pre-scientific” awareness of the existence of God, in that both positions insist that reason is profoundly involved in the approach to God for every human being–not just for philosophers. What is distinctive about Giussani’s approach, however, is his effort to present a descriptive analysis of the very core of reason, the wellspring from which the human person, through action, enters into relationship with reality.  Needless to say, “action” in the Giussanian sense is not simply to be identified with an external “activism,” but involves also and primarily what Maritain would call the supremely vital act by which man seeks to behold and embrace truth, goodness, and beauty–those interrelated transcendental perfections inherent in all things which Giussani refers to by a disarmingly simple term: meaning.

 


Luigi Giussani4.jpgGiussani proposes that we observe ourselves “in action,” and investigate seriously the fundamental dispositions and expectations that shape the way we approach every circumstance in life.  In so doing, we will discover that the “motor” that generates our activity and places us in front of things with a real interest in them is something within ourselves that is both reasonable and mysterious.  It is something so clear and obvious that a child can name it, and yet it is something so mysterious that no one can really define what it is: it is the search for happiness.  The human heart–in the biblical sense, as the center of the person, the foundation of intelligence and freedom, and not merely the seat of infrarational emotions and sentiments–seeks happiness in all of its actions.  Here, of course, Giussani is saying the same thing as St. Thomas Aquinas.  Giussani opens up new vistas on this classical position, however, by engaging in an existentially attentive analysis of the characteristics of this “search.”  Giussani emphasizes the dramatic, arduous, and mysterious character of the need for happiness as man actually experiences it.  He says that if we really analyze our desires and expectations, even in the most ordinary and mundane circumstances, what we will find is not some kind of desire for happiness that we can easily obtain, package, and possess through our activity.  Rather we will see that genuine human action aims at “happiness” by being the enacted expression of certain fundamental, mysterious, and seemingly open-ended questions.  The heart, the self, when acting–when the person is working, playing, eating, drinking, rising in the morning, or dying–is full of the desire for something and the search for something that it does not possess, that it cannot give to itself, and that it does not even fully understand, although the heart is aware that this Object is there, and its attainment is a real possibility. 

 


existence.jpgGiussani claims that religiosity coincides with these fundamental questions:

The religious factor represents the nature of our “I” in as much as it expresses itself in certain questions: “What is the ultimate meaning of existence?” or “Why is there pain and death, and why, in the end, is life worth living?”  Or, from another point of view: “What does reality consist of and what is it made for?”  Thus, the religious sense lies within the reality of our self at the level of these questions.

 

This means that, according to Giussani, man becomes authentically religious to the extent that he develops and articulates in the face of the circumstances of life the basic natural complex of questions or “needs” that are identified in the first chapter of the book as constitutive of the human heart: the need for truth, justice, goodness, happiness, beauty. 

 

This complex of “needs” which constitutes the human heart by nature, will become more and more explicit and urgent as the person lives life and pursues the things that attract him, if he is truly honest with himself.

 

This an excerpt of the essay, Man in the Presence of Mystery. The author, John Janaro, professor of theology at Christendom College, delivered this paper in 1998. 

Who Is Luigi Giussani?

Most English language readers know little about the person and work of Luigi Giussani.
Luigi Giussani2.jpg  His vast publications have been virtually unknown in the philosophical or theological academy here in North America.  The general public who are well read on religious topics have perhaps heard his name and associate it with a large Catholic lay movement known as “CL.”  It would be useful, therefore, to begin with a general introduction to Luigi Giussani: the man, the priest, the professor, and the vibrant leader of a great apostolic movement in the Catholic Church today. 

 

Luigi Giussani has devoted his life and priestly ministry to the evangelization and catechesis of young people for nearly 50 years.  In the early days of his priesthood, while serving as seminary professor in the diocese of Milan in 1952, Giussani encountered some Italian High School students while on a train trip.  At this time, many in the Church took it for granted that the Catholic faith was still firmly rooted in the mentality of the Italian people, and that its transmission to the next generation was no great cause for concern.  Based on his brief conversation with a group of teenagers, however, Giussani intuited a profound problem which would soon manifest itself to the world in the intellectual and cultural revolutions of the 1960s.  What he saw was this: not only did these young people have a poor grasp of the basic truths of the Catholic faith; they were unable to conceive the relationship between this Faith–which they still openly professed at that time–and their way of looking at the world, their way of making judgments about circumstances and events, their way of evaluating (i.e., assessing the real value) of the situations they had to deal with in life.  The student might profess to be Catholic, recite the creed, and perhaps even know parts of his Catechism (or even more, if he was bright).  But when it came to making judgments and decisions about things that he viewed as truly important to his life, his ideals and hopes for happiness were shaped by a secularized mentality; a mentality in which Christ and His Church were largely absent, or at best relegated to a dusty corner.  Giussani saw that many of the young people in Italy in the early 1950s who would have described themselves as “Catholic” did not in fact seek to judge the realities of the world and the significance of their own lives according to a Christian mentality; that is, the “transformed and renewed mind” that St. Paul says is the basis for viewing the world in union with Christ and according to the wisdom of God’s plan (see Rom. 12:2).2  Rather, the mentality of these “young Catholics” was being shaped by all the contradictory emphases of the so-called “modern” era: the absolute sufficiency of “scientific” human reason on the one hand, and the exaltation of subjectivism on the other; the emphasis on a deontological ethics of duty divorced from the good of the person on the one hand, and the enthrallment with the spontaneity of mere instinct and emotional individualism on the other.

 

Giussani perceived the need for young people to receive an integral catechesis that would
Luigi Giussani4.jpghelp them to realize–both existentially and intellectually–that Christ is the center of all of life, and that because of this their experience of life in union with Christ in His Church should shape their entire outlook and invest all of their daily activity with an evangelical energy.  Giussani therefore requested and received from his bishop permission to leave seminary teaching and inaugurate an educational apostolate for youth: first at the Berchet High School in Milan, and then for many years as Professor of religion at the Catholic University of Milan. 

 

Giussani’s teaching method was to challenge the oppressive secularism that dominated the mentality of his students by inspiring them to conduct a rigorous examination of themselves, the fundamental experiences that characterize man’s life and aspirations, and the radical incapacity of modern secular culture to do justice to the deep mystery of the human heart.  This examination–carried out within an existentially vital ecclesial context in which Christ is encountered through a friendship with those who follow Him–leads to a rediscovery of man’s “religious sense,” that is, the fundamentally religious character of the questions and desires that are inscribed on his heart.  Man has been made for God, and the only way that he can realize the truth of himself (and thus be happy) is by recognizing God and adhering to Him wholeheartedly.  Giussani then sought to lead his students to understand and appreciate in a deeper way the fact that God has made this adherence to Himself concretely possible, attractive, and beautiful by becoming man and perpetuating His incarnate presence in the world through His Church. 

 

Soon after he began teaching young people, Giussani founded an Italian Catholic student organization, Gioventu Studentesca.  During the turmoil of the late 1960s, when almost all the Italian universities were taken over by Marxism or other radical left ideologies, Giussani’s students published a manifesto entitled Comunione e Liberazione, in which they declared that man can truly be free only if he lives in communion with Christ and the Church.  Thus the group came to be known as “CL.”  And when these students graduated from the university, they began to bring the educational methods of Giussani into the
CL B16.jpgvarious places where they worked and lived their adult lives, continuing to learn from and to retain contact with one another and with their great teacher.  By means of this friendship guided by Giussani’s particular pedagogical approach, a “movement”– a style of living the Catholic faith–took form.  This “movement” gained the attention of other Italian bishops, priests, and people throughout the Church and even outside the Church.  In this way, CL–while retaining its fundamentally theological and pedagogical character–moved far beyond the walls of the University of Milan.  In 1982, Pope John Paul II called upon the members of CL to “Go into all the world and bring the truth, the beauty, and the peace which are found in Christ the Redeemer…

 

This is the charge I leave with you today.”  The Pope made it clear that it was his desire that CL become an instrument of the new evangelization not only in Italy, but throughout the world.  Following this desire of the Pope, numerous missionary initiatives were taken, and a more profound and stable presence of CL has since been established in Africa, the Americas, and other parts of Europe. 

 

Today, CL is one of the largest “Ecclesial Movements” in the Church, counting among its 100,000 members around the world not only university students, but also bishops, priests, and lay people engaged in a variety of professions and cultural activities.

 

 

This an excerpt of the essay, Man in the Presence of Mystery. The author, John Janaro, professor of theology at Christendom College, delivered this paper in 1998. 

Opening Day: a open house for Communion & Liberation this weekend

The Communion & Liberation Opening Day for the New York area community will be on CL.jpg Saturday, October 25 from 2 -5 PM at Holy Family Church, East 47th Street in Manhattan (between 1st & 2nd Avenues)

 

The theme is “Faith: The Ultimate Expression of an Affection for Oneself.”

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Everybody is invited; this is a public event open to anybody who has an interest in finding out more about the movement.

 

Other Opening Days in various parts of the USA

 

Atlanta, GA (actually it’s in Duluth, GA)

Chicago, IL

Portland, OR

What We Hold Most Dear

Communion and Liberation USA, an ecclesial lay movement in the Church, recently circulated a flyer on politics titled “What We Hold Most Dear”. It was posted on this blog in September.  

 

In order to help Catholics “witness to what they hold most dear” in this upcoming election, members of CL are organizing a discussion on the judgments expressed in their flyer at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, East 90th Street, Manhattan. 

 

The hour long discussion titled “WHAT do we hold most dear?  A discussion on Christ and Politics” will take place on Saturday, November 1 at 6pm (right before Catholic Underground) in the Pope John Paul II room in the parish hall of the Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, 230 East 90th Street (between 2nd and 3rd Avenues).

 

I invite you to attend this important discussion and I encourage you to invite others.

 

The attached flyer lists details of the talk, please share it with others

 

P.S. To view and download a copy of the “What We hold Most Dear” flyer, please visit the CL website.    

Luigi Giussani speaks about Pope Paul

When Paul VI Saved the Church from Disaster: An interview with Fr. Luigi Giussani

Q: Paul VI died in August of 1978, and then came pope Albino Luciani. Then there was the arrival of the “pope who came from far away.” Do you remember the hours during which the death of Paul VI was announced?

A: I remember those moments. […] The Church had been plunged into such a condition that the loss of that guide seemed extremely serious to me. It had been Paul VI who, in all good faith, had looked favorably upon a certain evolution of the Church. But his love for the Church was so genuine that, at a certain point, he had to realize the disaster posed by the dynamic of things – even though these things had been approved [by him]. It was then that he opened himself completely to the experience of Communion and Liberation. So the death of Pope Montini was like the disappearance of a possible guide. He had seen and made confirmation; he knew the inner workings of that process of destruction. Now, he intended to go against the tide: and he was the best choice and the one most able to do it.

Paulus VI PP.jpgQ: When did this new intention of Paul VI come about?

A: It dates from his famous ‘Credo’, June 30, 1968, which began the shift. Humanae Vitae and the outrageous attacks to which he was subjected confirmed him in his judgment. The culmination of his disillusionment came with the referendum on divorce in Italy, in 1974, when the very leaders of Catholic Action and FUCI [Italian Federation of Catholic University Students] whom he had loved and protected turned their backs on him. It is probably in this climate that Paul VI realized the capacity for Christian renewal and human responsiveness implicit in Communion and Liberation. Beginning in 1975, the signs of his new and strong sympathies increased. For Palm Sunday of that year he called to Rome all the young people of all the Catholic groups. […] He called everyone. He found himself with only the 17,000 of CL.

Q: And then how did it go?

A: […] After the mass, it was about noon, and I heard a prelate call me: ‘Fr. Giussani, the pope wants to see you.’ I was in the portico of Saint Peter’s Basilica, I had the ciborium with the consecrated hosts in my hands, and I heard that voice. In the emotion of the moment I tried to hand over the ciborium to a halberdier, who drew back. Finally I was able to hurry toward the pope. I appeared before him right at the door of the church. I knelt down, I was so confused… I remember precisely only these words: ‘Have courage, this is the right way: keep going forward.’

Q: Was this something unexpected?

A: Totally unexpected. But these were not improvised words of encouragement. [Years later] I received sure proof of this from Cardinal Benelli, the closest hierarchical collaborator of Paul VI. He told me in person that each time he visited Pope Montini during the last years of his pontificate, the pope asked him about Communion and Liberation. And he told him: ‘Your Eminence, that is the way.’ Benelli made this comment to me: ‘If Paul VI had lived another year, I assure you that all your ecclesiastical problems would already have been resolved.’ Paul VI would have had the courage to say so, and to do it. […] One noteworthy confirmation of the change in Paul VI was evident in his dismissal from the supervision of Catholic Action of his close friend Bishop Franco Costa, who had determined the course of Catholic associations over the previous decades.


Q: Did Paul VI’s old collaborator also mean by those words to express a specific judgment about the Church?

A:  [His words] signified affirmation of the soundness of CL’s inspiration, of its validity for the Church. And this was in view of the profile of all Catholic associations during those years, which in their leadership bodies voted and directed voting [in the referendum on divorce] not in accordance with the pope’s wishes. The approach of ‘religious choice’ had led Catholic associations to take refuge in all sorts of leftist politics: and there they pushed for divorce, among other things, without any qualms.

Q: On September 8, 1977, Paul VI spoke to his friend Jean Guitton about ‘a non-Catholic type of thought’ and the resistance of a ‘small flock.’ For years you have wanted to have these words repeated so that they could be known to everyone. Why?

A: Because that is what is happening. Please read me those words again.

Emmaus Duccio.jpgQ: Here they are: There is a great disturbance at this moment in the world and in the Church, and what is in question is the faith. It happens now that I find myself repeating the obscure saying of Jesus in the Gospel of Saint Luke: ‘When the Son of man returns, will he find faith on the earth?’ It happens that books are published in which important points of the faith are undermined, that the bishops are silent, that these books are not found to be strange. […] What strikes me, when I consider the Catholic world, is that a non-Catholic type of thought seems to predominate sometimes within Catholicism, and this non-Catholic thought might become the stronger one within Catholicism in the future. But it will never represent the thought of the Church. A small flock must remain, however small it may be.

A: These words are the synthesis of the pope’s reflection on the situation and destiny of the Church. This is where his openness to CL comes in.

Q: Is there some strong doctrinal point that you feel to be central to the magisterium of Paul VI?

A: The affirmation, completely against the tide, of the Church as an ‘ethnic identity sui generis.’ On July 23, 1975, it was the heart of his preaching on the identity of the Church at the Wednesday general audiences. We were almost the only ones to take up this idea. Paul VI sensed the destruction of the Catholic presence in society. This presence was hiding itself. Or rather, instead of a Catholic presence, there was an increasingly tired and abstract closing in upon oneself in the offices of the associations, while the concrete lives of the young people themselves lined up to follow the current ideas. Or, instead of the Catholic presence, there was intellectual interpretation in the manner of the Democratic League, of the university students of the FUCI, of the Catholic Alumni. These theorized a conception of the faith that was absolutely elitist, and suicidal for mission. In the third place, the position of the Church came to be identified with political and diplomatic cunning. In any case, I believe that the news about the situation of the Catholic universities, institutes, and schools of theology was decisive in showing clearly to Paul VI the abyss toward which the Church’s leadership was dragging everybody else.

Q: Some observers judge the pontificate of Paul VI as a failure.

A: The papacy of Paul VI was one of the greatest papacies! He had demonstrated during the first part of his life an extreme sensitivity for all the problems of the anguished condition of modern man and society. And he found a response! He gave this response during his last ten years. The papacy of Paul VI is a failure only to someone who has not thoroughly examined it.

Q: He is the pope who concluded Vatican Council II.

A: Of course. A history should be compiled of all the courageous, and unpopular, contributions he made to stop false democracy, the dogmatic equivocation that many Council Fathers tried to pass off under a democratic pretext.

Q: What was the method of Paul VI in the face of the dissolution of the Catholic people, the disappearance of the multitudes?

A: It was that of the ‘Credo.’ This is as much as to say the authentic proclamation of dogma, sine glossa, with clarity, and of the presence of the Church in the world, as in his speech on the Christian people on Wednesday, July 23, 1975.

Q: Paul VI was targeted for his rediscovery of the devil as an actor in human affairs. He was even left alone by the bishops.

A: Pope Montini began to realize the disaster into which the Church was sliding when he noticed the formalism with which the supernatural was considered and represented. For this reason, his speech on the presence of the devil in the world was a challenge – and such a courageous one that it could not have been foreseen in light of his temperament – to the world and to all theology, including Catholic theology, that was coming to agreement with the world.

A: During that month of August, 1978, with one pope dead and another dying, what were you hoping for the Church?

A: A man who would continue an intuitive understanding of the tragedy in which the
Paul VI and Karol Wojtyla.jpgChurch was submerged. And of the only remedy, which is that of returning to faith in the supernatural as the determining factor in the Church’s life, to the authenticity of tradition. In short, I was hoping for a pope who would continue on the way that Paul VI, during his last years, had vigorously pointed out. […] In the end, John Paul II emerged: a pope who is the incarnation of what the last ten years of Paul VI had intuited and expressed.

 

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]yahoo.com.
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