Category Archives: Luigi Giussani

Keep the conversation with the Lord going

I’ve been conscious of how busy everyone is, or pretends to be. Excuses run rampant as to why one can’t do thus-and-such, or … or …. One person asked the perennial question: How do I maintain my relationship with God? Father Giussani asked a similar of question of members of Communion & Liberation. He answered by telling his questioner that to keep the Lord’s name on our lips and to recognize the way the Lord has looked at us He looked at Zacchaeus in the sycamore tree. Giussani also reminded us to be attentive to reality as God has given it to us and not as we want it to be. Maintaining one’s relationship with God alive is easy if you move in small but deliberate steps by following a long held custom of praying short prayers that re-focus our attention: Jesus, Mary and Joseph, pray for us; Come Holy Spirit, come through Mary; Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner; O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee; Saint Catherine of Siena, pray for us; and so on. Short prayers such as these examples are remarkable keeping my mind and heart on target and away from sin. I have the practice of praying my own version of the Litany of Saints as I walk up and down the aisle when attending Mass or when I am making the Morning Offering.

Saint Josemaría Escrivá offers some guidance in this regard: “You should maintain throughout the day a constant
conversation with Our Lord, a conversation fed even by the things that happen in
your professional work. Go in spirit to the Tabernacle… and offer to God the
work that is in your hands.”

Make a spiritual communion.

Because Christ exists

“Because this Christ exists,” Father Luigi Giussani writes in his book on Charity, “there is no longer any man who doesn’t interest me.”

It is the Holy Spirit who gives us the sense that the Mystery of Christ is need

‎”The moment when we sense the mystery of God, or better, the mystery of Christ, as something pertinent to our own lives, as –in some way– for we cannot imagine the “how” of it-something useful and connected to life, is the gift of the Holy Spirit, it is grace.”

Monsignor Luigi Giussani
talk to university students at La Thuille, Italy
August 1992

St Peter is the “absolute and reliable rock,” Fr Giussani told us

together with the pope.jpg

Today in Rome members of the various Catholic lay ecclesial movements
like Focolare, Sant’Egidio, Catholic Action and Communion and Liberation are
gathering in Rome as a sign of prayerful solidarity at the Regina Coeli address
of the Pope in Saint Peter’s Square. Indeed, in a sign of friendship and
obedience to the Successor of Saint Peter, Pope Benedict XVI. And as a sign of
this worldwide communion with the Pope, members of Communion and Liberation are
gathering in cities around the world in prayer for the Pope and the Church.

According to news about the event, about 150,000 people flooded Saint Peter’s Square. The Pope said that he was comforted by the “beautiful and spontaneous show of faith and solidarity.”

Here in New York, for example, CL is attending the Mass at Saint Patrick’s
Cathedral with Archbishop Timothy Dolan and will pray the rosary together.

understand these pious and fraternal gestures of CL, here are some thoughts of
Monsignor Luigi Giussani that may give a fuller appreciation of the
companionship of faith and brotherhood we all share.

father and daughter.jpg

Christianity is an
irreducible event, an objective presence that desires to reach man; until the
very end, it means to be a provocation to him, and to offer a judgment of him.
Jesus said to the Apostles after his Resurrection, “Behold, I am with you always,
even to the end of the world” (Mt 28:20).

Christianity will have a dramatic and
decisive bearing on man’s life only if it is understood in accordance with its
originality and its factual density, which, two thousand years ago, had the
form of a single man. Yet even when He was still living, he also had the face
of people whom he had brought together, and then sent out two by two, to do
what He had been doing, and what he had told them to do; they came back
together and returned to him. Later, united as one, this people went out to the
entire known world to present that Fact. The face of that single man today is
the unity of believers, who are the sign of him in the world, or as Saint Paul
says, who are his Body, his mysterious Body – also called “the people of God” –
guided and guaranteed by a living person, the Bishop of Rome.

If the Christian
fact is not recognized and grasped in its proper originality, it becomes
nothing more than a ponderous occasion for all sorts of interpretations and
opinions, or perhaps even for works; but then it lies alongside of or more
often subordinate to all of life’s other promptings.

(Religious Awareness in
Modern Man, Communio, vol. XXV, n.1, Spring 1998, pp. 134-135)

The supreme
authority is the one in which we find the meaning of all our experience. Jesus
Christ is this supreme authority, and it is His Spirit who makes us understand
this, opens us up to faith in Him and His person. “Just as the Father has sent
me so do I send you.” (See John 20:21) The apostles and their successors (the
Pope and the bishops) constitute, in history, the living continuation of the
authority who is Christ. In their dynamic succession in history and their
multiplication throughout the world, Christ’s mystery is proposed ceaselessly,
clarified without errors, defended without compromise. Therefore, they
constitute the place, like a reliable and effervescent spring, where humanity
can draw on the true meaning of its own existence, probing ever deeper. 
genius is to the cry of human need, what prophecy is to our cry of expectancy,
so the apostles and their successors are to announcing the response. But just
as the true answer is always perfectly specific and concrete with respect to
the expectancy which is inevitably vague and subject to illusions – so are
they, like an absolute and reliable rock, infallible: “You are Peter and on
this rock I shall build my Church.” (Matthew 16:17ff.)

B16 May 16 2010.jpg

Their authority not only
constitutes the sure criterion for that vision of the universe and history that
alone explains their (i.e., the universe’s and history’s) meaning; it is also
vital – it steadfastly stimulates a true culture and persistently points to a
total vision. It inexorably condemns any exaltation of the particular and
idealization of the contingent; that is, it condemns all error and idolatry.
The authority of the Pope and bishops, therefore, is the ultimate guide on the
pilgrimage towards a genuine sharing of our lives [convivenza], towards a true

Where that authority is not vital and vigilant, or where it is
under attack, the human pathway becomes complicated, ambiguous, and unstable;
it veers towards disaster, even when on the exterior it seems powerful,
flourishing, and astute, as is the case today. Where that authority is active
and respected, the historic pilgrimage is confidently renewed with serenity; it
is deep, genuinely human, even when the expressive methods and dynamics of
sharing lives are roughshod and difficult.

Still today it is the gift of the
Spirit that allows us to discover the profound meaning of Ecclesiastical
Authority as a supreme directive on the human path. Here is the origin of that
ultimate abandonment and of that conscious obedience to it – this is why it is
not the locus of the Law but of Love. One cannot understand the experience of
that definitive devotion that binds the “faithful” to Authority without taking
into consideration the influence of the Spirit, and that devotion often affirms
itself on the Cross of a mortification of the drive of our own genius or our
plans for life.

(The Journey to Truth Is an Experience, Montreal:
McGill-Queen’s University Press 2006, pp. 73-75)

Aroused by the presence of Christ

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

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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