Tag Archives: Communion and Liberation

Mercy can be challenging, to some

An article by Father Julián Carrón, President of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, has been published by the Italian daily, Avvenire. The article is titled “A Challenging Mercy” and is related to the letter Pope Benedict addressed to all Bishops after the polemics about the lifting of the excommunication of bishops in the Society of St. Pius X. I recommend the article.

Retreat offered for priests during Easter Week 2009

I would like to call your attention to the forthcoming retreat for priests that will take place during the Octave of Easter (April 13-17, 2009), at Malvern, PA. You find all information at www.clonline.us.

“Eight years ago, Msgr. Luigi Giussani, founder of the Movement Communion and Liberation, suggested that the diocesan priests in the United States following the charism of the Movement find ways to accompany their brother priests, demoralized by the image of the priesthood created by the scandal of the sexual abuse of minors. As a result, members of the Movement invited their parish priests to participate in a retreat seeking to retrieve and strengthen their experience of the incomparable beauty and unsurpassable value of their vocation.


Since 2000, such retreats have been held every year in places associated with the history of the Church in America, such as Emmitsburg, MD; St. Augustine, FL, and others. The joy and gratitude with which so many priests have responded to these retreats is a verifiable confirmation of the sacramental bond at the origin of our priestly identity.” (from the invitation letter sent to Bishops and priests)

I strongly recommend that you get in touch with all priests you know – particularly the ones who have shown even a little interest in our experience – and propose them to participate in the retreat. If money is an issue please feel free to let them know that the Knights of Columbus have once more graciously granted some money to help priests to participate.

For any further information please contact Olivetta (clnationaloffice@clhac.com or at 914-548-1275).

Silence: in the Christian life and not just for the monks

Silence in the monastery confuses the world; it sometimes confuses me and there are times that I am frustrated by silence. The practice of silence is often misunderstood by those who live in monasteries because of an insufficient understanding of a “theology of silence.” Family and friends think monks take a vow of silence. They get this idea from the clichés of the TV and movies where they see monks and nuns piously walking the halls of the abbey in silence with a mean looking superior hovering over the shoulder waiting for someone to slip-up.  While I don’t deny that this understanding may be rooted in some truth, or a least a vague sense of truth, it nonetheless lends itself to gross misunderstanding of the role of silence in the monastic life, indeed the need (and desire for) for silence in all people’s lives.

What did Saint Benedict say about the practice of silence in his Rule? In one place he says:

Rule of St Benedict.jpg

Let us do what the Prophet says: “I said, I will take heed of my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I have set a guard to my mouth, I was dumb, and was humbled, and kept silence even from good things” (Psalm 38[39]:2-3).  Here the prophet shows that, if at times we ought to refrain from useful speech for the sake of silence, how much more ought we to abstain from evil words on account of the punishment due to sin.

Therefore, because of the importance of silence, let permission to speak be seldom given to perfect disciples even for good and holy and edifying discourse, for it is written: “In much talk up shall not escape sin” (Proverbs 10:19). And elsewhere: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). For it belongs to the master to speak and to teach; it becomes the disciple to be silent and to listen. If, therefore, anything must be asked of the Superior, let it be asked with all humility and respectful submission. But coarse jests, and idle words or speech provoking laughter, we condemn everywhere to eternal exclusion; and for such speech we do not permit the disciple to open his lips (Ch. 6).

Belmont Abbey’s Father Abbot, Placid, put in our mailboxes the community’s custom of silence that had been formulated in consultation with the community in 2006. Essentially it is outlines what’s permitted and what’s not. To me, it is less of a “wagging of the finger” as it is a way to focus our life yet again on a venerable practice that leads to freedom but yet takes discipline and freedom to engage our mind, hear and will. So what’s expected? Following Vespers (c. 7:30 pm) to the conclusion of breakfast (c. 8:00 am) silence is carefully observed throughout the monastery. Extended conversations may be had in designated areas like the common recreation areas, the formation study and the guest dining room. “A spirit of silence should be maintained in the hallways of the monastery at all times, and any conversation should be carried on in a quiet tone of voice.” Another place where we attempt to maintain silence is in the sacristy, the basilica and in the passage way between the abbey and the basilica. A stricter sense of being silent exists in the church prior to the Mass and the Divine Office, in the refectory before the evening meal which includes the brief reading of a chapter (a few lines really) of the Rule of Saint Benedict and during table reading (only 15 min.) and in “statio” (the order of seniority) prior to Sunday Mass and Vespers.

This work of silence is neither rigid and nor is unreasonable. In fact, I appreciate the periods of silence the community has worked out and I hope that my confreres will help me live by what’s expected.

When I am participating in community days of the Communion and Liberation (CL) movement I practice silence with the group. We don’t do this to shut up the incessant talker (though it’s a nice by-product of the silence) or to force an agenda as it is a method to help us (me) to appreciate the beauty of God the Father’s creation which is in front of us. So, it is not uncommon to walk in the woods, climbing a mountain, or sitting by the seashore and not talk to your neighbor. Sounds goofy? Perhaps for the uninitiated or the person who can’t grasp the need to soak in the beauty of life, indeed all of creation, without the distracting noise of talking all the time, silence would be difficult or unhelpful or somewhat silly.

Way of the Cross.jpg

Another example of the witness of silence is the Good Friday Way of the Cross that starts at Saint James Cathedral (Brooklyn) and ends at St. Peter’s Church (Barclay St., NYC–ground zero) but crosses the Brooklyn Bridge and makes other stops to pray, listen to Scripture and sing spiritual songs. Imagine 5000+ people making the Way of the Cross in silence in the chilly air! People in NYC walking in silence following a cross in silence! What’s the point? The point is: How does one understand, that is, judge (assess, evaluate, understand reality) the impact of the Lord’s saving life, death and resurrection if all you hear is chatter? The gospel is made alive by the witness of 5000+ people walking in silence.

 One last example are my friends in the Fraternity of Saint Joseph (I call them CL’s contemplatives-in-the-world who follow the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation) who spend a portion of each day in silence and at least one other day in an extended period of silence. For me, this is a witness to the presence of Christ and one’s relationship with the Lord. Their discipline of silence is not merely turning off the radio, not speaking, not writing email or updating their blog, nor the simple absence of distracting noise but the intentional focus on the work of the Lord in prayer and study. How do you discern (verify) the will of God in the hussle-and-bussle of life? How do you hear the voice of the Lord calling you, as the Lord called Samuel or the apostles if all you encounter is the blaring of the stereo, the train or your mother yelling for you to answer the doorbell?


Theologically, I think Patriarch Bartholomew I (of Constantinople) said it well in an address a year ago:

 The ascetic silence of apophaticism imposes on all of us — educational and ecclesiastical institutions alike — a sense of humility before the awesome mystery of God, before the sacred personhood of human beings, and before the beauty of creation. It reminds us that — above and beyond anything that we may strive to appreciate and articulate — the final word always belongs not to us but to God. This is more than simply a reflection of our limited and broken nature. It is, primarily, a calling to gratitude before Him who “so loved the world” (Jn 3:16) and who promised never to abandon us without the comfort of the Paraclete that alone “guides us to the fullness of truth.” (Jn 16:13) How can we ever be thankful enough for this generous divine gift?

So, in my context silence is not punitive or a burden but way of living with an awareness that would otherwise be minimized and likely forgotten.

Communion & Liberation at Belmont Abbey

Today about 25 friends who follow, that is, are a part of Communion & Liberation from around the Carolinas came to Belmont Abbey Basilica to celebrate the Sacrifce of the Mass on the occasion of the 4th anniversary of death of Monsignor Luigi Giussani and the 27th year of the recognition of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation. Redemptorist Father Joseph Dione, a local pastor, was the celebrant of the Mass.

After, John Neill, the CL Responsible for the Carolinas, led us on a walk around the grounds of Belmont Abbey College stopping at the Saint Joseph Adoration Chapel and at the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes to offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the graces received today and in the past year. This was especially important to recognize since Our Lady of Lourdes is important to the life of CL  because it was something that Giussani taught us: go to the BVM. So we feel very connected with the history of our charism. The group then went to dinner at a local restuarant but I had to ring bells and pray Vespers. Our group joined about 30 other groups in the USA and countless others around the world who did the same thing for the same reason.

It was a beautiful day in which we gave came together as friends to give thanks to God. Our gathering keeps the companionship and the Benedictine roots of CL alive. Some photos follow.

CL of the Carolinas.jpg
CL prayer of thanks.jpg

robert Neill with St Benedict.JPG

Communion & Liberation observes 27 years of Church approval

LG & JPII.JPGOn this date in 1982, Pope John Paul II officially recognized (approved) Communion and Liberation as an authentic charism in the Church. The recognition of this fact for the Church means the work of Father Luigi Giussani and so many others was really born of the Holy Spirit. What follows are few items about the movement which come from the CL archives.


The Fraternity of Communion and Liberation

This is the eminent group among those born from the movement, whose origins and aims it shares. It was recognized as a Lay Association of Pontifical Right on February 11, 1982. The decree of approval of the Fraternity’s request for recognition reads that the Holy Father himself was “benevolently pleased to encourage the Pontifical Council for the Laity” that the recognition procedure might have a positive outcome. The letter accompanying the decree, signed by the then Cardinal Opilio Rossi, recognizes that the Fraternity of CL’s contribution to the Church in her work of evangelization is “of outstanding importance and pastoral urgency,” especially in “distant” de-Christianized areas where “the basic principles of human life and social interchange are at stake.” The ecclesial nature of the Association, the letter concludes, makes obvious its “full cooperation and communion with the Bishops, headed by the supreme Pastor of the Church,” down to the pastoral life of the diocese, to which it offers “its experience and contribution.”

This recognition from the Pontifical Council for the Laity amounted to de facto approval of the educational experience of CL.

The first “Fraternity” groups were formed around the mid-1970s at the initiative of some former university students who wanted to go more deeply into what it means to belong to the Church, also within the conditions of adult life and the responsibilities it brings, in communion with others.

CL at St Peter's.jpgToday the Fraternity’s groups host 50,000 people who have made the decision to commit themselves to a way of life that supports the path to holiness, acknowledged as the true aim of existence. The life of the Fraternity normally takes place through the free formation of groups who consider that commitment to be the reason for their friendship and sharing.
Belonging to the Fraternity calls for a minimal rule of personal ascesis, daily moments of prayer, participation in encounters of spiritual formation including an annual retreat, and commitment to the support, financial and otherwise, of the charitable, missionary, and cultural initiatives promoted or sustained by the Fraternity.

Recent years have witnessed also in Italy and abroad the rise of Fraternity groups formed by diocesan priests (the first of these took the name of Studium Christi) who in this way intend to help each other pursue more deeply their vocation and the accomplishment of their mission.


On the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the pontifical recognition of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, John Paul II writes Fr Giussani a long autograph letter.


Subsequently, Fr Giussani writes all the members of the Fraternity to call attention to the great value of the Pope’s letter and to the importance of the indications conveyed.


What is Communion & Liberation?


Communion and Liberation is an ecclesial movement whose purpose is the education to Christian maturity of its adherents and collaboration in the mission of the Church in all the spheres of contemporary life.

LG detail.jpgIt began in Italy in 1954 when
Fr Luigi Giussani established a Christian presence in Berchet high school in Milan with a group called Gioventù Studentesca (Student Youth), GS for short. The current name of the movement, Communion and Liberation (CL), appeared for the first time in 1969. It synthesizes the conviction that the Christian event, lived in communion, is the foundation of the authentic liberation of man. Communion and Liberation is today present in about seventy countries throughout the world.

There is no type of membership card, but only the free participation of persons. The basic instrument for the formation of adherents is weekly catechesis, called “School of Community.”

Traces 2009.jpgThe official magazine of the Movement is the international monthly,
Traces – Litterae Communionis 

*email Kim for a subscription ($30.00 per year): traces@clhac.com




This Traces article is worth your review: A New Movement: A Story of a Beginning

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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