Tag Archives: Communion and Liberation

Community of spirit in Saint Benedict, Don Luigi Giussani & Pope Benedict XVI

spirito 1.jpgOn this the feast of the great Saint Scholastica, the twin sister of Saint Benedict, I thought it would be appropriate to hear a few words about the significant connection between the Benedictines (Sts Benedict & Scholastica and Pope Benedict) and Father Luigi Giussani.


Signs of spiritual friendship

by Don Giacomo Tantardini (In 30 Days, May 2005)


…The hundredfold is not the outcome of a project, of a program. My real program of government is that of not doing my own will, of not following my own ideas, but of setting myself to listen, with the whole Church, to the word and will of the Lord and let myself be led by Him, so that it is He Himself who leads the Church in this hour of our history, Benedict XVI said again in the sermon of the mass opening his ministry. The hundredfold here below, like the eternal life, has a beginning, a “permanent” source (each word from the first appearance of Benedict XVI in St Peter’s Square, that was packed with Romans hurrying to see the new Pope, remains in the memory: Trusting in his permanent help). The permanent beginning is Jesus Christ, the Lord risen.


The Church is living because Christ is living, because he is truly risen (Easter Sunday 24 April). And on Sunday 1 May, when, addressing the Churches of the East which were celebrating Easter, he repeated with force Christós anesti! Yes, Christ is risen, is truly risen!, the immediate applause that rose from the square packed with faithful up to that window was very fine.


Here the communion of mind and heart among Saint Benedict, Benedict XVI, Don Giussani and the most ordinary believer is luminous and total.

Giussani detail.jpgDon Giussani always kept the gaze of his life and heart fixed on Christ (Cardinal Ratzinger, in Milan Cathedral, at Don Guissani’s funeral). We need men who keep their eyes looking at God, learning from there true humanity (in Subiaco). And, again in Subiaco, Cardinal Ratzinger concluded his lecture by quoting the more beautiful phrase that Saint Benedict repeats twice in the Rule: Put absolutely nothing before Christ who can lead us all to eternal life. Here, chapter 72: Christo omnino nihil praeponant. In chapter 4: Nihil amori Christi praeponere/ put nothing before the love of Christ.

Experience: the capacity to comprehend & love in the thought of Luigi Giussani


don-Giussani.jpgIn 1963, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini, (later Pope Paul VI, wrote a letter to Fr Giussani in which he raised some questions about the primacy given to
experience in the high school youth group Gioventù Studentesca (cf M Camisasca, Comunione e Liberazione. Le origini [Communion and Liberation. The origins], San Paolo, 2001). Father Giussani answered the questions in a booklet entitled precisely L’esperienza (Experience) in November 1963. In August 1964, Pope Paul VI wrote in his encyclical Ecclesiam suam: “The mystery of the Church is not a truth to be confined to the realms of speculative theology. It must be lived, so that the faithful may have a kind of intuitive experience of it, even before they come to understand it clearly” (no 37).

At the beginning of the history of the Movement, the method that was developed to sustain  the proposal for living the charism, which is Communion and Liberation, was precisely defined, furnishing a very valuable tool for living the present in greater awareness, a present that is so full of risk because of the ever-recurring danger of reducing experience to sentimentalism or moralism, especially at a time when everything seems to end up in nothingness out of a widespread insecurity. This is the complete opposite of the certitude that arises from the encounter with Christ. It is for this reason that some of Giussani’s ideas on

Experience are offered here (which later became a chapter of The Risk of Education).


Experience as the Development of the Person
There was a time when the person did not exist, hence what constitutes the person is a given; it is the product of another.

This original condition is repeated at all levels of the person’s development. The cause of my growth does not coincide with me, but is other than me.

Concretely, experience means to live what causes me to grow.

A person grows as a result of experience; that is, the valorization of an objective relationship.

Nota Bene: “Experience” connotes the fact of becoming aware of one’s growth, in two basic aspects: the capacity to comprehend and the capacity to love.

a) A person is first of all consciousness, a being that is aware. It follows that experience is not the doing or the setting up of relationships with reality in a mechanical way. This is the mistake implied in the phrase “to have an experience,” where “experience” becomes synonymous with “trying something out.”

What characterizes experience is our understanding something, discovering its meaning. To have an experience means to comprehend the meaning of something. This is done by discovering its link to everything else; thus experience means also to discover the purpose of a given thing and its function in the world.

b) It is also true, however, that we are not the creators of meaning. The connection that binds something to everything else is an objective one. Therefore, true experience involves saying yes to a situation that attracts us; it means appropriating what is being said to us. It is composed of making things our own, but in such a way that we proceed within their objective meaning, which is the Word of an Other.

True experience mobilizes and increases our capacity to accept and to love. True experience throws us into the rhythms of the real, drawing us irresistibly toward our union with the ultimate aspect of things and their true, definitive meaning.

Nature as the Place of Experience
We give the name “nature” to the place where those objective relationships that develop a person take place: nature is the locus of experience.

Characteristically, nature weaves an organized, multi-leveled fabric that awakens the need for unity immanent in each one of us.

This fundamental need finds a correspondence in our affirmation of God, for God is precisely the unitary meaning which nature’s objective and organic structure calls the human consciousness to recognize.

Error in Human Experience
The need for unity that animates the conscious life of the person must struggle against divisive forces present in humanity, forces that drive him to disregard objective connections and to tear apart the organic structure of nature’s tapestry, isolating each single aspect of it.

Because of the human being’s need for unity, isolating each relationship or aspect inevitably turns each relationship into an absolute. All of this blocks the dynamic, evolutionary relationship of the person with reality, creating a series of disjointed pieces that are abnormally affirmed.

This tendency to separate and isolate gives all sorts of typical and inadequate connotations to the word experience, among which are an immediate reaction to things, the multiplication of links through the mere proliferation of initiatives, a sudden attraction or disgust for the new, an insistence on our own designs or plans, insisting on memories of the past that have no value in the present, or even referring to a particular event in order to block aspirations or stunt ideals.

God’s Mystery Revealed in the Field of Human Experience
The role of Christ and the prophets in history was to announce with absolute clarity that God is the ultimate implication of human experience, and that therefore the religious sense is an inevitable dimension of an authentic, exhaustive experience.

But Christ’s exceptional nature does not lie so much in the fact that His presence calls us to acknowledge that implication as in the fact that His very coming constitutes the physical presence of the ultimate meaning of history.

There cannot be an exhaustive, full, human experience without the valuation, whether conscious or not, of its relation with the event of Christ-Man.

The objective relationship that we spoke of earlier which fulfills the person no longer takes place only in nature, for with the advent of Jesus there is also a “super-natural” place; its development is in the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ.

Christian Experience
The Christian experience and that of the Church are one, single, vital act, in which a triple factor is at work, as follows:

a) An encounter with an objective fact which has an origin independent of the person having the experience. The existential reality of this fact or event is a community that can be documented, like every reality which is fully human. This community has an authority expressed through a human voice in judgments and directives, constituting criteria and meaning.

All forms of Christian experience, even those lived in the innermost recesses of the soul, refer in some way to an encounter with the community and to its authority.

b) The ability to properly perceive the meaning of that encounter. The value of the fact which we encounter transcends our power to understand so much so that an act of God is required for an adequate understanding. The same gesture by which God makes His presence known to humanity in the Christian event also enhances a person’s potential for knowledge, raising him up to the exceptional reality to which God attracts him. We call this the grace of faith.

c) An awareness of the correspondence between the meaning of the fact that we encounter and the meaning of our own existence, between the reality of Christ and the Church and the reality of our own person, between the encounter and our own destiny. It is the awareness of this correspondence that brings about the growth of the self, an essential component of experience.

Above all, in the Christian experience one sees clearly that in an authentic experience, human self-consciousness and capacity for criticism are engaged, and that this is very different from a mere impression or a sentimental echo.

It is within this verification of Christian experience that the mystery of the divine initiative exalts human reason. Freedom is at work in this verification. We cannot register or recognize the glorious correspondence between the presence of the mystery and our dynamism as human beings unless we have first accepted and are fully aware of our own radical dependence, of the fact that we are “made.” This awareness constitutes our simplicity, purity of heart, the poverty of spirit.

The drama of our freedom is entirely contained in this poverty of spirit, a drama so deep that when it happens, it is nearly hidden.

Reasons for Hope: the New York Encounter

This weekend the National Diaconia of the Fraternity of Community & Liberation (an ecclesial movement in the Church) will be meeting in New Jersey with some events across the Hudson River in NYC. More than 200 people from the USA, Canada and Italy will be present. Father Julián Carrón, the President of the Fraternity will be giving several lessons and he will be a part of panel introducing a book recently published, Is It Possible to Live This Way: Hope. This book comprises talks the late Msgr. Luigi Giussani gave to the consecrated lay members of CL known as Memores Domini. Some of you may remember we had a similar event last year for the first volume by a similar title as the one being present this weekend, Is It Possible to Live This Way: Faith. The third and final volume in this series on Love will be released next year.

Over the next few days there are a series of events organized by the Communion and Liberation movement and the Crossroad Cultural Center in New York City. In addition to Fr. Julián Carrón, the other panelists include John Allen, National Catholic Reporter Correspondnet; Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete, noted theologian and author; and Edward Nelson, Princeton professor of mathematics. The presentationis open to the public, will be held at the Jack H. Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at New York University, 566 LaGuardia Place at Washington Square South, New York. A free ticket is required for admission, and they will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis beginning at 2:00 pm.

More info on the New York Encounter

You should also subscribe to Traces, the monthly magazine of CL which is faithful to the objectivity of the Church.

Fr. Julián Carrón speaks of Christmas & Hope

Jeremiah Duccio.jpgI was struck by the readings that the Ambrosian Liturgy proposes for Monday of the third week of Advent. How must the members of the ancient people of Israel been disconcerted at the words of the prophet Jeremiah: “It will devour your harvests and your bread; it will devour your sons and daughters; it will devour your flocks and herds; it will devour the fortified cities in which you placed your trust” (Jer 5:17). He was telling them that another nation was going to conquer the kingdom in which they had put their trust. “Then, if they say: ‘Why has the Lord our God done these things?’, you will answer: ‘Just as you have abandoned the Lord and served foreign gods in your country, so will you serve foreigners in a country that is not yours'” (Jer 5:19).

It is as if this were said for us; today we see signs that make everyone afraid, it seems that what has supported our history is unable to withstand the test of our times: one day the economy, finance and work, the next day politics and the judiciary, then the family, the beginning of life and its natural end. So, like ancient Israel before a frightening situation, we, too, ask ourselves: “Why is all this happening?” It is because we, too, have been so presumptuous as to think that we can still get along after cutting the roots that supported the foundations of our civilization. In recent centuries, our culture has believed it could build a future for itself while abandoning God. Now we see where this presumption is leading us.


Now, what does the Lord do in the face of all we have brought upon ourselves? The prophet Zechariah tells us, speaking to his people Israel: “Look, I am going to send you my servant Branch” (Zc 3:8). Notice the name. It is as if before the crisis of a world, our world – the prophets would describe it with an image dear to them, that of a dried-up trunk – a sign of hope were springing up. The enormity of a dried up trunk cannot prevent the sprouting of a humble, fragile branch in which lies the hope for the future.


St Benedict3.jpgBut there is one drawback: we, too, when we see this branch appearing -like those before that child in Nazareth–can be scandalized and say: “How can something so ephemeral be the answer to our need for liberation?” Can salvation come from something so small as faith in Jesus? It seems impossible that all our hope can rest on belonging to this frail sign. The promise that only from this can everything be rebuilt seems scandalous. Yet men like St. Benedict and St. Francis started from that. They began to live while belonging to that branch that had grown through time and space–the Church, and in this way became protagonists of a people and of history.

Benedict did not face the end of the Roman Empire with anger, pointing the finger at the immorality of his contemporaries, but rather witnessed to the people of his time a fullness of life, a satisfaction and a fullness that became an attraction for many. This became the dawn of a new world, small as it was (almost a nonentity compared with the whole, a whole that was in total collapse), but a real world. That new beginning was so concrete that the work of Benedict and Francis has lasted through the centuries, has transformed Europe, and humanized it.

“He has revealed himself. He personally,” said Benedict XVI, speaking of the God-with-us. Fr. Giussani told us, “That man of two thousand years ago is hidden under the tent, under the appearance of a new humanity,” in a real sign that arouses the inkling of that life that we are all waiting for so as not to succumb to the evil in us and to the signs of the nothingness which is advancing. This is the hope that Christmas announces to us, and that makes us cry out: “Come, Lord Jesus!”

Julian Carron3.jpg(Father) Julián Carrón

President of the Fraternity of Communion & Liberation


Letter to the editor of the Italian daily La Repubblica,
published December 23, 2008



Pope Is “Decisive” for Communion and Liberation

Father Carrón Notes Commitment to Faith-Culture Dialogue

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 15, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The current pontificate is decisive for the life and history of the Catholic lay Communion and Liberation movement, says its president.

Father Julián Carrón said this today after he was received in audience by Benedict XVI.

“We are always very attentive to what the Pope tells us to orient us along our way,” Father Carrón said. The priest is the successor of Monsignor Luigi Giussani, the founder of Communion and Liberation.

Father Carrón told Vatican Radio that he wanted to meet with the Holy Father to “tell him all that has happened and to share the fruits of the encounter” the group had with him a year ago.

“For our history, the relationship of Monsignor Giussani with then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has been very significant,” Father Carrón added. “We, above all now, consider his magisterium to be decisive for our life as a movement, for our history.

“We are attentive to everything that the Pope says about the cultural presence of the faith.”

The president emphasized that the movement “very much appreciated” the “great discourse at Regensburg [and] the recent address that the [Holy Father] gave in Paris to the men of culture,” which was distributed to all movement members.

The fraternity, Father Carrón said, has committed itself to “spreading this perfection of culture that is born from belonging to the Christian experience, which is capable of engendering a humanity with a totally open rationality, as the Pope continually gives us witness.”

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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