Tag Archives: Communion and Liberation

How a Community is Born

Traces November 2008

Traces Oct.jpg

Los Angeles

 

by Paola Bergamini



Work and life in the parish, barbecues on the beach and weddings. Everyday circumstances which, for an Italian transferred to California, became opportunities for meeting people, and for risk. In the capital of the ephemeral, a curious presence emerged.

 

Los Angeles. In the offices of the Disney movie department, the air is heavy. It’s official: the company has decided to shed 300 jobs. Guido is at his desk waiting for his turn to be called by the boss. He is sure that he is on the list to go because he is the last to have arrived. He has been working for Disney for four years, but he has been working in this section for only six months, and only those six months count. At the end of the day, his boss calls him; he is the last. “I’m sorry, Piccarolo, I’m really sorry…,” and his eyes are wet. “I’m sorry, too. Not only do I have to find another job. For me, my work is the expression of what I love most, and here this was possible.” “It could be seen. Working with you was different. That is why I have managed to keep you on for another year [instead of the usual two weeks] and I’d like to give you a hand in finding another job.” The personnel manager, present at the interview, is astonished-nothing of this kind ever happens; at most, there are one or two tears, an expletive, and negotiation about the weeks to be paid. The logic of profit, of power, is unhinged. Another factor has come into play: affection for reality, for the other person, the echo of a greater Love that has embraced you and that changes relationships astonishingly. “It has always been this way for me, since 1994, when I graduated in Economics and Commerce and, at the suggestion of Memores Domini leader Carlo Wolfsgruber, left for New York, where Fr. Marino had asked for the opening of a house of the Memores Domini [the association composed of people of CL who follow a vocation of total dedication to God while living in the world]. I knew nothing, not even the English language. I said ‘yes’ to a look of love towards me.” He told me this at La Thuile, during the CL International Assembly, where we met again after 15 years. As he was speaking, I saw that he had a purer, more likeable look about him.

 

Behind the circumstances

Guido spent two years living with Fr. Marino, and then he got a job in a telecommunications firm “with younger colleagues who bossed you around. But life passed through there, and through the photocopies I had to make, sometimes all day long,” he remembers. After six months, the director called him: “I need a man I can trust in Los Angeles. I’ve seen how you work, I believe in you, but here you have no future. Do you want to go?” There was nothing in Los Angeles: no community, no Memores Domini house. Giudo wrote to Fr. Giussani, asking to go for two reasons: 1) The chance to learn a job; 2) to take along the beauty of the experience he was living. After a few days, the answer came through Giorgio Vittadini: “This is something great. Fr. Giussani thanks you. There will soon be a Memores Domini house.” Every weekend for a month, accompanied by Salvatore, he flew to Los Angeles to look for a house and to find out about the job. Then he set off. The first three months he was alone. “In that period, I always asked for the companionship of Christ for my life, and the simple fact of asking for it means you are not alone. It was not an expectation that blocked life. One day after another proved to be rich with occasions to be beside Him.” It is a new way of approaching reality that can be seen-on the job, in the parish that Guido begins to attend, in everyday relationships. After three months, Carlo came to live with Guido for eight months, to write his thesis, and then Mauro came to stay indefinitely. So Fr. Giussani was right: the Memores house was founded. After one year, Guido changed his job so as to stay in Los Angeles. He worked in a firm that was expanding frenetically. He worked twelve hours a day, including Saturday and Sunday. How did he survive it? He laughs. “It’s not a question of survival, but of living seriously. I never thought, “What interests me is outside; it’s a pity I have so little time to spare.” Being there was total. So, in the evening, when it got late, I would go to get food for everybody, to take my break while talking. And someone would ask about your friends, what you do at home, or what you think of the poor in the Third World, and you answer… that you do charity work Sundays with some kids; you speak of what’s dearest to you. Then you invite him home to eat Italian.” In this way, unexpected relationships sprang up, and this is how the community in Los Angeles was born-without inventing anything, without making speeches.

This was the case with Jennifer. Mauro got to know her at a wedding and he invited her home for lunch. She told him of her difficult situation, being divorced with two children. They offered her company. When he can, Guido crosses the city to help the children with their schoolwork. They invited her to School of Community, but who would stay at home with the kids? She can’t afford a babysitter. They take turns babysitting so that she can go. When the problem of changing schools comes up, and Jennifer cannot afford it, Guido called his friends in the Fraternity in Italy, asking if they could help out. Now there is a bridge linking Milan and Los Angeles. Jennifer writes to Laura, telling her about her children, the School of Community, the difficulties in her job… about her life. Why would you do all this, if not out of recognition of a Presence that touches life’s circumstances? And it changes life. This is also the case with Brenda, whom Mauro got to know at work and invited to School of Community. “She is an astrophysicist who struck our friend Marco Bersanelli in Liege, Belgium, because of the way she approached her work.” [See Traces, Vol. 10, No. 7 (September) 2008.] The parish priest, Fr. Roddy, in contrast, was rather doubtful about these Italians. One day, they threw him an invitation: “Why don’t you come on vacation with us?” He has been with us ever since because, “at the age of 70, the encounter with the Movement helped me rediscover the origin of my vocation.” Then, there is Nancy. “I met her at Disney,” Guido tells us. Another change of job? “In Italy, you are not accustomed to it, but in America this turnover is quite normal. In the case of my firm, they went bankrupt.” Nancy was a Protestant. She and Guido became friends, and after three years she came to a gesture of the Movement, the charitable work. After another year, she attended the School of Community for the first time. Last April, she became a Catholic. “In the past, I thought I was the author of my destiny, but now I live rooted in an Other,” she commented, some days later.

 

From bonfires to surfing

It was the pastor of San Sebastian Parish who invited Claudia. She is from Salvador, and she escaped from there during the ’80s because of the civil war. “There is a group of Italians who get together every Wednesday; why don’t you go to meet them?” Along with her husband, Edwino, she came one Wednesday. These Italians are different: they use words like Mystery, reason, Fr. Giussani. These new friends from Salvador have never left us since: “It was impossible to stay away. The desire to come back to them was to come back to that Presence that was beginning to reveal itself in our lives,” Claudia wrote.

After a few years, there are now two houses of Memores Domini and the encounters have multiplied-with Beth, Paul, Christine, and many others, people you meet at a party, at work, or in a thousand other circumstances of life. “You invite them to eat, to your home, to a bonfire on the beach, or to go surfing. Los Angeles is the city of the ephemeral, of appearances. You can either stop short at a moralistic contempt or you can embrace these appearances in an encounter. Then, since we have the finest beaches in the world, why shouldn’t we enjoy them?” Right you are, Guido!

How did things turn out at Disney? “I quit.” And now? “That is another adventure.” He laughs and even his eyes are smiling-as if embracing the world.

 

Cardinal Paul Cordes: can we defeat evil?

Today I had the opportunity to hear Paul Josef Cardinal Cordes deliver an address at

seton-hall.jpgSeton Hall University, “To Defeat Evil–Possible?” at a ceremony which bestowed an honorary doctorate of humane letters on him. The 71 year old prelate hails from the Archdiocese of Paderborn, Germany, though he has worked at the Vatican since 1980. Pope Benedict made him a cardinal in November 2007.

 

Cardinal Cordes is the president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum (One Heart) for Human and Christian Development established by Pope Paul VI in 1971. The work of Cor Unum, virtually unknown to many Americans, demonstrates in concrete ways “the care of the Catholic Church for the needy, thereby encouraging human fellowship and making manifest the charity of Christ.”

 


The Cardinal said that sentimentality is unhelpful when it comes to religious and concrete reality; sentimentality allows us to slumber and therefore overlook evil. Look at the well known events of human history to see the effects of the human capacity for evil. The one bomb that still needs to be defused is that of the all-consuming anger in the heart of men and women. Today we continue to demand an answer that promotes real peace. The UN and other socio-political organizations can’t do the heavy lifting in eradicating evil: we need a concrete proposal that unveils the many sources of injustice, the psychological problems faced by man and woman and false religion. To zero-in on the serious issues of life that are born of the heart. What often happens and is rather unsatisfactory is dealing with life from the angle of empirical data alone. The Christian needs to step up to the plate approach these questions, particularly evil, from the approach of divine revelation.

 

 

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Communion and Liberation Community Day

CL Community Day

 

Saturday, November 8, 2008

 

Jesus’ call always entails entrusting yourselves to a community

(L. Giussani, Is it Possible to Live This Way).

 

 

We will meet at 10:15 a.m. at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint James to participate in the
Nicholas DiMarzio.jpg annual event of the Ecclesial Movements in the Diocese of Brooklyn. Bishop DiMarzio is bringing together the ecclesial movements for prayer, fraternity and diocesan unity.

After the diocesan event Communion & Liberation will then move to Saint Patrick’s Church in Bay Ridge for lunch, singing, witnesses and an assembly.

 

Location & times:

 

9:30 a.m., Holy Hour

10:15 a.m., Mass

 


Cath St James.jpgThe Cathedral Basilica of Saint James

Jay Street & Cathedral Place (one block south of Tiliary Street)

Brooklyn NY 11201

 

Saint Patrick Church

9511 Fourth Avenue

Brooklyn (Bay Ridge) NY 11209

 

Bring your own lunch and a little something to share. Bring the song book.

What is Luigi Giussani’s Contribution To Theology? Part II: Nothing less than the Infinite

[Part I]

 

Man wants happiness by nature. I want happiness. So I go out and buy a car.  The car
Luigi Giussani3.jpggives me a taste of happiness but does not fully satisfy the desire. So my desire becomes a question: “What will make me truly and fully happy?” Or perhaps, after I have bought the car and am still enjoying the taste of partial happiness that it gives me, I get into an accident and wreck my beautiful new possession. My simple desire finds itself full of questions: “Why was I not able to hold onto that thing and the satisfaction it gave me?  Why do I lose things?  Why is life so fragile, and is there something that won’t let me down?”

 

The more we take our own selves and our actions seriously, the more we perceive the mysteriousness and also the urgency of these questions, the fact that we cannot really avoid them’, they are necessarily at the root of everything we do.  This is because it is the nature of the human being to expect something, to look for fulfillment in everything he does.  And where is the limit to this desire to be fulfilled?  There is no limit. It is unlimited.  Every achievement, every possession opens up on a further possibility, a depth that remains to be explored, a sense of incompleteness, a yearning for more.  We are like hikers in the mountains (an analogy Giussani is fond of): we see a peak and we climb to the top.  When we arrive there, we have a new view, and in the distance we see a higher peak promising a still greater vista. 

 

In the novel The Second Coming by Walker Percy, the character of Allie–a mentally ill woman living alone in a greenhouse–expresses the mysterious depths of human desire through her difficulties in figuring out what to do at four o’clock in the afternoon: “If time is to be filled or spent by working, sleeping, eating, what do you do when you finish and there is time left over?”

 


Giacomo Leopardi.jpgGiussani quotes the great 19th century Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi–who is speaking here in the persona of a shepherd watching his flock by night, conversing with the moon:

 

And when I gaze upon you,

Who mutely stand above the desert plains

Which heaven with its far circle but confines,

Or often, when I see you

Following step by step my flock and me,

Or watch the stars that shine there in the sky,

Musing, I say within me:

“Wherefore those many lights,

That boundless atmosphere,

And infinite calm sky?  And what the meaning

Of this vast solitude?  And what am I? 

 

There are a couple of points about this striking poetic excerpt that are worth mentioning as illustrative of central themes in Giussani. The first point is this: note that the shepherd’s questions are so poignantly expressed “from the heart” (Musing, I say within me).  They are “personal” questions we might say; that is, they are questions that seem deeply important to the shepherd’s own life, that emerge from the shepherd’s solitude as he watches the flocks by night and gazes at the moon.  And yet, the questions themselves are really “philosophical” questions: “metaphysical” questions which ask about the relationship of the universe to its mysterious Source, and “anthropological” questions about the nature of the world, of man, of the self.  Let us note these things only to emphasize that Giussani’s evaluation of the dynamic of the human heart is not exclusively concerned with the pursuit of external objects and the way in which these objects lead “beyond” themselves the acting person who engages them. Giussani stresses that the need for truth is inscribed on the human heart; the need to see the meaning of things is fundamental to man.  Hence the “objectivity” required for addressing philosophical and scientific questions does not imply that these questions are detached from the “heart” of the person who deals with them.  When the scientist scans that infinite, calm sky and that vast solitude with his telescope, he must record what he sees, not what he wishes he would have seen.  In this sense, he must be “objective,” and his questions and methodology must be detached from his own particular interests.  But what puts him behind that telescope in the first place is his own personal need for truth and this need grows and articulates itself more and more as questions emerge in the light of his discoveries.  All of this could be applied by analogy to the researches carried out by a true philosopher. 

 

The second point is this: Leopardi’s poem conveys with imaginative force the inexhaustibility of human desire and the questions through which it is expressed, or at least tends to be expressed insofar as man is willing to live in a way that is true to himself (several chapters of Giussani’s book are devoted to the various ways in which man is capable of distracting himself or ignoring the dynamic of the religious sense, or anesthetizing himself against its felt urgency).  Even more importantly, he indicates that the unlimited character of man’s most fundamental questions points toward an Infinite Mystery, a mystery that man continually stands in front of with fascination and existential hunger but also with questions, because he is ultimately unable by his own power to unveil its secrets. 

 

The experience of life teaches man, if he is willing to pay attention to it, that what he is truly seeking, in every circumstance is the unfathomable mystery which alone corresponds to the depths of his soul.  Offer to man anything less than the Infinite and you will frustrate him, whether he admits it or not.  Yet at the same time man is not able to grasp the Infinite by his own power.  Man’s power is limited, and anything it attains it finitizes, reducing it to the measure of itself.  The desire of man as a person, however, is unlimited, which means that man does not have the power to completely satisfy himself; anything that he makes is going to be less than the Infinite. 

 

Here we begin to see clearly why Giussani holds that the ultimate questions regarding the meaning, the value, and the purpose of life have a religious character; and how it is that these questions are asked by everyone within the ordinary, non-theoretical reasoning process which he terms “the religious sense.” The human heart is, in fact, a great, burning question, a plea, an insatiable hunger, a fascination and a desire for the unfathomable mystery that underlies reality and that gives life its meaning and value. This mystery is something Other than any of the limited things that we can perceive or produce; indeed it is their fundamental Source.  Therefore, the all-encompassing and limitless search that constitutes the human heart and shapes our approach to everything is a religious search. It is indeed, as we shall see in a moment, a search for “God.”

 

We seek an infinite fulfillment, an infinite coherence, an infinite interpenetration of unity between persons, an infinite wisdom and comprehension, an infinite love, an infinite perfection.  But we do not have the capacity to achieve any of these things by our own
infinity.jpgpower.  Yet, in spite of this incapacity, in spite of the fact that the mystery of life–the mystery of happiness–seems always one step beyond us, our natural inclination is not one of despair, but rather one of dogged persistence and constant hope. Giussani insists that this hope and expectation is what most profoundly shapes the self; when I say the word “I,” I express this center of hope and expectation of infinite perfection and happiness that is coextensive with myself, that “is” myself, my heart.  And when I say the word “you,” truly and with love, then I am acknowledging that same undying hope that shapes your self. 

 

The human person walks on the roads of life with his hands outstretched toward the mystery of existence, constantly pleading for the fulfillment he seeks–not in despair but

outstretched_hands.jpgwith hope– because the circumstances and events of life contain a promise, they whisper continually that happiness is possible.  This is what gives the human spirit the strength to carry on even in the midst of the greatest difficulties. 

 

Let us note two further points.  First of all: I cannot answer the ultimate questions about the meaning of my life, and yet every fiber of my being seeks that answer and expects it.  There must be Another who does correspond to my heart, who can fill the need that I am.  To deny the possibility of an answer is to uproot the very foundation of the human being and to render everything meaningless.  As Macbeth says, it would be as if life is “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” There must be an answer; and a human being cannot live without seeking that answer.  Giussani says that a human being cannot live five minutes without affirming something, consciously or unconsciously, that makes those five minutes worthwhile.  This is the basic structure of human reason at its root.  “Just as an eye, upon opening, discovers shapes and colors, so human reason–by engaging the problems and interests of life–seeks and affirms some ultimate” value and significance which gives meaning to everything. But if we are honest, if we realize that we cannot fulfill ourselves, if we face the fact that the answer to the question of the meaning of life is not something we can discover among our possessions, or measure or dominate or make with our own hands, then we begin to recognize that our need for happiness points to Someone Else, to an Infinite Someone who alone can give us what we seek.

 

Second: this longing of my heart, this seeking of the Infinite is not something I made up or chose for myself.  It is not my idea or my project or my particular quirk.  It corresponds to the way I am, to the way I “find myself independent of any of my personal preferences or decisions.  It is at the root of me.  It is at the root of every person.  It is in fact given to me, and to every person–this desire for the Mystery that is at the origin of everything that I am and do.  In the depths of my own self there is this hidden, insatiable hunger and thirst, this “heart that says of You, ‘seek His face!'” (Psalm 27:8), this need for an Other that suggests His presence at the origin of my being.  He gives me my being; He is “nearer to me than I am to myself as St. Augustine says.  And He has made me for Himself, He has placed within each of us a desire that goes through all the world in search of signs of His presence.  In the depths of our being, we are not alone.  We are made by Another and for Another. “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You,” says St. Augustine.

 


Dome.JPGThus, Giussani teaches that the Mystery of God is the only reality that corresponds to the “heart” of man: to the fundamental questions of human reason and the fundamental desire of the human freedom.  It is this Infinite Mystery that the human person seeks in every circumstance of life.  In our work, our loves, our friendships, our leisure time, our eating and drinking, our living and dying–in all of these activities we seek the face of the unfathomable Mystery that we refer to with poor words like “happiness” or “fulfillment” or “perfection.”

 

St. Thomas Aquinas says that God is happiness by His Essence, and we are called to participate in His happiness by being united to Him who is Infinite Goodness.  We are made for happiness.  By our very nature we seek happiness.  To be religious, then, is to recognize that God alone can make us happy.  It is to recognize the mysterious existential reflection of God’s infinite truth, goodness, and beauty that radiates from every creature, that lights up the circumstances of our lives, and calls out to us through all the opportunities that life presents to us. 

 

In this sketch of Giussani’s understanding of what he calls “the religious sense,” we can see the profound reflections that underlie his great apostolate: his effort to teach his students that religion cannot be relegated to the fringes of life. Giussani insisted to his students that religion was not to be simply delineated as one aspect of life: a comfort for our sentiments, a list of ethical rules, a foundation for the stability of human social life (even though it entails such things as various consequences that follow from what it is in itself).  Rather, the realm of the religious is coextensive with our happiness. The proper position of the human being is to live each moment asking for God to give him the happiness he seeks but cannot attain by his own power.  Asking for true happiness–this is the true position of man in front of everything. Giussani often points out that “structurally” (that is, by nature), man is a “beggar” in front of the mystery of Being. 

 

This brings us to the final chapters of The Religious Sense, in which Giussani analyses the dramatic character of this truth about man, both in terms of the very nature of this position of “being a beggar” and in terms of how this truth has played itself out in the great drama of human history.  We could all too easily allow ourselves to be lulled to sleep by all of this lovely language about desiring the Infinite Mystery, and end up missing the point.  The image of the beggar ought not to be romanticized in our imaginations. Generally people don’t like to be beggars, and they don’t have much respect for beggars. We should be able to attain what we need by our own efforts; is this not a basic aspect of man’s sense of his own dignity?  And yet the very thing we need most is something that we do not have the power to attain, something we must beg for.  This is the true human position, and yet it is not as easy to swallow as it may at first appear. 

 

We are beggars in front of our own destiny because the Infinite One for whom our hearts have been made is always beyond the things of this world that point toward Him but do not allow us to extract His fullness from them by our own power.  This fact causes a great tension in the experience of the human person–a “vertigo,” a dizziness, Giussani calls it –and there results the inevitable temptation to shrink the scope of our destiny, to attempt to be satisfied with something within our power, something we are capable of controlling and manipulating.  This, says Giussani, is the essence of idolatry.  Instead of allowing ourselves to be “aimed” by the beauty of things toward a position of poverty and begging in front of the Beauty who is “ever beyond” them, the Mystery of Infinite Splendor who sustains them all–who holds them in the palm of his hand–we try instead to grasp these finite things and make them the answer to our need for the Infinite. 

 

This great tension at the heart of man’s religious sense– and the historical tragedy of man’s failure to live truly according the historical tragedy of man’s failure to live truly according to the religious sense–generates within the heart of man the longing for salvation.  Corresponding to this longing, Giussani says, is the recognition of the possibility of revelation.  Might not the Infinite Mystery make Himself manifest in history, create a way within history for me to reach Him?  Might not the Infinite Mystery who constitutes my happiness approach me, condescend to my weakness, guide my steps toward Him?  This possibility–the possibility of Divine Revelation–is profoundly “congenial” to the human person, because man feels profoundly his need for “help” in achieving his mysterious destiny. 

 

The Religious Sense concludes on this note: the possibility of revelation.  Here the ground is laid for the second book in what might be called Giussani’s catechesis of Christian anthropology: The Origin of the Christian Claim.  In this book, Giussani will propose that Christ is the revelation of God in history, the Mystery drawn close to man’s life–walking alongside the human person.  Christ is the great Divine help to the human person on the path to true happiness. 

 

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.

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. 

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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