Tag Archives: Luigi Giussani

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.


Veni Sancte Spiritus, Veni per Mariam

One of the things that distinguishes my day is an attempt to recognize the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. Of course, my day is punctuated with praying the Divine Office and the Mass but there are times where I find myself praying the Angelus and the ejaculatory prayer–one liners given by the Church to focus my attention, for example Veni Sancte Spiritus, Veni per Mariam or Saint Joseph, pray for us. The acknowledgement of the Spirit in my life is known pivotally in the fact of the Incarnation: the point in history that that God’s love can’t be kept to Himself that He sends the eternal Word to become man, Jesus born of the virgin Mary.


This very brief prayer is well used by the members of the ecclesial movement Communion & Liberation. We maintain a tradition of concluding our prayer with this keen reminder and request that the Holy Spirit, Who is already present, to allow us to grasp the meaning of God becoming man.


Here are the notes from Father Luigi Giussani’s remarks at the Spiritual Retreat of the Memores Domini, La Thuile, Italy, 2 August 2001


Forgive me if I too come explicitly into your meeting. Because, if the sacrifice of not coming to be with you is united with the joy of being Christ’s, of being His, with a little of this confidence, of this hope-which was born in the heart and which fidelity to the life of the Church has magnified enormously and caused to become adult, mature-then it is not inconceivable that I might talk with you for a few minutes.

Annunciation Angelico.jpgI wanted all the Memores Domini [the group of consecrated lay men & women] to know that there is a formula, an ejaculatory prayer-as all the Church’s tradition calls it-a formula that sums up everything we have tried to believe, express, and communicate, because it is the formula that summarizes all of Christian dogma as the Church has always lived it: Veni Sancte Spiritus, Veni per Mariam (Come Holy Spirit, come through Mary).

You will have been struck by lots of things; but guilt is never uprooted from our conscience, the affirmation of the truth is never renewed, if the whole soul does not try to make happen what the cry of the Christian tradition has us say over and over. Veni Sancte Spiritus, Veni per Mariam is the synthesis of everything the liturgical year tells us, it is the synthesis of everything the memory of Christian life tells us.

Because everything, everything comes from the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit of God who gives the possibility of being struck positively, and even fervidly, by vocation, by the grace of God in life-because vocation is the grace of God in life. It is through the Spirit that every man, like every being, enters into a vast design, as vast as the Father conceived it.

Who knows if the Spirit will grant me still to have a living relationship with you, or better, that the living relationship with you-which will not cease for all of eternity-may still have some direct operative implications in the life of this world.

Veni per Mariam indicates, synthesizes, the finger pointing to everything, everything that our human eye can let us see and that the consciousness can readily understand. Because Our Lady is the synthesis of all humanity… not only of humanity but also of everything that creation brings with it from all eternity, for all eternity. From all eternity everything is the Father’s; in the Mystery every thing was born, every speck of dust, even the grain of sand on the earth, every thought and every feeling man has. Mary synthetically expresses this link between the Mystery and the things the Mystery Himself created (this is why the Holy Spirit is called Redeemer and Savior), because Our Lady is the only possibility of synthesis, in man’s heart, of everything that happens, has happened and will happen, which is faith, which unfolds a hope, and hope makes us live the aurora of the eternal. It makes us live the aurora of the eternal!

Who knows, who knows if the Lord and Our Lady will give me more health and will renew again the energy to communicate things to you, according to an experience that, with time, grows greater and greater, ever greater and greater!

May Veni Sancte Spiritus, Veni per Mariam be a connection that may arouse more quickly in your heart adherence, a certitude of hope, and a beginning of a vision of what the Lord will do for us as the final reward of our life.

Ciao! Until we meet again!

Communion and Liberation’s School of Community

Luigi Giussani.jpgCommunion and Liberation (CL), an ecclesial lay movement founded in Italy in 1954 by Msgr. Luigi Giussani, is currently present in 80 countries throughout the world and 100 cities in the United States. The name of the movement, Communion and Liberation, expresses the certainty that communion with Christ brings liberation of the human person. 


The essence of the CL charism is twofold: 1) the proclamation that God became Man and the affirmation that this man, Jesus of Nazareth, who died and rose again, is a present reality whose visible sign is communion – that is to say, the unity of a people led by the vicar of Christ – and 2) the awareness that it is only in Jesus Christ that the deepest needs of the human heart are fulfilled.  CL’s mission is thus the education of its members toward Christian maturity and collaboration in the mission of the Church in all spheres of contemporary life.


Besides the invitation to prayer and regular practice of the sacraments, Communion and Liberation invites everyone to a weekly catechetical gesture called “School of Community.”  School of Community aims at being a true school which, through the reading and discussion of texts, shapes in

IsItPossible.jpgits participants a clearer understanding of the nature of the Christian fact.  The assigned texts come from the teachings of the Church or Msgr. Giussani’s writings.  We are currently studying Is it Possible to Live this Way?: Faith by Msgr. Luigi Giussani in School of Community and we are studying Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Spe Salvi as part of our personal work.


There is more to the School of Community?


Presence that Moves: The constitutive factors of the School of Community


The beginning of an experience is the encounter with a human reality that is different. A School of Community that is detached from this would be an ideology or an abstraction.


In the School of Community, certainly we must talk about life, but in the light of the new experience that we have encountered. Otherwise we talk of life as we conceive it, how we feel about it, how it makes us react in natural terms, and in any case following a criterion that is not belonging. The School of Community is the main instrument of the new life, of the new way of pursuing the aim of the new “I”(i.e., a new understanding of who I am as God sees me).


The Leader


Everything depends on the one who leads the School of Community. If the one who leads is a presence, then intelligence and affectivity are moved in a different way. It’s the novelty that leads. If he gives a lesson, then he is not a presence, he doesn’t move. At best what he moves is a dialectic, a discussion, a series of thoughts. The following morning all of that line of thoughts is irrelevant to life.


The sign that the School of Community is led is that you come away from it changed.


The School of Community must be a development of the encounter. In it the whole life of the Movement is continually taken up again and surpassed.

Without existentiality (the link between the word and the reality of life) there is no School of Community. Only with this link is it the expression of an experience. If it doesn’t bring you to notice something that must change and, therefore, to desire to bring about this change, it is not School of Community.


How is the School of Community Done?


As prayer. Since the School of Community must reassume the phenomenon of the Movement in its development, remember that there is no search for the truth about Destiny without prayer. So the meeting must begin with prayer.


We need to pray during the meeting, as an attitude of the mind in the one asks questions and in the one who answers-an attitude of humility, happy and sure of what it brings. Prayer becomes the discovery of the need for the sacraments, in which the initial event once again becomes a presence.


How is the School of Community Organized?


Ø  First of all it is a school-a place and a method in which you learn.

Ø  Learning means increasing your awareness of reality.

Ø  Learning implies understanding the text and what it means, that is to say in its relationship to reality and in the reasons that it gives for making us understand how it is linked with reality.


Inevitably in order to understand you need to repeat (ripetere = petere ad = tending toward) to increase your attention. Repeating with attention is the same thing as seeing. When is it that you understand? In so far as you feel that the words you read and hear correspond with what you live.


In this way, reality, in so far as you face up to it, becomes an epiphany, a revelation of your awareness of belonging.


a gaze.jpgFour Points To Work On


  1. An intelligent reading of the text, attentive to the way it relates to things, to the judgments it generates, to the reasons it gives.


  1. Communication of your experience (everything can be brought in), in comparison with the text.


  1. A culture that develops. Your motivations and criteria must spring up from within the nature of the experience and not from outside. The more you penetrate into the event that has made us grow, and the more you follow, the more intelligent you become.


  1. The synthesis made by the leader. He communicates how his experience has developed during the event that is the School of Community.


The Communicative Result


The School of Community conceived and lived in this way gives rise to an affective impulse to communicate that has three aspects:


  • Witness and mission;
  • Attention to people’s needs, charity that expresses itself in an organic consistency of works;
  • Culture: the affective impulse to communicate inspires creativity, progress in judgment, logical discoveries, with all the necessary instruments that spring from these.


See more at www.clonline.us

What is Communion and Liberation?

I am frequently asked what is Communion & Liberation. Well, an answer is the following:


“A charism,” Fr. Giussani has written, “can be defined as a gift of the Spirit, given to a person in a specific historical context, so that this person can initiate an experience of faith that might in some way be useful to the life of the Church. I emphasize the existential nature of charism: it makes the Christian message handed down by the apostolic tradition more convincing, more persuasive, more ‘approachable.’ A charism is an ultimate terminal of the Incarnation, that is, it is a particular way in which the Fact of Jesus Christ Man and God reaches me, and through me can reach others.”


The essence of the charism given to Communion and Liberation

can be signaled by three factors:


1.       The announcement that God became man (the wonder, the reasonableness, the

Incarnation.jpgenthusiasm for this): “The Word was made flesh and dwells among us.”


2.       The affirmation that this man – Jesus of Nazareth dead and risen – is a present event in a “sign” of “communion,” i.e., of unity of a people guided, as a guarantee, by a living person, ultimately the Bishop of Rome;


3.       Only in God made man, man, therefore only in His presence and, thus only through – in some way – the experienceable form of His presence (therefore, ultimately only within the life of the Church) can man be truer and mankind be truly more human. St Gregory Nazianzen writes, “If I were not Yours, my Christ, I would feel like a finished creature”. It is thus from His presence that both morality and the passion for the salvation of man (which is mission) spring up.


Gius3.jpg“From the first hour of class at the Berchet high school in Milan,” Fr. Giussani recalls, “I tried to show the students what moved me: not the wish to convince them that I was right, but the desire to show them the reasonableness of faith; that is, that their free adhesion to the Christian proclamation was demanded by their discovery of the correspondence of what I was saying with the needs of their hearts, as implied by the definition of reasonableness. Only this dynamic of recognition makes whoever adheres to our movement creative and a protagonist, and not simply one who repeats formulas and things they have heard. For this reason, it seems to me, a charism generates a social phenomenon not as something planned, but as a movement of persons who have been changed by an encounter, who tentatively make the world, the environment, and the circumstances that they encounter more human. The memory of Christ when it is lived tends inevitably to generate a presence in society, above and beyond any planned result.”

2008 Elections: What we hold most dear

As the Holy Father taught in Deus Caritas Est, “The direct duty to work for a just ordering of society is proper to the lay faithful” (no. 29). This duty is more critical than ever in today’s political environment, where Catholics may feel politically disenfranchised, sensing that no party and too few candidates fully share the Church’s comprehensive commitment to the life and dignity of every human being from conception to natural death. Yet this is not a time for retreat or discouragement; rather, it is a time for renewed engagement.
(Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops)



As lay Catholics struggling to be faithful to the call of our bishops, we have arrived at the following judgments.

Fr. Giussani taught us that in front of life’s real problems and challenges, what we hold most dear surfaces. Thus, within the privacy of the voting booth we will see “whether faith is really in the foreground, whether faith truly comes first, whether we really expect everything from the fact of Christ or whether we expect what we decide to expect from the fact of Christ.”

We welcome the opportunity to vote as an educational one that will allow us to witness to what we hold most dear. We do not hope for salvation from politics or politicians. Yet we understand the critically important role that politics plays in our common American life.

For this reason two concerns matter most to us and we will vote according to which candidates and parties demonstrate an authentic care for these concerns.

First: Freedom of Religion. Political power must recognize faith’s undeniable contribution to the defense and broadening of human reason and its promotion of authentic human progress. This is a guarantee of freedom for everyone, not only for Christians. And this freedom must include the freedom to speak, convince, act, and build in the public square; religious freedom relegated to one’s private life is not religious freedom at all.

Second: The Common Good. Those who hold political power must do so as a service to the common good of the entire nation.

We consider the recognition and defense of three self-evident truths regarding human beings the minimum commitment to the common good: the right to life from conception to natural death; the irreplaceable value of the family, founded on the marriage between a man and woman; and freedom of education.

For the common good, we further seek politicians and political parties that value subsidiarity, a partnership between the public and private sectors facilitated by a robust non-profit sector. At the same time, we seek persons engaged in politics who recognize that subsidiarity can never annul the solidarity we owe to all our brothers and sisters living in this nation. There is no care for the common good that ignores basic human needs of millions in our nation.

These judgments will determine our support for particular candidates and political initiatives in the upcoming elections.

September 2008
Communion and Liberation – USA

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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