Monday, February 22, 2010

He is if he changes

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the death of Monsignor Luigi Giussani. I am tempted to follow that first statement with the phrase, "founder of Communion and Liberation," but that is just too pale to apply to Don Giussani. Much better to write that through Giussani God gave a powerful charism, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit, to the church and to the world, a charism that struck me in 1994 when I read a little pamphlet that was sent out with issues of the Italian magazine 30 Giorni nella chiesa e nel mondo (i.e., 30 Days in the church and in the world). The booklet was entitled He Is If He Changes. I was a Philosophy student at the time, a convert of some three years who was eagerly looking for connections between the philosophy I was studying and theology, about which I knew little. He Is If He Changes was a tremendous help, as was Anglican theologian John Macquarrie's Hensley Henson lectures delivered in Oxford during the 1993-94 academic year, published as Heidegger and Christianity, but I digress.

Giussani died the same year as his friend, a great supporter of the Movement, the pope who, in 1982, elevated CL to an "Association of Pontifical Right," John Paul II. In fact, Giussani pre-deceased JPII by only 42 days. Because John Paul II was very ill, he did not go to Milan to celebrate the funeral of his friend, but instead sent then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as papal delegate to preside at the liturgy. Ratzinger, too, was a friend of Giussani's and, not only a friend of the Movement, but involved in the Movement. This great theologian who succeeded John Paul II is said to have told another priest that Giussani "changed my life." Now, as Pope Benedict XVI, his papal household is managed by members of Memores Domini, a part of CL, the members of which live consecrated lives (i.e., vows of poverty, obedience, and celibacy) in the world and with whom the Holy Father gathers for School of Community.

In his homily at Don Giussani's funeral, then-Cardinal Ratzinger said: "Fr Giussani always kept the eyes of his life and of his heart fixed on Christ. In this way, he understood that Christianity is not an intellectual system, a packet of dogmas, a moralism, Christianity is rather an encounter, a love story; it is an event." These words are echoed towards the beginning of his first encyclical as pope, Deus Caritas Est: "Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction" (par. 1). It is fitting that Giussani entered eternity, realized his destiny, the destiny to which he encouraged so many to "see," teaching us that it does not lie over the horizon, but is present here and now, a Presence that accompanies us always and everywhere, on the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter.

Beyond all the grandeur, all the papal approval is the fact that Giussani changed my life. As I write I can feel my heart swelling with gratitude to God for him. It is Luigi Giussani who taught me how to be a witness of what I have seen and heard, that is, of what I experience.

Addendum: My dear friend Suzanne over on Come to See shares something very wonderful about Giussani in her post Shouting and other expressions of love.

Don Giussani- pray for us!

Meum cum sim pulvis et cinis


  1. Thank you for this beautiful witness, Scott. I also love the new layout of your blog!

  2. I love that picture of Don Giussani kneeling in front of the Holy Father. I wish I was less proud.

  3. Why be less so? As I wrote that post my heart swelled. Don Gius himself talked about being chosen.