Saturday, November 9, 2013

Msgr Giussani: a rambling personal reflection

Right now on the front page of the international Communion & Liberation website is a 6 minute video on CL founder Luigi Giussani, which I encourage everyone reading this to watch. Watching this video, remembering Albert Camus on his 100th birthday, my impending 48th birthday, which roughly marks my being Catholic for half of my life (baptized at 24), are what I attribute with prompting these reflections. In mentioning that I would not be Catholic were it not for Albert Camus, John Henry Cardinal Newman, and Nikos Kazantzakis (with an assist from Martin Scorsese), some of my friends might ask, "What about Giussani, about whom you are constantly going on about?"

Well, I did not encounter Don Gius until after I became a Christian, but shortly afterwards. I was baptized in 1990 and encountered Gius in 1994. So, add to what I listed above the 20th anniversary of my discovery of Giussani, which I also wrote about- "He is if he changes."

On the advice of a friend I subscribed to 30 Giorni (30 Days in the Church and in the World- the magazine is no longer published, but the website remains a treasure trove). A few times a year the magazine would include a sizeable booklet. The first one I received was by then-Cardinal Ratzinger on prayer. The next one was by this Luigi Giussani, of whom I never heard. It was entitled and "He is if He Changes." I was fascinated by it. I read it and re-read, then sought more of his writings. I have ever since.

His bio always mentioned CL, the Movement he founded. Participating in the Movement, as such, which I did not do until around 2007, really did not "work" for me, it made me kind of miserable, truth be told, but I hung in there for several years. I have no doubt that the failure is completely attributable to me. So there is no bitterness now (there was for awhile). But I have wonderful friends and our friendship and my continuing engagement with the writings of Giussani are the ways I participate.

The six minute video (watch it!) ends with a quote that really gets to the heart of the charism given to Don Gius, one in which I still imagine myself participating in some manner:

Msgr. Luigi Giussani
"Woman do not weep." This is the heart with which we are placed before the gaze and the sadness, before the pain of all the people with whom we come into contact, in the street, along our way, in our travels.

"Woman do not weep!" What an unimaginable thing it is that God- "God, who is making the whole world at this moment,"- seeing and listening to man, could say, "Man, do not weep! Do not weep because I did not make you for death, but for life! I put you in the world and placed you in a great company of people!"

Man, woman, boy, girl, you, all of you, do not weep! Do not weep! There is a gaze and a heart that penetrates to your very marrow and loves you all the way to your destiny...
This IS the Euangelion- the Gospel- the Good News. Whatever is not a means towards this end in the Church is wasted, extraneous. I believe that this is precisely, despite the sloppy, slap-happy media coverage at which I took aim yesterday, what Pope Francis, whose walk with the Lord was also influenced by Don Giussani, is trying to say to us, to model for us, like Paul, who said, "imitate me as I imitate Christ" (1 Cor 11:1). Shortly after his election as pope in March, I posted about Giussani's influence on Bergoglio- "Pope Francis moved by Msgr. Giussani."

Above all, it was Giussani who taught me that if Christ loves me so much then reality, all of it, precisely as I experience it day-to-day, is for me and not against me. This helps me to engage when I would rather disengage, which is quite frequently. I would never be a good contemplative because my contemptus mundi would lack love.

By remaining in the world I am forced to make a choice for everyday. Don Giussani helps me formulate my questions more concretely. So, instead of the abstract question, taken from the title of Hans Urs Von Balthasar's book, Dare We Hope That All Men Be Saved? (emphasis on HOPE- important, lest we quickly set up a straw man and claim to have refuted Balthasar), the question, at least for me, in light of my encounter with Don Gius, is, "Dare I hope that I am being saved in and through the here and now because of reality and often despite myself?" Hence, it only remains for me to choose daily whether or not to kick against the goads, to resist reality, or entrust myself to reality, which is to entrust myself to Christ.

Luigi Giussani, Servant of God, pray for us- (here is a link to the prayer for his intercession- "Luigi Giussani, Servant of God, pray for us").

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