A Founder Speaks About Communion and Liberation

Monsignor Luigi Giussani Celebrates 80th Birthday

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MILAN, Italy, OCT. 23, 2002 (ZENIT.orgAvvenire).- Monsignor Luigi Giussani, founder of the ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation, just celebrated his 80th birthday, for which occasion he received an affectionate message from John Paul II.

In this interview, Monsignor Giussani reveals the fundamental inspirations that gave birth to this movement in Milan in 1954, and which today has spread to 70 countries.

Q: How has the fleetingness of time influenced the work you have done? In other words, has your life evolved under the sign of urgency?

Monsignor Giussani: I hope my life has evolved according to what God planned for it. It can be said that it has evolved under the sign of urgency because, for my Christian conscience, every circumstance, or rather every instant, has been the search for the glory of Christ.

When my bishop, Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, came to the See of Milan, he said: “The men and women of our time, even if unconsciously, ask us to speak to them of Christ, what is more, they ask that we make them see him.” Jesus Christ, his human glory in history, is the only positive sign in the midst of the world that, otherwise, would be absurd activity in time and space.

Because, as Eliot would say, without meaning, there is no time. Life is full of nullity and negativity, and Jesus of Nazareth is the compensation. I am sure of this. Thus, hope is the certainty enabling one to breathe at present, one can enjoy the present.

Q: During the first decades of your life, there was a moment when you intuited what would emerge from your priestly life. Although a delicate and personal question, could you tell us about it?

Monsignor Giussani: I cannot find an especially “instigating” moment. Everything developed for me in the most absolute normality, and I was amazed only as things took place, because it was God who was doing them, making them the thread of a story that was happening — and is happening — before our eyes. I have seen a people moving forward, protagonist of history,
in the name of Christ.

Q: You are very much loved by your young people. When you speak to them, in great gatherings or on video, not a sound is heard. One gets the impression that for many you are a father, you represent an ideal. Does this fact bother you somewhat?

Monsignor Giussani: It does not bother me, not at all, but it makes me pray to God so that I will always be able to give forceful reasons for the freedom of young people.

Q: You have been one of the public images of the last decades and yet, you have not appeared in public very much — I would say only the indispensable minimum. Is it timidness, or a calculated or spontaneous choice?

Monsignor Giussani: It is the spontaneous choice of a spirit directed to truth, very conscious of its limitations.

Q: He who interviews you comes from an ecclesial experience that has been considered as “opposed” to CL. For years, news reports have been full of the conflict between Catholic Action and Communion and Liberation. Do you think this was inevitable?

Monsignor Giussani: I think the more a group of faithful tries to live the faith and to be educated in the apostolate under the influence of honest and intense analyses, so much the more does it run the risk of being partial in its references, given that it is impossible for an analysis to include everything.

However, if relations are maintained if they grow in charity, as Christ and the Apostles recommended, the distinctions and differences become useful for collaboration.

Q: Forgive the naiveté, what does CL represent for Monsignor Giussani?

Monsignor Giussani: It is a friendship which ensures a common effort of collaboration in reflection on the faith and in an attempt to convert into a common expression the will to witness to Christ as inspirer of peace and of mutual help.

And in the letter the Pope sent me for the 20th anniversary of the CL fraternity, he said that “the movement has desired and desires to indicate not a way but the way to come to a solution of the existential drama” of the man of today. And he added: “Christ is the way. … Rather than favoring new things, Communion and Liberation is directed to the rediscovery of Tradition and of the history of the Church, to express these again in forms that are capable of speaking to and advising the men of our time.” This is the only reason why we exist.

Q: Priest, educator and leader. Don’t deny it, you are a leader. What is the greatest joy and the greatest sacrifice you feel in leading young peoples and former young people?

Monsignor Giussani: The greatest joy and greatest sacrifice in leading a people is in asking God sincerely and continually — hence the Spirit and the Virgin — for light for one’s intelligence and ardent fire for one’s charity given all the problems that arise in the heart of every man in face of events that the mystery of God allows, problems that appear in the heart and work of each one, in the place where he finds himself.

Q: The seed of Communion and Liberation has spread throughout the world. What criteria demonstrate that it has spread with fidelity to the original plan?

Monsignor Giussani: The spread of theoretical and practical criteria throughout the world is a gift for which one must constantly pray to Christ, and because of this, it must be the object of prayer to the mystery of the Father, as Christ taught us: in the consistent search for the principles of the faith and of charity, in humble obedience to the shepherds of the flock who are the bishops.

Obedience to the authority of the Church — above all, to the Pope, channel established for the safety of our Catholic faith — constitutes the original and perfect criteria. If such an attitude is maintained, the passing of the years implies a confirmation — namely, what was a promise, is fulfilled.

Q: Now I must be indiscreet. How do you pray, Monsignor Giussani, and what is the invocation that springs most often from your heart during the day?

Monsignor Giussani: My prayer is the liturgy and the continual repetition of the formula: “Veni Sancte Spiritus, Veni per Mariam.” Come Holy Spirit, come through Mary, make yourself present through the womb and flesh of the Virgin.

This old ejaculation is a synthesis of the whole Tradition and indicates the Incarnation, God’s method to make himself known to men. The whole of Christianity is contained therein.

In his hymn to the Virgin, Dante speaks of the “warmth” of the womb of the Virgin: To think that the Mystery is proclaimed from there is really what is most mysterious, and only in the experience of a lived communion can one begin to understand something of that ineffable mystery of God. This is why prayer is man’s most reasonable act, he can do so, while involved in the daily struggle for life; petition is the alpha and omega of everything. I haven’t done anything, I am a zero. Everything is done by the Infinite, and we wouldn’t do anything if it wasn’t given to us.

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