I met don Giussani during my first year at the Catholic University of Milan. Every Tuesday and Wednesday he would teach Introduction to Theology in a large hall full of students. While participating in these lectures, I often had the sensation of being in front of one of the great saints that my parents had told me about. I would think of don Bosco for example. Giussani incarnated the Christian teachings that I learned while I was little and gave them new life. His teaching linked what he taught with the origin of Christianity, in this way making Christ present. I began consciously intuiting the living character of the Tradition of the Church: a message passed down from the first encounter between Jesus and the first disciples that had arrived all the way to our generation and made a claim on our young lives.
The encounter with don Giussani was the most important fact in my life. The education that I received from him brought together everything that I had previously received up to that point, and allowed it to develop in a new way. He made it possible for the seeds that my parents and other teachers had sown, those who had accompanied me up until that point, to remain as active leaven for my path. He corrected that which was ambiguous or limited in me and he encouraged me towards new depths. Altogether he united my life by proposing that the faith be its true center.
When the Easter poster for Communion and Liberation was published in 1988, I was in the second year of a bachelor’s in philosophy. Below the image of Jesus from the Sistine Chapel, there was printed a passage from The dialogue with the Antichrist by Vladmir Solov’ev. In this scene, the Emperor, who had reunited the world under his power, asks the few remaining Christians what kept them linked to their creed: “Tell me then yourselves, O Christians, abandoned by the majority of your brothers and leaders, what is it that you hold most dear in Christianity?” The text continues with the response of the Starez John: “What we hold most dear in Christianity is Christ himself. He himself and everything else that comes from him, since we know that the total fullness of the divinity dwells corporally in Him.”
In that moment I became aware that I could repeat with all of myself the same response as the Starez. His words embodied the reality and the concreteness of my daily experience. Thanks to the encounter with don Giussani, saying that what I hold most dear was Christ, for me meant that I loved more than anything else is the company of friends with whom I shared the experience of the movement Communion and Liberation. In this company the great reality of the Church was made present. Don Giussani invited us in those years to affirm the identification between the material fragility of those faces, which made up our friendship, and Christ himself. This discovery communicated to me light and certainty, opening up wide my faith to the world and to history.
Don Giussani touched and directed towards what is good the lives of thousands of people in a similar way, announcing the living Christ, showing us the unifying force of the Spirit, making us fall in love with the beauty of the Church, teaching us to pray, opening our ears to the cry that rises from the heart of every man, and thrusting us to bear witness to the faith to whomever we meet.
photo: Copyright Fraternità di CL
The encounter with Fr. Giussani was the most decisive event that opened my mind and my heart to the horizons of the world and the Church. If I had to summarize in short the reason for the great gratitude for him, I would say: he made me fall in love with Christ and the Church. He did not present me a God closed off in an unapproachable past. He showed me Christ present in the communion of those who allow themselves to be reached by Him. He opened with force my reserved and quiet boyhood to the knowledge of man, art, music and poetry. He taught me what it means to accompany people, to help them to grow and flourish, without ever spearing them the path. In him I saw the possibility to value everything and everyone in their diversity. He filled me with curiosity for everything, because he filled me with the curiosity for Christ. He, who was such a great communicator, transmitted to me the passion for personal relationships and the urgency for everyone to know Jesus: the only true response to the infinite thirst that dwells in the heart of every man. Fr. Giussani never stopped quenching that thirst in those close to him.
If someone wants to know who Fr. Giussani was, they should read his writings, study his life, but together with these, they should above all look at what he has left behind, and continues living among us today, that which he gave birth to: the life of the movement in its many expressions. Giussani still moves many people today, a countless number of whom have never had the opportunity to meet him directly. How is this possible? What permits Fr. Giussani to continue living?
He entrusted himself to the Spirit of God: that which from him was born, has blossomed and grown from his obedience to Christ. Only by obeying God and entering into his will, can we ourselves enter into the secret of a life which does not die. Only in this way can our works and our life bear fruit that will remain and generate life in others. Fr. Giussani is a luminous testimony of all of this.
I saw that his solid faith was the only true light to comprehend all of reality, to learn to be obedient to God and to enter the life of Christ. This is the most profound reason for which we can affirm that Fr. Giussani still lives: because he let himself be taken by Christ who is the living one (Rev 1,18).
Photo: Msgr. Camisasca with Fr. Giussani, on “Maggiore” Lake (Italy), in 1990.