So far away, Emilia. She comes from Taiwan and graduated with a degree in Italian language from the Catholic University of Fu Jen in June of 2013. So close, Emilia: since 2010 she has been going to the School of Community that meets at Catholic University. About Fr. Giussani, whom she has met through his writings, she has this to say: “We are together because of him.” In 2013, during the Easter vigil, she was baptized.
When did you meet Communion and Liberation?
Three years ago. I saw a few pictures on Facebook of some of my classmates from my Italian courses with you in Italy at the Meeting of Rimini. I looked for more information online and I found a calendar of CL activities. Among the various events, there was a weekly School of Community. I came. I was nervous and didn’t know anyone, but everyone treated me kindly. From then on I haven’t missed a single meeting.
What was it that attracted you?
The friendship. I’ve always had a lot of friends, but they were superficial relationships: we would talk about the latest film, about a new purse, about such and such who was now going out with such and such. A fun night out, a few laughs, but it would always end there. But in the friendships within the movement I discovered that I could be myself, I could speak about true experiences and learn from others.
When did you consider being baptized?
Nobody ever directly brought it up, but we talked a lot about God, about Jesus. I still didn’t know Him, but I knew that in some way He was waiting for me. I clearly remember the day that you asked me if I wanted to come to catechism lessons. I said yes. The next Saturday afternoon, after charitable work at the parish in Tai Shan, where I was teaching English to the children, I began Catechism, with Lele and with you. Three events that quickly became one: charitable work, the place where I learned to give something of myself; catechism, where I received; School of Community, where I shared life with others.
When did you first hear about Fr. Giussani?
In Fu Jen, with that group of students, we would read his book, The Religious Sense. It was an interesting read: Giussani uses examples taken from his experience and he makes you understand things that, on your own, you wouldn’t otherwise understand. Then there was the time we read Traces of a Christian Experience or The Meaning of Charitable Work. There were the Christmas and Easter posters. Recently they asked me to translate parts of a video on Giussani and two texts about the Fraternity of CL. I was struck by a sentence Giussani said May 30th 1998: “The true protagonist of History is the beggar, or rather, the heart of man begging for Christ and Christ begging for the heart of man.” I had thought of Jesus as a king, an omnipotent God, not as a beggar. Then I understood. Jesus is the one who was waiting for me. While I was searching for Him, He was waiting for me.
What surprises you today in the experience of CL?
I’ve always been struck by beauty, the beauty of the songs, of the images, the beauty of our friendship. Ever since I’ve been living this experience, the world for me is a large home where every person I meet is a brother, a sister.
Whenever someone from CL comes to Taiwan, it’s like meeting an old friend. In 2011 I was in Italy, in Rome. You told me I should go visit the sisters in a suburb called La Magliana. When I got to their house I rang the doorbell, but nobody answered. I was about to leave when I saw two young women. I thought they must be students, but instead they were novices. I told them I was a friend of Don Paolo and Don Lele, so we stopped and chatted for quite a while. Then we started singing, because in CL we always sing. In the end, I taught them a song in Chinese: when they wrote out the transliteration I was brought to tears of joy.
What do you think about Fr. Giussani today?
He was someone who sought beauty; we are together because of him. Because of him you became priests and came Taiwan. Whenever I would come across words that were difficult to translate, Lele would say to me, “Pray that Fr. Giussani would help you from heaven.” I think of him as a person who is alive. If I were to meet him today I would kiss his hands and thank him. If it weren’t for him, there would be no CL, and without CL, I wouldn’t have been baptized, and without baptism, I wouldn’t be happy like I am now.
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.