1000’s of friends

The official estimates are that around 100.000 people whose lives have been touched by the charism conveyed by Luigi Giussani came to St. Peter’s Square on Saturday to meet with Pope Francis.  It was a wonderful gathering of friends. Of course I don’t know all these people, only a very small number, but this is not a problem for our friendship since we desire to live in relationship with Jesus Christ, and it is this desire that gives us true friendship.

The occasion of Saturday’s gathering was the tenth anniversary of the death of Fr. Luigi Giussani, and sixty years since his life-changing encounter on a train journey. On that journey he overheard high school students speaking about their lives and then their faith as distinct entities. Giussani could see that their faith was compartmentalised and therefore not true faith at all, rather a doctrine reduced to a moral and legal code. At that point Fr Giussani decided to give up a promising university career to teach High School students, in the hope that he could help them to move beyond their unsatisfying and compulsive existence to personal life-giving relationship with Christ.

Over the next few days the text of Pope Francis’ address will be available in English and I will pass it on. In the meantime you might appreciate the start of then Cardinal Ratzinger’s homily at the funeral of Luigi Giussani in Milan, 24 February 2005:

“The disciples rejoiced to see Jesus.” These words of the Gospel just read indicate the centre of the personality and of the life of our dear Fr Giussani.

Fr Giussani grew up in a home—so to say—poor as far as bread was concerned, but rich with music, and thus from the start he was touched, or better, wounded, by the desire for beauty. He was not satisfied with any beauty whatever, a banal beauty, he was looking rather for Beauty itself, infinite Beauty, and thus he found Christ, in Christ true beauty, the path of life, the true joy.

Already as a boy, along with other young men, he created a community called Studium Christi; their program was to speak of nothing else but Christ, because everything else seemed to be a waste of time. Naturally, he was able to overcome the unilaterality, but the substance always remained, that only Christ gives meaning to the whole of our life. He 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.

This love affair with Christ, this love story which is the whole of his life was at the same time far from every superficial enthusiasm, from every vague romanticism; really, seeing Christ, he knew that to encounter Christ means to follow Christ, that this encounter is a road, a journey, a journey that passes—as we heard in the psalm—through the “valley of darkness.” And in the Gospel, the second Gospel we heard of the last darkness of Christ’s suffering, of the apparent absence of God, when the world’s Sun was eclipsed. He knew that to follow is to pass through a “valley of darkness,” which means to take the way of the cross, and to live all the same in true joy.

You can read the complete text at this link.

And the Vatican Radio report of the event is available at this link.

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