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Monsignor Giussani on Movements of the Spirit

2/24/2005 - 6:00 AM PST

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"Faith Is Given Us So That We Communicate It"

ROME, FEB. 24, 2005 (ZENIT) - Here is one of the last public addresses given by Monsignor Luigi Giussani, the founder of the ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation. He died Tuesday at age 82.

He wrote this address for the Nov. 24-28 meeting of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. The theme of the assembly was "Rediscovering the True Face of the Parish."

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Faith Is Given Us So That We Communicate It
By Monsignor Luigi Giussani

Can man save himself? To this question Christ answers, "No, man cannot save himself; it is in the companionship of God, of the mystery who has set himself beside him, part of his humanity, that Christ is the answer to man's supreme need, the need for his own salvation." This is the inconceivable and unforeseeable answer to man's need for salvation.

So the more man is aware of his limitation -- his frailty, his wrongdoing, his incapacity -- the more he is able to open himself to this answer. I think Reinhold Niebuhr's phrase is significant: "Nothing is so incredible as the answer to a question that is not asked." The gravest opposition, the greatest obstacle to the acknowledgment of Christ is, first and foremost, the non-acknowledgment of one's own human need, of the question that our humanity itself is.

How is what happened 2,000 years ago present here and now? The answer, as each of us knows, more or less, is: In the Church, the body of Christ, as St. Paul says in his Letter to the Ephesians, the Church "in which is the fullness of Christ" (cf. Ephesians 1:22-23).

It is in the Church that Christ is present. The Holy Father noted this in a speech that is memorable for me. "The rising up of the ecclesial body as an institution, its persuasive force and binding energy, have their roots in the dynamism of sacramental grace" [John Paul II to the priests participating in a course of spiritual exercises promoted by Communion and Liberation, Castel Gandolfo, Sept. 12, 1985]. In other words, the rising up of the ecclesial body, which is the way in which Christ is present here and now, is the work of the Spirit, "Dominum et vivificantem."

But how does the Church happen in its relationship with me, with the person? How does this influence, this nexus come about? The Pope's reply is that the rising up of the ecclesial body as an institution, as a persuasive force and binding energy, has its roots in the dynamism of sacramental grace, beginning with baptism. "However, it finds its expressive form, its operative modality, its concrete historical incidence, through the various charisms that characterize a temperament and a personal history" (ibid.).

The Pope calls "charism" the mode with which the Church takes up expressive form in a concrete, historical detail. The expressive form implies a determined, concrete, historical detail, and remains abstract if not considered up to this point. Its concrete historical incidence is realized by means of the various charisms that characterize a temperament and a particular history.

Let's keep in mind that the word "charism" has the same root, "charis," as the word "grace," and points to the energy with which the Spirit, in its intervention, re-creates the follower of Christ. If it were not to become concrete, adequate to my temperament and to my history, the Church would remain abstract.

In the same address, the Pope went on: "The charisms of the Spirit always create affinities destined to sustain each person in his objective task in the Church" (ibid.). A communion is created through this affinity: "The creation of this sort of communion is a universal law. Living it out is an aspect of obedience to the great mystery of the Spirit" (ibid.).

What is obedience to the great mystery of the Spirit? Only one thing: "To believe in Jesus Christ." Christ becomes present here and now through a charism that, by valuing temperament, personality, and personal sensitivity and history, creates an affinity and this establishes a communion; to obey this communion is to obey the great mystery of the Spirit. It is to go to Christ!

Let us imagine a parish with 3,000 inhabitants and only one priest. He tries his best every Sunday from the pulpit, but leaves the faithful indifferent. In this town, the faith languishes; people go to Church in virtue of memories that still live on. Those who have a bit of life in them owe it to a personal piety. That priest is an ineffectual personality, so he is transferred -- he gets a promotion.

Another priest comes; he has more seniority, but he is sent there because he has fallen out with the Curia. On the first Sunday, he preaches at Mass, and immediately five people out of the 500 or so present are struck by what he says, and feel the need to get more involved with the ...

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