Student Youth: Reflections on an Experience - Luigi Giussani

Student Youth: Reflections on an Experience

Luigi Giussani

9/30/2006 - From L. Giussani, The Journey to Truth Is an Experience, translated and annotated by J. Zucchi, McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal 2006, pp. 13-15

Methodological Instructions on the Christian Proposal

The Christian proposal must be:
- Decisiveness as a gesture
- Clear communication
The conditions for being clear: freedom, action, concreteness
- Complete in its dimensions:
The dimensions of the Christian proposal: culture, charity, catholicity
- Communitarian in its fulfilment
Factors of community: personal adherence, functionality, authority, visible unity.

Decisiveness as a Gesture

1. The first condition for reaching anyone is a clear definition of what we hope to achieve.

2. We must avoid presenting ourselves, no matter what the milieu, in a way that appears indecisive. While we might be tempted to weaken our proposal because we fear that our ideas will conflict with the current mentality, making others ill-disposed towards us and creating insurmountable misunderstandings and distancing, to do so can lead us to illusion and ambiguity. We may be tempted to look for ways to accommodate and camouflage our ideas, which may perhaps be done astutely, but this can easily lead to inescapable compromises.

3. We must not forget that this “current mentality” exists not only outside ourselves; it permeates us to the core, so that indecisiveness in confronting it could destroy us.

4. Honesty demands that at some point we confront serious problems, not only those that require dealing with our own conscience but also in dialogue with others.

5. That is why we need the strength to place ourselves “in opposition,” which is what Christ asked of us if we wish to enter the Kingdom: “He who will have been ashamed of me before others, so shall I also be ashamed of him before my Father.”

6. Strength, that is, courage, (virtus in Latin): ultimately, what we need is some of that virtue with which Matthew, Zacchaeus, and Mary Magdalene affirmed their Christian discovery in their particular circumstances.
Or, if you will, we need to renew Stephen’s testimony before the Sanhedrin: to flout the common opinion in order to follow Jesus.

Clear Communication

1. It is through us that Christ proposes himself to men and women. Our attitude and words constitute the proposal through which others can know him.
Our communication must therefore be clear, that is simple, if it is to be addressed to everyone.

2. Simplicity has less to do with the way we say something–only some people are able to do this well–than with avoiding complicated, extraneous matters. It has to do with keeping to the essential.

3. Even Christ’s proposal in the beginning was simple and essential: in fact He proposed that only specific truths (dogmas), sacramental gestures, and authority in the community were compulsory, thus making it clear that the Church is extremely careful about the elements it considers to be compulsory.

4. It is easy to understand the wisdom of the behaviour of Christ and the Church. Someone with such simplicity can be flexible enough to address any individual. Only by striving for the essential can we reach our goal without undue stress.
Accurate identification of the essential factors of existence leads us to:

a) strongly affirm their value and thus to adhere to them resolutely;

b) have a broad understanding of all the positions that we meet, which enables us to value and embrace an infinite variety of such positions.

5. A point to consider: simple does not mean “generic.” It means accuracy regarding the substantive factors and freedom regarding any interpretation and application.
Jesus said: “Go forth through the entire world and preach to all the peoples.” Each person is responsible for a specific task (“go forth and preach”) but is free to choose how to achieve his or her particular vocation.

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