The Greatest Sacrifice Is to Give Your Life for an Other’s Work

From Luigi Giussani, L’avvenimento cristiano. Uomo Chiesa Mondo [The Christian Event. Man Church World], BUR, Milan 2003, pp. 66–70
Luigi Giussani

To give your life for an Other’s work; this “other,” historically, phenomenally, as it appears, is a particular person; in the case of our Movement, for example, I am the one. As I say this, it is as if all that I am were to disappear (because the “Other” is Christ in His Church). A historic point of reference remains–the whole flow of words, the whole torrent of work that was born from that first moment in the Berchet High School. To lose sight of this point is to lose the temporal foundation of our unity, of the usefulness of our actions; it is like making cracks in a foundation.

2. No sooner is the word “I” pronounced then it becomes blurred, and is lost in the distance, because the historical, describable, photographable factor, which can be indicated by name and surname, is destined to disappear from the scene where a history begins. Each one has the responsibility of the charism; each one is the cause of the decline or the increase of the charism’s effectiveness; everyone is either a stretch of land in which the charism wastes away or a stretch of land in which it bears fruit. So we have reached a very serious moment, which urgently requires everyone, as a matter of loyalty and fidelity, to become aware of his own responsibility. It is the moment for each of us to take up his own responsibility for the charism. To obscure or underrate these observations is to obscure or underrate the intensity of the impact that the history of our charism has on the Church of God and on present-day society. The essence of our charism can be summed up in two things: – First of all, the announcement that God has become man (the astonishment and enthusiasm for this). – Secondly, that this man is present in a “sign” of concord, of communion, of unity of a community, of a people in unity. We could add a third fundamental factor in order to describe our charism definitively: only in God-made-man, and therefore only in His presence and, so, only–in some way–through the form of His presence, can man be man and humanity be human. So it is His presence that gives rise to morality and passion for man’s salvation (“mission”).

3. There is a personal identification, a personal version that each one gives of the charism in which he has been called and to which he belongs. Inevitably, the more you become responsible for this charism, the more it passes through your temperament, through that vocation that is irreducible to any other and that is your own person. Each one’s person has its own concreteness, the concreteness of his mentality, of his temperament, of the circumstances in which he lives, and, above all, of his freedom in action. Therefore, each one can do what he wants with the charism and with his own history; he can reduce it, live it partially, stress some aspects at the expense of others (making it monstrous), bend it to his own taste or for his own profit, abandon it out of negligence or stubbornness or superficiality, abandon it to a particular stress in which he feels more at ease, finds more to his taste, and costs him less effort. In identifying with each one’s responsibility, the charism takes up varied, approximate form depending on each one’s generosity. This approximation is measured by generosity, where capacity, temperament, and taste are grounded. The charism takes shape according to each one’s generosity. This is the law of generosity: to give your whole life for an Other’s work. This third point begs the great question: each one, in his every action, every day of his life, in all his imaginings, in all his resolutions, and in all his doings, must be concerned about comparing the criteria of his actions with the image of the charism as it emerged at the beginning of the common history. The comparison with the charism as it was given us tends to correct the singularity of the versions, of the translation, and is a continuous correction and provocation. So our greatest concern must be for this comparison with the charism, methodologically, practically, morally, and pedagogically. Otherwise, the charism becomes a pretext and an inspiration for what we want; it covers up and endorses what we ourselves want. In this way, we become fundamentally impostors, because we claim to be building Communion and Liberation while we are really making what we want out of Communion and Liberation. Falsehood, according to St John, is synonymous with sin, and so it is a betrayal. In order to limit this temptation that we are all inclined to, we must make a normal practice of comparison with the charism, as correction and as an ideal to be continually re-awakened. We have to make of this comparison a habit, habitus, and a virtue. This is our virtue: comparison with the charism in its originality.

4. At this point, we are back again at the ephemeral, because God makes use of the ephemeral. Here again is the importance of the ephemeral: for the moment, the final comparison is with the person with whom it all started. I may dissolve, but the texts I leave behind, and the uninterrupted following–God willing–of the people indicated as the point of reference, as the true interpretation of what happened in me, become the instrument for correction and re-awakening; they become the tool of morality. The line of the references indicated is what is most alive in the present, because a text can be interpreted, too; it is difficult to interpret it wrongly, but it is possible. To give your life for an Other’s work always implies a link between the word “Other” and something historical, something concrete that can be touched, felt, described, photographed, and has a name and surname. Without this, our pride imposes itself–this is ephemeral, yes; ephemeral in the worst sense of the word. To speak of charism without a historical reference is not to speak of a Catholic charism.