Archbishop Filippo Santoro (Photo: Ingenito)

"He showed us that faith illuminates the present"

The homily of Monsignor Santoro, Metropolitan Archbishop of Taranto, during Mass for the centennial of Fr. Giussani's birth. Parish of Santa Rita, February 22, 2022.
Filippo Santoro

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We celebrate this Holy Mass as a tribute of gratitude for what Fr. Giussani was and is in our lives, in the life of the Church and of society. We celebrate this liturgy on the day of the Chair of St. Peter, which is that point of reference, that rock on which life is built on a certain path to holiness.

In the "Collect" of this Mass we prayed to the Almighty Lord "that no tempest may disturb us, for You have set us fast on the rock of the Apostle Peter’s confession of faith.” And there is no lack of tempests during these days. Let us think of the situation in Ukraine and Russia, of a terrible war and also of the fragile social situation in Italy; of the pandemic that has caused so many deaths among us. Let us pray that war will not spread and that peace will prevail in Europe and in the world.

In today's Gospel passage, Jesus asks the disciples what people say about Him and then asks what they themselves say about the Lord. We find ourselves before the decisive turning point in the lives of the disciples and each of them is placed before the truth of what they have encountered. Peter intervenes first and answers: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus proclaims Peter blessed because he has accepted the revelation of the Father and for this reason gives him the function of being the "rock" for the Church and grants him the power to bind and loose. For St. Peter, recognizing Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, is a decisive moment and for this reason he is given the gift of the Spirit that makes him say: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God". You are a living person, not like what people say when they talk about John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets, that is, a great person from the past who is no longer there. Peter is referring to a living person.

This is also what Fr. Giussani taught us. He showed us faith as something that enters into everyday life; faith as something that illuminates and sustains, transforms the present. Faith not as moralism, but faith as the reason for our life, our expectation, our humanity. And this faith gives birth to the desire to live everything with intensity, with passion, with interest; because we found, in the encounter with living persons who communicated to us the presence of the Lord, the beginning of the response to the heart’s infinite desire. We suddenly found ourselves before a new passion born not of flesh and blood, but of the heavenly Father.

Following Fr. Giussani, we encountered a Charism for which the Church is not only doctrine, morals, liturgy, and rites, but is above all a life, an intense adventure of new relationships with reality and with our brothers and sisters.
In the relationship with Fr. Giussani, and with the charism born from him, we have therefore learned passion for Christ, which is inseparable from a true passion for all that is human, for daily life, for every day, for every moment, for every encounter. For small things as well as for big things.

Photo: (G.Leva)

Recalling the hundredth anniversary of Fr. Giussani's birth, we are also struck by another fact and that is that Christ can be encountered and followed in a friendship. This aspect struck me particularly in two encounters: the first one was when we were starting the movement of CL in Puglia and Fr. Giussani asked me: "Would you come to Milan for a meeting of responsibles, as the person responsible for Puglia", and he added: "I am asking you not for organizational reasons, but to live the friendship between us more greatly". And the same thing happened when he gave me the task of being responsible for Latin America. So I found myself in a friendship like the one the Lord lived with the apostles, and I verified for myself that the encounter with Christ is inseparable from a friendship, from a communion lived in the Church. And in fact, when the pontifical recognition of the Fraternity took place, Fr. Giussani delivered this communion into the hands of Peter. It is a friendship that becomes a sharing of life, in reference to Peter and in service to others, following in the footsteps of the Good Samaritan.

Following in the footsteps of the Good Samaritan means entrusting ourselves to the Lord, to Him whom we have got to know with all the passion of our lives. Like when, during the Advent retreat, 52 young novices made their Profession of the Memores Domini, giving their lives totally to the Lord, following the evangelical counsels of obedience, virginity and poverty.

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Before they made their profession, I listened to them one by one and asked each person: "Why do you want to make the Profession?". And they answered, although in different ways, essentially saying the same thing: "I am making the Profession because I have verified that the fullness of my life lies in the relationship with the Lord.” One after the other, 52 men and women in the prime of their youth and of their professional careers, demonstrated that the charism is alive, that it is present in the Church, it is at the service of the Church, and therefore it is a gift for the entire Christian community.

It is alive in the experience of the Memores Domini, of the priests, but it is alive in our families; it is alive in the experience of the Fraternity. And this is because Fr. Giussani, as Cardinal Ratzinger said of him on the day of his funeral, did not bind people to himself but drew them to Christ, calling them to follow the Lord. It is thanks to this gift of the Spirit that we continue today in the experience of the Church and in following the Holy Father.

Let us ask the Lord during this celebration of the Centenary of Fr. Giussani's birth, that we may be ever more faithful children of the Church and of the Charism, passionate for Christ and for the lives of our brothers and sisters.