"You are the Hope of the World"

An overview of the September 2018 issue of "Traces." Download it today.
Dino D'Agata

Years ago, Fr. Giussani, speaking about what breaks down in the Christian experience when we forget the Incarnation, listed a series of things that happen among us, not the least of which is the idea of Church without Christ. What is it we think of when the word "Church" passes over our lips? Structures? Meetings? Roles? Codes of behavior? Reading the news these days, it is tempting for any of us to fall into the habit of thinking the scandals coming to light are going to be the final say on what we have followed all our lives. Yet if God is all in all, we have to ask ourselves--or better, ask Him, Why are You allowing this to happen?

From the beginning of our experience, Fr. Giussani insisted on certain facts: that the needs of the heart are an infallible indicator of how to "test all things and retain what is good," to use St. Paul's words; that if I find those needs in myself they are put there by Another who makes me; that this other incarnated Himself in order to address those needs; and that He continues in history through a body of people, called "church," in order to reach me now.

But the Church is not a structure we can look at and evaluate according to its crimes, or a set of precepts we can grasp like a list to carry in our pockets. Which leaves us with the question: Where, exactly, are You right now, so that I can see You, and know I am loved, and that my life is cared for?

In this issue of Traces, a woman named Giuliana, from Parma, writes about what happened when she invited a Muslim student to be with her friends, as he noticed "the attention, the patience, the beauty of a relationship among us," and saw that he "was immediately drawn in by this beauty." This became the answer to her struggle and her insecurity as a teacher of immigrants, to the point where she could affirm, "It is the Lord."

Miracles like the one above can happen in Parma, or in parking lots in Rimini, where in the daily movements of existence, an open heart that seeks its Lord can find Him. This is the test God is asking of us: to see that in our attempts to apply ethics and rules, better strictures to guide and avoid human weakness, is the thing we care about most His Presence in flesh, or is it the reordering of society in a way that will stave off future sins, all according to our own efforts, our own expertise? It is exactly the opposite of this that Pope Francis was doing when in Ireland, very much imitating Jesus, he took on the sins of all of us when he apologized to young people on behalf of the Church: He was a man unafraid of staring at the evil all of us carry in our hearts, whether we have been censured for it or not. “He asked forgiveness from the heart, not only from the victims of abuse, but also from God, in the name of the Church,” CL responsible Mario Biondi writes in these pages. This was echoed at the Meeting in Rimini when Papal Nuncio to the U.S. Christophe Pierre said, “The most effective response to the problems is, above all, a deep examination of the human person. Christ came to reawaken our humanity so that we can face them.” First and foremost, these are two men whose faith becomes a beacon for all of us, not solely due to their personal witness, but to the fact of what this witness awakens in all of us, namely, the question of whether I believe in the One who is Present among us now, or whether I run from the painfulness of reality because on my own I see no solution. As Pope Francis’s message to the Meeting states: “…resurrection is not an event of the past; it contains a vital power which has permeated the world.”

These pages are a witness to that vital power, and a provocation to all of us to continue the work of true morality—not the morality of ethical coherence or sinlessness—but the morality Fr. Giussani defined when he said that the moral heart is the one that is open to reality, the heart that awaits something, awaits Someone who Himself awaits us.

Download the September 2018 issue