Father Peter Cameron

The Beauty of the Faith: A Rediscovery

We offer Fr Peter J Cameron’s intervention at meeting of CL responsibles in Milan.
Peter J. Cameron

It’s a tremendous honor to be with all of you today. I’m deeply grateful to Giorgio Vittadini for inviting me to Milan.

I want to tell you a little about how I came to know the Movement. I teach at St Joseph’s Seminary in New York. My job is to teach the seminarians how to preach. In the very first class I ever taught at the seminary eight years ago, there was a young man by the name of Richard Veras. A central element of the course consists in students giving practice homilies. Usually they are pretty weak. One day this young man, Richard Veras, stood up and gave a homily that astounded me. The reason why the homilies usually are lacking is because their ultimate message is: “Just try harder”–moralism. I am a Dominican priest, and the emphasis in Dominican spirituality is altogether on the Incarnation, grace, the agency of Jesus Christ, virtue, mercy, and Divine Providence. The reason why I was astounded by this homily of Rich Veras was because that is what he preached. So I pulled him aside and asked him why it was that he was blessed with this ability to preach the Gospel. That’s when he told me about Fr Giussani. And that’s when Fr Rich became my teacher. Since then, I have read everything in English that is available by Fr Giussani, and I have rediscovered the beauty of the priesthood and the beauty of the Christian faith. As beautiful as that experience has been, I had no idea what I was in for when I came to Milan for seven days. I now understand the definition of “stupefaction.”

There are so many beautiful things that happened this week; I hope I will never forget them. But I believe in the importance of staying in front of the memory and making the encounter ever present. For example, I met for four hours with Emanuele and Franco who run the theater, because I have a little theater company in New York in which several members of the Movement participate. I didn’t think I could do anything for four hours, but we could have spoken all day long because our vision of faith and theater is exactly identical, rooted in the truths of the Movement.

We also had the opportunity to meet with the students of CLU both at the State University and at the Catholic University, and the presence of Jesus Christ in the faces and in the conviction of these students is just ineffable. Their faith is breathtaking. They are true missionaries. I wish I could have listened to each of their stories. Today, we were discussing with sadness that university courses in history in the United States no longer emphasize the importance of the Middle Ages as they once did. What I have discovered is that the glory of the Middle Ages has been revitalized here, where faith and life are one (the only difference is that now there are cell-phones!).

We visited the Benedictine monastery at Cascinazza for Mass on Sunday, and the Prior told us the story of his conversion, which is deeply moving. He spoke of being haunted his whole life by a Big Question that was answered definitively only when he met the Movement. When we returned to Sacre Cuore, the parking lot was filled with the leaders of Memores Domini. I said to Fr Rich, “This is like being in Heaven–everywhere you look, there are virgins!”

The priesthood in the United States now is suffering deeply. The media is attempting to assassinate the priesthood from without. But what is worse, many priests are interiorly bankrupt. During these days in Milan, I have been blessed to enjoy the hospitality of the priests of Studium Christi. I cannot find the words to express how impressed I am with the holiness and the paternity of these exquisite priests, like my hosts Fr Giorgio and Fr Beppe. The priests of Studium Christi are “fully alive.” They radiate the love of God; their godliness is irresistible. I would like to become like them. It is the hope of Fr Rich, who has led me to the Movement and to love Fr Giussani, that–together with Msgr Lorenzo Albacete–we will begin a Studium Christi in the United States. I am deeply convinced with Fr Rich that this will bring about the same sort of revitalization in the United States as it clearly has here in Italy.