Burial Plot of Fr. Luigi Giussani. Wikimedia Commons

The Charism of Experience

Luciano Pazzaglia–explains why Fr. Giussani, totally dedicated to young people, is one of the greatest Christian educators.
Alberto Savorana

A professor in the Faculty of Educational Sciences at Milan’s Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Luciano Pazzaglia is one of the most respected voices in Italian pedagogy. He is Director of the Archive of the History of Education in Italy. Five years after the death of Fr. Giussani, he agreed to answer some questions from Traces on his educational proposal and its relevance today.

What is the originality of Fr. Giussani’s thought, as you see it? And, consequently, why did you decide to include him in a new book series from the La Scuola Academic Publishers called Masters?

The choice to give life to the Masters series came out of the concern for presenting, in keeping with the Italian Bishops’ Conference orientation toward assuming education as the key moment of future pastoral action, some educators capable of proposing to new generations the Christian message as the most suitable answer to their inner needs. Keep in mind that we are talking not about experts in pedagogy strictly speaking, but precisely about educators who, with their personal witness, have been and can still be guides for youth. In this perspective, we could not, obviously, leave out the profile of Fr. Luigi Giussani, author of a significant educational proposal, in addition to founding the youth movement Communion and Liberation.

Fr. Giussani pointed out that the feature of his educational method is “to show the pertinence of the faith to the demands of life in a world where everything, everything, was saying the opposite.” Does this conception seem current to you?
The feature you are alluding to is certainly one of the elements that characterizes Fr. Giussani’s educational engagement. I can also add, having been a substitute Philosophy teacher for a few months at Berchet High School where Fr. Giussani taught, that I had the privilege of seeing this engagement put to the test, and that I verified, in real time, the impact that it had among young people. What was striking about Fr. Giussani was his priestly charity, his absolute devotion to education, and his witness of a faithfulness to the Gospel in a way that was totally coherent with life. It should be recognized that it was he who forcefully posited the need to make the Christian vision of the “dailyness” of our personal and collective experiences circulate, and he also who sought to show how that vision was the perfect response to the expectations and the needs that pierce the heart of man. In the 1960s, the problem turned up again–obviously within a broader perspective–in the debates of the great assembly of the Vatican Council.

The Italian Bishops’ Conference, in taking up a constant concern of Benedict XVI, has focused on the “educational emergency” as the first decisive question for the future. What contribution can the decades-long experience of Fr. Giussani, the educator, offer?
The way I see it, one of Fr. Giussani’s most important contributions–still today–to the creation of an educational pastoral activity is the reminder that in order for the Christian reality to be accessible to young people, we need educators who have experienced it, and who are capable of transmitting its richness and implications through the witness of their personal involvement.