School and Method. Notes of Two Conversations (1993 and 1997)

Notes from two Conversations with Luigi Giussani
School of Community and Presence
Synthesis of a meeting of the leaders of CLE
(CL Educators) with Fr. Giussani, 1993

1. School of Community is the development of an experience that begins prior to the School of Community, the development of an event that is always prior to School of Community; it comes before the first page and before every page, and before every line of every page.

There is something that comes before School of Community. If you are living this “something” that comes before, if you are in it, engaged in it, immersed in it, then School of Community is vibrant and, when you speak, you communicate a living experience to others, you communicate a life; otherwise, you are using words, and pouring onto the youngsters words that are merely your own.

2. The problem – and this is not understood enough yet – is that we need to sink the roots of all of our moving into an awareness of belonging to a reality that is wholly new. If we were to try to repeat the foundation and the criteria for our actions outside the energy consecrated by the presence of Christ and of His Church, we would end up like leaves tossed about by the wind, and then our action would be characterized by instability, resentment and ultimate impotence.

For a Christian, observation is all-embracing, so we cannot speak of educating man or of creating stable instruments for education (schools) unless the basis from which we draw our criteria, the prospective developments and the place from which we hope to draw sufficient energy to carry it out, is exclusively the Church of God, as it actually lives–by the grace of the Spirit–in us and around us, in the companionship to which the Lord has entrusted us, as Cardinal Ratzinger said, in a fine phrase, commenting on St. Paul’s letter to the Romans (Rom 6).

“The companionship to which the Lord has entrusted us” is the foundation from which to start off, the source of the criteria, and therefore of the power and of the criteria that will develop from them; the very method of building must start from here. The formal principle, the form of the foundation of the criteria must start off from the awareness of belonging to this reality, to the reality of Christ, as He touches us in the companionship to which He has entrusted us. It is a principle to keep well in mind when we speak in any way at all of culture, of building society, and of educating; it is a point of departure with no possibility of return or ambiguities.

3. The rule for deepening the event that has struck us in a convincing way is to follow. To follow means to commit your own personality to what you have encountered. There are many ways to live the life of Christ; the history of the Church is an example of this. The encounter with a new reality, more imposingly convincing and more promising, is a particular help we have been given for loving and testifying to what has happened in the world – that God has become man.

How can you live what has happened? By following what you have encountered, with your whole “I,” your whole personality, your intelligence, the decisive energy of your freedom. It’s a matter of not mystifying our already fragile capacity to resist, not mystifying it further by following too many masters. Only by following that Master whom the Lord had me encounter can obedience spread as an historical fact. Otherwise, there would not be the wealth that there is, and the singularity of our face would be lost. We must not mystify our fragility by choosing our own masters, as St. Paul says: “Collecting teachers to suit themselves, following the itching in their ears.” What we have come across is something objective.

4. Basic factors of the experience
a.) The method of witness
The method of witness is the presence in the environment, the life of a new human subject. The curiosity aroused by two or twenty-five people who are seen to be living in a new way leads to a question

In the presence in the environment, the greatest help comes from using School of Community. But how can we do School of Community without entreating God, without prayer? How can we do School of Community without trying to understand, without beginning to understand how it corresponds to our own personal experience? How can we do School of Community without noting the internal logic of the text? And how can we do School of Community without feeling the need to invite our companions along?

So, prayer, understanding that touches the heart’s affection, and passion for communicating are integral parts of a School of Community. If these factors are missing, then there is no School of Community.

b.) Verification
Verification is a word that must not be used carelessly, because it is a heavily loaded word, just as reason is “heavy”; it is the measure with which reason walks along the road toward its certainties. Verification is a work – comparing the proposal with the constitutive needs of your heart.

How do we make this comparison? It is a subject that generates a relationship, a new phenomenon in which the youngster feels involved, and by which he feels taken hold of. So, the first part of the answer is that what you propose be life for yourself, and that you be responsible for what you say and aware of why you say it – that it be quite clear that truth is adequatio rei intellectus; i.e., that truth is what corresponds to the fundamental needs of your heart and to your self-awareness.

You have to have had an experience of this, you have to try to experience this and you have to ask the Spirit to give you the capacity to communicate it to the youngsters, because there is a disproportion between what you feel, what you see, and what you adhere to, and the mystery of the youngster’s freedom and soul. There is a disproportion that makes you tremble, that makes you feel your incapacity, a disproportion between you and this mystery of the other’s freedom. So you have to pray. If you do, then the answer to the experience you propose emerges, as God wants it to, according to the openness of the student’s freedom and his mental capacity.

Propose something as a clear expression of what you experience in your life and ask the youngster to reflect, to think, to measure himself seriously with what you propose, and to see if it corresponds with what his soul is destined to. He is the one who has to perceive this adequacy, this correspondence of the proposal to life; he has to perceive and acknowledge it himself. To help him in this, it is very important to suggest that he compare himself with the opposite, too; that is, to ask how he can deal with the movements of his heart without this proposal. How can he give an answer to this nature of his? It must be the person himself who perceives that without this proposal he finds only ashes, only nothingness. He must be the one to grasp that, without this, he will find not an answer, but an attempt to exploit him, to possess him, to use him, both sentimentally and politically.

Responsibility is the response the youngster gives. Disputation in the relationship and a non-stop solicitation to clarify the meaning and the reasons of the proposal are important, since they help him to be consciously responsible. All this movement in the relationship is essential if the youngster is to answer yes or no or to remain inculpably in doubt.

So we can not take for granted that the warmth or the clarity of the proposal will evoke a positive answer. We have always called education “the risk of education” because it is the comparison with a freedom that has to move reason and move affectivity.

c.) A companionship that educates
There are many companionships. I don’t say, “Choose one,” but follow the one that Christ has put you in, that Christ has had you meet, the one that first struck you convincingly.


A Presence that Moves:
The constitutive factors of School of Community

Short notes of a conversation with Fr. Giussani in 1997

The beginning of the experience is the encounter with a human reality that is different. A School of Community that disregards this point is ideology or abstraction.

In School of Community, we must certainly talk about life, but in light of the new experience that we have encountered. Otherwise, we talk of life as we conceive it, how we feel about it, how it makes us react in natural terms, and in any case following a criterion other than that of belonging. School of Community is the main instrument of the new life, of the new way of pursuing the aim of the new “I.”

The leader
Everything depends on the one who leads School of Community. If the one who leads is a presence, then intelligence and affectivity are moved in a different way. It is the novelty that leads. If he merely gives a lesson, then he is not a presence, he doesn’t move. At best, he moves a dialectic, a discussion, a series of thoughts. The following morning, all of that line of thought is irrelevant to life.

A. The sign that School of Community is led is that you come away from it changed.

B. School of Community must be a development of the encounter. In it, the whole life of the Movement is continually taken up again and surpassed.

C. Without existentiality (the link between the word and reality) there is no School of Community. Only with this link is it the expression of an experience. If it doesn’t bring you to spot something that must change and, therefore, to desire to bring about this change, it is not School of Community.

How is School of Community done?
As prayer. Since School of Community must reassume the phenomenon of the Movement in its development. Remember that there is no search for the truth about Destiny, about God, without prayer. So the meeting must begin with prayer.

We need to pray during the meeting, as an attitude of mind, both in the one who asks questions and in the one who answers – an attitude of humility, happy and sure of what it brings.

Prayer becomes the discovery of the need for the sacraments, in which the initial event once again becomes a presence.

How do I take part in School of Community?
First of all it is a school, a place in which, and a method by which, you learn.

Learning means increasing your awareness of reality.

Learning implies understanding the text and what it means, that is, in its relationship to reality and in the reasons that it gives for making us understand how it is linked with reality.

Inevitably, in order to understand you need to repeat (ripetere = petere ad = tending toward) to increase your attention. Repeating with attention is the same thing as seeing.

When is it that you understand? When you experience that the words you read and hear correspond with what you are living.

In this way, reality, in so far as you face up to it, becomes an epiphany, a revelation of your awareness of belonging.

Four points to work on
1. An intelligent reading of the text, attentive to the way it relates to things, to the judgments it generates, to the reasons it gives.
2. Communication of your experience (everything can be brought in), in comparison with the text.
3. A culture that develops. Your motivations and criteria must spring up from within the nature of the experience and not come from outside. The more you penetrate the event that has taken hold of us, and the more you follow, the more creative you become.
4. The synthesis presented by the leader. He communicates how his experience has developed during the event that is the School of Community.

The Communicative Result
School of Community conceived and lived in this way gives rise to an affective impulse to communicate that has three aspects:
a. Witness and mission.
b. Attention to people’s needs, charity that expresses itself in an organic consistency of works.
c. Culture: the affective impulse to communicate inspires creativity, a growing capacity for judgment, and logical discoveries, with all the necessary instruments that spring from these.

01-01-2008 - Traces, n. 1 - page one