Traces N.6, June 2000

Lay, that is, Christian

In recent weeks, turning the pages of Italian newspapers and news magazines of the so-called “lay” or even “secular” area, it has not been rare to find articles about the presence in society of a “phenomenon” called CL.
The exploration that begins with this curiosity can take diverse turns, depending upon different attitudes; there are those who describe a phenomenon thinking they have already understood everything, while others question more deeply what they find before them.
In these same weeks, after the events of Fatima and on other Jubilee occasions, in these same newspapers a debate has caught fire about the attitude that lay persons should take toward faith. A real uproar has been created, where alongside narrow-minded, irrational reactions there have emerged the positions of those who recognize that it is not enough to call oneself “lay” or “secular” to be truly rational and reasonable.
In both these journalistic scenarios, in fact, beneath the usual slogans and portraits of the personages, what is getting people worked up is the same question: the reasonableness of faith. Let’s examine briefly why.
The presence of a movement in society starts with the individual. No movement of any kind, no matter how strong and well structured, arises and lasts in history if it is not constantly reborn and if it does not root this rebirth in the freedom of the person. Father Giussani often repeats this in his book L’io, il potere, le opere [The Self, Power, Works]. And the center of the person is reason, understood as openness toward reality in the unceasing search for a meaning.
Communion and Liberation is a form of the movement that was born with John and Andrew, with Peter and all those who have encountered the exceptional human presence of Jesus Christ. These have all found it reasonable to adhere to this presence, in whatever existential, philosophical, or moral situation in which they found themselves. Reasonable, which is to say, adequate to the ultimate demands and urgings of the heart. Something totally human.
What scandalizes the presumed clever and learned of every epoch the impossibility of sticking Christianity back into a box containing the arguments saying that “religious” equals “irrational and sentimental.”
In schoolbooks, newspapers, and TV shows, it is not uncommon to find the attempt to paint Christianity as something of the past, a sweet and pious habit, or to present Christ, as Arthur Rimbaud said, as someone like a “father-in-law”. The dominant mentality exercises its power precisely in attempting to demolish the possibility that faith is the experience of a reasonable person.
Thus, many are disturbed by the fact that there is an active social presence, full of initiative, free, in which faith constitutes not only the original factor of conception and expression, but also the point of an indomitable capacity for facing things.
For so-called secular people, it is perfectly fine that there is a social presence with a Christian “inspiration,” as long as in its conception of work, charity, enterprise, and politics, it relies on the mentality worked out and imposed in that particular moment by the prevailing thought and practice–from class struggle to the glorification of volunteer work; from liberalism to statism.
If the Christian faith is this originality of experience and encounter, the true stakes of the game will be not so much in the definition of who has faith and who does not (this is God’s concern), but in the reasonableness and humanity of the work of each person, lay, that is, Christian (and vice versa).