Familiarity with Christ

Notes from a lesson by Fr. Luigi Giussani during the Spiritual Exercises of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, May 8, 1982.
Luigi Giussani

I am rather embarrassed and confused as I begin, because I keep remembering the names of my first students whom the Lord has brought here; and after them I think of all the others whom I have known as well as those who are here and whom I don’t know personally, but with whom the relationship is in any case more meaningful than even that with many people I know but who are not my fellow travelers, so it’s as if I didn’t know them. This thought of the earliest youngsters I had and who are here now, glorious fathers and mothers of children who are already more than eleven or twelve-years-old, successful in their careers, perhaps university lecturers, makes me really tremble. But what makes me tremble is not astonishment at a history that happened; what makes me tremble is what I have in common with them, and therefore what I have in common with you, which is the most serious and most important thing in my life and yours. John Paul II said, “There will be no faithfulness… if in man’s heart there is not found a question for which only God offers the answer or, rather, for which only God is the answer.”1 “A question for which only God offers the answer.” From the school benches where we met, to the companionship today, as I hinted yesterday evening, as suggested by the Liturgy, what surprises me this morning is the seriousness of this human entreaty, in all its need, in all its power, in all the precariousness of its consistence that it has in human life. For even when this entreaty is intentionally alive, how much do we forget in the heap of minutes and hours that make up the day! How far we wander away from ourselves during the course of our life’s journey!
This morning, what makes me tremble is the surprise that I am capable of distancing myself far away from myself, because my person is what it has to become–man is a plan; he is defined by the fulfillment of this plan. This thought this morning makes me recognize how I am normally far from what I, albeit intentionally, so insistently recuperate, re-meditate and throw out again to others for their meditation. In other words, how urgent it is that the humanity with which we met each other all those years ago–because what brought us to meet was a humanity–how urgent it is that this humanity that brought us to meet so many years ago, that was vibrating in you and that found a passionate response in me, how important it is that this humanity find itself together again, and help us not to forget who we are! And so as not to forget who we are, the answer must be present.
“If man is to believe in himself he must believe in God,” said Karol Wojtyla on another occasion, since man is made in the image and likeness of God. When man is deprived of God, he doesn’t get back himself, but deprives him of his own self.”2
Who knows if we are still stirred, as we were stirred at Varigotti, reading the passages quoted in the small anthologies prepared for the Easter Triduum or for the three days together in September, who knows if we are still stirred as in the past! I reminded our university students several times this year–and I repeated it in Milan at the Beginning Day of the Year–of this poem by Par Lagerkvist, the author of the book Barabbas, which I like so much, because it sums up, as it were, the human attitude we embraced in the first ten years of our history: “My friend is a stranger, someone I do not know./ A stranger far, far away / For his sake my heart is full of disquiet / Because he is not with me... / Who are you who so fill my heart with your absence? / Who fill the entire world with your absence?”3 I was reflecting this morning: “Who can say if this question is true? If it was possible for an atheist who was searching to come up with such an expression, what about me? After their meeting, when God was going away, Moses asked Him, “Let me see your face.”4 The same question should echo in me, too.
First of all, I wanted to say that it’s all too probable that the situation in which we find ourselves will make our words, the words we speak, intellectual or intentional. Not that our heart is far from these words, but certainly it’s as if what the words are saying were far from the heart–not a presence. You have grown up, and while you have secured a human ability in your professions, there is the possibility of drifting away from Christ (in contrast with the emotion of all those years ago and, above all, certain circumstances of all those years ago). There is a kind of drifting away from Christ, except in particular moments. What I mean is that there is a drifting away from Christ except when we set ourselves to pray, a drifting away from Christ when, for example, you do something in His name, or in the name of the Church, or in the name of the Movement. It is as if Christ were far from our heart. With the old poet of the Italian Risorgimento, we could say, “Busy with other business.”5 Our heart is, as it were, isolated or, rather, Christ remains isolated from the heart, except in particular circumstances like prayer, commitment, when there is a meeting, or School of Community to be led, etc.
This distancing of Christ from the heart, apart from certain moments in which His presence seems to be at work, generates another distancing, which reveals itself in an ultimate embarrassment amongst us–I am speaking of husbands and wives, too–in an ultimate mutual embarrassment. The absence of knowledge of Christ (knowledge in the Biblical sense–knowledge as familiarity, as concord, as assimilation, as presence in the heart), the distancing of Christ from the heart distances the ultimate aspect of my heart from the ultimate aspect of your heart, except in everyday actions (keeping house, looking after the children, etc.). There is a relationship, no doubt about it; there is the mutual relationship, but only in operation, in tasks, in common actions in which you find yourselves. But when you find yourselves in common action, this tends, gradually, to obscure the horizon of your eyes and of your feelings.
It is certainly true that everything we have received in life, as we grow up, settles down and works; it works, and is not fruitless. I am speaking in this way, thanks to an impression I have of myself, as I recall that the reason I am here is firstly the same reason for which my old students are here, and that I am looking for the same thing they are looking for, and that’s why there are many priests here, too, as I hinted yesterday evening, (it is a touching aspect, perhaps the most touching aspect of our meeting, because they have never been with us with the simple truth with which they are here now). In short, we are all really men searching for their destiny and men who have been warned, struck, met by their destiny. This defines us; this is what gives us consistence.
I began with a consideration regarding myself and my trembling, the embarrassment I feel as I begin this talk today, because I feel as though I am stripped of everything I have to do day after day, and have to do among you, and feel in myself, after a long time, more than at other times, this equivocal “growing up.” For what we have received settles down in such a way that it bears fruit, but the heart, precisely the heart, in the literal sense of the word, seems to share in my embarrassment this morning. It seems to be embarrassed with Christ, as if there were no longer this familiarity with Christ that made itself felt, albeit with the sentimentality typical of the age, in a particular time of our life. There is an embarrassment that is His being distant, like a non-presence, a not being decisive for the heart. In actions no, in these it can be decisive (let’s go to Church, let’s build the Movement, let’s say Compline, let’s do School of Community, let’s go and do some charitable work, let’s go to organize groups here and there, and let’s throw ourselves into politics). In activities, it’s not lacking; it can be decisive for so many activities, but what about the heart? In the heart, no! Because the heart is how you look at your children, how you look at your wife or your husband, how you look at someone passing you on the street, how you look at the people in the community or your colleagues at work, and, above all, how you get up in the morning. This distancing explains another distancing, which reveals itself in an ultimate embarrassment in our relationships, in the way we look at each other, because it is only our brother Christ who can make us really brothers–brothers!
If we think that the value, the consistency and the value of our life lie in the responsibility for this nearness of Christ and therefore for this nearness amongst men, for this nearness amongst us, then we have to understand that the friendship and the companionship we mean to live are a means for not suspending or leaving suspended our initiative in this sense. My relationship with God is what can support life as a work that build the world, as something true. But the first fruit that this relationship can give is that of creating a companionship, a companionship between those who mean to live that work and realize it. Our companionship means not to let time pass without our life asking, seeking, wanting the relationship with God present and without our life wanting or accepting that companionship, without which not even the image of His presence would be true.
I am not sure that I have managed to express clearly the impression, though a little confused, that was dominating me, disturbing me this morning. What I called “the ambiguity of growing up” is really a becoming aware from which we have to start off. I don’t believe that it is a characteristic, a statistically normal characteristic, that growing up has made us more familiar with Christ, has made that “great absence” more of a presence, has given the answer to the question with which we heard the proposal 25 years ago. I don’t think so. Paradoxically, Christ is the motive for which we live a form of life that we would never have lived–and yet He is far from our heart! So we are snared or implicated in a companionship we would certainly never have chosen, or in any case would not have had, like the one we have now. Yet growing up produces embarrassment and distancing among us.
Now, to move on to the only thing I really want to insist on this morning, I will say that apart from a certain distraction that can quite easily cloud over the root of the question, it is very, very difficult for growing up not to lead to demoralization. I don’t mean the works; I am speaking of the heart, not about works. Certainly, we will see that the works suffer as a consequence; they cannot become works that truly challenge time, or have a vigorous tenacity in time, that vigorous tenacity that the Liturgy uses to define God, and therefore the real lasting quality, the real consistency of things. This cultural dignity, this vigorous tenacity in time depends on the heart. So the problem is really a problem of our heart–the source of feelings, of thoughts, of imagination, and, ultimately, of judgments, of decisions, of effective energy.
Not in works, but in the heart, there is an ultimate demoralization. “De-moralization.” In the School of Community this year, the meaning of this term proves quite interesting–if morality is tending to something greater than us, then demoralization means the absence of this tension.6 I repeat that, in theory and even in works–not falsely, but truthfully–this tension reawakens, but it is not ultimately in the heart, because what is ultimately in the heart is not blocked or suspended by times and conditions; even this can forget itself, but it is a forgetfulness that lets it live all the same. Just as the “I” cannot suspend its life, so too, when the heart is moral, when it is not demoralized, that tension towards the “More,” towards something more, seems never to fail. It is like your motherly and fatherly presence for your children. He seems not to be thinking of you while he is playing, but if you go away he realizes it at once and stops playing.
So I wanted to say that we undergo a demoralization that is characteristic of growing up. Our companionship must first of all make us fight against this demoralization; it should be our main weapon against this demoralization, unlike our situation in the Movement (because our belonging to the Movement leaves us no respite on things to do or on commitments to have or on schedules or prospects to keep in mind). This companionship of ours must go deeper, it must touch our selves, our heart. Paradoxically, this is a responsibility that we cannot unload onto the companionship. The heart is the only thing in which we are not partners, so there is no organizational chart in which each person has his role. If you are on a team in which each one has his role, then if each one plays his part things go well. It’s like that in the Movement, in the Movement’s activities, but not for the person! So our companionship must be rather strange. It’s a companionship upon which you cannot unload anything.
I was quoted this poem by Bosquet: “For I was two before being one: / being one means to suffer [I was two, father and mother, before being one]. / For I was three before being one: / being one means to die [father mother and son; but when a son becomes a person, becomes mature, adult, in other words, becomes himself alone, he has to decide his destiny and his road himself] / For I was thousands before being one: / being one, after death, is to be God. / For–I was forgetting–I was zero before being one, / happy and free. / For–I was forgetting–before being one / I was wheat, river, / divided, very numerous, / bird, cloud [before being one I was nothing, in other words, I was the whole heap of things that biologically were to generate the lump that I actually am]: / being one / [now] is to feel oneself too responsible.”7# In other words, first there were the father and the mother, first there were the priest and the Diaconia, first we were together in the community or in the Diaconia. And this being myself, there, was Purgatory. First we were nothing and everything; but at a certain point, being one, being myself, has to become “unbearably responsible.” I read this poem because it seemed meaningful in this sense. In this companionship of ours, this has to happen. It is a strange companionship in which you cannot unload anything, because it’s up to you. What is up to you? What is the opposite of demoralization? The opposite of demoralization, in a word, is hope.
Immediately, hope is hope in yourself, hope in your own destiny, hope in your own end. And it doesn’t exist in the world; it’s only where God has spoken to man that this hope exists. This is why Péguy has God say, in The Portal of the Mystery of Hope, “The faith that I love best, says God, is hope.”8 Now, the word that defines the content of this hope is the one the Angel Gabriel said to Our Lady: “Nothing is impossible for God.”9 I think that says it all. The new man that Christ came into the world to arouse is the man for whom this affirmation is the heart of his life. “Nothing is impossible for God”–where God is not the “God” of our thoughts, but the true God, the living God; in other words, the one who became man, that is, Christ.
“Nothing is impossible for God.” This is what we can find in that great soul of the Old Testament. Let’s read that wonderful verse 14 of Genesis, Chapter 18: “Is anything impossible for God?” Astonishing to think that when God asked Abram this, He had in mind already what He would say many centuries later to Our Lady through the Angel: “Nothing is impossible for God”! So this phrase lies at the beginning of the true history of mankind, at the beginning of the great prophecy that was the people of Israel, at the beginning of the new people, the new world, the Angel’s declaration to Our Lady, at the beginning of the rise of the new man, at the beginning of the prospect and the move of the new man, in Matthew, Chapter 19. After the rich young man had turned down Jesus’ invitation (“Sell all you have and come with me”), “he went away sad because he had many possessions;”10 he was too attached to what he possessed; Jesus begins to yell at the rich. But, in the end, it wasn’t a matter of money, so much so that on hearing Him say, “It’s easier for a camel to pass though the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven,” the Apostles asked, “So who can enter the kingdom of heaven? Who can be saved?” They were poor people; they had left behind what little they had. Jesus replied, “For you it is impossible, but for God nothing is impossible.”11 How can we live the reality of our existence and the world with such detachment–because this is what is meant by being poor–that marks the judgment and the manipulation of things in the light of their ultimate function? In other words, how can one live in function of the Kingdom of God? Jesus had explained it earlier when speaking of marriage. How can you live marriage in function of the Kingdom of God? To make matters worse, He began to speak of virginity. How can you live in this world without a woman, in function of the Kingdom of God? It’s the same thing, the same problem. How can you live in function of the Kingdom of God? “For you it is impossible, but for God nothing is impossible.” For God nothing is impossible. This is why Péguy, in the first pages of his play, identifies hope with the figure of the child, with the poor in spirit–as the Lord Himself did–with the figure of the man who hopes.12 In order to hope, you need poverty of spirit, you have to be children, because hope has as its total motive the support of something else, the support of the living God become a presence, become our heart.
It’s impossible for this demoralization of growing up not to happen, so if it doesn’t happen it is a sign that our moral sensitivity is dulled. In place of this demoralization that comes with growing up, not in the banal sense of the word, but as regards that familiarity with God that constitutes man’s life, the essence of his vocation (“We have received the Spirit in whom we say, ‘Abba,’ Father”13), our companionship has to offer us help so that, in time and space, our life might bring hope, and be defined by hope. Hope is a dominant idea, a feeling, if you like, that dominates all the others, that penetrates all the others and qualifies all the others. “For God nothing is impossible,” not, I repeat, to the God of our thoughts, but to the God who became man, to the living God who has become a presence among us. This is why we ought to read St. Paul’s apology of Abraham in the Letter to the Romans, Chapter 4:18-25 (that is our model, the figure that every one of us has to imitate) and the Letter to the Hebrews, the whole of Chapter 11.
How childlike, how poor in spirit was Ephraem the Syrian, that great master of the spirit, that great figure of the first Christian centuries. What a childlike soul he revealed when he wrote this prayer, the prayer of the adult, the old man: “See, my life is declining day after day and my sins are on the increase. O Lord, God of souls and bodies, You know my weakness. Grant me, Lord, Your strength, support me in my misery…. O Lord, do not despise my prayer… and let you kindness preserve me to the end.”14
“Day after day my sins are on the increase;” this is the obvious, just origin–just in the sense that it explains, it justifies demoralization. But it is as if we need something absolutely different from a “human reasonability” to happen, so that you no longer count on yourself, you no longer put your trust in what you do, and the judgment of why life is worth living is not deduced by anyone from his own plans. Now, this is the strange root I called “heart,” and the nearness of Christ to our heart, this presence of Christ in our heart is what must produce the deep change in our subject; then, strange to say, our plans, our operations, our commitments acquire an energy, a capacity for consistency, a usefulness that we would never have expected.
When a dear friend of ours, a monk at the Cascinazza monastery, sent us the medieval prayer, which was then distributed (at least many people in Milan got it), perhaps he never thought he was doing something that would be useful for so many. Why was it useful for so many? Why is it so impossible or so rare for us to be able to find an example of a heart like that and to come across an expression of this new man that we all aspire to, that we are all longing for? We need this poverty of spirit, or this newness of heart, more than anything else. The drawing away we spoke of before is not only from Christ, but also from your wife, in the end, because drawing away from Christ is an embarrassment with all men and even with yourself. You go back to being “two.” If we don’t live that responsibility, as Bosquet says, we go back to being two, or three, or a thousand, or to zero. The prayer says, “My Father, I pray you, do with me what you will. I am in misery, Lord, you know it. Save me as you like, so no one can harm me when in the depth of my heart I believe in you. All my energy seems to run away; You are my salvation. I am blind and I look for you. I have fallen; lift me up. Your hand made me. I don’t pray to anyone but you. My Father, I pray you: do with me what you will. I am nothing without You; do with me what you will.”15 The example that a cloistered monk was for the life of the Christian people was at the level of this simplicity. But I want to say, too, that it is not a sentimental discourse or a matter of character or temperament. It is the indication of a direction without which you never find yourself and cannot really contribute to building a new world.
Perhaps what a university student wrote to me can help us understand this better: “At times, it is as if no one recognizes the Lord, because all their heads are bent over their own and other people’s mistakes, on their own plans and problems. It seems too much of an effort to lift up your eyes from yourself to that Presence. In this way, Christ cannot truly move anything in us; we give Him no glory. We think of Christ and do things in His name, but we don’t recognize the risen Lord, victorious and present.” I have never found in sixty years a more synthetic and precise expression than this of the mortal sickness the Christian people is suffering from and, more particularly, that afflicts the people who would like to live Christianity, like people in the Movement. It is a synthetic expression even in the sense that it is quite simple. So I’ll read it again, because this morning I wanted only to say this, to declare that the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation wants only to generate this kind of awareness, nothing more, because then we shall be sure that something new is happening in the world. “At times, it is as if no one recognizes the Lord, because all their heads are bent over their own and other people’s mistakes, on their own plans and problems. It seems too much of an effort to lift up your eyes from yourself to that Presence. In this way Christ cannot truly move anything in us; we give Him no glory. We think of Christ and do things in His name, but we don’t recognize the risen Lord, victorious and present.”
For some years now, I have used a comparison that re-proposes this awareness as an image. I believe that we really have to take literally what Christ said: “If you do not become like little children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”16 When does a child wholly express himself, when is he truly and wholly himself, if not in the instant in which, in a situation of calm, in a moment of joy, in adverse or painful circumstances, he looks at his mother and there is a fraction of time in which he seems to forget everything, in which what fills his face, what fills his person–in other words, his consistency–is the presence of that woman or that man, his father? What characterizes a child is that his consistency is the presence of another, an adult, a woman or a man–all his consistency is there.
In medieval prayer or in the prayer of the great Ephraem the Syrian, everything boils down to having a childlike heart. And having a childlike heart means lifting your eyes up from your own problems, from your own plans, from your defects, from other people’s defects, to look at the risen Christ. “Lift up your eyes from yourself to that Presence.” It is as if we need a wind to come and take away everything we are, so that our heart become free again or, rather, become free–keep living in the flesh, going wrong like before (“Our sins are on the increase day by day”, as St. Ephraem said). But it is as if something else has come into the world. A new man has come into the world, and with Him a new road. “See, a road has opened in the desert, don’t you see it?”17 In the desert of the world a road opens up, the possibility of works, but first of one work. “Works” are the expression of humanity; work is a new humanity, a new human companionship.
Without this simplicity, without this poverty, if we are unable to raise our eyes up from ourselves to that Presence, then a companionship that can rid itself of that ultimate embarrassment, that makes it a true journey, is impossible. In other words, if for the people in a companionship destiny is not all, then a companionship that be truly useful for the journey to destiny is impossible. But destiny has become one, a man like me, who died and rose, and the event of that Resurrection goes on in the world and vibrates in me. I have to lift my eyes up from myself to that Presence, to the Presence of the risen Christ.
I want now to remind you of what John Paul II said at Easter, I want to read two or three passages, and then leave you to meditate on some Bible passages. The Pope says, “[First ] right from the start there is a struggle between life and death. The battle is raging in the world between good and evil. Today the scales are rising on one side–Life is winning; the Good is winning. Christ crucified has risen from the tomb. He has moved the scales in favour of Life. He has grafted life once more in the soil of human souls. Death has [now] its limits. Christ has opened a great hope.… [This is the declaration, but in what situation are we living?] The years and the centuries pass. It is 1982. The Paschal victim goes on being like the vine grafted in the soil of mankind. The struggle between good and evil goes on in the world. Life and death, sin and grace are in combat. It is 1982. We must think with concern about where the world of our times is going. Since the structures of sin have sunk their roots deep into the humanity of our times, as a huge network of evil, they seem to obscure every horizon of Good.... The seem to threaten man and the earth with destruction.… [But] even if in the history of man, of individuals, of families, of society and even of the whole of mankind evil were to have developed, out of all proportion, obscuring the horizon of good, it will not overcome you! The Risen Christ dies no longer. Even if in the history of mankind… evil should gain in strength, even though humanly return to the world were not to be seen, in which man lives in peace and justice, to the world of social love, even if humanly we cannot see the passage, even if the powers of darkness and the forces of evil, You, Paschal Victim! Spotless Lamb! Redeemer! Have already gained the victory! Your Passover is [this] passage! You have made it our victory!… The mystery of the Resurrection goes on in the hearts of the crowds–in the hearts of the countless crowds… The Paschal Mystery of Reconciliation remains in the depths of the world of man. And no one will take it away.”18
We have to apply this literally to ourselves, because the word is is nothing but an enlarged projection–so we look at it with more terrified eyes–of what is in us. But the paschal Mystery of reconciliation goes on in the world of men, even in the depths of our evil, and no one will ever tear it out.
“Lift up your eyes to that Presence.” In other words, liturgically, we could say, “Living His memory.” I just wanted to recall that the question of our whole history, Christian history, our history as Movement, has reached its summit, where it is forced to simplify itself totally. The Lord has put us together and we have accepted being together precisely so that this simplicity may happen, this ultimate simplification, this fulfillment be realized. We have come together so that this simplicity happen in us. On one hand, we need a greater awareness of our sin, which, as “structures of evil,” the Pope says, branches out in us (it is this unparalleled nastiness that defines, in the sense of finishing, or doing away with, our days); on the other hand, we need to have more certainty, more security, the certainty and the security that all this evil that is in me has been defeated–defeated–by a presence. As for a child, wherever he is, his mother’s or his father’s presence is the security that everything will work out for the good.

During the meditation this morning, I want you to re-read the prophecy of the man whom Christ came to meet, that is to say the prophecy that each of us is. I would like you to go and read Isaiah, Chapter 38, the Canticle of Hezekiah,19 the whole of Chapter 41 and then Chapter 55, because I think that it expresses the spirit or the feeling that we are called to recuperate now in a mature way (“recuperate” because it is the spirit we had as children, “in a mature way” because we have grown up); we are called to recuperate it in life, so that a new life might happen in us and might be the source of a new presence of humanity, the source of a new companionship and a source of new works. I want you to read these three passages from Isaiah, which are among the finest in the whole Bible, so as to understand and appreciate more easily, (this prophecy was to make it easier for us to grasp what Christ bought us) right at the psychological level, the new attitude that needs to develop in us, of sensitivity to our evil, but a sensitivity and a pain that are immediately overcome by the certainty–full of gratitude, full of gladness and full of hope for the future, therefore all potentially fertile–and by the thought of Christ’s presence.
May Christ become a presence in our hearts, at the root of all that our person and our being expresses. I believe that the change we all have to aspire to is this. It is a change not in the things we do, not in the things we shouldn’t do, but of the heart. Our companionship will be only for this, it will aim only at this. It is true also that you cannot stay in a companionship that helps in this unless you want it, that is to say, unless in some way you prefer this simplicity, if this poverty of spirit or this presence of Christ as the thing most desired is not already present. If it is not already present and dominant, then there is something else dominating our hearts, and it is impossible for us to join a companionship of this kind. We go back to a companionship like the one we have always had. We must therefore not miss this chance, this summit, this giddying chance that the Lord has given us.
Monsignor Cox, the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family created by John Paul II, went to Turin to speak at a meeting organized by our families. Some of those present wrote to me that when one of us asked what impressions he had formed of our cultural centers he had seen, he replied that in Italy he had come across a very individualistic and formalistic Church, with many pastors detached from people and their experiences, and this had put him off. When he met the reality of CL, he was very pleased, because he saw people who were open, living according to the faith inside the world, in the various situations. He thinks that CL has a very interesting and original method because, by living the Christian community, it is able to generate instruments and structures of presence in society that are not identified with the community or the Movement. And so they are for everyone, but at the same time are not afraid to declare their own origin and identity, and he sees this as very original and very important. This observation on the part of Msgr. Cox, quite right and centered on the nature of the Movement, along with the historical importance our experience enjoys, as the Church has acknowledged, reveals once again and in an inevitable way that it is a problem of persons. The problem is that the persons who live this experience do so seriously. To live it seriously does not mean to stop being sinners, but to be sincere. This sincerity is in the faith, and faith is acknowledging that God has become man and has risen for us, has already won on our behalf, and that this Man who has won is present. But He is not present unless He penetrates our hearts. If He penetrates our hearts, then He is the most immediate content of our eyes; our eyes are no longer slaves to what we are or what the others are, or to the circumstances. It is like a child looking at his mother. Our hearts have to be like this. Go and read Psalm 131.20 I would like us all to learn this little psalm by heart, because it has to become like a program for our journey, as persons and as Fraternity.
I am afraid I have not said what I wanted to say as briefly as I intended. Finding myself all of a sudden on the same level as those who were in the school benches when I was teaching so many years ago, I wanted to communicate only one thing, and the word that says it best is “hope.” “Hope is the faith that God likes most,”21 as Péguy said, because hope is happiness in looking at life that a child has when he notices his mother is there and in the first instant he looks at her; it is the happiness with which each of us was called to look at and tackle the world in the simple certitude that everything is already fulfilled, because Christ has risen and the risen Christ is in him. This is the companionship that makes possible our companionship, just as the distancing of Christ from our life as adults is the ultimate root of the embarrassment that we have in our relationships, even in our families, and between husband and wife.
Please keep recollected in silence now; each of you say the Angelus alone in the meantime, because this is a practice that we cannot forget, a practice that forces us to start over and over, to recuperate our memory.
This morning, I simply wanted to say where the heart of the matter is, because, I repeat, without this heart, it will be hard for the Fraternities to live, to stay together. Do you know why the Movement started? It started because there were some “youngsters.” We have to become youngsters again so as to live the Fraternity, otherwise it is impossible for it to happen. But this becoming youngsters again at the age of forty, fifty or sixty is really the summit of life, and the source of that youth that makes action possible, makes creativity possible–it is the source of fertility.
1 John Paul II, Homily, Pastoral Visit to the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Bahamas, January 26, 1979.
2 Karol Wojtyla, Address on the Feast of St. Stephen, December 26, 1976.
3 P. Lagerkvist, Evening Land (Aftonland), (W. H. Auden & L. Sjoberg, trans.). Detroit: Wayne State University Press (1975), p. 119.
4 Cf. Ex 33:18.
5 G. Giusti, Sant’Ambrogio, in Poesie, Milano: Garzanti (1945), p. 250.
6 Cf. L Giussani, Moralità: Memoria e desiderio (Morality: Memory and Desire) in Alla ricerca del volto umano, Milano: Rizzoli (1995), pp. 231-232.
7 A. Bosquet, “ Etre un,” in Le livre du doute et de la grâce. Paris: Gallimard, 1977, p. 159 (Stephen Lewis, Jr., trans.).
8 Charles Péguy, The Portal of the Mystery of Hope (D. L. Schindler, Jr., trans.), Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans (1996), p. 3.
9 Lk 1:37.
10 Cf. Mt 19:21-22.
11 Cf. Mt 19:23-26.
12 Cf. Péguy, The Portal of the Mystery of Hope, op. cit., pp. 7-10.
13 Cf. Gal 4:6.
14 Saint Ephrem the Syrian, Prayer in old age.
15 Cf. Pater mi in Canti, Cooperativa Editoriale Nuovo Mondo, Milan, 2002, p. 50.
16 Mt 18:3.
17 Cf. Is 43:19.
18 Pope John Paul II, Urbi et Orbi Address, April 11, 1982.
19 Cf. Is 38:9-20.
20 “O Lord, my heart is not lifted up, / my eyes are not raised too high; / I do not occupy myself with things / too great and too marvelous for me. / But I have calmed and quieted my soul, / like a weaned child with its mother; / my soul is like the weaned child that is with me. / O Israel, hope in the Lord / from this time on and forevermore.”
21 See note 8.

The assembly and the synthesis of these Spiritual Exercises are published in Fr. Giussani’s book, The Work of the Movement. The Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, published by Società Cooperativa Editoriale Milan: Nuovo Mondo, November 2005.