Ideal-Thinks He- Thou Alone Are True

Fr Giussani's letters to the first four students of Gioventù Studentesca (Young Student) who left for Brazil. It was 1962. "I beg you, my friends, to think of how many things depend on you; how many things for the future of us all."
Massima Camisasca

These letters were written by Fr Giussani to the first four "giessini" in Brazil: Franca, Italo, Lidia and Giancarlo. Recopied by one of them (this is why only a few phrases survive of some of them), they constitute not only an extremely significant document of that moment lived by GS, but a very clear expression of Fr Giussani's thought, of his concerns at that moment. One is tempted to stop and comment line by line and stress some points. But it would not be a happy choice, because it would replace the work that each one needs to do if he wants to enjoy the fruit of reading it. Let it suffice to note that the pivotal theme of these texts, written over a short period of time (five months), is that being comes before doing. The risk of stresses that were to bring division in the following years was already beginning to show itself. Striking, too, is Fr Giussani's great concern in indicating to these young people what is essential: the link with the person of Christ, above all through prayer; the dedication to the Kingdom of God, even through the sacrifice it asks for ("be in love with the Lord who has chosen you for starting off something that could produce great fruit for his Kingdom"); a boundless openness both towards each other and towards others ("have no pretensions, and don't pass judgement on anything"). It will serve to recall the history that preceded these texts. Right from the start of Gioventù Studentesca, Fr Giussani wanted in his work, and in the awareness of the young people a universal openness: "The Church's universal perspectives are the normal guidelines for the life of a Christian" was an expression of Pius XII that recurred again and again in Fr Giussani's talks and writings in the early years. It was necessary to replace the moral imperative that was dominating the whole of catholic education with an ideal perspective capable of moving young people. This was the first and basic concern of the founder of GS. But the young people needed to be directly and personally involved with the ideal proposed them. This, too, was a central principle of Fr Giussani's educative method. Hence the need to be on the look-out for the opportunities that chance (or Providence) would present. Piero Gheddo, a journalist and mission historian, observed, "I think that GS was the first Catholic movement in Italy to invite young people to leave for the missions". In 1960 Fr Giussani had met Mgr Aristide Pirovano of the Pontifical Mission Intitute, Bishop in Amazonia, who had come back to Italy that year, and through him Dr Marcello Candia, an outstanding Milanese industrialist who was planning to leave his firm to go to Brazil as a missionary. It was precisely Candia who introduced Fr Giussani to Sr Raffaella of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit of Lucca. She was Principal of a girls' Boarding School in Belo Horizonte. Though in the end no lasting agreement was made with her, the meeting proved to be the decisive link for the great leap. In early August 1960 Fr Giussani sailed from Genova for Brazil. The Bishop of Amazonia had taken part in the Convention "Living the dimensions of the World" and the plans for the journey had been made. The following year Fr Giussani repeated his trip in the summer. He travelled with Mgr Pirovano and the first provisions for Dr Candia's hospital. Meanwhile a new way had been opened in January 1961 by the leader of UEC, the Catholic Students' Union in Belo Horizonte, Marco Aurelio Velloso. While on a visit to Italy he had come to Milan with his parents and had paid a visit to GS. From July 16-23, 1961 three young men and three young women of GS took part in the convention of the Catholic Students' Union at Belo Horizonte in the Faculty of Veterinary Sciences: Alberto, diocesan president of the GIAC of Milan, Eugenia the president of GS, Giorgio the secretary general of GS, Gianni of GS, Anna Grazia, daughter of a wine producer who paid for the trip and Matilde. Fr Giussani joined them after visiting Macapà. With improvised translators, in the presence of two hundred girls, they organised a "three-days" like the "three-days" of Varigotti, in Sr Raffaella's school. This was the beginning of a systematic exchange between young people of GS and Brazil. So it was that in January 1962 Giancarlo, Italo, Lidia and Franca left "for Belo Horizonte to spend one year, staying at the Boarding school directed by Sr Raffaella". Italo took ill and came home, but the other three stayed until November 1962.


The experience of this year is an experiment for you: a long experiment, some will say; but, after all, ten months is not so much. It is an experiment for us, because these are the beginnings of something much greater.

I beg you, my friends, to think always of how many things depend on you; how many things in the future for every one of us. It is not important what you manage to do: what is decisive is what you manage to be.

What we want is only the Kingdom of God: for the Kingdom of God-from Christ onwards-only what we are is important, not what we manage to do.

This aridity in the results, this superficiality of the contact, this difficulty in communicating what you feel most in you will certainly make your work harder.

It will give you a feeling of loneliness and hardship that perhaps the girls will feel less. It will make it easier for you to feel nostalgia for a happier and more homely environment with your feelings. I beg you not to wonder at these difficulties, to treat them as obvious, and calmly to overcome them.

What is important is not what you girls manage to do with the ten or so who are following you.

What is important is the essential love with which you educate them. The more your effort lacks results, the more it will be the way to develop your Christian personality.

Remember the two great rules that build your work, which is the beginning of our work:

Abandonment to God-prayer-, trustful familiarity with Him who made sea sky and earth, the past and the present.

The simple familiarity among yourselves, the community you live with each other: have attention for the expression of this harmony among you. Do not be concerned about anything else but to come back "greater", more like the Lord, even though he asks you to imitate him in loneliness.


Dearest Friends,
Your reproaches are not really valid from my point of view. Very much of what others have written to you was in agreement with me. Expedit vobis ut ego vadam (It is for your good that I should go). I even telegraphed and wrote to Italo because I liked his last letter very much: and he is the… youngest. But let's not waste time. From the general view I have got, even from Lidia's letter of 6 inst. which I received half an hour ago, the most urgent points are:

Pay attention to the fundamental aim: a truer Christian stature for yourselves, i.e. more close to the Lord's image. What you are living is not the place and time of your "profession" in the Kingdom of God: this place and time are a moment in your "growth towards the stature of Christ". Every other consideration must be crucified and redeemed in this supreme event that must happen in you yourselves. The greatness of your life will depend on the breadth you give to your soul now: so pray God with me that what the Bible says of Solomon may come true in me and in you: Dedit ei Dominus latitudinem cordis quasi harena quae est in litore maris (The Lord gave him a heart as great as the sand on the shore of the sea"). It is of no consequence what you manage or don't manage to do: It is God who makes us leaders of peoples like Moses or lonely like Christ on the Cross. In this sense any discouragement, or rather any alarm that you give in to comes from the falsity of our vanity, or from our enslavement to the pressure of the circumstances. Fr Beduschi, one of the first missionaries in Africa, spent three years there in which he gave one baptism and died of blackwater fever. Remember, my friends, that God is true, and that reality is to love him. And that's all. In conclusion, all the difficulties, all the lack of response, all the disappointment at not being able, all the humiliation of going wrong is nothing else but a reminder of what is essential, God and his Christ.

The first instrument for your own growth, the growth of your Christian personality, is the community i.e. your community as a particle of our community at the origin. You are in formation now: so, according to the ideas of catholic education, the policy must be one and homogeneous. You have to follow the spirit and the flesh and bone of our community. Since you are far away it is only your life in common, both as soul (this, though, is obvious), and as exterior reference point, the systematic communion among you. Your sentimentalism will be controlled by reflection and by entreating the Lord, by prayer, as well as by "doing things". So I insist on the need for external contact amongst you (naturally with discretion as regards the environment: but discretion must have the demands of the environment as its limit, as well as interior prudence, evidently).

The second instrument for your formation will be the work in collaboration with Mother Raffaella.
And above all the preparation for teaching. Since from your letter it seems that Italo is having a hard time, I tell him not to get lost. You, Italo, have unexpected resources, so, if you haven't done so already, get on, with joy and passion, and learn the instrument that will make you useful there. If we don't have the taste for persevering, let's ask the Lord for it.
Secondly, the collaboration with the UEC. Help Sr Raffaella, body and soul, and I am happy that Fr Castanheda is there. However I ask you not to take the lead yourselves, to be very slow in introducing our methods as a form. I think, though, that the best criterion is to confront this concern of mine with those of Mother Raffaella.

I should have posted this letter three days ago, but my health, too, has let me down in the preparation for the Congress and I am finishing the letter from my bed. After the Congress we'll take up the matter again.
Greetings to Sr Raffaella. A fraternal embrace to you.


Allow me to stress some points which are obvious, for it is only re-meditation that makes the Word become flesh in us.
Be deeply rooted in love for the Kingdom of God, which happens not because of what you do, but through the offering of sacrifice. It is only the Cross that saves he world.

May this make you calm and joyful in whatever task you are assigned. ...So, even if you work doesn't go as you had dreamed, accept it happily; feel the kingdom of God, Brazil and the destiny of GS much more in never being discouraged, in adapting yourselves to everything, than in any other ability.

Just as you have to be faithful to our community and to the values and the directives given for your spiritual life and for educating your persons, so for the activity and behaviour with others and the environment the rule is a deep adaptation: Do not have any pretensions and don't pass a negative judgement on anything.

Be in love with the Lord who has chosen you to begin something that could be very fruitful for his Kingdom: and don't worry about anything except being there, obedient and willing.

Gratiam agimus propter magnam gloriam tuam (We give you thanks for your great glory).
And you, too, are a hem of that glory, not what you manage to do, but you yourselves, your offering.


Yesterday they had the "Sanremo Contest", and St Paul's words came to my mind, "Those who give so much effort for something that corrupts… I run, too, I strive, too, and I struggle, and not of a crown that is corruptible". And you came to my mind: You are running, too, and don't forget for what!

That sleepiness that comes from our original relationship with nothingness would have us get accustomed to anything, rendering vain the most noble of enterprises: don't get used to what you have created on your way. Keep the wound open, because it is a wound, a wound of the awareness of the mystery of Christ and of his Church (and of human happiness) ignored or contradicted; the wound of the adherence to another kind of life, other men, other situations;-the wound of faith and the wound of charity.

And don't forget what you are running for: don't substitute the mirage of an affirmation of your own personality, of your own "work", of your own results, your own satisfaction, your own point of view, your own stubbornness for love of Christ's Cross, i.e. for love of the Kingdom of God. Don't substitute the Mystery with your own measure.

So, as regards your life together there, be obedient,-don't have any pretensions, just obey. You must come back more "giants to run the race": because we need you to be like that. Brazil will be the easiest education for making you great in the spirit.


…free as regards prayers, but faithful in prayer. Don't be formalistic, but speak always to Jesus Christ.


I have to tell you that you are making possible a great thing and a great dream.
It is a sacrifice precisely because it is something great. And the sacrifice is the adaptation and the obedience. Jesus began to save the world by depending on Mary and Joseph, who certainly did not have the ideas of the kingdom of God that Jesus and his divine Father had.
The balance in keeping faithful to our values must be first of all interior, and in what you do, before being a matter of what you expect of the others. Here go carefully, and don't…

Just be, and for the moment don't preach too much. This is only a practice-run. You have not gone there to change Brazil. You have gone there in order to begin a service. Have deep understanding and forbearance with the others.


I insist in stressing the need for you to adapt to the environment-as regards the way and in the number of things to present.
The Lord became man and for thirty years he kept silent. And when he did speak he began from the needs most understood by most: what is important, i.e. the value must be the secret spring and the aim to which everything is to be directed.

Remember that first of all and above all is the charity of the adaptation, of the sharing, of not passing judgement-the death of ourselves.
And prepare yourselves day by day to live the only community made by the Lord, the Church-the simplest and most profound community, that as such has no need of any additions. True community, there where one tries to live it in dedication and in charity.