Wednesday, January 12, 2011

In the mystery of the incarnation, man and history The miracle we all await by Julian Carron

“That Christianity gives joy and breadth is also a thread that runs through my whole life. Ultimately someone who is always only in opposition could probably not endure life at all” (Light of the World, part 1 ). These words of Benedict XVI challenge us to ask ourselves what it means to be Christians today. Continuing to believe simply out of devotion, habit, or tradition, withdrawing into one’s shell, does not meet the challenge. Similarly, reacting strongly and going on the offensive in order to recover lost territory is insufficient; the Pope even says that it would be unendurable. Neither path—withdrawing from the world or opposing it—are capable of arousing interest in Christianity, because neither respects what will always be the canon of the Christian announcement: the Gospel. Jesus entered the world with a capacity to attract that fascinated the people of His time. As Péguy said, “He did not waste His years groaning and demanding explanations of the wickedness of the times. He cut through … making Christianity.” Christ introduced into history a human presence so fascinating that anyone who ran into it had to take it into consideration, had to reject it or accept it. No one was left indifferent.

Today we find ourselves before a “crisis of the human” that reveals itself as weariness of and lack of interest in reality and that involves all the spheres that touch the life of the people. It is a calamity for everyone that people do not risk engaging in life with their reason and freedom. And precisely in this moment the Church has before her a fascinating adventure, the same as the one at her origin: to witness that there is something able to reawaken and arouse true interest. My heart also waits in hope/turned toward light and life/for another miracle of spring.” All of us, like the poet Antonio Machado, await the miracle of spring in which we see the fulfillment of our life. And if someone will say, with the poet, that it is a dream, why do we wait for it? Because this expectant awaiting constitutes our deepest being, as Benedict XVI writes: “Man strives for eternal joy; he would like pleasure in the extreme, would like what is eternal” (Light of the World, part 6). But man can fall away, the world can try to undermine this desire for the infinite, minimizing it; it can even ridicule it, offering something that attracts for a short time but does not last, and in the end leaves people only more dissatisfied and skeptical. Now, the proof of the truth of what fascinates and reawakens an interest is that it has to last. But even the most beautiful things—we see it when one loves a person or when one undertakes a new work—pass away. The problem of life, then, is whether there is something that lasts. Christianity makes the claim—because its origin is not human, even if it can be seen in the faces of people who have encountered it—of bearing the one answer able to last in time and in eternity. But a reduced Christianity cannot do this. We know from experience that there is an abstract way of speaking of the faith that does not arouse the least interest. If Christianity is not respected in its nature, as it appeared in history, it cannot sink roots in the heart. Christianity is always put to the test before the desire of the heart, and cannot be free of it: Christ Himself chose to undergo this test. The fascinating aspect is that God, stripping Himself of His power, became man out of respect for the dignity and freedom of each person. Becoming flesh, it is as if He said to us, “Look and see whether living in contact with me, you find something interesting that makes your life fuller, greater, happier. What you are incapable of obtaining with your efforts, you can obtain if you follow Me.” It has been this way since the very beginning. When the first two disciples asked, “Where do you live?” He answered, “Come and see.” His simplicity is disarming. God entrusts Himself to the judgment of the first two who meet Him. Man cannot avoid continually examining what happens in terms of his fundamental needs.

Some might object that in Jesus’ time people saw the miracles, but that today is no longer the time for marvels. This is not so, because this experience continues to take place as on the first day: when you encounter people who reawaken in you such an interest and attraction that you are forced to deal with what has happened to you. As the Pope says, “God does not force Himself on us. […] His existence is an encounter that reaches down into man’s inmost depths…” (Light of the World, part 17). A few years ago a friend of mine went to study Arab in Cairo. He met a Muslim professor. The encounter could have gone according to each man’s stereotypes, but something unexpected happened: they became friends. The Muslim asked my friend why he was Christian, and the latter invited him to the Meeting of Rimini in Italy. Attracted by the encounter with a different human reality, the professor wanted to organize a Meeting in Cairo, involving many young Egyptians, Muslims and Christians.
Recently, in Moscow, I met people who until a short time before had had nothing to do with the faith. They discovered it encountering some Christians who had sparked their curiosity. Some were baptized in the Orthodox Church and became interested in Christianity—something they had never done before—through friends who lived it with intensity and fullness.
These are not stories from the past, but something that happens now, in the present.

In his recent visit to Spain, Benedict XVI proposed a dialogue between secularism and faith. How did he do so? Indicating a presence, a witness, Gaudì, who with the Sagrada Familia, “was capable of creating in this city a space of beauty, faith and hope, that leads men and women to the encounter with Him who is Truth and Beauty itself.” The Pope challenged all, making the gaze of Christ contemporary and indicating the new experience He introduces to life: anyone can become interested in it or reject it. When Benedict XVI calls us to conversion he is saying that to witness to Christ, to “become a transparent sign of Christ to the world.” (Papal Address at the Welcome Ceremony, Airport of Santiago de Compostela, November 6, 2010), we must enter upon a human journey to discover the pertinence of the faith to the needs of our life. Can any Catholics deem themselves exempt from the Pope’s call? I cannot.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Monday, August 17, 2009

"Open Christianity" by Fr Giussani (1960)

Yesterday at the School of Community I mentioned a short piece written by Fr Giussani back in 1960, which summed up his experience of teaching the Faith to that point.

The 'open' Christianity he talks about is a Christianity open to reality and the human desire for the infinite. And so, as he reminds us in this article, it is only by "recalling the structural needs of the human and Christian conscience we can stir that energy and determination from which alone is born conviction and then enthusiasm".

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Charity in Truth

The CL Secretariat issued this press release two days ago, upon the publication of the new encyclical Caritas in veritate:
We are grateful to the Holy Father that in his social encyclical he has again proposed the originality of the faith and the contribution that Christians can give to social life and development.

To us it seems critical that at the beginning of an encyclical dedicated to human affairs, the Pope, with great realism, is recalling everyone to something basic and evident, which, if denied, leads every human effort to become unjust to the point of violence: “Sometimes modern man is wrongly convinced that he is the sole author of himself, his life and society. This is a presumption that ... is a consequence ... of original sin. The Church’s wisdom has always pointed to the presence of original sin in social conditions and in the structure of society.”

Recent experience, in fact, teaches us that the claim of self-sufficiency and of being able to "eliminate the evil present in history by his own action alone has led man to confuse happiness and salvation with immanent forms of material prosperity and social action." On the contrary, the truth about ourselves is first of all “given”: "[Truth is not something that we produce; it is always found, or better, received.' This is why the Pope affirms that "[c]harity in truth ... is the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity... In Christ, charity in truth becomes the Face of his Person."

Benedict XVI recalls us to the fact (which, as current events show, is more and more often forgotten) that a "Christianity of charity without truth would be more or less interchangeable with a pool of good sentiments, helpful for social cohesion, but of little relevance. In other words, there would no longer be any real place for God in the world." Caritas in veritate asserts that the Church “does not have technical solutions to offer and does not claim to interfere in any way in politics,” but does have a mission to accomplish: proclaiming Christ as “the first and principal factor of development.” Along this path of witness we feel challenged to verify, within the context of daily life, the import of faith in Christ, as the One who places us in the best conditions for facing the myriad of problems in the economic, financial, social and political fields enumerated by the encyclical.

In the next issue of Traces, the monthly international magazine of the movement coming out next week, a booklet with the text of Caritas in veritate will be enclosed.

CL press office
Milan, July 8, 2009

Monday, June 29, 2009

The strength of the inner man

The life of Michael Jackson, and the avalanche of reporting around his death, reveal something about us. In this article, Jonah Goldberg passes stern judgement, not so much of Jackson but of the culture that produced him:

[H]is relatively early death wasn’t “tragic.” He was one of the richest people in the world. He spent his money on perpetual childhood and he was perpetually with children not his own.

Meanwhile, in the last ten days, we’ve seen or heard of remarkable people who’ve given their lives for freedom in Iran. We’ve heard of innocents killed because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. In the last decade, America has lost thousands of heroes in noble causes and thousands of innocent bystanders who were denied the simple joys of life through no fault of their own. Those deaths are tragic, and we’re hard pressed to think of more than a handful of names to put with the long line of the dead.

If anything, Michael Jackson’s life, not his death, was tragic….

I feel sympathy for Jackson’s family and friends who understandably mourn him. But I can’t bring myself to mourn him any more than I mourn the random dead I read about in the paper everyday. Indeed, I confess to mourning him less.

Every channel says this is a sad day for America. I agree. But not for the same reasons.

In response, this comment by Benedict XVI, on the occasion of the end of the Pauline Year, seems particularly relevant to our condition and the condition of our culture:

“Men are often empty inside and thus must grasp for promises and drugs, which end up adding to their inner sense of emptiness,” the Pope explained. “This inner emptiness, man’s inner weakness, is one of today’s great problems. The inner self—the heart’s perceptiveness, the capacity to see and understand the world and man from within, with the heart—must be strengthened. We need reason enlightened by the heart to learn to act in accordance to the truth in love. This cannot be done without an intimate relationship with God, without a life of prayer. We need to meet God, something which is given to us in the Sacraments. And we cannot speak to God in prayer if we do not let Him speak first, if we do not listen to him in the word he gave us.”

Monday, June 15, 2009

The pathway of reason and experience

"When I think about atheist friends, including my father, they seem to me like people who have no ear for music, or who have never been in love. It is not that (as they believe) they have rumbled the tremendous fraud of religion – prophets do that in every generation. Rather, these unbelievers are simply missing out on something that is not difficult to grasp. Perhaps it is too obvious to understand; obvious, as lovers feel it was obvious that they should have come together, or obvious as the final resolution of a fugue."

A. N. Wilson is a well-known British author, famously (or infamously) a 'convert' to atheism. In this article in the New Statesman, he describes his return to the Christian faith along the pathway of reason and experience.

H/T to Rick

Thank you for the Assembly

I thought I would take the opportunity to say thanks to everyone who participated in our Assembly at Anglesea last week, or helped to organise it. I think the weekend went very well, and that there was a great spirit of friendship amongst the CL community from Perth, Sydney, Melbourne and New Zealand. It was wonderful to hear teaching from Fr. Ambrogio and Fr. Lele, and refresh our attachment to our own destiny and to the wider CL movement.

I'd especially like to say thanks to Raffy for all her hard work organising the event. Although she couldn't make it in person, we all owe her a debt of gratitude.