Academic journal article Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture

Luigi Giussani on the Notion of Christian Friendship

Academic journal article Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture

Luigi Giussani on the Notion of Christian Friendship

Article excerpt

Preamble

FR. LUIGI GIUSSANI (1922-2005) was a highly influential Catholic figure and founder of Communion and Liberation, a movement dedicated to Catholic renewal with increasing prominence outside Italy. (1) Giussani is not typically regarded by scholars as a professional theologian, which is perhaps unsurprising considering the practical demands imposed on him by his lifelong dedication to teaching and the guidance of Communion and Liberation. (2) On the other hand, Giussani always engaged in these activities by appealing to the intelligence of his interlocutors. Motivated by the advance of secularism in Italy and the problem of younger generations leaving the Church, Giussani wrote extensively beginning in the 1950s, proffering an anthropological approach to religious belief and practice in face of the challenges of modernity. (3) More precisely, Giussani built on the presupposition that the human person is intrinsically structured to receive and to be fulfilled by the content of Revelation, even before it is known. Rather than demonstrate this claim, he equipped his young interlocutors with a method by which to judge and appropriate doctrinal propositions, encouraging them to turn religious propositions into hypotheses and then to test them against the needs and evidences of the heart. But while attempting to render old things in a new way, Giussani treated many different items under the same category, often using the same word for different concepts in a manner that suggested imprecision in the use of terms. Today, this lack of precision presents his readers with a burden of ambiguity. (4) It is at this juncture that I will seek greater order and clarity in his writings by using the tools of philosophy, in the hope of bringing his important insights about Christ and community into sharper focus.

Introduction

This article takes up Giussani's account of friendship. It draws principally from a text entitled "Tu" (o dell'amicizia)--a compendium of transcripts recording Giussani's talks on the theme of friendship. The conferences were delivered between 1990 and 1991 for the women's branch of the Memores Domini Lay Association (an arm of the Communion and Liberation movement). (5) "Tu" (o dell'amicizia) is the first volume in a series of similarly styled conferences known as Quasi Tischreden. The dialogical structure of these talks, built on the method of question and answer, was modelled after Martin Luther's Tischreden (Table Talks), which comprise conversations Luther held with his students and colleagues at the dinner table, furiously recorded as he spoke and later published as excerpts. (6)

While pastoral in scope, "Tu" (o dell'amicizia) is a rich theological text, forged from traditional Christian sources and intended to answer questions for his audience concerning what constitutes a true friendship. Giussani builds into his reply a description of Christianity as a living tradition that has answers to life's problems and makes possible the ideal of fullness. In offering this reply, Giussani targets three worries: (1) the reduction of a living, breathing tradition to the observation of moral precepts, (2) the tendency of academic theology to overlook the questions that arise in ordinary life, and (3) the secularist thesis that the aspiration to holiness should be abandoned because it forestalls fulfillment until the next life. Giussani also addresses a range of pastoral issues, from institutional concerns touching on fraternal life in community (e.g., the challenges that are entailed in living with individuals who are not gathered on the basis of compatibility), (7) and the need to promote the flourishing of religious life throughout modern Italy, to reflecting on the political implications of pluralism, tolerance, and love of neighbor in the life of an organized society. The text's purport is pragmatic, not theoretical, displaying the author's attempt to grapple with problems as encountered in life experience. …

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