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Luigi Giussani on the Notion of Christian Friendship

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Abstract

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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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). "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. 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), 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. The goal of this article is to elucidate Giussani's notion of friendship by determining what it asserts and entails according to the consistency of its internal logic and in the light of the worries to which it was responding. This presents me with the twofold task of having to interpret the explicit text of the author while bringing into view the implicit questions and worries that motivated his writing. The first issue that arises in interpreting the explicit text is...

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Examinant la nature et la valeur de l'amitie caracterisee par une relation d'affection reciproque et profonde et par le desir de partager des experiences, l'A. distingue plusieurs type d'amitie-compagnon en fonction de l'importance de la decouverte de soi dans la construction de l'intimite et dans la relation a autrui. Rejetant la distinction entre l'amitie-mirroir, definie par le rapport a l'autre dans lequel on se reflete soi-meme, et l'amitie-secrets, definie par le rapport a l'autre dans lequel on se revele a soi-meme, l'A. etablit les conditions premieres et terminales de l'amitie en termes de direction et d'interpretation de l'attachement pour autrui; ce qui permet de differencier l'amitie d'autres formes de relations personnelles
On February 24, 2005, the then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, personally represented the ailing Pope John Paul II at the funeral Mass for Monsignor Luigi Giussani; his homily would be discussed for months to come in the international press. Speaking for over fifteen minutes without as much as glancing at a text, he called attention to how "Fr. Giussani always kept the eyes of his life and of his heart fixed on Christ. In this way, he understood that Christianity is not an intellectual system, a packet of dogmas, a moralism; Christianity is rather an encounter, a love story; it is an event." The future Pope Benedict XVI asserted that this "love affair with Christ" was far from every superficial enthusiasm, from every vague romanticism. Really seeing Christ, he knew that to encounter Christ means to follow Christ. This encounter is a road, a journey, a journey that passes also . . . through the "valley of darkness." In the Gospel, we heard of the last darkness of Christ's suffering, of the apparent absence of God, when the world's Sun was eclipsed. He knew that to follow is to pass through a "valley of darkness," to take the way of the cross, and to live all the same in true joy. Cardinal Ratzinger had his reasons for alluding to a valley of darkness and we can very well guess at what they might be. Luigi Giussani was a very sensitive and gregarious individual, a true gentleman but one also fearless in publicly proclaiming what he knew to be of vital importance to society and the Church. During Italy's so-called years of lead (the period of social and political upheaval and terrorism stretching from the late 1960s to the early1980s) Giussani and the movement that he founded, Communion and Liberation, drew attacks, even physically violent ones, from many political groups, in particular groups from the left but also from the right and center. Painful as these attacks must have been for Father Giussani, his greatest trial, his experience of darkness, probably came from the criticism and misunderstandings from within the Church itself, and not only beginning with the period of contestation following 1968. A reader of the featured article, "Open Christianity," will quickly understand that Giussani's critiques of the Church, and in particular of its work among the young in Catholic Milan in the 1950s, would not have been easily accepted by the hierarchy and many other Catholics in those years in the world's largest diocese and beyond. Father Giussani held that he never set out to form a movement. In his address to Pope John Paul II at his meeting with the ecclesial movements and new communities on May 30, 1998, Giussani said that he simply saw a people grow before his eyes and what might easily have been one person's experience became instead a people as a new "protagonist" in history (as he put it). Father Giussani became well known in 1950s Milan with the birth and growth of Gioventù studentesca (or "Student Youth"), which I will discuss below, and through his experience with this movement his understanding of the problems of his diocese's work with youth became sharper. From a tiny group of high school students, GS, as it was called, quickly expanded into a lively influential movement by the early 1960s. By the end of the decade it almost disappeared: Giussani was asked to remove himself briefly from his diocese and from GS, he left his high school teaching post, and the advent of the student crisis in 1968 wrought havoc amongst student bodies. By 1970 the few students left in the movement boldly presented a Christian perspective in the midst of the university student turmoil in the Milanese universities, and the name Communion and Liberation (CL) was introduced to remind the world that true liberation was not brought about by revolution and upheaval but by the experience of communion. CL quickly spread to other university campuses in Italy and beyond and then into the adult world of work. In 1976, Father Giussani understood that simply taking a position against other positions in...
Article
In this article, I offer a brief account of some of Kierkegaard’s key concerns about friendship: its “preferential” nature and its being a form of self-love. Kierkegaard’s endorsement of the ancient idea of the friend as “second self” involves a common but misguided assumption: that friendship depends largely upon likeness between friends. This focus obscures a vitally important element, highlighted by the so-called “drawing” view of friendship. Once this is emphasized, we can see a significant aspect - though by no means all - of Kierkegaard’s worry as misplaced. However, the “drawing” view also enables us to begin to see what a “Kierkegaardian” friendship might look like.