“Through Father Giussani,” Benedict XVI declared, “the Holy Spirit … raised in the Church a Movement, yours, that would witness to the beauty of being Christian in an age when the opinion was spreading that Christianity is a difficult and oppressive way to live. Father Giussani then committed himself to awaken in youth the love for Christ, ‘Way, Truth and Life,’ repeating that only he is the way toward the fulfillment of the deepest desires of the human heart, and that Christ does not save us regardless of our humanity, but through it” (Address to the members of CL, March 24, 2007).
That “gift of the Spirit given to a person in a specific historical context, so that the person may begin an experience of faith that can be useful in some way to the Church’s life” is called “charism.” A charism, Father Giussani emphasized, has an “essential characteristic: it makes the Christian message handed down by apostolic tradition more convincing, more persuasive, and more ‘approchable.’ A charism is a final point of arrival for the Incarnation, that is, a particular way in which the fact of Jesus Christ, the God-man, reaches me, and through me can reach others.”
We can sum up the essence of CL’s charism in three factors:
1) the proclamation that God has become man (and the wonder, reasonableness, and enthusiasm of this announcement): “The Word was made flesh and dwells among us”;
2) the affirmation that this man, Jesus of Nazareth, dead and risen, is an event present in a sign of communion, that is, of the unity of a people, guided by a living person – the Pope, in the final analysis;
3) only within the life of the Church (which is Christ’s presence in the world) can man be more truly a man. Therefore, it is from His presence that morality and a passion for man’s salvation (mission) spring forth with certainty.
Father Giussani explained that a charism “begets a social factor, not as a project, but as a movement of people who are changed by an encounter, which tends to make the world, the areas and the circumstances they encounter, more human. Living the memory of Christ inevitably tends to beget a presence in society, apart from any planned outcome.” The fact that the Movement arose and grew without any plan or program was pointed out by Father Giussani in his letter to John Paul II on the fiftieth anniversary of CL: “Not only did I never intend to ‘found’ anything, but I maintain that the genius of the movement that I saw being born is that of having felt the urgency to proclaim the need to return to Christianity’s essential elements, that is, the passion for the Christian fact as such, in its original elements, and nothing more.”
And John Paul II, in his letter to Father Giussani on the twentieth anniversary of the Fraternity of CL, declared, “As I go back in memory over the life and works of the Fraternity and the Movement, the first aspect that strikes me is the commitment you have put into listening to the needs of today’s man... The Movement, therefore, has chosen and chooses to indicate not a road, but the road toward a solution to this existential drama. The road, as you have affirmed so many times, is Christ.”
In conclusion, we recall this witness of Professor Nikolaus Lobkowicz, founder of the Catholic University of Eichstätt, Germany: “This is perhaps the true secret of the charism of Father Giussani: he was able to communicate to us that the Judge of this world wants our good, that He is our brother and friend. It is not by chance that friendship is one of the virtues that the movement founded by Father Giussani exercises most joyfully.”