“‘Dimension’ is the openness to the total reality accomplished by a human gesture,” wrote Father Giussani. “The dimensions are the most important methods of a gesture, those which measure the value of the gesture, those implementing its full potential. For a gesture to be complete in its dimensions it is not simply a matter of richness or fullness, but it is actually a matter of life or death for the gesture itself, for, without setting at least implicitly all its fundamental dimensions, the gesture is not just poor, but it even lacks truth, it is contradictory to its nature, it is unfair.”
In the pedagogy of the Movement, the dimensions of an authentic Christian experience (concrete experience, actually characterized by lived gestures) are: culture, charity, and mission (or catholicity).
a) Culture, political action, ecumenism
“Culture is the critical and methodical knowledge of an experience,” Father Giussani wrote.
The vibrant culture of CL originates from the desire to see how the Christian faith offers a more fruitful and comprehensive criteria for interpreting reality. With this purpose hundreds of cultural centers were born in Italy and abroad as well as dozens of independent schools (often promoted by cooperatives of parents); publishing houses have sprung up; editorial and journalistic activities have been realized; academic Institutes and Foundations have been promoted, as well as international conferences (such as the annual Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples in Rimini) which involved the most illustrious names in international culture and debated the most pressing and authentic issues of these times.
Naturally, from the cultural dimension the political dimension follows.
As a matter of fact, according to CL political action is one of the fields in which a Christian is called with greater responsibility and ideal generosity to test the coherent criteria that move his existence. It is not surprising, then, that from the ranks of the Movement various people have engaged at different levels in the political field, directly and under their own responsibility. Following the pattern laid down by the Social Doctrine of the Church, what they want to pursue is the defense of freedom for the Church and of the common good. The battles that involved the whole Movement, like those for freedom of education and for equality between state and non-state schools, or the more general one for the principle of subsidiarity, tend to achieve unity between cultural work and political action.
Finally, the concept of culture typical of CL coincides with the true meaning of the term ‘ecumenism.’ It does not consist in seeking the lowest common denominator among different experiences in order to justify a bland tolerance. On the contrary, it is the ability to embrace even the most distant and different experience because of the fact that having encountered the truth, by grace and not by one’s own merit, one is able to recognize any glimmer of truth and to enhance it.
b) Charity. Gratuitousness as law and works of charity
“When there’s something beautiful in us, we feel impelled to communicate it to others. When we see others who are worse off than us, we feel compelled to help them with something of our own. This need is so original, so natural, that is in us even before we are aware of it and we rightly call it the law of existence.
We do charitable work to satisfy this need. The more we live this need and this duty, the more we fulfill ourselves; giving to others gives us a sense of completeness of ourselves.
This is so true that if we cannot give, we feel diminished. Caring for others, communicating with others, takes us to the supreme, or better unique, duty of life, which is to fulfill ourselves, to be fulfilled.
We do charitable work to learn how to perform this duty.
But Christ has made us understand the deepest meaning of all this by revealing us the ultimate law of being and of life: charity. That is, the supreme law of our being is sharing in the life of others, is sharing one’s self. Only Jesus Christ tells us all this because He knows what everything is, who God is from whom we are born, what the Being is. I can thoroughly explain the word ‘charity’ when I think about the fact that the Son of God, out of love for us, did not send us his wealth, as he could have done, changing our situation completely, but He became poor like us, He ‘shared’ our nothingness. We do charitable work to learn to live like Christ.”
The proposal of charitable work is born from these reasons.
The first giessini [high school students who follow the experience of CL] used to go to an area on the outskirts of Milan, called the “Bassa,” to keep company to the kids of extremely poor families. Today, very different forms of charitable work are proposed: helping in an oratory; visiting the elderly in nursing homes; helping children in need with their studies; sharing difficult situations such as mental illness or terminal stages of incurable diseases; helping to find a job and so on. Again, as with the cultural dimension, operational developments, ranging from the simplest to the most complex, are linked to the free initiative and choice of commitment of the members of CL and do not involve the Movement as such.
c) Mission. Personal witness, anytime, anywhere
“The Church’s universal perspectives are the usual guidelines of the Christian’s life.” This sentence by Pope Pius XII, frequently mentioned by Father Giussani, was commented by him as follows: “The more one loves this universal perspective, the more one is capable of faithfulness to the detail.”
Since the beginning, the kids belonging to GS were educated to mission also by caring for missionaries working in remote and difficult places.
Over the years, CL has worked with the missionary activity of significant personalities, organizations, and religious orders.
In 1962 a missionary activity started which was fully and responsibly supported - perhaps for the first time in the history of the Church – by students, the first giessini, in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. This experience, besides coinciding with the first presence of the Movement in Latin America, taught them that there is no distinction between the daily presence in schools and workplaces and the Christian announcement carried out by missionaries in difficult areas in Africa, Asia, or America: it is the same universal mission of the Church.
The Movement calls its members to be witnesses in their own environment; this is intended primarily as the offer of their own work to Christ, rather than as a capacity for initiative or communication strategy. CL understands mission as service to the Church’s mission and as a possibility to live the Christian experience wherever its adherents