Monday, January 18, 2010

Thanks to CL, and Its Witness to Truth, Goodness, and Beauty

Posted by Webster 
I’m not sure why I have hesitated to write about Communion and Liberation (CL) in the 200-some posts I’ve contributed to this blog since mid-August. I have mentioned CL’s founder, Fr. Luigi Giussani (left) a couple of times, and I have tipped my hat to the CL magazine, Traces, on one occasion. But I haven’t mounted my soapbox and talked up the total CL experience.

Which is strange. Because Communion and Liberation is a big part of my total Catholic life. I have participated in a weekly CL meeting, or School of Community (the CL term), since before I was received into the Church, roughly two years. Ferde invited me, and for that, as for much else, I am in his debt. Together with Father Barnes, a dozen or more of us meet on Friday evenings. I also participated in the annual CL summer vacation in 2009, and I am more or less a regular at other regional CL events in Boston and Cambridge. Communion and Liberation has been a deeply meaningful aspect of my total Catholic experience. You can read more about it here. And yet . . .

Strange as this might sound, I don’t want to take the name in vain. I keep thinking, I don’t have enough experience of CL, and I don’t know the language. About the language: CL was founded by Fr. Giussani in Italy in 1954. (And how could you not love that face? Like a welterweight whose nose has taken one too many punches?) Father Giussani had his own language for speaking about the Christian experience, and he spoke Italian. Which means that English translations are a sort of argot heard at second remove. Reading him in English, I’m never quite sure if my failures of understanding are (a) because of the translation, (b) because I’m not up to speed yet, or (c) because Father Giussani was a bit nutty. My bets are all on (a) and (b), but you never know. I never met FG. If you know any Italian, you’ll understand this clip; I don’t:

Why post about CL now? Because I have just returned from a half-day with the Movement, a remarkable afternoon and evening that offered full measures of truth, goodness, and beauty. And if my heart can discern the truth, then this is the truth: CL is the real deal. Let me give you some quick glimpses—

Truth: On Sunday afternoon (1/17), as part of the New York Encounter 2010, I was present at a presentation by three eminent men, only two of whom are directly CL-affiliated. (CL and its cultural arm, Crossroads, host events at which non-CLers and even non-Catholics and, yes, even non-Christians, are sometimes featured speakers.) The men on the panel yesterday were Fr. Julián Carrón (left), who took over leadership of CL upon Fr. Giussani’s death in 2005; Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete, the CL “responsible” for the US and Canada; and Stanley Hauerwas, professor of theological Ethics at Duke University, where he teaches in both the school of divinity and the school of law. These are smart guys. But you want to know something interesting? Try Googling Julián Carrón. You won’t find much. He is the humblest leader of a worldwide Catholic movement you can imagine. This is the only link to Fr. Carrón that I could find on the US CL Web site, his “intervention” at the funeral of Fr. Giussani! As if the only thing on-line about Pope BXVI was his homily for JPII.

The three panelists discussed the book that Schools of Community worldwide are now starting to read, Is It Possible to Live This Way?: Charity, an Unusual Approach to Christian Existence. This post is already way too long, so let me offer a single quote from each of the panelists:

First, Msgr. Albacete, quoting Fr. Giussani: “If you cannot sing about it, it’s not true.”

Next, Prof. Hauerwas, quoting St. Thomas Aquinas: “Charity is the form of all virtues.”

Finally, Fr. Carrón, citing Pope Benedict’s encyclical Deus Caritas Est: “The term love has become one of the most frequently used and misused of words.”

Goodness: At 5:30 yesterday afternoon, Mass was said at the Church of the Holy Innocents on West 37th Street (left). Admittedly, I’m new to the Catholic game, but I have never seen so many priests concelebrating. Leading the way was Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent Vatican observer at the United Nations. The Church was filled with members of The Movement, and the Communion and Liberation Choir filled the loft at the rear of the nave. After Mass, the parish served your standard pasta supper in the church basement for $5 a head. CL-ers from around the world eating off paper plates with plastic forks in a church basement in Manhattan—good food, good company, great moment.

Beauty: Sunday evening, we returned to the Marriott Marquis on Times Square and witnessed something special, a screening of Carl Theodor Dreyer’s silent classic The Passion of Joan of Arc, accompanied by a live performance of Richard Einhorn’s “Visions of Light,” performed by the Metro Chamber Orchestra and the Communion and Liberation Choir. I posted a clip from the film earlier today. Here is the final scene, of Joan’s execution, with the score by Einhorn:

I have written before that Joan of Arc is one of the reasons I became a Catholic. Communion and Liberation is a reason I remain one.