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:

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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:

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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.

  • Fred

    sweet! Wish I could be there this year. I did see Joan at Wolftrap with live music summer of '95. To hear the CL choir would have been priceless.

  • Anonymous

    Webster,I think this quote from Father Guissani (under Charism of CL) applies to your approach to this blog:"I tried to show the students what moved me: not the wish to convince them that I was right, but the desire to show them the reasonableness of faith…" Intentional or otherwise, (on your part) it's what drew me to this forum and what keeps me here. I'll be watching "Brother Sun, Sister Moon" tonight, thanks to your mention.S.

  • Webster Bull

    S.,Thanks for this comment. I think it's well said, and of course you are talking about any of us and how we can "evangelize." Not by trying to convince anyone with endless argument and apologetics, but by living it day to day, with missteps all the time of course, but enjoying it like crazy and finding new meaning each time.

  • Frank

    This C&L; group sounds great! It isn't here in the hinterlands yet, but then again, neither is Trader Joe's. ;-) And like I am still thankful for Trader Joe's, I am thankful that groups like this can flourish with the Catholic Church.


    Never heard of "CL" until your post!! Will read up on this movement and its charism — and I'll have more to say once I bring myself up to speed. So much to learn….so little time…

  • Webster Bull

    Frank, There are CL "Schools of Community" on mnay college campuses around the US because it began as a youth movement and remains very youthful. For example, at UNC Chapel Hill I know there's a thriving SoC.And MJ–So glad to have you back on the scene commenting! Begin by checking out the CL Web site, also the site of their cultural arm, known as Crossroads. Pax Christi.


    @Webster: Why can't I comment from my laptop?? With the other Catholic blogs I am able to follow and comment from home. Being that YIMC is my "fave", I would like to figure out the glitch. Have you spoken to Frank about this? I'm definately in the 'breakdown lane' on the Entrance Ramp to the Information Highway!! And I suspect others are idling behind me. What say you and Frank?Pax Christi. P.S. My new "word" for 2010 is AGGIORNAMENTO…

  • Frank

    What a sec, you can't send comments to us via your laptop at home? There is a spam blocker associated with Google's "blogger". It usually requires that you re-enter a series of letters that it provides to you. Another idea, if you can, try a different browser. I have Firefox and sometimes that get in trouble. I switch to Safari and usually sail right through. Or Internet Explorer.I hope this helps.

  • Anonymous