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Communion and Liberation founder’s sainthood cause steps forward

Luigi Giussani with Students

Courtesy of Communion and Liberation

John Burger - published on 05/09/24

An American recalls that Luigi Giussani's movement saved his life, and did so much more.

He sought help, and a Catholic psychologist advised him to make some friends. Eventually, he found a group of people who provided him with enough friends, but more importantly, they emphasized for him the friendship of Christ.

Jonathan Fields had become a Catholic when he was in his 20s, but it wasn’t easy. He had come from Judaism, and even though his family was secular, the reaction made things hard. In fact, he said, it led him to what he called “a very dark place.”

“The charism of Communion and Liberation basically saved my life because I had been going through a very, very dark time,” Fields, now 67, told Aleteia.

Communion and Liberation is one of the “new movements” in the Catholic Church that bring people together for growth in the spiritual life. Today, May 9, far from Fields’ native Brooklyn, New York, a process begins that could lead to the canonization of the founder of that movement, Msgr. Luigi Giussani.

Don Luigi Giussani

At 5 p.m., in the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio in Milan, Italy, Archbishop Mario Delpini will preside over the first public session of the testimonial phase of the cause of beatification and canonization of the Servant of God Luigi Giussani.

Dozens of testimonies

In February 2012, five years after Giussani’s death, the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation asked for a diocesan inquiry to begin for its founder’s possible canonization. The then Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Angelo Scola, accepted the request, and an examination of Giussani’s published writings began. That resulted in a Declaration attesting to the absence of errors regarding faith and morals and which illustrated the priest’s theological thought and spirituality. A historical commission was appointed, tasked with collecting all the documentation that would allow Church officials to understand Giussani’s life.

The testimonial phase of the process that begins today is in some ways more “procedural,” said Msgr. Ennio Apeciti, a Milan archdiocesan official. A commission appointed by the archbishop will interview a few dozen people, who with their knowledge of the Servant of God will illustrate his life, thought, spirituality, and reputation for holiness.

Once the testimonial phase is completed, what has been collected will be sent to the Vatican, where further investigation could result in the decision to declare Giussani “Venerable.” If a miracle is determined to have occurred through his intercession, he could be declared “Blessed Luigi Giussani,” and another miracle would lead to his being declared a saint.

Pope Francis greets members of the Communion and Liberation (CL) movement at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, October 15, 2022.

“Friendship in Christ”

Fields is one who has already had a firsthand glimpse into Giussani’s sanctity, although he is not scheduled to testify in Milan.

Giussani, said Fields, provided “friendship in Christ.”

“Christ came through these people,” he said, referring to the movement Giussani founded. “And how do you know it’s Christ? Because all of a sudden I’m beginning to be able to face my life again, work, relationship, I got married.”

Fields, who is music director at the Basilica of Regina Pacis in Brooklyn, has seen two of his three children join the movement. 

One memory he has of Giussani is watching him read a poem of T.S. Eliot – a “profound, dramatic reading” that opened a way for Giussani to discuss the existentialism and nihilism that afflicted Fields. 

“He was able to explain it,” he said. The priest clarified that desire is a good; it just needs to be trained on the right thing. “And nihilism comes from training all your desires on the wrong thing, in the sense that there’s nothing.”

Giussani’s “real passion” was expressing meaning at a high level, Fields added. He was a “great pedagogue” who conveyed the sense that “he was speaking to me,” even when giving a public lecture. 

Remembering a gaze

“The second memory is when I met him personally, and just the way he looked at me, you know, … I’ll never forget the attention he gave me. I spoke to him about some of the things I did during my very dark period, … and he was able to take it with a kind of twinkle in his eye, and very human, not looking like a guru or anything. I was really touched by his just wanting to get to know me in a very simple way, and his eyes just had that kind of sorrow in them a little bit.”

In fact, Fields recalled, “He kind of reminded me of a rabbi.”

Fields is excited about the canonization process taking a step forward. It’s important not only for Giussani and for the members of Communion and Liberation, but also for the whole Church.

Said Fields, “This step really is kind of a confirmation that we’re moving in the right direction, that this path is a real, true way to walk in the Church.”

CatholicismFaithPrayerSaintsSpiritual Life
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