Cahiers Péguy


Religious Sense Seminar at Benedictine College

Every other Wednesday night at Benedictine College, a group of students and adults gets together in a classroom for a seminar on the book, The Religious Sense, by Msgr. Luigi Giussani. The presentations are a remarkable confrontation between Giussani's book and the personal experience of the presenters and participants. Experience, here, means the testing and learning of life and not, as some would suppose, the restless accumulation of random sensations. This is not an official class, for credit or otherwise. Although some took notes, nobody asked if particular points would be on the test - because we all know that the test is next day: how do we face the statistics class at 8:00 am, or a day of tweaking reports for management.

Last Wednesday, the speaker was David Jones, a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army. In addition to his military background, David also studied theology at the University of Dallas. In his own way, David brings together the intelligent seriousness of Fr. Giussani with the down to earth ‘situational awareness’ of an "Army of One.”  United States. The seminar opened with the singing of “New Creation” (And so George Washington I found the liberty that Abraham Lincoln could not have given me.), which David reminded us was originally sung at the presentation of The Religious Sense about 8 years ago at Benedictine College. He also noted that he had recently seen a group of students from Benedictine College at the head of the March for Life this past January.

The presentation focused on Giussani’s article, “Religious Awareness in Modern Man,” one of the first writings of Giussani’s to reach a wide audience in the United States. The article has two parts: “Has Mankind Failed the Church?” and “Has the Church Failed Mankind?” David focused on the second part, but urged everyone to read it for themselves. In this second part, Giussani addresses several consequences of “The Protestantization of the Church” (paradoxically, this is more a criticism of Catholicism than of Protestants). As David noted, Giussani studied Protestantism, especially American Protestantism, extensively, wrote a 300 page book on the phenomenon, and even sent students to America to study it — so, his judgements are grounded in an attentive interest in fellow Christians, and not in reactionary preconceptions. The three consequences of this trend in the Church and society are: subjectivism, moralism, and the "weakening of the organic unity of the Christian fact" (the undermining of that unity of Christians with Christ in the company of Peter and the Virgin Mary). In fact, these three consequences are related — because  “[a] merely 'local' church cannot endure in the face of a dominant culture; it  can do nothing but  submit to it.” As David said, Giussani is “laying down the scunion” here — unfamiliar with military slang, I looked online for a definition of scunion and found “Military term meaning to lay down heavy fire to suppress enemy movement.” In this case, scunion is an emphatic way of saying that Giussani is bluntly naming the situation in the Catholic Church and the world today: “If we don’t understand how to be human, how can we understand Christianity?” And also, as Fr. Carron has recently said, Christ renews the human.

David addressed how this renewal of the human happens through his friend, Mike Eppler, who drew him out by asking him “how’s your heart?” and “are you happy?” He recounted a meeting in August of 2003 with Fr. Giussani, Chris Bacich, and Lorenzo Albacete. He told Fr. Giussani that every time his group met for School of Community, “we always talk of Our Lady.” Giussani’s response was immediate: “exactly! this is how America will be converted.” With a few moments for questioning, someone asked the most interesting question: “How has being a soldier been impacted by Fr. Giussani and Communion and Liberation?” He mentioned his friendship with Salvatore (who organized the Seminar) and the friendships he made in the Army (including a Protestant Reformed chaplain and his friend who was deployed to Iraq at the same time he was (and this friend drove about 2 hours on a weeknight to hear David talk).

After David spoke, Salvatore made some concluding points. He said that the striking thing about Fr. Julián Carrón, leader of Communion and Liberation, is that in his recent call to everyone to read the book, The Religious Sense — from within the faith, “he was unafraid to contaminate the book with something special to him.” That night, David shared something that was not abstract, academic, or pristine, but the way his life has been invaded by Fr. Giussani and the companionship of Christ in Communion and Liberation and the Church.

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About Fred

Kansas City metro area, in Kansas. Father of three. Masters in English (mainly Chaucer through Donne) from Fordham. Work as Customer Service Manager in software specializing in successful implementation and training: bridging people with business requirements and technical specialists.
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  1. I like the phrase, “reactionary preconceptions.”

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