In the courses of theology that he held in the aula magna of the Catholic University of Milan, Fr. Giussani often cited one of the first statistical studies, conducted in the United States, that analyzed the influence of the cinema on the mentality of American citizens. “Those who, at that time, went to the movies once a week,” he would say to us, “in very little time began to think like the average character that they watched.” And, after staring us down in silence for a few moments, he would punctually add, “And think what’s it’s like today, for you all who watch one or two films a day!”
Fr. Giussani desired that every detail of the houses of the Memores Domini might facilitate the continuous memory of Christ, and so he asked from the get go that there not be a television. From the first years in which the TV had begun to become commonplace among Italian families, he described it as one of those “super-modern tools for the invasion of the person” to which was owed “an exasperation of the environmental influence” on young people’s ways of thinking.
We could apply these considerations, with even stronger emphasis, to the situation which has come to be in more recent times. The widespread new technologies of communication have many different expressions, from cellphones to tablets, from e-mail to the Internet as a whole, to say nothing of the virtual world of social networks, and their diffusion is not a neutral fact. Instead, these instruments tend to change the way that we relate with all of reality.
As we educate ourselves in this field, our proposed point of departure is that we abandon any ingenuous attitude. On the contrary, we want to become more deeply aware of the consequences that the use of technology has had and has on us, in order to understand what way of relating with time and space, with persons and things, it has transmitted to us.
I would like to reflect on two fundamental questions that might help us and that might costitute a launching point for reflection.
The first is this: What do we desire to live?
We want, above all, to educate ourselves to test everything, down to the most concrete particulars of our life, using our most profound desires, clearly identified, as our criteria. Asking ourselves and reminding ourselves continuously what we truly desire cannot be taken for granted, and it is necessary to learn to do it.
Let us try, then, to list the great things that have fascinated us. Above all, we hold in common a desire to know God, who has called us, and to respond to Him with all of ourselves. What’s more, we want to adhere with all of our affective energy to the community to which we belong, in order to experience in it the fulfillment that it has promised us. Finally, we want to spend ourselves completely in our mission, staying where God has placed us and dedicating ourselves to the persons entrusted to us without different affections and thoughts carrying our heart away.
These are the great fascinations that have brought us to the Fraternity of St. Charles. Consequently, it is reasonable to adhere to the life that we have chosen, and to make our own.
The second question follows naturally from the first: What is essential for us in order to live what we desire?
Formulated in this way, the question leaves open every possibility. It cannot, in fact, find a univocal response, good for every situation or person, even when we are talking about technology. We want, however, to help each other respond together. We know well that, by ourselves, we are often confused about our real needs, we are tempted by our hurry to resolve all of the problems that seem urgent to us, and we are weak in front of the pressure or the allure that the environment in which we live works on us. We want for this reason to learn to judge what we consider essential following criteria that we rediscover continuously together. We want, in the end, to count on our freedom that is permanently educated in our communion.
All of this implies a path, at times tiring, but a path that becomes beautiful precisely when we begin to become aware of what we desire. It is path that does not exclude placing rules, but it is also a path that requires our constant effort to reevaluate their convenience.
In the cover photo, Fr. Diego Garcia during a summer camp of the parish Blessed Pedro Bonilli, in Santiago, Chile.