The first time I met Fr. Giussani was through my parish priest, Fr. Paolo, who had invited me and a few other middle school kids to go meet him. At that time, my head was full of many different voices coming from the right and the left, each promising fleeting happiness, and thus each was violent. My encounter with Fr. Giussani, more so than any other, clarified the desire that lay hidden inside of me.
Then the time came for weekly moments of catechesis, called “School of Community,” which Giussani himself led for the college students of Communion and Liberation. I remember my initial resistance to leaving my studying and bringing myself, every week, to that meeting. I was by no means famous for studying incessantly; on the contrary. But I remember very well that, despite feeling attracted by something, my resistance nonetheless needed to be won over. And yet when Fr. Giussani would begin School of Community and respond to our questions, everything changed. An instantaneous harmony would be struck, one which won me over and carried light into the darkness that was inside of me. It happened like this at every meeting, and this unexpected change surprised me each time.
During my last year at school for Agriculture, I had asked Fr. Giussani to meet with me to look deeply at my vocation. I wanted to tell him that I intended to enter the seminary. This meeting happened on via Martinengo in Milan, a July morning in 1985. I still clearly remember his expression and the attention with which it followed me, even after thirty years. During the meeting we didn’t decide anything: in fact at the end he sent me back to the person who followed me in the verification of my vocation. Nonetheless that meeting went beyond words and decisions. Indeed, it allowed me to see with progressive clarity in what consisted the depth of that something in him which always fascinated me.
More meetings followed during my time in the seminary, from 1986 to 1993. In the meantime, my brother had entered Memores Domini, and had gone to live in Gudo Gambaredo, about [nine miles southwest of] Milan. Giussani himself settled down in that very house for a period of time. In 1998 our mother, who was a widow, was hospitalized. In response Giussani proposed that she transfer to the Memores house in Gudo, where she would not have to live alone. And thus began their afternoon meetings. Among my mother’s two children, my brother became a memor Domini and I, a priest. My mother did not have grandchildren to look after and had no qualms about “singing these things,” as she would say, to Fr. Giussani. This dialogue between them continued for some time until, in his patience, Fr. Giussani won her over as well: my mother called to tell me all of this when I was in Nairobi, as I had in the meantime been sent there on mission.
Those times I came home from Africa, I was obviously hosted in the house in Gudo, where I returned to our reunited family. Every now and then Fr. Giussani came over for dinner and I could see him again. Of those final encounters with him, I remember most of all my superficiality and the depth of the way in which he looked at me and his attention directed toward me, which challenged me beyond the words we exchanged.
In the photo: Washington (foto Roger – flickr.com)