“The drama of the world today is the result nor only of the absence of God but also and above all of the absence of humankind,” wrote then Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, in an introduction to don Giussani’s The Religious Sense. LoC selected for you a few paragraphs that reveal what is most dear to the heart of the new Bishop of Rome.
Bergoglio washes the feet of a woman on Holy Thursday at the Buenos Aires’ Sarda maternity hospital on March 24, 2005, when he was an archbishop (Tomy Gomez, REUTERS)
The Question Everyone is Asking
Why is there pain, why death, why evil? Why is life worth living? What is the ultimate meaning of reality, of existence? What sense does it make to work, love, become involved in the world? Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? These are the great and primary questions that young people ask, and adults too — and not only believers but everyone, atheists and agnostics alike. Sooner or later, especially in the situations at the very edge of existence, in the face of great grief or great love, in the experience of educating one’s children or of working at a job that apparently makes no sense, these questions inevitably rise to the surface.
Life Would be an Absurd, if . . .
Human beings cannot be content with reductive or partial answers that force them to censor or neglect some aspect of reality. In fact, however, we do neglect some aspect of reality, and when we do so we are only running away from ourselves. We need a total response that comprehends and saves the entire horizon of the self and our existence. We possess within us a yearning for the infinite, an infinite sadness, a nostalgia — the nostos algos (home sickness) of Odysseus —which is satisfied only by an equally infinite response. Outside the Mystery, the needs for happiness, love, and justice never meet a response that fully satisfies the human heart. Life would be an absurd desire if this response did not exist.
Reality is a Sign
Not only does the human heart present itself as a sign, but so does all of reality. The sign is something concrete, it points in a direction it indicates something that can be seen, that reveals a meaning, that can be experienced, but that refers to another reality that cannot be seen; otherwise, the sign would be meaningless.
An Extremely Human Capacity: Wonder
On the other hand, to interrogate oneself in the face of these signs, one needs an extremely human capacity, the first one we have as men and women: wonder, the capacity to be amazed, as Giussani calls it, in the last analysis, a child’s heart. The beginning of every philosophy is wonder, and only wonder leads to knowledge. Notice that moral and cultural degradation begin to arise when this capacity for wonder is weakened or cancelled or when it dies. The cultural opiate tends to cancel, weaken, or kill this capacity for wonder. Pope Luciani once said that the drama of contemporary Christianity lies in the fact that it puts categories and norms in the place of wonder. But wonder comes before all categories; it is what leads me to seek, to open myself up; it is what makes the answer — not a verbal or conceptual answer — possible for me. If wonder opens me up as a question, the only response is the encounter, and only with the encounter is my thirst quenched. And with nothing else is it quenched more.
All texts from A Generative Thought, An introduction to the Works of Luigi Giussani, edited by Elisa Buzzi, Mc Gill University Press