Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Today's Thoughts on Communion and Liberation

This morning my prayer led me to contemplate the role, the meaning, the presence of Communion and Liberation in my life. There is a little bit of a sting in this for me, because how I relate to CL as a movement has changed rather significantly within the last year, and while its all good, good can also feel bewildering to me when it involves relationships with other people. In my mind I have often repeated the phrase I don't do people well, and while I believe this less as time goes on, I do sometimes wonder whether other people get as consternated as I over what is appropriate and inappropriate with regards to relating to other people.

Communion and Liberation is an ecclesial movement started in the 1950s in Italy by Fr. Luigi Giussani. It grew up with high school youth and then college students, and then blossomed over into a movement for adults, and it is all about living Christianity (Catholicism) not as an inherited cultural set of baggage but as a living encounter with Christ Who is present here and now. As my CL friends always liked to say, it is nothing other than basic Christianity re-proposed in modern times. But as with all movements there is a definite spirituality, a way of expressing these truths, of living them. When I was newly drawn to the Catholic Church it confused me just a bit that there were different spiritualities such as religious orders and movements. If it is a good thing to be a Franciscan, then why isn't everyone a Franciscan? I wondered. I suppose I could have just as easily asked If it really is good that I am me, then why isn't everyone me? which betrays the misbelief I had about myself, and my misunderstanding of God as the creator and lover of individuals.

About two years ago I proclaimed myself a devotee of CL to the extent that I joined the fraternity, which is simply an official way of saying one is following this way of life. This was a lover's leap, but it was an immature one. In hindsight, I can see that I was responding to a clear recognition that CL is centered on Christ. I suppose I still have a hermeneutic of suspicion when it comes to groups that are in some way ancillary to the Church. Ok, maybe they are legit on paper, but what's it like on the inside? I was so happy to find a true desire for Christ that I figured a desire for Christ was all it took to "be claimed by" a spirituality.

Let me just say plainly that in my personal judgment, not to mention that of the Church, there is absolutely nothing "wrong" with CL. I'm taken back again to this notion of religious orders. To a man called to be a Dominican, there is nothing "wrong" with a Jesuit or a Carmelite. But of course, the key is that we do not make our selves, we do not choose our way, really. We are chosen, called, embraced, and we respond. God is the orchestrator, and in the full but mysterious exercise of our freedom we become exactly the one He knew us to be all along. We are His.

So as I began to heed exactly what I was gleaning from CL, and following Christ as He presented Himself to me, I began to see that the way I adhered to CL itself was a problem! In many subtle ways, I found myself trying to follow something extrinsic to myself, as if I were eating a certain kind of food and insisting that it was delicious. At the same time, the Lord was calling to me strongly, wooing me with frightening intensity, in other directions. I started to feel as if I were being pulled in two.

After an intense struggle, in my mind I "let go" of CL. The collapse hurt, but at least I collapsed onto my Lord. It took time to incarnate this letting go and to have the strength to own it (because of the human affection involved with my CL friends, all fine people).

But this morning, to continue the story I nearly started, in prayer I was reading Scripture and was drawn to the Psalms, and I specifically thought to pick up Giussani's book on Psalms and read a few entries. This is a book I've had for a couple of years but had never read from at all. In the two entries I read, Giussani repeated familiar themes, of our need to see Christ with us, to be aware of Him. He asked repeatedly "where is this presence?" While the question itself is completely valid, I found my heart shouting out "Right here!! He's here!" Going to another random selection and finding the same question "where is this presence?" I suddenly started hearing it not as a provocation to delight, but as a nagging doubt. "Where is God? Is He really here? This is our sin, that we don't see Him. We need to see Him..." And my heart became sad.

I put down that book and searched out another that I read voraciously in the months after my "collapse" : Iain Matthew's The Impact of God: Soundings from St. John of the Cross. I opened it, again to a random chapter, and found my spiritual journey described, understood, and re-enkindled. In fact, St. John of course said the same thing: "Where have you hidden, beloved?" But somehow in this difference I caught the glimpse of the God who had called me, personally -- to me -- through and in my particular history and circumstances, and I could almost blush with the awareness of the intimacy of it. There is a world of difference between following truth because one acknowledges it is truth and submits obediently, and being gripped in a passionate love where life and death hangs in the balance of being with the Lover or not. Truth, acknowledgment and obedience are all involved, but passion .... ah, that's the ticket.

It is all about the Lover who calls. He is here! And I just want to be with Him and live as lovers live.

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