Education according to Giussani - Julián Carrón

Education according to Giussani

Julián Carrón

12/4/2005 - Famiglia Cristiana

We spoke with Fr. Julián Carrón, 55, lecturer in Theology at the University of Madrid, who lived alongside Fr. Luigi Giussani in the last months of his long illness, and who succeeded him last March as the leader of Communion and Liberation. Fr. Carrón presently lives in Milan and teaches Introduction to Theology at the Catholic University there (in the post once held by Fr. Giussani). This summer, he was received by the Pope on the occasion of the Rimini Meeting. Out of the esteem the Pope has shown for Fr. Giussani’s charism, Fr Carrón was invited to the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist.

On the occasion of the republication of the book The Risk of Education, a short but intense text which reveals clearly the whole originality of his educative method, which managed to reawaken the joy of living the faith in many young people and adults, we asked Monsignor Giussani’s successor some questions on education

Fr. Carrón, how have you lived this very intense year?
It was truly a crucial, extraordinary year, with events like the death of Fr. Giussani and of Pope John Paul II and the election of Benedict XVI, all of which affected us deeply.

How does Fr. Giussani’s successor spend his day?
I dedicate the mornings to study and preparation of the meetings; in the afternoon I receive people, or I am at the Catholic University where I teach, follow the students and participate in the life of the Movement.

In your recent intervention at the Synod of Bishops, you said that, through the Eucharist, the Church has an impact on history because it arouses and educates people who have let themselves be drawn into the novelty of Christ’s life. Can we say that modern man and our society still need an education that can give meaning to life?
People today are in search of clarity and positivity because otherwise life becomes a trap and circumstances are unbearable. Modern man needs someone to introduce him to reality in a way that is reasonable and positive. Life is hardly possible to bear if we don’t find someone more mature who helps us not to be overcome by it. Despite all the answers at hand, today, this need, this desire, normally remains unsatisfied.

At the Synod, you stressed how in your experience the Eucharist has really borne fruits of new humanity, for example in mission areas like the favelas of Brazil, amongst the youth in Kazakhstan and the AIDS victims in Uganda. What relationship is there between these works of charity and a text like The Risk of Education, which has traveled the world and next year will be translated into Russian?
We are amazed at the fact that Fr. Giussani’s educative method can be useful in such varied concrete situations. Perhaps it is because this method is addressed to the heart and answers man’s true need. It is amazing to see the students in Kazakhstan, though they are Muslims, felt the need to go deeper into this method. But the really fascinating thing is that Fr. Giussani, as he himself affirmed, never intended to found a movement, he wanted simply to present his own personal experience of the human drama, just as it can be found in a poet like Giacomo Leopardi, whom Giussani loved so much, in whom the same needs vibrate. I have just come back from a trip to Salvador la Bahia where I saw how this method in action has drawn in people (even the World Bank) in such a way as to satisfy everyone’s desires, getting people involved in their own liberation.

Fr. Giussani always stressed that faith is an experience, an encounter with an event. In The Religious Sense he uses strong language: “A God who has nothing to do with what I experience today is a God who does not exist.” How can you educate to a faith of this kind?
It’s the easiest thing in the world, as easy as the experience of love. You are astonished at the good the other is for you. If before the beauty and the positivity of the encounter with a person you don’t draw back, but you give in to that winning attraction, then you experience the faith as something that happens. I say that this is what is most convincing, rather like the historicity of the Gospels: what the evangelists tell could not have been imagined beforehand, it was something unthinkable. I am astonished every day at the new way our friends approach their work, their family life, sickness or a vacation together, and how they want to share the beauty of this life with everyone.

How can freedom be safeguarded in the relationship between teacher and pupil, parents and children?
We are all poor wretches, we can only share with others what is useful for our own life. If you find in another what is useful for your own life, you had better accept it! This is education. The only thing that we can do for someone else is offer him what is useful for us for getting up in a good mood, for going to work gladly, and for tackling this or that situation. “I offer you this if it is useful for you.” Indoctrination is the word most foreign to this attitude. When you recognize that the relationship with a person like this makes your life more human, then you naturally recognize him as someone to learn from, a father, and there is no need for the other to have to convince you. St Paul has a fine expression to describe this: “We do not wish to lord it over your faith, but to collaborate in your joy.” This is the finest definition of the relationship between teacher and disciple. Fr. Giussani used to say, “I’ll try telling you this today, but if I am unable to answer your question, come back tomorrow and ask me again so that I can try to tell you again, so as to help you on your journey.” This is what we have to try, all the rest is useless. It is useless to impose yourself on the other person’s freedom. It’s like buying a pair of shoes that don’t fit; sooner or later you will have to change them because your feet hurt. In the same way, sooner or later, a person will rebel against an education forced on him.

What is modern man’s difficulty before the religious fact? In what way are we most conditioned compared with the past?
Our greatest difficulty is that we are strangers to the Mystery. We have been educated in rationalism, we use our reason in a reductive way. In an meeting with some youngsters, I read a text of Plato’s Phaedo that ends by saying how, if you don’t find a adequate answer to the problem of life, you have to try to cross the “pelago” with a solider, safer boat: the revelation of God. So, for a great philosopher, reason is openness to the Mystery, to the unexpected. Who doesn’t want to go through life safely? Today, in the way we talk of our problems, this openness to the infinite, to my heart’s desire for the infinite, is not there, what is more, it is denied. We can speak for a whole year to engaged couples about the religious sense, but in the end they have still not understood the nature of their love; they think they can make each other happy on their own, or that the success of their life depends on work: never on the desire in their heart, which is made for infinity and which can be answered only by what is most adequate to man’s infinite heart. We moderns use reason as a measure of the whole of reality, and this prevents reason from introducing us to the Mystery, which we reduce to a feeling. But life without Mystery is unlivable, it stifles us and we can no longer breathe.

Why is education a risk?
Because it depends on the other person’s freedom. For fifty years, Fr. Giussani staked everything on freedom, he always ran the risk of freedom, which is the opposite of all attempts at possession or indoctrination. Without running this risk, and without finding out for yourself if it’s true, you never make your own what you have learned. Without the risk of personal verification there is no education. Jesus never wasted a minute making propaganda. He said, “Come and see!” Whoever knows he is proposing something true runs this risk. He challenges the other to measure himself against it, because truth and beauty have no fear of being challenged, measured or verified.

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