The Religious Sense

These words “the religious sense” refer to the human foundation necessary for a faith that is lasting, a faith that can hold up.  These words are also the title of a book by Father Luigi Giussani, a priest, a man, who has profoundly impacted my life and the life of so many others through the Catholic movement Communion and Liberation.

In the “About” section of this blog, I have used these words of Father Giussani as a guide in what I hope this little website to be and to communicate:

Only a faith arising from life experience and confirmed by it (and, therefore, relevant to life’s needs) could be sufficiently strong to survive in a world where everything points in the opposite direction.

The human foundation necessary for a faith that “sticks” is a heart that can feel deeply the needs that all of us have–for love, for truth, for beauty, for justice–and can judge what and who truly satisfies those needs.  Christ comes as the fulfillment of our heart, understood in the biblical sense as the center of the human person, where reason, freedom, and desire come together.  But in fulfilling our heart, he does not turn it off.  No, Christ saves our religious sense, directs it to its proper object, and expands it so that each day can truly be new, the adventure of finding Christ in my life.

And so, a faith that is nourished by the religious sense is a faith that can last.  A faith that is the answer to a question that I actually have, that I actually live, that I actually am, can withstand and conquer “the world”: “and this is the victory over the world, our faith.” (1 John 5:4)

Simply said, Christ came to save man.  To be a candidate for salvation, then, I must be a man, a real human being!  St. Irenaeus famously said, “The glory of God is man fully alive.”  Along with so many other Fathers of the Church, those early witnesses to the Church’s Tradition, Irenaeus tells us: “God became what we are, so that we could become what He is.”  And today, I stumbled across his astonishing words:

How can you be a god when you have not yet become a man?… You must hold the rank of man before you partake of the glory of God.

When a group of priests once asked Father Giussani what advice he would give them for their priesthood, he responded, “That you be men.”  That is true for all of us that want to follow Christ, “That you be men.”  And the best way to be truly human is to find Christ!  Christ reveals man to himself, as Vatican II and John Paul II so often reminded us.  Christ is the perfect man, who does not do violence to anything that is truly human; he saves it all, he raises it up into His divine life.

Giussani_with_Pope_John_Paul_II

As the Church in our time embarks on a “new evangelization”, we remember the value of a real, true, deep humanity in passing on the Gospel.  We can measure our Christian maturity by our closeness to all that is truly human.  Am I able to go to the depths of my own heart and the hearts of those around me, even in the midst of the tangles and thorns that are often there?  Does my following of Christ make me less afraid to engage and embrace any human reality that I see in front of me?  This is the sign that Christ is in me and in front of me, “going before” as Pope Francis so often reminds us.

When we address ourselves to others, the Lord does not ask us to be any less human than He is, to betray human hope anymore than He did. He is a God who is faithful to the hearts He has created, and their vocation to divine hope is not a betrayal of their human hope. In His school, we learn to place our hearts in listening attention to the hearts of others, in order to hear their whispered hopes. We learn to recognize in these hearts the prefiguration of Christian hope.

–Madeleine Delbrel, We the Ordinary People of the Street

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