Man in the Presence of Mystery: An Introduction To the Theological Anthropology of Luigi Giussani
Msgr. Luigi Giussani is one of the most important churchmen, and perhaps one of the most important theologians, of our time. Recently, groups of scholars in the United States and Canada have begun to discuss the Christian anthropological and pedagogical theories of this tireless and passionate servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Church, thanks to the publication in English of a new edition of his seminal work The Religious Sense by McGill-Queens University Press in Montreal. We are, therefore, provided with an excellent opportunity to become acquainted with the rich and fecund mind of a great Catholic thinker whose labors will undoubtedly be the source of much fruit in the third millennium.
Who Is Luigi Giussani?
Most English language readers know little about the person and work of Luigi Giussani. His vast publications have been virtually unknown in the philosophical or theological academy here in North America. The general public who are well read on religious topics have perhaps heard his name and associate it with a large Italian Catholic lay movement known as "CL." It would be useful, therefore, to begin with a general introduction to Luigi Giussani: the man, the priest, the professor, and the vibrant leader of a great apostolic movement in the Catholic Church today.
Luigi Giussani has devoted his life and priestly ministry to the evangelization and catechesis of young people for nearly 50 years. In the early days of his priesthood, while serving as seminary professor in the diocese of Milan in 1952, Giussani encountered some Italian High School students while on a train trip. At this time, many in the Church took it for granted that the Catholic faith was still firmly rooted in the mentality of the Italian people, and that its transmission to the next generation was no great cause for concern. Based on his brief conversation with a group of teenagers, however, Giussani intuited a profound problem which would soon manifest itself to the world in the intellectual and cultural revolutions of the 1960s. What he saw was this: not only did these young people have a poor grasp of the basic truths of the Catholic faith; they were unable to conceive the relationship between this Faith—which they still openly professed at that time—and their way of looking at the world, their way of making judgments about circumstances and events, their way of evaluating (i.e., assessing the real value) of the situations they had to deal with in life. The student might profess to be Catholic, recite the creed, and perhaps even know parts of his Catechism (or even more, if he was bright). But when it came to making judgments and decisions about things that he viewed as truly important to his life, his ideals and hopes for happiness were shaped by a secularized mentality; a mentality in which Christ and His Church were largely absent, or at best relegated to a dusty corner. Giussani saw that many of the young people in Italy in the early 1950s who would have described themselves as "Catholic" did not in fact seek to judge the realities of the world and the significance of their own lives according to a Christian mentality; that is, the "transformed and renewed mind" that St. Paul says is the basis for viewing the world in union with Christ and according to the wisdom of God's plan (see Rom. 12:2).2 Rather, the mentality of these "young Catholics" was being shaped by all the contradictory emphases of the so-called "modern" era: the absolute sufficiency of "scientific" human reason on the one hand, and the exaltation of subjectivism on the other; the emphasis on a deontological ethics of duty divorced from the good of the person on the one hand, and the enthrallment with the spontaneity of mere instinct and emotional individualism on the other.
Giussani perceived the need for young people to receive an integral catechesis that would help them to realize—both existentially and intellectually—that Christ is the center of all of life, and that because of this their experience of life in union with Christ in His Church should shape their entire outlook and invest all of their daily activity with an evangelical energy. Giussani therefore requested and received from his bishop permission to leave seminary teaching and inaugurate an educational apostolate for youth: first at the Berchet High School in Milan, and then for many years as Professor of religion at the Catholic University of Milan.
Giussani's teaching method was to challenge the oppressive secularism that dominated the mentality of his students by inspiring them to conduct a rigorous examination of themselves, the fundamental experiences that characterize man's life and aspirations, and the radical incapacity of modern secular culture to do justice to the deep mystery of the human heart. This examination—carried out within an existentially vital ecclesial context in which Christ is encountered through a friendship with those who follow Him—leads to a rediscovery of man's "religious sense," that is, the fundamentally religious character of the questions and desires that are inscribed on his heart. Man has been made for God, and the only way that he can realize the truth of himself (and thus be happy) is by recognizing God and adhering to Him wholeheartedly. Giussani then sought to lead his students to understand and appreciate in a deeper way the fact that God has made this adherence to Himself concretely possible, attractive, and beautiful by becoming man and perpetuating His incarnate presence in the world through His Church.
Soon after he began teaching young people, Giussani founded an Italian Catholic student organization, Gioventu Studentesca. During the turmoil of the late 1960s, when almost all the Italian universities were taken over by Marxism or other radical left ideologies, Giussani's students published a manifesto entitled Comunione e Liberazione, in which they declared that man can truly be free only if he lives in communion with Christ and the Church. Thus the group came to be known as "CL." And when these students graduated from the university, they began to bring the educational methods of Giussani into the various places where they worked and lived their adult lives, continuing to learn from and to retain contact with one another and with their great teacher. By means of this friendship guided by Giussani's particular pedagogical approach, a "movement"— a style of living the Catholic faith—took form. This "movement" gained the attention of other Italian bishops, priests, and people throughout the Church and even outside the Church. In this way, CL—while retaining its fundamentally theological and pedagogical character—moved far beyond the walls of the University of Milan. In 1982, Pope John Paul II called upon the members of CL to "Go into all the world and bring the truth, the beauty, and the peace which are found in Christ the Redeemer…
This is the charge I leave with you today."3 The Pope made it clear that it was his desire that CL become an instrument of the new evangelization not only in Italy, but throughout the world. Following this desire of the Pope, numerous missionary initiatives were taken, and a more profound and stable presence of CL has since been established in Africa, the Americas, and other parts of Europe.
Today, CL is one of the largest "Ecclesial Movements'4 in the Church, counting among its 100,000 members around the world not only university students, but also bishops, priests, and lay people engaged in a variety of professions and cultural activities.
Giussani's Contribution To Catholic Theology
The preceding account might lead one to believe that the significance of Luigi Giussani is primarily that of a teacher and spiritual leader. It would be an unfortunate mistake, however, to view him in this way if it led one to dismiss Giussani's vast literary output, and its contribution to the intellectual life of the Church and our times.5 In this essay, we want to give a brief outline of the central thesis of the book by Giussani that has recently been published in a scholarly edition in English, entitled The Religious Sense.6 Here, we hope, it will become clear that Giussani's thought presents a profound theological analysis of human "psychology" (in the classical sense of this term); indeed, it represents a tremendous resource toward the development of a fully adequate Catholic theological anthropology.
Giussani proposes what he calls "the religious sense" as the foundation of the human person's awareness of himself and his concrete engagement of life. The term "religious sense" does not imply that Giussani thinks that man's need for religion is part of the organic structure of his bodily senses, nor does he mean that religion is to be defined as a mere emotional sensibility or a vague kind of feeling. Rather, Giussani uses the term "sense" here in the same way that we refer to "common sense" or the way that John Henry Newman sought to identify what he called the "illative sense." "Sense" refers to a dynamic spiritual process within man; an approach to reality in which man's intelligence is fully engaged, but not according to those categories of formal analysis that we call "scientific." Giussani's understanding of the "religious sense" in man has a certain kinship to Jacques Maritain's view that man can come to a "pre-philosophical" or "pre-scientific" awareness of the existence of God, in that both positions insist that reason is profoundly involved in the approach to God for every human being—not just for philosophers7 What is distinctive about Giussani's approach, however, is his effort to present a descriptive analysis of the very core of reason, the wellspring from which the human person, through action, enters into relationship with reality. Needless to say, "action" in the Giussanian sense is not simply to be identified with an external "activism," but involves also and primarily what Maritain would call the supremely vital act by which man seeks to behold and embrace truth, goodness, and beauty—those interrelated transcendental perfections inherent in all things which Giussani refers to by a disarmingly simple term: meaning.
Giussani proposes that we observe ourselves "in action," and investigate seriously the fundamental dispositions and expectations that shape the way we approach every circumstance in life. In so doing, we will discover that the "motor" that generates our activity and places us in front of things with a real interest in them is something within ourselves that is both reasonable and mysterious. It is something so clear and obvious that a child can name it, and yet it is something so mysterious that no one can really define what it is: it is the search for happiness. The human heart—in the biblical sense, as the center of the person, the foundation of intelligence and freedom, and not merely the seat of infrarational emotions and sentiments—seeks happiness in all of its actions. Here, of course, Giussani is saying the same thing as St. Thomas Aquinas. Giussani opens up new vistas on this classical position, however, by engaging in an existentially attentive analysis of the characteristics of this "search." Giussani emphasizes the dramatic, arduous, and mysterious character of the need for happiness as man actually experiences it. He says that if we really analyze our desires and expectations, even in the most ordinary and mundane circumstances, what we will find is not some kind of desire for happiness that we can easily obtain, package, and possess through our activity. Rather we will see that genuine human action aims at "happiness" by being the enacted expression of certain fundamental, mysterious, and seemingly open-ended questions. The heart, the self, when acting—when the person is working, playing, eating, drinking, rising in the morning, or dying—is full of the desire for something and the search for something that it does not possess, that it cannot give to itself, and that it does not even fully understand, although the heart is aware that this Object is there, and its attainment is a real possibility.
Giussani claims that religiosity coincides with these fundamental questions:
The religious factor represents the nature of our "I" in as much as it expresses itself in certain questions: "What is the ultimate meaning of existence?" or "Why is there pain and death, and why, in the end, is life worth living?" Or, from another point of view: "What does reality consist of and what is it made for?" Thus, the religious sense lies within the reality of our self at the level of these questions.8
This means that, according to Giussani, man becomes authentically religious to the extent that he develops and articulates in the face of the circumstances of life the basic natural complex of questions or "needs" that are identified in the first chapter of the book as constitutive of the human heart: the need for truth, justice, goodness, happiness, beauty.9 This complex of "needs" which constitutes the human heart by nature, will become more and more explicit and urgent as the person lives life and pursues the things that attract him, if he is truly honest with himself.
Man wants happiness by nature. I want happiness. So I go out and buy a car. The car gives me a taste of happiness but does not fully satisfy the desire. So my desire becomes a question: "What will make me truly and fully happy?" Or perhaps, after I have bought the car and am still enjoying the taste of partial happiness that it gives me, I get into an accident and wreck my beautiful new possession. My simple desire finds itself full of questions: "Why was I not able to hold onto that thing and the satisfaction it gave me? Why do I lose things? Why is life so fragile, and is there something that won't let me down?"
The more we take our own selves and our actions seriously, the more we perceive the mysteriousness and also the urgency of these questions, the fact that we cannot really avoid them', they are necessarily at the root of everything we do. This is because it is the nature of the human being to expect something, to look for fulfillment in everything he does. And where is the limit to this desire to be fulfilled? There is no limit. It is unlimited. Every achievement, every possession opens up on a further possibility, a depth that remains to be explored, a sense of incompleteness, a yearning for more. We are like hikers in the mountains (an analogy Giussani is fond of): we see a peak and we climb to the top. When we arrive there, we have a new view, and in the distance we see a higher peak promising a still greater vista.
In the novel The Second Coming by Walker Percy, the character of Allie—a mentally ill woman living alone in a greenhouse—expresses the mysterious depths of human desire through her difficulties in figuring out what to do at four o'clock in the afternoon: "If time is to be filled or spent by working, sleeping, eating, what do you do when you finish and there is time left over?"10
Giussani quotes the great 19th century Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi—who is speaking here in the persona of a shepherd watching his flock by night, conversing with the moon:11
And when I gaze upon you,
Who mutely stand above the desert plains
Which heaven with its far circle but confines,
Or often, when I see you
Following step by step my flock and me,
Or watch the stars that shine there in the sky,
Musing, I say within me:
"Wherefore those many lights,
That boundless atmosphere,
And infinite calm sky? And what the meaning
Of this vast solitude? And what am I?
There are a couple of points about this striking poetic excerpt that are worth mentioning as illustrative of central themes in Giussani. The first point is this: note that the shepherd's questions are so poignantly expressed "from the heart" (Musing, I say within me). They are "personal" questions we might say; that is, they are questions that seem deeply important to the shepherd's own life, that emerge from the shepherd's solitude as he watches the flocks by night and gazes at the moon. And yet, the questions themselves are really "philosophical" questions: "metaphysical" questions which ask about the relationship of the universe to its mysterious Source, and "anthropological" questions about the nature of the world, of man, of the self. Let us note these things only to emphasize that Giussani's evaluation of the dynamic of the human heart is not exclusively concerned with the pursuit of external objects and the way in which these objects lead "beyond" themselves the acting person who engages them. Giussani stresses that the need for truth is inscribed on the human heart; the need to see the meaning of things is fundamental to man. Hence the "objectivity" required for addressing philosophical and scientific questions does not imply that these questions are detached from the "heart" of the person who deals with them. When the scientist scans that infinite, calm sky and that vast solitude with his telescope, he must record what he sees, not what he wishes he would have seen. In this sense, he must be "objective," and his questions and methodology must be detached from his own particular interests. But what puts him behind that telescope in the first place is his own personal need for truth and this need grows and articulates itself more and more as questions emerge in the light of his discoveries. All of this could be applied by analogy to the researches carried out by a true philosopher.
The second point is this: Leopardi's poem conveys with imaginative force the inexhaustibility of human desire and the questions through which it is expressed, or at least tends to be expressed insofar as man is willing to live in a way that is true to himself (several chapters of Giussani's book are devoted to the various ways in which man is capable of distracting himself or ignoring the dynamic of the religious sense, or anesthetizing himself against its felt urgency). Even more importantly, he indicates that the unlimited character of man's most fundamental questions points toward an Infinite Mystery, a mystery that man continually stands in front of with fascination and existential hunger but also with questions, because he is ultimately unable by his own power to unveil its secrets.
The experience of life teaches man, if he is willing to pay attention to it, that what he is truly seeking, in every circumstance is the unfathomable mystery which alone corresponds to the depths of his soul. 12 Offer to man anything less than the Infinite and you will frustrate him, whether he admits it or not. Yet at the same time man is not able to grasp the Infinite by his own power. Man's power is limited, and anything it attains it finitizes, reducing it to the measure of itself. The desire of man as a person, however, is unlimited, which means that man does not have the power to completely satisfy himself; anything that he makes is going to be less than the Infinite.
Here we begin to see clearly why Giussani holds that the ultimate questions regarding the meaning, the value, and the purpose of life have a religious character; and how it is that these questions are asked by everyone within the ordinary, non-theoretical reasoning process which he terms "the religious sense." The human heart is, in fact, a great, burning question, a plea, an insatiable hunger, a fascination and a desire for the unfathomable mystery that underlies reality and that gives life its meaning and value. This mystery is something Other than any of the limited things that we can perceive or produce; indeed it is their fundamental Source. Therefore, the all-encompassing and limitless search that constitutes the human heart and shapes our approach to everything is a religious search. It is indeed, as we shall see in a moment, a search for "God."
We seek an infinite fulfillment, an infinite coherence, an infinite interpenetration of unity between persons, an infinite wisdom and comprehension, an infinite love, an infinite perfection. But we do not have the capacity to achieve any of these things by our own power. Yet, in spite of this incapacity, in spite of the fact that the mystery of life—the mystery of happiness—seems always one step beyond us, our natural inclination is not one of despair, but rather one of dogged persistence and constant hope. Giussani insists that this hope and expectation is what most profoundly shapes the self; when I say the word "I," I express this center of hope and expectation of infinite perfection and happiness that is coextensive with myself, that "is" myself, my heart. And when I say the word "you," truly and with love, then I am acknowledging that same undying hope that shapes your self.
The human person walks on the roads of life with his hands outstretched toward the mystery of existence, constantly pleading for the fulfillment he seeks—not in despair but with hope— because the circumstances and events of life contain a promise, they whisper continually that happiness is possible. This is what gives the human spirit the strength to carry on even in the midst of the greatest difficulties.
Let us note two further points. First of all: I cannot answer the ultimate questions about the meaning of my life, and yet every fiber of my being seeks that answer and expects it. There must be Another who does correspond to my heart, who can fill the need that I am. To deny the possibility of an answer is to uproot the very foundation of the human being and to render everything meaningless. As Macbeth says, it would be as if life is "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."13 There must be an answer; and a human being cannot live without seeking that answer. Giussani says that a human being cannot live five minutes without affirming something, consciously or unconsciously, that makes those five minutes worthwhile.14 This is the basic structure of human reason at its root. "Just as an eye, upon opening, discovers shapes and colors, so human reason—by engaging the problems and interests of life—seeks and affirms some ultimate" value and significance which gives meaning to everything.15 But if we are honest, if we realize that we cannot fulfill ourselves, if we face the fact that the answer to the question of the meaning of life is not something we can discover among our possessions, or measure or dominate or make with our own hands, then we begin to recognize that our need for happiness points to Someone Else, to an Infinite Someone who alone can give us what we seek.
Second: this longing of my heart, this seeking of the Infinite is not something I made up or chose for myself. It is not my idea or my project or my particular quirk. It corresponds to the way I am, to the way I "find myself independent of any of my personal preferences or decisions. It is at the root of me. It is at the root of every person. It is in fact given to me, and to every person—this desire for the Mystery that is at the origin of everything that I am and do. In the depths of my own self there is this hidden, insatiable hunger and thirst, this "heart that says of You, 'seek His face!'" (Psalm 27:8), this need for an Other that suggests His presence at the origin of my being. He gives me my being; He is "nearer to me than I am to myself as St. Augustine says. And He has made me for Himself, He has placed within each of us a desire that goes through all the world in search of signs of His presence. In the depths of our being, we are not alone. We are made by Another and for Another. "You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You," says St. Augustine.
Thus, Giussani teaches that the Mystery of God is the only reality that corresponds to the "heart" of man: to the fundamental questions of human reason and the fundamental desire of the human freedom. It is this Infinite Mystery that the human person seeks in every circumstance of life. In our work, our loves, our friendships, our leisure time, our eating and drinking, our living and dying—in all of these activities we seek the face of the unfathomable Mystery that we refer to with poor words like "happiness" or "fulfillment" or "perfection."
St. Thomas Aquinas says that God is happiness by His Essence, and we are called to participate in His happiness by being united to Him who is Infinite Goodness.16 We are made for happiness. By our very nature we seek happiness. To be religious, then, is to recognize that God alone can make us happy. It is to recognize the mysterious existential reflection17 of God's infinite truth, goodness, and beauty that radiates from every creature, that lights up the circumstances of our lives, and calls out to us through all the opportunities that life presents to us.
In this sketch of Giussani's understanding of what he calls "the religious sense," we can see the profound reflections that underlie his great apostolate: his effort to teach his students that religion cannot be relegated to the fringes of life. Giussani insisted to his students that religion was not to be simply delineated as one aspect of life: a comfort for our sentiments, a list of ethical rules, a foundation for the stability of human social life (even though it entails such things as various consequences that follow from what it is in itself). Rather, the realm of the religious is coextensive with our happiness. The proper position of the human being is to live each moment asking for God to give him the happiness he seeks but cannot attain by his own power. Asking for true happiness—this is the true position of man in front of everything. Giussani often points out that "structurally" (that is, by nature), man is a "beggar" in front of the mystery of Being.
This brings us to the final chapters of The Religious Sense, in which Giussani analyses the dramatic character of this truth about man, both in terms of the very nature of this position of "being a beggar" and in terms of how this truth has played itself out in the great drama of human history. We could all too easily allow ourselves to be lulled to sleep by all of this lovely language about desiring the Infinite Mystery, and end up missing the point. The image of the beggar ought not to be romanticized in our imaginations. Generally people don't like to be beggars, and they don't have much respect for beggars. We should be able to attain what we need by our own efforts; is this not a basic aspect of man's sense of his own dignity? And yet the very thing we need most is something that we do not have the power to attain, something we must beg for. This is the true human position, and yet it is not as easy to swallow as it may at first appear.
We are beggars in front of our own destiny because the Infinite One for whom our hearts have been made is always beyond the things of this world that point toward Him but do not allow us to extract His fullness from them by our own power. This fact causes a great tension in the experience of the human person—a "vertigo," a dizziness, Giussani calls it 18—and there results the inevitable temptation to shrink the scope of our destiny, to attempt to be satisfied with something within our power, something we are capable of controlling and manipulating. This, says Giussani, is the essence of idolatry. Instead of allowing ourselves to be "aimed" by the beauty of things toward a position of poverty and begging in front of the Beauty who is "ever beyond" them, the Mystery of Infinite Splendor who sustains them all—who holds them in the palm of his hand—we try instead to grasp these finite things and make them the answer to our need for the Infinite.
This great tension at the heart of man's religious sense— and the historical tragedy of man's failure to live truly according the historical tragedy of man's failure to live truly according to the religious sense—generates within the heart of man the longing for salvation. Corresponding to this longing, Giussani says, is the recognition of the possibility of revelation. Might not the Infinite Mystery make Himself manifest in history, create a way within history for me to reach Him? Might not the Infinite Mystery who constitutes my happiness approach me, condescend to my weakness, guide my steps toward Him? This possibility—the possibility of Divine Revelation—is profoundly "congenial" to the human person, because man feels profoundly his need for "help" in achieving his mysterious destiny.
The Religious Sense concludes on this note: the possibility of revelation. Here the ground is laid for the second book in what might be called Giussani's catechesis of Christian anthropology: The Origin of the Christian Claim. In this book, Giussani will propose that Christ is the revelation of God in history, the Mystery drawn close to man's life—walking alongside the human person. Christ is the great Divine help to the human person on the path to true happiness,
1 Portions of this paper were originally presented by the author in a lecture on the theological anthropology of Msgr. Giussani sponsored by the Paideia Institute at the Holy Cross Parish Center in Rockville, Maryland on February 28, 1998; in his concluding remarks as chairman of a panel discussion of Giussani's work held at the Catholic University of America on March 20, 1998; and in interventions made during the symposium on Giussani's book The Religious Sense held at Georgetown University on September 10-12, 1998.
2 Giussani has a beautiful discussion of this text from St. Paul in Si puo vivere cosi? (Milano: Rizzoli, 1994), pp. 293-294, in which he stresses that life with Christ changes our whole mentality—it changes the criteria with which we approach things. Because of this change in mentality, we begin to act in a different way; we approach all the circumstances of our lives—our work, our study, our role as husband or wife, mother or father—with a transformed mind that manifests itself in the way we act.
3 "Speech on the thirtieth anniversary of the founding of Communion and Liberation, 29 September 1984," in L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, no. 44 , October 29, 1984.
4 The "ecclesial movements" are a very fruitful element in the life of the Church today. They are analogous (although very different in "devotional style") to the many lay confraternities that flourished during the Middle Ages and contributed to a genuine inculturation of the Catholic Faith in Western Europe at that time. In spite of its many inadequacies, the society of medieval Europe did succeed to a significant degree in helping the masses of ordinary people integrate faith and life. Pope John Paul II appears to recognize that the new evangelization requires an analogous (but perhaps more profound) evangelization of culture. This may be part of the reason why he has repeatedly given his support to today's ecclesial movements (most recently in a worldwide gathering in Rome on the feast of Pentecost 1998), always stipulating of course that they remain fully inserted into the mystery of the universal Church and fully obedient to the Church's magisterium and governing authority. Indeed, John Paul II has expressed repeatedly and in a very intimate manner his admiration for CL and for the work of Msgr. Giussani, particularly with regard to the evangelization of culture.
5 Two large volumes of Giussani's Opere published by Jaca Book in Milan in 1992 include not only Il Senso Religioso and its companion volumes, but also significant treatises on subjects as diverse as educational theory, the liturgy, the Christian dimension of morality, and even a study of twentieth century Protestant theologians in America.
6 The Religious Sense, trans. John Zucchi (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1997)
7 See Jacques Maritain, "Approches de Dieu," in Jacques et Raissa Maritain, Oeuvres Completes, vol. X [1952-1959] (Editions Universitaires: Fribourg Suisse / Editions Saint-Paul: Paris, 1985 [first published 1954]), pp. 13-22. English translation: Approaches to God, trans. Peter O'Reilly (New York: Harper & Bros, 1954), pp. 1-15.
8 The Religious Sense, p. 45.
9 The Religious Sense, see pp. 7-10.
10 Walker Percy, The Second Coming (New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1980), p. 237. Elsewhere Allie wonders, "why couldn't anyone do anything he or she wished, given the tools and the time? It was hard to understand why scientists had not long ago solved the problems of the world. Were they, the scientists, serious? . . . Perhaps they the scientists were not serious. For if people solved the problems of cancer and war, what would they do then?" (pp. 234-235). Characters in Walker Percy's novels who struggle with the religious sense are usually psychologically abnormal. Perhaps this is because our "normal" culture is becoming more and more a place without "room" for the fullness of the human heart; thus glimpses of the true human heart, Percy seems to suggest, may appear more clearly within the pathos of the neurotically dissatisfied than they do among the contented.
11 The Religious Sense, p. 46
12 St. Thomas Aquinas, in fact, has brilliantly and concisely expressed the metaphysical foundations that underlie Giussani's penetrating psychological analysis of man's "religious sense." In Question 22, art. 2 of De Veritate, St. Thomas affirms that not only man, but all creatures in a certain sense "naturally tend to God implicitly" even if they do not have the capability of doing so explicitly. This is because every creature, in pursuing the created good corresponding to its own nature and capacities, is ultimately ordained to God as primary end just as every creature comes forth into being and operates as a 'secondary efficient cause' by virtue of God's primary causality. Every "secondary end is sought only by reason of the worth of the principal end existing in it inasmuch as it is subordinated to the principal end or has its likeness. Accordingly, because God is the last end, He is sought in every end, just as, because He is the first efficient cause, He acts in every agent." Thus St. Thomas concludes that all things seek God at least implicitly. But, as Giussani points out, man is "that level of nature wherein nature becomes aware of itself and of its own purposes," and it is precisely by means of the unfolding of the religious sense that man becomes aware of the fact that he and all things are made for God. St. Thomas explains the same point as follows: He notes that "nothing has the note of appetibility except by a likeness to the first goodness." This means that every created end is a 'secondary end' that appeals only insofar as it reflects a dimension of the inexhaustible desirableness of the Primary Good. However, "only a rational nature can trace secondary ends back to God by a sort of analytic procedure so as to seek God Himself explicitly. In demonstrative sciences, a conclusion is correctly drawn only by a reduction to first principles. In the same way, the appetite of a rational creature is correctly directed only by an explicit appetitive tendency to God either actual or habitual." St. Thomas's reference to "trac[ing] secondary ends back to God by a sort of analytic procedure" indicates precisely the kind of analysis that Giussani is encouraging contemporary man to undertake.
13 Macbeth, act V., scene V.
14 The Religious Sense, p. 57
15 The Religious Sense, p. 58
16 Summa Theologiae I-II, q. 3, a. 1, reply ob. 1
17 This is my poor attempt to express what the great classical theologians referred to as the participation of creatures in God's existence and attributes.
18 The Religious Sense, p. 135.
John Janaro is Assistant Professor of Theology at Christendom College and Editor of Faith & Reason.
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