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36 C H A P T E R 3 In the Collapse of the Self-Evident, a Subject Is Generated Without recognizing how things really are, without a sufficient awareness of what is happening, even if we take initiative—because in any case all of us move because we perceive things in one way or another, because we catch sight of a need—what we do will fail to have an impact. For this reason, helping each other to have a true gaze on reality, on the circumstances we are living in, is the first gesture of friendship we can offer each other for living like human beings in the presence of the needs of the world. A Different Perception of Reality The first gift Fr. Giussani gave us, through which he began to generate the history to which we all belong, was his perception of reality. I am thinking of his dialogue with the young people on the train, or with the high school students who came to him for confession, when he went to the parish on Lazio Avenue in Milan on the weekends in the early 1950s.1 Dialoguing and hearing confessions, he had a clear perception of what the situation was, and so he decided to change everything, even his own academic prospects, even though, to some extent, doing this disrupted what his superiors had in mind for him: he did it to respond to an urgent need that had clearly appeared to him. This was his point of departure. In a situation like that of the Catholic Church in Milan in the 1950s, in which there were no particular problems of orthodoxy and everything was transmitted peacefully, his gaze caught—by grace—a crucial issue, with a capacity for truly reading the signs of the times, those signs that almost nobody saw. What is evident to everyone now, because of the consequences we have seen and see, was recognized by only a few at the beginning, as always happens. Genius requires only a few clues to draw a general conclusion. This is the genius of the Spirit, who can give a person the grace to begin to understand. During his life, Fr. Giussani offered us many signs of this different gaze, different from that of the others and from ours as well, so much so that we, too, were surprised. What was the problem in those years? The doctrine that was transmitted in an orthodox way no longer penetrated life; it did not become new experience. Fr. Giussani gave life to a movement, getting involved with the Catholic youth groups of Milan, to begin to respond to that urgent need. He began anew by focusing on experience, because without it—that is, if doctrine does not enter into life and one does not have an experience of it—we cannot understand the nature of faith. From the beginning, he put experience at the center: “I’m not here so that you can take my ideas as your own, but to teach you a true method that you can use to judge the things I will tell you.”2 In other words, I have not come to convince you about something , but to give you the instrument you need in order to experience it and convince yourselves, so that your personality is generated through the constant comparison between what you live and the criteria that you discover within yourselves, engaging yourselves in the verification of the proposal you receive. In the Collapse of the Self-Evident, a Subject Is Generated 37 A Weakness of Awareness: “As If There Were No Longer Anything Self-Evident” But at a certain point, many years after the movement began, Fr. Giussani realized that, especially in the life of young people, something new was happening again that did not manifest itself—as we might expect—in a sort of ethical inconsistency.This would be nothing . He understood that the weakness of the young people of the 1980s was not merely a matter of acting consistently, or of moral fragility: “It seems to me that the difference lies in a greater weakness of awareness people have today, a weakness that is not ethical, but rather pertains to the energy of our awareness. . . . It is as if [today] nothing were really self-evident except fashion, because fashion is a project of power.”3 This disappearance of what is self-evident grew exponentially in the following years and continues to grow. In fact, as...


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