The anarchist and the religious: the stature of man according to Fr. Giussani

What do Amilcare Cipriani and Alberto Marvelli have in common? Nothing, one would say instinctively. In fact, apart from the common Rimini origin, what can hold together the champion of anarchy and the great witness of faith that the Church has proclaimed blessed? Anarchy and religious faith are poles apart. Nevertheless…

And yet, the thought of Don Luigi Giussani, to whom an exhibition in the courtyard of the Gambalunga Library is dedicated until November 27, offers a different, original perspective. According to the Milanese priest, whose centenary of birth is being celebrated, “only two types of men save the entire stature of the human being: the anarchist and the authentically religious”. A paradox that Giussani explains in these terms: «The nature of man is a relationship with the infinite: the anarchist is the affirmation of himself to the infinite, and the authentically religious man is the acceptance of the infinite as meaning of himself”.

Both positions save the stature of the human being, but they are not equal: «anarchy constitutes the most fascinating temptation, but it is as fascinating as it is false». The anarchist tends to say “I affirm myself against everyone and against everything”, but, Giussani observes, “it is much greater and truer to embrace reality and being than to affirm oneself in the face of any reality”.

Giussani’s attention to the anarchist position probably also has biographical reasons. Not everyone knows that his father Beniamino, a militant socialist, had been in contact with Anna Kuliscioff, a Russian revolutionary anarchist, companion of Andrea Costa, the first socialist deputy in Italy from Romagna. From their relationship Andreina was born, who married Luigi Gavazzi, scion of the family that owned the factory where Giussani’s father worked. Andreina converted to Catholicism and, probably through the parish priest of Desio, I entered into a relationship with Angela, the mother of the future priest. If Giussani was able to continue his studies in the seminary, it was thanks to the fact that Andreina paid the tuition fees. In short, the future founder of Communion and Liberation became a priest thanks to the daughter of two leading exponents of anarchy first and then of socialism.

Returning to Rimini, it is interesting to note that the city has always been considered a den of anarchists. Not only for the historic nucleus that developed in Borgo San Giuliano and which caused some headaches for the authorities. Beyond the historical and political phenomenon, now concluded, many believe that anarchy is part of the character of the people of Rimini. They tend to be individualists, easily quarrelsome, reluctant to unite in a common project. The people of Rimini are also from Romagna, even if on the border, and this gives them a sanguine, warm and passionate character. They are ready to spend energy if they see an ideal that convinces them. And also to pick fights with anyone who gets in the way of their projects. An explosive mixture of the anarchist character of Romagna. It can be said that here, between the Arch and the Bridge, the two human types, the anarchist and the religious, have developed to the maximum, and also met, clashed, and probably even understood each other.

Giussani loved the people of Rimini. From the 1960s onwards, after the Student Youth was born in Rimini too, he frequented the city a lot. After the crisis of 1968, a flourishing community of Communion and Liberation grew up in anarchic and individualistic Rimini. “Rimini is a bit like a second homeland for this movement,” Bishop Francesco Lambiasi recently observed. Is there any connection between the character of the people of Rimini and the welcome given to the charism of Don Giussani? There is certainly some indication that Don Giussani liked the people of Rimini precisely because of their nature. Bruno Sacchini, one of the first Giessini, recalls a visit by Don Giussani to the headquarters in via Cairoli and a parting phrase: «above all, never lose the non-conformism that characterizes you from Romagna». What did he mean? All the thought of him suggests that in that word “nonconformism” he meant to appreciate their willingness not to bow to the dominant power, not to let themselves be trooped, to be open to reality rather than to ideologies. Perhaps he wanted to remind them of the fact that “the need for goodness, justice, truth, happiness constitute the ultimate face, the profound energy with which men of all times and of all races approach everything”. Only the discovery of the original needs of the heart saves the anarchist, or the nonconformist, from the temptation to make himself infinite.

Valerio Lessi

The anarchist and the religious: the stature of man according to Fr. Giussani