What Is Communion and Liberation?

1. What is Communion and Liberation (CL)? What is its charism?

CL is a ecclesial movement in the Catholic Church, a community of people who have been changed by the encounter with Christ. It is named for the fact that only the Christian event, as lived in communion with one another, can bring about the liberation of the human person. Its founder, Fr. Luigi Giussani, began CL in Milan in the 1960s with his high school students; he taught them a method through which they could judge the experiences of their everyday life, and discover how faith was relevant to the most fundamental needs of their hearts.

The movement summarizes its charism in three points (as seen here on the CL website):

a) the proclamation that God has become man (and the wonder, reasonableness, and enthusiasm of this announcement): “The Word was made flesh and dwells among us”;

b) the affirmation that this man, Jesus of Nazareth, dead and risen, is an event present in a sign of communion, that is, of the unity of a people, guided by a living person – the Pope, in the final analysis;

c) only within the life of the Church (which is Christ’s presence in the world) can man be more truly a man. Therefore, it is from His presence that morality and a passion for man’s salvation (mission) spring forth with certainty.

Here, on the University of Notre Dame campus, our community is composed of faculty and staff, graduate students, and undergraduates. For this reason, it is called Communion and Liberation University (CLU). The experience of CLU is lived through participation in acts of Charitable Work, in our shared meals and nights of friendship together, and in particular through our weekly meetings of School of Community (SoC). SoC is the heart of the movement. We get together to read and discuss texts written by Fr. Giussani and Fr. Carron, in order to come to a deeper understanding of the Christian event in our daily lives.

2. How has Communion and Liberation challenged you to holiness?

Communion and Liberation moves me to live reality—all of reality, in its beauty and its difficulty—intensely. The friendship that I live within CL wakes me up to the fact that every circumstance in my life is positive, is given to me with a meaning. It drives me to seek Christ's face in the concrete particularities of my daily experience, and to respond to the encounter with him with joyful adherence to his Church. My life in the movement, therefore, educates my heart to help me become ever more human, ever more myself.

3. What is a story that encapsulates the ethos of Communion and Liberation for you?

Just a few weeks ago, I made a mistake on a project that resulted in (what I thought of as) a terrible grade. I was very disappointed in myself, and so was tempted to seclude myself, to withdraw from my friendships and responsibilities to focus exclusively on doing perfect school work. However, that afternoon I happened to pass by a friend from CL on the quad. Her smile lit up her face as she greeted me, but when I asked how she was doing, she immediately shared that she was experiencing great difficulty in her work, and that she would appreciate my company with her at daily Mass that night. I agreed, though I initially resented (what I perceived as) the intrusion upon my freedom. Sitting next to her at Mass, I realized that obedience to her invitation was my true freedom, for it was an invitation to live more fully my utter dependence on Christ. I had been drawn out of myself by a presence that was not mine. After Mass I felt an immense peace, one that did not erase my bad grade or her difficulty, but that allowed us to return to our work with renewed desire to live it well.

This anecdote conveys the fact that Communion and Liberation helps one understand and live all of reality, not merely the most dramatic, life-changing events of our life. Christ is present in all things, and the needs of our heart correspond to his presence, so everything in life takes on immense significance.

4. How does your involvement in Communion and Liberation affect your experience of the Church?

My involvement in CL has helped me adhere with joy and fidelity to the Church. Through the movement, I have rediscovered with wonder the mystery of the Incarnation, which is lived out by the Church in every aspect of her life. The Mass and Sacraments take on the fullness of their meaning when they are experienced in the context of a concrete relationship with Christ as an outpouring of His love. Furthermore, my friendships in the movement have helped me develop a deep love for Eucharistic Adoration, a strong appreciation for art, music, and the natural world, and an abiding commitment to accompanying and serving the marginalized of my community. In short, Communion and Liberation has made me Catholic.

Featured Image: 1980s. Milan. Father Luigi Giussani explains God’s incarnation through the ''diagram of the x.'' © Fraternità di CL, all rights reserved, used by permission.


Sofia Carozza

Sofia Carozza is a Marshall Scholar at the University of Cambridge where she researches the neurobiological pathways through which early adversity affects the developing brain. She also blogs at Synapses of the Soul and co-hosts The Pilgrim Soul podcast.

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