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WATERS/ The Religious Sense and myself

John Waters describes what the encounter with Fr. Giussani’s The Religious Sense did mean for his life  

Fr. Luigi Giussani Fr. Luigi Giussani

For my 50th birthday in 2005, Don Giussani presented me with The Religious Sense, and in doing so with a new version of my own life. Of course, at that moment, he had been dead for some time, but this seems to have made it easier for him to reach me.

As I have told many times, I was on a trip to Rome to celebrate my birthday when I met Mauro Biondi at Dublin Airport and from there a series of events was initiated which led me to read The Religious Sense and to become drawn into a friendship with Communion and Liberation.

I have described The Religious Sense as the most radical book I have ever read. It sounds like a calculated hyperbole, but it is not. I think that anyone who reads it with an open mind and heart will come to the same conclusion. It is a book that brings together all those dissociated thoughts and disconnected questions and non-integrated experiences that populate all our heads, and present them to us in a new way, with a coherence that we had not imagined possible.

The coherence is not an intellectual thing, but a sense of things dropping into their proper place in terms of the life we have lived and what it means. Really, what the book gave me was a new map of myself and my journey through reality.

I have often said that Chapter 10, which begins in the English edition on page 100, is for me the start of the book. This does not mean that I ignore the first nine chapters, but that I perceive that in these initial 99 pages, Don Giussani is first taking me by the hand through the culture in which I live and showing me how it has become possible for me to become alienated from myself. And, having opened me up to this possibility, he then wheels around and says, almost, "Hey, have you ever met this guy, John Waters?" He takes me back to my own moment of earthly origin and invites me, in the light of what he has been telling me about my journey, to know myself anew and to start my life again. He asks me to open my eyes, as though for the first time.

What do I see? How do I feel? He brings me back into my childhood sense of reality, of my createdness, my dependency, my sense of being accompanied. And he offers this to me as a method for the rest of my life, to emerge at will from what I have been misled into thinking about as reality and re-enter the original, pure state of being human.

It blows my mind every time to think of what a gift this has been.

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