In seeking to re-awaken us to The Religious Sense, Luigi Giussani (left) and Juliån Carrón direct our attention to “certain questions [like] What is the ultimate meaning of existence? Why is there pain and death? Deep down, why is life worth living? What does reality really consist of and what is it made for?” In his book presentation on The Religious Sense, Father Carrón adds, “The religious sense . . . is the nature of our ‘I’ inasmuch as it expresses itself in these questions.” I have found this book presentation, “The Religious Sense, Verification of the Faith,” particularly challenging—not because I don’t understand it intellectually but because of the shocking scarcity or shallowness of the questions with which I usually walk through life. How seldom I think about these “big” questions! Sometimes, it makes a man feel empty.
But the book presentation has also led me to appreciate the smaller questions and to think that, in the absence of big questions, I had better begin with the small ones! Some of my smaller questions are especially thorny for me, and as I consider them, I realize that they are like plants whose roots extend far down into the soil of my self.
Here’s a question that I carry with me and often consider: How can I be a good father to my children now that they are grown and gone, and I am perched with my wife on an empty nest? This may seem unrelated to life’s ultimate questions, but it is directly connected with some of the deepest places in my heart. I am often stumped contemplating this question, and I often hurt to do so.
Likewise, the question: When someone close to me—a family member or perhaps a friend in School of Community—says something stupid, or at least something that I think is stupid, wrong, idiotic, should I play the good Christian and silently turn the other ear? Or should I speak up? The obvious answer seems to be, speak up, but I have been in too many of these situations to think that there is any obvious answer. I sweat over this question, and when I reply to it with action or inaction, one way or the other, I often regret the answer I have given.
I have other small questions, including one about a person in my past life and his importance or significance on my path, and what this says about destiny, and even about good and evil. Sorry, dear reader, but this question has to remain abstract, at least in this public space. Still, I think it shows how a very personal small question can lead to universal big ones.
As I think about this question of questions, I am led to what seems the real point: By putting myself in touch with such questions—big or small but each of them piercing in its way—I am putting myself in touch with my deeper humanity. Because how can we be in touch with God if we are not in touch with our own selves? If God knocked on my door and I were not at home, who would hear what He had to say?
It was Don Giussani who often said, quoting theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, “Nothing is more unbelievable than the answer to a question that is not asked.”