Risking on "The Risk of Education"
Hannah and Steph share the origins of their work on The Risk of Education and how that work is helping them look "with curiosity and expectation for the meaning in everything."
In November, the two of us decided to read together The Tidings Brought to Mary. In the Introduction to that book, Giussani says, “Love is to be for, to be for the Ideal, to be for the whole design.” He says that this creative love for totality is what allows our hearts to be open to God.
For us, this year has been full of significant proposals that have helped us to see that all of life is held within this totalizing love.
One of these proposals was the work on The Risk of Education that came out of Hannah’s desire to think about the question of education with her friends and colleagues at her school. She wanted to share Fr. Giussani’s method of education with them, but also thought that certain elements of the text, such as Giussani’s unique vocabulary, might prove challenging to her companions who were not familiar with CL.
After speaking with a group of friends in the Movement about it, we began asking what kind of tool would be helpful for introducing this beautiful book to someone unfamiliar with Fr. Giussani. A few of us pointed to our experience with the Well-Read Mom Reading Companion, with its simple summaries and guided reading questions, as something that safeguards fruitful conversation as opposed to just staying in the realm of our opinions. So, over the course of six months, a group of six friends set out to write a similar kind of guide for The Risk of Education.
As we read and re-read the book and continued to work on the Guide, it became clear how essential the work was for each of us in the first place—helping us to discover again the path of education that Fr. Giussani proposes that we embark on, specifically through the work of School of Community. We are so accustomed to breezily scanning great quantities of the printed word each day—be it in the form of news updates in our Inbox, text messages, or online articles--that our work with School of Community likewise often only skims the surface. We could sense a disproportion between the way we actually live this “school” and the way Fr. Giussani asks us to live it.
As we came close to completing the Reading Guide, we understood that before we could take this “out” to others, we had to commit ourselves to this work, so we invited anyone interested (via an email from Father José in August) to join us in reading The Risk of Education with the desire to better understand Father Giussani’s method of “educating the human heart as God made it” (Risk of Education, xxvii).
Over the course of four months, we hosted video conference calls with over one hundred people from all walks of life across the country. While many of these people were explicitly involved in the education of young people (teachers, parents, etc.), many were not. We proposed to follow the Reading Guide and meet every two weeks to discuss the questions and discoveries that emerged in that time. In an effort to ensure that the one hour of each call was used as well as possible, we created a Google Doc so that all those participating could share their contributions and questions in a way that would be available to anyone participating, even if there was not time for everyone to speak on the calls.
Now, about a month after the calls have finished, we have had the privilege of reading through all 121 pages of the Google Doc (for editing purposes). In addition, we have Fr. José’s notes from our calls, transcripts of the question and answer sessions, and the newly revised Reading Guide.
The work began as an effort to help people less familiar with Giussani's thought have a tool so that they could really dig into the book. It then became the desire to share what we were discovering about Giussani's method with all of the people we already share the life of the Movement with. Finally, what has happened—and what has been more beautiful for us—is that by staying together in this work, we have learned a great deal more about who we are in relation to our destiny and the journey we have been given to walk toward it.
Doing this work has put us in front of witness after witness (the number of people who responded was really surprising!)—people who live in vastly different places, whose communities are equally diverse, and whose circumstances are all unique. There is one beautiful thread that unites them all: the encounter with Christ and the journey to make this great event one’s own in the given circumstances. Steph shared that when this realization dawned on her, she prayed that her heart not be numb to these facts, because clearly the Mystery desires to put her before them again for her own conversion. She said, “As I read, I thought, This is us, the people of God, learning to call ourselves children."
As I read, I thought, This is us, the people of God, learning to call ourselves children.
Another gift has been learning to take seriously the method of study that Fr. Giussani has given us. Thanks to this proposal we started reading and re-reading with careful attention a few pages of The Risk of Education each day. This way of looking at the texts we are given has quickly become indispensable. We all know that, as Father Carron likes to remind us, daily life can be what crushes us, not life’s great trials. And so now when we make the time to read a few pages from the proposed reading—no longer The Risk of Education, but now Generating Traces (our School of Community reading)—it’s a concrete act that expresses our desire to truly live, to remember who we are and what has happened to us.
At the conclusion of all of this, instead of thinking, “We're done!” we feel a clear responsibility to be faithful to what has been given to us through this experience. For now, this takes the shape of finding creative ways to share with others that which we have discovered. Even more, it means being faithful to the experience of living “suspended from God”—looking with curiosity and expectation for the meaning in everything, knowing that it bears traces of the “ideal” to be discovered. In this way, step by step, our hearts can recover their origin and be truly open to receiving the gift of a loving Father.
Hannah, Cincinnati, Ohio, and Steph, Charlotte, North Carolina