The logic of charisms

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The logic of charisms/10 - It is necessary to be able to imagine new forms of life in common, more nomadic and fluid.

by Luigino Bruni

Published in Avvenire  21/11/2021

"And each time my system was beautiful, vast, spacious, comfortable, clean and above all smooth. And each time a spontaneous and unexpected product of universal vitality came to deny my childish and antiquated science, the deplorable daughter of utopia".

Charles Baudelaire, Exposition Universelle, 1855

There is no Christianity without community, even when communities fall ill and become difficult. Forgetting this means denying the humanism of the Bible and the Gospels.

I am very fascinated by the figure of the prophet Jeremiah. While everyone - priests, kings, and court prophets - denied that Nebuchadnezzar's Babylonians would destroy the temple and conquer Jerusalem, Jeremiah persistently insisted that Israel would be defeated and deported to a long exile. However then, with the same prophetic certainty, he added: in the end a remnant will return, our history will continue, because one story is over, but our story is not over.

[fulltext] =>

The Church has already been in exile for some time, although many are not aware of it. Jerusalem and the temple have already been occupied by new Babylonians. They have not been destroyed, simply put to earn and make a profit for the new insatiable gods of consumption and merit. And within this exile, Jeremiah, and with him the whole Bible, continue to repeat to us: one story is over, but history is not over, because a faithful remnant will continue living it. This is our non-futile hope. The other hopes are mere illusions from false prophets, registered on the payroll of the Babylonians.

It is within this time of exile that I have also chosen to place this reflection on charismatic communities. And it is with that spirit that they should be read, along the rivers of Babylon. I did not hang my pen on the willows, but I tried to write, to sing in the land of exile. Pages that have not denied exile, but have tried to look beyond the great rivers. Today we know that the Jews wrote their most beautiful books while in Babylon, the Bible was born there and it was there that they were able to talk about the Covenant and the Promised Land when they could no longer see them and they had only become a bitter memory. We too need talk about communities and charisms, about their pains and their problems, without ever taking our eyes off the covenant and the Promised Land.

Communities that are born around a charism are among the most sublime and exalting realities on earth. They are vulnerable and fragile, because it is always the deepest and most intimate part of life that is inherently vulnerable, fragile, and exposed to tragedy. The promise of the Bible and the Gospels will always be a community promise; it will always take place among us, not only within our hearts. If you want to kill the Bible and the Gospels, kill the communities - and many are trying, trying to transform Christian life into an individual matter without any strong affiliations, an emotional and solitary spiritual consumerism, finally turned harmless.

The Church was born as a community. Jesus called twelve men, twelve friends, and immediately other men and women. With them, he gave life to an extraordinary community experience that neither the betrayal of Judas nor that of Peter nor Golgotha ​​managed to defeat. The first gesture of Jesus in Capernaum was a call to his disciples, to his companions, to tell us that that history is a collective history, the history of "two or more". The first name of Christians was a plural name. Then we have the apostles, and then the thousands of charisms that over the centuries have fertilized and enriched the earth with their communities. The letters of St. Paul speak to us of communities with problems no less serious than those highlighted in this series (and in the four other of previous years). It was the historical closeness to Christ and to a charismatic man like Paul that created the preconditions for getting out of excess, errors and exaggerations of various kinds in his churches. For this same reason, it is much more likely that the problematic phenomena we have spoken of are more common in communities with a living (or recently deceased) founder than in those of ancient and very ancient charisms.

Community vocations are something immense and this immensity is precisely what makes them so risky. It is a game of multiple mirrors between the people, the community, and the charism. An admirable, fantastic, sublime game, which explains much of the irresistible power and charm of these experiences. There is an admirable coincidence between the inside and outside, between the individual and collective soul. What comes from outside is perceived as already existing within. The more you dig into the soul, the more you find the community, the more you deepen the community, and the more you find your own soul recognizing it in the souls of our companions. When say "I" and someone else answers "we", we say "we" and I hear my own name pronounced, returning to me, now immense like the world, infinite like heaven. The thrill of such an experience is truly fantastic and unique, and those who experience it would not give it up for anything in the world. Herein lies the extraordinary aspect of charismatic communities, together with their risks and problems, as in all wonderful experiences because, like mountain climbs, they take place on the edge of the precipice.

An important element in this entire individual and collective dynamic, perhaps the most decisive and neglected one, is time. Because a vocational experience in youth and in adult life are different, very different, and at times they can become too much. Sunrise and sunset are separated by a very bright noon, and so they do not recognize each other as moments of the same day, as different shades of the same light. There is a profound elective affinity between youth and charismatic communities. A young person is generous, goes beyond the limits of the ordinary and loves fantastic, radical, exaggerated and extreme experiences, because he or she wants to savour life to its very core. Young people are pure, they love and live gratuitousness and have a genuine and non-ideological faith. Hence, when they encounter the infinite energy released by a charism, they begin to take flight. They take off and never stop. They believe everything, they hope for everything, and they endures anything in order not to return from that mad flight, in order to be shipwrecked in that sea. Community life almost always strengthens the qualities of the young, it makes them flourish, blossom, bear the first tasty fruits. Few things on earth are more beautiful and pure than a young person in love with a charism. Especially if that young person holds a spiritual vocation, a true calling.

Hence, the first effect of a spiritual vocation, especially when it grows within a community, is lengthening the time of youth, perhaps also of childhood. One remains young - an evangelical child - for a long time, and some dimensions of youth remain throughout one's life - a certain beautiful naivety, seeing through eyes of a child, the ability to be moved when faced with beauty, the amazement when met with excessive goodness or wickedness. Due to the extraordinary experience that one lives as a young person, it is therefore rather comprehensible why becoming an adult within a charismatic community can be particularly difficult, and sometimes, if not often, something breaks during the passage. First of all, as young people it is difficult, if not impossible, to understand that the marvellous things that are happening to us are merely the feast of the wedding day, and hence destined to be short-lived. It is difficult or impossible, because if we were truly aware of it we would stop before even starting the journey. A providential unconsciousness is essential in order to take the first step. However, if adequate accompaniment is lacking in the second years of community life, the inevitable impact with the principle of reality can be devastating. Because if the maturation process is not experienced as a passage towards even greater awareness and truth, it will only be interpreted as a decline and not infrequently as betrayal and deception.

Faced with the first necessary crevices in the wall of that first youthful vocation and the concrete forms it takes, instead of letting the first surrounding wall collapse thereby discovering new gardens and meadows on which to run free, too often a builder is called instead to repair the leaks and restore the old building. Thus, when the day arrives when the patches no longer hold up and the building collapses, the inevitable and sudden collapse will not be seen as a possibility of a better, wider and brighter future, but as an earthquake and complete destruction. Instead of indicating new horizons for a new mature life, the landscape that the fall has opened up in front of our eyes will now only inspire fear, leaving us stuck in the midst of the remaining human, psychological and vocational rubble. If the reasoning made in these weeks contains something real, it is the realization that in order for charismatic communities to continue to attract people with vocations and thus experience a new spring, a remnant after exile, there is an immense and urgent need for courage and risk taking in letting the walls collapse. It is necessary to know how to imagine new forms of life in common, more nomadic and fluid, especially in the adult phase of people's lives. Generating more ways of living firmly belonging to the community, faithful to the spirit of the charism while at the same time being capable of changing the concrete and organizational forms it gave life to in the past. The vocation is one, but the forms a vocation can take are many. In the time of exiles and floods, only what is agile and small will survive.

One last note, one last, whispered, personal word. While you are living the adult time of exile, never forget the time of your first love, when your heart heard different and eternal words (Hosea 2,16) and your eyes saw another gaze. Because it is not a lie, it is just far away for now. You wanted to touch the sky and you touched your land, perhaps to finally be able to truly love it. Do not forget the first covenant; do not forget that great promise: it was all for you. Do not forget that at the beginning of a life that has now become complicated, there once was something truly wonderful. There was a young woman, a young man, who in the full splendour of their age, believed and left to follow an unconditional yes. In the beginning, there was something wonderful, great beauty, gratuitousness, and an infinite generosity. And if it was there in the beginning, it will be there forever. No disappointment, no pain, nothing in the world can erase this infinite beauty-gratuitousness-generosity. Do not let them erase it. And then try to rise again.

When the Son of man returns to earth will he still find faith in the community?

Dedicated to Friederike, who taught me that an adult vocation can be even more beautiful than the splendid one of youth.

Next Sunday I will return to the other strand of my collaboration with the Avvenire: biblical commentaries. With Hosea, a difficult and much loved prophet. Thanks you dear readers for following me in these ten episodes on communities, interrupted by an unexpected month of convalescence that perhaps gave another flavour to my words. Some people found them harsh, I understand this; I hope others found them useful too, written in the same spirit in which you say harsh but necessary words to a friend, or to yourself. Thank you to Marco Tarquinio, editor and dear friend, who continues to follow me, confident and courageous, in this difficult and wonderful weekly labour, wading into exile.

Thank you, always, to Luigino Bruni for his friendship, his generous tenacity even in trial and for his luminous fidelity to the Word, to the shared words and to the uncomfortable yet welcoming truth that gives meaning to the enterprises of life and nourishes our being a community. (MT)

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The logic of charisms/10 - It is necessary to be able to imagine new forms of life in common, more nomadic and fluid.

by Luigino Bruni

Published in Avvenire  21/11/2021

"And each time my system was beautiful, vast, spacious, comfortable, clean and above all smooth. And each time a spontaneous and unexpected product of universal vitality came to deny my childish and antiquated science, the deplorable daughter of utopia".

Charles Baudelaire, Exposition Universelle, 1855

There is no Christianity without community, even when communities fall ill and become difficult. Forgetting this means denying the humanism of the Bible and the Gospels.

I am very fascinated by the figure of the prophet Jeremiah. While everyone - priests, kings, and court prophets - denied that Nebuchadnezzar's Babylonians would destroy the temple and conquer Jerusalem, Jeremiah persistently insisted that Israel would be defeated and deported to a long exile. However then, with the same prophetic certainty, he added: in the end a remnant will return, our history will continue, because one story is over, but our story is not over.

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And do not forget while in exile

And do not forget while in exile

The logic of charisms/10 - It is necessary to be able to imagine new forms of life in common, more nomadic and fluid. by Luigino Bruni Published in Avvenire  21/11/2021 "And each time my system was beautiful, vast, spacious, comfortable, clean and above all smooth. And each time a spontaneous and...
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    [title] => Conformity entraps
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The logic of charisms/9 - Forming one’s autonomy to find one's vocation within vocation.

By Luigino Bruni

Published in Avvenire 14/11/2021.

"In the course of social interaction, humans generate outcomes that were not part of their intentions. Financial incentives can lead to a decline in production; the increased application of repressive measures can lead to an increase in crime."

Robert K. Merton, Social Structure and Anomie

Those who are part of charismatic communities are moved by different motivations. And imitators play a crucial and almost always underestimated role in this.

A note in the commentary that we have been stubbornly carrying out for several years now on communities and charismatic movements (the first article dates back to February 8, 2015), perhaps its keynote, is the relationship between good intentions and bad results. Many collective "poverty traps", some even very dark and deep, arise from the perverse effects of actions carried out in good faith according to their idea of ​​the common good.

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Among these poverty traps, there is a particularly important one, not analysed enough that has to do with the phenomena of imitation and conformism that affect communities, especially charismatic ones. To be able to penetrate these complex dynamics within the space offered by an article, we must simplify the field. Ideally we need to divide the members of any charismatic community into three categories, based on the type of motivations that led them to enter the community and then stay there, (well aware that "to enter" and "to remain" are two very different verbs).

A first group of members is characterized by an intrinsically dominant or exclusive motivation. These are the people attracted to a community by its charism and nothing else, because they are responding to an authentic vocation, after feeling a perfect harmony between their soul and that of the charism. However, these subjects have a dual structure: on the one hand, they have (almost) zero probability of leaving the community, they do not make calculations and they give their all, because (and as long as) they completely identify with the charism. At the same time, these members are usually the first to leave if they are convinced that the community has betrayed its charism. These are the people, who when they leave a community, for example, become particularly nasty: having entered only for intrinsic reasons, their subjective experience of betrayal is particularly devastating (even more so for women). In other words, having no other "incentive" than the charism, the day they feel that it has left their soul, the subjects in this group 1 no longer have any reason to stay - and a thousand reasons to get away.

The people who only have this kind of intrinsic motivation are generally few, it is furthermore not certain that they always perform a positive function. Even if the perverse effects of intrinsic motivations are not the subject of this article, it is important to know that they exist and can be very serious, because those inherently motivated do not tend to listen to feedback from reality. The members of this first group do not tend to be leaders or executives: these people are more than often found in the suburbs, performing undervalued functions, partly because their attention to intrinsic aspects easily leads them into conflict with the management needs of the community government: bosses and leaders love the middle ground, not the extremities or the top.

Then we have the members of the second group, who mirror the former one. They are those people who entered and then remained in the community without having any real vocation or ideal motivation. Instead, they ended up there for the most varied reasons (search for company, interests, needs...); they are not necessarily morally bad, opportunistic or false people, because their distinctive feature is that they do not attribute any intrinsic value to the ideal or to the charism - they happen to find themselves in that community but could easily be in another. They are therefore people who only respond to incentives, and who remain if, and as long as, it is convenient for them to do so. It is always important to know that all communities, even the most beautiful ones, probably include a percentage of members of group 2. The historical story of Jesus also reminds us that it likely exists.

Finally, we have the intermediate subjects, those who belong in the third group. These are the people who have a combination of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, who are attracted to both ideals and incentives. The salient feature of group 3 is acting by imitation. They are in fact conformist subjects, who derive satisfaction mainly from following the emerging and dominant cultural, spiritual, linguistic and ethical traits in the community (A. Antoci, L. Bruni, P. Russo e A. Smerilli, The founder’s curse: The Stronger the Founder the Weaker the Organization, 2020). Not having sufficient motivational autonomy, their individual ethos becomes the ethos of the community. Therefore, based on the dominant collective ethos, they will imitate either the members of the first group or those of the second. Since a community is able to live and grow if the culture that is established is in some harmony with the charism, group 3 imitates group 1, because if the members of group 2 were to be imitated, the community would disintegrate or become distorted, as a charism is essentially a matter of intrinsic motivations.

The members of the third group are by far the most numerous in ideal communities. Even if - and herein lies the very core of these theories - each member of this third group is similar and different from the others: they are all conformists, but behind the same behaviour there are, invisible and (partly) different individual preferences. Some, in fact, are very close to group 1, others to group 2, and many find themselves in an intermediate area. Group 3 is where the crucial threads of the communities are knotted. First, it should be noted that when looking at a community from the outside - and often from the inside as well - it is not easy to distinguish the members of group 3 from those of group 1. Imitators behave as if they are intrinsically motivated without actually being so, or being so but in a different way.

The fate and quality of a community depend on the internal composition of the conformist group. For example, if a community includes too many members of the third group with very low levels of intrinsic motivation, that is, close to the threshold (equal to zero) that separates them from group 2, the community becomes very vulnerable to the great crises of ideals. The intrinsic motivations of the members in group 2 are already equal to zero, or negative, so these crises do not affect them. However, those who belong to group 1 have very high levels, and if the crisis does not attack the faith in the charism itself (which would be an altogether different crisis), this group remains protected from an average decrease in motivation. The critical group is therefore the third one. And there are many reasons for this, all of which are crucial.

Suppose that most members belonging to group 3 in community X have very low intrinsic motivations today, somewhere between 0.1 and 0.6, for example. These motivations are sufficient to not belong to group 2 but to group 3. If a crisis should arrive in this community, lowering everyone's intrinsic motivations with an average value – let us say – of -0.6, all those imitators with a motivational rate between 0.1 and 0.6 will end up having negative or zero motivations. They will actually transform into members of group 2. The opposite situation to when the motivational values ​​of group 3 increase on the threshold of separation with group 1.

Hence, it is evident that the ability to resist a great crisis largely depends on how the community and its leaders relate to the imitators-conformists during ordinary times. There are communities that facilitate and develop a culture of conformist imitation and those that instead favour the autonomy of individuals. An imitative culture is highly tempting, because it can make a lot of money in the short term, due to its characteristic of reducing discussions, minimizing decision-making frictions and management costs, and speeding up processes; the second kind is instead slower, more expensive and more risky. Forming people to become autonomous means giving up full control of individual consciences, putting everyone in a position to develop their own personal convictions about the charism. Enabling them to find their own vocation in the vocation, to freely decide whether to stay or to go (sometimes one stays alone because one does not have the freedom to go), to work on the "why" and not on the "how", that is, on the profound reasons for the charism and not on technicalities. When the first type of mentality or formation prevails, the increased speed and efficiency that prevails during happy times, generates an enormous vulnerability in critical moments.

That is not all, however. In charismatic communities, conformism is generally particularly rewarded and encouraged. While companies, with their pragmatism, sometimes remunerate and encourage non-conformist and creative members (provided that they bring turnover and profits), in charismatic communities non-conformism is almost always synonymous with infidelity to the charism, it is considered deviant behaviour to be discouraged, because in generally no one knows how to deal with it. Fidelity ends up being identified with conformity to the charism, and conformity to the charism with conformity to the dominant ethos in the community. Hence, an important practical consequence: the leaders of these communities, those who reach the central and peripheral top positions, are generally members of group 3, rarely of group 1; i.e. conformists who, however, are generally mistaken for intrinsically motivated people such as those in group 1.

Confusing conformism with fidelity, and therefore rewarding conformism, greatly facilitates a conformist kind of government and conformist ethos, both incapable of that creativity and innovation that would be essential for the continuation of a community over time. These "traps" are among the most common causes of the decline of ideal communities. Furthermore, when the community culture forms its members into imitation and conformism, in the short term there is an increase in members but not in vocations, because it grows by attracting new members with a conformist mentality - increasing group 3 (and a little bit of group 2), to the detriment of group 1. The success in terms of numbers then deceives everyone into believing that the training strategy is the right one, the circuit feeds itself over time until it creates a perfect "poverty trap". In communities with a predominantly conformist culture, motivational crises are devastating, sometimes even fatal, because rewarding and encouraging conformism has generated people with low intrinsic motivation and a low level of autonomy.

Thus, a crisis can be seen as a stress test that measures the nature of the people who make up a community: a crisis that generates many defections can signal that the community has grown by attracting many - or almost exclusively - imitating members. And from there, perhaps, it can try to rise again - by rising again you learn about Golgotha. Other different scenarios open up when the crisis is provoked by the exit of one or more members of group 1, when neither members of group 3 nor group 2 leave, but only someone with very high intrinsic motivations. In these cases, there are yet other ramifications, but we will talk about this on another occasion.

After the great successes of the miracles of Galilee, the Gospel of John tells us of the first great crisis in the community of Jesus: «”You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve» (John 6,67). Jesus revealed to his followers who he really was, and the crisis arrived. Those who had followed him included a very diverse population, with different motivations. Many left. Among those who remained, however, there were those capable of resisting the greatest crisis of all, that of the crucifix. And then they proceeded to change the world.

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The logic of charisms/9 - Forming one’s autonomy to find one's vocation within vocation.

By Luigino Bruni

Published in Avvenire 14/11/2021.

"In the course of social interaction, humans generate outcomes that were not part of their intentions. Financial incentives can lead to a decline in production; the increased application of repressive measures can lead to an increase in crime."

Robert K. Merton, Social Structure and Anomie

Those who are part of charismatic communities are moved by different motivations. And imitators play a crucial and almost always underestimated role in this.

A note in the commentary that we have been stubbornly carrying out for several years now on communities and charismatic movements (the first article dates back to February 8, 2015), perhaps its keynote, is the relationship between good intentions and bad results. Many collective "poverty traps", some even very dark and deep, arise from the perverse effects of actions carried out in good faith according to their idea of ​​the common good.

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Conformity entraps

Conformity entraps

The logic of charisms/9 - Forming one’s autonomy to find one's vocation within vocation. By Luigino Bruni Published in Avvenire 14/11/2021. "In the course of social interaction, humans generate outcomes that were not part of their intentions. Financial incentives can lead to a decline in producti...
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The logic of charisms/8 - Small personal thresholds of self-segregation can lead to high walls.

by Luigino Bruni

Published in Avvenire  07/11/2021

"It is precisely the subtle feeling of helplessness, the idea of ​​chasing something that continually escapes our understanding that lies at the roots of our discomfort today."

Mario Pomilio, Industrial notebook (Taccuino industriale, 1945-1980)

Unwanted phenomena occur at a collective level in society and in organizations that no one would want on an individual level. Phenomena that are also found in the dynamics of communities.

Our civilization has a great love for individual freedom and protects the private sphere of individual preferences with all its strength. For at least half a century, modern Western society itself has developed a series of theories and analyzes to study the failures of the sovereignty of the individual. Those cases in which the game of choices based on individual preferences ends up producing perverse collective effects. Because the "invisible hand" that transforms and aggregates the choices of individuals does not always generate good collective transformations, neither for individuals nor for societies.

[fulltext] =>

A classic and pioneer of these studies is the Nobel Prize winner in Economics Thomas Schelling, who has shown, among other things, that the culture that is established in a community is different from the preferences of the individual members that compose it. His study on involuntary racial self-segregation in housing choices ("Dynamic models of segregation", 1971) is well known. In it he demonstrated that in order for segregated neighborhoods of only whites and neighborhoods of only blacks to be formed in a city, there is no need for individuals to think: "I want to be in a neighborhood of only whites" or "only blacks." Instead, it is enough for white (or black) inhabitants to think: "I do not want to live in between two houses belonging to black (or white) families", and in some cases even, "I do not want to live next to three families that are different from mine", is enough. These individual preferences, which in themselves would not seem radical, produce a radical outcome, however, and we find ourselves in a world that no one would want or wished for.

All this applies to ethnic segregation but also to any form of collective intolerance, because a radically racist and intolerant culture can be generated by not so racist and intolerant people if taken one by one. That small "threshold" of closure that I impose on myself, which does not appear particularly intolerant to my conscience, ends up becoming a high wall combined with the small thresholds of others. As if a worm would insinuate itself in that limit that I put on my tolerance and diversity, interacting with the woodworms of others, thereby eroding the root of civil coexistence. To avoid these sad and involuntary outcomes, we need to educate ourselves to keep our thresholds of intolerance decisively low, perhaps even eliminate them - this is where every educational challenge lies in large part. Because these studies tell us that collectivities tend to amplify the barriers of their individuals, not reduce them. The speck of dust in the eye of the «I» becomes a beam in the eyes of the «we»; and once it has been created, that beam takes the place of the speck and prevents everyone from seeing.

Schelling's analyzes are among the most important in contemporary social sciences. Today they are also applied to climatic phenomena and consumer choices, where we find ourselves with very serious and unsustainable collective and global situations even when the preferences of individual people would be more ecological. These outcomes do not depend only on the indirect effects of our choices (the known "externalities"), but on more complex phenomena that are triggered by aggregating the preferences of single individuals.

All of this is also particularly relevant for all types of organizations and communities. Each community generates its own collective culture and an identity that is very evident to those who observe it from the outside - a little less so to those who look at it from within. Here too, the culture and practices generated tend to come out more radicalized than the preferences of each individual member. The community culture that we observe is not a picture of the culture of individuals. Each community develops its own style, its own spiritual personality, its own language and jargon with specific features and expressions that can only be understood by the members of the community; it generates ways of praying, of moving, with winks, gestures, a particular style of clothing... which are also self-reinforcing with the passage of time. These collective traits are neither the average nor the sum nor the product of the behavior of individuals, nor the result of the imitation that everyone does of a specific leader (like what happens with fashion trends instead). Certainly, unlike other institutions and organizations, in charismatic communities the founder has a special role, but the collective culture is not the founder's blow-up, nor is it wanted by him - in these processes the founder certainly has more weight and importance than the rest, but not enough to determine the collective culture. The same internal currents that are formed in communities, i.e. the minor circles and sub-groups, which characterize all levels including the very composition of the tables in the canteen, are often generated by people who, taken one by one, would be more open and dialogic than in the closed groups to which they give life. Isolation and self-referentiality, which appear on the outside as important and characteristic traits of charismatic communities, are often phenomena of involuntary self-isolation.

In order for segregated communities to be born, where members only meet with and socialize with the people of their own community, there is no need for people who do not like having social relations outside the community. In keeping with the parameters of Schelling's model and extending its logic, it is enough that individual members start thinking: "I like to hang out with people from other groups and communities, but every two or three meetings I would like to do at least one only within my community". Once again, an individual preference, that is not particularly close-minded or anti-social which, however, can involuntarily end up generating strong collective closures and self-segregation. This explains, among other things, a common and for many mysterious fact, namely communities that as a whole present themselves (and often are) closeted and self-referential, however when you meet with individual members and enter into a relationship of confidence with them, you find that individually they are very open and sociable. To the point where one will sometimes exclaim: "But how did such a person end up in such a community?" To this exclamation, Schelling would reply: "Look, the community didn't want to end up in this community either! It ended up there unintentionally".

However, are these diseases and neuroses preventable or curable? First of all, to be honest, charismatic communities almost inevitably develop these results anyway, they are in fact forms of auto-immune diseases, but they can be more or less serious depending to the measures that are adopted. To really prevent them - since an ex-post cure is almost impossible - we would need people with very low opening thresholds (1 in a scale of 1 to 5, for example), or with zero thresholds. Nevertheless, no community can be born if the members do not meet each other and do not renounce to some degree of freedom of their former sociality. The more a community needs to develop particularly strong bonds of belonging, the more likely self-segregation will be, where the degree of initial partial openness of the individual will collectively become closure. Thus, many people enter communities with a genuine desire to continue belonging to other vital worlds and social circles and to continue cultivating other external relationships, and then end up finding themselves in communities where they only meet people from the same community; moreover – and this is an interesting point - it happens without people having changed their individual preferences. Although with the passage of time, it is both possible and probable that individual preferences will eventually change day by day unconsciously, and align themselves with collective practice.

Finally, these involuntary mechanisms can help to explain (or at least offer an insight into) other similar phenomena that occur at the level of single individuals and within communities. Sometimes I have come across religious communities where it was very difficult to "reach" into the soul of individual members, who preferred to spend many hours in prayer or adoration rather than talking a few minutes with me or with other members of their own community. Prayer became a sort of immunitas that protected them from communitas, an invisible curtain that immunized them from an authentic and immediate encounter with others. These outcomes can (in part) be explained with the same logic. For a community to find itself only with people who no longer interact with each other but instead spend all their free time in the chapel, it is sufficient that each member cultivates this type of preference: "I like being with the other people in the community, of course, but every two or three meetings, I want to have a 'meeting' alone in the chapel". Again, "slight" individual preferences, once aggregated collectively, generate self-segregated people - another form of "death" or serious illness in a community. Hence, it is also understandable why it is common for members of charismatic communities to reduce their network of deeper friendship relationships, both within and outside the community, over the years.

Social norms, good rules and community regulations are also meant to prevent these diseases. But in a time when the sovereignty of the individual and the (necessary) respect for privacy have finally become important even within spiritual communities, it is becoming increasingly difficult to implement actions and rules that break these involuntary traps. The real possible prevention is then to work on the awareness of the existence of similar involuntary closing mechanisms. All members of a community should regularly ask themselves: What are the invisible stakes I have placed on my relationships? How many relationships am I living with "inner thresholds"? How many vital communities or groups of my past am I progressively losing? What is the variance of my relations? What and how many degrees of intolerance am I cultivating within myself? Difficult self-tests of discernment, but not impossible, especially if the community offers tools to carry them out, perhaps together, even when there is no discernable need. Communities should include procedures similar to the health "screenings" that people must do when they pass a certain age, regardless of symptoms, for preventive purposes only. Not an easy choice for those responsible, because of the perceived risk that someone could discover the disease after doing the test, that by answering these difficult questions people could go into a crisis and maybe end up leaving the community.

However, their awareness of the potential damage that could be caused by the lack of this kind of prevention should be stronger, including the extinction of the community itself. Because, while in the first phase of community development, the preferences of the individual members are usually less rigid than the collective culture, starting from the second generation, people are attracted above all to the collective culture that has been generated involuntarily. Therefore, without anyone wanting it, the few new "vocations" that come will generally be more closed than the early members were - once we become a "white only" neighbourhood we will only have new white neighbours. Newcomers with higher thresholds increase community closure, giving rise to a degenerative vicious circle. This is how communities often disappear involuntarily, if we do not intervene decisively and in time, in an obstinate and opposite direction.

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The logic of charisms/8 - Small personal thresholds of self-segregation can lead to high walls.

by Luigino Bruni

Published in Avvenire  07/11/2021

"It is precisely the subtle feeling of helplessness, the idea of ​​chasing something that continually escapes our understanding that lies at the roots of our discomfort today."

Mario Pomilio, Industrial notebook (Taccuino industriale, 1945-1980)

Unwanted phenomena occur at a collective level in society and in organizations that no one would want on an individual level. Phenomena that are also found in the dynamics of communities.

Our civilization has a great love for individual freedom and protects the private sphere of individual preferences with all its strength. For at least half a century, modern Western society itself has developed a series of theories and analyzes to study the failures of the sovereignty of the individual. Those cases in which the game of choices based on individual preferences ends up producing perverse collective effects. Because the "invisible hand" that transforms and aggregates the choices of individuals does not always generate good collective transformations, neither for individuals nor for societies.

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The beam and the speck

The beam and the speck

The logic of charisms/8 - Small personal thresholds of self-segregation can lead to high walls. by Luigino Bruni Published in Avvenire  07/11/2021 "It is precisely the subtle feeling of helplessness, the idea of ​​chasing something that continually escapes our understanding that lies at the roots...
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The logic of charisms /7 - After their founders are gone, communities live on of they turn from "animals" into "plants".

By Luigino Bruni

Published in Avvenire 31/10/2021

"Having the power to direct the movements of the adjacent parts, the tips of the roots act like the brain of an animal."

Charles Darwin, The power of movement in plants.

There are no employees in charismatic communities, but rather dedicated people with the same DNA as the founder. That is why they are able to save themselves: the vital roots are not the past, but their present and future.

In this day and age of urgent ecological and economic change, some people are starting to look to plants in search of new inspiration, to save the planet from us and us from the planet. Because as long as we think about sustainability while remaining stuck within the same paradigm, we continue to reason as if it were possible to solve problems with the same machinery that produced them. The capitalist economic system, in particular, grew out of and according to an animal model. When the animal, Homo sapiens, had to imagine the economy, factories and companies, it designed them in its own image. We have thus built “animal” companies and institutions, that is, with a strong division and specialization of functions, with a “brain” and a “heart” on which all the other organs depend. These animal institutions have learned to run very fast, all the while becoming more and more efficient, plundering and devouring resources. Hence, the economy and GDP grew thanks to the crazy races of businesses and consumption, producing excellent results; but one day they crossed the threshold of the so-called “tragedy of the commons”, as we are all seeing now, spectators and victims alike.

[fulltext] =>

The economy however has not imitated the world of plants - as we have previously written in these pages: "In the era of the spider web" (March 5, 2016). Plants, unlike animals, are anchored to the ground, and in order to respond to their extreme vulnerability as a result of being rooted to the spot, they have not developed specialized organs like animals have (if you cannot escape and you have a heart and a liver, if an animal eat one of your vital organs it will kill you). They learned to breathe, see and feel with their whole body. Hence their great resilience: you kill an animal by aiming at the heart, a plant, on the other hand, can survive even if it loses 80-90% of its body, and a severed trunk can grow a new shoot. In the Bible, we often find the image of a tree, a vineyard, a seed to indicate the People, the Church, and the Kingdom of Heaven.

The life of plants also has a lot to say to charismatic communities. These arise from one or more founders/foundresses, who give the charismatic community a form similar to that of an animal. The founder is the centre (heart) by default, and the individual organs and functions depend on that centre. This configuration is then replicated in all functions and in the various local communities, which all reproduce the same central model. Unlike the case with bureaucratic organizations, (i.e. “rationally governed by offices” and not by people's charisms), the responsibilities and roles in a charismatic community depend directly on the founder. They are created based on a relationship of complete trust, from an implicit mutual agreement of recognition. This allows the community to run very fast in the first stage of its development, to fly as high as an eagle.

However, as Max Weber has taught us, charismatic authority tends to end with the disappearance of the charismatic leader and the charisma and bureaucratic organization begin to turn into a routine. In past centuries, the charismatic phase of a movement lasted a relatively short time in general, and it was therefore easier to clearly observe the differences between the governance of the charismatic phase and the following phases. In our time, however, the founders remain in their organizations for a much longer time. Hence, a certain form of bureaucracy often develops while the founder is still at the head of his community, in order to ensure that the community life is orderly and rational. Thus, a certain charismatic bureaucracy begins. It is in this phase of a proto-institutionalization of the charism where decisive challenges for the future begin to pile up. Why?

As long as the founder is still alive, the organization is born and inevitably designed around the central and unique figure of the founder. It could not develop otherwise. However, the problems arise because these first hybrid forms of charism-institution organizations pass on to the post-founding generation as an essential part of the unchangeable heritage of the charism. The first wineskins and the wine itself become almost the same thing. Hence, when the founder leaves the scene, whoever replaces him inevitably finds him or herself inside an organization designed solely "by and for" the founder, playing a role for which he or she does not have the resources, because that role that was once conceived by the founder is simply only feasible for the founder himself.
The successor finds himself at the centre of all the connections and circulation of the community, without being able to really manage them. The founder had spiritual and human qualities and characteristics that were unique to him or her as a founder. The successor, on the other hand, cannot and above all must not perform the same function as the heart of his community - and if he does, he will create a new community. However, if he finds himself within the same governance of the founder, the problems will inevitably begin. There will often be delays in decision-making and various management bottlenecks in carrying out ordinary work. Almost all of the resources will furthermore often be used for the management of internal dynamics and as a result, there will be precious little energy left to think strategically about the future: an unmanageable situation today ends up eating up tomorrow.

This happens because when the founder begins to establish the rules and thus the role of the president and the government of his community, he has himself and his own governance in mind, and uses his experience as founder-president to design the figure and plans of future presidents and future government. Experts will often remind him that future president will not be able to carry out the exact same functions as the founder did, and the founder himself is often well aware of this; but the community and the founder have no other material to base themselves on than the past and the present. Thus, the community rule inevitably ends up being a picture of the reality that is currently writing it.

This is one of the reasons behind the struggle that movements and communities today face when trying to manage their post-foundation phase, incapable of "playing" the score left behind by the founder. So what should they do? To be completely honest, we should admit that the organization generated and wanted by the founder in a certain sense dies the same day the founder leaves the scene, it dies with the death of his heart. This is the first, decisive and inevitable vulnerability of the animal-organization generated in the first phase. The charism itself does not die, only the first organization that that charism generated. However - and this is the crux of the matter - if the first organization does not die, the charisma could end up dying in its place.

In order to avoid misunderstandings, it is necessary to keep in mind that the tradition, and often the rules written by a founder, include a part that concerns the form of life of the new spiritual personality (individual and collective), which the charism brings to the world that can change over time, but only in very marginal aspects. However, the written and oral traditions of spiritual communities (especially modern ones) often also include a description of the rules of governance, as well as the practical organization of the community. In this second part there are also foundational and original charismatic aspects that should not be lost, (a charismatic community has an essential need for a form of governance that is consistent with the charism that generated it). However, there are also practices and rules that have been designed based on the founder and his "animal-organization" and if these do not change they will soon risk blocking the development of the community. An operation that is (perhaps) easier said than done, because the disciples of the founder instinctively tend to consider the entire set of rules and tradition untouchable and "sacred", especially if the founder himself created them.

Hence, our proposal. Returning to our analogy, in the phase of transition from the founder to his successors, the charismatic organization should transform itself from an animal-organization to a plant-formed organization. Once the founder is gone, the community could replace him with a president, change hearts and leave the former governance: this solution does not work because it cannot work. However, it could also decide to change a lot to save what is essential. It would then focus on changing the "practical" aspect of the rules, creating a plant formed governance, distributing the functions, previously concentrated in the centre, throughout the entire body, thereby creating a true subsidiary governance. Like that of plants, where a parasite attack on a leaf is resolved first by the single leaf, but if this fails, the neighbouring leaves take over, then the entire branch, and then finally the furthest branches and sometimes even the nearby trees. Learn to breathe, think, and feel with your whole body. Incidentally, monastic communities are born in a similar way to plants: their centre is not the founder nor, least of all, the abbot. Their root is the rule, and so many monasteries have lived and live on for centuries, like large ancient trees.

How do you ensure the unity of a plant-organization? Plants have their own form of government, no less efficient than that of animals; it is above all concentrated in their genetic code and, for certain functions, in their roots. In the generations following the founder, the unity of the community and the governance of the most important decisions are thus entrusted to the DNA and the roots of the charism. Charismatic communities are able to do this, because unlike businesses, they have no employees: they have people with vocations, therefore with the same spiritual DNA as the founder (a Franciscan has the same "genetic code" as Francis, he does not learn it but rather discovers it, because it was already present in his soul). Its people are therefore the first guarantee that the community will have a future – both their strength and their vulnerability. Much of what the heart did before, now the whole body can do it, as long as the charism becomes a root. Underground, invisible, the roots support and feed the whole tree, they feel and, like a different brain, send messages to the whole plant, in constant dialogue with the earth. Let us not make the mistake of thinking that roots are the past, perhaps immutable and static; in plants the roots are also the past, but above all they are the present and the future. If a charisma manages to become a plant it will be resilient to crises, making it very difficult to cause it to die. However, tom do this, it must slow down, develop new senses, grow in depth, and get to know the whole forest, learning new languages ​​to cooperate with different trees.

Plants developed their great resilience in order to respond to the challenges of the environment: a great vulnerability due to their rooting to the ground forced them to give themselves organizations that are very different from those of the animal kingdom, in order to survive and live. The vulnerability that arose from not being able to move became their evolutionary advantage. When the founders disappear, the environment changes profoundly, and a new and different vulnerability is experienced. The wisdom of plants can provide us with good advice and ideas on how to transform a weakness into a strength, and thereby continue to live: «It is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season» (Psalm 1,3).

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The logic of charisms /7 - After their founders are gone, communities live on of they turn from "animals" into "plants".

By Luigino Bruni

Published in Avvenire 31/10/2021

"Having the power to direct the movements of the adjacent parts, the tips of the roots act like the brain of an animal."

Charles Darwin, The power of movement in plants.

There are no employees in charismatic communities, but rather dedicated people with the same DNA as the founder. That is why they are able to save themselves: the vital roots are not the past, but their present and future.

In this day and age of urgent ecological and economic change, some people are starting to look to plants in search of new inspiration, to save the planet from us and us from the planet. Because as long as we think about sustainability while remaining stuck within the same paradigm, we continue to reason as if it were possible to solve problems with the same machinery that produced them. The capitalist economic system, in particular, grew out of and according to an animal model. When the animal, Homo sapiens, had to imagine the economy, factories and companies, it designed them in its own image. We have thus built “animal” companies and institutions, that is, with a strong division and specialization of functions, with a “brain” and a “heart” on which all the other organs depend. These animal institutions have learned to run very fast, all the while becoming more and more efficient, plundering and devouring resources. Hence, the economy and GDP grew thanks to the crazy races of businesses and consumption, producing excellent results; but one day they crossed the threshold of the so-called “tragedy of the commons”, as we are all seeing now, spectators and victims alike.

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And the heart took root

And the heart took root

The logic of charisms /7 - After their founders are gone, communities live on of they turn from "animals" into "plants". By Luigino Bruni Published in Avvenire 31/10/2021 "Having the power to direct the movements of the adjacent parts, the tips of the roots act like the brain of an animal." Char...
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    [title] => Discerning the right yeast
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The logic of charisms/6 - The maturity of a community lies in freeing itself from the myth of the perfect founder.

by Luigino Bruni

Published in Avvenire  26/09/2021

«And you, Moshe, why do you pray?» «I pray the God who is in me to give me the strength to be able to ask him some real questions»

Elie Wiesel, Night

The generative (and humble) use of a past heritage is a decisive task in order not to compromise the future, and unfortunately, one often makes mistakes in trying to identify what the best yeast really is.

«Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod!» (Mark 8,15) This is a word (loghion) of Jesus. Not easy to interpret, and about which many pages have been written, starting with the Fathers of the Church. Yeast is a strong word in the Bible, just think of the unleavened bread of Easter. It is a symbol of life, but also of contamination. Yeast is used for speech, for teaching, but most of all as a principle for world change. In the New Testament we find it as a synonym of the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 13,13). The reference to the yeast of Herod, of the Pharisees, of the "Sadducees" (Matthew 16,6) therefore has to do with the type of kingdom that the Messiah will bring to earth. At the time of Jesus, messianism had taken on a strong apocalyptic connotation, reinforced by the Roman occupation.

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To the Pharisees the advent of the Messiah had to be accompanied by spectacular events, by signs that would confirm the imminent arrival of the new kingdom: «Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you» (Matthew 12.38). The anti-Roman political reign desired by Herod is something different. Jesus definitely warns his apostles, shocked and overwhelmed by the signs of Jesus, not to embrace the messianic and apocalyptic theories: «For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect» (Mark 13,22). The Gospels bring us dialogues of Jesus with the disciples on the understanding of his identity ("who do you say that I am?"), and the people closest to him were inside this process of revelation of identity. And so Jesus does everything he can not to make his sign-miracles spectacular, and as soon as he realizes that people stop at the sign and misunderstand the message, he slips away or dismisses the crowd.

So far the Gospels. If the temptation to follow the wrong kind of yeast affected even the first community of Jesus, it is likely that it is a phenomenon that can be repeated in the charismatic communities generated by the Church; that is, that "beware of the yeast of the Pharisees" is still valid and will continue to be so forever. Indeed, it is not uncommon in charismatic experiences that (in general) the first phase produces forms of messianic and apocalyptic theories, different readings of what the nature of the movement that is being started really is, of the meaning of the "signs" that are happening. The great successes and extraordinary events that accompany many charismatic beginnings generate various interpretations of the destiny and real task of that new "prophet" and his movement. The beginning, in fact, is often extraordinary, an anticipated Eskaton, and thus, almost inevitably, a spiritual-charismatic intoxication is triggered where everything seems possible. A sort of omnipotence is experienced, daring scenarios are dreamed of, apocalyptic destinies of universal salvation are prefigured for the group. Herod's political yeast and that of the Pharisees, come back to life (one also feels invested with a task of political and social change) where the signs are interpreted as messianic signals of the new era. The end of time feels close. Seen from the outside, these phenomena may appear delusions, but for those who experience them they are the most normal thing, and the misunderstanding of the world outside only serves to increase the self-belief of the messianic task.

In the beginning (and not only) of charismatic movements, there are many kinds of "yeasts" acting inside. However, unlike Mark's phrase where the yeasts of Herod and the Pharisees are only bad news, in charismatic communities even these apocalyptic yeasts can contain some positive elements, they resemble the "mother" yeast of the charism, and hence it is very easy to confuse them. However, if the apocalyptic and spectacular yeasts prevail, they can become very dangerous, actual neuroses that generate a lot of damage (economic damage, manipulation, abuse), even when everything happens in good faith. There is also another decisive element in charismatic communities. The founders of these communities, in general - these arguments must always be taken as tendencies not as theorems - do not interpret the part of Jesus where he invites the disciples to be careful with other kinds of yeast. Not infrequently they are like the apostles who "do not understand", and end up getting involved in the same apocalyptic scenarios.

In many concrete historical experiences, the first person being deceived by the wrong type of yeast may very well be the founder himself who, when while honest (and in general he or she is), takes a long time to understand that his "kingdom" does not lie in the great things he has seen happen, that the signs are only grace, they are the beautiful room of the honeymoon hotel suite not a room at home. He does not immediately understand that the fulfillment of his charisma does not lie in conquering the world, but in resizing, while becoming a small flock, in following a career that culminates in Golgotha. The founder is the first spectator of the signs he sees happening around him. He is stunned and astonished, enchanted by his own spells, healed by his own healings. Thus, the members of the charismatic communities find themselves the first victims of the yeast of the Pharisees, because they have no one to protect them, but rather everyone, in agreement, to convince them, everyone convincing one another. The founder knows that these signs are not his work, but he also knows that he has received a gift-charism without which those signs would not exist.

In the first phase the awareness of being only an instrument of an Elsewhere is very strong, but then a fundamental passage occurs, almost always without anyone really wanting it. The splendor and strength of the extraordinary signs end up convincing the founder that although he is merely a small and simple instrument, it is the charisma that is truly extraordinary, unique, the definitive answer to all questions. It is evident that praising and exalting the charism is a way to exalt and praise the Giver of the charism; but in the meantime over time this "third party" between the founder and the Spirit (the charism) grows and takes on a life of its own. The founder, then, gradually ends up identifying himself with the charism, thanks above all to his disciples who end up attributing all the prerogatives of the charism to him, which make him his own hypostasis, and them the hypostases of the hypostasis. Everyone knows in the beginning that the charism is penultimate in the order of things, and that by serving the charism the divine is being served, but in the meantime the charism and founder grow, and continue to grow, on and on. The people around the founder, seeing the same signs with increased amazement, therefore perform the decisive function of confirming his conviction of having received a task of salvation for the Church and for the world, giving way to a circuit of admirable and unshakable self-conviction. And everyone proceeds to forget, in good faith, that the founders - like the biblical prophets - are human beings, and therefore make mistakes. They deceive themselves, they are not always good interpreters of the "voice" that inhabits them, and they need their whole life and many encounters with it to learn to recognize it among the many voices available.

The coexistence of several different kinds of yeasts is an inevitable phase for many charisms. The problem of this phase does not lie with the founder, but in the ability (generally low) that the following generations have to distinguish the various types of yeast. And so the process goes on, until (and if) one day someone begins to realize that the charism has taken the place of the Giver of the charism. In what sense? The followers only know the words of the Scripture promoted by the charism, they only pray the prayers of the charism, they only know the "stories of salvation" told by the charism, everyone speaks and loves only in the ways and forms of the charism, and they only read the books of the charism. If not defused these mechanisms, often put in place in perfect good faith, are among the main causes of extinction of charismatic communities once their founders are gone (sometimes even before this happens), especially when dealing with very rich charisms.

Finally, there is also another decisive aspect. If it is true that the various yeasts coexist in the first days of a charismatic community, then it is also true that among the words and acts of the beginnings of a charism there are also immature words not borne from the mother yeast, which - when things go well - time will correct, through encounters, disappointments and tests. Hence, an important consequence: when subsequent generations return to the DNA of the charism to attempt the necessary reforms, it is essential that they identify the good original yeast, distinguishing it from that of the Pharisees. However, more often than not this is a highly complicated operation, because by now the good yeast has been superimposed on the other yeasts, and they are all very similar. The other yeasts have also generated life and fruits, often constituting intermediate stages necessary for the good fruits that came later at a later phase. Over time they have contaminated each other, hence we must avoid the risk of taking all yeasts for good ones, while also avoiding the opposite risk of throwing them all away, including the mother yeast.

In communities that find themselves in a post-founder phase, it is essential that the reflection on the good hard core of the charism becomes a plural and antagonistic experience, because the ideas regarding the good yeast are and must be varied and diversified; and the people in charge need to apply a special kind of meekness to keep this tension alive without creating heresies and orthodoxies, nor agencies intent on a single authentic and unique interpretation of what a good yeast is. Because when this internal pluralistic dialogue is lacking and only one reading of the past is affirmed, we will inexorably find ourselves inside an ideological creation, and that single reading will be wrong. The truth is symphonic: the four Gospels, Paul and the other letters, not to mention the apocryphal Gospels, had various messianic-apocalyptic theories about Jesus, and this is where the Church found its balance over time. Judging from the history of charisms, we know that it is highly unlikely that the good mother yeast is constituted by the spectacular events, the great apocalyptic perspectives, the extraordinary visions, the earthquakes, the fire, instead it is most probably found in the small, in the ordinary, in the simple, in Elijah's "subtle voice of silence".

This long conversation has two practical consequences. First of all, there are always wrong, partial, unripe theses right from the start among the words of a founder and the maturity of a community lies in being able to admit that they can be wrong (and not just misinterpreted). This is a decisive exercise that frees communities from the myth of the perfect founder that almost always blocks them in their generative growth and prevents them from approaching the humanity of the founder while veiled by his myth. Making a mistake in the relationship with the heritage of a charism means compromising the quality and existence of its future. Furthermore, going back to the words of the beginnings of a charism is not in itself a guarantee of reaching the heart of the charism in question, because the various yeasts begin to develop at a very early stage. The most important words may arrive later, when events and history have caused the charism to mature. The decisive words of Jesus were his last. Being able to discern and differentiate between different kinds of yeast is the most important occupation of communities capable of a future.

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The logic of charisms/6 - The maturity of a community lies in freeing itself from the myth of the perfect founder.

by Luigino Bruni

Published in Avvenire  26/09/2021

«And you, Moshe, why do you pray?» «I pray the God who is in me to give me the strength to be able to ask him some real questions»

Elie Wiesel, Night

The generative (and humble) use of a past heritage is a decisive task in order not to compromise the future, and unfortunately, one often makes mistakes in trying to identify what the best yeast really is.

«Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod!» (Mark 8,15) This is a word (loghion) of Jesus. Not easy to interpret, and about which many pages have been written, starting with the Fathers of the Church. Yeast is a strong word in the Bible, just think of the unleavened bread of Easter. It is a symbol of life, but also of contamination. Yeast is used for speech, for teaching, but most of all as a principle for world change. In the New Testament we find it as a synonym of the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 13,13). The reference to the yeast of Herod, of the Pharisees, of the "Sadducees" (Matthew 16,6) therefore has to do with the type of kingdom that the Messiah will bring to earth. At the time of Jesus, messianism had taken on a strong apocalyptic connotation, reinforced by the Roman occupation.

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Discerning the right yeast

Discerning the right yeast

The logic of charisms/6 - The maturity of a community lies in freeing itself from the myth of the perfect founder. by Luigino Bruni Published in Avvenire  26/09/2021 «And you, Moshe, why do you pray?» «I pray the God who is in me to give me the strength to be able to ask him some real questions» ...
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The logic of charisms/5 – The evolution of each community depends on how it exercises fidelity.

by Luigino Bruni

Published in the Avvenire 19/09/2021

This is what faithful is: the wall that crumbles, but is not alone in this, for it also crumbles with the statue, which stands at the top...

Vladimir Holan, Fidelity (poem)

Unfortunately, it is common that practices and traditions that allowed the success of a charismatic work in the first season of its foundation eventually turn from virtues into vices.

Fidelity is essential in every human experience, in charismatic communities it constitutes almost everything. It is articulated on several levels: the fidelity of the founder to the charism received, the fidelity of the members of the community to the charism and to the founder. The possibility for a community to continue a good life after its first season of foundation, however, depends on its ability to evolve the way in which it exercises fidelity.

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At the beginning, when a charism gives life to a community, fidelity has its specific and necessary set of notes. The members of the community live their fidelity as an unconditional adherence to the charism and to the founder. They do not feel that they have to make any changes to the charism, as it is presented and proposed: each and every one of them must only make sure that they are performing the same score. Because in this first phase the perfection and completeness of the score-charisma appear extraordinary and unique, a total novelty. Faced with such satisfying completeness, no one feels the need to develop different variations or notes. There is nothing more useful, wise and intelligent to do at that point than to put all your talents into playing that one celestial work, which is about to change the world. And if I was a harp player when arriving in the community, but the harp was not included in the community score, then I would immediately need to learn how to play the guitar or the flute. The excellence of this first season of the charism lies in the search for the perfect, symphonic and choral execution of that one single community theme. No composers are needed, only excellent orchestral players. The original score of the charism does not need creativity or innovation, and its only interpreter and conductor is the founder/s. This does not mean that the people involved do not have talent. On the contrary, they often have many talents, but they orient them to that one single common mission, and use them only if functional to this one mission. To use a model by economist Joseph A. Schumpeter, at first the only innovator is the founder, all the other members are imitators, who use their energies to replicate the same "enterprise".

This interpretation of absolute fidelity is closely associated with another kin word: radicalism. The more radical one is, the more faithful, the more the personal and subjective dimensions remain in the background, until they eventually disappear. Radicalism thus becomes the unit in which to measure fidelity.

Without this management of fidelity and radicalism it is virtually impossible for a charismatic movement to be born and above all to develop in any meaningful way. The founder's spiritual energy is amplified and multiplied by the faithful following of his or her companions, to reach levels of effectiveness and efficiency unknown even to the most successful of companies. The energy that emanates from a charism in its founding phase is immense, much of which depends on all the moral and spiritual energy freely donated by the founder's followers, in a mirroring game where they reflect each other in infinity. It is a supernova of the spirit, a stellar explosion that releases an almost infinite magnitude of light and energy - in a few weeks or months it releases more energy than the sun releases in its entire existence. Whoever has the good fortune to experience the birth of a charism first hand, experiences a light and an energy greater than that of an entire "ordinary" life in only a few months, leaving its "tao" imprinted in one’s flesh forever. Furthermore, those who experience this radical fidelity do not feel expropriated or manipulated because it is the only thing they deeply and freely wish to do, recognizing it not as something external, but on the contrary, as something very intimate. Because by being faithful to the charism he or she is also faithful to the deepest and truest part of him or herself. Viewing or interpreting the origin of spiritual movements through the eyes of conventional sociological and psychological paradigms almost always produces colossal interpretative errors - and we view and interpret so many of them.
However - and this is the point - this way of living and experiencing a faithful and radical following comes to an end at a certain point, and it is a good thing that it does, even if it almost always ends too late. Because if it continues into subsequent generations, what was the cause of yesterday's success will immediately become the cause of the irrepressible collapse of today and tomorrow. The very following of the apostles towards Jesus changed after the Resurrection. Fidelity and radicalism must remain and possibly grow, but the modality of following both the charism and the founder must substantially change. This is a difficult undertaking, because the only form of fidelity that the community knows is that of yesterday, on which it was formed, and has grown, generating authentic miracles. It is on that fidelity that people have built their identity. The community therefore has to make an almost insurmountable effort to even imagine a different form of fidelity. And so, when the founder is no longer there, the followers attempt a shortcut: yesterday's radical and unconditional fidelity is now transferred intact onto the words, the acts and the works of the founder who is no longer there. Thus the myth of the founder is born: one can still be faithful to the charism today if one is thoroughly faithful to every word that the founder pronounced in life. In other cases, yesterday's fidelity passes directly on to the successor, who is then treated as a sort of "reincarnation" of the founder. Both are very serious errors, even if they are almost always done in perfectly good faith. Why?

The relationship between a charism and its founder is complex. They grow together, they change together, they co-evolve. The words that a founder says at the beginning of his or her experience are almost never the ones he or she says towards the end. The charism is a seed that grows in the soil that welcomes it, in a symbiotic relationship with the environment and with history. The founder goes through trials, changes his mind, experiences regressive phases, involutions, dark nights, and he makes mistakes. As long as the founder is alive, the loyalty of his followers to immature words or idiosyncrasies has a meaning and value too, because honest founders are able to change their minds thanks to the paradoxical (and costly) loyalty of those close to them. However, when the founder ends his time (by dying or leaving the scene), if the members of the community begin to think that the founder today is constituted by his words and gestures yesterday, even if they do not realize it, they stop believing that the charism is still alive.

So when a community believes it will encounter the charism of its founder's in its past, it is the faith of the charism that is in crisis. It loses contact with history. The founder's words yesterday were mixed with the pain and hopes of his people then, with the issues and questions of his time. Returning to those words in order to shed light on the problems of today means not taking our history seriously, despising the value of the pain and the hopes of the men and women of today, of their questions and issues, not taking the theological value of the incarnation seriously (and this is the ancient Gnostic temptation). The answers today must instead come from the charism experienced today, there is no other way. All the words and gestures of the founder can only serve as inspiration now, the dawn not the ending of a discussion. Herein lies almost entirely the maturity and responsibility of a charismatic community. Clearly, mistakes are easily made while exercising this, because this new form of fidelity will sometimes border on infidelity, passing through many border areas, but it is only in this imperfection that life can be reborn.

Certainly the founder's heritage of writings, gestures and acts has and will always have a central role in a charismatic community, it is one of the places where the founder lives on; but if he only lives there, the charism will actually end up dying. Because the first and foremost place where one can continue to meet the founder after his death is within his community (which often exceeds its formal boundaries), in the people who within the same charism continue the same history. Hence, whoever succeeds the founder should mark a strong discontinuity with the past – what would have happened to the Church if Peter had dealt with the twelve as Jesus did?! It is above the members within the inner most intimate circle who make this discontinuity difficult, the strongest resistance to renewal is found within the community itself.

The fidelity that once was an unconditional adhesion, must become a dissonant, divergent, lateral, risky fidelity today. The development of new themes in the charism score requires "entrepreneurs-innovators” and no longer mere imitators. The creativity that was employed yesterday, entirely at the service of performing the same piece, should now orient itself in developing new melodies, related to the first one, yet different. More composers, less orchestral musicians. However, all this is possible if the community and its leaders truly believe that the charism is still alive. And hence, that that splendid score of the first generation was only the first, not the only one, perhaps not even the most beautiful to be performed. It was the dominant theme of all the works to come: the seed of the future, the spiritual DNA of what would be born.

However, even this is extremely difficult, because people who have been accustomed for years, for decades, to a fidelity understood as a total alignment with certain words, directives and thoughts that once came from outside already ideal and perfect, are no longer in the anthropological and ethical condition to be creative. Even if they wanted to, they just do not know what to do. While not having practiced a creative use of fidelity, now that the muscle is needed it is (almost) atrophied. Having spent our whole life in an absolute, radical, infinite fidelity, by now we have crumbled to the wind, the ice, and the storms. A life can be splendid even like this. Because while our wall was dissolving we caught a glimpse of the angels, and once we also briefly discerned God. However, if we wish to stop the statue at the top (the charism) from crumbling as well, we need to use our last energy resources making sure that the new members of the community succeed in developing another form of fidelity, no less radical, simply different.

Finally, a recommendation from us to the founders still in life would not be out of place: do not allow your "composers" to become stale and atrophied, because it is among them that you will find the possibility of a life after-you. Even an orchestra with few elements can perform a masterpiece, while others are composing the masterpieces of tomorrow. It will not be your writings and your words that will guarantee the future: it will be your people educated to freedom and trust that will save you, as long as at least one of them is left standing. The future is the name of the son.

A charism does not coincide with the person of the founder. It exceeds him. It continues to grow, to live, to love, learn, teach even after his death. A “profile" of the works of a deceased artist is made with the work that he created in life; a "profile" of a charism must be done with the works of the founder as well as with those that the community has continued to compose. Which ones are the most beautiful?

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The logic of charisms/5 – The evolution of each community depends on how it exercises fidelity.

by Luigino Bruni

Published in the Avvenire 19/09/2021

This is what faithful is: the wall that crumbles, but is not alone in this, for it also crumbles with the statue, which stands at the top...

Vladimir Holan, Fidelity (poem)

Unfortunately, it is common that practices and traditions that allowed the success of a charismatic work in the first season of its foundation eventually turn from virtues into vices.

Fidelity is essential in every human experience, in charismatic communities it constitutes almost everything. It is articulated on several levels: the fidelity of the founder to the charism received, the fidelity of the members of the community to the charism and to the founder. The possibility for a community to continue a good life after its first season of foundation, however, depends on its ability to evolve the way in which it exercises fidelity.

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Future is the name of the son

Future is the name of the son

The logic of charisms/5 – The evolution of each community depends on how it exercises fidelity. by Luigino Bruni Published in the Avvenire 19/09/2021 This is what faithful is: the wall that crumbles, but is not alone in this, for it also crumbles with the statue, which stands at the top... Vladi...
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The logic of charisms/4 - Christians are the ones about the way and the encounter, not always happy ones but decisive.

by Luigino Bruni

Published in the Avvenire 12/09/2021

"It is not so necessary to educate children to grow up quickly, as to educate adults to know how to be – or turn – children again."
Igino Giordani, The republic of the brats/ La repubblica dei marmocchi

There was no money during the journey of the followers of Jesus, but they had what was essential. What is essential is the Word. The result is a condition of dependence on others, because proclamation is a gift and welcoming others.

We continue with the analogy between the early days of Christianity and our charismatic communities or spiritual movements today - two expressions that I use as synonyms, as collective realities born and nourished by a charism and therefore by one or more founders, who are the first bearers and the first image of that charisma. Hence, analogy, which, as scholastic philosophy teaches us, is a parallelism between two realities where similarities coexist with dissimilarities, and the latter are generally greater than the former. The analogical method, especially in history, must always be taken with significant precautions, but like any method, it can be a way to start a journey in a new territory to be explored. Analogies can be generative, if the term of comparison is rich and fruitful: the Bible and the first Christian communities certainly are. The analogy suggests, hints, points out, always softly and in a whisper; it is the dawn of speech, always fragile and vulnerable. Hence, it knows the typical virtues of vulnerability.

[fulltext] =>

How did the first community around Jesus develop? Mark describes it to us like this: «Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits. These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff - no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them» (Mark 6,6-13).

In John, the first disciples come from the Baptist's movement; according to Mark and the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus calls upon them along the Sea of Galilee. Once back from Judea, at the end of his experience with the Baptist, his first gesture is calling disciples, companions, friends, to tell us that this extraordinary story is collective, communitarian, social history, it is the story of the "two or three”, an immediately ecclesial story. Jesus immediately begins his mission by associating his name with other names: Peter, Andrew, James, John. The first name of "Christians" is a plural name. Elijah, very present in these stories by Mark, calls upon Elisha at the end of his mission, Jesus calls them at the beginning; he calls them in pairs, in pairs of brothers. "Woe to the sun", the wise Qoheleth sang a few centuries earlier, and if brotherhood in spirit is not a brotherhood of blood, this beginning tells us that sometimes the two can meet. Mark says that the first disciples are called by Jesus while they are working, in their activity as fishermen. Fishermen, hence workers trained in collective team action - sea or lake fishing is necessarily a work for "two or three". 

In the beginnings of the community of Jesus there is work. Moreover, there is continuity with a constant note from the Bible, which in this shows the humanism of work. In the Bible, some decisive calls take place while people are working. Amos, Gideon, Judith, David, all receive their calling while working. Jesus calls his friends and calls them to become "fishermen of men". That technical skill they had learned by learning the difficult trade of fishing for fish, Jesus now asks them to use it for another task, for a different profession. Proclaiming the Kingdom is a vocation, not a profession, but it resembles a profession, because it requires competence, skill, commitment and apprenticeship. One does not become a professional of the calling, but competent, yes; and without people who know how to "catch men" at least as well they know how to catch fish, no movement can be born, no great adventure like the Christian one.

From time to time, the apostles are seen by the Gospels as they fish, even during the years they live next to Jesus (think of the miraculous catch); telling us that leaving the fishnets to handle those of men does not necessarily mean to leaving their first boats for the boat of the Church definitively or materially. In the history of the Church, some apostles left the first boats and their first nets, even materially, and never took them back; other apostles left them only in spirit, and continued to handle the same boats as before gathering both fish and men, often with the same nets, when the work remained the same after the vocation. There have always been many ways of being an apostle. So in our communities and movements: their members are not professionals of the spirit, much less employees of a company; but they are competent, sometimes even in work, and the lay competence in their work nourishes and supports the other apostolic competence. The risk to be avoided is that the invitation to leave the old nets should cause the loss of the old skills and competence without generating any new ones.

Why does Jesus order his apostles to take «no bag, no bread, no money...» on their journey? Jesus is creating a new type of man and hence a new type of community. Here we understand why Christians in the beginning were called "those of the way", those who walked. The community of Jesus was a mobile one, a following, a walking behind, a going back to being a "Wandering Aramean". Tent, encampment, precariousness, being non-permanent. And Christian communities remained like that for decades, the decades that changed history.

When you walk a lot, the choice of clothing and equipment is decisive. As we know as well when we have to start a long journey or a pilgrimage: it is a good idea to bring only the essentials; and the longer the journey, the more essential you need to become. For a long journey to be sustainable, you only need to bring what you really need, not the superfluous, and it is therefore essential to know how to identify the essential and distinguish it from what is superfluous. The journey of the apostles was something similar: the essential thing they brought was the announcement of a different Word, the advent of another Kingdom. They were not leaving, like merchants, to sell and buy things, they were not soldiers, they were not seasonal workers, nor representatives of a company paid by commission. The essential was therefore a single tunic, not a second one. They did not bring bread because the biblical God provides our daily bread, as he did in the desert, and as he continues to do with his "workers" who are entitled to their wages. There is a strong imperative not to even bring money, which is the basis of the charism of St. Francis, who in order to imitate this dimension of the apostolate forbade his friars to bring money into their begging.

These requests from the apostolate create a condition of dependence on others, which is perhaps the most important message. If you do not have a home, if you do not have bread or money with you, in order to live you need the hospitality of someone who welcomes you and gives you food. The Christian message is then essentially an experience of reciprocity from the very beginning: the apostles bring the proclamation of the Gospel, the true treasure, and receive a bed and a loaf of bread in return. This reciprocity of material goods is part of the apostle's experience, and if it is lacking he cannot, nor must he, proclaim the Gospel. This is why when there is no reciprocity «leave that place and shake the dust off your feet» (Mark 6,11). Because if those who must receive the proclamation of the Gospel do not immediately place themselves in an attitude of welcoming and of gift, they cannot understand that announced Gospel. The Gospel of love opens to those who are already find themselves in love. And the new commandment, that of mutual love, is lived already from its announcement: the disciple needs the reciprocity of the listener, who loves him even before converting, simply by listening and welcoming. If, however, he does not, you move on. The opposite, would be throwing away a treasure.

This reciprocity is almost as essential as the message itself. Whoever listens to the Gospel must first give. Whoever announces the Gospel knows that the first gift he can give to the listener is to give him the possibility of giving, in order to receive and then, perhaps, understand. Whoever announces the Gospel knows that he is a beggar of this reciprocity. In the Oikonomia of the Gospel, the donor has an essential need for a donee. The great skill of any announcement is to put the people to whom you want to give good news into an attitude of giving.

These missionary indications belong to the sources of Mark, probably dating back to the primitive teaching of Jesus. And they tell us something important for our communities. The first Gospel was lived above all through the feet, through walking. It was all about leaving, about being sent. The following should not in fact be overemphasized: as soon as the apostles began to follow Jesus, he sent them "two by two", and they began to do with others exactly what he was doing with them. The first community grew by budding, plural, bio diversified; so much so that immediately after the death of Jesus, which arrived a few years after the beginning of his public life, the various communities already found themselves being rather different from one another. Each with their specific characteristics and "theologies", where the different apostles and disciples left the imprint of their personality. The first Church was not born monolithic or compact because Jesus sent his disciples around, made them nomadic and non-residential, as he himself was.

The community, this community, is not a messianic court; it is not an esoteric community, but a missionary and nomadic community, which now and then gets together, only to immediately leave again. It is a community of heralds, and it is the message and the experience itself that founded the community, not cohabitation or insisting on the need to stand on common ground. They were not together because they were looking for the warmth of a home, they preferred being cold out in the streets before the comfort zone of a house. And on that bare and poor road the disciples, sent out two by two in pairs, proceeded to evangelize and heal. They did not leave dreaming of returning to Ithaca, their Ithaca was the road: this is why there is a lot of Christian humanism in Dante's Ulysses, even if he puts him in Hell, because the whole Divine Comedy is paradise thanks to the gaze of pietas of Dante.

Only in this way could a Church be born capable of quickly reaching all corners of the earth, because its columns had been formed by the art of the street. Spiritual communities, certainly the most authentic and healthy ones, are born in the streets. However, during the course of time, it is almost inevitable that the warmth of a home eventually should win over being cold in the streets. Hence, little by little, from communities made up of heralds, they turn into communities of consumers of spiritual goods, and sometimes this internal consumption becomes so important that they no longer able to feel the cold felt by those who are out in the streets. This is how communities die, but they can be resurrected, if one day they relearn the discipline of the road. When the community becomes a labyrinth of the soul, either we take off like Icarus (taking on all the risks of flying) or we look within the charism for an Ariadne who left a thread of salvation for us.

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The logic of charisms/4 - Christians are the ones about the way and the encounter, not always happy ones but decisive.

by Luigino Bruni

Published in the Avvenire 12/09/2021

"It is not so necessary to educate children to grow up quickly, as to educate adults to know how to be – or turn – children again."
Igino Giordani, The republic of the brats/ La repubblica dei marmocchi

There was no money during the journey of the followers of Jesus, but they had what was essential. What is essential is the Word. The result is a condition of dependence on others, because proclamation is a gift and welcoming others.

We continue with the analogy between the early days of Christianity and our charismatic communities or spiritual movements today - two expressions that I use as synonyms, as collective realities born and nourished by a charism and therefore by one or more founders, who are the first bearers and the first image of that charisma. Hence, analogy, which, as scholastic philosophy teaches us, is a parallelism between two realities where similarities coexist with dissimilarities, and the latter are generally greater than the former. The analogical method, especially in history, must always be taken with significant precautions, but like any method, it can be a way to start a journey in a new territory to be explored. Analogies can be generative, if the term of comparison is rich and fruitful: the Bible and the first Christian communities certainly are. The analogy suggests, hints, points out, always softly and in a whisper; it is the dawn of speech, always fragile and vulnerable. Hence, it knows the typical virtues of vulnerability.

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It is reciprocity that converts us

It is reciprocity that converts us

The logic of charisms/4 - Christians are the ones about the way and the encounter, not always happy ones but decisive. by Luigino Bruni Published in the Avvenire 12/09/2021 "It is not so necessary to educate children to grow up quickly, as to educate adults to know how to be – or turn – children ...
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The logic of charisms/3 - Communities are able to stay alive if they allow the encounters along the way to convert them.

by Luigino Bruni

Published in the Avvenire 05/09/2021

"There are nights that never happen and you look for them by moving your lips. Then you imagine yourself sitting in the place of the gods. And you can't tell where the sacrilege would be"

Alda Merini, There are nights that never happen/Ci sono notti che non accadono mai

Even Jesus changes his mind, as in the episode in Tyre. And the civilization that the Gospel continues to generate teaches us about fidelity and overcoming hurdles along the path that is history.

In our analogy between current charismatic communities and the first Christian community, today we look closely at a well-known episode from the Gospel of Mark: «Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter. “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter”» (Mark 7,24-30).

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Mark tells us that Jesus found himself in pagan lands (Tyre) not to evangelize, but is nonetheless tracked down by a Syro-Phoenician woman who asks him to cure her daughter. The dialogue between the two reflects a very important problem of the first communities, that is, the link between the new Christian community and non-Jews (or Gentiles); a huge issue, which runs through the whole New Testament, as a tension that has never been completely resolved.

Once again, as with the episode with the Gerasene demoniac (Mark, 5,1-20), a pagan comes searching for Jesus and is hence not sought out by him. Hence, the first message: Jesus did not go to that region with the aim of performing miracles or evangelizing. That woman happens to come by him, and puts Jesus in front of a choice. Tradition gives the following names to these two women: the mother is Husta, the little girl Bernice (Pseudo-Clement, Homilies) - a lot of Christian tradition has given names to the anonymous characters of the Gospels, thus continuing the love that Jesus had for them. The sentence that Jesus pronounces in front of a mother's request appears rather harsh to this day. Calling non-Jews dogs (or "puppies", which however was not a term of endearment), although it was common language at the time of Jesus, continues to disturb us today, even if it is Jesus who says it.

Quite obviously, we find ourselves in front of passage that is greatly affected by the heated disputes of the time. However, we can always read an important message between the lines: not all the words of the Bible, not even all the words of the Gospels can be used today by us when we want to speak our best. There are some that, as children of their time, have been Christianized over the centuries by history also sprinkled by Christian history, making the very words of the Gospels "more Christian". Thanks to the development of humanity and thanks to the maturation of the words of Jesus in the Church and in history, today we would never use the term "dogs" to describe people of other creeds and religions. Even the Gospel, even the words of Jesus, have been made better by history fertilized by revelation, to the point of even forgetting some of them - if only this one. The Bible contains many words that are better than our own words. Enriched by those better words, over time history has enable us to improve other biblical words that in the meantime were no longer up to the level of the civilization that the Book had generated.

One day my niece Beatrice read for the first time in a framed letter hanging on the walls at home, the motivation for the gold medal "prize of kindness" that her mother had received as a child. The text included the expression "handicapped schoolmate". Beatrice let out a kind of cry, because the word handicapped was a dirty word to her. One generation was enough for an already good word to slip through to the wrong ones. Something similar also happens with biblical words, which have been made more beautiful by humanity enhanced by the spiritual sap contained in the Bible itself. This is one of the wonderful laws of history. It is, furthermore, very probable that in a few decades this same story will lead to an increase in the number of words of the Gospels that the evangelical spirit of tomorrow will surpass. For some, this overcoming is bad news; in reality, it shows the mysterious reciprocity that exists between the word of God and our own words. They are children of the Word, but like all good children, if they do not also become fathers and mothers of their own parents they end up becoming their annihilators or, what is really the same thing in the end, to forget about them in complete indifference. «Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away» (Matthew 24,35); but among the words that will not pass there are also some that we, thanks to the Gospel, will understand that we will not be able to use if we do not wish to betray it.

Moreover, if we cannot even use all the words in the Bible and not even all the words spoken by Jesus to say the good things we wish to say, then a fortiori the charismatic communities cannot and must not use all the words of their founders either. The wisdom of each generation of members of a given spiritual community also, and in certain aspects above all, lies in knowing how to identify which words to use and which not to use, while keeping them all in tradition (as the Church has done). However, while the words spoken by Jesus that the very maturation of Christianity taught us better not to use are few and far between, the words of the founders that should no longer be used by subsequent generations are plenty. Here, the order is reversed: the "eternal" words are few and those that are waiting to be overcome are many. And when a community does not make this distinction and considers all the words of yesterday endowed with the same charismatic value, unwittingly, that community will quickly end up aging all the words of its beginnings. Theophoric words, moreover, are like salt in the mass of all other words. There is no criterion for identifying what these salty-words are, and we almost always make mistakes when we try to recognize them, leave some made of salt in the mass and vice versa. However, the truly deadly mistake is not to attempt this operation at all, and even to fight those who attempt it. Knowing, full well, that salt and mass make good bread when mixed together, but only in the right combination.

There is so much more in that Gospel episode. Jesus changed his mind thanks to the encounters he made along his journeys. The road, an essential dimension of his mission, is not the background but the content of his existential landscape, teaching him new things. Here he meets a woman, who talks about her sick child, and thanks to that pagan woman with whom he enters into dialogue, Jesus discovers a new dimension of his mission: universality. He changes his mind. A woman's insistence makes him change his mind. We have no good exegetical reasons to think that Mark created this story, and that it therefore does not go back to ancient oral tradition. Hence, if the Son of man also changed his mind by talking to his people, then dialogue should change our minds too, never changing your mind is not a good Christian sign.

The first answer that Jesus gives to the woman is an affirmation of common sense; it is part of the natural right of every civilization: it is not ethical to feed the most distant if you have not first fed those who are close to you, to take care of others without having solved the problems of your family first. It is the practice of a good family father, of mothers, of communities, of those who do not feed those who are outside if they cannot feed those already inside, of those who do not give money in alms, if they have to buy what is necessary for a child with that same money. Yet, in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus narrates the parable of the Good Samaritan, built exactly on the opposite thesis to this common sense: a neighbor is not a neighbor (the neighbors of the victim were the priest and the Levite), and the duty to love your neighbor does not follow the hierarchy of affective or natural closeness. That pagan woman, even if she did not know it, was telling Jesus the parable of the Good Samaritan. And Jesus let himself be converted by his Gospel told to him by a mother.

The Gospel first and, then, the Church, are full of people who are converted to the words of Jesus: in this story Jesus is the one who is converted (and changes his outlook) with the words of a pagan woman. And he continues to do so throughout history, every time his Gospel has been converted, through the centuries, with the words of women and men, who, Christians or not, have explained to the Church its own Gospel, with words that spoke of human rights, respect, equality and fraternity. Sometimes, the Church has learned, converting to its Gospel, which has become all the "more Christian" thanks to those words spoken on "pagan" land. The Church would not have said the words it says today about women without the feminist movement which, sometimes from outside, reminded it of Paul: "There is neither man nor woman", while explaining it. Many Christian economists would not have understood what poverty is today without the secular teaching of Amartya Sen and Muhammad Yunus. It is the splendid earth-heaven reciprocity of which biblical humanism speaks to us, where man learns about heaven from God and God learns about the earth from men and women.

Communities discover their charism by meeting people along the road, especially in the roads beyond their borders. If we read their most beautiful stories, we realize that the founders have almost always understood new things, sometimes opposite to what they originally believed, meeting concrete people who reminded them of and revealed to them their own ideals. They understood new dimensions of their charism because someone told them parables of the Good Samaritans, before they were even written. And communities can continue to be just as full of life, creative and generative, if they continue to allow themselves to be converted by the people they meet in the street. If they are able to change their minds even when these conversions seem to take them away from the words of their early days, including the words that had already been the fruit of conversions of their founders. On the other hand, a community will inevitably die, or at the very least decline, if it stops having encounters with Syrian-Phoenician mothers beyond their borders, or because they simply do not leave their homes. For fear of hearing the wrong stories and betraying our roots, we refuse to listen to others and end up betraying our future. In reality, communities would only have the need for children capable of loving their founding 'fathers', helping them to become greater than their words, experiencing that reciprocity between equals together, that they almost never come to know in life. Who knows how many "pagan" women are narrating evangelical parables to us today, without us being aware of it. Meanwhile, the demons do not let our children sleep: «She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone» (Mark 7,30).

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The logic of charisms/3 - Communities are able to stay alive if they allow the encounters along the way to convert them.

by Luigino Bruni

Published in the Avvenire 05/09/2021

"There are nights that never happen and you look for them by moving your lips. Then you imagine yourself sitting in the place of the gods. And you can't tell where the sacrilege would be"

Alda Merini, There are nights that never happen/Ci sono notti che non accadono mai

Even Jesus changes his mind, as in the episode in Tyre. And the civilization that the Gospel continues to generate teaches us about fidelity and overcoming hurdles along the path that is history.

In our analogy between current charismatic communities and the first Christian community, today we look closely at a well-known episode from the Gospel of Mark: «Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter. “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter”» (Mark 7,24-30).

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Let us free our children from the demons

Let us free our children from the demons

The logic of charisms/3 - Communities are able to stay alive if they allow the encounters along the way to convert them. by Luigino Bruni Published in the Avvenire 05/09/2021 "There are nights that never happen and you look for them by moving your lips. Then you imagine yourself sitting in the pl...
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The logic of charisms/2 - The value of first and second vocations in community experiences

by Luigino Bruni

Published in Avvenire  29/08/2021

"But Herod continued seeking John. (2) And he sent his servants to Zachariah at the altar, saying to him, "Where did you hide your son?... Outraged, Herod said, "Is his son destined to rule Israel?"

The Protoevangelium of James XXIII

The analogy with the early days of Christianity helps us to grasp some new dimensions of communities born as a way out of the original one.

The relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist is essential in order to understand the birth of Christianity. According to the Gospel of John (unlike the other synoptic Gospels), not only did Jesus frequent the Baptist movement, but some of the first apostles were disciples of John (among them Peter, Andrew and the anonymous "disciple whom he loved" (John 13,23). In an ancient Ethiopian text we read: «A disciple of John said that the Messiah was John and not Jesus» (Pseudo-Clemens, Book of Recognitions I, 60, edition by Silvano Cola). The Apollo of whom Paul speaks regarding some disagreements in Corinth - «My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you…“I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ”» (1 Corinthians 1,11-12) - was a disciple of the Baptist (Acts 18,24-25) . These are signs that the dialogue-controversy between the two movements lasted well beyond the death of the founders. We also know from the Gospel of John that Jesus and his disciples baptized people in Judea (John 3,22).

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The activity of Jesus as a baptizer is a very uncomfortable fact for John's theology, so much so that shortly after he corrects it: «Although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples» (John 4,2). Corrections that point out controversies on this aspect (baptizing) within the Christian communities, where many (not all) of the Baptist's disciples had converged: «Jesus certainly acted as a baptizer alongside John for a certain period» (Encounters with Jesus/Il Battista e Jesus, A. Destro and M. Pesce, p. 165). We do not know how long Jesus' "Baptist" phase lasted, but from the Gospels we can deduce that it was not brief - he probably continued to baptize all his life, since the apostles continued to baptize even after that. Perhaps at an early stage Jesus also shared John's wild life, as the account of temptations in the wilderness may suggest. In Mark we then read an important detail: Jesus leaves the community of the Baptist and returns to Galilee «After John was put in prison» (Mark 1,14). That arrest, whose historical veracity is also testified by the Jewish-Roman historian Flavius ​​Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews, XVIII), represented a turning point in the relationship between Jesus and the Baptist. The Gospel of John gives a different explanation of Jesus' return to Galilee, but it is also linked to the relationship with the Baptist: «Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John… So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee» (John 4,1-3).

So far the story of John and Jesus. There are communities that are born from scratch. Others, on the other hand, are first preceded by discipleship, a following that can last a long time - it is difficult to become a good guide without first having learned to follow someone. In these cases, at first the person is sincerely convinced that the community where he or she incardinated his or her vocation is the one where he or she will remain forever. They do not experience it as a transitory community, because in the beginning authentic vocations are found in an eternal present, where there is no place for anything other than "forever". A gifted innocence, spiritual children with no past or future. The person will then recognize himself perfectly in that charism and feel an absolute ontological spiritual consonance. He will not feel like a guest, but one of the house, sometimes even as the master of the house. It is neither the sea nor the desert, but the Promised Land. There he will begin his spiritual life, there he will learn the ABC of community life, and there he will learn the grammar of the "voice". And if that vocation should generate another community tomorrow, that future community will carry traces of the first one, even if the person should not be fully aware of it or, if the exit from the first one was difficult, he should deny it (or the disciples deny it).

Anjezë entered the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (or Sisters of Loreto) in Albania as a young girl. There she took the name of Teresa. She remained there for eighteen years, until the 10th of September 1946, when in a dusty train «I opened my eyes to suffering and fully understood the essence of my vocation». It was at that moment that Teresa sensed the true essence of her vocation. To go deeper, until touching the heart within the heart. She needed eighteen years before having this realisation. In 1950, she founded the Missionaries of Charity. Teresa did not change her name again, but the name remained that of her first vocation. Like Silvia Lubich who remained Chiara, the name she had taken upon entering the Third Order Secular of St. Francis, when a few years later she understood the essence of her vocation and gave birth to a new community. The essence does not wish for a third name; the second is quite enough, sometimes even the first. Because the new vocation is a penetration into the essence of the first one, to the point of smelling its unique perfume. Teresa left the Sisters of Loreto to find something that truly conformed to her essence, but there are traces of the Sisters of Loreto in the Missionaries of Charity. There she came to know India, falling in love with it; she gave her yes to the poor and learned the art of following. If in the theophany of the baptism of Jesus there is a memory of something historical (and it is probable), it is more likely that it was the manifestation of the first vocation of Jesus, not of the second.

The discovery of the essence of one's vocation can take many different forms, some of which can be quite traumatic. Sometimes it generates a new branch from the same tree - just think of the hundreds of Franciscan families, or community reformers. Other times, the exit gives birth to a new tree, which grows next to the first one, often linked to it through the roots. Sometimes the tree grows beyond the realms of the woods and everyone's oxygen increases. The discovery of the essence is an experience of both great light and great pain. Many experience it with a feeling of betrayal that can last for years, sometimes turning into a wound-scar that stays for life. At a certain point, however, a day arrives when you understand that the time has come and you have to get up and leave. A decisive moment, because if we do not start at the right time and the process of coexistence between vocation and the essence of the vocation lasts too long, the second vocation runs the risk of failing. A process that is never easy, because those who stay behind tend to do everything in their power to stop those who wish to leave, using arguments such as: "What exactly is missing here to allow you to do what you want to do?" Highly effective words because for many people they ring true, but only nearly true for those with a second vocation. The difficulty in discerning consists in being able to grasp the difference between the truth and a quasi-truth, an imperceptible difference when you do not have a specific vocation - or experts and honest companions with you.

The John-Jesus analogy suggests that the departure of the person who personified the first charism can become the turning point. We find ourselves in the objective condition of freedom to be able to take flight, without the fear of disappointing those we love. If the person has great spiritual talents (and this is often the case), the first community had projects, expectations, hopes about him or her, which then risk becoming yet other bonds that can block the flight towards other projects and hopes. It is not about the child's well-known need to ‘kill’ his father in order to become an adult. These dynamics are also common in communities, but this is not what we are analyzing right now. Here the person who seeks his own essence after the founder's exit does go on and kill anyone’s father. It is the objective condition of absence of the key person in the first community that creates the space necessary to start the new one. As in the case when a disease, that was not wanted or sought, generates a new maturity in us that perhaps we would never reached without it. The death of the Baptist, however, may suggest something else too. It is a fact that the death or departure of the founder gives way to a period in which a large number of people (if compared to before) leave the community. They do so for various reasons, many related to the new space created by the absence. Among those who leave, we may also find some "Teresa" who set out to create a new wonderful collective adventure - even if it may "only" be a family. Moreover, as the story of Jesus suggests, the discovery of the new vocation often brings along some of the companions from the first community - a further reason for disagreements and tensions.

An interesting message can be taken from this. Founders would not have to wait for their death or retirement to create this space of freedom. Too many communities (but also businesses) born in the last century are struggling today because they have grown as a single trunk without branches and without generating other trees. Because, whenever they caught a glimpse of a "beautiful soul", the temptation to turn it a source of income for the development of the community was too strong. Hence, the greatest talents are all oriented to its organizational needs, all their creativity directed towards the objectives defined in detail by the founder. While this operation is (almost) inevitable in the first generation, if it continues in the second and subsequent generations as well, the communities risk becoming isolated and bare trunks, which progressively lose all their leaves, flowers and then their fruits. Only a charismatic forest of tomorrow can save the first tree of today. Going beyond the metaphor, however, that wood is not going to be formed without a "staff policy" which allows Jesus - a man who was not only a man - to flourish even outside the movement of the Baptist. In part because it is rare for the founders to be active only during three or four years, as was the case with John and with Jesus himself - it cannot be excluded that this is part of the reason behind the great generativity and variety of the first primitive Church.

The name of this policy is "community chastity", the one that allows you to see a beautiful person arrive, nurture them while they are with you and then help them understand who they really are, whether inside that first community or outside of it. A very difficult form of chastity, because some of the people left free to leave never come back. However, there will also be branches growing out of the trunk and other trees in the same woods that will allow the charism to continue to grow and flourish. Without being willing to waste, in a generous surplus, part of the seeds, no seeds of the charism will ever reach good soil and grow. A wise founder is the he who, when he sees a new person arriving, sets himself as his first goal to identify which branch or tree that this person will be able to generate, instead of immediately putting him to work as the gardener caring for the only large beautiful tree of the community. A tree that is presented like an already accomplished and unchangeable tree that only needs maintenance and water - even if that person should be exceptionally talented at watering. Many crises, and withering and non-generative branches and exits, could have been avoided if only people had been close to someone capable of reading their discomfort and the effort of getting to the essence of their vocation. In the Kingdom of Heaven, the blossoms are free, varied, excessive, colored, plural, and symphonic.

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The logic of charisms/2 - The value of first and second vocations in community experiences

by Luigino Bruni

Published in Avvenire  29/08/2021

"But Herod continued seeking John. (2) And he sent his servants to Zachariah at the altar, saying to him, "Where did you hide your son?... Outraged, Herod said, "Is his son destined to rule Israel?"

The Protoevangelium of James XXIII

The analogy with the early days of Christianity helps us to grasp some new dimensions of communities born as a way out of the original one.

The relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist is essential in order to understand the birth of Christianity. According to the Gospel of John (unlike the other synoptic Gospels), not only did Jesus frequent the Baptist movement, but some of the first apostles were disciples of John (among them Peter, Andrew and the anonymous "disciple whom he loved" (John 13,23). In an ancient Ethiopian text we read: «A disciple of John said that the Messiah was John and not Jesus» (Pseudo-Clemens, Book of Recognitions I, 60, edition by Silvano Cola). The Apollo of whom Paul speaks regarding some disagreements in Corinth - «My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you…“I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ”» (1 Corinthians 1,11-12) - was a disciple of the Baptist (Acts 18,24-25) . These are signs that the dialogue-controversy between the two movements lasted well beyond the death of the founders. We also know from the Gospel of John that Jesus and his disciples baptized people in Judea (John 3,22).

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Discovering the essence

Discovering the essence

The logic of charisms/2 - The value of first and second vocations in community experiences by Luigino Bruni Published in Avvenire  29/08/2021 "But Herod continued seeking John. (2) And he sent his servants to Zachariah at the altar, saying to him, "Where did you hide your son?... Outraged, Herod ...
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The logic of charisms/1 – Here, we will now begin the exploration of the "grammar" of movements and community realities

by Luigino Bruni

Published in the Avvenire 21/08/2021

The mother of Jesus and his brothers told him: «John the Baptist baptizes for the remission of sins: let us go and be baptized by him»

The Gospel of the Hebrews, Apocryphal Gospels, p. 266

We need a new kind of poverty, that of those who renounce the possession of people. Moreover, we need to train people who do not stay today for the commitments made yesterday, but for the dreams of tomorrow

Community is a central word. Invoked in solitude and in sickness, sought and coveted when the virtual "communities" have exhausted us and we feel the need to breathe. Its warm and strong bonds call us and do not leave us alone. The community, however, is changing forms so rapidly that it is (almost) no longer recognizable. The metamorphosis is taking place everywhere, but it is all the more evident in the context of religions and in Churches, which without community would die to become mere sterile psychological and emotional consumerism. It is in fact within Churches and religions where the nostalgia and sickness of the community is felt the most, where its call, its SOS, its cry, is heard loud and clear. Any future of spiritual and religious experience today cannot help starting from a profound, honest and radical reflection on the community, with the courage to push it to its extreme consequences. This is what we will try to do in this new series of articles, in which we will explore the grammar of communities, in particular those that arise from spiritual charisms. We have already made excerpts of this work in the past years. We continue the discussion taking suggestions and inspiration from the biblical tradition, an infinite gold mine because it is inexhaustible.

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Today we can almost say with certainty that Jesus began his activity within the movement of John the Baptist, where he remained for a not so brief period (months, perhaps years). Jesus was not only one of the many baptized by the Baptist, he was also a baptizer (John 3,22-24). In addition, unlike what happened in the contemporary Essene settled community of Qumran near the Dead Sea (from which we got the Community Rule), built around very precise and strict norms of common life, John's movement was a fluid, nomadic, provisional reality, where people came and went without having an actual life in common. Those who approached the Baptist were preparing for baptism and once baptized began a new life in his environment, or elsewhere. Baptism freed them enabling them to take their own free flight.

When monasteries began to flourish in the early Christian centuries, they imitated Qumran (perhaps without knowing it), not the Baptist movement, nor that of the early decades of Christianity. Whoever entered a monastery became a member of an institution thanks to a very strong bond of belonging. Bonds that were held tight and short, very short. Centuries later the Franciscan movement was born, and achieved something radically different from monasticism: not a residential community sort of life but the life of a beggar, not the centrality of the rule but of the "form of life". Francis and his companions looked a lot like Jesus, but they also looked a lot like the Baptist. The friars were not merely simpler and poorer monks: they were something new and different. At the beginning, no one confused their communities with monasteries, it would have been impossible.

The second half of the twentieth century experienced a new "axial age" of the charisms of the Church, comparable to the beggar movement of the thirteenth century. New movements and communities brought important innovations (for example: leadership of the laity, young people and women), but for the more committed (or "consecrated") members the reference paradigm remained that of the monks and other religious orders (over the centuries they became more and more similar to monks), so much so that they also took back the three vows. They did innovate, but not by much, in the forms of community life and in the individual-community relationship. It is not surprising then that the movements and communities born and flourished only a few decades ago today face the same crisis as traditional religious orders. Of course, they still have a few more additional vocations, a slightly lower average age and some young people around; however, the trend is the same, only shifted by a few years. Why? Well, as we know, for many reasons.

But we must reflect on one specific and timely element. Many spiritual movements of the second half of the twentieth century were conceived in strong continuity with the past. Their founders were daughters and sons of the Church and society of their time, and in perfect good faith, they put the new wine of their charisms into old organizational and institutional wineskins. Therefore, faced with the epochal changes of the last two or three decades, the new movements and communities are not very capable of responding to the new challenges and new spiritual needs. Their innovations have undergone a very rapid obsolescence, to the point that to an external observer a community of consecrated life of CL or members of the focolare movement today do not appear substantially different in any way from a Salesian house or a community of Pauline nuns.

Hence, a first message: old and new communities eager for the future should begin to take the urgency of an important change in community life much more seriously. Instead, they tend to do little, believing that their necessary renewal consists in a return to the charisms of the early days, or in a new spiritual radicalism. And so, they invest the few remaining energies in secondary battles, which then become their only ones – and when the forces on the field are few, the wrong battle becomes fatal. Instead, what is really needed are new forms of community life, more similar to the Baptist movement than to Qumran. However, this is not easy to understand, because the low "demand" for a community life today often comes from fragile people in search of strong belonging, attracted by the memory of the communities of yesterday. However, in the new spiritual ecosystem of the 21st century only more liquid and less structured, decentralized and less compact realities will be able to survive, non-estuary deltas, which do not aggregate people through rules and juridical bonds, but with the strength of the message of the charism and of a concrete experience. More tent and less palace, more camp and less institution, more spirit and less law, more guests and fewer bosses, more provisional and less stable, more promises and fewer votes. Communities where people are helped to reach a subjective condition of freedom and therefore of autonomy from the community itself, which do not seek a total and totalizing identification with the community charism. Because when that happens (and it has happened too often) the day soon will come when the person by dint of saying "we" no longer knows how to say "I" and therefore no longer knows how to answer the crucial question: "but who am I?" Yesterday "I am a friar" was a sufficient answer. Today it no longer is, not because the charism of Francis has diminished in any way, but because history, also enriched by Christianity and its charisms, has increased people and their conscience. Hence, something else must also accompany that "I am a friar" (which remains), something intimate that no community can offer in our place, and if it does it only creates neuroses and burnouts.

The crucial question then becomes: is it possible to create communities made up of free and autonomous people while avoiding the disintegration of the community itself? The question is not rhetorical, because it touches on the first vulnus of the communities of yesterday, which in order to survive as a community had to reduce the autonomy of their members. The origin of the Latin word communitas oscillates between two different and opposite etymologies: cum-munus, that is, a gift in common, and cum-moeni: walls in common. Communities (starting with the patriarchal family) have built their collective constructions using the very bricks of the little to no autonomy of their members. Each freely gave up their own freedom, which once given was no longer there, as in all true gifts, and then those gifts ended up building walls to "protect" those very same gifts. Communities placed very high barriers or walls to stop anyone from leaving around their people. Hence, people went in but almost never came out again (if not at a very high cost, unsustainable for most women). Physical, spiritual and psychological walls, so much so that the time the door was left open the bird remained inside the cage not having the strength to take flight into a world that was too unknown, maybe a cat would enter through that door.

The communities of today will be able to continue existing if they learn to lower their walls and barriers down to zero, transforming the walls into bridges, because it will be through those bridges that new vocations will be able to enter. There is an urgent need for a new form of poverty, that which is expressed as the renunciation of the possession of people, the most difficult kind of poverty to experience in a community, because people are their only form of wealth: and the more you experiences the poverty of goods, the more people's non-poverty will grow. Communities that know how to live on the edge of their own precipice will live. A good charism community in the 21st century can only be a tragic community, whose members go to sleep every night not knowing if tomorrow they will wake up a community again, and give thanks every morning because it is still there. By making this golden rule your own: if you want to have generative, creative and free people you have to generate a culture where people are so free that you cannot control them in the most important aspects of their life. You have to learn to live in the midst of a great coming and going of people, coming in and going out; because generating free people means putting them in a position to one day even leave. Communities, especially the spiritual and ideal ones, should make it their goal to train people who do not stay today for the commitments made yesterday, but for the dreams of tomorrow. The future, not the past, is the right space for promises capable of truly liberating people. We do not remain remembering a past that imprisoned us but imagining a future that continues to free us and free others. The "forevers" that enable people to live well are those that look forward, because those that look back know how only how to create salt statues.

A good community founder - but also a parent, manager or teacher - should rejoice when he or she sees "his" or "her" best people soar, and not consume them for their (highly important) projects. So much so that an indicator of the ethical and spiritual quality of a charismatic community is the relationship between the excellent people who have been there and those who have remained there for a long time. The higher the level, the higher the quality; the closer bound it is to one single person, the more we find ourselves in a narcissistic community. It is always very sad to see leaders surrounded by their best students for a long time, sometimes until retirement - and it is even sadder to see those best students of yesterday dying out over the years due to lack of access to open air and broader horizons. One day, an un-specified day, Jesus of Nazareth left the Baptist movement to follow his own vocation, to give birth to his own different community. John’s free "community" was such fertile ground that it generated the infinite freedom of Jesus. The Kingdom of Heaven is the place of in-finite communities.

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The logic of charisms/1 – Here, we will now begin the exploration of the "grammar" of movements and community realities

by Luigino Bruni

Published in the Avvenire 21/08/2021

The mother of Jesus and his brothers told him: «John the Baptist baptizes for the remission of sins: let us go and be baptized by him»

The Gospel of the Hebrews, Apocryphal Gospels, p. 266

We need a new kind of poverty, that of those who renounce the possession of people. Moreover, we need to train people who do not stay today for the commitments made yesterday, but for the dreams of tomorrow

Community is a central word. Invoked in solitude and in sickness, sought and coveted when the virtual "communities" have exhausted us and we feel the need to breathe. Its warm and strong bonds call us and do not leave us alone. The community, however, is changing forms so rapidly that it is (almost) no longer recognizable. The metamorphosis is taking place everywhere, but it is all the more evident in the context of religions and in Churches, which without community would die to become mere sterile psychological and emotional consumerism. It is in fact within Churches and religions where the nostalgia and sickness of the community is felt the most, where its call, its SOS, its cry, is heard loud and clear. Any future of spiritual and religious experience today cannot help starting from a profound, honest and radical reflection on the community, with the courage to push it to its extreme consequences. This is what we will try to do in this new series of articles, in which we will explore the grammar of communities, in particular those that arise from spiritual charisms. We have already made excerpts of this work in the past years. We continue the discussion taking suggestions and inspiration from the biblical tradition, an infinite gold mine because it is inexhaustible.

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The era of infinite communities

The era of infinite communities

The logic of charisms/1 – Here, we will now begin the exploration of the "grammar" of movements and community realities by Luigino Bruni Published in the Avvenire 21/08/2021 The mother of Jesus and his brothers told him: «John the Baptist baptizes for the remission of sins: let us go and be bapti...