Monsignor Rosmini

Perhaps to speak about Rosmini and his relevance in the contemporary Church, the most fitting analogy is with the Fathers of the early centuries of the Church, in whom acuteness and breadth of speculative interests went hand in hand with the evangelical ardor of the pastors of souls

by Francesco Cossiga
Senator and President emeritus of the Italian Republic

 

Rosmini at age twenty in a portrait by Giuseppe Craffonara
     To speak of Rosmini and his relevance in the contemporary Church would presuppose a deep acquaintance with this extraordinary figure.
      Nevertheless, having come on Rosmini at various times of my life, and having been in a certain way touched by him, I will try to highlight some aspects that seem to me to make of him an authentic prophet, whose fate was that of so many like him, farsighted people, misunderstood, and even persecuted in life and even after death.
      When one wants to take in at a single glance the whole testimony of Rosmini’s life and thought, it becomes difficult to find suitable comparisons with other saints. Modern and contemporary history does indeed provide figures eminent in some field of thought and action, but no one who developed them with the width, depth and completeness of Rosmini. In medieval history we can put him beside such saints as Bernard, Anselm, Bonaventure, Thomas. But perhaps the most fitting analogy is with the Fathers of the early centuries of the Church, in whom acuteness and breadth of speculative interests went hand in hand with the evangelical ardor of the pastors of souls, intellect, heart and action, knowledge and holiness taken to the limits of human capacity: Origen, Augustine, Ambrose.
      Revelatory, above all, is the depth of the principles from which Rosmini starts, every time that he intends to give life to something. There is always in him the tendency to find – in philosophy, in theology, in ethics, in politics, in the law, even in the foundation of his Society of Charity – a wide and granitic basis, capable of bearing with coherence all the necessary developments that from that seed might take on life.
      For example, his whole philosophy rests on the simple but extremely universal idea of being, his anthropology on the dignity of the human person, his idea of law on the solidity of justice, his theology on the natural light of reason which is made whole by the supernatural light of grace, his ethics on the duty of recognizing being in practical fashion, his theosophy on the primordial nexus between the unity and the multiplicity of being, marriage on the fullness and complementarity of reciprocal delight, the Institute of Charity on the baptismal exigency of cultivating in oneself and with others the love that comes from God and that is God Himself, the Church on the development and completion of the society of mankind with God Himself.
      Strong in these starting conditions, Rosmini developed in around thirty years an impressive encyclopaedic thinking, almost a «summa totius cristianitatis» (the comparison comes from Michele Federico Sciacca), a rich deposit of human and Christian culture contained in around a hundred large volumes. It is his precious legacy, that he built patiently, following the impulses of Providence, and that he left to his contemporaries and to posterity as contribution of his passage on earth, icon of his love for mankind and for society. If one wanted to find the definition that most fits Rosmini, we could say that he is the doctor of universal charity, doctor universalis caritatis.
      The goal for which he wrote was revealed to him by Pope Pius VIII in a memorable visit in 1829, when he was 32: to lead men to religion through reason. It was in substance the need of the period, that soon become patent and now acquires a “prophetic” flavor for our times. We are in fact in a moment in which mankind is starting in alarming fashion to distance itself from God in the name of reason, convinced it can shape life without recourse to religion. The rent between reason and faith becomes ever wider, as Rosmini confided to a friend: «Men have gone far, and we must go far to reattach them».

The aspect of Rosmini’s public life can also be more peaceably judged today, to the point of considering truly settled the quarrel between the Italian nation and the Church that opened after 1848, and closed effectively today only with the beatification of Antonio Rosmini

      In conclusion, the figure of Rosmini can today come as providential help in recovering the whole man and disposing him, thus unified, to open to communion with God. The Western world has been creating, within man, a progressive laceration. First it distanced him from God, extinguishing the inner heavens of the supernatural. Then it humbled his reason, demanding the sacrificium intellectus (nihilism), finally it has evacuated his will (inconsistency of ethical values). The whole work of Rosmini instead aims at rekindling within man the heavens of the supernatural and communion with God three-in-one. The man that then presents himself before God is not a portion of man, but the person all entire, who sacrifices neither the senses, nor the intellect, nor the will.
      A chapter that only a theologian could develop is the influence that Antonio Rosmini undoubtedly exerted on Vatican Council II together with John Henry Newman.
      In this sense the aspect of Rosmini’s public life can also be more peaceably judged today, to the point of considering truly settled the quarrel between the Italian nation and the Church that opened after 1848, and closed effectively today only with the beatification of Antonio Rosmini.