Mariano Fazio: "Christians must be traditional, not traditionalist: open to innovation, without falling into the trap of thoughtless progressivism".

"We are in the Church and in the world to love, because this is the human and Christian vocation". Mariano Fazio, Vicar of Opus Dei, in this interview speaks to Omnes about freedom and love, which are the themes of his latest book, but also about family and belonging to the Church, and how the classics can be the preparation for teaching the Gospel in a secularized world.

Maria José Atienza-September 8, 2022-Reading time: 9 minutes
mariano fazio

Testo originale del articolo in inglese qui

Testo del articolo in inglese qui

Mariano Fazio Fernández, a priest born in Buenos Aires in 1960 and currently an assistant vicar of Opus Dei, presented his book entitled 'Libertà di amare attraverso i classici' a few weeks ago at the Madrid headquarters of the University of Navarra, the review of which was published in issue number 714 of Omnes. 
It is an opera, the last of almost thirty titles, in which, through examples contained in classic literary works of all times, and especially among these "the classic of classics, the Bible", the author shows how the freedom of the human being is oriented to love: to the love of God and to reciprocal love, especially in the lives of the members of the Church.

In fact, "to be in the Church is to love Christ and, through Christ, others" says Mariano Fazio in this interview, in which he shares with us his opinion on secularization and the role of the western culture, the role of families in evangelization and the continuity of the Magisterium in recent pontiffs.

Talking about freedom and love in these times, in which a large part of society seems to have lost its bearings, is not easy. Have we perhaps lost the direction of freedom or love?

- I think that what we have smeared derives from having separated freedom from love.

Human beings are created free for anything. Every reality has a purpose. In some dimensions of contemporary culture, freedom of choice, the possibility of choosing in things that are not important, has been widely challenged. as a result, we have a vision of freedom that is very impoverished.

On the other hand, if we were to realize that this freedom has a direction and that the direction - according to Christian anthropology - is the love of God and of others, we would have an infinitely richer vision of freedom.

Today we talk so much about freedom, and yet it seems to me that there is a great lack of freedom because, unfortunately, we are all subject to dependencies of all kinds. The main dependence is egocentrism: the fact of concentrating on our own well-being, our personal projects, etc. In addition to this, we see that in some sectors there are more specific dependencies, such as drugs, pornography or the desire for material goods.

We are in a contradictory society in which we proclaim freedom as the highest human value, but we live as shiavi of our own dependencies. We have reduced freedom to the possibility of choosing between one thing or the other and we have lost the meaning that freedom is a vision oriented to love.

However, society often sees freedom as something that is based on the possibility to choose, to "temporarily" try everything.... 

-It is not possible to find happiness in the simple possibility of choosing. To choose you need to have a criterion, a certain orientation of freedom.

Kierkegaard affirms that when a person has before him all the possibilities, it is as if he had nothing before him, because he has no reason to choose one thing or the other.

To be happy we must orient each of our choices so that they are consistent with the ultimate goal of love. This is not only a theological or philosophical doctrine. We all hope in our hearts the desire for happiness. Aristotle said it, and it is true not only because Aristotle says it, but because we live it in all the circumstances of our life.

Many times we are confused in choosing the place where happiness is found. The three classic places where we live are the pleasures, the material goods or our own ego: the power, the ambition to be loved. And it is not like that.

Happiness is found in love, which implies donation. We do not find it in the simple possibility of choice. For universal experience, we find happiness when we choose to deny ourselves and to donate ourselves to God and to others for love.

In 'Libertà di amare attraverso i classici', he not only uses to quote the great literary works, but often also turns to the Bible.
There are those who consider the Bible a dogmatic book that has little to say about freedom.

- I use the great classics because they are books that still speak to us today, even though they were written centuries before. The classics present the great values of the human person: truth, goodness, beauty, love. Among all the others we have one that can be defined the classic of the classics: the Bible.

It is impressive to see how all the great classics of world literature, at least the modern and contemporary ones, are converting to the biblical source. They do it in an explicit way or even without knowing it, because they are immersed in our cultural tradition, which we must preserve because we run the risk of losing it.

God himself has chosen a narrative form to present to us his project of human happiness. The narrative form is the least dogmatic that can be: we are offered a historical narration. Jesus Christ, when he tells us the stories of his life, does it through parables; he does not present a list of dogmatic principles, but tells a story: "A father had two children..."; "On the road that goes from Gerusalemme to Gerico...". Even this same form of expression constitutes a proposal, which anyone can decide whether to follow or not.

Evidently, of course, throughout the history of the history of the Church, it has been necessary to formulate in a systematic way the Christian truths that are contained in the Bible; it is not, however, an imposition, but it will always be a proposal. This does not mean that, on some occasions, we Christians have wanted to impose these truths with little "edifying" means, and in this we have undoubtedly translated the evangelical spirit, which is that of providing faith, not that of imposing it.

He has published almost thirty books, among which we find biographical sketches. Like those of Pope Francis, St. John XXIII or St. Josemaria Escriva, but also books on culture and modern society. Why this attention to cultural and literary themes?

I am convinced that the crisis of contemporary culture is so great that it has lost its points of reference. Not only about the Christian life, but also about what or who is the human person.

Men and women are made for truth, goodness, beauty. The great classics of universal literature propose this vision of the human person. They are not good books or half-baked books, they are something else. They deal with all the key themes of the drama of existence: sin, death, violence, sex, love?

Reading great works such as I Miserabili, The Betrothed, or Don Chisciotte of La Mancia, one learns that the person is full of good and not evil, or that it is better to tell the truth than to lie, or that the soul is nobilitated by contemplating beauty. In short, the classics give us the tools to distinguish the great values, which are human values and Christian values. Today, on many occasions, it is more difficult to refer directly to catechism. On the other hand, this narrative style of the classic authors, what we have seen to be the same that God has chosen to convey his truth, can be a preparation for the Gospel.

We live in a very secularized society in which we must prepare the ground to impart the Vangelo. All my works on cultural issues have, therefore, this apostolic, evangelizing desire.

He makes us realize that we have been created free to love. In this sense we can affirm that we are in the Church to love?

- We are in the Church and in the world to love, because this is the Christian vocation and the human vocation. It is an essential experience.

The people who are truly free, with a full existence, are the people who know how to love.

We can make so many examples in history and literature, where the great characters, the most attractive ones, are those who always think of others. We are in the Church to love God and the next with the measure of love that Christ has given us.

Amore significa anche adempiere a una serie di obblighi, è evidente, ma non per un semplice dovere, ma perché ci rendiamo conto che attraverso questi obblighi si concretizza un modo di amare.

One of the key points of this relationship of love, also within the Church, is that of feeling or feeling exchanged. How to love others, the Church, when we do not feel this correspondence?

- It is important to remember, and this is an idea of St. Josemaría Escrivá, that the Church is above all Jesus Christ. We are the mystical body of Christ.

It can happen that, secondarily, there are those who one time or the other do not feel good inside the Church because the sensitivities are too many, and they think that their own sensitivities are not accepted, or also because they are unaware of some unedifying events that happen in the Church today and are happening at any time. But we are not part of the Church because it is a community of saints or of pure ones, but we are part of it because we follow Jesus Christ who is total sanctity. To be in the Church is to love Christ and, through Christ, the others.

And in the field of freedom, how not to fall into the error of wanting to eliminate essential aspects of the Church in the name of a false freedom?

- Under this aspect can enlighten me a lot about what Cardinal Ratzinger said about the interpretation of the Second Vatican Council, which I consider useful not only for this specific event, since the Church is constantly renewing itself while remaining faithful to tradition.

The two main obstacles can be, on the one hand, those who want the immobility inside the Church, perhaps for fear that the essence will be lost, and on the other hand, those who want everything to change, with the risk that the essence will be diminished or even lost.

What is essential is our relationship with Christ, the love of God..., ecc. The truth that the Lord has revealed to us will always remain the same because the public revelation was concluded with the death of St. John.

The renovation is what we must render credible in the different phases of history. Now it is the turn of contemporary culture, so it is logical that there is a renewal, for example, in the methods of catechesis.

The Christian must be traditional, but not traditionalist. It must be open to innovation without falling into a thoughtless progressivism.

He has indicated concepts that are often used to establish "groups or divisions" within the Church: progressives and conservatives, or traditionalists. This division really exists. ?

-A Catholic must be a Catholic a hundredfold. This means to embrace the totality of faith and Christian experience in all its dimensions and, for example, it must not make differences between the diffusion of life from the moment of conception until death and the preferential option for the poor because everyone has access to a house, food, clothing..., etc.

In 2007 I took part in the General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Friars in Aparecida. There I met different sensibilities in an atmosphere of great ecclesial communion. In this context, one of the synod fathers said: "I feel that those who defend the family, life, etc. and others have a great social sensitivity. We must reach a synthesis. We must defer life from the moment of conception until natural death and, in the meantime, in all the years of life of the people, make possible the right of everyone to have access to all these benefits".

In this sense, it seems to me that the pontificates of Benedict XVI and Francis are perfectly complementary. Each one emphasizes some themes, but this does not mean that Francesco has not spoken of the defense of life. For example, Benedict XVI has made some statements within the social doctrine of the Church, on the economy and ecology, which Francesco has continued.

Today is the time to build bridges, not to have unilateral views, to love each other and to respect all sensitivities.

Talking about the danger of remaining in the visions or in the human categories in the Church, have we lost the sense of eternity?

- I do not believe it, because the Church is Jesus Christ. The Church as an institution has not lost him.

In this field I remember an aneddote told to me by Joaquín Navarro Valls, who has been for more than twenty years the spokesman for John Paul II. On one occasion he had organized an interview of the Pope with the BBC. In that interview, the journalist asked John Paul II to define the Church in three words and the Pope replied: "I have two words. La Chiesa è Salvezza". Therefore, the Church is an instrument of eternal salvation.

We Catholics, of course, can run the risk of becoming mondani. This is a pericolo that Pope Francis has so much emphasized: the mondanità, as much in the gerarchy as in the fedeli. The danger of giving an absolute value to things that on this earth have a relative value.

The family, the vocation to marriage, is a central theme in the Church, especially in a year like this, dedicated to the family. But it is still necessary for all parties to perceive themselves as surrogate evangelizers?

- I have the impression that not all the consequences of the doctrine of the Second Vatican Council have yet been dealt with. St. Paul VI made evident in that Council the fundamental message: the universal call to holiness. Universal, that is, for all, and in particular it underlines the role of the laity in the Church and in evangelization.

In particular, I think that we must further enlighten our vocation to the Battesimal. With the Battesimo we are called to holiness, and holiness implies apostleship. Sanctity without apostleship is not sanctity. Therefore it is natural that the laity, who are in the midst of the world, in all social, political and economic institutions..., are the leaven that changes the mass of our world. And in this field, in a very particular way, the family, which is the domestic Church.

All the last Popes, St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis are defined anticlerical, because with this definition they underline the fundamental role of the laity. The hierarchy plays an essential role, of course, because the Church is a hierarchical institution, but we are all called to the apostolate by our own functions.

Today the family is in crisis; but if we have a deep experience of faith in families, if we allow them, as the Pope says, not to be self-referential families but to open themselves to other families who see in them a witness of forgiveness, generosity, service... that witness will make other families want to be like these Christian families. I believe that this is the great way of evangelization in today's world.

For a few weeks the Apostolic Constitution has been made public. Predicate EvangeliumThe personal prelature is no longer dependent on the Congregation of the Blessed, but on that of the Clergy. What does this mean for the Prelature of Opus Dei?

-The same day the Apostolic Constitution was published, the Prelate of Opus Dei, who is the most authoritative voice, said that nothing of substance changes.

The important thing is to preserve the spirit of Opus Dei. To preserve the founding charism with the flexibility - always inspired by that charism - to respond to the challenges of the contemporary world.

Msgr. Arrieta, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Witnesses, has repeated these words of the Prelate in an interview he gave, and has provided examples of many realities that, in the course of history, in the Holy See have changed in importance and have continued to preserve their essence. Meanwhile, the Prelature of Opus Dei remains the same, despite this change.

In collaboration with
Do you want independent, truthful and relevant news?

Dear reader, Omnes reports with rigor and depth on religious news. We do a research work that allows the reader to acquire criteria on the events and stories that happen in the Catholic sphere and the Church. We have star signatures and correspondents in Rome who help us to make the background information stand out from the media noise, with ideological distance and independence.

We need you to face the new challenges of a changing media landscape and a reality that demands reflection, we need your support.

In collaboration with
La Brújula Newsletter Leave us your email and receive every week the latest news curated with a catholic point of view.