The Chiaraful Economy

The Chiaraful Economy

by Luigino Bruni
from  "Economy of Communion - a new culture"  n.28 - decemebr 2008

n28_pag._06_luigno_bruni_1The EoC is an economic project born from a Charism, from a gift for today’s humanity. We mentioned it several times in this Newsletter, including this issue, when we said that every economic experience (and not only economic, born from a Charism, has some specific points of its own, which make it different from other experiences born instead from interests and the pursuit of profits.

The guiding premise of a charismatic economy is specifically the principle of gratuitousness; we act, we work, we produce, but we do use or make an instrument of people, things and ourselves. We rather respect and love them as good in themselves.

Now let us ask ourselves: is there a specific aspect of the Charism of Unity from which the EoC is born, inside the great charismatic history of yesterday and today?

What are its consequences in the civil and economic practice? The two fundamental premise(which are also a medal with two faces) of the Charism of Unity, are, as Chiara always reminded us, Unity and Jesus Forsaken.
Unity that we could also call “communion”, is the longing that animates those who participate in this Charism, and that drives them to build unity and to heal disunity in all realms, in view of universal brotherhood, of a united world.

Jesus Forsaken in particular is the possibility to build unity and to heal the wounds  of disunity. Jesus Forsaken (i.e. Jesus viewed in the moment of His cry of abandonment on the cross) tells us something more specific: it is not mainly or only the choice to search for and love suffering in general, but that particular type of suffering born from broken relationships, from the lack of communion, from any abandonment. From this also comes what is specific in the economic field. I will just outline a few characteristics.

First of all, if the Economy of Communion was born from the Charism of Unity, we can understand that it is not by chance, that the typical characteristic of the  Charism of Unity related to goods is communion: the goods become occasions and places of communion, for the creation of fraternal relationships.

We can also understand therefore what is specific about the economy of Chiara or the Chiaraful economy, in relationship to an immense Charism like that of Saint Francis. The poor of Assisi points to poverty as an authentic way to free ourselves from merchandise to search for the only Good who is God.

Chiara (who loved the spirituality of Saint Francis so much and who was formed as a young woman in that Charism), proposes to us the same radicalism in relation to the goods, but asking us to put them in common with others, in view of the unity of all. This “in view of unity” is very important, because it stops us from being closed off, outcome that communion can always produce and instead it opens us up to universal brotherhood.

It follows that even in a (hypothetical) world without poor, the life style of our Charism of Unity would still be the communion of goods, because goods become really goods (good things)when they are put in common. The goods not shared are always way to unhappiness, even in an opulent world. How much unhappiness there is in our rich cities but without the celebration of communion!

The goods held tight, like a jealous possession, in reality impoverish the owner, because it deprives him or her of the ability to give and to reciprocate, which is the true human patrimony that leads us to happiness (like many studies by now  abundantly highlight).

In addition, the Charism of Unity tells us that the various forms of poverty have very much to do with relationships and much less than we commonly think, with merchandise and money. We fall into poverty (individuals as well as communities and peoples) when relationships get sick.

For this reason when, with the profits we give, we try to help a poor person, the first help is the gratuitous offer of a new relationship. Without this  relational “primacy”, no help is effective from the perspective of communion.

From this vision of poverty is born also a typical way of interpreting, culturally and theoretically, poverty. It always has to do with wrong or sick relationships. The treatment of every form of indigence is always primarily a treatment of relationships: interpersonal relationships, but also to try to change power relationships, political ones, institutional ones or also within the natural environment.

Therefore, to give you an example, when entering in relationship with a family living in poverty, the point to start with is to understand what does not work between husband and wife, between children and parents, within the community.  In these cases, before giving any other material help, the real important intervention is to re-activate the communion of goods within the local community and only later we can launch initiatives of concrete help. This is, besides, a modality of social action in line with the “principle of subsidiary” of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

This is also the reason why the EoC interventions are turned to people inserted into live communities, otherwise we would not have those characteristics that allow the development of communion (which is the purpose of the project). This aspect represents at the same time the limit and the prophecy of the EoC.

One last note.
If it is true that richness which is not shared does not bring happiness, it is also true that poverty is not sufficient, even when chosen freely, to live a good life. It is not enough to be poor, to be the poor of the Gospel that Jesus calls blessed!

We need to experience, even now, (and not only in Paradise)that “Kingdom of Heaven”: the sentence of the beatitudes, “blessed are the poor” is not true, if it is not complete. It requires in fact “because theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”. If from the experience of poverty you do not have the Kingdom of Heaven, poverty is suffering and death. The Kingdom of Heavens means communion, celebration, sharing.

This is why the Gospel poor and the poor of the EoC, are happy when the community around him or her makes them experience, with communion, the Kingdom of Heavens, and the poverty of the poor becomes richness for them and for the community. The Chiaraful Economy teaches us and makes us live, both in abundance and in  poverty, the happiness born only from communion.

Today during this crisis season , the economy and the market need certainly new rules  but most of all they have a vital need of communion, of happiness, of celebration and of gratuitousness: the EoC, the “Chiaraful” economy, producing these goods, gives an all special and quite relevant contribution of her own, to the dreams and the sufferings of the men and women of today.

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