In remembrance of Fr. Giandomenico Mucci, SJ

La Civiltà Cattolica

 La Civiltà Cattolica / People / Published Date:7 December 2020/Last Updated Date:15 March 2021

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Father Giandomenico Mucci, an emeritus writer of our magazine, died in Rome on November 23, 2020.

He was born in Benevento on December 2, 1938, and having completed high school, went to university to study chemistry, before entering the Society of Jesus on September 4, 1958. After completing the usual training as a Jesuit, he was ordained priest in Naples on June 29, 1968. On July 2, 1975, he made his solemn profession in the Society. He obtained a doctorate in theology and taught, first at the Regional Seminary of Benevento, then at the Theological Faculty in Naples and, for a very short time, at the Gregorian University.

In 1984 he transferred to La Civiltà Cattolica to be a writer. For several years he worked on the theology of the Church, later and longer on the relationship between Church and contemporary culture and, less regularly, on the history of Ignatian spirituality. He edited and had published several books on these three areas.

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He was passionate about his pastoral ministry and was spiritual director to many people of every state and condition, who chose him as their advisor and guide. For more than 30 years he served the Holy See as a spiritual father at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy.

We commend him to the prayers of our readers and those who knew him.

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That was the concise and unembellished obituary he himself composed and left us, and we respectfully publish it in his dear memory.

However, in gratitude for his many years of service to our journal, and moved by affection and esteem, let us add a few more words about this confrere. In fact, he wrote over 360 articles for La Civiltà Cattolica, not counting numerous reviews. Browsing through the titles gives an idea of the depth of his culture and the breadth of his reading. He had his own style, which was clear and devoid of any verbosity and redundancy, leading the reader directly to the core of the issues addressed; his reasoning was stringent and viewpoints precise.

Fr. Mucci moved in the current of Christian thought and was thoroughly imbued with the teaching of the Church’s Magisterium, and he was always very attentive to developments in contemporary culture pertinent to a person of faith. He entered into dialogue with respect and engaged in discussion with authoritative lay thinkers in a confident manner.

It is no coincidence that Fr. Giandomenico, long before he became a member of our College of Writers, was interested in the founder of La Civiltà Cattolica, Fr. Carlo Maria Curci. He was certainly one of the most eminent experts on him, not only from the historical and political point of view, but even more from the perspective of his theological thought and his participation – as a believer and priest – in the travails of the Church in his time, the crucial period of the waning of the Pope’s temporal power. We cannot forget the commitment with which Fr. Mucci wanted to visit the tomb of Fr. Curci in Florence.

He managed to obtain the transfer of his remains – accompanying them personally – to the resting place of members of the Society of Jesus at Campo Verano in Rome. By this act of Christian piety he wanted to testify explicitly that Fr. Curci before his death had been officially readmitted to the Order, from which for many years he had to live separated – while remaining an exemplary priest – as a result of his critical positions on temporal power, positions that today everyone recognizes as enlightened, but which were not accepted then by the ecclesiastical authority.

Whoever was a close friend of Fr. Mucci knew that the deepest fibers of his heart vibrated in a particular way when he discussed the world of spirituality. He often recalled with gratitude Fr. Ugo De Mielesi, who from the early years of his religious formation, in Gallarate, had guided him to reading the great classics of spirituality, such as the writings of Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross and, among the Jesuits, those of the “mystic” Ignatius of Loyola, Louis Lallemant, Jean-Pierre de Caussade and others. The lives of the saints also fascinated him; not for nothing were a significant number of his articles dedicated to hagiographic profiles, continuing in this way, albeit in a different style, the beautiful tradition cultivated in the past in our journal with passion and enthusiasm by Fr. Domenico Mondrone.

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Fr. Mucci thus drew upon the most genuine sources, rich spiritual doctrine and a spirit of discernment that over the years would make him an appreciated guide, sought and loved by many people “of every state and condition” – as he rightly recalled – that is, from the most humble to the highest in civil or ecclesial rank. He was a guide who was capable – something very rare today – of leading with a heart full of charity, but was also firm and wise and, if necessary, demanding. He travelled on a road nourished by a life of prayer, which is not content with the plains but knows how to ascend, accompanied by grace, to the heights of the Spirit.

It is not for nothing that generations of students at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, today scattered throughout the world in the diplomatic service of the Holy See and often called to positions of great responsibility, continued to remain in contact with him for a long time and to consider him a spiritual point of reference on their journey.

Popes have often emphasized how clerics called to the service of the Holy See must be free from any spirit of careerism and ambition, in order to carry out their work truly as a “service”, motivated by faith, with an apostolic and priestly soul, in a spirit of faithful love for the Church and the Holy Father. We think that Fr. Giandomenico, carrying out the task of spiritual father with wisdom and absolute discretion for decades, made an eminent contribution to this end, by means of his personal example.

His willingness to listen to the many who sought him out for advice and comfort was admirable. Personal encounters, as well as listening on the telephone, occupied most of his days, from morning to night.

Those who had the gift of his friendship and were able to enjoy his pleasant conversation were impressed by the depth of his knowledge and love for the great authors of Italian literature, Dante and Manzoni above all, who for their inspired and faith-imbued art continued to be among his favorite works until the last moments of his life. He also had an enduring affection for the greats of German literature, to which he had been introduced in his youth, leaving him with a deep knowledge of the language, for which he always remained grateful to a teacher of distant years. But it was music above all that gave him the joy of spiritual elevation: Bach and Mozart were his favorite composers, but the music of many others also accompanied him during his time spent studying and writing.

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The main stages of Fr. Mucci’s life, as he himself mentioned above, took place in his native Benevento, to which he always remained very attached as his true “home,” then later Naples, and finally Rome. But no less important was his relationship with the land of Abruzzo. For his regency during his religious formation, he was sent to Pescara, and since then his love of and apostolic service to that region never ceased. On the contrary, they grew over the decades. He was generously offered hospitality by the Dominican Sisters in Francavilla al Mare (Ch), in their home for young mothers.

This truly became his favorite place to live during the summer months and to return to frequently at other times of the year. He saw it as a familiar and simple place from where he could carry out that priestly and pastoral ministry he loved with all his heart. How many baptisms celebrated! Also, how much affection for the many Muslim children! He was also able to cultivate a wide network of conversations and friendships, which many priests and bishops of the region enjoyed with gratitude. For this reason he wished to be buried in Abruzzo, in Pescara, in the cemetery of Porta Nuova.

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In conclusion, we must thank the truly generous people who provided loving attention and competent, patient medical care to Fr. Mucci for so many years. In fact, his poor health meant he required quite a lot of care, which had to be increased as his physical suffering grew in recent times. To Prof. Raffaele Manna, Dr. Giovanna Masci, the Dominican Sisters and all those who cared for him with affection and sensitivity, his great gratitude and ours also.

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The Holy Father sent a message of condolence to the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Arturo Sosa, which was read during the celebration of Fr. Mucci’s funeral on Thursday, November 26 at the church of Santo Spirito in Sassia, Rome. We report it in its entirety.

I join with prayer in the memory of Father Giandomenico Mucci, SJ, and I express my closeness to those who mourn his earthly passing. In remembering him, I feel a strong desire to thank the Lord for this faithful and discreet servant who has given glory to God both through his theological and literary talent, manifested in particular in the numerous articles published in La Civiltà Cattolica, and through his full dedication to spiritual accompaniment.

Father Mucci walked humbly along the path traced by the Exercises of St. Ignatius, seizing, in the spirit of Father Louis Lallemant, the call to seek union with God, in thinking and acting, through an emotional prayer centered on grace and passivity toward the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit, who purifies the heart.

Thus, escaping worldliness and living with simplicity, he was a witness and spiritual guide for many, especially for the priests whom he accompanied at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy over the course of thirty years and also later, a humble and appreciated point of reference in Rome and at the Pontifical.

Many found in him a father who, with sensitivity and delicacy, never tired of carrying in his heart and prayer those who relied on him. This genuine and caring availability gave a touch of tenderness to his rigorous laboriousness and the vast knowledge that characterized him. These were never ends in themselves, but dedicated to the service of the Church and people, as is right for those who know that “it is not the abundance of knowledge that satiates and satisfies the soul, but the feeling and tasting of things internally” (Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, 2nd annotation).

In commending to the Father the soul of this dear Brother, I hope that his example and his teachings will continue to bear fruit. On those who cherish his precious memory and on those who participate in the funeral liturgies, I impart the Apostolic Blessing.

Rome, St. John Lateran, November 26, 2020.