By Msgr. Jonas Achacoso, JCD
Needless to say, many incidences in 2020 were global in impact. I would like to focus not on the coronavirus but on the antiracist protest phenomenon, which was very loud and disastrous in the summer of last year. Loud to unleash turbulent waves of protests overseas and disastrous by looting businesses in many cities. Many had to board up their storefronts, or else they would have had a business no more.
On the other hand, another terrible effect of the protests is the attack against every person’s freedom and society. I am referring to the freedom to own personal and societal history. History cannot be changed by purifying the past of its impurities. Trying to do it is a violation of the historical truth, something like crying over spilled milk. There is no use in being upset over a situation that has happened already and cannot be changed anymore.
Seeing monuments toppled down, something in me was tumbled down as well. I could not explain what it was. I yearned for words to understand precisely how I felt and be able to react accordingly. Then I had this chance to read Pope Francis’ new book, “Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future.” From the book’s opening pages, I had a eureka moment with Pope Francis discussing this phenomenon. The pontiff had the words I needed to fill up an intellectual vacuum to understand what was going on with me and my surroundings.
He wrote: “Amputating history can make us lose our memory, which is one the few remedies we have against repeating the mistakes of the past. A free person is a people who remember, own its history rather than deny it, and learn its best lesson … The ignominy of the past, in other words, is part of what and who we are. I recall this history not to praise past oppressors but to honor the oppressed’s witness and greatness of soul. There is a great danger in remembering the guilt of others to proclaim my own innocence” (pp. 28-29).
Pope Francis provided, as an illustration, the genealogy of Jesus Christ. He continued: “The past is always full of situations of shame: just read the genealogy of Jesus in the Gospels, which contains — as do all our families — quite a few characters who are hardly saints. Jesus does not reject his people or his history but takes them up and teaches us to do likewise: not canceling the shame of the past but acknowledging it as it is … Let’s look at the past critically but with empathy, to understand why people took for granted what now seems to us abhorrent” (p. 29).
I think Pope Francis’s words in this book are like vaccines too to stop the coronavirus’s creeping consequences in the minds and hearts of many.
As a shepherd, he has the wisdom which I believe is Holy Spirit inspired to heal so many debilitated and wounded souls, like a soothing balm to calm down an agitated spirit.
I totally agree with what Pope Francis wrote: “History is what was, not what we want it to have been” (p. 29).
Msgr. Achacoso is the author of ‘Due Process in Church Administration’ (2018), recipient of Arcangelo Ranaudo Award (Vatican City), and Administrator of Corpus Christi Church in Woodside, NY.