Reading Pope Francis’ recent encyclical “Fratelli tutti” and his new book “Let Us Dream: the Path to a Better Future,” a question occurred to me that has probably been in the back of my mind for some time. The question is how much of the Holy Father’s vision has been influenced by the philosophy of personalism, and how much am I reading the philosophy of personalism into his writings?
A few months ago I learned that Pope Francis was writing an encyclical and also a book, both dealing with the pandemic. When I told a friend of mine he said to me, “What can the pope say about the pandemic?” I cannot recall my response but I do recall thinking that the Holy Father could probably say a great deal about the pandemic. I was right. The encyclical “Fratelli tutti” and the book “Let Us Dream Together” are magnificent.
During this pandemic I have had an interesting but strange experience of walking down memory lane. Some of the strolls have been completely voluntary, some have intruded time and time again uninvited and I have not been able to figure out why.
I believe that the Christmas joy that seems to touch everyone during the Christmas season is ultimately due to the Incarnation even when it is experienced by those who do not believe in the birth of God’s Son.
If there was ever a situation in life that seems to call for prayer it is a pandemic. My guess is that many may find new ways of praying during a pandemic. Others might rely on favorite prayers. I rediscovered the value, beauty, and power of a prayer I have been saying daily for close to forty years.
I suspect that for years people will be sharing stories about experiences they had during the pandemic. I know I hope I don’t forget some of the experiences I had. One I heard about recently sums up the kind of concern and encouragement that some people express toward one another during a pandemic
Advent has long been one of my favorite times of the year. One reason I find it so special is the emphasis in the Church’s liturgy on the virtue of hope. Every advent I become more convinced that I need to trust more in God’s love. At one point in my life, actually it was when I was a seminarian, my confessor had me read every book on the virtue of hope that I could find. What a great experience that was for me!
Authentic Catholicism, I believe, is a truly great religion and those of us who are Catholic should be grateful for God’s countless gifts that come to us through the Church. The Church should always be reforming, but that should not cause Catholics to forget the special graces and blessings that come through the Church.
If there is one thought that has been going through my mind during the last six weeks as I have been writing this series, it is the very important vocation each person has to participate in God’s sanctification of the world. We do not redeem people. Jesus did that through his life, death, and resurrection and is now lovingly present to everyone. However, we can share in Christ’s redemptive presence.
There is a statement in Father Pierre Teilhard’s spiritual masterpiece “The Divine Milieu: An Essay on the Interior Life” (Harper & Brothers, 1960) that seems to me to be especially important today. Teilhard is writing about the contribution that those who are often described as “unbelievers” might be making to the sanctification of the world. I believe that the Holy Spirit is operative in every person’s life and that it is quite possible that someone who does not believe in the Holy Spirit might be engaged in actions that amount to cooperating with the Spirit’s presence.