During the pandemic, I not only spent a considerable amount of time praying, but I also thought a great deal about the nature of prayer, what it should mean in our lives, what we do when we pray.
I have no statistics, but I have no doubt that loneliness experiences multiplied significantly during the pandemic. A friend of mine, a psychological counselor, told me that after months of the pandemic, she thought it would take a long time for many to return to what their emotional lives were before the pandemic. If she had said that to me at the start of the pandemic, I wonder if I would have agreed with her.
Occasionally, while reading “Let Us Dream Together,” some of the Pope’s words and phrases seem to leap out at me. They seem almost to demand my attention. They often cause me to pause and reflect. That was my experience when I saw the expression “existential myopia.”
What I wrote in last week’s column about Pope Francis’ view of freedom is still on my mind. In the history of philosophy, the first philosopher who strongly emphasized that humans coexist, that we have the power to influence others because we, as it were, are tied together, was Karl Marx.
Teaching the philosophies of existentialism and personalism for many years, I think has deepened my understanding of freedom. Because freedom is one of the mysterious gifts that God has given to us, I don’t claim to understand the mystery of freedom completely. Still, I think reading and teaching some great philosophers has helped me go more deeply into the meaning of freedom and the central role it plays in the development of the human person.
In his new book, “Let Us Dream: the Path to a Better Future,” Pope Francis articulates exactly how I feel during the pandemic and whenever I think about all the problems in the world. He feels overwhelmed, but he insists that he is never hopeless. That he is never hopeless with all the problems he must confront encourages me not to be hopeless but to try to believe that, with God’s help, there is no problem that we cannot confront. The Holy Father notes that we cannot serve others unless we let their reality speak to us.
For me, and I imagine for everybody, the experience of the pandemic has been difficult. What I draw from Pope Francis’s encyclical and his new book “Let Us Dream Together; the Path to a Better Future” is the need to enter more deeply into myself and enter more deeply into my relationship with God and others.
My guess is that many during this pandemic are eagerly looking toward a future when the pandemic is under control. The quicker, the better! During the pandemic, my own experience has included a mixture of reflecting on memories and imagining a future when my life will resume some semblance to my previous experience.
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.