We’re currently in production for our next season of On the Block, our NET-TV interview show that features interviews with priests of the metropolitan area.
Last week, we travelled to Douglaston to sit down with Father Bob Lauder, a professor of philosophy at St. John’s University in Jamaica. He’s just written a new book entitled “Pope Francis’ Profound Personalism and Poverty.” He was more than anxious to talk about it.
If you read his weekly column in The Tablet, you’ve probably figured out by now that Father Lauder is a big fan of the first Latin American pope. He’s most impressed by Pope Francis’ emphasis on love, mercy and joy that he exhibits in all of his interpersonal actions.
Francis invites the homeless in for a meal, shelters refugees who are fleeing terror in their homelands and travels to the port of entry to welcome newcomers to Europe. Every action, gesture and word is meant to compliment the dignity of the human being.
“He has changed the atmosphere in the Church and the image of the Church and the papacy outside the Church,” writes Father Lauder.
That’s not meant to be a criticism of any previous pope. Father Lauder explains that he has had great admiration for all the popes of his lifetime. But Pope Francis does things differently and has caught the imagination of the world in a new way. The author refers to it as a “revolution of love.”
“I have come to see through the Holy Father that not only how we relate to other persons is important, but that it is also important how we relate to all other creatures,” writes Father Lauder.
He explains that Francis’ encyclical on the environment – “Laudato Si’” – has given him “a new and deeper understanding of what it means to say that to be a human person is to be relational, to be in dialogue with other, present to other, open to other.” Father Lauder even quotes sources who refer to “Laudato Si’” as the most significant papal encyclical of our time.
Throughout the book – because he is a philosopher – Father Lauder gives us glimpses into the thought of Rene Descartes, Martin Buber, Gabriel Marcel, Emmanuel Mounier and W. Norris Clarke. If you’ve ever taken a course taught by Father Lauder, you’re familiar with a few of those names.
While the book deals with some heavy topics, it’s very readable, just as Father Lauder’s lectures are always engaging. He even sprinkles in some personal, human interest stories like how his mother used to ask him, “Why are you writing all these columns and books? No one knows what you’re talking about!”
His insights into parish ministry and how his first assignment at St. Finbar’s parish in Bath Beach helped shape his entire priesthood are also quite interesting. If you enjoy Father Lauder’s column, you’ll love his books. Last year, he penned “Pope Francis’ Spirituality and Our Story.” His books are available from Resurrection Press at www.catholicbookpublishing.com.
Our full interview with Father Lauder will air during the new season of On the Block in the fall.