On October 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis released a new encyclical entitled, Fratelli Tutti – On Fraternity and Social Friendship. It can appear a rather depressing read because of its searing realism, except it plays the long game of Christian hope.
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One size doesn’t fit everyone. This isn’t just true for clothing, it’s also true for spirituality. Our challenges in life change as we age. Spirituality hasn’t always been fully sensitive to this. True, we’ve always had tailored instruction and activities for children, young people, and for people who are raising children, carrying a job, and paying a mortgage, but we’ve never developed a spirituality for what happens when those years are over.
Compassion, which is an expression of the commandment of mutual love and of the witness of the Spirit, is understood by the theology (practice) of welcoming, starting from the “connection” of which the simile of the vine and the branches in John 15 speaks: it is participation in the communion of Jesus with the love of the Father, source of life (for all).
The interview released by the FSB director demonstrated that it is still too early to leave to historians the question of state-sponsored terror against its own citizens. This organization now not only represents the center of the security apparatus in Russia, but also constitutes the nucleus of the political system – and today ever more of the economic system.
Sometimes we meet people who have had a good Christian formation, but who have become agnostics over time. We might think that these are exceptional cases. However, we are convinced that these cases are a symptom of an obvious fact: in traditionally Christian countries there is a crisis that affects both the faith and the life of the baptized.
We tend to be naïve about evil, at least as to what it looks like in everyday life. Our picture of evil has been falsely shaped by images taken from mythology, religious cults, and from books and movies that portray evil as personified in sinister spiritual forces.
Many people in the Church in France are concerned about the dangers of deviation and manipulation present in certain retreats, meetings or prayer groups that offer “psycho-spiritual” therapies. These practices, coming largely from overseas, raise fundamental questions: Should we recognize boundaries between the spiritual and the psychological? Which ones? On what basis?
The excusable doesn’t need to be excused and the inexcusable cannot be excused. Michael Buckley wrote those words and they contain an important challenge. We’re forever trying to make excuses for things we need not make excuses for and are forever trying to excuse the inexcusable. Neither is necessary. Or helpful.
The question of post-truth goes beyond the definition in the Oxford English Dictionary: “Objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal beliefs.” The so-called “objective facts” imply the possibility of being recorded and quantified.
The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason. Eliot wrote those words to describe how difficult it is to purge our motivation of selfish concerns, to do things for reasons that are not ultimately about ourselves.
With the advent of Covid-19, Facebook and similar digital platforms seem to have become liturgical spaces. Every kind of celebration is transmitted through them: “home-made” liturgies are held, retreat houses offer online activities, spiritual assistance is offered through a computer screen and so on.
Courage isn’t one of my strong points, at least not one particular kind of courage. Scripture tells us that as John the Baptist grew up he became strong in spirit. My growing up was somewhat different. Unlike John the Baptist, as I grew up I became accommodating in spirit.
The ancient Greeks had gods and goddesses for everything, including a goddess of Shame called Aidos. Shame for them meant much more than it normally means to us. In their mind, shame brought with it modesty, respect, and a certain needed reticence before things that should remain private and hidden.
While a lot of good is being done by psychiatrists, psychologists, and the medical profession in terms of treating depression, something important is being lost at the same time. Melancholy is much more than what we call “depression”. For better and for worse, the ancients saw melancholy as a gift from God.
Every reader of Scripture is in fact invited to say, “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; He went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien” (Dt 26:5) The Bible invites us to remember and assume the spiritual status of the immigrant, because in this a mystery of grace is given and from it a path of wise justice unfolds. Let us see how we can be guided by the Biblical narrative.
Recently in a radio interview, I was asked this question: “If you were on your deathbed, what would you want to leave behind as your parting words?” The question momentarily took me aback. Not having time for much reflection, I settled on this. I would want to say: Don’t be afraid. Live without fear. Don’t be afraid of death. Most of all, don’t be afraid of God!”
A revealing test of how much digital technology has changed our way of life is our relationship with time. It has been established that our awareness of time diminishes as we navigate; we find ourselves at the end of the day without being aware of its actual duration, just as it is equally difficult to remember what we saw during the hours spent in front of the screen.
The challenge associated with education has always been close to the heart of the current pontiff. As he himself revealed in our 2016 interview, he was involved in youth pastoral ministry and education when he was a parish priest in San Miguel, Argentina.
What does it really mean to lock your door? As we know, there are many kinds of doors we lock and unlock to let others in and out. In all the great religions of the world, in the end being with others is heaven; ending up eternally alone is hell. So it’s true, “the worst sin we can make is to lock our doors.”
The Letter to the Galatians is an exceptional New Testament document. It was written by Paul at a time of great anguish, because a fervent community that the Apostle had worked hard to establish and to which he remained closely attached, found itself being misled by Judaizers.