Happy Valentin´s Day

DSC03077

Today is the day of love and friendship, is the day when all of us remember every special person in our live. Nevertheless, this day all of us are invited to remember the Love of the loves, the Love that gives the own live for friends.

Also we should remember our love for all creatures following the example of Saint Francis of Assisi whose love was example of the respect and careful that creation deserves.

“NATURE AND CULTURE IN CATHOLIC ENVIRONMENTALISM: ROMANO GUARDINI’S LETTERS FROM LAKE COMO

175px-Romano_Guardini_um_1920

 

Christopher Shannon, in the frame of the last WDY presented us some ideas from Romano Guardini, one of the most profound modern Catholic thinkers, who in 1926 wrote a famous  book called Letters from Lake Como. In this book, Guardini develop a range of questions concerning man’s relation to the natural world, a foundational text of a tradition of authentically Catholic “environmentalism.”   

Guardini born in 1885 in Verona, Italy, soon moved with his family to the city of Mainz, in Germany where his father went in search of employment.  His parents were faithful, if not excessively devout Catholics who raised Guardini with a love for the great classics of European humanism, ranging from Dante’s Divine Comedy to Goethe’s Faust.  By the early twentieth century, however, science had eclipsed literary humanism as the great achievement of European civilization.  Indeed, for the enlightened of that age, modern science had rendered traditional Christianity obsolete.  Guardini tried to embrace the spirit of his age through the study of chemistry and economics.  Attending the University of Munich, he noticed that many of his fellow students had abandoned their religious beliefs; this caused him to begin to question his own faith.  Guardini then underwent a period of spiritual crisis that he would later compare to that of St. Augustine.  He emerged from this crisis with a renewed faith, but continued to pursue his secular studies.  Still, after a few months of studying economics at the University of Berlin, he felt the call to the priesthood, eventually receiving holy orders on May 28, 1910.  Over the next ten years, Guardini pursued a Ph.D. that would qualify him to teach in the German university system, served two years of service as a hospital orderly for the German army during World War I, and held various parish assignments.

 Between the main ideas of Guardini, it could be mentioned the issue of the meaning of industrialism as it has spread into a previously unindustrialized region of Italy.  He frames the problem in the following way:  “I saw machines invading the land that had previously been the home of culture.” Significantly, he criticizes industrialism as less a corruption of pure nature than a transformation of culture.  Nature was made for human habitation.  The question is not whether to interact with nature or leave it alone, but how to live with nature in a manner that is both human and natural

 The unnatural relation between man and nature extends to social and economic relations among people.  The factories that destroy nature also introduce an unnatural relation of production and consumption into human society.  

 Mass production and consumption had so distorted natural human living that people were nearly unable to imagine any other way of living:  the artificial had become natural?

 

“The Poor” according to Francis

Much has been said by Pope Francis around the world, from secular media all the way to the inner workings of the Church. Lately, he was featured on the “Rolling Stone” magazine cover, accompanied by Bob Dylan lyrics “The Times they are a-changin”. As a friend of mine from the Vatican commented, this is probably the first and only celibate person to ever be granted the honor.

In what concerns the environment much has been said about Francis too (here, here and here for example), but his central theme seems to be poverty and mercy. Within the concept of poverty, there are important connections to the environment, especially on the oft repeated critique of the “culture of waste”, as well as the calling to reach the peripheries (in the theology of reconciliation the environment can be considered as peripheral) and of course even the Franciscan connection between poverty and love of nature.

Recently, Pope Francis has delivered messages that help us understand exactly what he, following the teachings of Jesus, understands poverty. There is clearly a material dimension to poverty,  but it is much more than that within a Christian understanding of the term. Below a few key statements:

1. Catechesis on Evangelization, June 18: I posted about this passage before here, where the Pope explained what he means by poor and a preferred term oh his: “existential peripheries”. The poor certainly include the materially poor, but also the materially rich who are spiritually poor:

“The Gospel is for all! Going out toward the poor doesn’t mean that we must become paupers or some sort of ‘spiritual bums’! No, that’s not what it means! It means that we must go towards the flesh of the suffering Jesus but Jesus’ flesh also suffers in those who don’t know it, with their studies, their intelligence, their culture. We must go there! That’s why I like to use the expression ‘go to the outskirts’, the existential peripheries. Everyone, all of them, [who suffer] from physical and real poverty to intellectual poverty, which is also real. All the outskirts, all the intersections of paths: go there. And there sow the seed of the Gospel by word and by witness.”

2. Message for Lent 2014: Here the Pope shows how Jesus lived and understood poverty, and the difference between destitution and poverty. The greatest destitution is to be without faith, hope and love – without God:

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor8:9). The Apostle was writing to the Christians of Corinth… What does this invitation to poverty, a life of evangelical poverty, mean for us today? First of all, it shows us how God works. He does not reveal himself cloaked in worldly power and wealth but rather in weakness and poverty: “though He was rich, yet for your sake he became poor …”. Christ, the eternal Son of God, one with the Father in power and glory, chose to be poor; he came amongst us and drew near to each of us; he set aside his glory and emptied himself so that he could be like us in all things (cf. Phil2:7; Heb 4:15)… It has been said that the only real regret lies in not being a saint (L. Bloy); we could also say that there is only one real kind of poverty: not living as children of God and brothers and sisters of Christ. 

In imitation of our Master, we Christians are called to confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own and to take practical steps to alleviate it. Destitution is not the same as poverty: destitution is poverty without faith, without support, without hope. There are three types of destitution: material, moral and spiritual.Material destitution is what is normally called poverty, and affects those living in conditions opposed to human dignity: those who lack basic rights and needs such as food, water, hygiene, work and the opportunity to develop and grow culturally. In response to this destitution, the Church offers her help, her diakonia, in meeting these needs and binding these wounds which disfigure the face of humanity. In the poor and outcast we see Christ’s face; by loving and helping the poor, we love and serve Christ. Our efforts are also directed to ending violations of human dignity, discrimination and abuse in the world, for these are so often the cause of destitution. When power, luxury and money become idols, they take priority over the need for a fair distribution of wealth. Our consciences thus need to be converted to justice, equality, simplicity and sharing.

No less a concern is moral destitution, which consists in slavery to vice and sin. How much pain is caused in families because one of their members – often a young person – is in thrall to alcohol, drugs, gambling or pornography! How many people no longer see meaning in life or prospects for the future, how many have lost hope! And how many are plunged into this destitution by unjust social conditions, by unemployment, which takes away their dignity as breadwinners, and by lack of equal access to education and health care. In such cases, moral destitution can be considered impending suicide. This type of destitution, which also causes financial ruin, is invariably linked to the spiritual destitution which we experience when we turn away from God and reject his love. If we think we don’t need God who reaches out to us through Christ, because we believe we can make do on our own, we are headed for a fall. God alone can truly save and free us.

The Gospel is the real antidote to spiritual destitution: wherever we go, we are called as Christians to proclaim the liberating news that forgiveness for sins committed is possible, that God is greater than our sinfulness, that he freely loves us at all times and that we were made for communion and eternal life. The Lord asks us to be joyous heralds of this message of mercy and hope! It is thrilling to experience the joy of spreading this good news, sharing the treasure entrusted to us, consoling broken hearts and offering hope to our brothers and sisters experiencing darkness….

Dear brothers and sisters, may this Lenten season find the whole Church ready to bear witness to all those who live in material, moral and spiritual destitution the Gospel message of the merciful love of God our Father, who is ready to embrace everyone in Christ…. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.

On the point of spiritual destitution we also are reminded of Card. Ratzingers words about evangelization and poverty on a message to catechists:

Jesus says: I have come to evangelize the poor (Luke 4:18); this means: I have the response to your fundamental question; I will show you the path of life, the path toward happiness—rather: I am that path.

The deepest poverty is the inability of joy, the tediousness of a life considered absurd and contradictory. This poverty is widespread today, in very different forms in the materially rich as well as the poor countries. The inability of joy presupposes and produces the inability to love, produces jealousy, avarice—all defects that devastate the life of individuals and of the world.

This is why we are in need of a new evangelization—if the art of living remains an unknown, nothing else works. But this art is not the object of a science—this art can only be communicated by [one] who has life—he who is the Gospel personified.

3. Message for the 29th World Youth Day 2014: In this message the Pope reflected on the beatitudes (Mt 5), especially “Blessed be the poor in spirit…”, and defines “poor in spirit” in the same way, as a voluntary divesting of glory, of giving to others, quoting Philippians 2,7 again. He also offers 3 concrete ways of making this spirit of poverty a way of life: being free from material wealth, seeing the poor differently and lastly, which I will quote in full, learning from the poor. Finally, the important relationship between evangelization and poverty, and it’s fruit: joy.

Here we see God’s choice to be poor: he was rich and yet he became poor in order to enrich us through his poverty (cf. 2 Cor 8:9). This is the mystery we contemplate in the crib when we see the Son of God lying in a manger, and later on the cross, where his self-emptying reaches its culmination. The Greek adjective ptochós (poor) does not have a purely material meaning. It means “a beggar”, and it should be seen as linked to the Jewish notion of the anawim, “God’s poor”. It suggests lowliness, a sense of one’s limitations and existential poverty. The anawim trust in the Lord, and they know that they can count on him.

However – and this is my third point – the poor are not just people to whom we can give something. They have much to offer us and to teach us. How much we have to learn from the wisdom of the poor! Think about it: several hundred years ago a saint, Benedict Joseph Labré, who lived on the streets of Rome from the alms he received, became a spiritual guide to all sorts of people, including nobles and prelates. In a very real way, the poor are our teachers. They show us that people’s value is not measured by their possessions or how much money they have in the bank. A poor person, a person lacking material possessions, always maintains his or her dignity. The poor can teach us much about humility and trust in God… 

There is a close connection between poverty and evangelization… The Lord wants a poor Church which evangelizes the poor. When Jesus sent the Twelve out on mission, he said to them: “Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff; for the labourers deserve their food” (Mt 10:9-10). Evangelical poverty is a basic condition for spreading the kingdom of God. The most beautiful and spontaneous expressions of joy which I have seen during my life were by poor people who had little to hold onto. Evangelization in our time will only take place as the result of contagious joy.

Nature, Culture and Theology of Reconciliation

During his presentation in the Creatio event held in the frame of the WYD2013, Alfredo García presented us an overview about  nature, culture  and theology of reconciliation.

DSC01485

Beginning with the concept of nature, Dr. Garcia stated that nature is more than something that is not human or divine, “Nature” is referred to what is originally given in each being. Therefore, the meaning of  nature emphasizes the idea about a reality  previous to any human action or intervention; the identity like the most proper characteristic of a reality in its totality, and finally we must consider the  nature  towards an end, and is not something amorphous or chaotic, but ordered and intelligible, that is containing a direction and a meaning.

The third aspect, that has been previously, emphasized about the classical concept of nature refers to the importance of understanding that all of reality has an end (telos), and therefore any dimension of non-human or inanimate reality has a purpose or a direction. This was formulated as such by Aristotle, who argued that the end (telos) determined the concept of nature (physis), in the same way as a tree, with its “end” is already present in the “nature” of a certain seed, specifying and orienting its development. Inanimate things are not excluded, such as a rock for example, that being tossed in the air does not remain there but rather returns to its “natural place”, which is, precisely its “end”. In this way, despite the limitations of this pre-Christian form of thinking that was unconscious of a spiritual reality that transcended nature, the value of the Aristotelian formulation was found evidencing the “order” of the natural world, that it is a cosmos, rather than a chaotic amorphous mass or some irrational evolutionary torrent. Rather as cosmos it is a reality with an “end” and thus revealing a “logical” structure, intelligent and intelligible, found in its most intimate self.

 The revelation of God in His Son Jesus Christ, and with it, the deepest revelation of the nature and end of all of reality, ratifies that logical and teleological sense of the non-human environment. But is also offers the final and deepest explanation of its meaning: in the beginning was the Word and through Him all was made. In this way, finite reality, once understood as a “physis” enclosed upon itself, is known as “creation”.

 The theology of reconciliation, as the term itself indicates, emphasizes, therefore a “first relationship” of all of creation with a creative Trinity It’s not about a “conciliation”, the quest of some form of agreement among realities that were initially separate, but rather about the re-unification of something that, from the beginning, was already united in an essential harmony.

 About the concept of culture, it is important to go back to the origin of this word, not only as a matter of precision in language, but because today it seems to have lost an essential sense of the original term. It is commonly accepted that it was Cicero who coined the term culture to refer to “human growth”. The term derives from the Latin verb meaning colere, which means “to grow”. Prior to this formulation of Cicero, the term “culture” was used, with different prefixes, to designate the reverent cultivation of something. So it is observed in particular noticeable way in the word agriculture, which means the “land farming”. The fact that the Latin tradition, through Cicero, has chosen the term “culture”, now without prefixes, to refer to “human culture” seems, then, to note that any “growing momentum” must have deep aware that what is going to grow is a “reality” that is beyond that initiatives to grow, that is, which is initially “given” and not “created” by humans.

 Culture, then, is the way the human person grows all reality given, including especially their own, so that reality, in general, we provide the best fruits. The memory of this original meaning of the word “culture” seems to be eloquent enough to see the way it is linked to the dynamism of reconciliation operated by God.

 Given the various “breakdowns” that can be verified in the culture of today –especially the “break with reality itself”–   reconciliation, operated from the “foundational reality” of God, is offered as a deep response not only to recover the essential dynamism of culture as a “culture of reality” but to direct it to a greater fullness, that makes it to operate as a “cultural vibrancy” that carries itself and projects the “reconciling dynamism” to all spheres of reality. This is what the American bishops have been emphasizing in various pastoral documents proposing a “culture of reconciliation”.

 In reconciled cultures, humans would appear more clearly, in relation to all creation and, within it, with respect to nature, as “lord of creation”, in the sense that it protects, but is also called to develop and configure it to work with the divine; he would appear as superior, but also participant in it; would appear as an actor, but also as a recipient of the wonders of nature, which allow their survival and their orientation towards God when contemplating the grandeur and beauty of the works of their hands.