Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap
I remember reading a quote from a North American motivational speaker, writer and consultant, Denis E. Waitley, which goes: “A dream is your creative vision for your life in the future. You must break out of your current comfort zone and become comfortable with the unfamiliar and the unknown.”
This quote instigated me to think harder. Reading Pope Francis’ message for the forty-ninth World Day of Peace I noticed the temptation of living in one’s comfort zone, particularly we who live in modern westernized society. What the Holy Father does in this thought-provoking message is precisely that of challenging us to get away from the culture of indifference we are living in and move towards solidarity so as to integrate with us the vulnerable and the suffering.
In order to counter indifference which, unfortunately, has become globalized, we need to identify it. For that matter Pope Frances mentions three types of indifference which are weakening the human family. Firstly he starts with indifference to God. In a nutshell this kind of indifference occurs when “we have come to think that we are the source and creator of ourselves, our lives and society” (no. 3). In order to successfully overcome this kind of indifference, which portrays “a false humanism and practical materialism allied to relativism and nihilism” (no. 3) we simply need to put God first in our lives. Was this not Blessed Paul VI’s message when he said: “There is no true humanism but that which is open to the Absolute, and is conscious of a vocation which gives human life its authentic significance”?
The second type of indifference which Pope Francis utterly condemns is that against our neighbours. The Holy Father laments that “some people are well-informed; they listen to the radio, read the newspapers or watch television, but they do so mechanically and without engagement” (no. 3). How sad if the communications media leaves us passive instead of active in front of the suffering of others! Some may try to calm down their consciences by “indulging [themselves] in unwarranted generalizations” (no. 3). They attempt to ease their responsibility by “claim[ing] that the solution is an ‘education’”(no. 3). However, the Pope comments, “all this becomes even more exasperating for the marginalized in the light of the widespread and deeply rooted corruption found in many countries – in their governments, businesses and institutions – whatever the political ideology of their leaders” (no. 3).
Finally the Pope addresses the indifference shown to the environment. He says that “water and air pollution, the indiscriminate exploitation of forests and the destruction of the natural environment are often the result of man’s indifference to man, since everything is interrelated” (no. 3).
In front of this tripartite attitude of indifference the Holy Father proposes the culture of solidarity and mercy to conquer and heal our wounded hearts. By a culture of solidarity Pope Francis intends the fostering of solidarity “as a moral virtue and social attitude born of personal conversion” (no. 6). Solidarity “calls for commitment on the part of those responsible for education and formation” (no. 6).
The first faithful aide of solidarity should be our families. For the Argentinean Pontiff families are not only “the first place where the values of love and fraternity, togetherness and sharing, concern and care for others are lived out and handed on” but also “the privileged milieu for transmitting the faith, beginning with those first simple gestures of devotion which mothers teach their children” (no. 6). The second aide of solidarity are teachers. In fact, “teachers, who have the challenging task of training children and youth in schools or other settings, should be conscious that their responsibility extends also to the moral, spiritual and social aspects of life. The values of freedom, mutual respect and solidarity can be handed on from a tender age” (no. 6). The final aide of solidarity are communicators. Since theirs is the “responsibility for education and formation” (no. 6) they are called to propagate this culture of solidarity.
May these three principal stakeholders of our society help us realize “our fundamental vocation to fraternity and a life in common” (no. 3). This should be our common vision for 2016 and beyond.
Happy New Year!