Tag Archives: dignity

20 February. What is Theology saying, XLVI: Renounce or change the world?

john xxiii

Good Pope John XXIII called the Council

Pope John XXIII’s Pacem in Terris1 emphasized that relationships between nations must be based on the same values that guide those of communities and individuals: truth, justice, active solidarity and freedom. Catholic social teaching stresses that peace is not simply the absence of war, but is based on the dignity of the person, thus requiring a political order based on justice and charity. The right of conscientious objection is affirmed when civil authorities mandate actions which are contrary to the fundamental rights of the person and the teachings of the Gospel.

But Vatican II also emphasized the crucial role of the laity in the Church, and these past fifty years have seen a growth and flourishing of lay leadership all around the world. Many Catholics are eager to learn more about their faith, but not all parishes offer opportunities to do so. Therefore, lay Catholics need to evangelize their priests and parishes in social justice terms as well as the other way around. Catholics don’t need to wait for the go-ahead from their pastors to engage in works of peace and social justice. That way, the Church’s social teachings won’t be a secret any more.

To the majority of people in the world, Jesus is an honoured historical figure who was the founder of Christianity—but that is about as far as it goes. Many have no idea that his most wonderful life had an unsurpassed effect on the history of humankind. In fact, without the birth, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, life on planet earth would be incomprehensibly different from what it is today.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

19 February. What is Theology saying, XLV: moral law draws believers into relationship

Other than in instances of dogmatically defined doctrine, the individual conscience holds sway.

_________________________________

Like all Christians, Catholics see the Ten Commandments found in the Hebrew Scriptures as the basic groundwork for moral action, which together with the life of Jesus provide a deep and abiding understanding for how to act with love and justice in the world. The Gospel of Matthew relates that upon being asked which commandment was most important, Jesus replied that all of the law is contained in the commandments to love God and love your neighbour (Matthew 22:36-40).

Catholics see this as going beyond the injunctions of moral law by drawing believers into a relationship with others as well as with God, and it is the foundation of the Church’s teaching on issues of social justice.

leo XIII

Leo XIII

From the earliest days of the Church, Catholics have performed works of mercy to help those who most need it, but the Church’s current involvement in social justice issues really took form in 1891 with the promulgation of the papal encyclical Rerum Novarum. In it, Pope Leo XIII called for workers to be treated with dignity and respect, protected by the state from exploitation, and allowed to form unions.

It touched off a flowering of social encyclicals that have become central to the Church’s work in the world. Catholic social teaching focuses on the dignity of the person as the linchpin for all discussions of ethics, politics, and justice. It is central to Catholic calls for the fair treatment of workers, for political systems that recognize individual rights, for responsible scientific research, for an end to attacks on human life in the form of abortion and the death penalty, and many other teachings as well.

AMcC

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

8 February: Saint Josephine Bakhita

wed-feb-8-bakhita

Saint Josephine Bakhita

Saint Josephine was born in Sudan in 1869 where she was kidnapped and sold into slavery as a child. She was a modern slave: in servitude despite laws forbidding it. After changing hands many times, she was sold to an Italian diplomat and taken to Italy, where slavery was indeed illegal, but it was only through the help of some sisters, the Canossian Daughters of Charity, that she gained her freedom from his family. She learned about God from the sisters and entered the congregation where she lived a life of love and service until her death in 1947.

Josephine Bakhita was canonised by John Paul II on October 1, 2000. He spoke of Josephine Bakhita as ‘a shining advocate of genuine emancipation. The history of her life inspires not passive acceptance but the firm resolve to work effectively to free girls and women from oppression and violence, and to return them to their dignity in the full exercise of their rights’.

Let us pray for all people caught up in modern slavery and those working to release them, often in grave personal danger to themselves.

You may also like to return to the Littlehampton Sisters’ reflection from last year.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

January 11: Temperance V: The Gift of Shame

phonecall..j (409x583)

The virtue of temperance does not require the stoic abstention from all physical pleasures. Temperance is the virtue by which we are strengthened in the ability to decide how much is good for us, and to follow through on that decision on the level of behaviour. What helps us in our decision?

St. Thomas teaches that the spontaneous reaction of shame that surfaces when we have over-indulged in the physical pleasures is both healthy and helpful to us. At first this might be hard to believe: shame is such a miserable, intensely uncomfortable feeling. We don’t like it, and often try to suppress it, or to defend against it by laughing it off and telling ourselves not to be so morbid. Yet, it is better for us to face our feeling of shame. It is a useful reaction whereby we recoil psychologically from the disgrace that comes from intemperance.

Excesses on the level of our physical appetites give us a feeling shame that is usually more intense than the shame we feel over our other moral failings and sins. St Thomas explains that this is because our bodily appetites are what we share with animals, and when we over-indulge them we feel deep down that we have lost something of our innate dignity as human beings.

aquinas-carlo_crivelli_007JohannesPaul2-portrait

Shame, again, surfaces spontaneously. In the masterful book Love and Responsibility, written by Karol Wojtyla*1 in the 1960s, the phenomenon of shame is one of the topics he studies in depth. Here is a brief passage from his book:

Shame is a tendency, uniquely characteristic of the human person, to conceal sexual values sufficiently to prevent them from obscuring the value of the person as such. The purposes of this tendency is self-defence of the person, which does not wish to be an object to be used by another… but does wish to be an object of love (Chapter III).

Perhaps this requires some unpacking. First Wojtyla affirms that shame is part of our in-built moral equipment, as it were – uniquely characteristic of the human person. As such, it is a gift, and it has an importance and a purpose in our spiritual and human lives. Then, he speaks of ‘sexual values.’ Again, an important notion. We see here that he is not trying to say that our sexuality is bad. Then why does he talk about ‘concealing’ this value? Simply because this value has a tendency to loom larger than it should, so much so that it can ‘obscure the value of the person.’ There is a hierarchy of values here, he is saying: the person is of greater value than sexual values. Through shame we actually protect ourselves as persons, so that we do not become an object of “use”. According to Wojtyla, then, shame is not the result of prudish conditioning by repressive religious teachings, or over-strict authority figures. It is inherent in our nature, and surfaces spontaneously with a message for us. That message is that we are created to be loved and to give love in a manner that always affirms the unique beauty and dignity of the person – both our own person and that of the beloved.

This beautiful insight by Karol Wojtyla shows us something that helps us to moderate our physical appetites, by reminding us that we were created to love and be loved. This is the fulfilment we crave most deeply. But we must love and be loved rightly, with great respect for ourselves as persons and for the unique personhood of our loved one.

1 Karol Wojtyla was elected pope in 1978, and was known as Pope John Paul II. His papacy lasted until his death, twenty-five years later.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

‘John Duns Scotus on the Uniqueness of the Human Person’: Ex Corde Lecture

Please note change of date to November 30

‘John Duns Scotus 

on the Uniqueness of the Human Person’

Wednesday 30 November

7pm to 8pm

At the Franciscan Study Centre, Giles Lane,

Canterbury, CT2 7NA

scotus-reading

Given by Sr. Mary Elizabeth Share FMDM

Scotus affirms the importance and the dignity of each person.

Each and every individual is endowed with a special value and uniqueness. There has never been nor will there ever be another individual being identical to you or to me; not even a clone.

God created each and every human person utterly and entirely unique.

All are welcome. An opportunity to ask questions will follow the lecture.

We ask for a small donation to cover costs.

fidc-banner

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

Ex Corde Lectures: ‘John Duns Scotus on the Uniqueness of the Human Person’

Please Note the change of date to November 30

‘John Duns Scotus 

on the Uniqueness of the Human Person’

Wednesday 30 November

7pm to 8pm

At the Franciscan Study Centre, Giles Lane,

Canterbury, CT2 7NA

scotus-reading

Given by Sr. Mary Elizabeth Share FMDM

Scotus affirms the importance and the dignity of each person.

Each and every individual is endowed with a special value and uniqueness. There has never been nor will there ever be another individual being identical to you or to me; not even a clone.

God created each and every human person utterly and entirely unique.

 

All are welcome. An opportunity to ask questions will follow the lecture.

We ask for a small donation to cover costs.

fidc-banner

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Interruptions

Good News, not Good Advice.

reader (640x608)

The word “Gospel” means “good news,” not “good advice.” The gospels are not so much a spiritual and moral theology book that tell us what we should be doing, but are more an account of what God has already done for us, is still doing for us, and the wonderful dignity that this bestows on us. Of course the idea is that since we are gifted in this way our actions should reflect that dignity rather than the opposite. Morality is not a command, it’s an invitation; not a threat, but a reminder of who we truly are. We become taller and less petty when we remember what kind of family we ultimately come from.

We all have two souls, two hearts, and two minds. Inside of each of us there’s a soul, heart, and mind that’s petty, that’s been hurt, that wants vengeance that wants to protect itself, that’s frightened of what’s different, that’s prone to gossip, that’s racist, that perennially feels cheated. Seen in a certain light, all of us are as small in stature as Zacchaeus. But there’s also a tall, big-hearted person inside each of us, someone who wants to warmly embrace the whole world, beyond personal hurt, selfishness, race, creed, and politics.

The world isn’t divided up between big-hearted and small-minded people. Rather our days are divided up between those moments when we are big-hearted, generous, warm, hospitable, unafraid, wanting to embrace everyone and those moments when we are petty, selfish, over-aware of the unfairness of life, frightened, and seeking only to protect ourselves and our own safety and interests. We are both tall and short at the same time and either of these can manifest itself from minute to minute.

For John of the Cross, this is the way we heal:

We heal not by confronting all of our wounds and selfishness head-on, which would overwhelm us and drown us in discouragement, but by growing to what he calls “our deepest centre.” For him, this centre is not first of all some deep place of solitude inside the soul, but rather the furthest place of growth that we can attain, the optimum of our potential. To grow to what our deepest DNA has destined us for is what makes us whole, makes us tall—humanly, spiritually, and morally.

shadows-640x480

Thus, if John of the Cross were your spiritual director and you went to him with some moral flaw or character deficiency, his first counsel would be: What are you good at? What have you been blessed with? Where, in your life and work, does God’s goodness and beauty most shine through? If you can grow more and more towards that goodness, it will fan into an ever larger flame which eventually will become a fire that cauterises your faults. When you walk tall there will be less and less room for what’s small and petty to manifest itself.

But to walk tall means to walk within our God-given dignity. Nothing else, ultimately, gives us as large an identity. That’s useful also to remember when we challenge each other: Gospel-challenge doesn’t shame us with our pettiness, it invites us to what’s already best inside us.

AMcC.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

Reflections on Living Together, VII: Wise Words and Wise Gestures from Lemn Sissay.

Lemn_Sissay_hopemas_xmas_partyeventful-org-uk_low_18_(5273390039)

Just before our travels we attended NAIB’s doctoral graduation in Manchester, where we were addressed by the Chancellor, the poet Lemn Sissay. Eloquently, he urged the graduands to remember those who had made their higher education possible: their parents, their parents’ parents, and their parents before them.

He brought a tear to my eye. In my own family, my generation were the first to have that opportunity, though my mother completed her BA in her sixties. Both my parents left school at fourteen; poverty and ill-health limited life chances for them and many more.

I noticed, as the graduands stepped forward, the great diversity of backgrounds they must have come from. Some were overseas students, attracted to Manchester’s engineering expertise, but many were home grown, including some Muslims. Although the ceremonial expects the graduand to shake the Chancellor’s hand as token of receiving the degree, this gesture would have been an embarrassment for some; but Mr Sissay gracefully received and sent each one into the world with a bow, a smile, a gesture of total acceptance and goodwill.

What kind of world will a Muslim woman engineer be building? What understanding of classical civilisation will her veiled fellow graduate share with her own students?

hatsflying

Let us trust that God is working in strange and wondrous ways among the people (Psalm 96:3) and let us heed the call to make his paths straight (Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 3:3). Meeting the graduands half-way was the University and Lemn Sissay’s response to that challenge.

Even if we have little or no opportunity to foster interreligious dialogue, we can each of us rejoice in a neighbour’s accomplishment, or make even a couple of seconds of their lives more wondrous. That is part of our calling as children of God.

MMB.

Lemn Sissay by Philosophy Football

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, poetry

May 24th 2016: Personhood II.

 

We are asking what it means to be a person, and turning to Karol Wojtyla – later Pope John Paul II – for help.  In his book, Love and Responsibility, he wrote:

 

Harry_Dubai+Sea

Harry Billingsley

 

The person… is distinguished even from the most advanced animals by a specific inner self, an inner life, characteristic only of persons.

 

Person does not mean “essence” or “nature,” but the actual unique reality of a spiritual being… and not interchangeable with any other….It is the concrete form taken by the freedom of a spiritual being, in which is based its inviolable dignity.

 

I like these definitions.  They suggest that there is something about our personhood that we actually create, or at least, to which we have the privilege of contributing.  In saying that our inner self, our inner life is characteristic of personhood, isn’t Wojtyla saying that to the extent that I actively work on my inner life, to the extent that I make responsible use of my freedom, to the extent that I dedicate my freedom to the pursuit of truth and goodness and spiritual reality, I am actively contributing to my own growth on the deepest level?  And indeed, I can do this much.  But in another sense, he is saying that I am not the author of my personhood, for my personhood is ‘not capable of transmission.’  Therefore, seven, or seven-hundred people can pursue truth and goodness and spiritual reality, and they will make their discoveries and integrate their findings uniquely – without even trying – because their fundamental disposition on the level of their will is uniquely their own.  But the greater use I make of my freedom, the more ardently I pursue spiritual reality, the more I can lay claim to my unique dignity as a human person.  We have a capacity for personhood that we must fulfil: we must grow into ourselves, in a sense.

SJC

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

May 23, 2016: Personhood I.

ther3

What does it mean to be a person?  Why ask the question, first of all?  We ask because if we look at this question more closely, we might come to understand some important things about our existence and about our human dignity and lay claim to it more fully.

Karol Wojtyla can help us here.  Long before he became Pope John Paul II, he wrote what would later be published in the book, Love and Responsibility,

Because a person possesses free will, he is his own master….  This characteristic feature of a person goes with another distinctive attribute: not capable of transmission: not transferable.   The point here is not that a person is a unique and unrepeatable entity, for this can be said just as well of any other entity – of an animal, a plant, a stone.  The incommunicable [aspect] in a person is intrinsic to that person’s inner self, to the power of self-determination, free will.  No one else can want for me.  No one can substitute his act of will for mine.  It does sometimes happen that someone very much wants me to want what he wants.  This is the moment when the impassable frontier between him and me, which is drawn by free will, becomes most obvious.  I may not want that which he wants me to want – and in this precisely I am incommunicable.  I am and I must be, independent in my actions.

So, we have returned to the idea of freedom, an idea looked at in previous posts, and which is at the heart of any discussion of the dignity of the human person. Wojtyla is not, it seems to me, talking about freedom in its cosmic breadth here, but in its personal depth.  He is saying that we are “not capable of transmission” because located within us, in the centre of our interiority, is our free will, and this freedom is an aspect of our specific individuality.  Granted, human freedom, in order to be fully realised, requires the grace of God, yet there is still a sense, as Wojtyla indicates here, that our freedom and individuality is something that just goes with the human package.  It is part of our makeup, and gives us our very existence as persons.

SJC

Saint Therese lived freedom in its cosmic breadth in the convent at Liseux but at the same time in God’s company. WT, Picture Editor.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections