By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tricking by Truism

It's an old and tried rhetorical technique in politics, religion, law, philosophy, and in other areas of debate: trick your audience by foisting a truism as if only your own very specific, pet agenda is capable of fuflilling that truism.

Examples must be given.

1. "The health of the Church depends on its liturgy."

Sure. But that does not necessarily mean that all or most or even many parishes must offer a Traditional Latin Mass.

2. "We need to make America strong again."

Who could disagree? But is the TeaParty-AnnRand-Libertarian agenda really going to strengthen America?

3. "Priests must follow liturgical rubrics."

Of course. But does that mean that custom in accordance with canon law cannot over the years modify liturgical practices?

4. "We must respect all religions."

Certainly. But does that mean being in denial over constant violent persecution of Christians by Muslims?

5. "We need good education in the inner city." Then why rule out school vouchers that can help many and still try to reach more with additional and different strategies?

6. "Kids need reliable information about sexual practices." At the right time, yes. But does that mean that we set our kids and young adults on the road to a long series of sexual partners as if a series of sexual partners is not going to severely harm them emotionally, if not physically?

7. "Young people must be given the freedom to experiment." But does that necessarily mean that we ignore the biological and psychological fact that brain development and maturity are not complete even in one's twenties? Does that truism mean that we do not create safe, nurturing environments on campuses without rampant substance abuse and casual sex? (This MIT link says age 25 is probably when the human brain reaches "full maturity"--and they are not talking about the more amorphous and important form of maturity, psychological maturity.)

8. "America is still racist." Yes, in many ways. But does that mean that we do not celebrate progress and instead become increasingly hostile to and suspicious of others who are trying to address problems in good faith?

9. "Homosexual activity is sinful." I believe that. But does that mean we do not welcome gay people with open arms? Or that we ostracize or avoid them? Or that we even refuse to use the word "gay"? We are all sinful. We should welcome all people.

10. "The Spanish conquerors committed many crimes and atrocities against the native populations." Surely they did. But does that mean that we do not see that most Latin Americans today are clearly and visibly indigenous to one degree or another--while in Anglo-America the indigenous are a tiny fraction of the population isolated in tribal areas (with not a few looking quite European, at that)? The Spanish conquest was better at preserving indigenous culture than Anglo-American colonization.

11. On a more personal level, we have this trope: "Passive aggressive behavior is bad." Of course, anti-social behavior is bad.

But does that mean that we label any statement we don't like or any non-malicious, non-insulting jesting and repartee as "passive agressive" because we may be emotionally hypersensitive and perhaps have a chip on our shoulder on a particular occasion?

Friendly, respectful banter is the spice of life. I guess that is why the Athenians condemned Socrates--he was too "passive aggressive." One of the great rules of life is this: do not be quick to take offense--you may be completely off base in your reaction and unnecessarily cut yourself off from good people who will simply shrug their shoulders and continue on their merry way.

12. Similar to the situation in No. 11 above, we have: "Racism and homophobia are bad." Of course. Not only bad but also psychologically unhealthy. And there should be zero tolerance for unequivocal expression of such attitudes.

But does that mean that you casually hurl those highly incendiary labels (that are hard to take back) on others without really getting to know the other person; or, worse, even when you already know that the other person is a decent person of goodwill? How much better is it to explore specifically what you may find troubling in a statement and share that with the other person without shutting down the dialogue. They call it educating; and it gains you friends and influence, as Dale Carnegie would say.

You can come up with many more examples. The old-fashioned term for this rhetorical trick is "begging the question": you state an ideal or a truism and then quickly jump to the conclusion that your own pet solution is the only answer. Politicians, religious personalities, and other celebrities do it all of the time. That's how they get votes and donations.

(Image of the great logician Aristotle in public domain)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Memories of the 1963 Civil Rights March in D.C.

Here is an excerpt from a New York Times article by an African-American participant describing the crowds that day:

“It was just like ants,” he said. “I was struck by the nuns, and the priests in their white collars. It wasn’t just black people. It was like all of America was there.”

Source link: N.Y. Times.

(Image from civil rights era; possibly from 1963 D.C. March; fair use license)

Don't Let Them Change You

We are rightly told not to be childish and to put away childish things. That's an important message today, especially when you see people in their late twenties and even thirties dress, act, and aimlessly spend their time as if they were still 15 or just reached the drinking age of 18.

Yet, we are also told by the wise to be like a child in order to live the full life: not to lose the sense of wonder and joy that is our birthright as children. As usual, practical reality points to a "both . . . and" approach to living.

Unfortunately, there are forces and individuals around us that try to destroy and degrade our sense of joy and wonder at living. C.S. Lewis would have said that Screwtape has a plan to transform your personality into a shadow of that child full of wonder and joy--to transform that child into a bitter, resentful, envious person seething and lashing out with anger and frustration.

Don't let them do it.

They say that the best revenge is living well. Let's put aside the whole idea of revenge as useless and rephrase the saying--"The best recourse is living joyfully." There may lie some small part of the meaning and power of that old, controversial, and troubling challenge: turn the other cheek. This recourse has nothing passive or submissive about it, but in fact is quite assertive and mind-boggling.

(Image in public domain)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Support for Son of Faculty Colleague

The son of a faculty colleague at Sacred Heart Major Seminary is recovering from a serious accident.

Please consider any form of support within your capacity when you visit this link:

(Image from Jesuit/Gesù Church in Rome in public domain)

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Fallacy of Perfectionism

I have blogged on this previously; but it bears repeating as I think of my discussions with people about issues concerning education, crime, and poverty.

We often get the argument that reform A or proposition B aimed at improving education or reducing crime or poverty is wrong because it does not go far enough. It does not "go deep enough."

That is a logical fallacy because the practical issue is whether the action is worth taking, not whether the action is perfect or goes far enough. That something does not "go deep or far enough" means that more should be done in the future--it does not necessarily mean that the present proposal should not be enacted.

It is a truism that more should always and can always be done in the face of any complex, long-term problem. Thus, the perfectionist objection to a particular course of action is fallacious--because no course of action can ever meet its perfectionist standard. By reductio ad absurdum, we conclude that a criterion under which no practical action can pass muster is by its nature useless as a criterion for practical action and reform.

What we need is a criterion which tells us if this particular action is worth doing in the first place. This type of reasoning is similar to the reasoning of marginal utility used in economics--is there an improvement at the margin?

If, we instead focus only on the social enormity of a problem, we will view any marginal improvement as defective. What is more logical is to focus at the margin: does the marginal benefit outweigh the marginal cost?

Life is lived on the margin. Our lives and societies exist decision by decision, step by step. To overcome the complex legacies and burdens of racism, poverty, crime, and bad education requires us to focus on the margins. If we look for the perfect solution that will shatter a complex past legacy of dysfunction, we will find nothing perfect and end up doing nothing at all. And, at the margin, doing nothing carries a higher opportunity cost than doing something good, however imperfect and however incremental.

This fallacy of perfectionism is usually accompanied by the straw man fallacy, that is, attributing to the other side the absurd view that taking some particular action now forecloses or rules out more action in the future. You will rarely, if ever, meet sincere reformers who advocate a reform and at the same time arbitrarily rule out any other future reforms. Every sincere reformer always wants more--but she knows that more starts with taking a first step in a series of steps, a first step which opens up the way for future remedies.

My favorite example of the fallacy of perfectionism is the objection to the use of school vouchers in failed inner city school systems, even though we keep losing one generation after another in a clearly failed system. If a ship is sinking and people are swimming in the water, rescue as many as you can. Just because you cannot reach everyone does not mean we should do nothing. We should do everything we can do.

Fortunately, most social problems are not as immediately life-threatening as a sinking ship. We can usually keep coming back to rescue more and more people as time goes on. And some of the rescuers can even be some of the people who were first rescued.

(Image in public domain)

Agnus Dei

(Image by blogger)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Some Striking Roman Art

There is alot! I found these examples striking as I read the book Roman Art by Nancy and Andrew Ramage of Ithaca College and Cornell University (5th edition).

Of course, I am making a very subjective list. In addition, I skip some magnificent examples that are very well-known, such as the Colosseum, the Arch of Titus, the Column of Trajan, and the Pantheon, among others. All images can be found at Wikimedia Commons. The respective labels for the images are as follows (Creative Commons License unless otherwise stated; "c"=century):

1. Temple of Portunus, Rome, late 2nd c. BC;
2. Pompey Magnus, First c. AD (public domain);
3. Maison Carrée, Nîmes, France, 1st c. BC;
4. Ara Pacis Augustae (Altar of Augustan Peace), Rome, 13-9 BC;
5. Aqueduct, Segovia, Spain, early 1st or 2nd c. AD (used until middle of 19th century; blogger's photo);
6. Bridge (still used!), Alcántara, Spain, AD 105 (GNU Free Documentation License);
7. Library of Celsus, Ephesus, AD 135 (public domain);
8. My Personal Favorite: Theater at Sabratha, Libya, late 2nd c. AD (Mediterranean Sea in background; GNU Free Documentation License).

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Chilling Eugenics: Why the Disabled, Minorities, and the Unborn Are All In the Same Boat

Here is a link to a chilling article on a 1918 Michigan Supreme Court case on forced sterilization originating in Lapeer County, where the state had a large facility for the "feeble-minded." This case can be traced back to events in 1913 (100 years ago), when Michigan passed a sterilization law. The case name is Haynes v. Lapeer County Circuit Judge.

The article masterfully sums up the eugenics agenda (often openly racist) of many American elites in the early part of the 20th century. These elites included judges, physicians, university professors, and academic leaders. The Nazi debacle put a brake on the eugenics fad; but, as Santayana famously said, we need to remember history to avoid a repetition.

If you are part of or care about these categories (the disabled, minorities, the unborn), you should be very interested in stopping any revival of eugenics in the future. Read the article and think.

Note: I include the unborn in the endangered category not only because of disability issues affecting the unborn but also because of the trend to treat the unborn, whether disabled or not, as disposable commodities whose helplessness and voicelessness automatically make them subject to eugenic whims or to the whims of personal convenience. What all the categories (disabled, unborn, minorities) have in common is lack of power and the label of inferiority whether that label is based on alleged lack of sufficient intelligence or on the lack of fully developed human abilities. Notice that even for the ostensibly healthy unborn there is still a range of excuses for termination: bad timing, wrong sex, overpopulation, wrong demographic or ethnic category, bad environment, poverty, unwanted physical traits and appearance, etc.

(Images of historical marker and interior of the 1846 Lapeer County, Michigan, Courthouse by blogger; this courthouse is the oldest actively used courthouse in the state of Michigan; other images of the same courthouse in public domain)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Hyper-Criticism: A Form of OCD?

I am not talking about official, clinical OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). I am using the term loosely and casually.

I see this type of obsessive behavior in religious circles (but I am certain it exists in purely secular fora) where it seems that not a few blogs and those commenting on blogs have a compulsive need to correct and to criticize someone somewhere. Although I am not a psychologist, my common sense tells me that the excessive need to correct others and to posture as superior in knowledge signals a certain fragility, a sense of fear, inadequacy, and insecurity. Of course, it's a matter of degree.

If you are excited about what you know, then indeed share it. Invite others to learn more along with you. There is no need to ridicule or to be sarcastic. Ridicule and sarcasm give us clues that the agenda is more than just educating others. And just showing off really teaches no one anything and merely begs to be ignored.

This neurotic type of "knowledge-posturing" is often seen on the internet: X is a fool because X is so stupid. I will show X up! (This underlying message is usually disguised in some condescending way that facilitates deniability, but the real agenda remains.)

In the end, this type of posturing is fruitless and unproductive. It makes the person posturing feel good about himself, but even that feeling won't last long and requires another round of finding some new others to target. Hypercriticism is a waste of time for all involved: the perpetrator, the target, and the target foolish enough to respond in kind.

I recall seeing this excessive behavior, as many of you have, in the classroom where sometimes a student decides to become the class critic or class show-off. You also see it at times among some grad students. What usually happens? Everyone tunes out the class critic and show-off once they realize this guy is some sort of neurotic. And so many of the non-neurotic will tune out blogs and blog participants who do the same sort of thing so precious time can be saved for something useful.

(Image in public domain)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

How St. Isidore of Seville "Saved Civilization"

He is now--fittingly--the patron of the internet which you are now using because of his heroic, pivotal role in preserving and saving classical culture for a Europe beset with invasion by Germanic tribes. He himself was of Hispano-Roman and Visigothic background (the Visigoths or West Goths were the predominant Germanic invaders of the Iberian Peninsula). Thus, both physically and intellectually he was a bridge that "saved civilization" for Europe. (He was also honored later with the Catholic title "Doctor or Teacher of the Church," as was St. Augustine.)

His landmark encyclopedia of classical knowledge--known as the Etymologies (although the work goes well beyond etymologies)--has now been translated by Cambridge University Press (2010). See this Amazon link.

Here is how his work is described by its Cambridge University publishers at the above link:

"This work is a complete English translation of the Latin Etymologies of Isidore, Bishop of Seville (c.560-636). Isidore compiled the work between c.615 and the early 630s and it takes the form of an encyclopedia, arranged by subject matter. It contains much lore of the late classical world beginning with the Seven Liberal Arts, including Rhetoric, and touches on thousands of topics ranging from the names of God, the terminology of the Law, the technologies of fabrics, ships and agriculture to the names of cities and rivers, the theatrical arts, and cooking utensils. Isidore provides etymologies for most of the terms he explains, finding in the causes of words the underlying key to their meaning. This book offers a highly readable translation of the twenty books of the Etymologies, one of the most widely known texts for a thousand years from Isidore's time."

In the introduction, the Etymologies are seen as "arguably the most influential book after the Bible, in the learned world of the Latin West for nearly a thousand years" (p. 3)--namely, throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Isidore "may be included among the last humanist polymaths of late antiquity, and also among the early and most influential medieval Christians scholars" (p. 16). Thus, Isidore was a bridge between Roman and Goth, between antiquity and what followed.

One of the blurbs on the book's back cover is also worth noting:

"This extraordinary mix of encyclopedia and dictionary must be the most historically important work never to have been translated into English until this fine collaborative effort."

Now, the above is not to minimize the great role of the Byzantines in preserving classical culture for both the West and for Moslems. But on the theme of saving or preserving classical civilization, Isidore is unignorable. And his legacy lives on in the internet which now gives us an instantly accessible encyclopedia of knowledge for the entire world.

(Image under Creative Commons License)

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Good Summary of Francis: He Dared to Say It

Contemporary rendering of a poster from the Un...
Contemporary rendering of a poster from the United Kingdom reading "Keep Calm and Carry On", created during World War II. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It's at this Wall St. Journal link:

This week he [Pope Francis] had words on homosexuality, and they made big news. In part this was surprising and in part not. What the pope told reporters was nothing Catholics wouldn’t say and haven’t said in common conversation. [Blogger: It's obviously different when the Pope says it, instead of just you or me.] Asked about his views on priests who are homosexual and celibate, Francis responded, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”
He made it clear priests must do the true work of priests—helping people. But as to what is in a human heart, who is to judge? A modern pope hadn’t said anything quite like that in public, which is why it was news. It has been called tolerant, but it wasn’t tolerant—it was loving, which is what a Christian should be. Church teaching is church teaching, doctrine is doctrine, they’re often complex and requiring of assertion and explanation. But when a pope speaks plainly the kind of actually humble thought Catholics actually hold in their hearts it can be powerful. And this was. Good.
The above is an obvious analysis. There was no need for anyone to huff and puff and man the barricades. Relax. Jesus always wins, whether we are ready or not. Our individual readiness or comfortable parameters don't matter.

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Saturday, August 3, 2013

Graham Greene's Monseñor Quixote Meets the Young Fr. Herrera from Salamanca

Monseñor Quixote is the protagonist in Graham Greene's novel of that name--a protagonist who is said to be descended from Don Quixote. In this scene, Monseñor Quixote meets his replacement as curate of a small village parish while the Monseñor takes a sabbatical of sorts. His replacement is the young Fr. Herrera, fresh from the university town of Salamanca with a doctorate in moral theology and fresh from his duties as secretary to a bishop.

Now, the dialogue, with the young Fr. Herrera speaking first:

"I see you have Father Heribert Jone on your shelf. A German. All the same, very sound on that subject [moral theology]."

"I am afraid I haven't read him for many years. Moral theology, as you can imagine, doesn't play a great part in parish work."

"I would have thought it essential. In the confessional."

"When the baker comes to me, or the garagist--it's not very often--their problems are usually very simple ones. Well, I trust to my instinct. I have no time to look their problems up in Jone."

"Instinct must have a sound basis, monsignor--I'm sorry--father." [Quixote had asked the young priest not to call him "monsignor."]

"Oh, yes, of course, a sound basis. Yes. But like my ancestor, perhaps, I put my trust most in old books written before Jone was born."

"But your ancestor's books were only ones of chivalry, surely? "

"Well, perhaps mine--in their way--are of chivalry too. Saint John of the Cross, Saint Teresa, Saint Francis de Sales. And the Gospels, father. 'Let us go up to Jerusalem and die with Him.' Don Quixote could not have put it better than Saint Thomas."

"Oh, of course, one accepts the Gospels, naturally," Father Herrera said in the tone of one who surrenders a small and unimportant point to his adversary. "All the same, Jone on moral theology is very sound, very sound. What's that you said, father? "

"Oh, nothing. A truism which I haven't the right to use. I was going to add that another sound base is God's love."

"Of course, of course. But we mustn't forget His justice either. You agree, monsignor?"

"Yes, well, yes, I suppose so."

"Jone makes a very clear distinction between love and justice."

Source: Graham Greene, Monseñor Quixote (N.Y.: Washington Square Press, 1982), pp. 37-8 (Ch. 2).

We say the real estate business is about "Location, location, location." As an interpreter of texts, I say "Context, context, context" (a type of location).

When it comes to Catholic Christianity, we can say: "Emphasis, emphasis, emphasis."

Where you place the emphasis makes all the difference in the world, as we have been reminded in the last few months. Context tells you what should be emphasized.

(Image under fair use doctrine)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

El Cristianismo es Calor Humano

El mundo se asombra porque el Papa Francisco se conducta y habla con calor humano, con afecto, con comprensión, y con simpatía. ¿Es esto solo algo de estilo? ¿O hay aquí algo sustancial que llega a la raíz de ser cristiano?

Volvemos al Evangelio. Vemos a Jesús anunciando la verdadera ley de Dios, la plena verdad de la revelación de la vieja alianza, pero de manera nueva y revolucionaria:

1. Se acerca a los desdichados y a los marginalizados: mujeres, samaritanos, los odiados recaudadores de impuestos;

2. Permite que los niños se acerquen a él;

3. No anda de lujo o como un hombre de poder; anda como el sirviente de todos;

4. Habla con ternura y compasión a los pobres--habla fuertemente hacía las pretensiones de las élites religiosas y legalistas de su tiempo.

Francisco hace lo mismo. No es cosa de estilo contra sustancia--el estilo de compasión es la compasión en práctica, y la compasión a los más humildes es el mensaje clave del Evangelio.

De todas las religiones, solo una define a Dios como el amor mismo--no el amor como uno de los rasgos de lo divino, sino el amor como la identidad misma y plena de Dios. Por eso el trato de los humildes y de los marignalizados es el Evangelio.

Sí, hay muchos cristianos. Pero el cristiano profundo y verdadero, el de pura sepa, es ese que se relaciona con una compasión que se distingue por su calor humano. Lo he dicho anteriormente, y lo digo otra vez de nuevo: el cristianismo exige una personalidad de forma específica, la personalidad del calor humano.

(Image in public domain)

Papal Homily on Feast of St. Ignatius Loyola (Vatican Radio Translation)

Below, please find the complete text of Pope Francis' homily at the Gesù for the Feast of Saint Ignatius of Loyola:

In this Eucharist in which we celebrate our Father Ignatius of Loyola, in light of the Readings we have heard, I would like to propose three simple thoughts guided by three expressions: to put Christ and the Church in the centre; to allow ourselves to be conquered by Him in order to serve; to feel the shame of our limitations and our sins, in order to be humble before Him and before the brothers.

1. The emblem of us Jesuits is a monogram, the acronym of “Jesus, the Saviour of Mankind” (IHS). Every one of you can tell me: we know that very well! But this crest continually reminds us of a reality that we must never forget: the centrality of Christ for each one of us and for the whole Company, the Company that Saint Ignatius wanted to name “of Jesus” to indicate the point of reference. Moreover, even at the beginning of the Spiritual Exercises he places our Lord Jesus Christ, our Creator and Saviour (Spiritual Exercises, 6) in front of us. And this leads all of us Jesuits, and the whole Company, to be “decentred,” to have “Christ more and more” before us, the “Deus semper maior”, the “intimior intimo meo”, that leads us continually outside ourselves, that brings us to a certain kenosis, a “going beyond our own loves, desires, and interests” (Sp. Ex., 189). Isn’t it obvious, the question for us? For all of us? “Is Christ the centre of my life? Do I really put Christ at the centre of my life?” Because there is always the temptation to want to put ourselves in the centre. And when a Jesuit puts himself and not Christ in the centre, he goes astray. In the first Reading, Moses forcefully calls upon the people to love the Lord, to walk in His ways, “because He is your life” (cf. Deut. 30, 16-20). Christ is our life! The centrality of Christ corresponds also to the centrality of the Church: they are two flames that cannot be separated: I cannot follow Christ except in and with the Church. And even in this case we Jesuits and the whole Company, are not at the centre, we are, so to speak, “displaced”, we are at the service of Christ and of the Church, the Bride of Christ our Lord, who is our Holy Mother Hierarchical Church (cf. Sp. Ex. 353). To be men routed and grounded in the Church: that is what Jesus desires of us. There cannot be parallel or isolated paths for us. Yes, paths of searching, creative paths, yes, this is important: to go to the peripheries, so many peripheries. This takes creativity, but always in community, in the Church, with this membership that give us the courage to go forward. To serve Christ is to love this concrete Church, and to serve her with generosity and with the spirit of obedience.

2. What is the way to live this double centrality? Let us look at the experience of Saint Paul, which was also the experience of Saint Ignatius. The Apostle, in the Second Reading that we heard, writes: I press on towards the perfection of Christ, “because I have indeed been conquered by Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:12). For Paul it came along the road to Damascus, for Ignatius in his house at Loyola, but the fundamental point is the same: to allow oneself to be conquered by Christ. I seek Jesus, I serve Jesus, because He sought me first, because I was conquered by Him: and this is the heart of our experience. But He is first, always. In Spanish there is a word that is very graphic, that explains this well: He “primerea” first ahead of us, “El nos primerea”. He is always first. When we arrive, He has already arrived and is expecting us. And here I want to recall the meditation on the Kingdom in the Second Week. Christ our Lord, the eternal King, calls each one of us, saying to us: “He who wants to come with Me must work with Me, because following Me in suffering, he will follow after Me likewise in glory” (Sp. Ex. 95): Being conquered by Christ in order to offer to this King our whole person and all our hard work (cf. Sp. Ex. 96); to say to the Lord that he would do anything for His greater service and praise, to imitate Him in bearing even injury, contempt, poverty (Sp. Ex. 98). But I think of our brother in Syria in this moment. To allow ourselves to be conquered by Christ means to be always directed towards what is in front of me, toward the goal of Christ (cf. Phil. 3:14), and to ask oneself with truth and sincerity: “What have I done for Christ? What am doing for Christ? What must I do for Christ?” (cf. Sp. Ex. 53).

3. And I come to the final point. In the Gospel, Jesus says to us: “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it . . . If anyone is ashamed of me . . .” (Lk 9:23). And so on. The shame of the Jesuit. The invitation that Jesus makes is for us to never be ashamed of Him, but to always follow Him with total dedication, trusting Him and entrusting ourselves to Him. But looking at Jesus, as Saint Ignatius teaches us in the First Week, above all looking at Christ crucified, we have that very human and noble feeling that is the shame of not reaching the highest point; we look at the wisdom of Christ and at our ignorance; at His omnipotence and our weakness; at His justice and our iniquity; at His goodness and our wickedness (cf. Sp. Ex. 59). Ask for the grace of shame; the shame that comes from the constant dialogue of mercy with Him; the shame that makes us blush before Jesus Christ; the shame that puts us in tune with the heart of Christ who is made sin for me; the shame that harmonises our heart in tears and accompanies us in the daily following of “my Lord”. And this always brings us, as individuals and as a Company, to humility, to living this great virtue. Humility that makes us understand, each day, that it is not for us to build the Kingdom of God, but it is always the grace of God working within us; humility that pushes us to put our whole being not at the service of ourselves and our own ideas, but at the service of Christ and of the Church, like clay pots, fragile, inadequate, insufficient, but having within them an immense treasure that we carry and that we communicate (2 Cor. 4:7). It is always pleasant for me to think of the sunset of the Jesuit, when a Jesuit finishes his life, when the sun goes down. And two icons of the sunset of the Jesuit always come to me: one classical, that of Saint Francis Xavier, looking at China. Art has painted this sunset so many times, this ‘end’ of Xavier. Even in literature, in that beautiful peace by Pemàn. At the end, having nothing, but in the sight of the Lord; it does me good to thing about this. The other sunset, the other icon that comes to me as an example, is that of Padre Arrupe in the last interview in the refugee camp, when he told us – something he himself said – “I say this as if it were my swan song: pray.” Prayer, the union with Jesus. And, after having said this, he caught the plane, and arrived at Rome with the stroke that was the beginning of so long and so exemplary a sunset. Two sunsets, two icons that all of us would do well to look at, and to go back to these two. And to ask for the grace that our sunset will be like theirs.

Dear brothers, let us turn again to Our Lady, to her who bore Christ in her womb and accompanied the first steps of the Church. May she help us to always put Christ and His Church at the centre of our lives and of our ministry. May she, who was the first and most perfect disciple of her Son help us to allow ourselves to be conquered by Christ in order to follow Him and to serve Him in every situation. May she that answered the announcement of the Angel with the most profound humility: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word” (Lk 1:38), make us feel the shame for our inadequacy before the treasure that has been entrusted to us, in order to live the virtue of humility before God. May our journey be accompanied by the paternal intercession of Saint Ignatius and of all the Jesuit saints, who continue to teach us to do all things “ad majorem Dei gloriam.”

Text from page
of the Vatican Radio website

(Image in public domain)