I remember a movie from year 2000 with title “Pay it forward”. It is a story of a boy who, as school project, invented the way of changing the world. His idea was super simple: if someone does you a favor, in place of repaying his favor to him, do another favor to 3 different persons. They also, on their part, cannot repay your favors to you, but “pay them forward” to another persons, and so on. In spite of its simplicity, only few persons believed that this project would succeed. The problem seemed obvious: you have to trust in others, you have to trust in their sense of honor. And we all know that you just cannot trust in other’s honor. At the end, a boy died, but his idea survived because yes, there were people who trusted and “paid it forward”.
I remembered this movie while reading the new Encyclical “Fratelli Tutti” of Pope Francis. The Pope looks at the reality of our world today and offers a solution that is founded on every person’s decision to love his/her brother and sister in any situation of life. A simple solution that depends on each one of us and that has in itself a power of changing whole world.
DIALOGUE OF “TWO FRANCIS”
In his new encyclical letter “Fratelli Tutti” (we are all brothers), Pope Francis offers to us a firm invitation: to strive with all our strength, possibilities, capacities for universal fraternity. He himself defines it as “fraternal openness that allows us to acknowledge, appreciate and love each person, regardless of physical proximity, regardless of where he or she was born or lives” (FT 1). The necessity of this human fraternity is born out of a simple fact that we are all connected with each other and with the whole universe. “No one can face life in isolation… We need a community that supports and helps us, in which we can help one another to keep looking ahead. How important it is to dream together” (FT 8).
Next step, we are offered a reflection based in evangelical parabole of Good Samaritan. Pope uses it to tell us about THE CULTURE OF ENCOUNTER (FT 30): “the existence of each and every individual is deeply tied to that of others: life is not simply time that passes; life is a time for interactions” (FT 66). This interaction is directed to all the members of society (all members of the Body, in words of Francisco Palau). It means the real commitment of the Christian, a real connection between faith that we profess and life that we live, and above all else it means our attitude in front of the needs of others. Putting it in the words of Saint John Chrysostom, “Do you wish to honour the body of the Saviour? Do not despise it when it is naked. Do not honour it in church with silk vestments while outside it is naked and numb with cold” (FT 74). To the easy answer that we cannot help all the needs, Pope gives his contra: “The complaint that “everything is broken” is answered by the claim that “it can’t be fixed”, or “what can I do?” This feeds into disillusionment and despair, and hardly encourages a spirit of solidarity and generosity” (FT 75). Also Francisco Palau was telling sisters: “offer yourself to take care of it and render it services that are within your ways and means” (Letter 42,2). In other words, DO WHAT IS AT YOUR HAND, do whatever you can. “Each day offers us a new opportunity, a new possibility. We should not expect everything from those who govern us, for that would be childish. We have the space we need for co-responsibility in creating and putting into place new processes and changes. Let us take an active part in renewing and supporting our troubled societies. Today we have a great opportunity to express our innate sense of fraternity, to be Good Samaritans who bear the pain of other people’s troubles rather than fomenting greater hatred and resentment. Like the chance traveller in the parable, we need only have a pure and simple desire to be a people, a community, constant and tireless in the effort to include, integrate and lift up the fallen. We may often find ourselves succumbing to the mentality of the violent, the blindly ambitious, those who spread mistrust and lies. Others may continue to view politics or the economy as an arena for their own power plays. For our part, let us foster what is good and place ourselves at its service” (FT 77).
Let’s pass to some concrete stuff, that’s what I like the most. How to make this dream of universal fraternity come true in our lives? Pope Francis offers some indications that, at least for me, have certain “palautian” flavour as well:
- ALL THAT IS CLOSE, “NEIGHBORING”, CONCRETE. One more time we read that “Life exists where there is bonding, communion, fraternity; and life is stronger than death when it is built on true relationships and bonds of fidelity. On the contrary, there is no life when we claim to be self-sufficient and live as islands: in these attitudes, death prevails (…) No one can experience the true beauty of life without relating to others, without having real faces to love” (FT 87). We in a special way are invited to look ate the Body of Christ as “a community of real people” (Constitutions 22) because only an encounter with “a neighbor” can make us feel his needs as our own and respond to them with a renewed commitment.
- TO DISCOVER THE BEAUTY OF OTHERS. “Those actions have their source ina union increasingly directed towards others, considering them of value, worthy, pleasing and beautiful apart from their physical or moral appearances. Our love for others, for who they are, moves us to seek the best for their lives. Only by cultivating this way of relating to one another will we make possible a social friendship that excludes no one and a fraternity that is open to all” (FT 94). Also here we can hear what our Constitutions say about our palautian spirituality that contemplating reality intends to discover, announce, restore the beauty of the Church through our relationships (Const. 3). It is the same invitation for “acknowledgement of the worth of every human person, always and everywhere” (FT 106).
- FREE TO SERVE. The Good Samaritan “was simply a foreigner without a place in society. Free of every label and position, he was able to interrupt his journey, change his plans, and unexpectedly come to the aid of an injured person who needed his help” (FT 101). May also “our consecration set us free, ready to proclaim the beauty of the Church”, entirely (Const. 11). May we also be foreigners without our place in society, without place nor position that would make us fearful of losing it, place that we might use as an excuse so not to put ourselves on the side of all the excluded and marginalized.
- NEW RELATIONSHIPS FOUNDED IN LOVE. “If the conviction that all human beings are brothers and sisters is not to remain an abstract idea but to find concrete embodiment, then numerous related issues emerge, forcing us to see things in a new light and to develop new responses” (FT 128). New perspectives, new reactions… at the end, new relationships that are “are essential elements of our spirituality. Knowing the Church means entering into a relationship with Her. We can only know in depth through the encounter in which the person is contemplated as image of God and object of our love” (Const. 8). Pope Francis continues in the same line inviting us to construct a world based on love, but this love has to begin first in our own hearts, before we will demand it from others, also from those who have their position in the world of politics and economy, both local, regional or international. “Everything, then, depends on our ability to see the need for a change of heart, attitudes and lifestyles (…) The bigger risk does not come from specific objects, material realities or institutions, but from the way that they are used. It has to do with human weakness, the proclivity to selfishness” (FT 166). “Education and upbringing, concern for others, a well-integrated view of life and spiritual growth: all these are essential for quality human relationships and for enabling society itself to react against injustices, aberrations and abuses of economic, technological, political and media power” (FT 167)
- MEANINGFUL ENCOUNTERS CAPABLE OF CHANGING LIVES. “To speak of a “culture of encounter” means that we, as a people, should be passionate about meeting others, seeking points of contact, building bridges, planning a project that includes everyone. This becomes an aspiration and a style of life. The subject of this culture is the people, not simply one part of society that would pacify the rest with the help of professional and media resources” (FT 216). “What is important is to create processes of encounter, processes that build a people that can accept differences. Let us arm our children with the weapons of dialogue! Let us teach them to fight the good fight of the culture of encounter!” (FT 217).
- UNITY ABOVE ALL. Francisco Palau wrote to Juana Gratias these words: “Preserve at all price the union and harmony” (Letter 98,1). The same logic we discover in the document of Pope Francis: “unity is greater than conflict (…) when we, as individuals and communities, learn to look beyond ourselves and our particular interests, then understanding and mutual commitment bear fruit… in a setting where conflicts, tensions and even groups once considered inimical can attain a multifaceted unity that gives rise to new life” (FT 245).
Pope Francis presents to us the world made of utopia of universal fraternity where we all live as brothers, respecting mutually in our differences and options of life. The world in which all people have same opportunities and noone is discriminated. The world of flowers and butterflies. My inner sceptic got very happy: it is an impossible world! If even in the Church we know to accept others unconditionally having with them dialogue that enriches us all! But later some reflection came to me: wasn’t that also the worlds dreamt by Jesus of Nazareth? Te world where the sinners sit on the table with the “saints”, where the prostitutes enter before the pharisees, where children guide the “adult ones” into the Kingdom. Yes, it is an impossible world for those who continue dividing, putting others in our mental boxes, giving them labels based on color, nationality or social status. Later I thought that I personally would like to live in the world like that. And maybe some others too. Maybe not all. Maybe only some few. There will be always people who prefers to take advantage of others to encounter them in truth and freedom. And there will be always people who prefer to feel like victims so they don’t need to take responsibility for their own lives. It is hard to achieve this world. But let us begin with child’s steps, with simple but concrete gestures, let us begin with this little world close to us, our neighborhood. Let us find in our own hearts all that is dying to live in this utopian world and let it flow out of us. “The mind can grasp no more than the idea, figure or image, and so it is necessary to open, expand and extend it, which can be done little by little, with time and with the cooperation of the lover” (MR 22,18). Let us expand our heart so that this world of dream could be make true. Because “we achieve fulfillment when we break down walls and our hearts are filled with faces and names” (FT 195).
I have pointed our only some few ideas of Pope Francis that seemed to me more connected with palautian charism. Of course I invite each one of you to read this document by yourself and discover more and more. For me personally it is a document that reveals the great HOPE that Pope Francis enkindled in his heart as a dream for the Church. It is a hope that is born out of his deep faith that it is still not too late, that in a human person, in each one of us, there is still capacity for good, for change, for renewal. Faith also in this world that isn’t lost yet. And faith in God who always goes out to meet us searching on the roads of life where we have been lost. God haven’t lost His faith in us, let us also keep ours. To finish with the words of Pope himself, “I invite everyone to renewed hope, for hope «speaks to us of something deeply rooted in every human heart, independently of our circumstances and historical conditioning. Hope speaks to us of a thirst, an aspiration, a longing for a life of fulfillment, a desire to achieve great things, things that fill our heart and lift our spirit to lofty realities like truth, goodness and beauty, justice and love… Hope is bold; it can look beyond personal convenience, the petty securities and compensations which limit our horizon, and it can open us up to grand ideals that make life more beautiful and worthwhile». Let us continue, then, to advance along the paths of hope” (FT 55).
Aleksandra Nawrocka CMT
Download “Fratelli Tutti”: fratelli tutti ENGLISH