David Gibson, director of Fordham’s Center on Religion and Culture, interviews Fr. Paddy Gilger, SJ on his experiences in Milan, Italy, which is at the heart of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic:
via Fr. James Martin:
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Millennial writer Marcus Mescher was recently interviewed on his new book at Crux:
Yes, the world needs more kindness, but kindness is not enough to resist social sin, restore right-relationships, and deliver on the demands of justice at the personal, social, and structural levels. Many of my students describe a mentality of “I do me, you do you.” This sounds nice at first, but it undermines moral norms and promotes the abdication of social responsibility. By foregrounding the “ethics of encounter” with examples of social division and unjust inequalities, I point to the need to break through our homogeneous lifestyle enclaves and social network bubbles in order to draw near to the “other,” listen and learn from them, especially those who have been pushed to the margins, made to feel invisible, or erased from our personal and collective consciousness….
As you say, many of us were suffering from isolation and loneliness well before the arrival of the novel coronavirus caused us to dramatically isolate ourselves. Especially in light of your insights in this book, how should we think about living out a culture of encounter in our current moment?
We were born to bond; our brains are hard-wired for connection. Social distancing – necessary to curb the spread of coronavirus – is exposing more of us to the isolation and loneliness that many American adults have been feeling for years. We need community, which does not mean we should ignore precautions about COVID-19. On the contrary, it underscores the importance of the common good that reaches beyond borders.
The coronavirus highlights the need to sacrifice self-interest for the sake of the most vulnerable members of our communities. In a crisis like this one, there are temptations to panic, to blame, and to hoard. Long before the coronavirus reached our communities, we have been operating from a framework that presumes scarcity and feasts on cynicism.
In this cultural moment, the “culture of encounter” calls us away from self-concern and apathy in the face of others’ suffering. We can and should use our digital tools and networks to check in on friends, family, and strangers. We have a special obligation to those who endure social isolation due to age, illness, disability, poverty, and any deprivation that increases insecurity.
Christian discipleship orbits around agapic love that wills the good of the other more than the good of the self (Philippians 2:3). At the same time, self-gift should not necessarily become self-annihilation, which is why I dedicate a chapter to the process of discerning what courage, mercy, generosity, humility, and fidelity look like in our lives. Civilizations are judged by the wellbeing of its most vulnerable members. This will be a telling moment for how well we live up to American values like “liberty and justice for all” in addition to Jesus’ command to love each other as we have been loved (John 13:34).
You can read the full interview here.
Millennial writer Mike Jordan Laskey writes:
My postgrad service experience wasn’t with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, but I still love the unofficial motto that pops up in JV circles all the time: “Ruined for life.” I can relate. One summer during college, I helped lead high school students on faith-based service immersion experiences. I went into the work thinking of it as a mere summer job, one stop on my road to a career as a sportswriter. But then I had the most powerful few months of my life, and I had new sense of what “vocation” meant: I was going to devote my life to social justice ministry because I had no other choice. God was calling me. Everything changed, and my life plans were ruined. I know a lot of fellow volunteers have similar stories.
The man born blind in today’s Gospel passage has a similar moment of life-changing clarity. I’m not sure who this Jesus guy is, he says. “One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.” The world has opened up to him, and by the end of the passage, he is worshiping Jesus, his values totally transformed. We’re not always blessed with such sudden, dramatic moments of clarity – I know I sometimes hunger for the fresh energy and zeal I felt that summer 15 years ago. But God is always there, reaching out to us in quiet ways, inviting us into deeper relationship with Him and with our sisters and brothers. How might God be trying to open my eyes today?
Millennial writer Mike Jordan Laskey writes:
The heart of the examen, which is most often done at nighttime, is reviewing your day in gratitude, replaying the events of the day like a video recap in your mind. It’s not just a straight play-by-play from morning through evening, though. Instead, you’re mining your own experiences to notice gifts: moments or people or things that gave you a little glimpse of God at work in your life. The key idea is that there is always grace and goodness available to us wherever we are, but we often don’t notice it…
My favorite part of practicing the examen is that in the times of my life when I’ve committed to it consistently, its impact goes way beyond the 10 or 15 minutes I spend with it in the evening. I start to notice the little moments of beauty and meaning as they’re happening in real time. And when I’m aware of God’s presence in my life as it’s unfolding, I’m generally happier, kinder, more grateful, less bogged down by minor inconveniences.
I become more aware of patterns, too. One element of the examen is reviewing your shortcomings over the course of the day — not to beat yourself up, but to see where you might have room for growth. (I try to call to mind God’s gentleness and mercy when I get to this part!)
On a recent evening, I noticed during my examen that I had more than once been short with my wife about tasks she had asked me to help with during the day. After I caught that slip-up, I thought about why I might have fallen into that pattern. I called to mind how much my wife does to keep our family running and how I probably contribute less than I think I do. I can let that realization improve my response the next time she asks me to do something. Without the examen, my impatient episode would have faded into memory with the hundreds of other small hurts and slights that come with marriage. But by noticing it and bringing it to spiritual reflection, I can learn from it and become a better husband and person.
You can read the full article here.
Millennial writer Marcus Mescher writes:
Friday, March 13, marks the seventh anniversary of the Francis papacy. Over the last seven years, Pope Francis has introduced and popularized memorable phrases meant to inspire the church. His call to build a “revolution of tenderness” reminds us that mercy is who God is and what God wants for and from God’s people (“Evangelii Gaudium,” No. 88). Francis has called on all people of goodwill to create a “culture of encounter” (No. 220) that resists the modern “throwaway culture” (“Laudato Si’,” No. 22), affirms human dignity and promotes the global common good.
But for all his pithy lines, Francis’ papacy has been uniquely characterized by powerful gestures and actions that comprise a pedagogy of mercy. Reflecting Jesus’ teaching and healing ministry, Francis teaches through a number of richly symbolic pastoral actions. Here are five examples for our reflection, discernment and emulation.
Pope Francis’ chosen name indicates his commitment to humility and simplicity, as well as his special concern for the poor and the planet. Upon his election as pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio decided to take the name “Francis” following an embrace with his friend, the Brazilian Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, who insisted, “Don’t forget the poor.” During his introduction at St. Peter’s Square, Francis broke with tradition by asking the 150,000 people gathered to pray for him before offering his first blessing as pope….
When asked, “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” Francis replied: “I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.” Francis reveals someone in touch with God-who-is-mercy. Pictures often surface of Francis receiving the sacrament of reconciliation; his commitment to go to confession every two weeks reinforces his claim that “God never tires of forgiving us.”…
Pope Francis’ first visit outside of Rome was to the island of Lampedusa in July 2013, where he sought to bring attention to the plight of migrants and refugees that make the Mediterranean Sea a “vast cemetery.” His first international trip came just a couple weeks later, to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil for World Youth Day, where he spent some of his time talking and praying with residents of a favela (slum)….
In his words and actions, Pope Francis teaches us that love of God and neighbor should orbit around humility, inclusion, listening, forgiveness and being present, especially to those who question if they matter or belong. In the face of so many distractions and reasons for despair, Francis shows us that our physical presence matters. After all, we incarnate God’s love in the world as we are, where we are. As St. Ignatius insists—and Pope Francis displays—love is better shown in deeds than in words.