Friday 28 November 2014

Unity in Diversity

Pope Francis speaks to the European Parliament of unity in diversity, of the need to allow persons to express their individuality and creativity, both as individuals and as peoples:
The motto of the European Union is United in Diversity. Unity, however, does not mean uniformity of political, economic and cultural life, or ways of thinking. Indeed, all authentic unity draws from the rich diversities which make it up: in this sense it is like a family, which is all the more united when each of its members is free to be fully himself or herself. I consider Europe as a family of peoples who will sense the closeness of the institutions of the Union when these latter are able wisely to combine the desired ideal of unity with the diversity proper to each people, cherishing particular traditions, acknowledging its past history and its roots, liberated from so many manipulations and phobias. Affirming the centrality of the human person means, above all, allowing all to express freely their individuality and their creativity, both as individuals and as peoples.
What does this imply for interculturality? 

In the case of our young missionaries from Vietnam, and India, and Africa and elsewhere, to Europe: it means a healthy respect for the culture into which they are entering.

On the part of our confreres who receive them, it equally implies a deep respect for the culture of this Other. 

In our larger formation communities, I think it would imply a certain mutuality. Coming from another country, I am certainly called to appreciate the culture that is receiving me. But on the other hand, that culture and the confreres of that culture are called to open themselves - pur con fatica - to this Other, these Others... 

The dignity of the human person

It is good to see Francis bringing a message of hope and confidence to Europe - hope based ultimately on the resurrection, and proximately on human beings and their transcendent dignity. He recalls the distant springs of the concept of human dignity, in Greece and Rome, in Celtic, Germanic and Slavic cultures; and remembers that the concept of 'person' was forged within the crucible of Christian thinking about the mysteries of the trinitarian God and of Jesus Christ (he does not exactly say that, but he does say that Christianity forged the concept of 'person' - and he does use the word 'forged' - exactly the word used by De Smet).

He even knows the difference between individual and person:
At the same time, however, care must be taken not to fall into certain errors which can arise from a misunderstanding of the concept of human rights and from its misuse. Today there is a tendency to claim ever broader individual rights – I am tempted to say individualistic; underlying this is a conception of the human person as detached from all social and anthropological contexts, as if the person were a “monad” (μονάς), increasingly unconcerned with other surrounding “monads”. The equally essential and complementary concept of duty no longer seems to be linked to such a concept of rights. As a result, the rights of the individual are upheld, without regard for the fact that each human being is part of a social context wherein his or her rights and duties are bound up with those of others and with the common good of society itself.
The deepest proximate source of dignity is the fact that we are human beings: I like that, especially as coming from the pope. It is a continuous and continued distancing from the tendency or the temptation for Christians to fall into a merely tribal mentality, praying for Christians, concerned about Christians, and so on. The pope does of course speak of 'most especially Christians' being the target of persecution today; and that, if it is a fact, is something that certainly bears being said.

And then, the intrinsically social aspect of being human: being human means being in relation:
To speak of transcendent human dignity thus means appealing to human nature, to our innate capacity to distinguish good from evil, to that “compass” deep within our hearts, which God has impressed upon all creation.[4] Above all, it means regarding human beings not as absolutes, but as beings in relation. 


Wednesday 26 November 2014

Fascism and Salesian formation


In the recently concluded Historical Congress, Prof. Belardinelli touched upon the difficult topic of Salesians and their attitude towards Italian Fascism. He noted that the supposed ‘moderation’ of Fascism in contrast to the exaggerated place given to the state in Communism and Nazism allowed some scholars to regard it as an ‘imperfect totalitarianism’. This made it possible and easy for many Salesians to reconcile and sometimes accomodate themselves to the regime in the name of 'educating good citizens.' One fallout was the strengthening of authoritarianism in formation, and to the tendency to spread Italian culture as the 'beacon of civilization' in the missions. [Mario Belardinelli 46.]

At any rate, such dialectic is always interesting to a historian. It enables him to make the jump from being a mere chronicler to being truly a historian. 

Tuesday 25 November 2014

Possible doctoral topics in Lonergan

Lonergan's use of Marx.
Common sense and science: Lonergan's experiential and explanatory conjugates
Lonergan and Hegel
Lonergan's use of Gadamer
From scripture to dogma: Lonergan's efforts
Method as a new form of wisdom

Monday 24 November 2014

Cultures and formation

Christopher Dawson in The Crisis of Western Education: ‘Until a man acquires some knowledge of another culture, he cannot be said to be educated, since his whole outlook is so conditioned by his own social environment that he does not realize its limitations’[1]

What kind of implications for salesian formation? Especially in those places where it tends to be monocultural? 

It is significant that in Italian, the word 'culture' is practically synonymous with 'education,' pointing probably to the fact that this is a highly classical notion of culture, a normative notion, culture with a capital C, so that all other peoples, if they do not match one's own culture, tend to be considered 'uncivilized,' savages, etc. 


[1] Dawson, The Crisis of Western Education (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1961) 113.

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Ripe for plucking

Zacchaeus was anxious to see what kind of a man Jesus was. A contrast with the blind man, who could not see, but was sure about what kind of a man Jesus was, so sure that he begins shouting out immediately.
But still, Zacchaeus has his good points, and they save him: he does not stand on his dignity: he is a senior tax collector, and a wealthy man, but he climbs a tree; he allows his heart to be touched immediately by the unexpected invitation of Jesus, and he hurries down and welcomes him joyfully. There is a simplicity and a directness of character that is saving here. He does not give up in the face of obvious derision: he is able to stand his ground. Best of all, he is very concrete in cooperating with grace: he promptly offers to give half his property to the poor, and to repay four times anyone he has cheated, so that he would probably have very little left in the end.
His example touches us and teaches us:
·       Not to stand on our dignity
·       To respond immediately to grace, to goodness, to inspiration
·       To stand our ground in the face of unjust and unhelpful criticism and derision
·       To be concrete in our cooperation with grace
And then there is Jesus. Jesus sees what others cannot see: he sees a fig that is ripe and ready to be plucked. He has the divine eye, his Father’s eye; and we are called to be like him, to have the eye of an educator and formator, to see what others cannot see. He has a divine heart, his Father’s heart, infinite in compassion; and so he goes beyond boundaries to embrace all the sons and daughters of his Father: he too is a son of Abraham, he too is a son of your Father who is in heaven, who makes his sun shine on good and bad alike, and his rain fall on evil and just alike.

And finally me: Jesus looks at me. He looks with compassion. He sees me with his divine eye, with the eyes of the Father. Am I ripe for plucking?

Sunday 16 November 2014

Blind man of Jericho


Blind man of Jericho, what do I have to do with you? I have eyes, and you had not. I can see and you could not. Yet you could see the important things: you had faith in the One passing by, and you did not hesitate: you asked him to cure you. And your faith saved you. You had faith, you were bold, you asked, you received; best of all, you followed, and he did not stop you. How far did you follow? Did you follow him up to Jerusalem? Did you follow him on his way, the way of the cross? Did you see, dreadfully, the terrible suffering and the shameful death? And did you regret having eyes to see? What did you feel then, about this man, this son of David who had cured you and commended you on your faith? Was your faith in him shaken, did your eyesight waver, were you able to see?

Saturday 15 November 2014

Meeting of the Korean Association for Religious Studies, Seoul 2014

Prof. Kim Chae Young

Just back from the meeting of the Koean Association for Religious Studies held at the Dongguk [Buddhist] University near the centre of Seoul. Lovely campus, very well kept, lots of students. The members of the KARS were from different universities in and around Seoul, including the very prestigious Seoul National University. The opening talks - 3 of them - were in Korean and Japanese, the theme being Religion in Public Discourse. After that, break up into sections. Mine was the foreign scholars section: a talk on the political implications of Martin Luther's Large Catechism by David W. Kim, another on Islam in Indonesia by Laurens de Rooij, a third on academic trends and databases of Mormon history by Richard E. Turley Jr., and then mine on using generalized method to read Sankara. I was invited by Prof. Kim Chae Young of Sogang University, who is currently also the President of KARS. Kim Chae Young is a Lonergan scholar. We have been meeting regularly at the Lonergan Workshop in Boston, and always dreaming of organizing an Asian Lonergan Workshop someday.

Present was also Fr Anselm Byun, another Lonergan scholar who teaches at Sogang [Jesuit] University here in Seoul. He has just published a book on Lonergan's method in Korean. Also Fr Peter Sam Cao Nguyen, Catholic University of Korea, who had presented earlier in the day a paper entitled “Vietnamese Im/Migrants in Korea: Serpents and Doves.” Peter is an SVD priest who teaches pastoral theology and is also chaplain for Vietnamese immigrants here in Seoul. 

It was quite an experience listening to lectures in Korean and Japanese and understanding almost nothing, though Anselm would kindly fill me in now and then. The experience of listening to the foreign scholars was also very challenging, because I realized I was more used to listening to interreligious situations than to ecumenical ones. The lecture of David W. Kim was a sort of first introduction to Luther by someone who is Protestant if not Lutheran, and it made me realize both how far we have come, and how little that is known as yet. The lecture on the Mormon church was also quite a challenge. What I learnt was that the Mormons are explicitly missionary, that they have at present some 88,000 missionaries, and that they gave up polygamy some 100 years ago, though there are still breakaway groups that do practise it and have been excommunicated. They are at present the fourth largest church in the USA,and have grown phenomenally over the world, going from 1 million members in the 1930s to 23 million or so just now. The lecture by de Rooij was instead very informative and useful, since I know next to nothing about Indonesia and Islam. 

Emanuele

This was sent to me by Giuseppe Di Sario, young SDB who works in a neglected part of Naples.

"Hai visto, mio figlio ha giocato in serie D". Un esordio che sa di speranza, un esordio che sa  di buon auspicio. Poco importa il contesto... un padre in carcere per molti anni, una madre che lotta per quattro soldi, una vita inutile scandita da fallimenti e incomprensioni.  Non importa a Emanuele, fisico snello e un tatuaggio che racconta il suo sogno. Il tatuaggio non racconta del vuoto che mangia le persone, dell'abbandono scolastico, della lotta nel quartiere ad emergere. Non importa aver avuto un'insegnante di sostegno o essere incapaci di esprimere le proprie emozioni, l'importante è saper giocare, il resto non conta, come se il resto fosse consequenziale: il diploma arriverà e così tutto il resto. L'esordio è quasi una vittoria, è uno sputare al vento che forse stavolta la storia cambia, che un ragazzo segnato sarà l'orgoglio della sua famiglia, la manterrà, uscirà dalla massa e farà la storia del rione.
 Eppure... eppure Emanuele non è da serie D, Emanuele è da serie A, un fuoriclasse non perché sa giocare bene a calcio, qualità comune in un posto dove la strada è il miglior allenatore e dove il gioco del calcio è l'unico modo per sentirsi liberi e fuggire dai guai in cui ci si ficca prima o poi. Emanuele è una promessa non dello sport ma della vita. Ma questa vita bastarda lo ha rifiutato tanto da far sembrare che sia stato lui a rifiutare lei. Questo esordio è un maledetto oppio che farà salire alti i falsi sogni di un povero giovane, tanto in alto quanto poi sarà fatale cadere giù, in un vortice che alla fine non ha vincitori ma solo vinti.
Eppure Emmanuele, con due emme, perché fa fico, è una promessa che nessuno manterrà, una perla che rimarrà chiusa nella sua ostrica, un diamante che rimarrà grezzo... un maledettissimo cattivo esempio che altri diamanti grezzi seguiranno, abbagliati da una luce artificiale che li condannerà ad essere un mezza promessa in una mezza vita. Che rabbia! Maledetto esordio che indica un senso unico, una strada senza uscita...
Ma lo guardo negli occhi e vedo che non riesce ad essere felice, purtroppo la vita ormai la conosce, guarda intorno, mi guarda, mentre mi dice che non c'é un altro prete come me. Mi guarda e io arrossisco ma non per l'onore immeritato ma per la vergogna, la vergogna di non essere riuscito a dare altre possibilità a questo giovane, altri e alti sogni. Quando questo sarà infranto sarò li a raccogliere i pezzi? Sarò ancora il prete migliore del mondo o sarò uno dei tanti spettatori che guarda impassibile e rassegnato un copione scritto e copiato? Lo guardo e mi sforzo di essere felice, ha diritto alla felicità e alla mia approvazione. Approvo?

Non importa a questo punto! Importa che sia li a ricoprire il mio posto, non sta a me giudicare. Approvo essere li al suo fianco, sognare per un attimo, del resto la vita è un esordio. Si, calchiamo la scena della vita in un esordio che dura un attimo, il tempo di affezionarcisi e di accomiatarsi. Si non importa, in questo nuovo ciclo dei vinti, un illusione aiuta a campare, a me lascia l'opportunità di amare... amare un fuoriclasse che entra sognante in una partita già chiusa.

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