Monday, September 18, 2006

"Dies academicus" - Pope Benedict

Towards the end of my seminary studies I spent six months learning from an Imam, a man of sincere faith, open hearted, a man of prayer, the tradition of prayer and mysticism within the traditions of Islam.

This in no way makes of me an expert, rather simply a student of another faith tradition besides my own.

I also studied with an equally sincere of faith and open hearted Rabbi and various Christian clergy, besides my own required studies as a Roman Catholic seminarian.

Thus, today as a priest who still loves to study, I do get , upon a meditative reading of the entire text of Pope Benedict’s lecture, the Holy Father’s challenge for everyone to dialogue about love and reason, rather than remaining mired as a human family in the insanity of impulsive hatred and irrational violence.

There is a real glimpse into the tender heart and intellectual brilliance of the Holy Father when he begins with joy by stating: “ It is a moving experience for me to stand and give a lecture…”.
A glimpse into another heart of sincere faith and openness.

The lecture clearly is within the context of what the Holy Father refers to as his experience decades ago as a professor of the “dies academicus” – thus I can understand that whomever has not experienced such “dies” would perhaps not grasp precisely what such an exchange of ideas is all about.

We seem to have lost, globally, the tradition of intellectual, respectful, discourse, the exchange of ideas, the openness NOT to overpower other with argument but together to search for truth – reasonable, understandable, objective truth.

Globally we seem to have become a human family [ and here I lay much of the responsibility for this at the feet of the 30 second sound bite media AND at the feet of extremists, be they religious or secular ones ] which reacts impulsively, all too frequently irrationally, to tiny bits and pieces of “information” – or rather of “news” received filtered through media or “leaders” of all stripes with agendas.

The Holy Father’s lecture is academically clear but much more than a 30 second sound bite, whereas the one brief passage which is being used – and NOT just by our brothers and sisters of Islam – to “justify” extremism has been turned into a disingenuous aberration in the furtherance of hatred and violence, which puts the entire human family at risk that the “we’s” will in turn overreact in kind to the “thems”.

History is filled with the use of violence to push forward a seemingly endless parade of cultures, religions, policies of one sort or another – hardly a religious tradition from the Jewish faith to Christianity to Islam, nor a national or political sector anywhere on earth – can claim to have bloodless hands.

However it IS Christianity which is mandated by Christ Himself to love one another, to love our enemies, to do good to those who persecute us.
[cf. Mt. 5:11; 5:23ff; 5:43ff; Jn. 13:34ff]

If we strive to live out this mandate of love then at least in our hearts everyone becomes a “we”!

One of my favourite authors is Tolstoy and I visited a site today looking for his essay on why he could not remain silent and discovered other treasures there too.

The site is:

There I found the following quotes from Tolstoy’s “The Law of Love and the Law of Violence”:

“…I, who am on the edge of the grave, cannot be silent…..It is the law of love and its recognition as a rule of conduct in all our relations with friends, enemies and offenders which must inevitably bring about the complete transformation of the existing order of things, not only among Christian nations, but among all the peoples of the globe.”

Clearly, irrespective of the religious or national tradition, after tens of thousands of years of virtually unbridled use of violence to change people’s minds and hearts
-{ oh sure there have been debatably “successful” subjugations of peoples to the aggressors politic or religion: but true conversion of hearts? I think not.] - have we not spilled enough blood, fuelled enough hatred?

It  is time for true love of one another to prevail – not the 60’s version of “free love”, which was no true love at all – but the love which originates in and from God who is love, the love which Christ asks us to have for one another.

This is how Pope Benedict loves.

This is his challenge to every human being.


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