Mariano Fazio Fernández, a priest born in Buenos Aires in 1960 and currently the auxiliary vicar of the Opus Deipresented a few weeks ago at the Madrid headquarters of the University of Navarra, his book Freedom to love through the classics (a review of which was published in issue 714 of Omnes). A work, the last of almost thirty titles, in which, through examples contained in classic works of literature of all times, and especially among them "the classic of classics, the Bible", the author shows how the freedom of the human being is oriented to love: to the love of God and to love among ourselves, especially in the life of the members of the Church.
In factto be in the Church is to love Christ and, through Christ, to love others". says Mariano Fazio in this interview, in which he shares his opinion on secularization and the role of today's culture, the task of families in evangelization or the continuity of the magisterium in recent pontificates.
Talking about freedom and love in these times, in which a large part of society seems to have lost its way, is not easy. Have we lost our way in freedom or love?
-I believe that what we have lost our way in is the fact that we have separated freedom from love.
Human beings have been created free for something. Every reality has a purpose. In some dimensions of contemporary culture, it has been pointed out a lot freedom of choicethe possibility of choosing in unimportant things. Therefore, we have a very impoverished vision of freedom.
On the other hand, if we realize that this freedom has a direction and that direction - according to Christian anthropology - is the love of God and of others, we would have an infinitely richer vision of freedom.
Today there is a lot of talk about freedom and yet it seems to me that there is a great lack of freedom because unfortunately we are all subject to addictions of all kinds. The main addiction is egocentrism: the fact of focusing on our own comfort, our personal project, and so on. Alongside this, we see more specific addictions present in many sectors, such as drugs, pornography or ambition for material goods.
We are in a contradictory society in which we proclaim freedom as the highest human value, but live as slaves to our dependencies. We have reduced freedom to choosing one thing or another and have lost the vision that it is a love-oriented vision.
However, society often sells this freedom based on the multiplicity of choice, of "temporarily" trying everything?
-Happiness cannot be found in simple choice. To choose one must have a criterion, -that orientation of freedom. Kierkegaard affirms that when a person has all possibilities before him it is as if he were in front of nothingness, because he has no reason to choose this or that.
To be happy, we must orient each of our choices so that they are consistent with the ultimate goal of love. This is not just a theological or philosophical doctrine. Everyone experiences in his heart the desire for happiness. Aristotle said so; and it is not true because Aristotle says so, but because we experience it in all the circumstances of our lives.
We are often mistaken about where happiness is. The three classic places we fall into are pleasures, material goods or our own self: power, the ambition to be admired. And it is not so.
Happiness is found in love, which implies self-giving. We do not find it in simple choice. By universal experience, we find happiness when we choose to forget ourselves and give ourselves to God and to others out of love.
At Freedom to love through the classics not only turns to these great works of literature, but also to the Bible on a frequent basis. There are those who consider the Bible a dogmatic book that has little to say about freedom.
-I use these great classics because they are books that, even though they were written centuries ago, still speak to us today. The classics present the great values of the human person: truth, goodness, beauty, love. In addition to all of them, we have a classic that can be called the classic of classics: the Bible.
It is impressive to see how all the great classics of world literature, at least the modern and contemporary ones, drink from the biblical source. They do so explicitly or even unknowingly, because they are immersed in our cultural tradition, which we must preserve because we run the risk of losing it.
God himself has chosen a narrative form to present us with his plan for human happiness. The narrative form is the least dogmatic there can be: we are offered a historical narrative. Jesus Christ, when he opens to us the ways of Life, does so through parables; he does not present a list of dogmatic principles, but tells us a story: "A father had two sons..."; "On the road from Jerusalem to Jericho..."; "On the road from Jerusalem to Jericho..."; "On the road from Jerusalem to Jericho..."....". Even the form itself is a proposal, which everyone can decide whether to follow or not.
Evidently, throughout the history of the Church, it has been necessary to formulate these Christian truths contained in the Bible in a systematic way; but it is not an imposition, it will always be a proposal. This does not detract from the fact that, at times, Christians have wanted to impose these truths by means that are not very "edifying", but undoubtedly we have betrayed the evangelical spirit, which is to propose the faith, not to impose it.
You have published almost thirty books, including biographical sketches, such as those of Pope Francis, St. John XXIII and St. Josemaría Escrivá, but also books on culture and modern society. Why this focus on cultural and literary themes?
-I am convinced that the crisis of contemporary culture is so great that the points of reference have been lost. Not only of the Christian life, but of what or who the human person is.
Men and women are made for truth, goodness and beauty. The great classics of world literature propose this vision of the human person. They are not good or simple books, far from it. They deal with all the key issues of the drama of existence: sin, death, violence, sex, love....
Reading great works such as Les Miserables, The Bride and Groom o Don Quixote of La Mancha, one realizes that a person is fulfilled by good and not by evil, or that it is better to tell the truth than to lie, or that the soul is ennobled by contemplating beauty. In short, the classics give us instruments to distinguish the great values that are human values and Christian values. Today, on many occasions, it is more difficult to go directly to the catechism. On the other hand, this narrative style of the classical authors, which we have seen is the same style God chose to transmit his truths to us, can be a preparation for the Gospel.
We live in a highly secularized society in which it is necessary to preparing the ground to plant the Gospel. All my works on cultural themes have, therefore, this apostolic, evangelizing zeal.
You point out that we are created free to love. In this sense, can we affirm that we are in the Church to love?
-We are in the Church and in the world to love, because that is the Christian vocation and the human vocation. It is an existential experience.
People who are truly free, with a full existence, are people who know how to love.
We could give so many examples in history and in literature, where the great characters, the most attractive ones, are those who are always thinking of others. We are in the Church to love God and neighbor with the measure of love that Christ gave us.
Love It also means to fulfill a series of obligations, it is evident, but not for a simple question of duty, but because we realize that, through these precepts, we materialize a way of loving.
One of the key points in this relationship of love, also within the Church, is that of feeling or knowing that it is reciprocated. How can we love others, the Church, when we do not feel this correspondence?
-It is important to remember, and this is an idea of St. Josemaría Escrivá, that the Church is, above all, Jesus Christ. We are the mystical body of Christ.
It may be that, subjectively, there are those who do not feel well within the Church at one time or another because there are many sensibilities, and they consider that their sensibility is not accepted or because they are scandalized by some unedifying events that occur in the Church of today and of all times. But we are not part of the Church because it is a community of saints or of the pure, but we are part of it because we follow Jesus Christ who is total holiness. To be in the Church is to love Christ and, through Christ, to love others.
And in the area of freedom, how can we not fall into the fallacy of trying to eliminate essential aspects of the Church in the name of a false freedom?
-In this aspect, what the then Cardinal Ratzinger said about the interpretation of the Second Vatican Council can give us a lot of light, which I believe is useful not only for this concrete fact, because the Church is continually renewing itself by being faithful to tradition.
The two wrong extremes will be, on the one hand, those who want immobilism within the Church - perhaps for fear of losing what is essential - and, on the other hand, those who want everything to change at the risk of forgetting or even eliminating what is essential.
What is essential is our relationship with Christ, the love of God, etc., etc. The truths that the Lord has revealed to us will remain the same because public revelation ended with the death of St. John.
Revelation is what we have to make credible in the different stages of history. Now it is the turn of contemporary culture, therefore, it is logical that there should be a renewal, for example, in catechetical methods.
The Christian must be traditional, but he must not be a traditionalist. He must be open to renewal without falling into reckless progressivism.
He pointed to concepts that are often used to establish "groups or divisions" within the Church: progressives and conservatives, or traditionalists. Is there really a division?
-A Catholic must be one hundred percent Catholic. This means embracing the totality of the faith and Christian living in all its dimensions and not choosing, for example, between the defense of life from the moment of conception until death and between the preferential option for the poor and that everyone has access to a house, food, clothing..., etc.
In 2007, I participated in the General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean in Aparecida. There, different sensitivities came together in a climate of great ecclesial communion. In that context, one of the Synod Fathers said: "I hear here how many defend the family, life, etc.... Others have a great social sensitivity. We have to reach a synthesis. We have to defend life from the moment of conception to natural death and, in the middle, in all those years of people's lives, make it possible for people to have the right and access to all these goods".
In this sense, it seems to me that the pontificates of Benedict XVI and Francis are perfectly complementary. Each one emphasizes certain themes, but this does not mean that Francis has not spoken of the defense of life. For example, Benedict XVI has some affirmations within the Social Doctrine of the Church, on economy and ecology, which Francis has continued.
Today is the time to build bridges, not to have unilateral visions, to love each other and respect all sensitivities.
Speaking of the danger of remaining in human visions or categories in the Church, have we lost the sense of eternity?
-I think not, because the Church is Jesus Christ. The Church as an institution has not lost him.
In this field, I remember an anecdote told to me by Joaquín Navarro Valls, who was John Paul II's spokesman for more than twenty years. On one occasion, he had arranged an interview of the Pope with the BBC. In that interview, the journalist asked John Paul II to define the Church in three words and the Pope replied: "I have two too many. The Church is Salvation. Therefore, the Church is an instrument for eternal salvation.
Catholics, of course, can run the risk of becoming worldly. This danger that Pope Francis has underlined so much: worldliness, both in the hierarchy and in the faithful. The danger of giving an absolute value to the things of this earth that have a relative value.
The family, the vocation to marriage, is a nuclear theme in the Church, even more so in a year like this one, dedicated to the family. But is there still a perception on both sides of being the substitute evangelizers?
-I have the impression that we have not yet drawn all the consequences of the doctrine of the Second Vatican Council. St. Paul VI emphasized the fundamental message of that Council: the call to universal to holiness. Universal, for all, and, in particular, the role of the laity in the Church and in evangelization is emphasized.
Concretely, I believe that we need to further illuminate our baptismal vocation. By Baptism we are called to holiness, and holiness implies apostolate. Holiness without apostolate is not holiness. Therefore, the natural thing is that the laity, who are in the midst of the world, in all social, political, economic institutions..., be the leaven that changes the mass of our world. And in this field, in a very particular way, the family, Domestic church.
All the recent Popes, St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis, have called themselves anticlerical because they underline, with this qualification, this fundamental role of the laity. The hierarchy plays an indispensable role, of course, because the Church is a hierarchical institution; but we are all called to the apostolate from our own functions.
Today the family is in crisis; but if we achieve a profound experience of faith in families, if we make it possible for them not to be self-referential families, as the Pope says, but to be open to other families who see in them a witness of forgiveness, generosity, service... this witness will make other families want to be like these Christian families. I believe that this is a great way for evangelization in today's world.
A few weeks ago the Apostolic Constitution was made public. Predicate Evangelium, What does this mean for the Prelature of Opus Dei?
-On the same day that the apostolic constitution was published, the Prelate of Opus Dei, who is the most authoritative voice, said that it does not change anything substantial.
The important thing is to preserve the spirit of Opus Dei. To preserve the foundational charism with the flexibility - always inspired by that charism - to respond to the challenges of the contemporary world.
In an interview granted by Bishop Arrieta, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, he repeated these words of the prelate and gave examples of many realities that, throughout history, have changed dependencies in the Holy See and have continued to preserve their essence. Therefore, the Prelature of Opus Dei remains the same beyond this change.