Pope's teachings

Time to sow

Among the interventions of Pope Francis during the month of March, it is worth mentioning the message for the four women doctors of the Church, his message for Lent, and the speech in which he relaunches the "The Church of Jesus Christ". Global education pact. 

Ramiro Pellitero-April 6, 2022-Reading time: 8 minutes

March opened with a message of Francis referring to the four women doctors of the Church, whose witness of holiness is the fruit of their correspondence to the grace of God. In his Lenten message, the Pope had invited us to sow goodness. Now halfway through the month, Francis wanted to relaunch the Global education pactemphasizing the transformative power of education in these times of conflict. 

Women doctors of the Church and "female sanctity".

The Pope addressed a message (1-III-2022) on the occasion of an international congress organized to celebrate the anniversaries of the declaration of Teresa of Jesus, Catherine of Siena, Therese of Lisieux and Hildegard of Bingen as Doctors of the Church, to whom Brigid of Sweden and Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, who, together with Catherine of Siena, were named co-patronesses of Europe by St. John Paul II, wished to be joined (cfr. Spes ædificandi, n. 3).

A doctrine taught first and foremost with a holy life

All of these saints have in common, first, a "...witness of women who have led a holy life; second, a "...".eminent doctrine". for its "permanence, depth and timeliness that offers, in the present circumstances, light and hope to our fragmented and disharmonious world.". As far as his doctrine is concerned, the most important teachings are precisely those that refer to holiness.

What did they teach about holiness? This is how Francis puts it: "Docile to the Spirit, by the grace of Baptism, they walked their journey of faith moved, not by changing ideologies, but by an unwavering adherence to the 'humanity of Christ' that permeated their actions."

This is so, because the humanity of Christ is the sign and instrument that God has given us of his love and condescension, by assuming human littleness and limitation.

The Pope goes on to say: "They also felt incapable and limited at some point, 'skinny little women', as Teresa of Jesus would say, in the face of an undertaking that was beyond them."From where did they draw - Francis asks - the strength to carry out their vocation and the mission entrusted to them, if not from the love of God that filled their hearts? "Like Thérèse of Lisieux, they were able to fully realize their vocation, 'their little way, their life project. A path accessible to all, that of ordinary holiness".. What is meant here "ordinary holiness". is explained below. First of all: a holiness characterized, as is always the case in some way, by the fortress that arises from uniting trust in God's love with the humility of one who knows himself to be humanly insignificant. 

Secondly, the pope outlines what he calls "the feminine holiness that makes the Church and the world fruitful.". First of all, he underlines the basis of this holiness, which has to do with an aspect of the current sensibility in relation to women: "The world's current sensibility demands that women be restored to the dignity and intrinsic value with which they have been endowed by the Creator."

Characteristics of "feminine sanctity

Third, the example of the lives of these saints highlights some elements that design, with clear manifestations on the anthropological and social level, that femininity so necessary in the Church and in the world: 1) "Strength to face difficulties".; 2) "Capacity of the concrete".; 3) "natural disposition to be purposeful for the sake of what is most beautiful and humane, according to God's plan.", y 4) "clairvoyant vision -prophetic- of the world and of the history that has made them sowers of hope and builders of the future".. Undoubtedly four lights to outline the vocation and mission of Christian women in our time.

Fourth, in relation to the Church and its mission. It emphasizes that "his dedication to the service of humanity was accompanied by a great love for the Church and the 'Sweet Christ on Earth', as Catherine of Siena liked to call the Pope."and, in addition, "felt co-responsible for correcting the sins and miseries of their time, and contributed to the mission of evangelization in full ecclesial harmony and communion"..

These characteristics (strength based on the dignity and value of women, concreteness in attention to the person, attention to the beauty of what is truly human, and a far-sighted and hopeful vision) are conditions of correspondence to the grace of God, which accompanied these saints in their love and service to the Church and the world. They are seeds and also fruits of a divine sowing, holiness, which always bears abundant fruit.

Lent: sowing and harvesting of goodness

In relation to this sowing of holiness we can see the motto that the Pope proposed for Lent, in the words of St. Paul: "Let us not grow weary in doing good, for if we do not lose heart, we will reap the rewards in due season. Therefore, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all" (Gal 6:9-10a).

In his message for Lent 2022 (made public on 11-XI-2021) he explains that Lent is an auspicious time (kairos) to sow good. This, according to St. Augustine, is an image of our earthly existence. In it, greed and pride often prevail, the desire to have, to accumulate and to consume (cf. Lk 12:16-21). 

Y "Lent invites us to conversion, to change our mentality, so that the truth and beauty of our life do not lie so much in possessing as in giving, not so much in accumulating as in sowing goodness and sharing"..

In this sowing, the first farmer is God Himself, who with generosity "keep pouring into humanity seeds of good." (Fratelli tutti, 54). 

"During Lent -The Pope points out. we are called to respond to God's gift by welcoming his 'living and effective' Word". (Heb 4:12). 

Listening, the key to welcoming the seed

How is such planting welcomed?"Assiduous listening to the Word of God matures in us a docility that disposes us to welcome His work in us (cf. James 1:21)that makes our life fruitful".. This is because God speaks to us in the reading of Sacred Scripture, in the celebration of the liturgy, in personal prayer and spiritual direction, and even in everyday events, if we know how to listen to him. 

In addition, we are also farmers, sowers and harvesters. We are "God's co-workers". (1 Cor 3:9), if we make good use of the present tense (cf. Eph 5:16) to sow "..." (1 Cor 3:9).doing good".. Francis warns us that this call to sow good must not be seen as a burden, but as a grace with which the Creator wants us to be actively united to his fruitful magnanimity.

There is a close connection between sowing and reaping, as St. Paul says: "To a stingy sower, a stingy harvest; to a bountiful sower, a bountiful harvest." (2Co 9:6). 

The harvest of good works

But which crop is it? "A first fruit of the good we sow is in ourselves and in our daily relationships, even in the smallest gestures of kindness.". The good tree bears good fruit, and no "generous weariness" is lost (cfr. Evangelii gaudium, 279). Sowing is "unleashing processes whose fruits will be reaped by others, with the hope placed in the secret forces of the good that is sown". (Fratelli tutti, 196).

But the truest harvest is the eschatological harvest, that of the last day. This refers not only to the moment of our death, but also later, after the final judgment, to the resurrection of our body (cf. 1 Cor 15:42-44). If we have been united to him by love, we will rise to eternal life, full of light and joy (cf. Jn 5:29).

Obstacles for all of this are condensed in the "the temptation to withdraw into our own individualistic selfishness and take refuge in indifference to the suffering of others".And the solution? To ask for faith and hope, because in this way we will not grow weary of doing good (cf. Gal 6:9). 

When it comes to concreteness, the Pope proposes: never tire of praying (with the pandemic we have realized that we need others and above all God); not to tire of extirpating evil from our lives (through fasting and confession of our sins in the sacrament of Penance) and to practice more real encounters and not only those of a more personal nature. "virtual"; never tire of doing good to others, especially to those close to us: the needy, the sick, the lonely. In this way, if we do not falter, we will reap abundantly. 

Prayer and educational commitment for peace

On the occasion of a meeting of the foundation Gravissimum educationisThe Pope gave a speech (dated 18-III-2022), alluding to the theme that brought them together: Educating for democracy in a fragmented world

Praying for peace

Francis begins by alluding to the war that is close at hand, in Europe. And he asks what each of us is doing: "Do I pray? Do I fast? Do I do penance? Or do I live carefree, as we normally live distant wars?". And it evokes two fundamental principles: "A war is always - always! - the defeat of mankind."We are all defeated, because "somehow we are responsible"

The promotion of democracy is a current and debated topic. But it is not often approached from the point of view of education. This approach, however, belongs in a special way to the tradition of the Church, and, notes the successor of Peter, "it is the only one capable of delivering long-term results"..

Relying on the parable of the murderous farmers (cf. Mt 21:33-43,45-46), who were blinded by their desire for possession, the Pope dwelt on two degenerations of democracy: totalitarianism and secularism. 

Totalitarianism and secularism

A State is totalitarian, he pointed out, in the words of John Paul II, when it "tends to absorb the nation, society, the family, religious communities and the people themselves." (Centesimus annus, 45). With this ideological oppression, "the totalitarian state empties the fundamental rights of the individual and of society of their value, to the point of suppressing freedom."

Secularism - living as if God did not exist - is inhuman, especially when such living is conscious and voluntary on the part of society: "Humanism that excludes God is inhuman humanism." said Benedict XVI (Caritas in veritate, 78). 

The Pope points out that "radical secularism, also ideological, deforms the democratic spirit in a more subtle and crafty way: by eliminating the transcendent dimension, it gradually weakens and annuls any openness to dialogue".. And so, by denying the existence of an ultimate truth, human ideas and beliefs can easily be exploited for the purposes of power. 

Here, Francis observes, is the difference, small but substantial, between a "healthy secularism" and a "poisoned secularism".(One could speak of a healthy secularism, other than a secularism combative and anti-religious) "When the secular becomes ideology, it becomes secularism, and that poisons relationships and even democracies.".

Relaunching the Global Education Pact

In the face of these degenerations, the transforming power of education rises up. The experiences in this sense are already fruitful. He concretizes them in three proposals.

1) To feed the thirst for democracy in young people. It is a matter, he points out, of helping them to value the democratic system, which, although it is always perfectible, is to protect the participation of citizens (cfr. Centesimus annus, 46), as well as freedom of choice, action and expression. This helps them to reject uniformity and appreciate universality. 

2) To teach young people that the common good is mixed with love. The common good cannot be defended simply by military force. For in this way it is destroyed, fomenting injustice and violence, and leaving much debris behind: "Only love can save the human family.". "In this -Francisco observes, we are living the worst example near us"..

3) Educate young people to live authority as service. We are all called to serve, exercising a certain authority, in the family, at work and in social life (cfr. Education Pact launch message, 12-IX-2019). On the other hand: "When authority goes beyond the rights of society, of individuals, it becomes authoritarianism and ends up in dictatorship.". Authority is a very balanced thing, but - he adds - it is a beautiful thing that we must learn and teach young people so that they learn to manage it.

Francis wants to take this opportunity to relaunch the Educational Pact (to encourage young people to work for the global common good), which he wanted to start when the pandemic broke out. 

"In the context provoked by the war in Ukraine. -The bishop of Rome now observes, "she value of this Educational Pact to promote universal fraternity in the one human family, based on love, is even more emphasized".

Education, as well as holiness, to which it contributes so much, and Lent, which is an exercise in self-education, are worthwhile and effective sowings in the face of so many personal and social conflicts.

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