MEETING WITH BISHOPS TAKING PART IN THE WORLD MEETING OF FAMILIES
ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER
St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Chapel of Saint Martin, Philadelphia
Sunday, 27 September 2015
The sad events at Umpqua Community College on Tuesday, October 1, prompt me to share the following excerpt from a speech that Pope Francis gave last week. A particular passage stood out to me as a prophetic word on a dangerous mindset plaguing contemporary society: “Loneliness with fear of commitment in a limitless effort to feel recognized.” The Pope doesn’t condemn the young for this. Rather he calls on all of us to combat such an existential experience with the Gospel message that life is worth living. As we reflect on the events in Oregon, let us also keep in our prayers the victims, their families, and the survivors, and pray that the Guardian Angels, whose feast we celebrate today, present to the throne of heaven the souls of the victims, whose last acts, as reported, were to identify themselves as Christians. Let us also pray for God’s mercy on the troubled young shooter.
“Today’s culture seems to encourage people not to bond with anything or anyone, not to trust. The most important thing nowadays seems to be follow the latest trend or activity. This is even true of religion. Today consumption seems to determine what is important. Consuming relationships, consuming friendships, consuming religions, consuming, consuming… Whatever the cost or consequences. A consumption which does not favor bonding, a consumption which has little to do with human relationships. Social bonds are a mere ‘means’ for the satisfaction of ‘my needs’. The important thing is no longer our neighbor, with his or her familiar face, story and personality.
“The result is a culture which discards everything that is no longer ‘useful’ or ‘satisfying’ for the tastes of the consumer. We have turned our society into a huge multicultural showcase tied only to the tastes of certain ‘consumers’, while so many others only ‘eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table’ (Mt 15:27).
“This causes great harm; it greatly wounds our culture. I dare say that at the root of so many contemporary situations is a kind of impoverishment born of a widespread and radical sense of loneliness. Running after the latest fad, accumulating ‘friends’ on one of the social networks, we get caught up in what contemporary society has to offer. Loneliness with fear of commitment in a limitless effort to feel recognized.
“Should we blame our young people for having grown up in this kind of society? Should we condemn them for living in this kind of a world? Should they hear their pastors saying that ‘it was all better back then’, ‘the world is falling apart and if things go on this way, who knows where we will end up?’ It makes me think of an Argentine tango! No, I do not think that this is the way. As shepherds following in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd, we are asked to seek out, to accompany, to lift up, to bind up the wounds of our time. To look at things realistically, with the eyes of one who feels called to action, to pastoral conversion. The world today demands this pastoral conversion on our part. ‘It is vitally important for the Church today to go forth and preach the Gospel to all: to all places, on all occasions, without hesitation, reluctance or fear. The joy of the Gospel is for all people: no one can be excluded’ (Evangelii Gaudium, 23). The Gospel is not a product to be consumed; it is not a part of this culture of consumption.”
Portrait of Pope Francis by Brother Patrick Martin, F.S.C.