Enjoy our weeklong celebration of Pope Francis’ “Fratelli Tutti” and the enduring legacy of St. Francis!
As I reflected on the explosive events of January 6, I couldn’t help but recall from Pope Francis’ newest encyclical the title of Chapter 5: “A Better Kind of Politics.” Politics has become a “dirty word” and many people (myself included at times) see it as “partisan politics,” full of dishonest practices. At its root, it just means the process of making decisions of how to do things together. In this sense, we are all part of political life and ignore it at great peril.
After the storming of the Capitol, we heard some say “We are better than this.” Perhaps we aspire to be different. Wishing it doesn’t make it happen. Pope Francis in this particular chapter gives lots of pointers as to how to make such aspirations reality. It takes attention, listening and hard work.
In our polarized world, it is no surprise that many terms have been co-opted by giving labels to the “other” that obscure the reality that we are one.
“To be part of a people is to be part of a shared identity arising from social and cultural bonds” (158). Underneath, deep down inside people on either “side” are the same needs: to be loved, respected and feel they belong. The outward behaviors are means, however healthy or destructive, to meet those needs. We have lost sight of this sense of who we are as a “people,” we do not recognize these bonds.
St. Francis’ visit to the Sultan comes to mind. In the midst of a Crusade with, I imagine, much vitriol and untruths being spewed about each other, he bucked the pressures of his “side” to cross that boundary and enter into an encounter that went deep enough to recognize common bonds and learn about differences that changed both, transforming “enemy” into “brother.”
This kind of listening and dialogue is not easy. The “political love and charity” that Pope Francis calls for requires us to boldly enter into this living dynamic where we seek to hear all voices, differences are welcomed, and we look to the common good for the long-term, not short-term, personal gain.
Political love put into action works to change the social conditions that cause suffering of others, is open to everyone, and insists that different voices be heard. This kind of love is found in all realms: personal relationships, social, economic and the political. To integrate this love into all levels, each of us needs to start somewhere.
What bonds across divides are we willing to create now?