On Sep. 24th 2015, Pope Francis addressed the joint session of the congress of the United States. It was a memorable speech and a solemn occasion. The Pontiff’s simple message of common principles applicable to all trumped the pomp and circumstances of this special event. They spell out the nobility of thoughts, conviction and care for the needy and the emphasis on a larger common good. These are also the very essence of Spirituality in Practice.
The full transcript of the Pope’s speech can be seen at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/social-issues/transcript-pope-franciss-speech-to-congress/2015/09/24/6d7d7ac8-62bf-11e5-8e9e-dce8a2a2a679_story.html
In the following we have abstracted the principles from the Pope’s speech as a ready reference for all:
- Each son or daughter of any country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility.
- Society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk.
- Responsible citizen: Men and women who strive each day to do an honest day’s work, to bring home their daily bread, to save money and –one step at a time – to build a better life for their families.
- These are men and women who are not concerned simply with paying their taxes, but in their own quiet way sustain the life of society.
- They generate solidarity by their actions, and they create organizations which offer a helping hand to those most in need.
- Elderly: A storehouse of wisdom forged by experience, and who seek in many ways, especially through volunteer work, to share their stories and their insights.
- Young: People who are working to realize their great and noble aspirations, who are not led astray by facile proposals and who face difficult situations, often as a result of immaturity on the part of many adults.
- Avoid polarization through fundamentalism:
- There is a temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners.
- The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps.
- We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within.
- To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place.
- What is the opposite of polarization and fundamentalism?
- Response of hope and healing, of peace and justice.
- Restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples.
- We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good
- Role of religion / faith: It is a voice of fraternity and love, which tries to bring out the best in each person and in each society. Such cooperation is a powerful resource that promotes new policies and new forms of social consensus.
- Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt 7:12).
- Treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated.
- Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves.
- Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves.
- In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities.
- The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.
A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.
In these remarks I have sought to present some of the richness of your cultural heritage, of the spirit of the American people. It is my desire that this spirit continue to develop and grow, so that as many young people as possible can inherit and dwell in a land which has inspired so many people to dream.
God bless America!