Monday, October 23, 2006

Kids, Caritas and Cardinal Martino

My sons and I are studying the virtues together on the weekends they are with me. We are using the book Boys to Men: the Transforming Power of Virtue by Tim Gray and Curtis Martin (Stuebenville, OH: Emmaus Road, 2001). Although it is written specifically for adult men and fathers, I have found it very helpful in teaching my sons. After all, they are MY sons, and they are far advanced in wisdom beyond their years. So it's no surprise to me that they can handle such advanced material. :-) However, I heartily recommend the book for any man who is interested in beefing up his ability to respond to God's grace in accord with his own vocation in life.

I myself am learning a lot of very basic things about the Christian life from our study together. Here are a few gems.

Did you know that the definition of virtue is the power or ability to live life according to God's will? I had never thought of virtue in that way before. To me, virtues were always specific activities which I did , not grace-given abilities to follow God's law. That tiny shift in emphasis can make a huge and positive difference in how we approach living the moral life.

This past weekend we also learned that the virtue Justice is giving to others what is theirs. Charity on the other hand, consists in giving to others what belongs to me. As I think and pray over these definitions I realize that I have lived most of my moral life inside of a false dichotomy.

Is life and our relationship with God really a choice between two alternatives, justice (and consequentially God's condemnation) and mercy/ charity? I learned this past weekend that the law of charity, that is, the law of Christ, doesn't abrogate or replace justice. Instead Christ in charity calls us to a higher standard than justice requires. Christ's love fulfills, encompasses and makes complete the justice of God. He does all this through love which, for Christ, represents the summation and pinnacle of the just Law.

My task this week is to continue mediitating on these insights in light of His Holiness Benedict XVI's encyclical letter "Deus Caritas Est."

I was privileged to hear about these words tonight from the lips of Cardinal Renato Martino, who was in St Paul to address the topic "The Relationship Between Justive and Love" at the University of St. Thomas. As President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace as well as the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, he was well qualified to address the topic.

Martino, 73, is a native of Italy. During 16 years at the United Nations as papal observer of the Holy See, from 1987 to 2002, he participated in conferences on a range of topics: disarmament, development, poverty, the rights of minors, the rights of Palestine refugees and religious liberty.

He became head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in fall 2002, and also was named head of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People in spring 2006.

Here are the words of the Pope's encyclical with which Cardinal Martino closed his talk.
Faith, hope and charity go together. Hope is practised through the
virtue of patience, which continues to do good even in the face of apparent
failure, and through the virtue of humility, which accepts God's mystery and
trusts him even at times of darkness. Faith tells us that God has given his Son
for our sakes and gives us the victorious certainty that it is really true: God
is love!
It thus transforms our impatience and our doubts into the sure hope
that God holds the world in his hands and that, as the dramatic imagery of the
end of the Book of Revelation points out, in spite of all darkness he ultimately
triumphs in glory. Faith, which sees the love of God revealed in the pierced
heart of Jesus on the Cross, gives rise to love. Love is the light—and in the
end, the only light—that can always illuminate a world grown dim and give us the
courage needed to keep living and working.
Love is possible, and we are able to practise it because we are created in the image of God. To experience love and in this way to cause the light of God to enter into the world—this is the
invitation I would like to extend with the present Encyclical.


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