I'm so honored when our community of teachers use our work to help teach love and understanding. Teacher, Barb Grob, reached out to me last month to request bracelets, our Spread the Love deck of cards and our photo book to integrate into her course curriculum at Aquinas Catholic High School. Happy to have her share her experience on our guest blog below.
What is LOVE?
Pope Francis released his Encyclical Letter, Fratelli Tutti, on October 4, the Feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, his namesake.
In the letter, Pope Francis says that “Shadows over the closed world are spreading everywhere, leaving people by the roadside, cast out and discarded. The shadows plunge humanity into confusion, loneliness and desolation. When we come upon and injured stranger on the road, we can assume one of two attitudes: we can pass by or we can stop to help.”
I teach at a Catholic high school and we are privileged to be in school, albeit in a hybrid situation. I will take it. I am so happy to see my kids every other day. Our kids are feeling the stress of Covid: they want to hang out with their friends and they can’t, they are afraid of leaving their homes, they are afraid of failing at school, they are afraid for their parents, they can’t see their grandparents, and they worry about just about everything else that grown-ups do. These worries are real.
On October 5, in Theology class, we spent the day studying the Pope’s encyclical.
How would we react if we saw a stranger?
What does it mean that there are no “others”?
What is social and human dignity?
What is kindness?
We talked about the virtues by which humans relate to God and others; faith, hope and love.
We spent the day away from our worries and talked about love as an action, a verb, and how do we do the work? How do we help.
What does it mean to be kind? How can I lend a helping hand?
According to St. Thomas Aquinas we are to love God above all things and love others for God’s sake.
At the end of the class I surprised them with a Love is Project bracelet. The kids were so excited. We then studied the book, The Greatest Love Story Ever, it put together everything we had learned that day. Maybe what we are going through will be ok.
They have a reminder of the goodness of the world on their wrist.
- Barb Grob
A QUICK KEY TO Fratelli tutti
Shadows over the closed world (Ch. 1) are spreading everywhere, leaving injured people by the roadside, cast out and discarded. The shadows plunge humanity into confusion, loneliness, and desolation.
When we come upon an injured stranger on the road (Ch. 2), we can assume one of two attitudes: we can pass by or we can stop to help. The type of person we are and the type of political, social or religious group we belong to will be defined by whether we include or exclude the injured stranger.
God is universal love, and as long as we are part of that love and share in it, we are called to universal fraternity, which is openness to all. There are no "others,” no "them," there is only "us”.
We want, with God and in God, an open world (Ch. 3), a world without walls, without borders, without people rejected, without strangers.
To achieve this world, we must have an open heart (Ch. 4). We need to experience social friendship, seek what is morally good, and practice a social ethic because we know we are part of a universal fraternity. We are called to solidarity, encounter, and gratuitousness.
To create an open world with an open heart, it is necessary to engage in politics, and a better kind of politics (Ch. 5) is essential. Politics for the common and universal good. Politics that is “popular” because it is for and with the people. It is politics with social charity that seeks human dignity. The politics of men and women who practice political love by integrating the economy with the social and cultural fabric into a consistent and life-giving human project.
Knowing how to dialogue is the way to open the world and build social friendship (Ch. 6) which manifests an open heart and provides the basis for a better politics. Dialogue seeks and respects the truth. Dialogue gives rise to the culture of encounter, which becomes a way of life, a passionate desire. Whoever dialogues is generous, recognizing and respecting the other. But it is not enough just to engage in encounter.
We have to face the reality of the injuries of past mis-encounters, and so we have to establish and walk the paths of re-encounter (Ch. 7). We need to heal the wounds, which requires seeking and offering forgiveness. To forgive is not to forget. We need to be daring and start from the truth—the recognition of historical truth—which is the inseparable companion of justice and mercy. All this is indispensable for advancing towards peace. Conflict is inevitable on the road to peace, but violence is inadmissible. That is why war is a recourse that must be rejected, and the death penalty a practice that must be eliminated. The different religions of the world recognize human beings as God's creatures. As creatures, we are in a relationship of fraternity.
The religions are called to the service of fraternity in the world (Ch. 8). In dialogue and with hearts open to the world, we can establish social friendship and fraternity. In our openness to the Father of all, we recognize our universal condition as brothers and sisters.
For Christians, the wellspring of human dignity and fraternity is in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and that is what inspires our actions and commitments. This path of fraternity also has a Mother called Mary.
Faced with those injured by the shadows of a closed world and still lying by the roadside, we are invited by Pope Francis to make our own the world's desire for fraternity, starting with the recognition that we are “Fratelli tutti”, brothers and sisters all.
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