Embracing Our Humanity

“Advances in the studies of philosophy and psychology have come to recognize more and more the profound ties that unite cognition and emotion.”

Antonio Spadaro, SJ editor-in-chief La Civiltà Cattolica

 

As we read in ‘Gaudium et Spes’, there is no joy or sadness, doubt or certainty, tragedy or hope that fails to find an echo in our hearts.

Today more than ever we need to embrace the human, that is, our humanity, our personal life, the life of our neighbors, and the challenges of history.

La Civiltà Cattolica has decided to gather into one volume articles we have published between 2017 and 2018. This special edition of La Civiltà Cattolica, is the first in our Perspectives series.

The collection opens with a reflection on reason and emotion. These are often considered to be in opposition to each other, not only by common opinion, but also in psychological and philosophical studies, for they are seen to be incompatible with the rigor and the scientific nature of these disciplines.

Sadness though not a desirable or attractive emotion is a part of life and helps us grasp the richness of life’s meanings. In particular, it is not opposed to joy but makes it possible, for it represents its specular face, as night does the day, carrying important lessons in living well.

Happiness is difficult to define precisely being a vast array of emotions particularly open to interpretation by people of every age and culture.

Doubt can be considered the typical state of modern people. Since Descartes we have learnt to doubt everything, putting up for discussion all that we had received, and giving our assent to what is clear and distinct. To certainty.

However, gradually many people move further and further away from speculative and affective perspectives, leaving them prisoners of Doubt. That said, is Doubt necessarily a negative quality? We look at some consequences showing the need for Doubt, even for the life of faith.

It is impossible to elude one important theme when speaking of life and humanity: death and dying.

In his message to the World Medical Association (WMA) in November 2017, on the theme “End-of-Life-Questions”  Pope Francis confirmed his “no” to both euthanasia and to “overzealous therapy.”

Writing about the “dutiful” suspension of disproportionate care and the judgement of the sick person. Countering every form of abandonment, he insists on “responsible closeness” and palliative cures. In conclusion, he labels “therapeutic inequality” as an injustice that end-of-life decisions must consider, and the need to seek shared solutions – even legal ones – in democratic society.

This edition concludes with two reflections on discernment.

Pope Francis often affirms that the Church needs to grow in discernment, in ability to discern. But what, effectively, is discernment?

It is a process to find an answer.

A process in three steps. The first is the discovery of those impediments that undermine this gift, which is so propitious for the spirit and enriching for all. The second is that of consolidating some general criteria that help appreciate what is at stake when choices are made. The third step is a short presentation of the originality and valid help that the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius offer to those who desire to enter into a process of discernment or to accompany others along this path.

‘Embracing Our Humanity’ is the first of many ‘Perspectives’ to come. It is a journey through our human experience, and a guide to make this journey in a way that is fully human and fully Christian.

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