We Who Thirst

During the Pope’s visit to the Americas a few months back much was said that brought about self-reflection and discussion throughout households across the U.S. ...

During the Pope’s visit to the Americas a few months back much was said that brought about self-reflection and discussion throughout households across the U.S. His words, rooted in the teachings of Christ and what it means to be truly human, inspired a dialogue of action. It was clear that people are thirsty for this dialogue, for lives that possess beauty and in turn cease to be mundane. We are reminded of the words of the Psalmist, “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” This was evidenced in so many ways as Christians and non-Christians alike seemed to latch onto his words as a source of inspiration.

Fast forwarding to present day, or rather, a few weeks ago, Martina, after listening to a friend’s presentation of the Pope’s new encyclical Laudato Si’, proposed to us in the community and to a couple of her colleagues to work together for a month, studying the content of Laudato Si’ in order to better organize a public panel discussion at her university. The discussion was led by four experts — each in their own right. There was a Professor of Climate Change, a Professor of Physics and Catholic Priest, a Professor of Political Science, and an Economist. This group comprised a body of knowledge that those attending could tap into and gain insight from in light of the Pope’s words on the environment.

We in the Movement often refer to the expressions with which we live out our faith in our daily lives as “gestures”, and from the outside looking in it wasn’t a grand scale gesture. Maybe it wasn’t, in appearance, that different from many other discussions happening across the world with regard to the environment, climate change, and even the Pope’s encyclical, and yet it was truly beautiful — a true testament to what makes us human. We walked away changed. You couldn’t help but not be. Anyone who sought to take their life more seriously, that took the time to listen to the words of the panelists, to contemplate them, couldn’t help but feel an urgency in a need for change. Not simply on an environmental level, but an individual one. We left with perhaps a deeper sense of who we were, and that our actions, however small, impact those around us. For my part, I found myself more engaged with the reality that was in front of me, being more mindful of the materials I consumed, my actions, and even the items I purchased, weighing their empirical necessity. I know a change has occurred because even now, a few weeks after, I am different, changed, but more of myself.

The unity which, over the course of the discussion, grew among the panelists themselves was a spectacle to behold. Though the experts had different backgrounds, not only in education and specificity, but faith as well, there was an understanding and sense of mutual respect among them. The light of recognition illuminated their dialogue which seemed to say, “I understand you and what you follow more so now than ever before, because you see my perspective too, science and faith it would seem are not mutually exclusive!” And far from it, because though we had an equally diverse audience, many asked thoughtful questions and stayed after the conclusion for more than half-an-hour to continue conversation and make new friends. We printed 50 programs each with a 30-page anthology of excerpts from the Pope’s encyclical, and by the end of the night not one remained.

A colleague of Martina wrote to her the next day saying, “I really wanted to thank you for inviting me to this conversation. I am so happy I came, because it was a way to reconnect again with the things that matter in life. And now I have so many questions to ask you and to ask myself….And I am so happy to see how your life expands.”

As a woman in the audience commented at the end of the discussion, “It gives me great joy to see so many young people who have not only come out to talk about an important issue, but to listen to a Pope. I vacillate between despair for my grandchildren and great grandchildren, and hope. This (pointing to the panelists and audience) gives me hope.”

We who are fractured, even at times apathetic, who fail to look past our own horizon, were reminded once more of an Other who provokes the deepest recesses of our hearts to something more, to something outside ourselves, and so we listened with an eagerness to our neighbor, inspired by a man they’d never met, calling us to a renewed awareness.