Monday, January 14, 2013

God bless our troops. I prayed in my own way.

I was enjoying my first day in the USA. It was the third day of January. After the transfer from JFK Airport to La Guardia in New York there was one thing that had attracted my attention in the departure hall. On many displays I read the text: God bless our troops. Oh yeah, I’m in the States. The patriotism is presented in the current normal days. First I was thinking that it is simply for reminding the passengers that “our troops” are spread out all over the world. But having noted the presence of many of young soldiers, maybe some of them were recruits, I understood. It was for them. The young guys and girls, wearing their fatigues and passing the time with Smartphone in hand, were waiting for their flights. For the one to St. Louis which I was to take, the troop didn’t miss. Some of those young people sat alone, others in small groups.

I was noticing them for a good while. And I have to admit I started, quite spontaneously, to pray in my own way: God bless our troops. I’m not a US citizen, but looking at those young people and being aware of the God’s project with each of them I considered them “our”. They are going to face lots of various situations, decisions, relationships, tasks, temptations, desires… How many of them are believers in one and personally interested God? How much of a capacity to love and how many wishes, desires to be loved are presented in their depths? God bless our troops. These girls and guys, these young people… I hope I do remember to pray for them. Especially …

It was my first day and I had been holding my purpose to be courageous and to try speak with people, even to make the first step into dialogue. So I tried to speak with one of these young soldiers. Making my first step. My curiosity pushed me ahead. So I got the reason for my special intention to pray. Whenever I can, I want to pray for these “troops”. For these faces, for this guy I talked to. I want to ask our God, “God full of kindness, to grant his grace of protection, of wisdom, of courage and of peace of heart for these girls and guys. May they carry out their military service in ways of justice, for common good and with respect to every human person. May it be for them the time of maturation and may they experience the personal God’s paternal guidance in every situation and moment. God bless our troops.”

I saw them; they crossed my way for quite a while. They became a part of my first contact with the US reality. So, whenever I can, I will pray – and it is only a few words: God bless our troops.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Individualism in Deadlock. What’s Next?

The most common word nowadays is “crisis”. We are told it is the economic crisis. We listen to never ending discussions about currency, debts, markets, economic increase, searching for solutions… Sometimes we are told that behind the economic crisis there is a moral crisis. If we stop for a moment to think, perhaps we will find many others crises: cultural crisis, crisis of values, ecological crisis, crisis of the concept of government, political crisis, and crisis of authority… Even in the religious sphere we hear that there is a crisis of faith (which is why Pope Benedict has proclaimed for Catholics the Year of Faith).

It’s clear that we feel the crisis at its worst in everyday life. Our politicians seek to resolve the situation, but only the economic part. Searching for a way to get out of this crisis indicates a wide range of possible solutions, as well as a deeper question.

On the one hand, the political left and right compete for a chance to implement their own economic policies. Left-wing politicians declare they are sensitive to the poor and want to rule by raising taxes in order to promote solidarity. All this is based on a concept of a strong guarding State. Right-wing politics in general prefers the free market to a strong State. Although it promotes human rights for everyone, it is an impersonal mechanism that doesn’t watch over the poor. Within both types of politics we find a strong individualism that influences economic ethics as well as personal values. The consequence: moral crisis. Thus is the present condition in the so-called western countries.


On the other hand, the search for how to get out of the actual crisis indicates a deeper question. Let us omit the different policies and their economic approaches. The question is: why do we find ourselves in so many different crises at the same time? Is it only because something went wrong in the economy, or is the root in our behavior? Has individualism led us to deadlock? Shouldn’t we be looking for other reasons that lie beyond the economic?

Catholic social teaching, in accordance with the Gospel, clearly gives preference to the poor and the weak that are most in need. This attitude is a fruit of reflection on the social situation, within the frame of the Gospel and natural law. In the Gospel, Jesus gives first place to the undisputable dignity of each human person. By facing our wide-ranging crisis, which began a couple of decades ago, we have to admit that Blessed Pope John Paul II was a great prophet of human dignity. We need to rediscover his words. If we consider the nature of man, we arrive at a basic truth: each human person lives in the balance between freedom and responsibility. We are not able to live without relationships. The State can not exist without families, citizen based movements, organizations… There is something very inhuman in our current socialist and free-market approaches to human society.

Behind the economic crisis – behind the competition between different models of politics –there is a background or basis of how we see the human person; with how much respect and how sturdily are we ready to act, live, and behave towards human nature? It seems that the crisis is  really anthropological. The next question then, must be: where can we look or who can we find – and accept without prejudices – with the right answer for a new, deeper and more respectful anthropological approach? Let’s not forget: we have to face the problem now, amid the mainstream  individualism that surrounds us.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Paralympics: it´s not about medals, it´s about passion for life

I expected to use the staircase to get to my seat, but found that I was already at the stand. Row 5 on my ticket was only a few metres from the racetrack. I was completely overcome by the view of that huge arena – goose pimple effect! I was at the Olympic Stadium in East-London. It was my initial experience of the Paralympics 2012. A moment which was one of those “once in a life-time experiences”.

Britain made it great; it wanted to show the world that anything is possible! This may sound like an exaggeration. The application of scientific knowledge is very helpful for the disabled but it is not everything. Paralympians show us above all that they haven´t given up on life despite their disabilities. Their passion for life has enabled them to overcome not only physical limitations but also psychological barriers. “Only Paralympians really know how personal a sacrifice that is,” British Paralympian Tom Aggar said. He didn´t win any medal this summer – it´s not about medals, it´s about passion for life!

The adverts in London presented Great Britain Paralympians as superhuman. Looking at the athletes at the Olympic Stadium would appear to confirm that claim. “But not many with disabilities can mutate into this,” wrote David Aaronovitch in The Times (August 30). He claimed that 64% of the disabled had some experience of hostility or aggression. The London Paralympics, with the biggest TV audience ever, could help to shape the views of the majority in society. A life, however disabled, is worth living and should be protected and supported. Each human person has a super and original value.

To meet handicapped people is a transforming experience. “There is always that fear of offending a disabled person,” Tom Aggar said. We use to be apprehensive about it! However, when you overcome the first impression – the sentiment of pity – then you stop seeing the wheelchair and just see the person. This is also the point of our faith. The body and the spirit are united in a human being. Although the person – image of God – is often obscured, it is never completely lost. We need to learn to promote every life, to touch and develop the substantial human and divine value of each person, with medical care, education, sacraments in the Church and support in families. Sometimes it is also useful to learn to let go of the little things. Human life – God´s creation – is even stronger than any disability