at Pope Francis's Encyclical
Faith is a relational experience
(ANS - Rome) - A few days after the publication of the encyclical Lumen Fidei, Fr. Fabio Attard, the SDB general councilor for youth ministry, offered a brief Salesian reading of Pope Francis’s first major document.
We have heard much about this document; now that we have it to hand, it is important not only to read but to study it. For us Salesians, as educators of the young, the encyclical builds on a key point: faith is a relational experience.
Presenting biblical characters such as Abraham and Moses, John and Paul, the Holy Father shows that this faith relationship is marked by love and loyalty: God is a trustworthy and faithful God. It is a faith in which not only is God the protagonist – the call is his -- but the person of the believer receiving the invitation also becomes a protagonist. In a listening characterized by freedom and enriched by intelligence, the believer comes to see, to the point of allowing his heart to be touched by God. It is a faith that does not degenerate into a burden to be borne, but it becomes a gift for that personal and common good that cannot be upheld merely by vague principles, open to free interpretation. It is a faith, in the end, that opens the horizon of meaning, resulting in the experience of the “I” avoiding individualism and progressing toward the “we” that becomes a community, the Church.
For us Salesians, as pastors and educators, there are many reasons to study the encyclical.
First of all, Lumen Fidei gives us the opportunity to examine the foundation of our faith, from the spiritual point of view as well as from a theological one. It is not a luxury if we devote a little time to renew the emotional understanding of our faith. It does young people a lot of good to see we are able to give an account of our faith.
The encyclical then deals with the theme in a very pedagogical way. It has a style that brings intelligence into dialog with the longing for the divine. It is a document that provides a methodology of knowledge of the faith that is not afraid to confront the ultimate questions that mark today’s globalized culture. In relation to the various processes of education to the faith, to be found in the various contexts in which Salesians are present, including multi-religious ones, the content is very connected with those dynamics involved in the human search for good. They are the dynamics we as Salesians try to inculcate and cultivate in the hearts of our young people from all continents, races, and religions. We are aware that the thirst for love and the need for loyalty dwell in the hearts of young people, just as much as the joy and happiness that they appreciate.
The third motive, finally, is that this encyclical sketches a path that is very interesting and rich in content for educational proposals for those who want to deepen their faith. We have in mind so many young animators, educators, and teachers who share the Salesian mission with us, parents, and many other people who are looking for a space, a way to deepen their faith.
Out of many profound phrases, I conclude with one in particular that for us teachers and educators gives us the courage to continue on our path: “Christians, in their poverty, plant a seed so rich that it becomes a great tree, capable of filling the world with its fruit” (n. 37).
The full text of the encyclical Lumen Fidei is available at the Vatican website.