Bishop's Blog

Building a Better World Order

“The global economy must be humanized.”

The cornerstone of the Church’s social teaching is the dignity of the person. The human person must always be an end and not a means, a subject and not an object or a commodity of trade.

Regrettably we are seeing the emergence of patterns of ethical thinking which are by products of globalization and which bear the stamp of utilitarianism. Ethical values, however, cannot be dictated by technological innovations, engineering or efficiency; they are grounded in the very nature of the human person.

Ethics cannot be the justification or legitimation of a system, but rather the safeguard of all that is human in any system. Ethics demands that systems be attuned to the needs of persons, and not that persons be sacrificed for the sake of the system. All political and economic systems must be tested by what they do to and for the dignity of the person.

The notion of personal human dignity must then be matched with the concept of a universal human community. The fundamental moral unit we must be concerned about is the “human being-in-community.”

Between the person and the community lies the fabric of rights and duties. The Church measures and directs that fabric by a series of refined specific concepts, eg: the common good and the option for the poor. Subsidiarity and solidarity are necessary virtues for an interdependent world.

It is often overlooked, but in our own times the Church is becoming less political and more social in nature—less political in the sense that an appreciative understanding of religious liberty cuts the Church free from many relationships with states that had kept it in thrall to state power; more social in that the Church, free politically, can now be more deeply involved in the social arena.

The Church can show its love for the world by its willingness to dialogue with the world. Dialogue, of course, means not thinking one knows everything. The Church has something to teach. It is a source of moral wisdom and insight derived from living in the world and speaking about its condition, but it also has much to learn.

Social justice has not only to do with truth, but also with energy, with motivation for the quest. For a Christian, both justice and motivation for seeking it, are grounded in the equality of all persons before God and in our respect for nature as also God’s child. A new world order can never be imposed by force of any kind, but must win the world’s heart by its own intrinsic moral merit.

Before making practical plans, we need to promote a spirituality of communion. A spirituality of communion indicates above all the heart’s contemplation of the mystery of the Trinity dwelling in us, and whose light we must also be able to see shining on the face of the brothers and sisters around us. A spirituality of communion also means an ability to think of our brothers and sisters in faith within the profound unity of the Mystical Body, and therefore as those who are a part of me. This makes us able to share their joys and sufferings, to sense their desires and attend to their needs, to offer them deep and genuine friendship. A spirituality of communion implies also the ability to see what is positive in others, to welcome it and prize it as a gift from God—not only as a gift for the brother or sister who has received it directly—but also as a gift for me. A spirituality of communion means, finally, to know how to “make room” for our brothers and sisters, bearing “each other’s burdens” [Gal 6:2] and resisting the selfish temptations which constantly beset us and provoke competition, careerism, distrust and jealousy.

Let us have no illusions: unless we follow this spiritual path, external structures of communion will serve very little purpose. They would become mechanisms without a soul, “masks” of communion rather than its means of expression and growth” [Novo Millennio Ineunte #43].

Much of the debate about building a new world order focuses on trade, third world debt and terrorism.

Trade has been described as the issue of social justice. It is not difficult to understand why. The trade contract, in its basic form, is like the wage contract: if it starts with equality, it can end up with equal distribution or at least proportionate distribution; but if it starts with structural inequality, then adjustments have to be made in the structure of trade relationships.

The market is a valuable way of organizing economic life but it is not a self-sufficient way; the market may produce efficiency, but it will not necessarily produce justice. Those who have no resources to bring to the market simply cannot gain anything from it. And the market itself does not know how to value all goods. It treats them equally, but they are not equal. Health care is not the same as selling cars. And precisely because the market is limited, it needs a social structure of policy surrounding it.

One important moral measure of economic growth must be how well it is shared, especially among the most needy populations. We have ourselves recently experienced the fact that a rising tide does not necessarily lift all boats, since Canadian poverty rates have risen in times of economic growth.

Consequently, discussions about wider free trade agreements ought to give as much priority to labour and social development as it gives to the protections of investors and financiers. Rather than attempting to spread deeply flawed agreements to new areas, the leaders of the nations need to return to the drawing board and design a model of economic integration that works for the continent’s working people.

The global economy must be humanized. In Ecclesia in America, Pope John Paul II pointed out that: “... if globalization is ruled merely by the laws of the market applied to suit the powerful, the consequences cannot but be negative. These are, for example, the absolutizing of the economy, unemployment, the reduction and deterioration of public services, the destruction of the environment and natural resources, the growing distance between the rich and poor, unfair competition which puts poorer nations in a situation of ever increasing inferiority.”

☩ Frederick Henry
Bishop Emeritus

Related Offices Social Justice Bishop's
Related Themes Social Justice

Contemplation of the Face of Christ

“... the rosary should always be seen and experienced as a path of contemplation.”

Only the experience of silence and prayer offers the proper setting for the growth and development of a true, faithful and consistent knowledge of the mystery: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” [Jn. 1:14].

Pope John Paul II recently acknowledged that his favourite prayer, the rosary, has accompanied him in moments of joy and difficulty. To it, he has entrusted a number of his concerns, and in it he has always found comfort. Beginning this 25th year of his service as the Successor of Peter, he has proclaimed the year from October 2002 to October 2003 the Year of the Rosary.

His proclamation affords us an opportunity to rediscover the beauty of this tool for enhancing our spiritual life.

Though clearly Marian in character, this prayer is at heart a Christocentric prayer. “In the sobriety of its elements, it has all the depth of the Gospel message in its entirety, of which it can be said to be a compendium. It is an echo of the prayer of Mary, her perennial Magnificat for the work of redemptive Incarnation which began in her virginal womb. With the rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love” [RVM, 1].

Without contemplation, the rosary is a body without a soul, and its recitation runs the risk of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas, in violation of the admonition of Christ: “In praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words” [Mt. 6:7].

By its nature the rosary calls for a quiet rhythm and lingering pace, helping the individual to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord’s life as seen through the eyes of Mary. The very repetition involved is somewhat similar to a mantra which can work a slow but deep transformation of our hearts.

Although not writing specifically about the rosary, G. K. Chesterton suggested that repetition is a characteristic of the vitality of children, who like the same stories, with the same words, time and time again, not because they are bored and unimaginative but because they delight in life. Chesterton wrote: “Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead, for grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says to every morning ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes each daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore” [Orthodoxy, p. 92].

This practice of piety easily harmonizes with the liturgy. Like the liturgy, it draws its inspiration from Sacred Scripture. Although existing on essentially different planes of reality, both have as their objects the same salvific events of Christ as their object. The liturgy, which is the activity of Christ and the Church, by way of effective signs and symbols, presents anew the great mysteries of our redemption. The rosary, by means of devout contemplation, recalls these same mysteries to the mind of the person praying and stimulates the will to draw from them the norms of living.

Although praying the rosary is a wonderful preparation for the celebration of the liturgy, to recite the rosary during the celebration itself is a mistake [cf. Marialis Cultus, 48].

In order to bring out the fully the Christological depths of the rosary, Pope John Paul II has suggested an addition to our traditional pattern of the recitation of the rosary to include the “luminous” mysteries of Christ’s public ministry between his Baptism and his Passion. These mysteries of light include: (1) his Baptism in the Jordan, (2) his self-manifestation at the wedding feast of Cana, (3) his proclamation of the Kingdom of God, with his call to conversion, (4) his Transfiguration, and finally (5) his institution of the Eucharist, as the sacramental expression of the Paschal Mystery. Each of these mysteries is a revelation of the Kingdom now present in the very person of Jesus.

Where might the “mysteries of light” be inserted? Without intending to limit rightful personal freedom and community prayer, the Holy Father suggests Thursdays. His proposed re-alignment would then be: Joyful Mysteries – Monday and Saturday; Sorrowful Mysteries – Tuesday and Friday; Glorious Mysteries – Wednesday and Sunday; and Luminous Mysteries – Thursday. What is really important is that the rosary should always be seen and experienced as a path of contemplation.

Contemplating Christ through the various stages of his life, leads us to come face-to-face with our own identity. Contemplating Christ’s birth, we learn of the sanctity of life; seeing the household of Nazareth, we learn the original truth of the family according to God’s plan; listening to the Master in the mysteries of his public ministry, we find the light that leads us to enter the Kingdom of God; and following him on the way to Calvary, we learn the meaning of salvific suffering. Finally, contemplating Christ and his Blessed Mother in glory, we see the goal towards which we are called, if we allow ourselves to be healed by the Holy Spirit.

At the same time, it becomes natural for us to bring to such prayer all the problems, anxieties, labours and endeavours which make up our lives. “Cast your burden on the Lord and he will sustain you” [Ps. 55:23].

☩ Frederick Henry
Bishop Emeritus

Related Offices Bishop's
Related Themes Prayers Mary Prayer Life

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