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Fratelli Tutti: Hospitality Then and Now

Chapter 3 of Pope Francis’ encyclical On Fraternity and Social Friendship is entitled, ”Envisioning and Engendering an Open World.” Paragraph 90 and 91 deal with the notion of hospitality.

In paragraph 90, the Holy Father writes that, “significantly many small communities living in desert areas developed a remarkable system of welcoming pilgrims as an exercise of the sacred duty of hospitality. The medieval monastic community did likewise, as we see from the rule of Saint Benedict.“

In the next paragraph, “The Unique Value of Love,” Pope Francis writes that “people can develop certain habits that might appear as moral values such as fortitude, sobriety, hard work, and similar virtues.” The Pope then throws in an interesting twist according to Saint Augustine that, “the temperance of a greedy person is in no way virtuous.” He also quotes Saint Bonaventure who said that “other virtues, without charity, do not fulfill the Commandments the way God wants them to be fulfilled.“

I would contend that the Holy Father is not setting up a dichotomy of one good versus the other. The classic Catholic position has always been the idea of “both-and.” Certainly the virtues of fortitude, hard work and sobriety are necessary. They help a person to be healthy, holy, contribute to society and the common good. Francis seems to be calling us to build on that foundation and move to a higher level of solidarity with others.

Indirectly he is asking “Is there something more that I should be doing?” Later in paragraph 116 for example, Francis will say that “solidarity is more than engaging in sporadic acts of generosity.” Certainly we need to be able to meet the needs of our family. But Francis said that solidarity means thinking and acting in terms of community. It means that we need to change our ideas about the attitude on the appropriations of goods by a few. What Francis is laying out here is a stretch goal. If his words make us somewhat uncomfortable, that is probably a good place to start. The Pope is asking us to bring this discomfort to prayer, engage in conversation with the Lord and see where the Holy Spirit leads us. This might change the way that we think or engage in actions that we had not considered before.

 

 

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