Ongoing Formation with the minister:  To ACT


Two years after the height of the pandemic, the catechists have gathered once again in a face-to-face ongoing formation to listen to the talk of our very own CFAM minister Fr. Carlo Magno Marcelo.

The talk focuses on the third part of the book of Pope Francis Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future, with the theme To ACT. 

To Act means we must recover our sense of belonging that we are part of a “PEOPLE" (God’s People).

According to Pope Francis: “A people is held together by that memory, treasured in history, custom, rites (religious or not) and other bonds that transcend the purely transactional and rational.  Their story with a quest for dignity and freedom, a history of struggle and solidarity.  For Israel, Exodus was their story, it is freedom from slavery from the Egyptians.” 

Fr. Carlo posted a warning that: We can forget this awareness (that we are a people) in times of peace and prosperity that we become a mere mass with no unifying principle to bind each one.  When this happens those in the center live lives at the expense of those in the margins.  People are now divided into competing tribes and the exploited burn with resentment at the injustices.

If this happens, the mass easily falls prey to different kinds of colonization where they surrender their dignity so they cease to become protagonists of their history.

We now grasp the insufficiency of the pragmatic categories, like Israel in the desert preferred the pure pragmatism of a golden calf to the freedom to which the Lord called them.

Then Fr. Carlo emphasized that our action is to restore the lost DIGNITY.

Where do people get their dignity?  It is from their closeness to God.  Like God summoning Abraham.

Jesus comes to restore Israel’s remembrance of God’s closeness.  This is the same mission of the Church, to remind people of their closeness to God and to one another, that there is a common good of humanity that supersedes that of any particular people.  The whole is greater than the parts.  Unity must transcend conflict.

This is the time to restore the ethics of fraternity and solidarity for what saves us is not an idea but an encounter.  In serving others, we save ourselves.

The action is, we must take inspiration from Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan.

Fr. Carlo added that poverty conceals itself in shame.  You can’t know poverty from a distance, you have to touch it…is the FIRST step.  The SECOND step consists in responding practically and immediately because a concrete act of mercy is always an act of justice.  The THIRD step is to reflect on the first two steps and open ourselves to the necessary structural reforms.

There are areas needing change as seen by Pope Francis:

  1. Profit-centered economy
  2. Human trafficking: there should be safe corridors for migrants and refugees; welcome, promote, protect and integrate those who are searching for better lives for themselves and their families
  3. Slavery and capital punishment are unacceptable
  4. Same with abortion (and euthanasia): human life is never a burden, it demands space and it should not be cast off.

When we dream of the future we must include those in the margins, reminded Fr. Carlo.

The Church cannot disown the poor.  If so, she ceases to be the Church of Jesus and becomes a moral elite.  This is truly a ‘scandal’ when the Church becomes a stranger to the poor.

The Church must walk with Popular Movements.  These are organizations that already exist – some Christians some not.  The role of the Church is to accompany them and not paternalize them (meaning, restricting the freedom and responsibilities of subordinates by those in authority supposedly for the best interest of the subordinates).  It is not the task of the Church to organize every action of the people but rather to encourage, walk with, and support those who carry out these roles.

Just like what Jesus did.  The crowds that followed the Lord, Jesus opened for them a path into the future.  Jesus granted them human liberation not only merely political liberation but that which conferred that dignity that only the Lord can give us.  Like in the encounter with the adulterous woman, Jesus anoints her with dignity and tells her: “Go on your way and from now on do not sin again.” (Jn 8:11). He restores their worth because he sees with God’s eyes… “God saw that it was good” (Gen 1:10).

Let us become protagonists of change.  There will be temptations that will distract us:

  1. To chew on a sense of powerlessness and anger
  2. To remain stuck in conflicts and grievances
  3. To focus on slogans and abstract ideas rather than specifics, local actions
  4. There will be the danger of corruption – we need humility and some personal austerity.  Remember this is a path of service not a route to power.

Let us put the 3 L’s at the center of our actions to create a virtuous cycle that over time will help us restore the dignity of our people:

  1. LAND – Let this experience be a jubilee.  Let us put the regeneration of the earth and universal access to its goods at the heart of our post covid future.
  2. LODGING – We must attend to our common home.  There is so much to be done to humanize our urban environment, family-friendly housing for all, and quality public transport networks to reduce pollution and noise that enable people to move around quickly and safely.
  3. LABOR - People need to earn a dignified living through their labor.  We should not need to live on welfare.  In work, we shape creation.  Labor means not just earning money but self-expression, of taking part in society, and of contributing to the common good.  Work is a source of personal growth and a key to restoring the dignity of our people.

Fr. Carlo concluded the talk by stating: “Let us make everyone’s DIGNITY the key to our actions.  To guarantee a world where dignity is valued and respected through concrete actions is not just a dream but a path to a better future.”