How do we make a connection between our faith lives and our commitment as Christians to working for peace and justice? In attempting to answer that question posed to him a number of years ago, noted spiritual writer Henri Nouwen replied,
“You must make the connection between prayer and life. The closer you are to the heart of God, the closer you come to the heart of the world, the closer you come to others. God is a demanding God, but when you give your heart to God, you find your heart’s desires. You will also find your brother and sister right there. We’re called always to action, but that action must not be driven, obsessive, or guilt-ridden. Basically, it’s action that comes out of knowing God’s love.”[i]
This blog will explore the ways in which we come closer to the heart of God and to others from a Salesian perspective. The blog is run by the Wilmington-Philadelphia Province of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, a religious congregation of men dedicated to spreading Salesian spirituality and committed to Catholic social teaching.
There are a number of blogs that discuss the link between spirituality and social justice, but none that explores the link from a Salesian point of view. St. Francis de Sales was described by Pope Paul VI as the “Doctor of Divine Love” because of Francis’ penetrating analysis of the love of God for all of humanity. We live in a world today where many people do not believe they are loved or lovable, and this leads to much of the violence and injustice we see around us. The priority of love in Salesian spirituality offers a starting point for approaching social questions that is often neglected in our discourse today. In the most recent addition to official Catholic social teaching, Pope Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate, the pope highlights the importance of love in work for justice, “Love-caritas-is an extraordinary force which leads people to opt for courageous and generous engagement in the field of justice and peace. It is a force that has its origin in God, Eternal Love and Absolute Truth” (#1).
One dimension of this blog will be a look at how this love impacts the lives of people today, inspiring them to work for justice and peace. Stories from people involved in Oblate ministries will capture how people’s prayer lives impact their experience of working for justice and how those experiences also transform their prayer lives. Many of us have new understandings of classic themes of Salesian spirituality because of our experience of working for justice in the modern world.
Today, there are many questions that people of faith must reflect upon in light of the Gospel. In this blog, we will explore the ways people following in the tradition of Francis and Jane are attempting to make connections between their faith life and a commitment to social justice. We hope the blog will offer the opportunity for respectful dialogue among people who are struggling to answer questions about various issues in light of the Gospel and Salesian spirituality. It is our hope and prayer that this dialogue will draw us closer to the heart of God and to each other.
[i] Henri Nouwen, The Road to Peace, ed. John Dear. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1998. 159.