The COVID-19 pandemic is perhaps one of the most defining moments in the history of humankind. Like a stealth war machine, the COVID-19 virus infiltrated communities undetected. To date, it has sickened more than 30 million people and destroyed millions of businesses across the globe. With governments confused, societies are cowering in fear. Indeed, it is now time to grapple with the existential issue: redefining man in the new world order.
Call for Solidarity
In his special address before an empty St. Peter’s Square, the Roman Pontiff exhorted all of humanity to unite in solidarity in the midst of adversity. With poignant grace, he described the current situation, saying:
“Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void, that stops everything as it passes by; we feel it in the air, we notice in people’s gestures, their glances give them away. We find ourselves afraid and lost.
Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat… are all of us. Just like those disciples, who spoke anxiously with one voice, saying “We are perishing” (v. 38), so we too have realized that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this.”Pope Francis, “Urbi et Orbi” Address, 27 March 2020
Forgetfulness of Spiritual Nourishment
Undoubtedly, this pandemic has shattered the confidence of everyone. To allay the fears of society, the Holy Father emphasized the need to rediscover the “antibodies” that would protect society from the current malady.
“The storm exposes our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities. It shows us how we have allowed to become dull and feeble the very things that nourish, sustain and strengthen our lives and our communities. The tempest lays bare all our prepackaged ideas and forgetfulness of what nourishes our people’s souls; all those attempts that anesthetize us with ways of thinking and acting that supposedly “save” us, but instead prove incapable of putting us in touch with our roots and keeping alive the memory of those who have gone before us. We deprive ourselves of the antibodies we need to confront adversity.”Pope Francis, Urbi et Orbi
A Wake Up Call
Moving further, the Pope lamented the fast-paced progress of the rich and the arrogant. In contrast, however, he cited the indifference of societies to the plight of the poor and the marginalized. In fact, he highlighted certain symptoms that remained unnoticed. Hence, the world is now suffering from the brutal consequences of such neglect, as may be seen below:
In this world, that you love more than we do, we have gone ahead at breakneck speed, feeling powerful and able to do anything. Greedy for profit, we let ourselves get caught up in things, and lured away by haste. We did not stop at your reproach to us, we were not shaken awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet. We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick. Now that we are in a stormy sea, we implore you: “Wake up, Lord!”.Pope Francis, “Urbi et Orbi”, 27 March 2020
A New Twist: Sainthood
Indeed, it is time to wake up and come to realize that change is necessary. Hence, there is only one thing necessary, that is, to re-examine the existential meaning of man. Accordingly, St. Josemaria Escriva’s point no. 22 gives us a hint of man’s ultimate destiny. In effect, this should serve as the golden rule on how one should live life to the fullest.
“Be firm! Be virile! Be a man! And then… be a saint!”St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way
To be a Saint, be a Man
Reflecting on the aphorism above, St. Josemaria suggests that the ultimate goal of man is to be a saint. However, to achieve it would require going back to basics. In other words, you begin by being a man. What would it take to be a man? For facility, I thought it best to share with you some excerpts from the seminal works of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, as follows:
“The true gentleman carefully avoids whatever may cause a jar or a jolt in the minds of those with whom he is cast — all clashing of opinion, or collision of feeling, all restraint, or suspicion, or gloom, or resentment; his great concern being to make everyone at his ease and at home. He has his eyes on all his company; he is tender towards the bashful, gentle towards the distant, and merciful towards the absurd; he can recollect to whom he is speaking; he guards against unseasonable allusions or topics which may irritate; he is seldom prominent in conversation, and never wearisome. He makes light of favors while he does them, and seems to be receiving when he is conferring.Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, The Definition of a Gentleman
Virtues: Small Acts of Love
Interestingly, Cardinal Newman further expounds on his definition of a gentleman by describing ordinary day-to-day acts or behaviors that conform accordingly. In fact, he highlights some virtues worth emulating. as follows:
“He never speaks of himself except when compelled, never defends himself by a mere retort; he has no ears for slander or gossip, is scrupulous in imputing motives to those who interfere with him, and interprets everything for the best. He is never mean or little in his disputes never takes unfair advantage, never mistakes personalities or sharp saying for arguments, or insinuates evil which he dare not say out.
From a long-sighted prudence, he observes the maxim of the ancient sage, that we should ever conduct ourselves towards our enemy as if he were one day to be our friend. He has too much good sense to be affronted at insults, he is too well employed to remember injuries, and too indolent to bear malice. He is patient, forbearing, and resigned, on philosophical principles; he submits to pain, because it is inevitable, to bereavement, because it is irreparable, and to death, because it is his destiny.Ibid
Respect for Religion
Finally, the advice of Cardinal Newman especially to the unbeliever encapsulates the refined character of a person who can ultimately be qualified as a canonizable saint.
If he be an unbeliever, he will be too profound and large-minded to ridicule religion or to act against it; he is too wise to be a dogmatist or fanatic in his infidelity. He respects piety and devotion; he even supports institutions as venerable, beautiful, or useful, to which he does not assent; he honors the ministers of religion, and it contents him to decline its mysteries without assailing or denouncing them. He is a friend of religious toleration, and that, not only because his philosophy has taught him to look on all forms of faith with an impartial eye, but also from the gentleness and effeminacy of feeling, which is the attendant on civilization.Ibid
In closing, it is my hope that the nuggets of wisdom cited herein would inspire you to examine your inner self. Ultimately, this should move you to aspire for the end goal of having a better life in the new world order to come. After all, conversion is a matter of a moment; and, sanctification is the work of a lifetime.1
1St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way 285