EG 80: Relativism

Vasnetsov_Maria_MagdaleneContinuing on the theme of the past few days, Pope Francis is concerned about something “more dangerous than doctrinal relativism.”

I think I see where he’s going with this. It reminds me of that prominent evangelical minister who, after years of emptiness, declared himself an atheist. What a sad story, and mostly from the sense of the wasted time and effort.

I’ll offer one comment at the end before yours, but first, let’s read:

80. Pastoral workers can thus fall into a relativism which, whatever their particular style of spirituality or way of thinking, proves even more dangerous than doctrinal relativism. It has to do with the deepest and inmost decisions that shape their way of life. This practical relativism consists in acting as if God did not exist, making decisions as if the poor did not exist, setting goals as if others did not exist, working as if people who have not received the Gospel did not exist. It is striking that even some who clearly have solid doctrinal and spiritual convictions frequently fall into a lifestyle which leads to an attachment to financial security, or to a desire for power or human glory at all cost, rather than giving their lives to others in mission. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary enthusiasm!

The Ignatian principle is to form people “for others.” It is a Christian paradox, one of our deepest, that the more we are focused on others–in a healthy way–the more life and enthusiasm we have.

For many of us, we experience it in our families: the demands of children, spouse, and perhaps elderly parents. Logically, they should drain away time and energy. But my experience after eighteen years of marriage and parenting is precisely the opposite. Sure, there are struggles and bad moments. But overall, the sense is that my life is far richer as a husband and father than as a single man.

For ministry, I suspect that when pastoral workers are aware of and in communion with God, the poor, one’s friends and loved ones, and with seekers, that on the whole their lives will be richer. Less relative, if you will.

I think it was Annie Dillard who wrote:

This is a spendthrift economy; though nothing is lost, all is spent.

That quote strikes me as close to the heart of what Pope Francis is trying to encourage here.

His Evangelii Gaudium is available online.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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