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Pontifical "We"

This morning Pope Benedict visited a home for the elderly sponsored by the Sant'Egidio Community. In addressing the residents, he spoke of the old age they share in common:

"At our age we often experience the need for the assistance of others, and this also happens to the Pope. ... I would like to invite you to see in this too a gift from the Lord. It is a grace to be supported and accompanied, to receive the affection of others! This is important in every phase of life: no one can live alone and without help; humans are relational beings. Never be discouraged: you are valuable to society, even in suffering and sickness. And this phase of life is a gift that also allows us to deepen our relationship with God. The example of Blessed Pope John Paul II was and remains illuminating to all. Do not forget that, among the valuable resources you have, there is the essential gift of prayer".

The Italian text is here.

About the Author

Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.



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Having good healthcare sure helps, though. Obamacare anyone?

Lord knows nothing makes me quite so bitter as the health care situation--ask Grant, who's sick of reading my screeds--but I think the Pope's message transcends current U.S. health care policy.One of the things that keeps me connected to the Church is the Catholic notion that the prayers of the weak, sick, poor, and elderly are especially precious to God, and I don't think that can be said enough.I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but I used to listen to an African American preacher on the radio who gave good sermons, and his account of Christ, "who stopped dying long enough to help a dying man [the Good Thief]" has stuck with me for many years as emblematic of Christian love and sacrifice. When we are moved to help others in our strength, it's noble. When we are moved to help others in the midst of our own weakness, it's divine.

LaStampa reports on the Pope's visit to the old people's home and includes a charming picture of Benedict with an very old woman as she tells him like it is :-) The woman standing next to the old woman is having a grand time listening to the old one as she lectures the Pope.

If you take the Pope's words to heart, independence can thwart grace. But isn't that what we're always striving for?

Jean Raber:Thank you!

John Page, you're welcome. You're not participating in that dreadful 30 Days of Thanks thing, are you? (Just kidding; over on Facebook, people are thanking me left and right so they can get their "quota" in. Leave it to the Internet to help folks monetize gratitude.)

"This is important in every phase of life: no one can live alone and without help; humans are relational beings." -- Pope Benedict to the oldsters."No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone." -- Pope Benedict in Spe Salvi.He means it.

Jean: Thank you, too, for your striking 10:58pm comment.

At the risk of replicating the 30 Days of Thanksgiving:1. I add my thanks to Jean for the striking phrase;2. Thanks to Ann for the photo-op;3. thanks to Tom for the quite relevant reference to "Spe Salvi;"4. thanks to the authors of "On All of our Shoulders" for their recognition of the Pope's social vision and commitment by quoting him extensively four times in their relatively brief Statement.5. and thanks to Henri de Lubac whose pioneering "Catholicism: Christ and the Common Destiny of Man" may have been the wellspring of the Pope's vision.

Fr. Imbelli --About Benedict's theological vision of love, it seems that Benedict has become more aligned with the Scotist position that the will is superior to the intellect because love is metaphysically superior to knowledge (or something like that :-) This, of course, is a position at odds with that of Aquinas, but it seems to me that it is a more Christian view than that of Thomas.I wonder what Congar thought of Scotus. (I have always gotten the impression that Ratzinger actively dislikes Aquinas.)

Ann,I don't think Ratzinger "actively dislikes Aquinas" -- which is different from disliking the neo-scholasticism of his student days). However, I think you are right in sensing his greater affinity to the Franciscan School.You may be interested in the series of presentations on Medieval theologians during Pope Benedict's audience talks of 2010. He devotes several to Bonaventure and Thomas, as well as one (on July 7) to Scotus. They may be accessed here:

In his series on Doctors of the Church (published under that title by OSV Press), the pope gave Augustine 27 pages and Aquinas 12. It seems pretty clear who gets his theological motor running.

Many thanks to Fr. Imbelli for pointing us to Pope Benedict's words to the elderly of a particular home. I appreciate his verbs in the first person singular, avoiding the royal, pontifical, aloof we. He speaks as one who has much in common with those he is addressing. When I described this scene to a friend, however, she replied, Isn't the Pope in Assisted Living? Someone gets his clothes, cooks his meals, counts his pills.In the third paragraph, the Pope expresses a wish that people could live in their own homes, then congratulates the Sant' Eggidio community for providing a homey place. This is much the challenge of the institutions around us.I must add that the molesta senectus of Gaudeamus Igitur arrives at different ages for different people. Whereas some Americans can retire early or later, with income depending on actuarial tables, our Church sets definite ages for retirement: 75 for a pastor, 80 for a cardinal, at death for a pope. Two nearby dioceses recently found ways to force the retirement of lay staff at 65, apparently a unstated economy.

Thanks, Fr. Imbelli. I really should learn more about Scotus' theology. (I should learn more about ALL theology!) When in grad school I had the great good fortune to have Fr. Allan Wolter's course on the philosophy of the Franciscan School, but he hardly got into Scotus' theology, and in those days there were few translations of Scotus, a lack which Fr. Wolter himself worked to fill. It's a pity that Scotus isn't better known. His emphasis on love and loving action is a very contemporary one. How ironic that the modern philosopher most influenced by him was not a scholastic, but, rather, Charles Peirce, the inventor of Pragmatism who also influenced the linguistic analysts' theories of language. Scotus was great on language. Not to mention his influence on the poet Hopkins. Truly one of the greatest.

Ann Olivier: As you may know, it would not be an exaggeration to say that the Victorian Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) fell head over heals in love with John Duns Scotus.As you may know, Hopkins wrote a fine short poem titled "Duns Scotus's Oxford." Here are some lines from it that sum up Hopkins's estimate of Duns Scotus:"He lived on; these weeds and waters, these walls are whatHe haunted who of all men most sways my spirits to peace;Of realty the rarest-veined unraveller; a notRivalled insight, be rival Italy or Greece."Evidently, Hopkins did not consider Augustine, the bishop of Hippo to be sufficiently important to even allude to him as a possible rival of John Duns Scotus.

Thomas Farrell,no question that Hopkins found in Scotus a liberator from the dust-dry Scholasticism he was exposed to (Suarez?) in his studies, but the Bishop of Hippo appears prominently in the lovely prayer from "The Wreck of the Deutschland:""With an anvil-dingAnd with fire in him forge thy willOr rather, rather then, stealing as SpringThrough him, melt him but master him still:Whether at once, as once at a crash Paul,Or as Austin, a lingering-out sweet skill,Make mrcy in all of us, out of us allMastery, but be adored, but be adored King."

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