CNS photo/Paul Haring

Rediscover our roots

  • December 4, 2014

Pope Francis issued a wake-up call in a frank address (or was it a scolding?) he delivered Nov. 25 to the European Parliament. Good for him. But let’s not be smug about it. His knuckle-rap that a “self-absorbed” Europe needs to recover its soul applies with equal weight to North America.

Indeed, replace most “Europe” references with “Canada” in the Pope’s speech and his words ring no less true. A “self-absorbed” Europe must recover its soul, he said in one striking rebuke that brings to mind a Canada that has also lost hold of its spiritual anchor.

This wasn’t an Advent address by any means, but the message was apropos to the season. As Advent urges Christians to reflect on their biblical heritage, prepare for the coming Messiah and rejoice in the promise of the future, Francis urged Europeans to recall their 2,000-year Christian past, re-embrace the hope of Christ and build a society that reflects His kingdom on Earth.

“Christians are to the world what the soul is to the body,” said Francis, quoting an anonymous second-century author. “The function of the soul is to support the body, to be its conscience and its historical memory. A 2,000-year-old history links Europe and Christianity. It is a history not free of conflicts and errors and sins, but one constantly driven by the desire to work for the good of all.”

The first non-European Pope in more than 1,000 years, Francis challenged Europe to reconnect with its Christian roots and intensify efforts to build a society founded on dignity and human rights. He chided that Europe has become haggard and urged its 800 million people to become champions again of great ideas so, together, they might reverse the “uncontrolled consumerism” and “throwaway culture” that dishonours modern society.

The Pope could have delivered the same message in Ottawa. This is more than a European issue. Much of Western society has compromised its religious foundation and weakened the historic link between God and the Judeo-Christian ethic that forged Western civilization. It’s certainly apparent in Canada. This country also needs to be slapped from a spiritual malaise and reclaim the Christian principles that inspire communities founded on a common sense of belonging and purpose.

Reversing the mindset of a self-centred consumer culture requires society to rediscover the “vital connection” between God and history, said the Pope. Failure to do so, he cautioned, will inevitably create an even more haggard society “which risks slowly losing its own soul and that humanistic spirit which it still loves and defends.”

As Christmas approaches, we are all called to be mindful of our rich Christian heritage and connect more firmly with God as we prepare to celebrate in joy and peace the birth of our Saviour.

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