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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Connecting through nature's beauty, goodness, and truth

Photo: Flicker/Catholic Church (England and Wales)

When speaking today to representatives of other faiths and Christian confessions, Pope Francis included those who do not belong to “any religious tradition.”

When addressing this latter group, his words sought some connection—some common element. In doing so, he demonstrated the essence of New Evangelization.

Here are his words: 
We know how much violence has been provoked in recent history by the attempt to eliminate God and the divine from the horizon of humanity, and we feel the need to witness in our societies the original openness to transcendence that is inherent in the human heart. In this we feel the closeness also of those men and women who, while not belonging to any religious tradition, feel, however the need to search for the truth, the goodness and the beauty of God, and who are our precious allies in efforts to defend the dignity of man, in the building of a peaceful coexistence between peoples and in the careful protection of creation.
I’ve written often about ecology as a tool for New Evangelization (here, here, and here) because New Evangelization seeks in part to announce the Gospel through existing and trusted channels. And since we all share ecosystems that make up life on Earth, it makes sense that ecology would provide such a point of contact.

Note how the Holy Father acknowledges that men and women with no religious affiliation are nonetheless searchers of truth, goodness, and beauty—those “transcendentals” that, like ecology (which he connects with all this), all humans share and need. In doing so, the pontiff is doing much the same as his predecessor.

In beginning the conversation with truth, goodness, and beauty, one opens a dialogue that can then reverse the order of those transcendent realities. In calling attention to shared understandings of the beauty and goodness of creation, one can then speak of the truths of creation—of natural laws. From there, one might acknowledge that absolute truths exist. One may then be able to speak of a Truth. From there, one might suggest that this Truth is a Person, because this Truth is, ultimately, sacrificial love. And love is never impersonal.

Catholic intellectual and spiritual tradition holds that we can know something of the Creator through studying creation. In speaking to those who do not embrace the Christian creed, the Holy Father first spoke about the very essences of human dignity and the very nature of nature. By simply beginning this conversation, he laid a path for unbelievers to follow, should they wish.

If they do ... well, we’ll see where the conversation goes.

But all this first requires a conversation. And that requires agreement. And who cannot agree that the created world is beautiful, good, and true?

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