Defending Humans From the Start (Part 2)
Interview With Vice President of Academy for Life
ROME, MARCH 29, 2006 (Zenit) - Benedict XVI's first encyclical emphasizes that the life that comes from God is a direct consequence of his love, says the new vice president of the Pontifical Academy for Life. Monsignor Jean Laffitte, formerly undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family, speaks in this interview with us about the encyclical "Deus Caritas Est" and how it touches on the link between love and life.
Part 1 of this interview appeared Sunday on Catholic Online.
Q: Today, in a world in which science virtually enables us to order a child a la carte, life becomes an object of consumption. What does Benedict XVI propose to us in his first encyclical?
Monsignor Laffitte: If one perceives human life as a wealth, one does not need to ask the origin of this wealth that precedes us. Therefore, we address a complementary aspect very much connected to the topic of the encyclical: the relationship between a human life and the author of human life. God, who is the Creator of every life, is at the same time the source of all charity and love.
There is also a very close nexus between life and love; in principle, because life itself is a consequence of God's love; it is a gift, but also because human life acquires all its meaning in a perspective of love.
Man is made to love the One who created him. He is made to love others, his neighbor; he develops in love, he realizes all his potential in love and considers with admiration the whole of creation, exercising on it a type of lordship, subordinated of course to the divine Lordship.
But all this cannot be done except in respect for nature and in a spirit of service to one's fellow men, which assumes that he is animated by love.
This encyclical invites us to be aware that God is really love; the life that comes from him is a direct consequence of that love. This totally changes our outlook on human existence and its end, on the end of life, on what animates us, on our profound intentions and on the way in which we exercise our activity.
The encyclical draws our attention to the fact that life is within God, life is communion, it is love. In God, life and love coincide because divine love makes one exist; it is a love that leads to the existence of beings that did not exist before.
It is not only an act of material causality. It is, formally, an act of love that makes others exist.
Q: How can the sense of the beauty of life be rediscovered when it has been lost?
Monsignor Laffitte: We must identify the reasons that lead to the alteration or loss of meaning.
At times there are reasons linked to the gravity of personal moral choices that, wounding the soul, darken one's outlook on life and no longer allow one to recognize its precious character.
Here a moral analysis could be made of this de facto state. More generally, there are also obvious reasons connected to suffering, trial, or injustice suffered.
There are circumstances in people's lives in which, without responsibility on their part, they must face an objective difficulty to perceive the beauty of life.
To understand them, we must admit that these situations exist. Moreover, this experience of opacity of the beauty of life can come to every one.
Every one might have to face in a moment of his life either the sickness of a loved one, the death of a close person; the effects of the sickness can hide from their eyes the beauty of life.
In these situations, the perception of the beauty of life takes place through a process similar to that of faith. We believe and adhere to the beauty of life, in the same way that believers adhere to the beauty of God without seeing it. We do not see God but we know that his beauty is real.
It is very rare for a person never to have reflected on the beauty of life. But there are situations in which the difficult and painful manifestations of certain ailments, of very serious sicknesses, of men's injustice, or of any other circumstance, can rob from existence what gives it its attraction in normal life.
The problem must not be considered in an isolated way. No one can face a personal misery, an illness, a profound sorrow, in solitude. Man is not a monad. He is in constant relationship with many other people, who are more or less close.
Without pretending that the love of life perceived in others by a person who is suffering make the latter's life immediately easier, at least this gives him a vision of existence that is not reduced to the precariousness of his own situation.
Obviously, this is not an effort to ask of the person who is suffering, but a call to the people who are happier. Respect for the life of those who are suffering is a necessary condition so that the latter will perceive something of the beauty of life.
When a tested person receives help, loving attention, he will no longer identity life with his suffering because, in his life, he will not simply have suffering, but will also have the act of love he has received.
It is necessary to consider that, in the area of life, questions never present themselves in an abstract way, but concretely: Every person is involved in relations or situations in which he can exercise this charity with his neighbor to which the encyclical "Deus Caritas Est" invites us.
From it one gleans what is at the center of all human existence, those fundamental needs profoundly engraved in man's heart; among them, in the first place, the desire to love and to be loved.
There are also other essential desires, such as that of being useful. However, the desire to be loved seems to be the most deeply rooted.
One of the original and important contributions of the encyclical is to show the primordial importance of being able to receive love. Love is not only the unilateral movement of someone who gives and gives himself. It is also the movement of someone who, giving himself, is able to receive another love that sometimes precedes it.
In relation to God, on the other hand, this occurs always. We are always preceded in our love by God, by the love we receive from him.
Present in the encyclical is the intention to show this double movement of love, a unified movement that establishes a true communion between the two terms.
The encyclical honors this dimension often forgotten in the arbitrary focuses or very partial approaches of charity, or partial and often spiritualist focuses, where it is imagined that love is simply the fact of giving.
Love, in its full and perfect expression, is also reception and much virtue is necessary to know how to receive and appreciate love from others because it is a gift of God, a gift of the grace of God.
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