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New Papal Encyclical

pope_francis_1_048Pope Francis published his first encyclical on Friday. It is entitled "The Light of Faith" and is really the work of Pope Benedict XVI before he resigned. Francis just completed it. There is much to reflect on in it but in glancing through it I was struck by the following short passage.

"Once man has lost the fundamental orientation which unifies his existence, he breaks down into the multiplicity of his desires; in refusing to await the time of promise, his life-story disintegrates into a myriad of unconnected instants. Idolatry, then, is always polytheism, an aimless passing from one lord to another."

Talking about life, I was struck by The New York Times' article yesterday on age (I was 81 myself last month)! entitled Joy of Old Age by Oliver Sacks.



that's an interesting contrast, given that sacks is an atheist, but surely a fundamentally oriented individual whose existence is unified by (at least) love, chemistry, and neuroscience. or do you think he is aimless, passing among at least those three "lords"?
Love is everything. To me where real love exists a person is properly oriented.
i quite agree :)

what are five things you dearly love?



Has he never heard of women? We do represent 51.5% of the world's population after all.
Hear, hear!
Very interesting observation. Many Catholics in public prayers try to avoid such references but it strikes me as artificial. To me "man" means humankind and not distinguishing between male and female. "God made man".
That's because you are a man.
Women DO NOT hear it that way!
How would you feel if the word used was "woman" - "womankind" would it mean the same thing?
There's this word 'people' which many of the male persuasion appear not to have heard of............
Polytheism is not idolatry, any more than the veneration of statues of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and the saints is idolatry (an accusation that's often made against the Catholic Church, even today). No intelligent person of any faith believes that the statues themselves are divine.

Nor do polytheists "aimlessly [pass] from one lord (or lady) to another". Many of us are henotheists - we acknowledge that there are many gods, but choose to devote the bulk of our attention to one in particular. Others of us feel that we are the ones who are chosen, or called, by a specific deity (or a specific pantheon). And some of us believe that the unseen world is like a well-run monarchy; a King or Queen does not rule single-handedly, but delegates various functions to lesser nobles, and likewise the God Beyond All Gods delegates the running of the universe to gods and goddesses of various specialties, and one wouldn't petition the Chancellor of the Exchequer about military matters.

I found the Oliver Sacks article delightful! I'm only 65, but I'm still planning on living as long as I can - there's just so much to see and do!

I am not a polytheist but I have known some people who prefer to view deity that way.
I wondered at times if it was any different than referring to Jesus as the Sacred Heart or the Good Shepherd. Or to Mary as Our Lady of Lourdes or The Sorrowful Mother. Divinity can have many faces to appeal to the limitations of human understanding and our many needs.

Yes, I think humans do need a "fundamental orientation which unifies... existence".
But the words
"Idolatry, then, is always polytheism, an aimless passing from one lord to another."
seem to be an unfortunate choice.
And what is the "time of promise"?
Today may be the only day for many. Is it not imperative to actualize the promise as far as we are each capable? Isn't realized eschatology the presence of Christ here amongst us?

Today's N Y Times is sitting on the table. I hadn't gotten to Sacks yet. I'll have to be sure to read it.
I find all your comments very interesting and challenging. They give one plenty to reflect on. Thank you so much for your contributions.
No worrying responsibilities, lots of time to relax, walk, and listen to music, good health (TG), respect from junior members of family (even nowadays), attend church services, even mess around with laptops and blogs, etc.