October 05, 2020

A Chaplain’s Thoughts: Community and social friendship

By Rev. James F. Quigley, O.P. ’60

Greetings, alumni! I offer a modest and hopefully, a humble, alumni chaplain’s reflection.

I’m sure we are all aware of gross divisions in our society. The culture we live in has become coarsened, hardened. Someone has said we live in a “post polite” world. Hate speech, rude and offensive language, and unfounded accusations are tolerated, sometimes even expected. News outlets, social media, and entertainment often does not hesitate to repeat gossip, lies, scandal. Respect for another person of course, is the casualty.

Even as we face the coronavirus pandemic, selfish, ugly disagreements threaten the possibility of ending the plague and saving lives. Self interest stomps the common good.

But is this any way to live? All of us, we face a momentous task of healing, because we can’t go, we should not go, on like this and still be a “people.” Our moral vision impels us to do something, to be better people than we are presently. 

Jesus preaches moral community, or in the recent words of Pope Francis, “social friendship.” If we choose to follow Jesus, we are to be grounded in love. St. Thomas Aquinas defines love as “doing good to another.” Just imagine what a world would look like if we all did that.

Certainly, obviously, there can be a variety of positions on issues, and certainly we can disagree. But can’t we respectfully listen to each other, talk to each other, reconcile our differences? Can’t we accept disagreement but still live peacefully? Can’t we constructively work together and make changes to correct sinful structures that damage women, men, and children?

Believing followers of Jesus, and of course, other women and men of faith or no faith, need to be different, to refuse to be part of a culture of hate. We live by a different anthropology. We see another person, we see every other person, ultimately, as an image of God. The Catholic Church, notwithstanding our weaknesses, is a community-minded faith of sisters and brothers. It is called to set an example.

What cements us together is love, is doing good to the other. As St. Paul says, “Do nothing out of selfishness or vanity, rather humbly regard the other as more important than oneself, both looking out for the best for all.”

Jesus tells us: “Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in their midst.” So let us all pray. Pray for each other, pray with each other, pray often, pray hard, pray for an end to unhealthy division.

Community, a real community, is a possibility and it is our hope. Isn’t that the faith community we should be here at Providence College?

Rev. James F. Quigley, O.P. ’60 is an associate chaplain of the Providence College National Alumni Association.