Spreading with example
From San Francisco to John Paul II

Man gets the example and the opinions of those around him. Restoring the Christian life in society... is the challenge

Author: P. Fernando Gioia, EP | Source:

From San Francisco to John Paul II 
Spreading with example 

Man gets the example and the opinions of those around him. Restoring the Christian life in society... is the challenge 
By: P. Fernando Gioia, EP | Source: 

A certain time, Saint Francis of Assisi asked Fray Leo, his close disciple, to accompany him as he would preach a sermon. They left the convent, walked from one side of the city to the other and returned after a certain time. Fray Leo, perplexed, asked San Francisco, thinking he had forgotten, what had happened to the sermon. To this, the saint replied: "Our walk in the streets has been the sermon." It had been the phenomenon of contagion. To see a monk so humble, so collected in prayer, so attuned to the call to the poverty that God made him was a penetrating testimony, it was preaching. 

This makes us consider how the man spreads the example and the opinions of those around him. Also, the environments play a preponderant role in what we might call contagion. It is impossible two men do not influence each other, either for good or for evil. Many are concerned about the prevention of contagious diseases. Few realize or realizing, they take an attitude of vigilance, in front of the dangers of "spiritual" contagion in the conviviality of the men.

The influence exerted by Saint Francis of Assisi was similar to the impact produced by a San Juan Maria Vianney, the famous priest of Ars, who being unintelligent and of simple presence, exerted such a shudder that, when a winemaker of the Mâcnnais asked him what he had seen in the village of Ars he replied, "I have seen God in a man." He was so holy, that he could see that he was not God, but it was perceived that God was in him, something supernatural trans appeared in his person. 

A glance, an attitude of silence, a half-word, a presence, can create an atmosphere in one place. At the same time, the action exerted by the environments, the customs, the buildings, the ceremonies, the art in general-when not and particularly the music-, as well as other and many factors that make up the daily living of the men, have a powerful effect. 

Recalling the times of the great Patriarch of the Western monasticism Saint Benedict with his monks, in silence, discipline and work, prayer, study, and liturgical ceremonial, they ended up Christianizing a continent, and this reverberated in the world through the centuries. In their actions they exerted a healthy influence on towns and cities, marking the environment with a good example of their "ora et labora". Through the irradiation of their mystical, ideal of life and virtues, they conveyed pleasant perfume to their surroundings and in their apostolic missions, "reaching the great movement of piety and renewal in which the idea of Europe was formed" (Joseph Ratzinger, Convened in the way of faith).

It does not seem to be the opportunity to develop the various human types that throughout history were appearing as "contagion models." But remember that, from the middle of the twentieth century, new and singular models appeared in the midst of the deterioration of society. The First World War marked the end of a human type characterized by a form of being more ceremonious, where education and culture had a very large weight in human relations; times when religious influence was still prominent in social and personal life. 

It then appeared the so-called "cultural revolution", described by not few as postmodern, reflecting stereotypes of life characterized by bad manners, dirt, and the complete lack of composure. Attitudes incompatible with the ordered customs of human cohabiting fruit of evangelization which, through the centuries, brought men out of barbarism. These behaviors were diverting to the souls of the good and, in the long run, the true religion. It was, and is, the penetration of disorder, viscerally contrary to God himself, author of all forms of order. 

A bankruptcy of the life patterns was occurring, affecting the development of thought. This event coincided with what Paul VI pointed out: "Many psychologists and sociologists say that modern man has exceeded the civilization of the word, ineffectual and useless in these times, to live today in the civilization of the image" (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 42). The cinema, driven especially from the United States, with its images, was giving the models to be followed. It was the influence of Hollywood, which especially flooding the Western world, marked a time in the history of thought. Already today the shaping of people's thinking makes it more modern means of communication. They ceased to dominate the goods of the spirit, highlighting the material above all; as if life were just the pursuit of success and temporal well-being. Health, money, happiness, it's the myths. This ended up culminating in the deformation of the moral rules themselves.
"We live in a time characterized in large part by a subliminal relativism that penetrates all the environments of life," said Benedict XVI (24-9-2011). This phenomenon in which the complete truth is not considered-has come to have a charter of citizenship in the lifestyles, influencing human relations, and therefore on society, by the "contagion effect". 

John Paul II was seriously concerned about the avalanche of cultural changes that were being lived. He said that, urged to restore the Christian body of human society, and this would only be achieved with the presence of witnesses of the Christian faith, who overcome "the fracture between the Gospel and life, recomposing in their family life, at work and in society, that unity of life, which in the Gospel finds inspiration and strength to be realized in fullness "(Mane Nobiscum Domini, 34). 

Redoing, recomposing, restoring Christian life in society is the challenge. To achieve this, coherence is necessary to overcome the "fracture" of life that men today suffer. It will only be achieved by "permeating and perfecting the entire temporal order with the evangelical spirit" (Conciliar Decree Apostolicam Actuositatem, 5). 

By Fr. Fernando Gioia, EP 

(Article published in, 16-01-2016)

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