Dialogue and Universalism 17 (1/2):71-80 (2007)

Abstract
Today’s world is one of quick civilization changes, influencing the development of human thought and the understanding of many basic values. Particularly the last decades have posed a concrete question about freedom and its limitations. The value of freedom is still today being reborn and restructured, once suspicious as a source of sin, now a challenge and a responsible task for the human. Similar questions have also arisen as to the ideas of human dignity and mutual respect, as inherent parts of the human condition.The contemporary world, despite being a new era in human history, does not, in fact, differ much from the Europe of the Middle Ages—divided and united by Christianity, paradoxical in that we strive to build solidarity and closeness and at the same time feel lost and helpless against the evil of the world. With that knowledge we may avoid unnecessary tragedies, learning from St. Francis times, where there was everything in that world—wars, fears, diseases on the one hand, asceticism and self-denial on the other—but no joy. A question may arise whether the voice of St. Francis would still be heard and listened to today. Whether his example would teach love, ecumenism and evangelical joy.The word «ecumenism» is and has been widely used, but often without any deeper reflection on its rich history and variety of meanings. Against the divisions and hatred of contemporary world, the idea of ecumenism increases its importance, becoming one of the main areas of Christian concern. Vatican II brought about a new era of ecumenical thinking, not only defining the theological basis for dialogue, but most importantly, showing its value and encouraging active participation of the faithful. Such participation requires, however, a man’s inner change–which cannot occur without appropriate formation and everyday practice of ecumenism. That presupposes respect for the other, pursuance of mutual trust, openness to widely understood cooperation and elimination of prejudice and fears. Such formation and change must encompass everyone without any difference, laymen and clergy, the faithful and the searching, so that the actions show true concern for the human as such. In that sense, ecumenism is an “inner conversion” (as says A. Skowronek), a new attitude towards the other—religion, human, culture.Against the above mentioned background, one can say that St. Francis exceeded whole centuries of ecumenical dialogue. However, to analyze his phenomenon, one must concentrate on the historical picture, leaving aside any strictly legendarymythological images.St. Francis’s popularity seems to be—almost irrationally—growing with the passage of time, despite not offering anything new or revealing. As a matter of fact, St. Francis reappears in all centuries, teaching the Christian message and teaching to love. His humanism is realized in kindness, solidarity, authentic respect and pure love of God and the human. The human is central in St. Francis’s thinking—great, beautiful and dramatic, full of dignity, and full of the conflict of his inborn goodness and threatening evil. The key to understanding him is only love, assuring freedom and spiritual richness. Yet St. Francis claims: Love is not loved. Re-reading the Gospel anew is a way to meet that Love, and oneself.The human always needed love. Love is inextricably connected with goodness and hence a positive relation towards the other. Those qualities, together with respect, acceptance and search for the truth, are also fundamental to ecumenism. Love appears to be the answer. St. Francis loved not only God, not only the human, but he loved and praised the beauty of all of God’s creation, his love being “the most literal realization of the message contained in the Gospel” (K. Starczewska). But as the first step to love and respect is for the human to respect his own dignity in himself. In that way, he shall also discovers his right to freedom and the truth about himself.The conclusion is the following: Undoubtedly, the character of St. Francis is a universal one. He spoke of his love of God—and human—in concrete deeds of love, never in abstract concepts. Tradition and legend have partly made St. Francis to a cheerful, carefree troubadour of love; however, he knew well the modern world, with its disagreements, hatred and half-truths. A simple tool in God’s hand, he made others overcome the prejudice in them and shake hands in reconciliation, practicing good deeds. Whether that still happens today, and the world adopts St. Francis’s humanistic attitude, depends also on us
Keywords Continental Philosophy  Language and Literature  Social and Political Philosophy  Social Science
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ISBN(s) 1234-5792
DOI 10.5840/du2007171/271
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