Creative Courage

In the apostolic letter Patris Corde, Pope Francis praises the virtue of creative courage which emerges in the face of difficulty, when “we can either give up and walk away, or somehow engage with it. At times, difficulties bring out resources we did not even think we had”[1]. We believe that our times – on both a worldwide and local level – urgently require the combination of creativity and courage if we are to avoid the twin pitfalls of cynicism and resignation.    

As we read in Book of Proverbs: “Where there is no vision, the people perish”[2]. This failure of vision is also a failure of imagination, a failure to imagine a different future than the present we live in, a failure to dream that another society and world is possible. Ultimately, this widespread lack of vision reflects a lack of hope. In fact, not without reasons, many are those who adopt the cynical attitude of: Things have always been this way, there is no difference between political parties, it’s useless trying, nothing can be done (“m’hemmx x’tagħmel”).

In this context, our society urgently needs to hear and rally around a prophetic and credible vision for us and our children. The vision proposed by the Church and specifically by Pope Francis in Laudato Si and Fratelli Tutti speaks of a society built on justice, truth and solidarity. It is a society whose wealth no longer depends on the production of “waste” – products and people – but which promotes the common good which should always be similar to a multiplication sum: if any one number – or person in this case – is zero then the total is always zero. If anyone is left out and deprived of what is essential, then the common good has been betrayed. In other words, the common good is the whole network of social conditions which enable human individuals and groups to flourish and live a full, genuinely human life. The fulfilment which the common good seeks to serve is the flourishing of humanity, expressed in the phrase “integral human development”. This is the vision which should capture the imagination of all people of good will and which requires a strong dose of creativity given that we are miles away from this reality.

In fact, many are those who will object to this vision, not in principle, but by arguing that it is an impossible and hopeless task. It is our duty, as Christians and citizens of goodwill, to provide indications of hope. We are maybe in the presence of something new which is being born which, alas, is not clearly discernible in the alternatives of the present[3]. The Church itself ought to be a key indication of hope, a living alternative, infusing and challenging the social sphere with a more radical vision of God’s dream for humanity: In the priority we give to those with no economic value, in the way we strive for justice even when all seems lost, in the way we continue to faithfully engage in dialogue when all around us walls of prejudice are being erected, in the way we continue to serve faithfully in the absence of visible results.

Only in this way can we become beacons of hope and be credible witnesses when we declare that our broken relationships with God, each other and our common home can be restored, healed and reconciled. In the eyes of God, there is no lost cause. Not only on an individual level but also when it comes to the possible transformation of the political, social and economic structures which led to the death of Lassana, Daphne and Miriam. It is up to us to be embrace that kind of hope that “creates a willingness to position oneself in a hopeless place and be a witness, that allows one to believe in a better future, even in the face of abusive power”[4].

It goes without saying that this hopeful creativity must be lived with courage. It’s the courage of those pioneers who choose the less-trodden path, of those bridge-builders who risk being misunderstood by all sides and labelled as outsiders by everyone, of those upright and principled people who end up politically homeless, of the fool who “chooses the well-being of the most forgotten over the comfort of the crowds”[5]. It takes courage to abandon the comfort of your “clan” or the comfortable neutrality of the armchair critic. As a community of faith we always have to ask ourselves if we are sometimes guilty of living the complacency of those who find themselves on the side of social privilege and thus fail to work courageously to transform the sinful structures of society.  The transforming force of the Gospel can never be domesticated, and it’s up to us to make sure that a holy restlessness continues burning from within as we engage in the hopeful renewal of society with courage and creativity.

[1] Pope Francis, Patris corde, 5.

[2] Prov 29, 18.

[3] Cf. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Prisoner for God. Letters and Papers from Prison, Macmillan Company, 1953, 14.

[4] Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy. A book of Justice and Redemption, Spiegel & Grau, 2015, 219.

[5] Archdiocese of Malta, One Church, One Journey. A process of ecclesial renewal, 41.