'We cannot be close to God without being close to others. Being close to God motivates us to actively participate in Society.'
Maria Formosa lives in B’kara, She is married with three grown-up boys. She is currently Ass. Head at Stella Maris School, Balzan. She has been involved in education all her adult life. For some time, she and her husband were involved in the Grufan Cana group and in the Commission for the Family of their parish.
What is the Common Good?
In a conference in Rome about this subject, FR. William Rehg SJ divides this into three areas: Basic Rights – Respect for persons; Interpersonal Flourishing and Society Integration.
God created man in his image, “And now we will make human beings; they will be like us and resemble us.” (Gen:2-26). St Augustine claims that man’s whole life is a search and quest for God, his Creator, as demonstrated in his prayer, “Our heart will never rest until we find You, O Lord.”
This makes us all members of the same human family, each of us equal in dignity and rights because we are all children of the One God who created all for all mankind. Just as a family functions best when united in scope, even so, but on a larger scale, human kind must all work with the same aim to participate in society and to contribute to the common good of all.
We understand God to be a Trinity of persons and so we see the image of God reflected not only in individuals, but also in communities. In order for the whole community to advance, be more productive, helpful and respectful to one another, we are invited to help one another to become better persons for the good of all, with emphasis on human dignity and human rights which are every person’s inheritance. Every social situation we are faced with should provoke the question, “ Does this situation respect and promote human dignity?”
Catholic Social Teaching promotes solidarity amongst all of mankind. Just because my family and I are comfortable, lack nothing and are respected, we as Children of the One God, should not live in oblivion to the needs of those around us. We do not live alone but in communities so we are called to look out for others.
When we perceive injustice, lack of dignity, lack of human rights, people deprived of their basic needs (safety, hygiene, education, and opportunities), a vague sort of compassion or shallow distress at others’ misfortune is not enough. As Christians we are called to involve ourselves in striving for change so that every person will be able to reach their potential. How can we be at peace when others are suffering injustice and lack of basic needs when God created enough for everyone?
We suffer together and rejoice together as the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:26-27). We share a common world so we are part of a network of relationships that join each in responsibility towards others and to all of creation. (Gula, 2006) The rational model emphasizes personal responsibilities for protecting the bonds of peace and justice that sustain human relationships. (Gula, 2006).
Though religion is personal, it is not a private affair. I cannot be saved by myself, my salvation needs the support, collaboration and help of others. As Disciples of Christ, following His example of love, forgiveness and service, we are seeking God in this world, as well as preparing to meet Him in the next. The Gospel teaches that it is not enough to love our neighbor by helping those in need, but it also implies that we must address the causes of poverty and destitution. (Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, 1996). The deepening of the spiritual life goes hand in hand with practical concern for our neighbor, and thus with social concern. Jesus Christ challenges us to see His presence in our neighbor, especially those who suffer or who lack what is essential to their fulfillment
We are created in the image of God. The Holy Trinity is a divine society of three Persons: Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. To suppose that we can live as isolated individuals is a mind-set worth challenging. We are all subject to moral principles in our own lives and these are demanded by society as a whole, structured so that all participate for the betterment of the common good of all. We should all contribute to make society better than we have found it. This is especially so for those who engage in political life. People who enter politics have a duty to regard themselves as engaging in evangelization provided they do so in accordance with the principles of Catholic Social Teaching. As Catholics we need an informed social conscience. Laws must be enforced in such a way that they do not serve the interest of a few but rather protect and ensure the common good.
When enacting laws, a democratic government requires the presence of a system of common values. Though the good of the majority is to be safeguarded, it should not become a tyranny in which the majority oppresses the minority. In our search for good, we must uphold human rights and there is no “right to choose” when that claim harms others.
We all have a right to private property but, for example in the case of land, that right is abused of if by developing a protected area, we are harming the environment. When we seek our rights, we must never forget or ignore the rights of each one in the community, especially those who cannot fend for themselves, such as the case of the unborn child, the right to education, work or decent housing.
As individuals it can be hard, though not impossible, to fight poverty or injustice but in a community we can promote solidarity far more effectively. We should not only help by contributing money for food, but also by seeing that all, especially the poor, the emarginated and all vulnerable people, have all the necessary support that helps them to have access to education, justice and work.
Through solidarity and voicing our concern, we show our responsibility to one another. No matter our status in life, we have a duty to share in promoting the well being of all. Everyone has a right to benefit from that welfare. Catholic Social Teaching recognizes the fundamental and positive value of business, the market, private property and free human creativity in the economic sector. However it teaches also that the poor must not be excluded from society and the gap between rich and poor should be diminished as much as possible. “All people have a right and duty to participate in the economic, political and cultural life of a society”. No person or group should be excluded from participating, even minimally, in society. In Gaudium et Spes we read, “Every social group must take account of the needs and legitimate aspirations of other groups, and even of the general welfare of the entire human family.” (Pope Paul VI, 1965).
In Pacem in Terris, para 56, Pope John XXII, says, “We must add, therefore, that it is in the nature of the common good that every single citizen has the right to share in it - although in different ways depending on his tasks, merits and circumstances. Hence even civil authority must strive to promote the common good in the interest of all, without favouring any individual citizen or category of citizen.”
As citizens of the state, we are called to take part in public life for the benefit of the community and promote the common good. As human beings we can only reach our full individual potential when we work together for the good of all society as a whole. Our obligation to love our neighbour is not only an individual commitment; it requires a broader social responsibility. (Himes, 2001) As Pope Benedict XV1 said in his address to ambassadors in May 11th 2006, “We must be actively committed and concerned about the well being not only of ourselves but of the whole of society. We must seek first of all the common good of the country’s people and, on a wider scale, of the whole of humanity.”
This is Christ’ teaching. In the parable of The Good Samaritan, He teaches us who our neighbor is. In His teaching regarding widows, He shows concern and His miracle of the paralyzed man He shows His concern for the whole man. Likewise the Church teaches love of our neighbor. This is our salvation. Jesus said, “Who serves me must follow Me”.
By Maria Formosa
We asked Maria why she chose to attend the Catholic Social Teaching Course:
"I like history a great deal, whether it is World, European or Church history. When the opportunity came that I take up the Catholic Social Teaching course, I thought it would give me an insight into recent Church history, never realizing the rich social teaching the Church has to offer to all those who want to learn the true value the Church gives to Man in his whole totality in regards to his fulfillment as a whole person whether at his work-place, in his education, in his family environment and even at his leisure-time.
This course opens up a true vision of how mankind should truly live in full respect, love, integrity and wholesomeness together in the world. Since Pope Leo x111 teachings up to the present Pope’s encyclicals, CST is still very relevant, whether it has to do with Work, Social Justice, Common Good, Private Property, the Environment etc. As Jesus Christ’ followers we must imitate Him. I also find a lot of good could be brought about if we truly follow The Church’s Teaching to make a better world."
Wikipedia (2012) Common Good. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_good
R. M. Gula SS, (200 "Understanding Sin Today" Catholic Update. Retrieved from
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales (1996). The Common Good and Catholic Social Teaching. Retrieved from http://www.dnu.org/service/commongood.pdf
Pope Paul VI (1965) Guadium et spes. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_cons_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html
Pope John XXII (1963) Pacem in Terris. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_xxiii/encyclicals/documents/hf_j-xxiii_enc_11041963_pacem_en.html.
Himes KR. OFM (2001) Responses to 101 questions on Catholic Social Teaching, Paulist Press, New York.
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