By Gerard Pemberton
In a letter to the editor (CN, September 17) the writer quoted the advice of Fr Boatswain that prayer was 90 per cent listening to God. Fr Boatswain’s advice seems sound. We find God in silence within us. That is the personal dimension of spirituality.
But we live in noise around us. Noise is a dictatorship that captures our minds; it does not challenge our thinking since it numbs our minds as it usually has no meaning.
We love noise because it helps us hide our fears and sorrows. It numbs the hurt from our psychological wounds. That is not good because that turns our face away from God. We need quiet and calmness – the absence of noise. That is a good place for our well-being, for love, for understanding and for prayer.
According to Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, we can go deeper than that into a more meaningful space. We can learn “to be still and know God”. He tells us how in his book The Power of Silence – Against the Dictatorship of Noise.
Cardinal Sarah explains beautifully that God is silence. That is how we find Him. Even without reading the whole book, you can practise being calm and quiet. Then, gradually open your heart and mind. You will eventually find silence.
Today, we all need to be in that private place. Each of us needs to seek truth and pray for faith. We must live in hope rather than in resentment or anger. Why? We are witnessing a great deal of confusing noise about our economic situation. We all know the situation is bad. We all know it is getting worse for most of us.
What we need to know is in what direction are we heading. In which way are we taking the society forward? Monday’s Budget will tell us about the government’s income and expenditure. It will tell us who will get what, what is being taken away from whom and which groups will benefit. That is not a framework for good economics.
“The art of economics consists in looking, not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy. It consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups” (Economics in One Lesson, Henry Hazlitt). That is a way of thinking we must learn. The barrier is the concrete mix of old fears and deep resentment that hardens the biases and prejudices in our heart. That is human.
We need supernatural help to destroy that barrier. We can find that deliverance within us, if we take Fr Boatswain seriously and follow Cardinal Sarah’s way to silence. Once that barrier is destroyed, we will find the solutions to take us forward.
Here is an outline to assist with that work. We need a practical social philosophy to develop our own economic model. We must choose before somebody leads us where we do not want to go. We can be guided by the centuries-old wisdom of Catholic Social Doctrine (CSD); never Communism (according to Dr Eric Williams), but neither blind, greedy Capitalism. Nor do we want the unpredictable “pragmatism” we have practised for some years now.
That is what has produced noise, confusion and injustice. Last Sunday’s editorial provides a stepping stone for us to seek a good framework for our economics: “There needs to be as we celebrate our Republican anniversary a less urgent sense of charity and a greater desire for justice and equity”.
With humility and respect, we might infer from these words that it is useless talking about charity (including the preferential option for the poor etc.) unless we define a practical framework with solid, meaningful roots. Once we agree on that, then moral and spiritual values will provide clear guidance. Then we can practise the art of economics not merely for one group, but for all groups. The essential platform is in the foundation clauses already in our Constitution – moral and spiritual values.
Social justice, which includes economic equity, refers to the human dignity of each of God’s children. There is a sequence of papal encyclicals which shows us what is needed for social justice; take that to mean equity in the form of the charity which is God’s love.
Bishop Gabriel Malzaire of Roseau has provided us with a solid framework from the teaching of Pope Paul VI. The message in his complex book The Eucharist and the Poor is fortunately, simple. You and I must live one, integrated life in the spirit, in the silence within us, despite the noise around us. We can’t have multiple personalities and be healthy.
Bishop Malzaire explains that the identity and mission of the Church flows from “the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the Poor and Suffering”. We can convince all good Christians and non-Christians that our economics must begin from that point, even though the real presence is not as real to them.
We can convince them by uniting around a social development framework that accommodates all groups or by our witness. We need purposeful leadership in all aspects of our society to rise above the noise.
We must sound the trumpet for responsible people of action to step forward. Good people will hear the call. Let us in silence pray for that blessing, by listening to God.
Gerard Pemberton, a retired chief executive of a licensed financial institution, is a parishioner of Our Lady of Lourdes RC Church, Maraval.