A Franciscan Perspective for a Renewed Christian Humanism: Feast of Blessed John Duns Scotus at the Antonianum

On November 9, 2017 the liturgical memorial of Blessed John Duns Scotus was celebrated in the Pontifical Antonianum University.

After the rector’s greeting by Sr. Mary Melone, Mons. Franz Lackner, OFM, spoke on “Rediscovering John Duns Scotus: Thoughts-Approaches-Impulses” in the PUA Aula Magna.

Afterwards Br. Josip B. Percan, President of the Scotist Commission, addressed the assembly regarding the work in progress by the Commission itself.

The PUA’s celebration of the feast of Blessed John Duns Scotus ended after a brief break and the greeting of Br. Michael A. Perry, General Minister of the Order of the Friars Minor and Grand Chancellor of the University.

 

Extract from the intervention of

Fr. Michael A. Perry,

Minister General and Chancellor of the University

 

“A Franciscan Perspective for a Renewed Christian Humanism”

Let’s see how Franciscan Christocentrism permeates the rational will with dignity and how this focus points to a vision of human fulfilment in love, community and solidarity. Each of these aspects helps to form a renewed image of Christian humanism for today’s world.

Franciscan Christocentrism

While we are all familiar with the teachings of Scotus, according to which the Incarnation would have taken place regardless of man’s sin (or of the fall of Adam and Eve), maybe the same can’t be said with regard to the centrality of Christ’s humanity in Scotian thought. It is from his reflection on the human nature of Jesus Christ that Scotus derives his philosophy  on human dignity, on human will, and on selfless love.

The common nature that we share with Christ becomes a bridge that connects the history of salvation to human dignity. The entrance of the divine in human history, in fact, was not caused by our being sinners, but rather by the desire of God Himself to incarnate, a desire which preceded the creation, our ancestors and the sin of man. And  it this desire, says Scotus, which is Love. God desires ‘ co-lovers and this is wishing that others have in them his love – and that is to predestine them if you like, to have such a good as their prize in eternity’.

The Incarnation plays a crucial role in reflection of Scotus, not merely in respect of the nature of Jesus Christ, but in the implications it has on our common shared human nature. We have the same natural abilities that were in Jesus Christ: his ability to love God and others with generosity is our ability to love God and others with generosity. His ability to welcome the stranger reflects our own ability, or rather our vocation to look beyond our own communities to see others in the light of our bond with them. This bond, then, must be expressed through concrete actions: hospitable deeds, actions of care, of generosity and of solidarity, in order to develop the right relations, which is the true meaning of Justice.

The reflection of Scotus on human experience of Jesus Christ with respect to his relationship with God led him to affirm and defend the theory of maximum human dignity. Not only Christ shares our human nature in everything except sin, but we share the dignity and the capacity of his human nature. In our acts of knowledge we possess a natural capacity for the beatific vision, so we don’t need the light of glory to see God directly. In our will we possess the ability to show a generous love oriented towards others, the love of friendship.

From human dignity to freedom, self-control and solidarity

When Scotus reflects on the dignity of human love, describes the freedom of our will in terms of two distinct metaphysical leanings: the inclination to justice and the inclination to happiness or possession. The inclination to happiness is directed towards oneself and finding one’s own good. The inclination to justice recognizes the inherent good regardless of concern for oneself. This means that we have an innate tendency to seek our own good, just as – and this is important – we have a rational tendency to care for the good of others.  Together, these two constitute the “intrinsic rational freedom of the human will”.

These two tendencies are not two wills. These are two metaphysical guidelines that, in their interaction, form rational freedom. Their interaction reveals a fundamental ability to control one’s desires, in the recognition of a value that goes beyond oneself. Herein lies our ability to recognize and cherish the Supreme Good for itself. The inclination to justice is not only able to recognize good inherent in some subjects, but also constitutes a kind of “controller” of the inclination to possession, allowing the will to act in a reflective manner, with self control and in charge of itself.  This is the core of the usus pauper, a poor or controlled use – the real skill that we need in order to act in such a way that the goods of the Earth, our beautiful land, are shared equitably between all the children of God.

 

The full text (in Italian) of the speech can be read on this link.