Sunday, December 8, 2013

Something To Rejuvenate The Human Spirit

I suspect that as a lot of us get older, especially with the context that the years behind us provide, it is difficult not to submit to deep cynicism, even despair. Words that may sound fresh to some are ones that we have heard enough times before to interpret as the platitudes they frequently are. And yet, there is always something or someone that comes along to rescue us from absolute, soul-numbing despair. Nelson Mandela was one such person, and I believe Pope Francis is becoming another such individual.

On this Sunday morning I offer you two letters from today's Star on Mandela's legacy, and an excerpt of a piece by Daniel Baird on the Pope. I hope they provide you, as they did me, a measure of solace.

Africa’s icon of freedom and justice, Editorial Dec. 6

Most exceptional about Mandela’s tenure as president of South Africa was his refusal to punish white South Africans for the power they had unjustly wielded for so many years. For him, reconciliation trumped revenge. A lifelong defender of sovereignty for oppressed peoples and marginalized nations, Mandela used his global stature to defend various independence movements in Africa and around the world. At times, Mandela has also been a severe critic of the United States and the United Kingdom, accusing both of interfering in the affairs of other countries.

He will be remembered as one of the world’s greatest politicians, champion of human rights and one of the most inspiring figures of this century. His death will be mourned for years to come. While the dark clouds of racism, bloody conflicts and violence swell ominously on the horizon today, Mandela’s heartening message is more timely than ever: “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Javed Akbar, Ajax

We are constantly bombarded by reports of the evil deeds of tyrant-dictators, suicide bombers, serial killers, drug lords, etc., so it’s good to be reminded from time to time that there are also great role models like Nelson Mandela for our children to look up to. Mandela could have become a dictator, instead he became a democratically elected president who spread hope instead of despair, forgiveness instead of revenge and love instead of hate. Never have so many Africans, and many non-Africans, owed so much to one man. Nelson Mandela was a great leader for all reasons.

William Bedford, Toronto

Daniel Baird writes of a pope who seems to practice what Christ preached: humility, compassion, and the avoidance of those things that take us from our true humanity and spirituality:

Francis, in his first Apostolic Exhortation, entitled Evangelli Gaudium, issues the following observation and warning:

“To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed,” he writes. “Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us.”

Coming from a man who reportedly sneaks out at night in the guise of a regular priest in order to visit Rome's homeless, it is the kind of message I think we can all positively respond to.


  1. Lorne, first welcome back friend. I hope you had good vacations.

    I believe no one stands up to Mandela. He is the best leader who walked this planet and world has ever known. He has been compared to Ghandi and Abe Lincoln but I think he tops them all. No one suffered as much as he did for a great cause and then he did not go for revenge. I will recommend to read his autobiography -Long Walk to Freedom-. There is no comparison to him. Although he lived to be 95 years old I was very saddened by his death. His work and memories will live for ever.

    1. Thanks. LeDaro. We had a very nice time, and the weather was excellent.

      I agree completely with your assessment of Mandela. Such individuals are exceedingly rare, and I think enough recognized him for his greatness of spirit while he was alive (unlike certain politicians I could name who are now lionizing him) for him to realize how loved he was by so many millions.

      I have not read yet Long Walk To Freedom, but will do so in the near future.

  2. Mandela was irreplaceable, Lorne. But that doesn't mean that another leader will not arise and continue his long walk to freedom. Perhaps Francis will be such a leader. We shall have to wait and see.

    1. In a world with so few to truly inspire us, Owen, I hope Francis is such a one.


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