We live in tumultuous times. And such times—conscientization around race, social and economic inequity, historical redress if not re-examination concerning past behaviour, both institutional and personal—call out for response.
Universities are sanctuaries, safe ground for sober reflection, as well as hallowed places where deep thinking can occur, bold and prophetic ideas probed, where the free exchange of opinion is respected.
Thomas Merton, the famous poet, essayist and monk (1915-1968), once observed in the heat of the Civil Rights crisis in the 1960s that the moral leadership of Martin Luther King, the nation-wide rise in awareness of the injustice faced by American Blacks, as well as various incidents like the Selma March and the Birmingham church burning resulting in the death of several children, all combined to create a Kairos moment, a spiritual threshold eruption that calls us to a new understanding.
What we are experiencing now—globally—around issues of justice is yet another such eruption that is concurrent with our viral eruption that spares no country. It is instructive to see them in tandem in terms of how they call all of us to some fresh and, yes, disruptive thinking.
Here is Pope Francis on the challenges we face with our unnerving conjunction of viruses biological and social:
On the one hand, it is imperative to find the cure
for a small but terrible virus, which is bringing the
whole world to its knees. On the other hand,
we must cure a great virus, that of social injustice,
marginalization, and the lack of protection of the
Catholic universities have a special obligation to heed this papal summons to solidarity, defined by Pope John Paul II with the strong clarity typical of his writing:
Solidarity is not a feeling of vague compassion or
shallow distress at the misfortunes of many people,
both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and
persevering determination to commit oneself to the
common good; that is to say to the good of all and
of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all.
—Dr. Michael W. Higgins
President, Corpus Christi College and St. Mark's College at UBC