“Catholic patience is the opposite of militant triumphalism. It is a eucharistic love that is willing to wait for the other as long as is needed.”
In his essay, “The Person: Subject and Community,” published in 1976, Karol Wojtyla suggests that the nature of the person in relation to community is perhaps the central question of our time; it is a question that lies at the heart of human praxis, politics, morality, and culture. He writes:
Philosophy comes into play here in its essential function: philosophy as an expression of basic understandings and ultimate justifications. The need for such understandings and justifications always accompanies humankind in its sojourn on earth, but this need becomes especially intense in certain moments of history, namely, in moments of great crisis and confrontation. The present age is such a moment. It is a time of great controversy about the human being, controversy about the very meaning of human existence.2
The crisis that Wojtyla seemed to have in mind in 1976 was the dominance of Marxist ideology throughout much of Europe. It is then perhaps surprising to read his analysis of the cultural situation in 1995, six years after the breakup of the Eastern Bloc, and just four years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. If anything, the crisis regarding the meaning of human existence has become more pronounced. The dominant ideology is no longer Marxism, but a form of liberalism that “exalts the isolated individual in an absolute way, and gives no place to solidarity.”3 Simultaneous with this individualistic understanding of the person is a reductive view of nature; creation is taken as dead matter and, in the name of scientific and technological progress, is subject to every kind of manipulation.
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1. A version of this paper was presented at “Glaubhaft ist nur Liebe,” an international conference commemorating the centenary of the birth of Hans Urs von Balthasar, 6–8 October 2005 at the Lateran University in Rome.
2. Karol Wojtyla, Person and Community: Selected Essays, trans. Theresa Sandok (New York: Peter Lang, 1993), 220.