Tweet of the Pope on the meaning of the “Field Hospital:”
What is it?
What does “evangelise” mean? To give witness with joy and simplicity to what we are and what we believe in.
I comment: To give witness is an involvement of the self as a show and tell. It does not mean (necessarily) writing out an argument in prose that is to be read and pondered. It is a first person announcement that is to be repeated over and over something like “fire!” “fire!” or “The English are coming!”
This is what the pope is doing. He is re-educating us into the “kerygma” when he writes: “we have rediscovered the fundamental role of the first announcement of kerygma, which needs to be the center of all evangelizing activity and all efforts at Church renewal. The kerygma is Trinitarian. The fire of the Spirit is given in the form of tongues and leads ut to believe in Jesus Christ who, by his death and resurrection , reveals and communicates to us the Father’s infinite mercy…. (T)he first proclamation must ring out over and over; ‘Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.’ This first proclamation is called ‘first’ not because it exists at the beginning and can then be forgotten or replaced by other more important things. It is first in a qualitative sense because it is the principal’ proclamation, the one which we must hear again and again in different ways, the one which we must announce one way or another through the process of catechesis, at every level and moment.”
I interject: This kerygma works in the epistemological horizon of the subject. It is a direct call to the “I” with the goal of eliciting a response on the level of the “I” as action – a going forth of self as an exodus from the self. Doctrine, on the other hand, as prose is already a work of abstraction and is fundamental as the human way of knowing, but it is knowledge “about” rather than direct consciousness. Pope Francis explains:
“We must not think that in catechesis the kerygma gives way to a supposedly more ‘solid’ formation. Nothing is more solid, profound, secure, meaningful and wisdom-filled than that initial proclamation. All Christian formation consists of entering more deeply into the kerygma, which is reflected in and constantly illumines, the work of catechesis, thereby enabling us to understand more fully the significance of every subject which the latter treats.”
I interject again, and more deeply: The kerygma is the presented of the living Word of God. That is, it presents Christ Himself in His subjectivity: I Am – εγω ειμι (Jn. 8, 24, 28, 58). It presents what the intelligence has always been looking for, i.e., what it was made for: Being. But “Being” is not just “this” or “that.” By “Being” we mean the ultimate of what is real. But the existential ultimate of what is real is “the Word of God,” Who is a Person.
Consider Benedict XVI (Keynote Address to the Synod on The Word ofGod): “(T)he Word of God is the foundation of everything, it is the true reality. And to be realistic, we must rely upon this reality. We must change our idea that matter, solid things, things we can touch, are the more solid, the more certain reality. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount the Lord speaks to us about the two possible foundations for building the house of one's life: sand and rock. The one who builds on sand builds only on visible and tangible things, on success, on career, on money. Apparently these are the true realities. But all this one day will pass away. We can see this now with the fall of large banks: this money disappears, it is nothing. And thus all things, which seem to be the true realities we can count on, are only realities of a secondary order. The one who builds his life on these realities, on matter, on success, on appearances, builds upon sand. Only the Word of God is the foundation of all reality, it is as stable as the heavens and more than the heavens, it is reality. Therefore, we must change our concept of realism. The realist is the one who recognizes the Word of God, in this apparently weak reality, as the foundation of all things. Realist is the one who builds his life on this foundation, which is permanent. Thus the first verses of the Psalm invite us to discover what reality is and how to find the foundation of our life, how to build life.”
But this presupposes that the “I” of the “catechist” is on the way to becoming Christ, or trying to become Christ. Which is the situation with everybody. We are created in the image of the divine Persons and baptized into this responsibility to catechize. It is the act of going out of self of one who has been created constitutively relational (as the Son). And this is what makes the kerygma believable. That is, you are believable because you are (or are trying to be [which is the same]) what you are saying.
This is what the pope means when he refers to the Church as a “field hospital:” “I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds, You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the the wounds…. And you have to start from the ground up.”
What are the wounds? The loss of reason. That is, reason has been dumbed down to a registrar of data bases, facts and figures. But it has lost the meaning of meaning. That is, the person doesn’t know what anything means since he doesn’t know who he is, where he has come from, where he is going, and more importantly, where he should be going. This was the import of St. John Paul II’s “Fides et Ration.” It is not only a loss of faith, but the damage to reason because of the loss of faith. And it is essential to understand that the act of faith is an action of the whole person going out of self, and in so doing, to receive in oneself the Word of God. That is, the believer recovers the experience of what is really real by the experience of self-transcending, and in that process, reason recovers precisely what it is looking for. In a word, faith does not simply add revealed concepts to reason. It gives “Being” which is the self – the “I” – of the believer made in the image of God, and therefore – in its fashion – God.
And so, the wounded need to hear the Word of God in a staccato tweet – calling them to make the exodus from self.
Antoine de Saint Exupery on Pope Francis’ “Field Hospital”
This needs filling in. No one better than Antoine de Saint Exupery to express it: “What then are the expanses that we wish opened up for us? We are seeking to free ourselves from the prison walls that close in about us. It was thought that in order for us to grow it was enough to dress and feed us and to pander to all our wants. Thus, bit by bit, we became the petite bourgeois of Courteline, the village politician, the technician without any inner life. ‘We have been taught,’ you will reply, ‘we have been enlightened, we have been enriched more than anyone before us by the conquests of reason.’ But he who thinks that the culture of the mind is based on the knowledge of a series of formulae or the memorizing of acquired knowledge has a very poor idea of culture. Even the most mediocre Polytechnique student knows more about nature and law than Descartes, Pascal, or Newton. He is nevertheless incapable of a single one of the thought processes that Descartes, Pascal, Newton were capable of. These were cultivated men first and foremost. Pascal is primarily a style. Newton a man – he mirrors the universe. The ripe apple that fell in a meadow, the stars on a night in July, spoke to him in a language he could understand. Science for him was life.
“And now we find, to our surprise, that there are mysterious conditions that fertilize us. We breathe only if we are bound to others by a common aim outside ourselves. We, sons of plenty, find an inexplicable comfort in sharing out our last rations in the desert. Among those of us who have known the great joy of breakdowns and repairs in the Sahara, all other pleasures seem futile. (…)
“There are two million men in Europe without aim or direction who ought to be reborn. Industry has torn them up from their ancestral peasant roots and confined them in those vast ghettos that resemble a giant marshaling yard cluttered with lines of black cars. Out of the depths of these dormitory towns they ought to be reborn…
“What did we need in order to be reborn? To give ourselves. We dimly apprehended that one human being cannot communicate with another except through the same imagery. Pilots meet in the fight for the mailbag – just like the followers of Hitler if they sacrifice themselves for him, or like mountain climbers if they strain toward the same summit. Men are drawn together not by confronting each other but only by sharing similar ideals. We were thirsting for comradeship in a world that had become a desert. The taste of bread shared among comrades made us accept the values of war. But when straining toward the same goal, we do not need war in order to feel the warmth of comradeship. War deceives us. Hate adds nothing to the exaltation of the contest.
The Cause of the Wounds: “We can no longer survive on refrigerators, politics, card games, and crossword puzzles. We can no longer live without poetry, color, love. One only need listen to fifteenth-century village songs to realize how much ground has been lost. Nothing remains but the robot-voice of the propaganda machine (forgive me) Two billion human beings hear only the robot, understand ony the robot – become robots. All the upheavals of the last thirty years have only two causes: the dead end of the ninetheenth-century’s economic system, and spiritual despair. Why did Mermoz follow his fool of a colonel, if not from spiritual hunger? Why Russia, why Spain? Men tried out the Cartesian values but, except for the natural sciences, without success. There is only one problem” to rediscover that there is a spiritual life, which ranks higher than intelligence and which alone satisfies man. This goes beyond the problem of religion, which is only one form of spiritual life (but perhaps one leads to the other). Spirital life begins when a human being is ‘seen’ to be more than the sum of his component parts. The love for one’s own home – this love that is impossible to feel in America - is part of the spiritual life, like the village fete and the cult of the dead…. Once the German problem has been dealt with, the real problems will become apparent. At the end of the war, it is unlikely that speculation on the American stock exchange will be enough to divert the attention of the world fr om its true problems, as it did in 1919. In the absence of a strong spiritual current, sects will spring up like mushrooms and devour each other…. Refrigerators are interchangeable – and homes, too, if they represent nothing more than a bundle of habits – so also with a wife, a religion, or a political part. One cannot even be unfaithful: There is nothing to be unfaithful to. Far from where? Unfaithful to what? A human desert. How quiet and sensible the men in my group are. I can’t help thinking of the old Breton sailors… Nowadays, men are kept quiet by gin rummy or bridge, according to their social position. We are astonishingly emasculated. And so, we are finally free. Our arms and legs have been cut off, we’re left free to walk. I hate this age, where, under a universal totalitarianism, people become as docile as cattle – polite and quiet. And that’s supposed to represent moral progress!... One safely locks up the Cezannes and Van Goghs in a concentration camp and then offers color prints to the submissive cattle. But where is the United States heading, and where are we heading, for that matter, in this age of universal bureaucracy? Robot-man alternating between work on the conveyor belt and gin rummy - stripped of all creative power, incapable of creating, from the depths of the village, a new dance or a new song, spoon-fed with a ready-made, standardized culture as one feeds hay to cattle. That is what man is today…. Today also people commit suicide, but their suffering is on the order of a violent toothache. It has nothing to do with love…. Since I began writing, two comrades have gone to sleep next to me in my room. I’ll have to go to bed too, since I presume my light disturbs them … Both men are wonderful in their way – upright, honorable, clean, loyal. I don’t know why, looking at them sleeping, I feel a sort of impotent pity; because although they are unaware of their unease, I feel it. Yes, they are uptight, honorable, clean, loyal, but also terribly poor – they are so much in need of a god.”
 Pope Francis, “The Joy of the Gospel,” #164.
 It also must be said that the turn to the subject is not a turn to epistemological subjectivism but the contrary, since the human person believing is the locus of greatest ontological density. Dietrich von Hildebrand remarked on this topic: “the first prejudice is the notion that one abandons the metaphysical plain and glides off into a merely ‘psychological’ plain, when, in order to understand the essence of love, the personal act of love is taken as a starting oint. It is even thought that one withdraws to an immanent plain and considers a purely subjective aspect; and that in so doing one cuts oneself off from the profound, great world of elementary, objective realities.
This is an entirely unfounded prejudice. If this were true, it would also not be permissible to start in the analysis of knowledge or the will form the personal act. No one has thought, however, of regarding the consideration of the personal act of knowledge or of the will as a gliding off into mere ‘psychology,’ as a retreat to a merely subjective aspect of knowing, as remaining in the confines of the immanent.
“At the bottom of this prejudice is also the erroneous conception that impersonal being is somehow more objective than personal being. One fails to recognize that personal being stands incomparably higher than all impersonal being, and that in doing justice to the special characteristic nature of personal being, one penetrates much deeper into the realm of being and of metaphysics;” Dietrich von Hildebrand, “The Essence of Love and Need for Phenomenological Metaphysics,” Aletheia, Vol. 1 Metaphysics University of Dallas Press, (1977) 1.
 Antoine de Saint Exupery, “Wartime Writings – 1939-1944,” HBJ (1986) 4-6.
 Ibid 134-138