Running out of Time

 

I know the author from previous books. In the latest one I had read by him, in 2016, he invited the reader to silence – silence as a buffer against the constant assault to which our senses are subject to these days; when technology and materialism talk so loud we can barely hear our own thoughts.

And so he opens his newest book, released a few days ago in the U.S. , touching exactly what I had been wondering about: “Why speak up once more? In my last book, I invited you to silence.” And he then immediately admits, “However, I can no longer be silent.”

The author sees the confusion around him and is worried. The title of his new book reflects his feelings – The Day is Now Far Spent. By Cardinal Robert Sarah. More than worried, Robert Sarah is terrified that we are running out of time.

Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput, in his comments on Sarah’s book, on the back cover, wrote that describing it as a tour de force would be “an understatement”. He goes further and adds that the book is “astonishing, clear, simple, visionary, and filled with hope.”

I do not know anymore by what serendipity I got to discover Cardinal Sarah’s writing; it must have had something to do with the research I was doing for my own books. Before I turned the last page of the first chapter in God or Nothing I knew I wanted to read every book by this author. I soon forgot the research goals and abandoned myself to the incredibly satisfying experience of reading Sarah’s writing – it felt as if he had written it for me; was speaking with me. I wanted more and The Power of Silence followed.

Writing skills apart, Robert Sarah, a cardinal since 2010, was appointed prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments by Pope Francis in 2014. However, living in the inner circle of the Church’s power in Rome does not seem to have inoculated him against the harsh reality of our days. The ancient walls around Vatican Hill did not keep him away from urbi et orbi (city and world). On the contrary. If anything, the longer he lives in Rome, it appears, the more sensible he becomes, the more aware he grows – as his books show – of where we are going, and how fast; without looking back, without a moment’s indecision or pause for reflection.

(After all, as long as my smart phone works and I have social media access 24/7 via the small screen of my even smarter watch, who cares where the world is going, right?)

The Guinean prelate, born in Ourous in 1945, has no problem using strong and clear language to describe the social and spiritual disaster of our recent years, which no doubt attracts an abundance of criticism from different groups and organizations . And yet, even if what we read on those pages is discomforting and painful at times, I find it soothing that a Churchman of such stature, sitting high with a powerful dicastery in Rome, sees the world precisely as it is. Sarah has heavy words for both sides; us, the secular society, and for his brother priests and bishops: “A priest is a good shepherd. He is not there to invest his time primarily in advocacy of social justice, democracy, ecology, or human rights. These diversions turn the priest into an expert in areas that are far removed from the priestly identity intended by Christ.”

I agree – we have been flooded with politicians, economists, and political commentators while there is a troubling shortage of holy human persons.

The book’s remarkable message is conveyed by means of Sarah’s conversation with French writer/journalist Nicolas Diat. It is not the first time Diat and Sarah have a heart-to-heart to produce a great book – it happened in God or Nothing (2015) and The Power of Silence (2016) where Diat’s questions lead the cardinal to expose the most vivid and rich description ever of life in a monastery.

As for Sarah’s new book, again it gets better with each page I turn. All I can say is  buy the book, read it, keep it as a loving and yet emphatic reminder that we have been wasting effort and resources on what does not matter; we are now running out of time to fix our many mistakes and that the day is now far spent…

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