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Pontificating

by Msgr. Archimandrite Robert L. Stern

I don’t know if you usually do it.

If you do, I urge you to continue more strongly than ever before.

If you don’t, I strongly advise you to develop the habit.

What? … Why, pontificating, of course. No, no! Not pontificating in the sense of “acting or speaking pompously or dogmatically.” That definition is the result of a curious evolution of an excellent idea over the centuries. Let me explain what I mean.

Nowadays, the titles “Pontiff” or “Pontifex Maximus” are usually associated with the Pope. Actually, the Pope, after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, inherited these titles that formerly belonged to the emperor.

The Roman emperor had inherited – or assumed – the office and title of Pontifex Maximus, which in ancient, pagan Rome was that of the supreme religious authority.

“Pontifex” comes from two Latin words: pons (pontis), meaning a bridge, and facere, meaning to make. A pontifex is a bridge builder. (And, a Pontifex Maximus is the greatest bridge builder.)

Building a bridge in ancient times was no easy task. Spanning a broad river or a deep chasm was an engineering challenge – and often still is.

Yet, what could be more important than a bridge? A bridge unites two separated places and shores. A bridge facilitates travel, communication, trade and all kinds of exchanges.

Good roads and bridges were part of the success of the Roman Empire. They wove scattered communities and peoples into one political fabric.

I live on an island (Manhattan), so I’ve grown up with bridges and really appreciate them – especially the beautiful suspension bridges.

Their construction starts with two great towers sunk into the river bottom or the shore. When they are complete, a line is strung across the river – then a wire – then a stronger wire – then a bundle of wires. The net result is a pair of thick steel cables from which the roadway is hung.

Bridging the gulfs of isolation and ignorance, misunderstanding and prejudice, animosity, hatred and fear uses the same methodology. The bridge maker starts with one strand of contact and communication, reaching across from person to person, from heart to heart.

As communication becomes more frequent, as more persons relate one to the other, the fabric begins to be woven and the bridge to be built.

The paradox of the modern world is that, in spite of so many tools of communication with a potential to weave us into one, so many chasms still divide us.

By all means pontificate as much as you can. Whether you’re seeking to solve international problems or to restore unity to family or community, build bridges.

May your care and concern span the differences that fragment the world! May the subtle threads of your love be woven into those cables that sustain the great bridge of life!

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Msgr. Archimandrite Robert L. Stern, Secretary General of CNEWA



Tags: Unity Assimilation