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POLYVALENCE/ "Truth is symphonic," it resists reduction

March Thu 21, 2013

Infophoto  Infophoto

Since my post Pope Francis: What's in a name?, the Holy Father has provided us with an answer to the question, "Why the name Francis?" In his address to journalists last Saturday, Pope Francis shared the following: “Some people wanted to know why the Bishop of Rome wished to be called Francis. Some thought of Francis Xavier, Francis De Sales, and also Francis of Assisi. I will tell you the story. During the election, I was seated next to the Archbishop Emeritus of São Paolo and Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes: a good friend, a good friend! When things were looking dangerous, he encouraged me. And when the votes reached two thirds, there was the usual applause, because the Pope had been elected. And he gave me a hug and a kiss, and said: “Don't forget the poor!” And those words came to me: the poor, the poor. Then, right away, thinking of the poor, I thought of Francis of Assisi. Then I thought of all the wars, as the votes were still being counted, till the end. Francis is also the man of peace. That is how the name came into my heart: Francis of Assisi.

I appreciate the clarification and love the simplicity of Pope Francis' story (who wouldn't?). Predictably, I have received a few "nanner, nanner"-type replies to my post, despite the fact that I admitted to not knowing why he chose "Francis" and thought I made it clear that I was simply exploring possibilities, which exploration spilled over into my next post (Concrete polyavlance: the communion of saints). These responses brought to my attention, yet again, how on-line interaction often renders us less mature and causes some people to regress to Piaget's "concrete operational" stage of development.

All of this brings me back to the concept, or idea, of polyvalence. I want to apply that concept more specifically to language. So, for an explication of what I was pointing to as we awaited some clarification as to why the Holy Father chose the name "Francis," I turn to that philosopher whose prose style is said to have been dubbed by Michel Foucault obscurantisme terroriste (i.e., terrorist obscurantism- I have never found it to be so, but some of Foucault writings are, in my estimation, moral terrorism). Whatever else might be written of Derrida, he grasped the mystery of language and how it is language that leads us into an intense encounter with reality ("In the beginning was Logos"- John 1:1).



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