8.4.1 Living life to the full

Back to 8.3.4

Unit 8 Contents

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We now need to try to draw the threads together.

There are, of course, many things that are part and parcel of ‘living life to the full’ other than those we have looked at while working through this module.  Here are some:

  • strong friendships
  • music
  • sport
  • scientific study of nature – although this has come up, especially in Unit 3
  • physical and mental health
  • healing of the psychological wounds of the past
  • worship – although see the next screen
  • prayer
  • poetry
  • comedy

Nevertheless, the main topics the module has addressed are to do with things that, for almost all of us, fill a great deal of every day:

  • living amidst the rest of nature and using its products (Units 3 and 5)
  • work and rest (Unit 4)
  • buying and selling (Unit 5)
  • families and households (Unit 6)
  • duties and rights (Unit 7).

Getting things right in these areas of activity is basic for living life to the full – indeed is a very large part of it.

As well as looking at these areas, we have also given attention to the question of how to understand ‘human wellbeing’ overall.  As you know, the main terms in which CST describes this are the ‘common good’ and ‘integral human development’.  These were introduced in Unit 2.  What the latter means was explored more fully in Unit 6, in connection with ‘natural law’, which leads us towards it.

You might find it valuable, as we conclude, to look through the pages on these central elements in CST’s vision.

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Optional reading  (12pp)

VPlater Module A pages:

2.2.7 ‘The common good’

2.2.9 ‘Integral human development and natural law’

6.2.1 ‘Human wellbeing – what ‘natural law’ leads us towards’

6.2.2 ‘Natural law’

6.2.3 ‘“Human flourishing?”’

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One of the things that these pages bring out – especially those in Unit 6 – is that CST describes human development as ‘integral’ because it sees our wellbeing as inseparable from relationship with what transcends nature, with God.  Ultimately human fulfilment will be in perfected communion with the Holy Trinity.

This is the astonishing vision of salvation that Christianity presents and aspects of this have been expressed at several points during the module, from Unit 1 onwards.  We could not communicate CST’s view of ‘living life to the full’ if we left this out.  This is what ‘integral’ signifies.

What we have studied, considering both the specific areas of human activity and the overall understanding, therefore covers a very great deal of what matters for living fulfilled lives. This is even though there are other things which directly contribute, such as those listed above. Besides, some of these have come up indirectly. For example, work means music, scientific study or comedy for some people. You will remember Pope John Paul II’s very broad definition of work, within which these certainly fit. Or, in relation to friendships, Christianity’s eschatology generates a vision of human community that transcends the forms of this given in nature (Unit 6) – friendship being one good term for what that vision celebrates (cf. John 15.15).

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Reflection

Having (almost) reached the end of studying a module called Living Life to the Full, do you think it ‘does what it says on the tin’?

Try to recall various particular issues that have come up which might be relevant for answering this, e.g., ownership of property in Unit 4 and religious freedom in Unit 7.

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Continuing to try to tie the threads together, here are brief summaries of how the subject matter of each of units 3 to 7 relates to ‘living life to the full’.  These might add to what you thought of in response to that reflection.

Unit 3: Ecological responsibility

The human person, male and female, is made ‘in the image of God’.  This gives us our fundamental role in the world.  This is dominion or, as Pope John Paul II interpreted it, stewardship in the good creation that helps to bring out its potential.

In a reading set in 3.5.2, Celia Deane-Drummond points out that that means that ecologically responsible living is “the very means through which humans… express the image of God” (quoted in 3.5.2 Response to Exercise; italics original).

In light of this, what we can see as the most basic constituent of living life to the full is participating in such stewardship.

Unit 4: Working life

The main practical way in which we exercise that dominion, and so live out being ‘in the image of God’, is in the work we do, daily and weekly.  There is an immensely wide range of human activities that count as work which can contribute to that.

The issue of work has been central in CST since Rerum Novarum and Pope John Paul saw it as “the key to the social question”.  Screen 4.4.2 put it like this:

[T]he very purpose of human living in the world is to work and, in balance with that, to rest. In doing this men and women exercise their God-given role of dominion and help to enable all things to fulfil their potential.  “[B]y means of work, man participates in the activity of God himself. . .” (Laborem Exercens [LE], #26).

It is in work, so understood, that the human person becomes more fully human.  In this sense, work must always be for the worker.  That we get work and rest right is necessary for getting any other issue of social and economic life right.

Unit 5: Business and economic life

We all participate in the activities of business, whether only as purchasers or also as suppliers of goods and services.  Living life to the full includes doing so in ways that contribute to the common good, not just to furthering private interests.  In other words, it includes dealing with one another in markets in line with the principle of ‘the universal destination of material goods’.

While Unit 4’s point that work should enable us to be more fully human is about ‘work in the subjective sense’, Unit 5 is about the ‘objective sense’ of work – the effects that one kind of work, private business, has in the world through the goods and services that are supplied.

Lives lived to the full will involve many sorts of business activities which together make a huge contribution to the common good.

Unit 6: Family life in society

A domestic life, whether in marriage and family or in a ‘religious’ or other intentional community, that gives secure, good relationships is highly important for living life to the full.  We know, of course, that reality often falls far short of the ideal (and Unit 6 gave opportunity to reflect on this).

There is a mutually supporting relationship between the shared lives of families or other communities and other basic constituents of living well.  In particular, “the family is a community made possible by work,” (LE, #10, italics in original).

Moreover, as the metaphor used by Pope John Paul of the family as ‘domestic church’ helps to convey, the shared lives of households are to be, not introspective or focused on private satisfactions, but engaged in wider social activities in ways that contribute to the common good.  In this way, families can, as Familiaris Consortio put it, manifest “a ‘preferential option’ for the poor and disadvantaged” (#47) and be “a school of deeper humanity” (#21).

Unit 7: Human dignity, rights and responsibilities

Centesimus Annus describes the “millions of people” for whom CST has been the inspiration for acting in the world as “a great movement for the defence of the human person and the safeguarding of human dignity” (#3).

Human dignity refers to the immeasurable worth each person has.  If human dignity is trampled on, people cannot grow to reach their proper end, integral human development.

Human rights specify what respect for human dignity requires in practice, the necessary conditions of the possibility of living life to the full.  They do so in each of areas of living we have studied.

When people’s human rights are upheld, they have full opportunity to do what they must to fulfil the great responsibility to be fully human – to live out the “lofty vocation” God has given to all (Compendium, #105).

In conclusion, what is this vocation?  I don’t think there is a better short answer, nor a better summary of what CST has to say about living life to the full, than the following statement by Pope John Paul II which I have already quoted more than once:

The human creature receives a mission to govern creation in order to make all its potential shine.

(‘God Made Man the Steward of Creation’, 2001, #2; this statement was set as a reading in 3.3.3.)

Module B: Living in a Just and Free Society

I noted at the start of this screen that various things which no doubt form part of lives lived to full have not come up directly in the module – for example, music, health and friendship.  I deliberately omitted one thing from the list there: participation in public life.

We have studied only part of CST in this module.  You have the opportunity to do Module B too, where you can look at the question of whether, and if so how, we should see participating in public affairs and politics as part of living life to the full.

Now go to the concluding page of this module.

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End of 8.4.1

Go to 8.4.2 Solidarity and Eucharist

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