Pope Francis arrived in Washington, DC yesterday afternoon after leaving Havana. He’ll speak to Congress tomorrow before heading to New York where he’ll address the UN General Assembly. Finally, he’ll come to Philadephia where he’ll close out the 2015 World Meeting of Families by speaking on Saturday at Independence Hall and celebrate Mass on Sunday at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

So while Pope Francis is speaking and earning headlines this week, Philadelphia is hosting thousands of pilgrims from around the world who are participating in the World Meeting, which is why Francis is here in the first place. It’s an opportunity for renewal among the faithful, culminating in the public witness of the weekend’s public events.

I attended the Collegium Institute’s event last night: “Family: The Home of Holy Anarchy,” which was a presentation and panel discussion on “the nature of the family in an age of scientific control.” I had gotten notice about it from the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council. It was a great, led by Fabrice Hadjadj:

Fabrice Hadjadj, 44, is a French philosopher and prolific author. A former atheist and anarchist, he entered the Catholic faith in 1998. Widely recognized as one of Europe’s rising Christian scholars, Hadjadj’s book Réussir sa mort: Anti- méthode pour vivre, won the French Grand Prix Catholique de Littérature in 2006. Currently Hadjadj teaches philosophy and directs the Philanthropos European Institute for Anthropological Studies in Fribourg, Switzerland. Married to the actress Siffreine Michel, Hadjadj and his wife have four daughters and two sons. In 2014, Pope Francis named Hadjadj as a member of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

Some of my meager notes from the night:

  • We understand the family to be the guardian of human freedom and dignity, and its “holy anarchy” comes from its role as the first cell of society, standing apart from the state as a unique institution.
  • “Family as fairytale” is the embrace of its “begotten” nature. It wasn’t something “made” but represents a gift. It is outside of human creation.
  • No technical solution can account for the inexplicability of life.
  • “Made” things have purpose. What’s the “purpose” of new life? Charles, your friend, has no “purpose,” because he is a gift rather than a tool.
  • Christians can be seen as a people of inexplicability, a people of strangeness.
  • The link between our body and our soul is beyond anthropology.
  • The church, a spiritual organism, is now a defender of the flesh—sex, and its created nature.
  • There is a new Gnosticism, not against the flesh versus spirit, but against the flesh versus technology.
  • To explain human dignity today, we have to ground it in the fact that this body is first a Temple of God.
  • Fatherhood as “authority without competence.” Yet there exists a natural responsibility of the soul. A response to “what is.” That is where authority draws its source.
  • We’re cultivating family, not “building” it. It’s not engineering. Culture v. technology.