Addressing the urgent issues facing humanity today, in his recent encyclical on social friendship, Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis reminds us that it is “all the more urgent that we rethink our styles of life, our relationships, the organization of our societies and, above all, the meaning of our existence” (no. 33). In this and in his previous encyclical on care for creation, Laudato Si’, Francis makes clear that we do not have a moment to waste. None of his diagnosis should “be read as a cool and detached description of today’s problems” (no. 56).

Before an onslaught of urgency backfires in paralysis, however, we might notice a heartening paradox: Read carefully, Francis’s message to us is that we move quickly to slow down! Yes, “rethink” immediately. Yes, act now, and “boldly.” But then, once we have promptly changed direction, Francis insists that we take all the time we need. After all, what we most urgently need is to do the hard work of truly human encounter on the way to authentically human solutions. We might call this “the fierce urgency of the slow.”