Pope Francis Exhorts All to Evangelize

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EVANGELII GAUDIUM: THE JOY OF THE GOSPEL

Two weeks ago, His Holiness Pope Francis released the first apostolic exhortation of his pontificate to close out the Year of Faith. Now if you are like me the first time I heard that, you are probably wondering just what is an apostolic exhortation. An apostolic exhortation is a letter or document from the Holy Father to a specific community of people that urges them to take a specific sort of action. However, it does not define Church doctrine and is generally considered lower in authority than a more formal papal encyclical (such as Lumen Fidei released earlier this year), but not necessarily lesser in importance.

In this case, the apostolic exhortation, called Evangelii Gaudium (in English, “The Joy of the Gospel”) is addressed to all the Christian faithful, rather than a specific group, which means that we can all benefit from reading it. Although as fair warning, it is quite a long document with over 51,000 words! With that in mind, I’ll try my best to summarize it, although I do recommend taking the time to read it if you have the chance. It can be found here:

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium_en.html

ALL ARE CALLED TO EVANGELIZE JOYFULLY AND GENEROUSLY

Evangelii Gaudium is addressed to all the Christian faithful because we are all called to be evangelizers, to spread the Gospel message to others, despite the differing levels of theological formation each of us may possess. Evangelization is not just for those who devote their whole lives to Catholic apologetics or missionary work. We must trust in the Holy Spirit to act through us as we seek to evangelize others. However, at the same time, we are also called to delve deeper into our own faith formation to assist us in this mission.

Often we have the misguided belief that we must guard our free time very carefully, that we can only devote so much time to God each week and that the rest belongs to us. This can discourage us from attempting to begin such a daunting task as evangelization, which we believe may not yield results quickly or easily. However, we need to recognize that evangelization is not some task carried out dutifully, perhaps against our own wishes and desires, but rather that it is a joyful response to God’s immense love for us. Successful evangelization of others consists primarily of patience and disregards for the constraints of time. We may not see success after only a few discussions with another, but we do not know if we have planted a seed of faith that will continue to grow after our departure.

Our Holy Father also emphasizes the need to be joyful as we work to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. He argues that we should not be “Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter” [EG 6]. The world needs to hear the Gospel message from those who appear as “joyful messengers of challenging proposals” [EG 168] and whose lives have been radically “transfigured by God’s presence” [EG 259]. Pope Francis recognizes that in all of our lives there are moments of grief when it is often difficult to be joyful. However, we must persevere, knowing that we are infinitely loved by God. “[L]owering our arms momentarily out of weariness is not the same as lowering them for good, overcome by chronic discontent and by a listlessness that parches the soul” [EG 277]. Man cannot live without hope, but Christ is the wellspring of our hope and He will not deprive us of it in our hour of need. To this end, the Holy Father recommends frequent prayer, Eucharistic Adoration, and reading of the Sacred Scriptures to prepare ourselves for the task of evangelization.

REACHING OUT TO THE SPIRITUALLY OR MATERIALLY POOR

The Holy Father also talks at length about whom we need to be evangelizing, and one of the easiest groups of people to evangelize are those we meet in our daily lives. For most, if not all, of us, those lives take place in and around the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Pope Francis talks about a spiritual desertification that has occurred in some societies as a result of attempts to build things without God. This is especially evident in a secular setting such as the UW. In spite of this, the challenge we face is not atheism or secular rationalism as such, the real challenge is the need to respond to people’s thirst for God adequately. True missionary zeal rests in the knowledge that there exists in every individual “an expectation, even if an unconscious one, of knowing the truth about God, about man, and about how we are to be set free from sin and death” [EG 265]. We must work to convince others that the solution is never found by fleeing from a committed relationship with God.

Additionally, Pope Francis desires that we approach the poor and despised with the Gospel message as they are very much in need of it’s saving grace. He especially encourages us not to fall into the thinking that our jobs are too important and so preclude us from taking time to help the least of our brothers. “Jesus wants us to touch human misery, to touch the suffering flesh of others” [EG 270]. Small acts of solidarity performed for those we encounter daily are just as important as working to eliminate the structural causes of poverty in society. All Christians must be concerned with building a better world; we cannot simply seek to build ourselves a nice shelter from human misfortune and ride out the storm, so to speak.

As has been the case with Pope Francis throughout his pontificate, with Evangelii Gaudium the Holy Father is continuing to challenge us to grow in our faith lives and bring the light of Christ to the world. We cannot let our love of Jesus Christ be relegated to just an hour for Mass on Sunday:  we must carry it with us always and we must do so with great joy, confident in the knowledge that Christ is victorious.

Written by Josh Sauppe, UW Graduate Student

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“Newness in God’s Surprises”: Wisdom from Pope Francis at Pentecost

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Steve Driscoll/EWTN News

Newness always makes us a bit fearful, because we feel more secure if we have everything under control, if we are the ones who build, program and plan our lives in accordance with our own ideas, our own comfort, our own preferences. This is also the case when it comes to God. Often we follow him, we accept him, but only up to a certain point. It is hard to abandon ourselves to him with complete trust, allowing the Holy Spirit to be the soul and guide of our lives in our every decision. We fear that God may force us to strike out on new paths and leave behind our all too narrow, closed and selfish horizons in order to become open to his own. Yet throughout the history of salvation, whenever God reveals himself, he brings newness – God always brings newness -, and demands our complete trust: Noah, mocked by all, builds an ark and is saved; Abram leaves his land with only a promise in hand; Moses stands up to the might of Pharaoh and leads his people to freedom; the apostles, huddled fearfully in the Upper Room, go forth with courage to proclaim the Gospel. This is not a question of novelty for novelty’s sake, the search for something new to relieve our boredom, as is so often the case in our own day. The newness which God brings into our life is something that actually brings fulfillment, that gives true joy, true serenity, because God loves us and desires only our good. Let us ask ourselves today: Are we open to ‘God’s surprises’? Or are we closed and fearful before the newness of the Holy Spirit? Do we have the courage to strike out along the new paths which God’s newness sets before us, or do we resist, barricaded in transient structures which have lost their capacity for openness to what is new? We would do well to ask ourselves these questions all through the day.”

Homily at the Solemnity of Pentecost, May 19, 2013, St. Peter’s Square

Habemus Papam!

Credit: Getty Images

Credit: Getty Images

The smoke began to pour out of the Sistine Chapel chimney shortly after 1:00pm Central Daylight Time.  Just over an hour later, the announcement was made:

HABEMUS PAPAM! We have a pope!

The name that God knows him by is Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

He was the Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The name the world will know him by is Pope Francis – the FIRST!

Let us pray for Pope Francis today and all days of his glorious reign!

EXTRA OMNES! Everybody out!

This morning around 11:30am local time, Msgr. Guido Marini, the master of ceremonies for the papal conclave, intoned the famous words: “Extra omnes!”, which command that everyone who is not a cardinal elector or a conclave secretary to vacate the Sistine Chapel immediately.  As soon as all those “extras” had filed out, Msgr. Marini dramatically closed the Sistine Chapel doors, and the papal conclave officially begun.

About two hours later, black smoke poured from the Sistine Chapel chimney.  No pope……YET!

The next time to look for smoke will be between 5-6am Central Time tomorrow when the ballots from the morning votes are burned.

Sede Vacante.

As of 1:00pm Central Standard Time, the See (seat) of the Diocese of Rome is vacant, and we have no Pope.

Benedict XVI, who will now be known as Supreme Pontiff Emeritus, departed the city of Rome this morning via helicopter for the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo, about 30 kilometers southeast of Vatican City.

AP Photo/Michael Sohn

AP Photo/Michael Sohn

Once he arrived at the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo, he greeted the lay faithful with a few words, and said, “I am simply a pilgrim starting the final stage of his pilgrimage on this earth.  But I would like yet again, with my heart, my love, my prayers, my reflection, with all of my interior strength, to work for the common good and the good of the Church and of humanity . . . let us go forward together with the Lord for the good of the Church and of the world.  I impart to you now my blessing with all of my heart.”

And then, at 8:00pm in Castel Gandolfo, in front of the papal villa, the Swiss Guard departed from their post and ceremonially gave the duty of protecting the pope to the Vatican police, and the Diocese of Rome became sede vacante, a “vacant see (seat)”.  You can watch this changing of the guard in this video (the event happens around minute 8:45 and continues for a few minutes after that).

Perhaps you could offer a prayer in thanksgiving for the holy and beautiful eight-year reign of Benedict XVI, pope emeritus, sometime today?

Saying goodbye: Benedict’s final Wednesday Audience

AP/Gregorio Borgia

AP/Gregorio Borgia

Today the Holy Father said an emotional, moving goodbye to tens of thousands of the faithful in St. Peter’s Square in Rome, as well as to the one billion Catholics throughout the world who call him shepherd.  The crowd was vibrant and alive, and the Holy Father said so himself, remarking early in his remarks: “La Chiesa è viva!” (“The Church is alive!”)  It was also a remarkably beautiful February morning in Rome, for which the Pope thanked God our Creator.

Some of the more beautiful passages of his audience:

I feel I [ought to] carry everyone in prayer, in a present that is God’s, where I recall every meeting, every voyage, every pastoral visit.  I gather everyone and everything in prayerful recollection, in order to entrust them to the Lord: in order that we might have full knowledge of His will, with every wisdom and spiritual understanding, and in order that we might comport ourselves in a manner that is worthy of Him, of His, bearing fruit in every good work (cf. Colossians 1:9-10).

At this time, I have within myself a great trust [in God], because I know – all of us know – that the Gospel’s Word of Truth is the strength of the Church: it is her life.  The Gospel purifies and renews; it bears fruit wherever the community of believers hears and welcomes the grace of God in truth and lives in charity.  This is my faith, this is my joy.

When … I agreed to take on the Petrine ministry …the words that resounded in my heart were: “Lord, what do you ask of me?  It is a great weight that you place on my shoulders, but, if You ask me, at your word I will throw out the nets, sure that you will guide me” – and the Lord has really guided me.  He has been close to me: daily I could feel his presence.  [These years] have been a stretch of the Church’s pilgrim way, which has seen moments of joy and light, but also difficult moments.  I have felt like St. Peter with the Apostles in the boat in the Sea of Galilee: the Lord has given us many days of sunshine and gentle breeze, days in which the catch has been abundant; [then] there have been times when the seas were rough and the wind against us, as in the whole history of the Church it has ever been – and the Lord seemed to sleep.  Nevertheless, I always knew that the Lord is in his barque, that the barque of the Church is not mine, not ours, but His – and He shall not let her sink.  It is He, who steers her: to be sure, he does so also through men of His choosing, for He destined it to be so.  This was and is a certainty that nothing can tarnish.  It is for this reason, that today my heart is filled with gratitude to God, for never did He leave me or the Church without His consolation, His light, His love.

I would like to invite everyone to renew firm trust in the Lord.  I would like that we all entrust ourselves as children to the arms of God, and rest assured that those arms support us and us to walk everyday, even in times of struggle.  I would like everyone to feel loved by the God who gave His Son for us and showed us His boundless love.  I want everyone to feel the joy of being Christian.  A beautiful prayer to be recited daily in the morning says, “I adore you, my God, I love you with all my heart, I thank you for having created me, for having made me a Christian.” Yes, we are happy for the gift of faith: it is the most precious good, that no one can take from us!  Let us thank God for this everyday, with prayer and a coherent Christian life.  God love us, but He also expects that we love Him!

In recent months, I felt that my strength had decreased, and I asked God with insistence in prayer to enlighten me with His light to make me take the right decision – not for my sake, but for the good of the Church.  I have taken this step in full awareness of its severity and also its novelty, but with a deep peace of mind.  Loving the Church also means having the courage to make difficult, trying choices, having ever before oneself the good of the Church and not one’s own.

The “always” is also a “forever” – there is no returning to private life.  My decision to forgo the exercise of active ministry does not revoke this.  I do not return to private life, to a life of travel, meetings, receptions, conferences, and so on.  I do not abandon the cross, but remain in a new way near to the Crucified Lord.  I no longer wield the power of the office for the government of the Church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, within St. Peter’s bounds.  St. Benedict, whose name I bear as Pope, shall be a great example in this for me.  He showed me a way to a life which, active or passive, belongs wholly to the work of God.

I ask you to remember me before God, and above all to pray for the Cardinals, who are called to so important a task, and for the new Successor of Peter, that the Lord might accompany him with the light and power of the Holy Spirit.

In the heart of each of you, let there be always the joyous certainty that the Lord is near, that He does not abandon us, that He is near to us and that He surrounds us with His love.

The Pope’s Final Angelus Address

Yesterday in St. Peter’s Square, from the window of his apartment in the Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father led upwards of 200,000 people in the Angelus, a short prayer recited at noon that honors Our Lord’s Incarnation in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as he does on every Sunday that he is in Rome.  At this Angelus, the last of his pontificate, he also shared additional details about his resignation:

The Lord is calling me to “go up the mountain” to dedicate myself to prayer and meditation.  But this does not mean that I will abandon the Church, rather … it is because I can continue to serve the Church with the same dedication and the same love which which I have sought to do until now, but in a way more suited to my age and my strength.

I thank you for your affection and sharing in this particular moment in my life and for the Church, especially through your prayers.  To all I wish a good day and a good week.  In prayer we are always close to each other.  Thank you all!

The Holy Father’s reign as pope will conclude at 1:00pm Central Time (8:00pm Rome Time) on Thursday, February 28th.  When the See of Peter is vacant (sede vacante), the Cardinals will gather and determine a start date for the conclave to elect Benedict’s successor.  The Church needs our prayers in this time!  Why not say an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be today for Pope Benedict, his successor, and the cardinal electors in the conclave?

Papal Resignation Roundup

Well, folks, it’s been quite the week.  Besides our annual entrance into Lent on Wednesday, Monday also saw the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI – the first pope to do this in centuries.  As we look to the end of Benedict’s pontificate, the “interregnum” (literally, between reigns), the conclave, and, finally, the election of a new pope, it promises to be an exciting month for the Church and for the world.

We’ll do what we can to keep you updated on news as it develops.  To start, here are a few great articles, videos, and general quotes to consider if you’re in need of playing catch-up on resignation news:

In Benedict’s Own Words:

Reaction from bishops in the United States:

Remembering Benedict’s Legacy

What’s next?  
The Church awaits word on a conclave date, which is to be determined by the cardinals who will elect the next pope.

What should I do? 
This is a unique time in the life of the Church.  The best thing any of us can do is to pray very much for the Holy Father, the cardinal electors who will participate in the conclave, and the next man who will be Successor to St. Peter, known, at this moment, only to God.  If you are interested, join us for a rosary in the St. Paul’s Chapel at 8:40PM on Monday nights, starting on February 18th and ending upon the election of a new pope.  

Holy Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us and pray for the Pope! 

The Pope’s final public Mass: Ash Wednesday at St. Peter’s Basilica

Yesterday, our beloved Holy Father celebrated his last public Mass as Pope – fittingly, at the main altar at St. Peter’s Basilica, below which lie the mortal remains of St. Peter, the first Pope.

We’ll be sure to share selections from his homily later this week, as soon as it is translated into English.

There were many moving moments in this final public liturgy celebrated by the Holy Father.  One such moment was a short address at the conclusion of Mass by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the current Cardinal Secretary of State of the Holy See, who thanked Pope Benedict XVI for his great gift of his life to the Church:

As Mass concluded and the choir began a beautiful rendition of Palestrina’s “Tu es Petrus (You are Peter)”, the Holy Father kissed the main altar of St. Peter’s Basilica a final time and began his recessional down the main aisle, to the sound of thunderous applause from the faithful present.  The recessional in its entirety is a bit long (seven minutes), but a historic moment to watch:

 

What was it like to be in the room when the Pope resigned?

Curious about what it was like in the room when the Holy Father announced his resignation?  Cardinal Francis Arinze, the former prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship, was there when the announcement was made and recently sat down in an interview to describe what it was like.  He also shares words of wisdom about what this means for the Church: