Pope Francis Exhorts All to Evangelize



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:



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.


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


Got a smartphone? Get the Pope App!

From Catholic News Service:

The Pope has a new App-titude

The Vatican launched a new “Pope App” on the even of the release of the pope’s World Communications Day message, which will be dedicated to social networks as important spaces for evangelization.

The new app provides live streaming of papal events and video feeds from the Vatican’s six webcams.  It sends out alerts and links to top stories coming out of the Vatican’s many news outlets as well as posts images and quotes from Pope Benedict XVI. The app is still in the 1.0 stage, so as updated versions come out, there will be a search function for archived media and links will eventually be share-able online.

The “Pope App” went live today [January 23] for iPhone and iPad [search “Pope App” in the App Store].

Well, we had to see what this was all about!  Liz downloaded the app on her iPhone this morning.

Here’s the homepage:


And the Pope’s calendar of events:

photo (2)

And his most recent writings:

photo (1)Liz hasn’t had much time to explore the app, but she likes what she sees so far.

iPhone users – you can search for “Pope App”
in the App Store and it’s the third choice that comes up! (P.S. It’s free!)

Fear not Android users – an Android-compatible app is in the works!

The Pope’s Advent message to you!


Much like his predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, our Holy Father has a special affection for you, the young of the Church.  As an intellectual and former professor, he also has a special fondness for you as a student!

Consider his homily at Vespers of the first Sunday of Advent, where the audience was primarily students from the universities of Rome.  This is just a tidbit!

The liturgical year that we are beginning with these Vespers also represents for you the journey to live once again the faithfulness of God, on which you are called to found your lives, as on a firm rock.  In celebrating and living this itinerary of faith with the whole Church, you will experience that Jesus Christ is the one Lord of the cosmos and of history, without whom every human project risks coming to nothing.  The liturgy, lived in its true spirit, is always the fundamental school for living the Christian faith, a “theological” faith which involves you in your whole being – spirit, soul, and body – to make you living stones in the edifice of the Church and collaborators of the New Evangelization.  Especially in the Eucharist the living God makes himself so close that he becomes food that supports us on the journey, a presence that transforms us with the fire of his love.

Dear friends, we are living in a context in which we often come across indifference to God.  However, I think that in the inner depths of those who live far from God – also among your peers – there is an inner longing for the infinite, for transcendence.  It is your task to witness in the university halls to the close God who also shows himself in the search for the truth, the soul of all intellectual commitment.

If you have a chance, read the rest of the homily, as it is excellent food for thought, and especially for prayer, as Advent reaches its end next week and we begin the Christmas season.

What’s that Santa-looking hat on the Pope’s head, you may ask?  It is called a camauro, a red velvet hat trimmed with ermine, and it has been a part of the papal wardrobe for centuries.  Pope Benedict wore the camauro in December 2005, the first time a pope had donned the hat since John XXIII’s reign almost 50 years earlier.