At 6:00am ET this morning (noon Rome time), Pope Francis released his first apostolic exhortation, titled Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel). It comes on the heels of his first encyclical, Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith), which he composed alongside Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. This exhortation, however, is his first solo teaching document as pope. Here's a summary according to an early press release:
The highly anticipated The Joy of the Gospel will answer a number of evangelization-related questions, including:
- How to foster conversion in the Church in order to make her people more faithful and effective in communicating God's love to others?
- Why is the place of missions in the modern world? What are the obstacles believers' own lives sometimes place in the way of others' coming to faith?
- What are the questions people have about faith?
- What attitudes make it hard for people to be receptive to the Christian message? How does Jesus answer the most fundamental questions of human existence?
- Is there a difference between evangelizing and proselytizing, between proposing faith and imposing it
An apostolic exhortation is simply a teaching document on a particular theme to encourage and challenge people. It's meant to inspire Catholics to action rather than define Church doctrine. Also, popes usually issue them in response to a synod of bishops, which is a gathering of Church leaders focused on particular theme. Pope Francis has written Evangelii Gaudium in response to the October 2012 Synod on the New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.
However according to Catholic News Service, Pope Francis informed the synod last June that he would not be working from their synodal draft documents. Instead, he planned to write an "exhortation on evangelization in general and refer to the synod," in order to "take everything from the synod but put it in a wider framework."
Interestingly, the very first apostolic exhortation was published in 1975 by Pope Paul VI after the 1974 synod on evangelization. Titled Evangelii Nuntiandi (Evangelization in the Modern World), the document aimed to define evangelization and explore how to carry it out in today's increasingly secular world.
Although the document bore Pope Paul VI's signature, large chunks were written by a young Polish bishop, Karol Wojtyla, who would later become Pope John Paul II. As we all know, that same Pope John Paul would instigate the New Evangelization, a springtime of faith and the topic of the 2012 synod to which Pope Francis devotes his exhortation. It's beautiful to see this harmony among popes and how this new exhortation fits neatly into the teaching history of the Church.
Speaking of Pope Paul VI, to better understand Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) you might check out Pope Paul's 1975 encyclical Gaudete In Domino (On Christian Joy). He explores a wide variety of different types of joy and shows how to cultivate joy in our own lives.
Now, I ran into some roadblocks last time when trying to make the Pope's work available in multiple digital formats, so this time I'll simply link to documents on the Vatican's official website. Enjoy!
(Image credit: Catholic Philly)
In two groundbreaking interviews, one with Jesuit newspapers around the world and another with an atheist newspaper editor, Pope Francis has rattled some Catholics with his strong emphasis on healing and mercy. Some take it as a dismissal of the Church's moral teachings, or at best a belittling of them. Others worry the Pope is too soft on spiritual or liturgical norms.
But as Fr. Robert Barron points out, the Pope's strategy of leading with mercy instead of law is often a far more effective approach:
"The Pope is not suggesting that rules—moral, spiritual, liturgical, etc.—are unnecessary or unimportant, but he is indeed suggesting that they are secondary to the central reality of encountering the living Christ...
If I might proffer a perhaps trite analogy: when attempting to attract a young kid to the game of baseball, you don’t begin with the rulebook; rather, you begin with the beauty and majesty and rhythm of the game—and then you trust that he will come in time to understand the nature and purpose of the rules from the inside...
What we find today, the Pope is implying, are millions of people who are, in the spiritual sense, gravely wounded. They are alienated from God, stuck in the no-man’s land of moral relativism, adrift with no sense of direction, and tempted by every form of errant desire. They require, therefore, not the fine points of moral doctrine, but basic healing."
Read the rest of Fr. Barron's article, "The Field Hospital is Open: Reflections on Pope Francis’ Interview", or watch his video commentary below.
(If you can't see this video, click here.)
"Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need; the remainder is needed by others." - St. Augustine
Since I've built up a large collection of extra books and resources, every week I give some away absolutely free, no strings attached.
Each giveaway lasts seven days with a new one beginning every Friday. You can enter any time during the week. Check out my past giveaways here.
This week's giveaway is sponsored by Our Sunday Visitor, the country's largest Catholic publisher. They just finished celebrating their hundredth anniversary and few groups have impacted the American Church more in that span.
Their publishing division produces six regular periodicals, including:
- Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly
- Take Out: Family Faith on the Go
- The Catholic Answer
- The Priest
- My Daily Visitor
- Grace In Action
In addition, Our Sunday Visitor publishes and markets over 500 products including books, CDs, software, and education materials.
They're also very savvy with new media (no surprise since they published my own Church and New Media book.) They offer Catholic mobile apps, beautiful websites for parishes, and are very active through social media.
For this week's giveaway, Our Sunday Visitor donated TEN copies of their new biography, Pope Francis.
by Matthew Bunson
Our Sunday Visitor, 224 pages, paperback
Released on April 5, 2013
When the curtains were drawn and our new Holy Father stepped out into view of the 150,000 people waiting in St. Peter's Square, it was a humble and gentle man from Argentina who greeted them, not in triumph, but with a gentle wave.
He's a pope of "firsts" - the first Jesuit pope, the first pope from the Americas, and the first to choose the name of Italy's most famous saint.
- He is the son of an immigrant railway worker, and sibling of four.
- He was an active, social young man who trained to be a chemist before pursuing a religious vocation.
- He is a Jesuit priest and beloved spiritual director who even as archbishop of Buenos Aires was referred to as Father Jorge.
- He is an outspoken leader who experienced firsthand the challenges of a society ravaged by war, economic despair and cultural unrest.
Pope Francis is still new to us, but in this biography you will get to know the man who became pope: A street priest at heart with a deep love for people and a pastor's touch. He teaches in word and deed the truths of the Church and God's merciful love.
Get inside access to the entire history-making event, from the startling resignation of Pope Benedict through the gathering of Cardinals for the Conclave and the installation of this Pope of the people.
Examine Pope Francis the man—his background, his ideas, his mission, and his challenges and opportunities as our new pope—including 16 pages of full color photos from Pope Francis' past and present.
I'm using Rafflecopter to help with the giveaway, which is great because it gives you multiple entries for commenting, posting on Facebook, sharing on Twitter, etc. Click below to enter:
(If you're reading this through email or RSS and don't see the giveaway widget, click here.)
The winner(s) will be randomly selected next Friday and the books will be sent out, free of charge, shortly thereafter.
(Since I'm covering the shipping costs, only residents within the continental United States are eligible to win.)
The Church's most prominent outreach today, the New Evangelization, aims at reviving the spiritual lives of those who have drifted from Christ. While these people may have been baptized and perhaps catechized, while they may attend Church semi-regularly, they have never been truly evangelized. They have never experienced a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ or real transformation through his Church.
A couple weeks ago, Pope Francis delivered a powerful message to the Brazilian bishops in the midst of his World Youth Day celebrations. Unfortunately, it didn't get nearly the attention it deserved.
Speaking on the New Evangelization, and using the Emmaus Journey as a framework, the Pope encouraged his listeners to reflect on why people reject the Church today—why, like the Emmaus disciples, they decide to walk the other way. To bring people back to Christ and his Church, we must understand why they leave in the first place.
To that end, Pope Francis offered ten specific reasons:
1. The Church no longer offers anything meaningful or important.
2. The Church appears too weak.
3. The Church appears too distant from their needs.
4. The Church appears too poor to respond to their concerns.
5. The Church appears too cold.
6. The Church appears too caught up with itself.
7. The Church appears to be a prisoner of its own rigid formulas.
8. The world seems to have made the Church a relic of the past.
9. The Church appears unfit to answer the world's new questions.
10. The Church speaks to people in their infancy but not when they come of age.
Read the excerpt below for more context:
"The two disciples have left Jerusalem. They are leaving behind the 'nakedness' of God. They are scandalized by the failure of the Messiah in whom they had hoped and who now appeared utterly vanquished, humiliated, even after the third day.
Here we have to face the difficult mystery of those people who leave the Church, who, under the illusion of alternative ideas, now think that the Church—their Jerusalem—can no longer offer them anything meaningful and important. So they set off on the road alone, with their disappointment. Perhaps the Church appeared too weak, perhaps too distant from their needs, perhaps too poor to respond to their concerns, perhaps too cold, perhaps too caught up with itself, perhaps a prisoner of its own rigid formulas, perhaps the world seems to have made the Church a relic of the past, unfit for new questions; perhaps the Church could speak to people in their infancy but not to those come of age.
It is a fact that nowadays there are many people like the two disciples of Emmaus; not only those looking for answers in the new religious groups that are sprouting up, but also those who already seem godless, both in theory and in practice.
Faced with this situation, what are we to do?
We need a Church unafraid of going forth into their night. We need a Church capable of meeting them on their way. We need a Church capable of entering into their conversation. We need a Church able to dialogue with those disciples who, having left Jerusalem behind, are wandering aimlessly, alone, with their own disappointment, disillusioned by a Christianity now considered barren, fruitless soil, incapable of generating meaning.”
Which of these reasons do you see as most significant?
(HT: Thomas Doran at Catholic World Report)