It shows in everything he says and does – Francis’ pontificate exemplifies what it means to be both evangelical and Catholic.
As many know, “evangel” means “good news.” Followers of the EC will have heard us stick “ical” on the end of the English translation to make “goodnewsical.” People sit up, attention arrested, because when the magisterial becomes the goodnewsical, something happens that only the power and leadership of the papacy can accomplish. Within the din of chaos, a melody can be heard; hope says to despair, “you shall not have the last word.”
I call these “Magisterial-Goodnewsical Moments,” and I’ve got five of them to share with you. The first two are below in today’s blog. Stay tuned in subsequent days for the other three.
Magisterial-Goodnewsical Moment #1:
Initial Evangelization (missionary proclamation) Happens in Relationships, not through Teaching
The foremost magister of the magisterium is teaching us by doing what actually works for good news to be heard through the cacophony. The quote below is from Francis’ much analyzed interview with La Repubblica founder Eugenio Scalfari, a former Catholic altar boy who long ago left the faith behind in favor of a socialist and materialist worldview:
Scalfari: My friends think it is you want to convert me.
He smiles again and replies: ‘Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense. We need to get to know each other, listen to each other….’
What could be more obvious than that relationship precedes influence in virtuallyevery human interaction? Francis is teaching by demonstrating the second level of the EC pyramid: evangelization happens “person-to-person,” in trusting relationships.
My niece Julie is probably the most effective evangelist I know. She’s an extrovert. That helps of course, but more importantly, she has relationships with all kinds of people. As a busy Mother, she makes relationships through that vocation: mom’s groups, school groups, sports teams, etc.
God reaches some of these people because Julie’s life gives Him the opportunity. She makes friends, shares her story, and God makes converts. Julie listens, and her friends listen to her. That is the very nature of relationship – once you’re in one, you don’t even have to try to share Christ because you’re sharing yourself. Julie’s whole life revolves around Jesus. Talking about him is as natural as talking about her children.
Wouldn’t we all agree that Scalfari is a little more likely to be a little more open to Jesus because Francis’ first concern was their relationship, not teaching the reprobate the error of his ways?
Magisterial-Goodnewsical Moment #2:
If We Don’t Get out of the Church Bubble, We will Never Reach the Lost.
Francis was teaching this before he was ever elected Pope! This quote is from an outline of his speech given during the pre-conclave General Congregation (unofficial translation of the text by Vatican Radio).
Evangelization implies apostolic zeal.
Evangelizing pre-supposes a desire in the Church to come out of herself. The Church is called to… go to the peripheries, not only geographically, but also the existential peripheries: the mystery of sin, of pain, of injustice, of ignorance and indifference to religion, of intellectual currents, and of all misery.
Francis shows how important this is to the Church in the modern world by repeating it after his election, again and again. This quote comes from his lengthy in person interview with Antonio Spadaro, S.J., editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit journal. America magazine published it in the United States, September 30, 2013.
…let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent… that takes audacity and courage.” (emphasis mine)
Francis gets specific that he is talking about becoming goodnewsical in his address to the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, Oct 14, 2013:
…every Christian is called to go out to encounter others, to dialogue with those who do not think the way we do, with those who have another faith, or who don’t have faith.
One of the difficulties the EC encounters in establishing small evangelization groups on university campuses comes from students’ resistance to go outside the Catholic center.
The Catholic center is more comfortable for people. They don’t want to go to the dorm room of someone they don’t know.
Students don’t want to invite people they don’t know to their dorm room.
We like our Catholic center! It’s our home away from home.
It might be our home, but no else will be getting comfy there. Our lapsed Catholic friends will not be with us, nor the baptized but unchurched students, a virtual army at this point, because they don’t want to go to a church, period, even for a social event. The good news of Jesus remains uncomfortably confined instead of going out even to the residence hall next door, never mind the ends of the earth.
Francis is teaching the obvious because it’s so difficult for us to learn: if we aren’t where people can see us and meet us, we won’t have the chance to walk with them. To attract people we need fresh, unthreatening expressions of Church, appealing and accessible satellites communities where living tabernacles take Jesus to those in the greatest need: “For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners,” Matthew 9:13.
Part 2 coming soon!