Explore Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”) With Me

Pope Francis’s new Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”) was released today. I haven’t had a chance to read it all yet, but I thought I’d try something a little different today. Let’s explore the document together: I’ll begin by posting a few of the passages that jump out at me. You do the same in the comments – as you read through what Francis has written us, share what’s striking you.

For starters, this resonated with me as a seminarian:

107. Many places are experiencing a dearth of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. This is often due to a lack of contagious apostolic fervour in communities which results in a cooling of enthusiasm and attractiveness. Wherever there is life, fervour and a desire to bring Christ to others, genuine vocations will arise. Even in parishes where priests are not particularly committed or joyful, the fraternal life and fervour of the community can awaken in the young a desire to consecrate themselves completely to God and to the preaching of the Gospel. This is particularly true if such a living community prays insistently for vocations and courageously proposes to its young people the path of special consecration. On the other hand, despite the scarcity of vocations, today we are increasingly aware of the need for a better process of selecting candidates to the priesthood. Seminaries cannot accept candidates on the basis of any motivation whatsoever, especially if those motivations have to do with affective insecurity or the pursuit of power, human glory or economic well-being.

That’s a great point: you and I have a responsibility for cultivating vocations (Through our life, our fervor and our prayer) even if – perhaps especially if – our parish priest doesn’t seem particularly zealous.

Brandon Vogt pointed out this passage, which captures a very serious risk in the Church: that we’ll continue on our routines as if everything is fine, while we grow cold spiritually:

83. And so the biggest threat of all gradually takes shape: “the gray pragmatism of the daily life of the Church, in which all appears to proceed normally, while in reality faith is wearing down and degenerating into small-mindedness”.[63] A tomb psychology thus develops and slowly transforms Christians into mummies in a museum. Disillusioned with reality, with the Church and with themselves, they experience a constant temptation to cling to a faint melancholy, lacking in hope, which seizes the heart like “the most precious of the devil’s potions”.[64] Called to radiate light and communicate life, in the end they are caught up in things that generate only darkness and inner weariness, and slowly consume all zeal for the apostolate. For all this, I repeat: Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the joy of evangelization!

The man he is quoting, by the way, is one Joseph Ratzinger.

In the section on “person to person” evangelization, Francis reminding us that we Gospel message need not “always be communicated by fixed formulations learned by heart or by specific words which express an absolutely invariable content.” Nevertheless, he gives us this helpful guide for how to preach Christ to those around us.

128. In this preaching, which is always respectful and gentle, the first step is personal dialogue, when the other person speaks and shares his or her joys, hopes and concerns for loved ones, or so many other heartfelt needs. Only afterwards is it possible to bring up God’s word, perhaps by reading a Bible verse or relating a story, but always keeping in mind the fundamental message: the personal love of God who became man, who gave himself up for us, who is living and who offers us his salvation and his friendship. This message has to be shared humbly as a testimony on the part of one who is always willing to learn, in the awareness that the message is so rich and so deep that it always exceeds our grasp. At times the message can be presented directly, at times by way of a personal witness or gesture, or in a way which the Holy Spirit may suggest in that particular situation. If it seems prudent and if the circumstances are right, this fraternal and missionary encounter could end with a brief prayer related to the concerns which the person may have expressed. In this way they will have an experience of being listened to and understood; they will know that their particular situation has been placed before God, and that God’s word really speaks to their lives.

I may be wrong, but I think Pope Francis had in mind the challenge posed by Pentecostal and Evangelical movements in Latin America when he said:

63. The Catholic faith of many peoples is nowadays being challenged by the proliferation of new religious movements, some of which tend to fundamentalism while others seem to propose a spirituality without God. This is, on the one hand, a human reaction to a materialistic, consumerist and individualistic society, but it is also a means of exploiting the weaknesses of people living in poverty and on the fringes of society, people who make ends meet amid great human suffering and are looking for immediate solutions to their needs. These religious movements, not without a certain shrewdness, come to fill, within a predominantly individualistic culture, a vacuum left by secularist rationalism. We must recognize that if part of our baptized people lack a sense of belonging to the Church, this is also due to certain structures and the occasionally unwelcoming atmosphere of some of our parishes and communities, or to a bureaucratic way of dealing with problems, be they simple or complex, in the lives of our people. In many places an administrative approach prevails over a pastoral approach, as does a concentration on administering the sacraments apart from other forms of evangelization.

Finally, some smart words on the question of women’s ordination:

104. Demands that the legitimate rights of women be respected, based on the firm conviction that men and women are equal in dignity, present the Church with profound and challenging questions which cannot be lightly evaded. The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion, but it can prove especially divisive if sacramental power is too closely identified with power in general. It must be remembered that when we speak of sacramental power “we are in the realm of function, not that of dignity or holiness”.[73] The ministerial priesthood is one means employed by Jesus for the service of his people, yet our great dignity derives from baptism, which is accessible to all. The configuration of the priest to Christ the head – namely, as the principal source of grace – does not imply an exaltation which would set him above others. In the Church, functions “do not favour the superiority of some vis-à-vis the others”.[74] Indeed, a woman, Mary, is more important than the bishops. Even when the function of ministerial priesthood is considered “hierarchical”, it must be remembered that “it is totally ordered to the holiness of Christ’s members”.[75] Its key and axis is not power understood as domination, but the power to administer the sacrament of the Eucharist; this is the origin of its authority, which is always a service to God’s people. This presents a great challenge for pastors and theologians, who are in a position to recognize more fully what this entails with regard to the possible role of women in decision-making in different areas of the Church’s life.

Okay, that’s (some of) what jumps out at me. What strikes you? What are your reactions?


  1. My parish has been praying for vocations particularly “to bring people to the family of Carmel” since its run by discalced Carmels. Its a small parish. Some of the other parishes I’ve belonged to also prayed and ended up more sucessful because they were bigger and had more programs. This parish because of size has to combine with other parishes. I’m thinking of the KoCs as one example.

    I can totally see what the Pope says about cooling. If the parish life struggles so too will vocations because too many young people are either unaware or not encouraged. Although some of this falls to parents as well.

  2. This cooling is also the reason some choose to join other Christian groups. Lack of proper catechesis and nastiness abound. Some of those who are administrators and ministers in the parish are so hardened or outright flagrantly violate dogma etc. Its disgusting and to young people hypocritical.

    Two examples: My mother’s priest for years droned on about wanting to be a bishop yet never properly shepharded his flock in his homilies. This went on for years with every homily him lamenting JPII not appointing him as bishop.

    And a pastoral administrator and parish priest being directed by the Bishop to release a minister should he become again involved in a homosexual relationship. They ignored his directive. The “significant other” was seen at parish events with the minister.

    I’m not saying these things to gossip as I understand various denominiations have their share of scandal. Only pointing out the need for all lay persons to be vigilant in reporting scandal so it doesnt fester for years causing people to turn away.

    1. Seminaries cannot accept candidates on the basis of any motivation whatsoever, especially if those motivations have to do with affective insecurity or the pursuit of power, human glory or economic well-being.

      In other words, if you’re trying to become a priest because you’re awkward with women, etc., the seminary shouldn’t accept you on the basis of that motivation. At least, that’s what I suspect he’s saying.



  3. “Many places are experiencing a dearth of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. This is often due to a lack of contagious apostolic fervour in communities which results in a cooling of enthusiasm and attractiveness.”

    Fear…. of contagious apostolic fervor.. is what I have observed over the last 40 years in the parishes that I’ve been associated with. Apostolic fervor could possibly lead to complaints from non-fervent, less enthusiastic Catholics which might decrease the overall population of the parish. It seems that every pastor wants to be highly prudent, less anyone fall away, so it’s best to keep the enthusiasts ‘on a leash’ so to say. I think this particularly happens in Catholic schools. The focus is almost always on every other activity…sports, education, theater,etc…such that true spirituality and theology are left neglected.

    Two quick fixes: 1. Require every Catholic school student and every CCD student to read 2 full length biographies of selected Saints each year. 2. Continuously promote Catholic Radio broadcasts such that Catholic Radio is the default station of all parishioners while they are driving and commuting to work. No one else has the time to teach the millions of common parishionesr all of the theology he should, or needs, to know. But quality Catholic Radio broadcasting can teach these same folks little by little and day by day.

    But I have never yet heard a parish priest ask his parishioners at Mass to listen to Catholic Radio! Not once.

    What simple remedies to catechize the masses and increase vocations! It’s a mystery why the lives of the saints, Catholic radio, and informative Catholic blogs such as this one…. are not promoted in the weekly homilies.

    – Awlms

    1. USCCB should completely scrap RCIA and start over with a brand new program. Assuming the New Evangelism is a success, it will come crashing to a screeeeching halt with that abomination.

    1. Otepoti,

      First of all, good on you for wanting to read all 73 Books of the Bible. I wish more Christians (Catholics and Protestants alike) shared this desire. Some of my favorite Biblical passages are from 1 and 2 Maccabees and Wisdom, so I think you will find it a worthy endeavor.

      As to your former pastor, I find many of the Protestant criticisms of the Deuterocanon surprisingly oblivious. The same event, if recorded in the Books Protestants accept, would be called “miraculous,” while if it is in the Deuterocanon, it gets called “ridiculous”

      And as for it being “unnecessary,” I plan to write a post on that soon….



  4. 6. There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter. I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved. I understand the grief of people who have to endure great suffering, yet slowly but surely we all have to let the joy of faith slowly revive as a quiet yet firm trust, even amid the greatest distress: “My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is… But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning

    I really liked that he stressed this truth. Years ago I decided to train myself to begin every day by confessing a simple truth and petitioning my Lord and Saviour:

    This is the day the Lord has made, help me to rejoice and be glad in it.

    It has made a difference in my life.

    We were made for Happiness but many, even soi disant traditionalists, have forgotten that The Roman Catechism, early on, begins with the acknowledgment of that truth

    1. Amen to this. I think that Traditionalism in particular has been wounded by a perceived joylessness.

      I think that sounding the alarm about real abuses can, if not kept in proper check, lead to an obsessive fault-finding and even “Chicken Little” mentality that comes off as a joyless, “Lent without Easter.”

      But Christ has already won the victory. No matter how bad or ugly a particular situation may seem, we can’t lose sight of this most basic of realities.



  5. Paragraph 54 has come under assault from many quarters – Trendy and Traddy alike – but the plain and simple truth is that Pope Francis is right when he criticises Capitalism (Manchester Liberalism was denounced in Rerum Novarum) and those, especially Traddies, if they take the Catholic Cure (Catholic Social Doctrine) will be able to clear-up the ideological infection resulting from their intellectual intercourse with Capitalism and then the scales will fall from their eyes and they will come to see that they were in the very same cafeteria as were the dissenters and heretics they routinely descry.

    Beware The Acton Institute, a Fifth Column, promoting the “virtues” of Calvinism as Catholicism in direct opposition to he teachings of the Popes.

    A soid disant trad, Mundabor, was so unsettled by paragraph 54 that he called The Pope Fidel.

    Good Lord, what insanity…

  6. What do you make of the communion for the divorced and remarried talk that’s going around? http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/inquiries-and-interviews/detail/articolo/-6990255d2d/

    It seems like not only a streamlining of annulments is on the table, but also, perhaps, just opening up communion to the remarried even without an annulment. But surely not, right? For “the principle that . . . someone who has left the valid marriage of his life . . . and entered into another marriage cannot communicate does in fact hold definitively.” http://books.google.com/books?id=h8KvxVuMnaUC&lpg=PP1&dq=salt%20of%20the%20earth&pg=PA207#v=onepage&q&f=false

    1. Latenter,

      In October, the head of the CDF, Abp. Muller, forcefully reaffirmed the Church’s traditional teaching here:

      “It is frequently suggested that remarried divorcees should be allowed to decide for themselves, according to their conscience, whether or not to present themselves for holy communion. This argument, based on a problematical concept of “conscience”, was rejected by a document of the CDF in 1994. Naturally, the faithful must consider every time they attend Mass whether it is possible to receive communion, and a grave unconfessed sin would always be an impediment. At the same time they have the duty to form their conscience and to align it with the truth. In so doing they listen also to the Church’s Magisterium, which helps them “not to swerve from the truth about the good of man, but rather, especially in more difficult questions, to attain the truth with certainty and to abide in it” (Veritatis Splendor, 64). If remarried divorcees are subjectively convinced in their conscience that a previous marriage was invalid, this must be proven objectively by the competent marriage tribunals. Marriage is not simply about the relationship of two people to God, it is also a reality of the Church, a sacrament, and it is not for the individuals concerned to decide on its validity, but rather for the Church, into which the individuals are incorporated by faith and baptism. “If the prior marriage of two divorced and remarried members of the faithful was valid, under no circumstances can their new union be considered lawful, and therefore reception of the sacraments is intrinsically impossible. The conscience of the individual is bound to this norm without exception” (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, “The Pastoral approach to marriage must be founded on truth” L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, 7 December 2011, p. 4)”

      But the last paragraph of the document is critical: “Clearly, the care of remarried divorcees must not be reduced to the question of receiving the Eucharist. It involves a much more wide-ranging pastoral approach, which seeks to do justice to the different situations.” This is where I think the action is going to be at: finding other pastoral solutions to carrying for the divorced and “remarried.”

      We should strive to restored divorcees to full communion with the Church, but we should meet them halfway as much as possible. Holy Communion isn’t one of the places that’s possible.



    2. Fair enough. I saw that, but then Cardinal Marx (explicitly) and Archbishop Baldisseri (implicitly) responded to Mueller saying this is going to be openly discussed and “[t]he Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith cannot stop the discussions.”

      Anyway, I should have faith that Marx and Baldisseri didn’t actually mean that, and even if they did nothing will come of it, so I’ll let it go.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *