“Love It, Learn It, Live It.”
That’s the slogan my archbishop, Archbishop Joseph Naumann, chose for the Faith Initiative for the Year for Faith. I was initially surprised by the ordering, since it seemed to me that it would be more logical to put “Learn it” first.
Apparently, I wasn’t alone: one of the priests addressed this question during Mass. He did so by asking one of the altar servers a series of questions: name, favorite color, and so on. What we received was a bunch of information. But, he pointed out, most of us didn’t know this server, so we would quickly forget everything we’d learned (and sure enough, I can’t even remember if the server was a boy or a girl).
He then contrasted this with the relationship of spouses: they’re in love with each other, so they joyfully want to know more about each other. You want to know the minutiae about the person you love: that desire to know him/her well is part of the nature of love. And so it is with God. If we love Him, we’ll desire catechesis, we’ll want to know more. If we don’t, these teachings will seem like a bunch of “rules,” or a political party’s public policy positions (say that three times fast).
That’s what came to mind while I was reading Pope Francis’ interview with Antonio Spadaro, S.J.. I would suggest that the critical passage to understanding both this interview, and Pope Francis’ papal style more broadly, is right here:
“The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.“I say this also thinking about the preaching and content of our preaching. A beautiful homily, a genuine sermon must begin with the first proclamation, with the proclamation of salvation. There is nothing more solid, deep and sure than this proclamation. Then you have to do catechesis. Then you can draw even a moral consequence. But the proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives. Today sometimes it seems that the opposite order is prevailing. The homily is the touchstone to measure the pastor’s proximity and ability to meet his people, because those who preach must recognise the heart of their community and must be able to see where the desire for God is lively and ardent. The message of the Gospel, therefore, is not to be reduced to some aspects that, although relevant, on their own do not show the heart of the message of Jesus Christ.”
This stands is sharp contrast from the media spin. For example, the Associated Press story claimed:
U.S. bishops were also behind Benedict’s crackdown on American nuns, who were accused of letting doctrine take a backseat to their social justice work caring for the poor — precisely the priority that Francis is endorsing.