Last week before heading out the door for an extended Thanksgiving holiday with my family in Kansas City I downloaded, printed, and stuck in a binder Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation in response to the recently concluded Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization. My hope was that I’d find some time to read and reflect on the exhortation during the trip.
I only finished the first chapter, but already feel like I could spend 5 years just reflecting on and implementing those 42 pages. (And I still have 175 to go!)
Folks are breathlessly tweeting and blogging about the exhortation (and rightfully so!) and its impact on our understanding of evangelization and pastoral outreach. So far I’ve been particularly taken with no. 24, in which Pope Francis outlines characteristics intrinsic to an evangelizing community. As I read them, evangelizing communities
- know that evangelization begins with God’s initiative
- have an endless desire to show mercy
- get involved in word and deed with other people
- take on “the smell of the sheep”
- patiently support and stand by people in their faith journey
- are concerned with the fruits of their efforts
- express their faith joyfully
In the following sections Pope Francis goes on to describe how these characteristics might be lived out in parishes, dioceses, other Catholic institutions, and even in the office of the papacy. These paragraphs should be required reading for anyone interested in how the mission of the Church is lived out in real situations and places. (I certainly wish we’d had this document when we started our department’s Journey of Discipleship project!)
As I indicated, there is a lot to unpack in the pope’s first major solo document to the Church and I’ll be posting more thoughts and reflections in the coming weeks. In the meantime: get reading!