Message from the Pastor

Bulletin Issue: April 22

Well, he has done it again...Pope Francis, that is. In the five years of his pontificate, our Jesuit pope has penned two encyclicals and three apostolic exhortations. In 2013, he built upon the theology of Pope Benedict XVI to issue the encyclical, Lumen fidei (“The Light of Faith”). That same year, Pope Francis wrote his first apostolic exhortation on the spirituality of mission when he issued Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”). Next in 2015, in the encyclical Laudato Si’ (“Praised Be”) he developed an ecological spirituality as he addressed the burning environmental concerns of our times. Then in 2016, in the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”), he developed a spirituality of family life. And last month, Pope Francis issued another Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate (“Rejoice and be Glad”), which provides a practical approach to a spirituality of holiness.

You might be wondering: what is the difference between an encyclical and an apostolic exhortation? An encyclical generally is more doctrinal in scope, whereby a specific church doctrine is defined and explained in some detail. An exhortation, on the other hand, represents a form of communication designed to encourage us to incorporate into our lives a series of recommendations. Using a sports metaphor, coaches might issue “encyclicals” when they instruct the players about the rules of the game, but use “apostolic exhortations” to cheer and challenge the team  to play better.

According to Jesuit Father Antonio Spidorio, editor of the Jesuit periodical La Civiltà Cattolica, the pope turns to his Jesuit roots to assert that at the essence of Christian life is the principle of curet primo Deum, that is, to put God at the center by seeking and finding God in all things.   This view is reflected in Gaudete et Exsultate’s more provocative assertions:

Our defence of the innocent unborn…needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred and demands love for each person, regardless of his or her stage of development. Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection.

Father James Martin, S.J. lists five takeaways from the document. They are: 1. Holiness means being yourself; 2. Everyday life can lead to holiness; 3. Two tendencies to avoid: Gnosticism and Pelagianism; 4. Be Kind; 5. The Beatitudes are a roadmap to happiness.

I will provide these and other highlights from our Jesuit pope’s creative and  challenging mind on Sunday, May 6 from 10:15-11:15am (between the end of the 9am Masses and the beginning of the 11:30am Mass). I hope to see you there.