A Saturday May 19th Q&A session with the various members of ecclesial movements and Pope Francis was inspiring to me. More than 120 thousand attended the events. The pope said much; much of it not available in print but what is available is here due the translations of the Vatican Information Service. It is hard to nail the pope down on all the things he said because a fair of amount of talks are off-the-cuff. This 3 minute video presentation by Rome Reports gives a good sense as to what we are supposed to be about. Nevertheless, there is enough to reflect on and to see where we find ourselves viz-a-viz Francis’ response.
Q: “How were you able to achieve certainty of faith in your life, and what path can you indicate to us so that each one of us can overcome our fragility of faith?”
A: “I have had the good fortune to grow up in a family where the faith was lived in a simple and concrete manner … The first proclamation is in the home, within the family, right? And this makes me think of the love of so many mothers and so many grandmothers in the transmission of the faith. … We do not find our faith in the abstract, no! It is always a person who preaches it to us, who tells us who Jesus is, who gives us the faith, who gives us the first announcement. … But there is a very important day for me: September 21, 1953. I was almost 17. It was the ‘Students’ Day’…. Before going to the festival, I went to my parish and met a priest I did not know, but I felt the need to confess. … After confession I felt that something had changed. I was not the same. I felt a voice call me: I was convinced that I had to become a priest. This experience of faith is important. We say that we must seek God, go to him to ask for forgiveness … but when we go, He is already waiting for us. He is the first one there! … And this creates wonder in the hearts of those who do not believe, and this is how faith grows! With an encounter with a Person, with an encounter with the Lord.”
Regarding fragility: “Fragility’s biggest enemy curiously enough, is fear. But do not be afraid! We are weak, we know it but He is stronger! If you are with him, then there is no problem! A child is fragile–I see many today–but they are with their fathers and their mothers so they are safe! We too are safe with the Lord; we are secure. Faith grows with the Lord, out of the very hands of the Lord.”
Q: The second question concerned the challenge of evangelization and what the movements should do to put the task have been called to into practice.
A: “I will say just three words. First: Jesus. … If we move forward with planning and other things, beautiful things indeed, but without Jesus, then something is wrong. Jesus is the most important thing. … The second word is prayer. Look at the face of God, but above all … know that you are being looked at in return. … And third, ‘witness’. … the faith can only be communicated through witness and that is through love. Not with our ideas, but by living the Gospel in our own lives, which the Holy Spirit brings to life within us. … Not so much speaking, but speaking through the way you live: the consistency of your life … which means living Christianity as an encounter with Jesus that leads me towards others and not as a social fact. Socially this how we are. Are we Christians? Wrapped up in ourselves? No, not that. Witness!”
Q: The third question was how to live as “a poor Church, for the poor”.
A: “First of all, the main contribution we can make is to live the Gospel. The Church is not a political movement or a well-organized structure: That is not her. … The Church is the ‘salt of the earth, the light of the world’. She is called to make the leaven of the Kingdom of God present in society and do it first by witness, her witness of fraternal love, solidarity … When you hear some say that solidarity is not a value, that it’s a ‘basic attitude’ that needs to disappear … this is wrong! … Moments of crisis, such as the one we are experiencing … are not only an economic crisis, not a cultural crisis. It is a crisis of humanity: it is humanity that is in crisis. And what can be destroyed is mankind! But mankind is the image of God!”
“In this time of crisis we can’t just worry about ourselves, can’t get wrapped up in loneliness or discouragement … Please do not get locked away in yourselves! That is a danger: locking ourselves away inside our parish, among our friends, in our movement, with people who think the same way we do … But you know what is happening? When the Church becomes closed up in itself it gets sick. ,,, The Church must go out from herself. Where? Towards the boundaries of existence, whatever those might be, but get out. Faith is an encounter with Jesus and we must do the same as Jesus, meet others. …. We have to bring about encounter. We have to make our faith a ‘culture of encounter’ and of friendship, a culture wherein we find brothers and sisters, where we can talk even with those who do not think like us, even with those with which have a different faith … Everyone has something in common with us: they are made in the image of God! … We must go out to meet with everyone without negotiating about the faith we belong to.”
“And another important point: we must go out to meet the poor. … Today, imagine, all the children who don’t have something to eat is not news. This is serious. We cannot stay calm! We cannot become starch-pressed Christians, those Christians who are too highly educated, who speak of theological issues over tea, calmly. No! We must become courageous Christians and go out in search of those who are the flesh of Christ. … Poverty, for us Christians, is not a sociological or philosophical or cultural category. No. It is a theological category. I would say, perhaps, the first category, because God, the Son of God, humbled himself, became poor to walk along the road with us. This is our poverty: the poverty of the flesh of Christ; the poverty that has brought us the Son of God with his Incarnation.”
Q: The fourth question was: How can we help our brothers and sisters if there is little we can do to change the socio-political climate they are living under?
A: “Two virtues are needed to proclaim the Gospel: courage and patience. They are in the Church of patience. They suffer and there are more martyrs today than in the early centuries of the Church. … It should be noted that many times these conflicts do not have a religious origin. Often there are other causes of a social and political nature and unfortunately, religious affiliations are used like fuel to the fire. A Christian must always know how to respond to evil with good, although it is often difficult. We must try to make them feel–these brothers and sisters of ours–that we are deeply united … to their situation, that we know that they are Christians who have ‘entered a state of patience’. … they experience the limits, the very limits, between life and death. And for us, this experience should lead us to promote religious freedom for all: for everyone! Every man and woman should be free in their religious confession, whatever it may be. Why? Because that man and that woman are children of God.”