On Pope Francis’ Birthday, Celebrating His Words and Wisdom

(CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Today, December 17, is Pope Francis’ birthday!

The USCCB Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development maintains a Pope Francis Quotes collection, which is updated several times each year.  It highlights the Holy Father’s words on poverty, care for creation, migration, and many other issues, in order to inspire us to live and act as missionary disciples.

To honor Pope Francis on his birthday, we’ve selected a few favorites: three from Evangelii Gaudium, Laudato Si’, and Amoris Laetitia, and three from recent months:

“Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society” (Evangelii Gaudium, no. 187).

“A true ecological approach always becomes a social approach: it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” (Laudato Si’, no. 49).

“Christian families should never forget that ‘faith does not remove us from the world, but draws us more deeply into it… Each of us, in fact, has a special role in preparing for the coming of God’s kingdom in our world.’ Families should not see themselves as a refuge from society, but instead go forth from their homes in a spirit of solidarity with others. In this way, they become a hub for integrating persons into society and a point of contact between the public and private spheres” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 181).

Hope is the force that drives the hearts of those who depart, leaving home, their homeland, at times their relatives and families — I am thinking of the migrants — in search of a better life which is worthier of them and their loved ones. And it is also the impulse in the heart of those who welcome: the desire to encounter, to get to know each other, to dialogue. . . . Hope is the force that drives us ‘to share the journey,’ because the journey is made jointly . . . . Christ himself asks us to welcome our brother and sister migrants and refugees with open arms, with arms wide open” (General Audience, Sept. 27, 2017).

“Poverty is not an inevitable misfortune: it has causes that must be recognized and removed, in order to honor the dignity of many brothers and sisters, after the example of the Saints” (Angelus, Oct. 15, 2017).

“The teaching of John XXIII remains ever valid.  In pointing to the goal of an integral disarmament, he stated: ‘Unless this process of disarmament be thoroughgoing and complete, and reach men’s very souls, it is impossible to stop the arms race, or to reduce armaments, or – and this is the main thing – ultimately to abolish them entirely’ (Pacem in Terris)” (Address, Nov. 10, 2017).

Let’s honor Pope Francis today by taking these words to heart, responding with prayer and action, and sharing them with others!

Going Deeper
To pray, reach out, learn and act together on these and other topics, visit WeAreSaltandLight.org.

Forming Our Children to Go Forth

“Families should not see themselves as a refuge from society, but instead go forth from their homes in a spirit of solidarity with others. . . A married couple who experience the power of love know that this love is called to bind the wounds of the outcast, to foster a culture of encounter and to fight for justice. God has given the family the job of ‘domesticating’ the world and helping each person to see fellow human beings
as brothers and sisters.” 

–    Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia, nos. 181, 183

Jacob, Matthew, and Sarah still hold my hand when we walk to school.  For now, it’s an instinctual reflex for them.  I extend my hand and their little hands swing up to meet mine.  This probably won’t last much longer, but I hope it does.

As I think about it, the metaphor of walking together about sums up how my husband Jay and I try to foster a culture of encounter within our family. Pope Francis’ latest exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, affirms the role of the family—the domestic church—as a “vital cell in the transformation of the world” (AL 324).  To be relevant in the world, the road must be made by walking.  Remarks like “they grow up so fast” may sound cliché but with two of our three children in middle school beginning this fall, we realize how quickly time passes and just how small a window we parents have to help form our children into reconcilers, rebuilders, and restorers in God’s world.

Our deepest prayer for our children is that each one knows they are loved by God—hopefully first experienced by the love and acceptance they find at home.  We hope and trust that they are able to extend that love to others.  Maybe with God’s grace andfamily at basilica their discerning hearts, they will even desire to discover what call God has placed uniquely on their hearts.

We see our primary role in parenting of our children as encouraging Jacob, Matthew, and Sarah to engage the world around them—confronting injustice, witnessing hope in action, experiencing joy, asking for forgiveness, displaying compassion, showing empathy, and loving even in the midst of anger or fear.

We have found that ordinary everyday life presents our family with invitations to foster a culture of encounter.  For our little Murphy domestic church this means living inside the city where our neighbors, classmates and colleagues are diverse.   When Jacob comes home from school asking why so many classmates rely on free and reduced-price meals, we can talk about the dignity of the human person. When Sarah attends PTA meetings by our side, she sees her community coming together for the common good. When Matthew’s best buddies in school are from different religious and ethnic backgrounds, our family is enriched by authentic solidarity.

For our family, fostering a culture of encounter means watching the nightly news together and discussing what we see.  During the non-stop campaign coverage for this year’s elections, this means talking about what the candidates stand for and exploring what our faith has to say about the topics debated. One of the hardest things to explain is that while neither political party shares all of our Catholic values, we cannot simply retreat from political life and its respective duties.

Admittedly, this kind of parenting isn’t for everyone. From where we sit, the road to a culture of encounter is made by walking.

Pope Francis put it best in the last few words of Amoris Laetitia: “All of us are called to keep striving toward something greater than ourselves and our families… Let us make this journey as families, let us keep walking together.” Pope Francis, (no. 325)

Krisanne VaillancourtKrisanne Vaillancourt Murphy is the Senior Associate for National Catholic Engagement at Bread for the World.

 

Going Deeper
For some practical ideas about how families can practice solidarity with others, visit this page on WeAreSaltLight.org.

Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia: The Eucharist Calls Our Families to Transform the World

Michael Jordan Laskey, Life & Justice Ministries, Diocese of Camden, NJ

Michael Jordan Laskey, Life & Justice Ministries, Diocese of Camden, NJ

My wife Genevieve used to work at an urban retreat and social justice education center in a poor city, which is in the former convent on the property of a Catholic parish. There were a couple of homeless guys from the neighborhood who would occasionally stop by the center for something to eat. Because youth were often in the building, the center’s security policy didn’t allow the men to come in, but staff members would always prepare a “to go” bag with a sandwich or two and anything else that was in the kitchen.

There was a daily Mass in the chapel across the parking lot from the center, and Genevieve would go before work from time to time. One of the men who came for food most often – I’ll call him Frank – would sometimes be at Mass, too. He would join in the prayer and receive communion with the rest of the assembly.

Genevieve was struck by the fact that while Frank was understandably not allowed to enter the center, he was more than welcome in the church. He was part of the one human family gathered around the altar for the Eucharistic feast; he didn’t have to take this meal to go.

Mass, said the scholar Aidan Kavanagh, is doing the world the way it’s meant to be done. At the end of each liturgical celebration, we are sent forth to make the world more closely resemble the unity that we practice in the sanctuary, where all welcomed to the table and can receive what they need.

Pope Francis makes this connection between the Eucharist and our call to create a more just world in paragraphs 185 and 186 in his brand new apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”).

“The Eucharist demands that we be members of the one body of the Church. Those who approach the Body and Blood of Christ may not wound that same Body by creating scandalous distinctions and divisions among its members,” he writes. “When those who receive it turn a blind eye to the poor and suffering, or consent to various forms of division, contempt and inequality, the Eucharist is received unworthily. On the other hand, families who are properly disposed and receive the Eucharist regularly, reinforce their desire for fraternity, their social consciousness and their commitment to those in need.”

Why does Pope Francis talk about the connection between the Eucharist and working for a more just world in a document about the family?

The Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith. It is the celebration of Christ’s self-giving love and sacrifice for us, his brothers and sisters. We are meant to emulate this Eucharistic, others-centered love in our family lives – directed toward our own blood relatives, surely, but also reaching outward to all of God’s children, especially those who are hurting.

Formed by this Eucharistic love, our families can become what Pope Francis calls in the document “vital cell[s] for transforming the world.” Our families are meant to be schools of mercy, where compassion and care for the poor are learned and practiced. I think of my friend Sean, who has devoted his life to Catholic social justice ministry. When he was growing up, his family would help serve a meal at a soup kitchen every single Christmas. Sean doesn’t remember this tradition seeming strange or unusual. “It was just something we did,” he says. He learned mercy in his family and it had a profound impact on the person he has become.

How might the self-giving love we celebrate in the Eucharist be calling your family to work for justice together? What a privileged opportunity we have to respond to the Holy Father’s call!

Michael Jordan Laskey is director of Life & Justice Ministries and vice chancellor for the City of Camden for the Diocese of Camden, NJ. 


Go Deeper!

Read the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia online at the Vatican’s website or order copies through USCCB Publishing.

Learn more about how our faith inspires us to respond as disciples in the world today by watching this short video on WeAreSaltandLight.org.