Monday, January 13, 2014

Evangelii gaudium 6: favourite bits

LMS Pilgrimage to Walsingham: 'an evangelising gesture'.
When EG first came out there was a lot of focus on the bits about 'promethean neo-pelagians', which I have already addressed to some extent, and on economic issues, which I am not going to discuss (life is too short), and on one or two more positive passages, such as this one:

Evangelisation with joy becomes beauty in the liturgy, as part of our daily concern to spread goodness. The Church evangelises and is herself evangelised through the beauty of the liturgy, which is both a celebration of the task of evangelisation and the source of her renewed self-giving. (24)

For a bit of mental exercise, I recommend the passages which explain why 'time is greater than space' (222ff) and polyhedrons are preferable to spheres (236). However, I don't have the time (or space) to go into those here and now.

Here are some other passages which illustrate some of the range of interesting, and sometimes neglected, ideas Pope Francis set out in the Exhortation, which I haven't otherwise addressed in the series of posts.

43: In her ongoing discernment, the Church can also come to see that certain customs not directly connected to the heart of the Gospel, even some which have deep historical roots, are no longer properly understood and appreciated. Some of these customs may be beautiful, but they no longer serve as means of communicating the Gospel. We should not be afraid to re-examine them. At the same time, the Church has rules or precepts which may have been quite effective in their time, but no longer have the same usefulness for directing and shaping people’s lives.

We need to be unapologetic about applying this passage to customs such as getting children to carry up the gifts at the Offertory or compose the Bidding Prayers, about putting teddy bears on the Altar, dancing in the aisles or using or home-made communion hosts. It is these kinds of things, which are on the borders of liturgical law or cross over it, which have been criticised as 'no longer properly understood' since were allowed or just developed after the Council, in a string of official documents, but have nevertheless become cherished customs in some places, often on the basis of the claim that they are restorations of ancient practices (ie that they have 'deep roots'). If they are misleading people, they should be reconsidered. To give just one example, consider Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (Redemptionis sacramentum 151):

Only out of true necessity is there to be recourse to the assistance of extraordinary ministers in the celebration of the Liturgy. Such recourse is not intended for the sake of a fuller participation of the laity but rather, by its very nature, is supplementary and provisional.

Another issue: closed churches.

47. The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open. One concrete sign of such openness is that our church doors should always be open, so that if someone, moved by the Spirit, comes there looking for God, he or she will not find a closed door. There are other doors that should not be closed either. Everyone can share in some way in the life of the Church; everyone can be part of the community, nor should the doors of the sacraments be closed for simply any reason.

I hate to see church doors locked. I know there are security problems in some places, but these problems can be usually addressed in various ways. And I heartily endorse the idea that parishes should not develop an inner clique who look down on everyone else, and bar the way to the Parish Priest and indeed the Sacraments.


61. We also evangelize when we attempt to confront the various challenges which can arise.[56] On occasion these may take the form of veritable attacks on religious freedom or new persecutions directed against Christians; in some countries these have reached alarming levels of hatred and violence. In many places, the problem is more that of widespread indifference and relativism, linked to disillusionment and the crisis of ideologies which has come about as a reaction to any-thing which might appear totalitarian. This not only harms the Church but the fabric of society as a whole. We should recognize how in a culture where each person wants to be bearer of his or her own subjective truth, it becomes difficult for citizens to devise a common plan which transcends individual gain and personal ambitions.


66. The family is experiencing a profound cultural crisis, as are all communities and social bonds. In the case of the family, the weakening of these bonds is particularly serious because the family is the fundamental cell of society, where we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another; it is also the place where parents pass on the faith to their children. Marriage now tends to be viewed as a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will. But the indispensible contribution of marriage to society transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple.

The New Evangelisation and secularisation.

68. The Christian substratum of certain peoples – most of all in the West – is a living reality. Here we find, especially among the most needy, a moral resource which preserves the values of an authentic Christian humanism. Seeing reality with the eyes of faith, we cannot fail to acknowledge what the Holy Spirit is sowing. It would show a lack of trust in his free and unstinting activity to think that authentic Christian values are absent where great numbers of people have received baptism and express their faith and solidarity with others in a variety of ways. This means more than acknowledging occasional “seeds of the word”, since it has to do with an authentic Christian faith which has its own expressions and means of showing its relationship to the Church. The immense importance of a culture marked by faith cannot be overlooked; before the onslaught of contemporary secularism an evangelized culture, for all its limits, has many more resources than the mere sum total of believers. An evangelized popular culture contains values of faith and solidarity capable of encouraging the development of a more just and believing society, and possesses a particular wisdom which ought to be gratefully acknowledged.

86. In some places a spiritual “desertification” has evidently come about, as the result of attempts by some societies to build without God or to eliminate their Christian roots. In those places “the Christian world is becoming sterile, and it is depleting itself like an overexploited ground, which transforms into a desert”. In other countries, violent opposition to Christianity forces Christians to hide their faith in their own beloved homeland. This is another painful kind of desert.

Persecutions within the Church. Those attached to the Traditional Mass know exactly what Pope Francis means in this paragraph.

100. Those wounded by historical divisions find it difficult to accept our invitation to forgiveness and reconciliation, since they think that we are ignoring their pain or are asking them to give up their memory and ideals. But if they see the witness of authentically fraternal and reconciled communities, they will find that witness luminous and attractive. It always pains me greatly to discover how some Christian communities, and even consecrated persons, can tolerate different forms of enmity, division, calumny, defamation, vendetta, jealousy and the desire to impose certain ideas at all costs, even to persecutions which appear as veritable witch hunts. Whom are we going to evangelize if this is the way we act?

Other issues.

115: Grace supposes culture, and God's gift becomes flesh in the culture of those who receive it.

124: “Journeying together to shrines and taking part in other manifestations of popular piety, also by taking one’s children or inviting others, is in itself an evangelizing gesture”. Let us not stifle or presume to control this missionary power!

132. When certain categories of reason and the sciences are taken up into the proclamation of the message, these categories then become tools of evangelization; water is changed into wine. Whatever is taken up is not just redeemed, but becomes an instrument of the Spirit for enlightening and renewing the world.

183. Consequently, no one can demand that religion should be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without influence on societal and national life, without concern for the soundness of civil institutions, without a right to offer an opinion on events affecting society.

233: ... the Church’s history is a history of salvation, to be mindful of those saints who inculturated the Gospel in the life of our peoples and to reap the fruits of the Church’s rich bimillennial tradition, without pretending to come up with a system of thought detached from this treasury, as if we wanted to reinvent the Gospel.



  1. Contrast paragraph 183 with the comments of Roger Scruton in his essay, "Democracy, for the People, by the People": "Religion, in our society, has become a private affair, which makes no demmands on the public as a whole" (which of course Roger Scruton regards as a desirable state of affairs).

  2. Shouldn't this be Evangelii Gaudium 7, not 6? :)