The “Francis effect” is by now a well known and a well-worn phrase. The pontiff, who still seems new to the job, has engaged Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
His clear and sometimes radical-sounding statements have prompted the faithful to reflect sincerely on how we, as individuals, live our faith. And it’s fair to say, living up to his words isn’t easy.
In his Apostolic Exhortation The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis makes it clear he’s talking to all of us:
“I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her,” he wrote.
The media has faithfully reported the pope’s more stirring quotes over the last year-and-a-half. Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, who spoke at the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Archdiocesan Leadership Institute (ALI) Sept. 4 about the Francis effect, called attention to some of them, including:
-“How I would like a church that is poor and for the poor!”
-“We have fallen into a ‘globalization of indifference.’ ”
-“I want things messy and stirred up in the church. I want the church to take to the streets!”
-“I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.”
Record reporter Jessica Able, who wrote about the ALI event, noted that Father Rosica asked the participants — about 200 employees of the Archdiocese of Louisville, its parishes and schools — to discuss the challenges posed by Pope Francis.
People said they felt inspired by his words, but they also felt overwhelmed. In recent months, a handful of local priests also have acknowledged in private conversations and in their homilies that the pope’s words are a challenge to them personally.
How does one respond adequately to his call, which is essentially the Gospel call? It’s a question all earnest Catholics ask themselves at one time or another: How do we integrate Gospel living into the hubbub of day-to-day life? It’s a question that’s hard to answer and one we sometimes abandon.
One answer can be found over on Woodbine Street in Old Louisville. There a small group of committed and joy-filled people live the Gospel call to service as envisioned by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin — cofounders of the Catholic Worker Movement. At the Casa Latina Catholic Worker, a house of hospitality primarily for Latina women and children, living the Gospel is straightforward. It hinges on one idea:
Invest yourself personally in the life of someone else.
Lives change when our efforts — centered on the spiritual and corporal works of mercy — are personal and part of our day-to-day lives. That lies at the heart of the movement. Our lives change when we choose to love the people we encounter, especially those most in need. We change when we live the Gospel call.
In a Record story about a dozen years ago, a local Catholic Worker explained that most of her work — her most important work — happens around the Casa’s kitchen table. It happens when she’s preparing a meal and developing friendships. It’s important to note, both those who live at the Casa and those who help support the Casa strive together to live this way.
Peter Maurin, cofounder of the Catholic Worker Movement, called it “personalism.”
It’s a challenge for those with full-time jobs and families to commit time to something else. But it’s not impossible and it begins with a sense of urgency to change the way we live.
Parishes, organizations and groups around the Archdiocese of Louisville offer a wide range of ways to reach out to people in a personal way.
Catholic Charities needs families to serve as mentors to refugees, people to show newcomers how to navigate life in the United States. Some of those mentor families have developed long-lasting friendships.
St. William Church’s CrossRoads Ministry, which marked its 15th anniversary Sept. 21, takes people on retreats to personally encounter the homeless, refugees and disabled adults.
Parishes throughout the archdiocese always need help with their food pantries — often organized by their Society of St. Vincent de Paul conferences.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz urged a group of young adults to turn their lives “outward and upward” during a special Mass Sept. 14. He asked them to emulate St. Elizabeth of Hungary who “had every reason to turn inward on herself,” but didn’t.
For Pope Francis, this is the way to joy.
“The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart,” he wrote in The Joy of the Gospel. “Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor.”
He goes on to say, “I never tire of repeating those words of Benedict XVI which take us to the very heart of the Gospel: ‘Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.’ ”
Record Assistant Editor