Pope Francis

The Art of Accompaniment

If there is a buzz word to the pontificate of Pope Francis, in my mind there is no doubt that that words would be “accompaniment.” This can be verified both through his writings and the frequency of the use of the word itself and also in the personal witness of the Pope that has caught the attention of the whole world. Who can forget him washing the feet of the youth in the Juvenile Detention Center on Holy Thursday of 2013? Or him embracing the leper and kissing his wounds? Or the little girl in the Philippines who asked him why God allowed her to suffer, and how Francis simply drew the little girl to himself in an embrace and not only held her but cried with her.

This principle of accompaniment is expounded in The Joy of the Gospel, the first apostolic exhortation issued by the Bishop of Rome, which he stated express his pastoral program for the governance of the Universal Church under his pontificate. And I believe that the fruitfulness of the New Evangelization, the renewal of Western Society in response to Postmodernity, largely rests on learning the art of accompaniment.

In The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis writes:

In a culture paradoxically suffering from anonymity and at the same time obsessed with the details of other people’s lives, shamelessly given over to morbid curiosity, the Church must look more closely and sympathetically at others whenever necessary. In our world, ordained ministers and other pastoral workers can make present the fragrance of Christ’s closeness and his personal gaze. The Church will have to initiate everyone – priests, religious and laity – into this “art of accompaniment” which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other (cf. Ex 3:5). The pace of this accompaniment must be steady and reassuring, reflecting our closeness and our compassionate gaze which also heals, liberates and encourages growth in the Christian life.

He goes on to say that:

We need to practice the art of listening, which is more than simply hearing. Listening, in communication, is an openness of heart which makes possible that closeness without which genuine spiritual encounter cannot occur. Listening helps us to find the right gesture and word which shows that we are more than simply bystanders.

If we can learn to walk with people, meeting them where they are at and sharing in their joys and sorrows and steadily witnessing to the power of Jesus Christ in our own lives, then we can make disciples. As we get close to the Paschal Triduum, we should prepare ourselves to receive the New Commandment of Love that Jesus’ gave us on Holy Thursday at the Last Supper. The art of accompanying others is grounded in this novo mandatum.

How can we cultivate this art of accompaniment in our Catholic Beer Club gatherings? Perhaps there is someone at the gathering just waiting for us to walk with them, if only we learn to open our eyes and see.

Epiphany and Evangelization; What the 3 Wiseman can Teach us.

As the feast of the Epiphany is technically today, I thought a reflection on that would be a great way to start the year. I love the feast of the Epiphany, The more I reflect on it and its importance, the more I am so thankful it is something we continue to celebrate. So many times, I feel like in the media, news, television, the Catholic faith is mocked. Recently, it’s been the ‘progressive Pope Francis’ who is finally allowing our Church to get outside of its narrow walls of brainwashing and see the truth about science and evolution. Ha, ok so that was a little dramatic, but you get my point.  

This is why the Epiphany is so fantastic. Think of it, three modern day Atheist or Agnostic scientists, or maybe even new age environmentalists. What-ever it is, three people who are seeking out something greater than themselves. They may be doing research on microscopic cells, or maybe they are trying to understand more about the purpose of life and people’s energies (I apologize for my lack of knowledge on the new age front, I mean no disrespect). The point is, that is exactly what the three wise men were doing, and Christ entered into it, and directed them to himself. How amazing that we have a God who was willing to become human, to become known and met, so that he could die for us and bring us to ultimate happiness, life with him.  

This past week, I found myself in Sedona, Arizona. A truly beautiful city, and it had just snowed making it even more beautiful. Anyways, a friend and I were inside a store we thought looked fun and once inside looking around, found out it was geared towards a Buddhist new-age religion crowd. A lady walked inside and was looking at these gold bowls, I learned were called singing bowls. The clerk was telling her more about them, and finally concluded telling her that she would ‘have this feeling and receive a calling when it was her time to get a bowl’. All I could think was, wow this lady is really searching, really looking for something, looking for someone, Christ.

Evangelization starts with an encounter with Christ. A relationship with Christ does not simply barge in on someone and completely alter their life, destroying the past “unknowledge” or whatever you choose to call it and fill it with a zealous über traditional conservative Catholic clone. When the three wise men encountered the ultimate truth, Christ, He didn’t destroy who they were or their interests. He spoke through that, entered into their astrology and science, and found them there. And most importantly, it made sense; it was reasonable, the Catholic Church is REASONABLE. Praise God!  

Pope Benedict discussed this saying, “The encounter with him [Christ] is not a barging in of a stranger that destroys their own culture and their own history. It is instead the entrance to something greater, towards which they are journeying. Consequently this encounter is always at the same time a purification and a maturation. Furthermore, the encounter is always reciprocal. Christ waits on their history, their wisdom, the way they see things.” [1]

Christ reaches each of us at our own time, in our way. He created the world, and everything in it, and so who are we to think he can’t enter into different cultures, jobs, ways of thinking, etc. This new year, let us be so thankful for the Christ we have, for our individual encounter and relationship with him, and carry that into the world. We believe in a God that can meet, understand, and love anyone, no matter where they are at. The question remains then, do we believe that? On January 3rd, Pope Francis  tweeted “Christianity spreads through the joy of disciples who know that they are loved and saved.” Here’s to 2015: Lets do this.

 

[1] Message of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI for the naming of the reformed Aula Magna of the Pontifical Urbaniana University