Has Evangelii Gaudium Made a Difference at All?

Book Evangelii Gaudium

Has Evangelii Gaudium Made a Difference at All?


A few weeks back I was in England  for an amazing conference on evangelization. Alpha Global Week brought together Christian leaders from across the globe to learn, reflect and pray about proclaiming Jesus to the whole world.

In one of the Catholic talks, Br. Luigi Gioia spoke with deep passion for Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium. He urged us to all read it, and read it again.

It reminded me of another conference I was at last year, one in which the pope himself spoke about his document. A theme he drove home: it is meant to be a programmatic document.

Programmatic. In other words, he intended to give us something to implement. He says as much in paragraph 25:

I am aware that nowadays documents do not arouse the same interest as in the past and that they are quickly forgotten. Nevertheless, I want to emphasize that what I am trying to express here has a programmatic significance and important consequences.

What program? What consequences?

He continues:

I hope that all communities will devote the necessary effort to advancing along the path of a pastoral and missionary conversion which cannot leave things as they presently are. “Mere administration” can no longer be enough. Throughout the world, let us be “permanently in a state of mission”. 

Devote the necessary effort…. advance along a path… missionary conversion… cannot leave things as they are… administration not enough…. permanent state of mission...

These are bold statements! He’s making an critical assessment, and he is asking us to do something.

Did we remember to do something? Did we get with the program?

One of the speakers called EG a “challenging, even subversive document.” It is like an institutional examination of conscience. When you read it you see that the Holy Father is not satisfied with the status quo.

I dream of a “missionary option”, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation. The renewal of structures demanded by pastoral conversion can only be understood in this light: as part of an effort to make them more mission-oriented, to make ordinary pastoral activity on every level more inclusive and open, to inspire in pastoral workers a constant desire to go forth and in this way to elicit a positive response from all those whom Jesus summons to friendship with himself. As John Paul II once said to the Bishops of Oceania: “All renewal in the Church must have mission as its goal if it is not to fall prey to a kind of ecclesial introversion”. (27)

Going further he says:

Pastoral ministry in a missionary key seeks to abandon the complacent attitude that says: “We have always done it this way”. I invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in their respective communities. A proposal of goals without an adequate communal search for the means of achieving them will inevitably prove illusory. I encourage everyone to apply the guidelines found in this document generously and courageously, without inhibitions or fear. (33)

This is truly radical stuff, and I’m not sure that we can say widely that we have responded to this call.

Here’s another way of asking this. What is my parish doing now that it wasn’t doing before Evangelii Gaudium? What am I doing now that I wasn’t doing before EG? What in particular has been “transformed”?

What am I doing now that I wasn’t doing before EG? What in particular has been “transformed”?

If things look virtually the same as they did before November 24, 2013 when this document was released, then we had better get with the program!

If you are looking at yourself soberly and saying “Hmm. Maybe I haven’t fully gotten with the program,” here is something you can do.

1) Read Evangelii Gaudium. All of it. On the first page it says it is meant to be read by “bishops, clergy, consecrated persons and the lay faithful.” In other words, you! (You can read it online, in PDF, in e-reader or hard copy. I recommend a format where you can use a highlighter.)

2) Discuss it in a group. Pope Francis asks for an “adequate communal search” for the means to meet these goals (33). There is a lot of stuff in here and it needs to be tackled collaboratively.

3) Discuss it with your pastor and parish leaders. Parishes should be taking their directive from this document. The pope literally says this. Ask your pastor what his plans are to implement Evangelii Gaudium in the parish, and how you can help.

4) Pray. Pray that all the members of the Church will always open the gifts that the Holy Spirt blesses her with. An unopened gift is not a very useful thing.

5) Implement. The Pope does not name specific programs to use in this effort. He trusts the local church to determine what will be most effective in reaching those on the peripheries. In the context of this conference we were discussing a very effective tool called Alpha. Alpha clearly bring the church into contact with those who are far away, and proclaims the Gospel to them in the context of Christian friendship. And it is proven to bear amazing fruit.

But if you know of another program that more effectively does this, use it! Let’s use what works, but let’s just get with the program.

I believe that we are in an incredible time in the Church. There is much to be done, and we are all being called to roles in the mission. Passivity is no longer an option. It’s time for action.

So let’s get with the program. 

PS. The best talk I ever heard on Evangelii Gaudium was given by Andre Regnier of Catholic Christian Outreach. Unfortunately the sound is low, so you need to crank your speakers. 

PPS. My wife and I welcomed our 5th child on Friday. Say a prayer for our new son, Joseph

What am I doing now that I wasn’t doing before EG? What in particular has been “transformed”? — Josh Canning

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