Tuesday 31 January 2017

O Jerusalem!

How many times I have walked through the Russian Compound on my way to and from the Sisters in Musrara. To discover now just how utterly central this Compound has been in the recent history of Jerusalem - from the end-Ottoman times through the British Mandate, the Haganah and the Irgun and the birth of Israel.

And strange how little things touch you: like the description of the Mays, a German Jewish family taking walks in the hills just outside the City to collect wild cyclamens.... ("The Mays were more cultured Germans than Zionists – Kurt had won the Iron Cross in the Great War – and they were totally irreligious. The Mays lived over the shop: when their daughter Miriam wa born, she was breastfed by an Arab wetnurse but when she grew up, her parents discouraged her from playing with the Polish Jews next door who were 'not sufficiently cultured'. Jerusalem was still small thought: sometimes in spring, Miriam's father would take her on walks out of the city to pick cyclamen on the blooming Judaean hills." Montefiore 530.) And how there flashes into mind the beautiful wild cyclamens that one has seen, once, literally passing through an Arab house in Bittir-Betar, on the way up to the ruins of Bether, left as they were in times of Bar Kochba and Hadrian, now home only to a profusion of wild flowers, the flowers of the Land...

And Rehavia, home to staid German Jews and British officials.

And the King David Hotel: I had no idea it was so central to this recent history.

And the gentle Galilean who has been present all through the bloody history of this beloved City - cause of so much hate? But as Lonergan says: with his coming, the dialectic has three arms, and evil is intensified.
But when this problem of evil is met by a supernatural solution, human perfection itself becomes a limit to be transcended, and then the dialectic is transformed from a bipolar to a tripolar conjunction and opposition. The humanist viewpoint loses its primacy, not by some extrinsicist invasion, but by submitting to its own immanent necessities. (Lonergan, Insight CWL 3:749.)
To reflect, with Sebag Montefiore's biography on the one hand, and the religions on the other. And also Bozzolo's reflections on the salesian consecrated life in Sapientiam dedit illi. The point is that, with the gentle Gailean, things become complicated, far more complicated.  

Monday 30 January 2017

Who writes?

When I write a letter in my capacity as formation councillor, who exactly is writing? There are so many people who help in various ways, big and small. And there comes to mind Dorothy Sayers' Airman who is asked, before the Pearly Gates, to recite the Creed, and cannot, and then is told: Recite! for if you do not, these very stones will cry out.

The faith is larger than ME. It belongs to the COMMUNITY. And even when my faith is weak, and I do not believe, the community believes for me, carries me, makes the profession of faith.

So the writing is no longer the result of an I, but of a We.

Sunday 29 January 2017

The purpose of the UPS

In the process of preparing a homily for the feast of Don Bosco at the UPS, I got thinking about the purpose of the UPS, which led me to ask about the purpose of a university as such. A search on the net revealed an interesting article: "The day the purpose of university changed" (athttp://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20150130071933584). That day seems to have been a remark of Ronald Reagan's, questioning the concept of liberal education and advocating job-oriented education:
Reagan was staking out a competing vision. Learning for learning’s sake might be nice, but the rest of us shouldn’t have to pay for it. A higher education should prepare students for jobs.
And Reagan is famous for his communication skills. Mao said famously: Better a loud fart than a long speech. I remember Reagan being quoted somewhere: Better a simple lie than a complicated truth. The article I am quoting says:
The new governor didn’t spend time talking about the tension between Jefferson’s and Franklin’s visions. There was little political payoff in nuance. Reagan, one of his campaign aides told The New York Times in 1970, doesn’t operate in shades of grey: "He lays it out there."
Shades of Trump. Reagan was already doing it.

But my point is different. My question, my practical question is: should not the UPS be preparing Salesians for the hands-on job of formation? Put that way, it does sound something like what Reagan was pushing for.

Saturday 28 January 2017

Eunan McDonnell on Francis de Sales

“Dio non può crescere in se stesso ma si può crescere in noi”. Queste parole di San Francesco di Sales rimangono una sfida o piuttosto un invito ogni giorno per me personalmente.

Come è possibile che Dio cresca in noi? – ritornerò a questo più tardi.

Ho cominciato i miei studi su Francesco di Sales qui a Roma (UPS) ventidue anni fa. Con D. Josef Strús. Avevo già studiato il primo ciclo di teologia nell’Irlanda ma attraverso gli scritti di Francesco di Sales ho scoperto Dio in modo nuovo, cioè, non il concetto di Dio ma il Dio vivente attraverso l’esperienza vissuta da San Francesco di Sales. Come? Ho incontrato qualcuno che parlava di Dio dal di dentro del suo rapporto personale con Dio, Mi ha insegnato molto, in particolare, ci rivela il volto misericordioso di Dio che vede la ferita sotto i nostri peccati e vedendo la ferita, vuole guarirci.

La natura umana non è corrotta dal peccato ma è ferita. Nonostante – al centro della persona rimane la bontà perché Dio che è buono ci ha creati buoni.

Questo è vero per ogni persona, quindi è molto importante non fermarsi all’aspetto o al comportamento esteriore. Don Bosco anche ci insegna questa verità quando siamo con i giovani.

Ma – per raggiungere il loro cuore, noi dobbiamo avere familiarità con il nostro cuore. “Nemo dat quod non habet”. Secondo San Francesco de Sales, il nostro cuore è come una bussola – senza vivere dal cuore non si può trovare la strada giusta. Il fatto che Dio ha creato su dimora nel nostro cuore, vuol dire che possiamo comprendere tre cose:

  1. Non portiamo un Dio assente ai giovani (Dio non è lontano da loro, è già presente nei loro cuori)
  2. Viaggiamo con loro per scoprire nella esperienza umana questo Dio che abita nei loro cuore (cioè umanismo cristiano)
  3. Ma per arrivare a questo scopo ciò presuppone che il salesiano ha già incontrato Dio nel suo proprio cuore.

— Dio è già presente nei nostri cuori ma spesso siamo assenti noi!

— Ritorno alla domanda principale: Come Dio può crescere in noi?

Semplicemente – attraverso la preghiera e il servizio (per noi il servizio ai giovani). L’amore affettivo e effettivo.

Credo che quello che Francesco di Sales ha fatto per la Chiesa attraverso il suo rapporto con Giovanna Francesca de Chantal) e con gli altri – cioè l’amicizia spirituale – è una ricchezza per noi. L’amicizia spirituale è umano ma con Dio al centro, quindi è una relazione sempre triangolare. Penso che Don Bosco ha sviluppato questo dono Salesiano della amicizia spirituale con i giovani. – Noi dobbiamo riscoprire questo atteggiamento e modo di vivere con gli giovani – e Francesco, dottore della Chiesa, può aiutarci con la sua teologia, la quale sostiene la nostra spiritualità Salesiana.

Scusate i miei sbagli ma Dio può anche usare questi per aiutarci a crescere in lui. Buona Notte.

Lonergan on Thomas Aquinas

Somewhere - probably in his unpublished writings - Lonergan makes interesting comments on Thomas.

Like for example, that he combined the universality of Aristotle with the particularity of many central aspects of the Christian faith: incarnation, the nativity, the redemption, all these are particular events, not to speak of the particularity and the singularity of the person of Jesus of Nazareth the Christ. Scotus was probably struggling with the same thing, which is why his haecceitas - something that probably flowed into Heidegger's thinking, if we remember that Heidegger did his Habilitationschrift on Scotus. In Thomas, wisdom and prudence flow together to create a new kind of wisdom - or is it in Lonergan that that happens.

At any rate, Thomas, the great innovator, brought the Greeks and the Arabs under tribute to the faith. He learnt from Aristotle when people in his time went to Plato, considering Aristotle far too dangerous. He learnt / dialogued with Avicenna (Ibn Sina) and Averroes (Ibn Rushd) - but that was something that everyone seemed to have been doing at the time.

Another brilliant remark of Lonergan's: one of the differences between Thomas and us was that Thomas had few books at his disposition, and he read them well.

From my "Integrated Lonergan Index":
(Decode!) (And find the published equivalents, now that so much has been published in the CWL)

Aquinas and Aristotle, expression          322 10
Aquinas and Augustine      186 207
Aquinas and Lonergan: transposition     48 51-
Aquinas         36 238
Aquinas, achievement and limits            313 h.32
Aquinas, and history           36 238
Aquinas, and Piaget            195 473
Aquinas, did not justify choice of Aris.    313 h.32
Aquinas, discovery of          36 258
Aquinas, extra-theological categories    313 h.32
Aquinas, faculty psychology          186 207
Aquinas, growing up to his level  39 237
Aquinas, historical thinking absent        313 h.32
Aquinas, logic of quaestio            313 h.32
Aquinas, objections answered within system   313 h.32
Aquinas, philosopher?       296 120
Aquinas, polymorphic subject ignored    313 h.32
Aquinas, Scotus, Ockham   3 30-31
Aquinas, shortcomings       109 23
Aquinas, systematic?          195 472-73
Aquinas, the philosopher  195 651
Aquinas, the theologian    195 651
Aquinas, theological viewpoint   313 h.24
Aquinas, theology as science       309 1
Aquinas, understanding and judgment  223 335
Aquinas: certitude & und. Quodl. IV, a.18           361 2
Aquinas: certitude & und., ex.       361 2

Aquinas's Sentences, Pelagian on grace            141 31

Thomas, donkeys and straw

Pier Fausto Frisoli spoke beautifully about Thomas Aquinas this morning. Among the things he mentioned was his mystical experience, a year before he died, which led him to stop writing because he considered all that he had written as straw. Lonergan came to mind immediately, and the quotation was found, in "Unity and Plurality: The Coherence of Christian Truth," A Third Collection (New York / Mawah: Paulist; London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1985) 242:
Ordinarily the scientific and the religious differentiations of consciousness occur in different individuals. but they can be found in the same individual as was the case with Thomas of Aquin. At the end of his life his prayer became so intense that it interfered with his theological activity. But earlier there could have been an alternation between religious and theological differentiation, while later still further differentiation might have enabled him to combine prayer and theology as Teresa of Avila combined prayer and business.
And then of course, theology might be straw, even that of Thomas; but even straw has its uses, and we donkeys need straw.  

Thursday 26 January 2017

L'ebrezza dello Spirito

The Italian hymn (Lauds, Monday Week 3 ordinary time) speaks of the "ebrezza dello Spirito." A word that Benedict XVI uses of God, probably in his Message for the Lent of 2007, when he talks about God awaiting our response like an anxious lover... A word that Plascencia had used in his wonderful retreat to the members of GC26 in 2008, talking about "response" as part of the spirituality of the Preventive System.

Ebrezza: for me, "giddiness" is the closest translation in English - the giddiness not so much of excessive drink but of someone in love, or of persons in love. 

Sunday 22 January 2017

"Era fuori di se"

"Era fuori di se." His brothers, and even his mother - do not understand him. Like the scribes and the pharisees. But Jesus takes his stand. Now, in obedience to the Father, he proclaims the new family of God.

And there is no haste or anxiety to make up. Both Mary and her son had learned to walk in the luminous cloud, the Shekinah, of the Father's will. Jesus had, in fact, learned to do so from Mary. 

The Other who is Person - in relation

The OTHER of EG is a PERSON IN RELATION - and even often a FAMILY.
We are never merely INDIVIDUALS but always in relation: SONS and FATHERS and MOTHERS, SPOUSES, and so on.

Trinity, communion, refugees

EG 67: a key for reading Pope Francis' sometimes baffling pastoral attitude towards and action on behalf of refugees:
Pastoral activity needs to bring out more clearly the fact that our relationship with the Father demands and encourages a communion which heals, promotes and reinforces interpersonal bonds. In our world, especially in some countries, different forms of war and conflict are re-emerging, yet we Christians remain steadfast in our intention to respect others, to heal wounds, to build bridges, to strengthen relationships and to “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal 6:2). (EG 67)
 Our relationship with the Father: that is the key. 

The method of Amoris Laetitia

Perhaps we need to deal with the varying situations of formation houses (in Europe, for example) with the method of Amoris Laetitia: time is greater than space; the principle of graduality; patience and respect. 

Accoglienza - hospitality - evangelization

ACCOGLIENZA - the very first form of evangelization - literally, spreading the gospel, the good news.

Memories of Italy: being welcomed by a diocesan parish (Suello) in North Italy; by young people in Rome (of AGESCI Roma 60).

Of Provincial House Mumbai: the wonderful effects of the warm hospitality extended to all, thanks mainly to Bernard.

Of Divyadaan: the absolutely fundamental impact of the welcome (or lack of it) to the brothers, especially the new ones, on the first day (making sure the beds were ready and the dormitories clean; going if possible to the station to receive them; or at least taking their bags at the door).

Of Cereda in the past welcoming confreres in the Pisana (we were not used to that kind of welcome!).

Of Nashik: pazienza - rispetto per la storia concreta personale... e AMICIZIA.

Wednesday 18 January 2017

Fabio Attard homily, Wednesday, Week 2 of Ordinary Time


L’incapacità radicale di percepire la realtà di Dio.

Non riesce più a riconoscere negli eventi l’agire di Dio.

L’incapacità di credere.

Di fronte a una simile situazione a Gesù non restava altro che rinnovare le sue scelte fondamentali, e ancora una volta Lui sceglie l’uomo.

CIVILTÀ CATTOLICA – Martin Scorsese Intervista Padre Spadaro sj

Quale personaggio la colpisce di più del romanzo «Silenzio» di Endo e del suo film? Perché?

Quando ero più giovane, mi è venuto in mente di fare un film sull’essere un prete. Io stesso avevo avuto voglia di seguire le orme di padre Principe, per così dire, e di essere un prete. Ho frequentato un seminario minore, ma non sono andato oltre il primo anno. E mi sono reso conto, all’età di quindici anni, che la vocazione è qualcosa di molto speciale, che non si può acquisire, e non si può averla soltanto perché si vuole essere come qualcun altro. Dev’esserci una vera chiamata.

Ma se davvero si ha la chiamata, come si fa ad affrontare il proprio orgoglio? Se si è in grado di eseguire un rito in cui si produce la transustanziazione, allora sì: si è molto speciali. Tuttavia, è necessario anche qualcos’altro. Sulla base di ciò che ho visto e vissuto, un buon prete, oltre ad avere quel talento, quella capacità, deve sempre pensare anzitutto ai suoi parrocchiani. Quindi la domanda è: come fa quel prete a superare il suo ego? Il suo orgoglio? Volevo fare quel film. E ho capito che con Silence, quasi sessant’anni dopo, stavo facendo quel film. Rodríguez è direttamente alle prese con quella domanda.

Dio non esaudisce i nostri desideri, ma realizza le sue promesse – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Thursday 12 January 2017

Lightness or Lightheartedness? The lila of Being

Milan Kundera’s The unbearable lightness of being. A title that has stuck, though of course I’ve never read the novel. The Wiki talks about Kundera taking issue with the “heaviness of being” following from Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence, and so on. Whatever. I like the rhythm of the words. And what comes to me is that this lightness of being is so different from the LIGHTHEARTEDNESS that comes from being Son. We are not first and foremost individuals. We are persons in relation, in communion. And for one who believes, he is Son, and he lives in his father’s house. There is a wonderful word for this in the Indian sanskritic tradition: LILA. Lila – the PLAYFULNESS, the LIGHTHEARDTEDNESS of being because we are sons and daughters in our Father’s house. So there are a million things to do and all sorts of pressures – but all to be done with lila, with playfulness. In a world where God exists, it is the clown, not the tragedian, who has the last laugh.

Wednesday 11 January 2017

God behind the horror

The Osservatore Romano is getting a new look. Already for some time now there is a monthly magazine, very well done, called simply DONNE CHIESA MONDO - not only very well done, but extremely well done, with wonderful pictures of paintings by people like Marc Chagall. Recently I spotted also a new kind of weekly edition, called L'OSSERVATORE ROMANO: IL SETTIMANALE - some colour most black and white, but once again with extremely well chosen photos and pictures of paintings.

One article called "Dio dietro l'horror" caught my attention (seems to be by Dario Fertilio, L'O.R. Settimanale giovedì 5 gennaio 2017, p. 17). The "subtitle" reads: Very striking in Stephen King the way he just cannot get away from the religious theme. To the point that his books would be incomprehensible without it. In "The little girl who loved Tom Gordon," Trisha is lost in a forest, and knows her end is near. She searches her mind for some prayer, but her father, a typical average American, has not given her a religious compass. When Trisha tries to say the Our Father, the words come out "shapeless and distorted". She remembers that when she insisted with her father, he confided that he believed only in the "Subaudible" or What is below the threshold of hearing (I wonder what the original English of this is). The Subaudible: something that is like the continuous buzz of electrical resistances or the noise of traffic: you get so used to it that you don't hear it anymore, but it is there. that was his faith in the Subaudible, or, more solemnly, in "a mysterious unconscious force directed towards the good." But the little girl was not satisfied, and now, alone in the forest, a thought passes through her mind: "I cannot pray to a sound. I just cannot."

It is striking that Stephen King, an otherwise typical representative of liberal America, cannot get away from the religious theme. The 8 volumes of the The Black Tower follow the same theme: who lives at the very top of this inaccessible tower in the middle of a paradise field of roses? And what drives the protagonists to face the worst monsters, real and imagined, risking their life to complete this mission of discovery? On 17 February we can expect Nicolaj Arcel's movie on The Black Tower - sounds like something out of Tolkien to me, but I guess it is not.

Tuesday 10 January 2017

Reframing Pope Francis, by Michael Cook

Reframing Pope Francis
His critics need to adopt a new approach
Michael Cook | Jan 8 2017 |  

Perhaps annus horribilis is too strong to describe Pope Francis’s experience of 2016. But it cannot be far off the mark. Apart from events like refugees drowning in the Mediterranean and flooding into Europe and the pulverisation of Aleppo, there was a drumbeat of criticism in the media after the publication of his document on marriage, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love).  
The most entertaining of these was La sacrée semaine: qui changea la face du monde (The Holy Week which changed the world), a novella by an eminent French anthropologist, Marc Augé. This is a fanciful tale about Pope Francis. He steps on the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica on Easter morning 2018 (which, as it happens, is April Fool’s day) and announces to an immense crowd: “God is not dead – because God has never existed.” Immediately the cardinals whisk him off to a mental hospital and he submits his resignation the next day.  
Augé is a modern pagan (the more gods, the better) for whom rationalism and relativism are religious dogmas. The point of his jeu d’espirit is not to criticise Pope Francis but to show that the world would be much better off without religion.
More troubling is the stance of Catholic critics who feel that the world would be much better off without Pope Francis. Ross Douthat, a columnist for the New York Times who has been channeling this hostility into the mainstream media, recently wrote that “same-sex couples, polygamists and unmarried straight couples can all reasonably claim that the most liberal interpretation of ‘Amoris’ applies to their situations”.
This is as preposterous as Augé’s novella; as in a failing marriage, Douthat & Co can see almost nothing good in Papa Bergoglio. Vaticanistas and bloggers have been decoding shuffles in the Vatican bureaucracy, doorstop interviews with the media, and appointments of bishops and announcing that they have uncovered a plot to explode the traditional teachings of the Catholic Church.
The latest broadside comes from two highly respected moralists from the English-speaking world, both laymen: Germain Grisez, an American theologian, and John Finnis, an Australian who is an emeritus professor at Oxford. They wrote a letter to the Pope and then published it online in the Catholic journal First Things in early December.
In it they listed eight positions opposed to traditional Catholic teaching which, they say, could be supported by passages in Amoris Laetitia. No doubt this is true. “The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose,” says Shakespeare. In fact, twisting the meaning of church documents has a long history. The first Pope, Peter the Apostle, wrote to his flock in about 65AD that Paul’s “letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”
But surely the Pope cannot be held responsible for the misuse of his words. If he can be, shouldn’t his critics consider un-canonising St Pius X, in whose name the most serious schism of the last century took place?
The real point is: did Pope Francis affirm any of these supposed errors? And the answer, thanks to the careful documentation of Grisez and Finnis, is: No, he did not. Despite their best efforts, they failed to catch him in flagrante haeresi.
In any case, Finnis and Grisez’s eighth position is curious: they appear to have created their own dogma and then criticized the Pope for not teaching it. The offending position is: “A Catholic need not believe that many human beings will end in hell.” But the Church has never taught that hell is crowded, only that it exists and that each of us might end up there. There may be standing room only; the hotels may be half-empty. This is one area of Catholic belief which is open to debate. We’ve all heard of fake news; this is fake dogma.
Why are some highly intelligent and faithful Catholics so jaundiced towards Pope Francis that they see heresies everywhere, as if they were playing a theological version of Pokemon Go in the Vatican Gardens?
Perhaps we need a fresh framework to understand him. Francis is not a conventional Bishop of Rome. After 150 years of Popes who have been mostly diplomats or intellectuals, in 2013 the cardinals elected a Latin American Jesuit, a bishop with a profoundly pastoral heart. In John Paul II, the Church had a strikingly original philosopher; in Benedict XVI, one of the world’s finest theologians; and in Francis, a distinguished spiritual director.
The figure of the “spiritual director” is a familiar one in the Catholic Church and the Jesuits are famed for producing them. They are priests (usually) who “direct souls”, that is, give prayerful and practical advice to people one-by-one.
Their role is to help each person reach the heights of Christian life, sometimes by comforting and consoling, sometimes by scolding and berating, always by helping people to be more prayerful and centred on Christ. It’s no accident that the Pope’s Christmas present to the members of the Roman Curia – the officials at the Vatican – was an Italian translation of stern textbook by a 17thCentury Jesuit, Industriae ad curandos animae morbos (Curing illnesses of the soul).
The harsh side of Francis as a spiritual director seems to have deeply offended some clergy. “We’ve stuck with the Church through thick and thin, we get paid peanuts, and this guy rips into us for not being holy enough! Just who does he think he is?” But this has always been the reaction of weary clergy in past eras of reform. Just read the lives of the 16th Century Counter-Reformation saints Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross. It’s an understandable complaint, but it’s not holiness.
Sadly, a bit of berating seems to be in order after the world-wide sex abuse scandals, profligacy in the Vatican, and, worst of all, a collapse in the number of church-goers. Francis seems to believe that if there had been more Padre Pios in the pulpits, there would be more Catholics in the pews.
The important thing to remember about a spiritual director—unlike a philosopher or theologian -- is that his advice is imparted personally, soul by soul. It is not delivered in sermons, books, or Facebook groups. It is not an off-the-rack suit but bespoke spiritual tailoring. All of Francis’s advice in Amoris Laetitia is perfectly conventional if viewed through the prism of personal spiritual direction. He is showing the Church how to apply to prodigal sons and daughters the principles of Vatican II and of the two great Popes who implemented its spirit.
There are risks, of course. Francis’s approach will only work if priests (all Catholics, actually) are willing to be shepherds with the smell of the sheep. If too many of them settle for being managers or “collectors of antiques or novelties”, it will fail.
History will be the judge of how effective this will be, but Francis is taking for granted that John Paul II and Benedict XVI had already created a robust intellectual framework for evangelization by producing the Catholic Catechism and their brilliant encyclicals. Now it is time for action, for reaching out, for bringing the Gospel message to a secularized world.
So the critics’ view is topsy-turvy. Instead of contesting traditional Catholic notions like exceptionless moral norms, the indissolubility of marriage, or the possibility of living according to the moral law, Francis assumes them. OK, he is saying, we’ve spent the last 40 years updating the language of traditional moral theology. It’s time to roll this out on the battlefield and set up our field hospitals.
That is what he means when he writes in Amoris Laetitia:
this discernment can never prescind from the Gospel demands of truth and charity, as proposed by the Church. For this discernment to happen, the following conditions must necessarily be present: humility, discretion and love for the Church and her teaching, in a sincere search for God’s will and a desire to make a more perfect response to it”. These attitudes are essential for avoiding the grave danger of misunderstandings, such as the notion that any priest can quickly grant “exceptions”, or that some people can obtain sacramental privileges in exchange for favours. When a responsible and tactful person, who does not presume to put his or her own desires ahead of the common good of the Church, meets with a pastor capable of acknowledging the seriousness of the matter before him, there can be no risk that a specific discernment may lead people to think that the Church maintains a double standard (n. 300).
In fact, he insists time and again in this document that only the truth can heal and that priests (working as spiritual directors) must remain faithful to traditional moral teachings. But the path to the truth may be different for each soul. To use a homely analogy, a doctor cannot cure recalcitrant patients by giving them poison or by redefining what it means to be healthy. But he can and should try different treatment programs, some shorter, some longer, to nurse them gradually to health.
It is amazing that the Pope’s critics have seized on Amoris Laetitia like a dog with a bone but ignore his first encyclical, which is the real key to his pontificate, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel). When I wrote about it in 2013, shortly after it was published, I was bowled over:
It is a challenge for Christians to scrape back the layers of paint and dust and soot which have darkened the glowing light of the Gospel message. Evangelii Gaudium has a vigorous innocence and freshness about it; it is a young man’s shout to the world that love is possible, justice is possible, anything is possible, if the world would only listen to the plain words of Jesus Christ.  
Critics have every right to insist that Jorge Bergoglio, like every Catholic, must be faithful to the traditional teaching of their Church because these are the teachings of Christ. But doesn’t the traditional teaching include the command “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations”? No one could accuse Pope Francis of not taking the re-evangelisation of the world seriously. Would that the same could be said of all of his critics.

Michael Cook

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