Today Aleteia celebrates the one-year anniversary of Pope Francis’s election. Our editor begins with a startling revelation.
It’s true. I have a confession to make.
Wait for it.
I haven’t yet finished reading The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium), the apostolic exhortation that Pope Francis released on November 24 of last year.
I can almost hear your gasps of astonished disappointment: “That’s nearly three and half months and you haven’t finished it? What’s the matter with you? What have you been doing?”
The guilt is not easy to live with, but you have to understand: The Joy of the Gospel is a long and rich document. One can’t just zip through it like a P.G. Wodehouse story.
At least I can’t.
That’s why I stand in awe of those Catholic commentators who, last November, were able to read the document, digest its contents, formulate six brilliant and controversial opinions about it, and post a snappy piece on their blogs within minutes (apparently) of the announcement that the exhortation even existed. When the Pope exhorts, I mean to say, these commentators aren’t slow to be exhorted.
Then there’s me, plodding along through the numbered paragraphs as page after page is torn from the calendar.
But given that I’ve gone to such lengths to bare my soul, I won’t be shy about adding that I prefer and recommend my “local,” as opposed to the “express,” approach to reading The Joy of the Gospel. In our instant-media culture we often fail to distinguish the relative merits of the items that come to our attention. An apostolic exhortation is treated on the same par as the plumbing at the Sochi Olympics or J.K. Rowling’s doubts about Ron and Hermione’s marriage.
Not that Ron and Hermione’s relationship doesn’t have its depths and difficulties. But I don’t think it’s too much to insist that The Joy of the Gospel has even greater depths, that it’s not just last November’s piece of papal buzz that got chewed up and spat out by the media machine.
In fact, I believe The Joy of the Gospel is an extraordinarily important document for the Church and the entire world. I think it should be regarded as the constitution of Francis’s papacy.
If you haven’t yet cracked the spine of The Joy of the Gospel–and your secret is safe with me–let me encourage you to get your hands on a copy today. Read it for Lent. And if you’re still not finished at Easter, don’t let them bully you. Keep reading, as slowly as you please.
Because it’s a document that repays attention. That fills up the spirit. That–there’s no better word for it–exhorts.
“In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples (cf. Mt. 28:29). All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization…” (no. 120).
The Joy of the Gospel implores all of us to answer our baptismal call to be evangelizers, to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to a world desperately in need of hearing it. Slow meditation upon the document stirs the heart to rush out into the street, or at least to one’s keyboard, in order to share this great Truth.
We at Aleteia want to answer Pope Francis’s call to become evangelizers. We want to introduce a distracted world to the happiness that can only be found in friendship with Christ.
And so, beginning today, we’re going to chart a new editorial course. We’re going to direct more and more of our attention, not to those already well-formed in the faith, but to those who have little or no reason to listen to the truths that we hold dear. In our articles and analyses, commentaries and videos, we want to invite the wider secular world to be our interlocutor in a frank and friendly discussion about the questions and issues that matter most to us all.
In one of my favorite passages from The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis writes: “Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the “peripheries” in need of the light of the Gospel” (no 20).
I love that image of the “peripheries.” That’s where we want Aleteia to go: to the places where the light of the Gospel most needs to be shed.
And our hope is that our committed Catholic readers will also find in this new direction inspiration and empowerment. We want, you see, to support you in your own evangelizing efforts along the “peripheries.” We want to help you understand and articulate the arguments that will light up every corner of the world.
In all this effort, Pope Francis will be our guide. And to celebrate today’s one-year anniversary of his election, Aleteia is pleased to present a series of reflections upon Pope Francis’s first year by some of our good friends. I hope that you enjoy them, and that you will be as excited as we are about the new editorial course we are charting.
If you’d like to share your thoughts with me, I’d love to hear them. Please send me an email at the address below.