Recently, Pope Francis visited one of the parishes is his Diocese of Rome, taking a few moments for a spontaneous question-and-answer session with the faithful.
One young woman (age 15) told Francis about how she had found a true community and support in her parish after the recent death of her father. But, she lamented, many of her peers find the church boring.
This gave the pope occasion to speak about one of his favorite themes: joy!
“Jesus didn’t rise from the dead so we could cry!” he exclaimed.
He pokes a little fun at sad-faced Christians, as he reminds us that the best way to evangelize is to … SMILE.
Check it out:
So many times, those companions of yours are right. Because some people, some pastors, some nuns, some lay people are truly boring… And they wear a face such that you don’t know if it’s a pastor’s face, that of a man, of a woman who works in the Church, or the face you put on for a wake before a funeral. You can’t tell. A funeral!
The joy of the Gospel: the Gospel always brings joy. And this is true not only for pastors, but also for lay people, for everyone. I would even say that many times I’ve found in parishes more embittered lay people with “vinegary” faces than priests or nuns.
Because very often lay people, when they are not well inserted into the community, begin this internal game of power, of internal struggle, and sometimes you find people who, yes, are good, who work—I don’t know, in Catholic Action, in Caritas, so many things that a parish has—but always tense, never free.
I don’t know why, perhaps they are seeking some promotion, I don’t know… Their intention isn’t always clear. They are good people, but without the freedom of the joy of the Gospel. And we should always keep this before our eyes. If I am a true believer … this should express itself in joy, the joy that is Jesus’ gift, the gift of the risen Jesus. Jesus didn’t rise from the dead so we could cry. He rose to give us the joy and the certainty we all hope for. And this is lacking—it’s true—it’s lacking. The joy of the Gospel is lacking; not always, but often.
Why are Catholics so notoriously bad at fellowship?
Then, you asked a question: “What can I do to convince my friends that the Church isn’t that way?” Congratulations! You didn’t say, “What should I say?” Because if you go and say it, they won’t believe you. You must “do.” Do things with joy. And they will look and will say, “She’s crazy. Why does she do things that way?” And you’ll say: “No, come and see. Come and see.” The Church doesn’t grow through proselytism, but through attraction, the attraction of testimony. We aren’t a soccer team, a club that goes out to look for followers. No. We are disciples of Jesus, who seek to do the things that the Gospel tells us. And this always makes joy well up within us. And they see the joy and say, “Why are they so joyful?”
This happened during the early Church. As soon as the Church was born, after the Holy Spirit came, the people looked and said, “Look, these people are happy! And, [look] how they love each other! They don’t tear each other down.” Because they were people whose joy attracted others. You can’t live the Gospel without joy: joy is the condition for living the Gospel, understood? And if any of those who work in the parish have the habit of having breakfast and taking their latte “with vinegar,” they should change their habit! And drink their latte and it will do them good!
Want to be more joyful? Pray this prayer to St. Philip Neri