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Don’t complain about secularized world; evangelize it! Pope’s advice

Pope Francis during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's square

Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

Kathleen N. Hattrup - published on 11/08/23

Pope Francis considers a 20th-century poetess and mystic, Madeleine Delbrêl, as an example of apostolic zeal.

“In the face of our secularized world, let us not complain, but see in it a call to prove our faith and an invitation to communicate the joy of the Gospel. May God bless you.”

This was the exhortation expressed to the French-speaking pilgrims at the general audience of this November 8. It was an echo of the call that Pope Francis made to all the faithful as he continued his audience series on apostolic zeal, that is, on the passion to share the Gospel with others.

“Faith is the light that leads us to the Lord,” the Pope said to German-speakers. “Let us let this light shine in our lives so that it may also illuminate the paths of those who do not yet believe.”

Evangelizers from the world over

Pope Francis has been choosing exemplars of apostolic zeal from around the world for this catechesis series. Among the role models he’s highlighted are people from KoreaFranceAustralia, and North America, and the patroness of the Americas herself, Our Lady of Guadalupe.

After considering a favorite of his saints, Charles de Foucauld, who he says helped him to find “a way of Christian life that was simpler, less Pelagian, closer to the Lord,” the Pope again chose someone from France:

A 20th-century French woman, the venerable servant of God Madeleine Delbrêl. She was born in 1904 and died in 1964, a social worker, writer and mystic, and lived for more than thirty years in the poor, working class outskirts of Paris. 

Pope Francis especially highlighted Venerable Madeleine’s lesson that when we share the Gospel with others, we end up going deeper in our own faith.

Madeleine teaches us yet another thing: that by evangelizing, one is evangelized: by evangelizing we are evangelized. Therefore, she used to say, echoing Saint Paul: “Woe to me if evangelizing, I do not evangelize myself.” Indeed, evangelizing evangelizes oneself. And this is a beautiful doctrine.

Mingle with the world

The Pope urged the faithful to recall that God is always present, no matter what the circumstances of life, and that we are called to “mingle with the joys and sorrows of the world.”

Looking at this witness of the Gospel, we too learn that in every personal or social situation or circumstance of our life, the Lord is present and calls to us to inhabit our own time, to share our life with others, to mingle with the joys and sorrows of the world. In particular, he teaches us that even secularized environments are helpful for conversion, because contact with non-believers prompts the believer to a continual revision of his or her way of believing and rediscovering faith it its essentiality (cf. Noi dell estrade, Milan 1988, 268s).

Pope Francis
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