"Big Four" Highlights


Discipleship Encounters

Pope Francis on spreading the joy of the Gospel

By Jason Godin
Associate Editor, Fathers for Good

Discipleship demands discovery. It begins with the desire to know more about yourself, a gaze inward focused by prayer, penance and the peace offered by the Eucharist. It continues by radiating outwards, seeking to share the teachings and traditions of the Church with others living in a society characterized by countless crises, endless debates and retreats made in the face of fears. Discipleship, in short, confronts the ordinariness of life with the extraordinariness of saving faith.

In Pope Francis and the Joy of the Gospel: Rediscovering the Heart of a Disciple (Our Sunday Visitor), bestselling author and speaker Edward Sri reflects on the demands of discipleship today by placing the Holy Father in the role of a spiritual retreat master. He fully examines the 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) with 11 short chapters, each containing section summaries, principal themes and direct quotations made by the Holy Father, as well as topical reflection questions. It is a book that aspires to apply lessons from Francis on discipleship to our daily living.

Sri serves as a theology professor and vice president of mission and outreach at the Augustine Institute in Denver, Colorado. Recently he spoke with Fathers for Good via email about his latest book.

Fathers for Good: What does Pope Francis mean when he says in The Joy of the Gospel that we all live in “mission territory” today?

Edward Sri: We are facing a time when many people are shaped more by the culture around them, where the way they look at morality, their family life, and the way they live day-to-day is often times shaped more by Hollywood, the secular media and expectations of our secular world and not shaped as much by the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.

This is a great insight from our Holy Father. In our modern world, where there are many countries that have Christian roots, many people today have a vague familiarity with Christianity, but do they really make Christ the number one thing in their life? Does the Gospel shape their lives, does the Catholic faith shape how they look at work, money, family, marriage, leisure, entertainment? This is the call for the New Evangelization, where we are, as Pope Francis says, “living in mission territory.”

FFG: Discuss the relationship between accompaniment and teaching the faith.

Sri: Pope Francis emphasizes that we certainly must teach the fullness of the Catholic faith, but that we also have to do more, to “take on the smell of the sheep,” as he tells us. We have to give of ourselves to the people we are teaching. To walk with the very people we are teaching. To accompany them in life. To know what’s on their heart, their fears, hopes, dreams, sorrows, and then make a connection from the message and love of Jesus Christ to the situation they are facing.

And this is true for priests, religious, catechists, youth ministers, people working in the parish as well as those of us raising children. We need to do more than just give good catechetical training to others. Certainly we want to do that, but we also have to help make connections between the questions they have, the way they live, the difficulties they may be facing in life and how the Gospel messages of Christ, a relationship with Jesus Christ, can make a difference in their daily lives.

FFG: What primary message does the Holy Father have for dads in The Joy of the Gospel?

Sri: One big theme in Pope Francis’ teachings is his call to build a culture of encuentro, Spanish for “encounter.” He laments that in our fast-paced, modern world we run around, we have a lot of exchange of information but not as many opportunities to encounter the people God has placed in our lives.

That’s also true in our own families. Pope Francis is concerned that there may be many fathers who may be busy running around building up their careers, providing for their children economically but not really giving of themselves. He challenges fathers to “waste time with their children.” I particularly appreciate that challenge. We need to be driven, not just in our careers, but driven to give up of ourselves to our children. They need us to “waste time” with them, to play with them, read stories with them, talk with them.

Visit Our Sunday Visitor to learn more about Pope Francis and the Joy of the Gospel.