Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pope Francis and the Really New Evangelism

Pope Francis and the
Really New Evangelism

          I have never been more appreciative of teaching at a Catholic school than I was last Wednesday.  As the clock neared eleven, we had a live stream of a chimney on in my classroom (a dozen students even stayed in during recess just to see if smoke would come out of that chimney).
          When white smoke billowed from the Sistine Chapel, everything stopped, and I was, with a bunch of ten-year-olds, glued to a screen as the world was introduced to its new pope.  Then we met a man of pure humility and charity.  Exciting doesn’t even begin to describe it.
          I love Pope John Paul II; I am of the JPII generation, no doubt.  And I thank God for every moment of the blessed papacy of Benedict XVI.  This past five days, Pope Francis has won my heart.
          And I’m not alone.  We all knew that the new pope would be Peter, and that the deposit of Faith would be protected, as it has been for the past 2,000 years.  But what would be the personality of the man selected, and how would he approach the issues of our day?  The past week should give the Church much hope.
          The election of Pope Francis presents an incredible evangelistic opportunity as well.  Though 42% of Catholics speak Spanish as their primary language, it is no secret that Spanish-speaking Catholics have been lured away in recent years by the seduction of secularism and the inroads made by Protestantism and Mormonism in Latin America.
          Yet in the past week, I have heard numerous Latino Catholics post on Facebook or say in passing that after the election of Pope Francis, they are going to take another look at the Catholic Church.  Some have become non-practicing and some have frequented a local Evangelical community.  And yet, the election of this pope, highlighting the true universality of the Church, has caused them to give Catholicism a second thought.
          The honeymoon can not last forever, of course.  There is a window of opportunity.  None of these people will recommit themselves to the Church merely because of the election of Pope Francis, no matter how holy he is (we have had well over 100 years of holy popes).  The question is, what will they encounter when they come home?  Pope Francis is casting out the net, and we, the laity, have to give the catch a reason to stay.  Ultimately, Jesus is the reason to stay, but it is up to us to ensure that the many fallen-away Catholics who are giving the Church another look encounter Jesus in our parishes.
          May we follow the lead of our humble shepherd and show the Face of Christ to the new faces we will see at our parishes in the coming weeks.