Tag: Pope Francis

Accompaniment: Important but Insufficient

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This article originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ October 2019 newsletter.

Friendship is a universal desire and one of God’s great gifts to humanity. Preaching the Gospel and making disciples can seem intimidating, only for the very wise and holy, or even outdated for the modern world. However, friendship or “accompaniment,” a term made popular by numerous documents and statements from Pope Francis, seems doable, attainable, and just radical enough.

The Cursillo movement simplifies this high call by promoting a simple yet sticky catchphrase: “Make a friend, be a friend, bring a friend to Christ.” While overly simplistic, there’s something to boiling down evangelization to authentic friendship. While the Holy Spirit can convict hearts at any time or place, most people come to faith through the personal interaction with Christian believers who sacrifice time, talent, and treasure to help them come to know Christ.

Pope Francis’ latest apostolic exhortation, Christus Vivit, with its 299 sections and roughly 35,000 words, represents a massive, both in its length and room for interpretation, contribution to the Church’s exciting focus on young people. In an effort to respond to the younger generations’ crisis of faith and the epidemic of non-belief, and the perceived reasons for this decline, leaders are rightfully attempting to adjust the Church’s pastoral approach. I would describe this as a shift to an emphasis on listening, dialogue, and accompaniment, with a delayed proclamation of some of the more difficult teachings found in Sacred Scripture and the Catechism.

Most would agree that friendship, mutual understanding, and journeying with people are essential elements for evangelization, or the making of disciples, through faith and conversion. Christus Vivit 292 rightfully promotes these actions and elaborates on the power of the individual disciple who knows how to and values listening and walking with non-believers. However, I have noticed a growing trend for leaders to allow a nebulous definition of accompaniment that permits the celebration of the process without requiring the needed conversion.

The words listening, dialogue, and accompaniment all have real value, but their strength is neutered when we expand their definitions to include all of the Church’s missionary activity and strategy. Since Christus Vivit presents a vast range of examples and angles of ministry to the next generation, readers can gravitate toward a curated understanding of mission, evangelization, and accompaniment. Too often these personal definitions downplay or de-emphasize the stirring, unchanging, Jesus-given mission of the Church: to seek and save the lost by preaching a message of love, mercy, joy, and peace but also repentance, forgiveness, and a new way of living.

Accompaniment is evangelization, but evangelization is not complete or encompassed by accompaniment.  Accompaniment or loving friendship is an aspect of evangelization—that being the necessary time and relationship-building that should and can lead to a clear proclamation of the Gospel and an invitation to respond. A holistic and Jesus-centered evangelization emphasizes accompaniment, but in my experience, it is easy to promote accompaniment alone to avoid the difficult, awkward, and potentially relationship-altering moments of genuine conversion.

An unbalanced emphasis on accompaniment will not produce what we all hope for: a radical increase in genuine conversions described by St. John Paul II as “expressed in a faith that is total and radical.”[1] Additionally, watering down our message, or completely avoiding the hard topics of sin, salvation, hell, and judgment, does not enhance someone’s strategy of accompaniment but rather postpones or eliminates its ultimate end, namely more people believing the full truth of the Gospel. While a gentle approach, which intentionally delays some of the more difficult teachings of Christ, may be what the Spirit intends for a particular season of someone’s journey toward faith, too often we use friendship and the fear of losing a friend as an excuse for never calling our friends to fully commit their lives to Jesus, with all the ramifications of that decision.

The differentiating nature of the Church exists not in her symbiosis to broader society but her unique assessment of life, death, and salvation. Being in the world but not of it, accepting and even desiring suffering, loving and caring for the margins, eagerly anticipating heaven though it means physical death, and loving your enemies are all examples of a radical divergence from aspects of the modern secular mindset. Ironically, these beliefs are also the most attractive for those who have ears to hear and for people who have successfully been accompanied. The Church will not and should not be the cool kid on the block, the fun dad, or the center of all that is hip and novel, and that is OK because our mission is not simply walking with people no matter where they decide to roam but rather entering into genuine loving relationships while remaining the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

[1] Redemptoris Missio 46

Holy Spirit Transforms Fear into Courage

Pope Francis and patti Mansfield
Pope Francis and Patti Mansfield offer praise during an event for the Golden Jubilee of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

The following article, which originally appeared on zenit.org, discusses the meditation Pope Francis shared during the recent Golden Jubilee of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Ralph Martin was among the speakers for the Golden Jubilee events.

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Acknowledging that Pentecost Sunday marked the ‘birth’ of the Church, Pope Francis has stressed: “The coming of the Holy Spirit transforms men [who are] closed because of fear, into courageous witnesses of Jesus.”

Pope Francis made this observation on the afternoon of Saturday, June 3, at Rome’s Circus Maximus for the Vigil of Pentecost and an ecumenical prayer, on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of Catholic Charismatic Renewal, which ended the next day, Sunday, with the Mass of Pentecost, which he presided over in St. Peter’s Square.

In his remarks, Pope Francis told the Evangelicals gathered: “Peace is possible beginning from our confession that Jesus is the Lord and by our evangelization on this path. It is possible, while showing that we have differences – but this is obvious, we have differences –, but that we desire to be a ‘reconciled diversity.’”

The Holy Father also decried all those being persecuted and killed for their faith, now more than ever, and stressed, “All Christians are united by blood of the martyrs.”

On the stage with the Pope, were leaders of Charismatic Renewal and representatives of the Evangelical and Pentecostal Churches and other religious confessions.

The meeting was preceded by songs, readings and testimonies, and introduced by the meditations of Father Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M., Cap., Papal Household Preacher, and by Pastor Giovanni Traettino of the Evangelical Church of Reconciliation.

Here is a working translation of the Holy Father’s meditation, pronounced during the course of the meeting.

Continue reading here.

Habemus Papam!

Habemus Papam!

Since the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope during the recent Conclave, I’ve received numerous inquires asking me what I think. Even though I do not know him personally, these first few days of Pope Francis’ ministry certainly seem to indicate that he’s a breath of fresh air!Pope Francis in Prayer

Likewise, many have asked if he is friendly towards the charismatic renewal and evangelization. He is. Several people have sent me photos of Pope Francis, while he was still Archbishop of Buenos Aires, asking a group of evangelical pastors to pray over him with Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa standing at his side. In fact, a Pentecostal minister posted this picture on the web, noting that Cardinal Bergoglio was very involved over the years in the annual dialogue between Catholics and Pentecostals (Encuentros Fraternos entre Católicos y Evangélicos en el Espiritu Santo) as well as in the retreats for priests and pastors that were organized before each meeting. He went on to write: “I’m overjoyed with the election of Bergoglio, a man filled with the Spirit and with a deep commitment to ecumenism.”

The first Mass he celebrated in the little Vatican Church of St. Ann was an occasion for Salvatore Martinez, President of the Italian “Renewal in the Spirit,” to greet Pope Francis who told him: “I was the contact person for the Renewal in Argentina!” Salvatore and Pope For those who wish to practice their Italian, you can find a little report on the web site for the Catholic charismatic renewal in Italy by clicking here. Moreover, the Vatican Church of St. Ann is the site of a regular weekly prayer meeting specially devoted to praying for the Pope and the Church. My wife, Anne, and I were blessed to attend when we were in Rome in 2011 where I was finishing my doctorate.

Regarding evangelization, you may recall that in his very first remarks from the balcony of St. Peter’s after just being elected he mentioned that he would be “evangelizing Rome” – a bold undertaking! (You can read the entire text of his message by clicking here.) Salvatore and PopeWhen he was Archbishop of Buenas Aires, he regularly exhorted his flock to “go out” and meet people where they are.

We are blessed. Please join with me in praying for Pope Francis regularly as he carries out the mission the Lord has entrusted to him.

Your brother in Christ,

Ralph Martin Signature

Ralph Martin
President
Renewal Ministries