July 14, 2017
In early July, I was privileged to
attend the Convocation of Catholic
Leaders, a gathering of over 3,000 Catholics reflecting on Pope Francis'
apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium ("The
Joy of the Gospel") and discussing how the Church can undergo what Francis
calls a missionary conversion in the
One of the starkest realities facing us
in this country is that 50% of baptized Catholics who are under the age of 30
no longer identify as Catholic. And this is not because they have left for a
different faith. Rather, they simply identify as having no religion at all. Appropriately,
this July, the Holy Father asked us to join him in a prayer for lapsed
Catholics: That our brothers and sisters
who have strayed from the faith, through our prayer and witness to the Gospel,
may rediscover the merciful closeness of the Lord and the beauty of the
Friendship with Christ is not merely a
private affair, and so evangelization also leads to a transformation of the
social order (EG, 182). In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis explains
that this transformation must be built on a solid foundation: the defense of
the unborn, a defense which is inextricably linked to protecting the dignity of
all (213–214). The Holy Father also encourages the accompaniment of women in
difficult situations of pregnancy, poverty, and instability. The Convocation
fostered many conversations on family life in an often hostile culture, as well
as the societal ripple effects of neglect for the most vulnerable.
In addition to addressing these socio-economic
realities, one theme that struck many was receptivity, both to God and
to others. In an age of noise, we must prioritize contemplation before God,
lest our actions lose purpose and we find ourselves "just running around all
the time." Multiple speakers quoted Pope Benedict: "Before [Christ's] gaze all
falsehood melts away" (Spe Salvi,
47). Cardinal DiNardo poignantly asked, "Who ever listened as much as Jesus to the Father?"
After prayerful receptivity to God, we
must then be open to others. When it comes to the vulnerable person before us, Mother
Agnes Mary Donovan, S.V. explained how authentic love (as opposed to routine aid)
requires an openness of heart, allowing us to be moved by the goodness of the
other. We must reflect the goodness of the other back to that person, even when
she cannot see her own goodness. Our delight in her goodness gives her the
strength to navigate difficult situations.
It is possible
to learn much of what was shared at the Convocation by visiting www.usccb.org/convocation, where recordings of sessions will be posted
as they become available. After listening to a few recordings, bring the prayer
and conversation of the Convocation to your daily life. Intercede for someone
who does not know friendship with Christ and perhaps meditate on John 17 and
John 20, chapters which nourished Convocation participants at various points
during the event. Study Evangelii Gaudium
with your friends, discussing how you can become missionary disciples, in
the service of the most vulnerable.
Mary, Mother of
the living gospel, pray for us!
Tommy O'Donnell is a staff assistant for the
Pro-Life Secretariat of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. For more on
the bishops' pro-life work, visit www.usccb.org/prolife.