Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

12/8/2013 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The New Evangelization: Pope Francis's Proposal

Those who sorrow for their brother in need, a brother whom they see, will eventually come to feel sorrow not only for their brother in need, but also to the God whom they do not see.  And act of love for man will translate into an act of love for God.  You cannot say you don't love God when you love your brother.  Presumably, this works the other way, also.  That is, those who are the beneficiaries of the works of mercy become open to the fact that there may be a God whom they do not see, one who loves them like the Christian whom they do see.  This reality is what Pope Francis hopes to seize on in his recent apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium.

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

12/8/2013 (2 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: New Evangelization, spiritual obtuseness, Evagrius Ponticus, loss of sense of sin, Evangelii Gaudium, Andrew M. Greenwell


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - In an earlier article entitled "The New Evangelization: Exorcising the Demon of Obtuseness," I wrote about the "demon of obtuseness" as Evagrius Ponticus called it in the Philokalia, or the "loss of the sense of sin" as Popes Pius XII, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI had identified it.  To these recent popes, the need to re-develop or re-instigate a sense of sin, or a moral acuteness, was an essential part of the "New Evangelization.".

In his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis has significantly downplayed this aspect, and I suggested in that earlier article that a clue to his reasoning might be found in the closing comments of Evagrius' reflections on the demon of obtuseness.

Evagrius notes how difficult it is to exorcise the demon of obtuseness: it is impervious to interventions, reasoning of any kind, preaching, lecturing of all kind.  It cannot be reached, at least not in this manner.

Evagrius notes, however, that the demon of obtuseness--the demon behind the loss of the sense of sin--is rarely found in the monks who live in community, but is a common feature in the solitary hermit, the individualist.

The reason for this, Evagrius says, "is clear."  And that is that when our brothers and sisters around us "fall into misfortune, or are afflicted by illness, or are suffering in prison, or meet sudden death, this demon is driven out." 

The demon of obtuseness is driven out from those who are in need, and those who help those in need is what Evagrius suggests.

The demon of obtuseness who is behind the loss of the sense of sin is driven out by seeing and helping our brother and sister in need, that is, poor, or sick, or hungry, or thirsty, or in prison, or sorrowing.  It brings us out of the shell of ourselves--what Evagrius calls the sin of self-esteem--and makes us look at the Other in our brother and sister.  And this eventually gets us to see The Other, God.

Why is it that the demon of obtuseness is driven out in this fashion?  Evagrius says that the soul will naturally experience sorrow or compassion for those about him that are suffering, especially when giving them aid and comfort.  And even a little bit of such an emotion causes the "callousness caused by the demon" of obtuseness to dissolve.

Essentially, Evagrius is saying is this:  Those who sorrow for their brother in need, a brother whom they see, will eventually come to feel sorrow not only for their brother in need, but also to the God whom they do not see (i.e., repentance).  An act of love for man will translate--eventually or perhaps even now implicitly--into an act of love for God.  You cannot say you don't love God when you love your brother.

Presumably, this works the other way, also.  That is, those who are the beneficiaries of the works of mercy become open to the fact that there may be a God whom they do not see, one who loves them like the Christian whom they do see.

A parallelism exists between Evagrius's thought and Pope Francis's thought in Evangelii Gaudium.

Pope Francis, for example, complains of the "individualistic" character of our consumerist, self-serving, materialistic culture, and its "indifferent and self-centered mentality."  (EG, No. 62, 208)  And, to the contrary, the apostolic exhortation is peppered with references to communal life, to community and communities.  By my count, these words--communal, community, communities, communion--are used a total of ninety-four times in the apostolic exhortation. 

So likewise is the word mission which Pope Francis defines as "going forth" to others.  The words mission and missionary are used at least a hundred times if they are used once.

Pope Franics wants the Church to face outward--to have a "missionary option," to acquire a "missionary key."  (EG, Nos. 27, 33, 34)   "To go out of ourselves and to join others is healthy for us," as humans and as a Church.  (EG, No. 87)  It is good in the order of nature and in the order of grace.  In this we imitate the Lord who went forth first.  (EG, No. 24)  This evangelical extroversion will "affect the way we communicate the message" of the Gospel.  (EG, No. 34)

The "biggest problem" in evangelization according to Pope Francis is that the spiritual obtuse hear only the "secondary aspects," "certain issues which are part of the Church's teaching"--to which they do not relate--and so turn a deaf ear to the "heart of Christ's message."  EG, No. 34.  If you start with moral truths, the spiritually obtuse will hear only nagging.  This is Evagrius's point.

So, by inviting even those at the periphery, those at the "fringes of humanity," indeed "everyone without exception"--the sinner included--"to respond to the God of love who saves us, to see God in others and to go forth ourselves to seek the good of others" (yet, he is quick to add, "without distorting the message" and assuring that the "integrity of the Gospel message . . . not be deformed"), Pope Francis hopes to circumvent the demon of obtuseness.  (EG, 39, 46, 49)

"The primary reason for evangelizing," Pope Francis says, "is the love of Jesus which we have received, the experience of salvation which urges us to ever greater love of him."  He asks rhetorically: "What kind of love would not feel the need to speak of the beloved, to point him out, to make him known?"  (EG, No. 264)

This love for God and the fact that he loved us first, will compel us to go out, to "to enter fully into the fabric of society, sharing the lives of all, listening to their concerns, helping them materially and spiritually in their needs, rejoicing with those who rejoice, weeping with those who weep; arm in arm with others, we are committed to building a new world. But we do so not from a sense of obligation, not as a burdensome duty, but as the result of a personal decision which brings us joy and gives meaning to our lives." (EG, No. 269)

For this reason, Pope Francis wants a new "'mystique' of living together, of mingling and encounter, of embracing and supporting one another, of stepping into this flood tide which, while chaotic, can become a genuine experience of fraternity, a caravan of solidarity, a sacred pilgrimage."  (EG, No 87)

This sense of mission likewise seems to be at the heart of his desire strongly to emphasize the care for the poor, the outcast, the vulnerable, the unborn, the homeless, the elderly, the sick, refugees, the addicted, in short, the suffering.

Like Evagrius, this Pope believes that this going outwards, this sense of mission, helps both the evangelist and the one being evangelized:

"When we live out a spirituality of drawing nearer to others and seeking their welfare, our hearts are opened wide to the Lord's greatest and most beautiful gifts.  Whenever we encounter another person in love, we learn something new about God.  Whenever our eyes are opened to acknowledge the other, we grow in the light of faith and knowledge of God."  EG, No. 272.  Gone is the demon of obtuseness.

There will be fruits to this St. Francis insists, even if we don't see them all at once.  By emphasizing the Gospel truth that Jesus loves and Jesus saves, fruits will come.  They will come by suppressing or, perhaps the better word is downplaying--if for a time (after all, "time is greater than space" (EG, 222-25)--the bases for developing a sense of sin, the natural moral law, and the moral precepts of the Church in all their rigor.

If you build it, it will come.  This New Evangelization built by Francis, he believes, will make an end run around the demon of obtuseness, and allow us to save souls.  But this promised "fruitfulness is often invisible, elusive and unquantifiable," Pope Francis admits. 

Yet he assures us: "We can know quite well that our lives," spent in evangelizing using his methodology, "will be fruitful, without claiming to know how, or where, or when.  We may be sure that none of our acts of love will be lost, nor any of our acts of sincere concern for others. No single act of love for God will be lost, no generous effort is meaningless, no painful endurance is wasted."  (EG, No. 279)

Will it make a difference?  I hope so.  God knows I wish that there would be fire on earth, and that it were already kindled.  I would love all peoples, all nations, all religions, every person to acknowledge Christ as King and his social reign.

But will it make a difference? Only God knows. 

Not to be a "sourpuss" or anything, but the devil of obtuseness is not the only devil out there.  There are the devils of theological, moral, and political liberalism.  There is the spirit of the anti-Christ most prevalent in resurgent Islam.  There is the demon Priapus--and his legion of succubi and incubi--among us.  Methinks they smell opportunity.

I hope that in his efforts to trick the devil of obtuseness Pope Francis does not unwittingly give aid and comfort to the demon of obtuseness' equally unsavory siblings.

-----

Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copyright 2015 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for February 2016
Universal:
That prisoners, especially the young, may be able to rebuild lives of dignity.
Evangelization: That married people who are separated may find welcome and support in the Christian community.



Comments


More Living Faith

MAKE YOURSELF COUNT! Complete this quick Ash Wednesday survey

Image of Take the Ash Wednesday survey so we can better serve your needs.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online is conducting a global survey on Ash Wednesday practices. Each reader is asked to participate once. The survey will take less than a minute to complete. The results of the survey will help Catholic Online determine how best to serve your needs in the ... continue reading


Is this where the Annunciation took place? Ancient artwork sheds light an old mystery about the Virgin Mary Watch

Image of The Annunciation, 1859 (oil on canvas), Pinchon, Auguste.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

One of the oldest depictions of the Virgin Mary is casting new light on the Annunciation. A new look at an ancient depiction in the Yale University Art Gallery is making some question what they believe about the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


How do presidents pray? The beginning of a beautiful tradition Watch

Image of John F. Kennedy praying during the 9th annual Presidential Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 9, 1961 (Prayers for America).

By Abigail James (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

This morning marks the 64th annual National Prayer Breakfast and President Obama's last time attending the remarkable tradition while in office.  LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - On the first Thursday in February, the members of Congress and evangelical ... continue reading


Pope Francis will travel to Mexico as a messenger for peace Watch

Image of Pope Francis has participated in a collective interview, in which he responded to four questions posed by 33 people from various states across Mexico (Catholic News Agency).

By Elise Harris, CNA/EWTN News

Pope Francis will leave for Mexico in just over a week. In a new interview with a Mexican news agency, he told citizens of the crime-ridden country that while there, he hopes to be a messenger of peace, which must be fought for daily. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN ... continue reading


Sparks fly over Pope Francis' interview with Asia Times Watch

Image of Pope Francis did not speak of religion or freedom when praising China as a progressive country (Vatican).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Pope Francis' exclusive interview on Tuesday afternoon has been met with harsh criticism. Though the pontiff spoke highly of the country, he steered clear of religion and freedom talks. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis spoke ... continue reading


Sis boom bah! American Circus cheerleaders perform for Pope Francis at the Vatican Watch

Image of Pope Francis enjoyed a cheer by the American Circus, which performed at the Vatican on Wednesday (Reuters).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Following his general audience at the Vatican, Pope Francis enjoyed cheers, acrobatics and juggling performed by the Italian troupe "American Circus." LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - During the Papal Audience, the American Circus performed before the pontiff and ... continue reading


'I'm gay and I'm a priest, period': Chicago priest opens up about his same sex attraction Watch

Image of Father Michael Shanahan has announced his sexual orientation to the world (Our Lady of Lourdes).

By Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Twenty-three years after joining the clergy as a priest, Father Michael Shanahan, the pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Chicago, has publicly admitted he is sexually attracted to other men. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The news was released via the ... continue reading


Before priests, nuns drop 'gossip bombs,' - bite your tongue, Pope Francis commands Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

"Bite your tongue!" That is the orders of Pope Francis, who said that gossip loving priests and nuns are hindering their cause by the spreading of innuendos and gossip. The pontiff also bemoaned the drop-off in vocations but said those that the church takes must be ... continue reading


Pope Francis: The actor? Watch

Image of Pope Francis is rumored to play himself in the upcoming spiritual film ''Beyond the Sun'' (Paul Haring).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

In the upcoming film "Beyond the Sun," Pope Francis will be making his acting debut. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Radio Vatican denied all claims that Pope Francis "will play himself" in "Beyond the Sun," with Monsignor Dario Edoardo Viganò stating only "video ... continue reading


God sends nun to save elderly man's life Watch

Image of A nun who has yet to be identified saved a man after a tree pinned him to the ground (wiseGEEK).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

In a story that sounds like the plot of a religious film, a nun, who stepped outside to pray, heard the cries of an elderly man caught beneath a tree in the frigid Wrentham, MA night. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Seventy-four-year-old Douglas Goldman was out in ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

Daily Readings

Reading 1, First Kings 3:4-13
4 The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, since that was the ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 119:9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14
9 How can a young man keep his way spotless? By keeping your ... Read More

Gospel, Mark 6:30-34
30 The apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for February 6th, 2016 Image

St. Paul Miki
February 6: Paul was the son of a Japanese military leader. ... Read More