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Borders as Periphery: The Prophetic Church of the New Franciscans, Pope Francis and Cardinal Sean O'Malley

By Deacon Keith Fournier
4/8/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Francis is a prophetic Pope with a profoundly moving love for the poor. This is the 'love of preference' or 'preferential option' which Catholic Social Doctrine expounds, made visible in the flesh, with a bighearted smile.

Giving the Body and Blood of Jesus to a brother in the Lord through a border fence speaks prophetically of the saving mission of the Church. The Border is a new periphery. The Church is the Body of Christ, called into the whole world to continue His redemptive mission. Those who are joined in Jesus Christ are joined in a solidarity which speaks beyond politics. Sadly, even some in Catholic media circles, did not get the message. One Catholic Aggregation site wrongly insinuated the act was somehow an inappropriate political use of holy communion. I was truly distressed to read such an incorrect "spin". The act was prophetic and pastoral. It was another demonstration of the prophetic church of the New Franciscans.  Get ready, there is much more to come.

CHESAPEAKE,VA (Catholic Online) - In February of 2012, right before the consistory where he would be chosen as the successor of Peter, then Cardinal  Jorge Mario Bergoglio gave an interview to the Vatican Insider. He shared from the heart about his missionary mindset and his love for the poor, in all of their manifestations.  He also sent the signal of what has become what I am calling the New Franciscan papacy.

Below I offer two of the questions and answers. The entire interview is worth reading as Pope Francis begins his second year pastoring the universal church. The interview signaled his conviction concerning the holiness and character of Bishops and his insights into the necessary reform of the curia. Any observer of the first year of this Franciscan Papacy will see that he is implementing what he signaled.

As with all Popes, the choice of the name he took upon assuming the Chair of Peter is significant. With this Pope, it was particularly prophetic. He took the name of the little poor man of Assisi, Francis. The one to whom the Lord appeared and said "Go and Rebuild my Church which you can see is falling down in ruins." 

That humble servant named Francis Bernadone did what the Lord asked him in the thirteenth century. As a result, both the Church and the world were changed. The Church of Francis of Assisi  was not unlike the Church which Pope Francis serves. The world of Francis of Assisi was not unlike the world into which Pope Francis is called to bring the message of the Gospel in its fullness.

The missionary manner and prophetic actions of Francis of Assisi are a key to understanding the missionary manner and prophetic actions of this new Francis for our time. Here are the questions and responses:
 
What do you make of the Pope's decision to call for a year of faith and his insistence on the new evangelization?

Benedict XVI has insisted on the renewal of faith being a priority and presents faith as a gift that must be passed on, a gift to be offered to others and to be shared as a gratuitous act. It is not a possession, but a mission. This priority indicated by the Pope has a commemorative purpose: through the Year of Faith we remember the gift we have received. And there are three pillars to this: the memory of having been chosen, the memory of the promise that was made to us and the alliance that God has forged with us. We are called to renew this alliance, our belonging to the community of God's faithful.

What does evangelization mean in a context such as that of Latin America? 

The context is that which emerged from the fifth conference of Latin American bishops, held in Aparecida, in 2007. It called us to undertake a continental mission; the entire continent is a missionary state. Plans were and continue to be made, but the paradigmatic aspect remains: all ordinary activities of the Church take place in view of the mission. This signifies very strong tensions between centre and periphery, between parish and district. We need to come out of ourselves and head for the periphery.

We need to avoid the spiritual sickness of a Church that is wrapped up in its own world: when a Church becomes like this, it grows sick. It is true that going out onto the street implies the risk of accidents happening, as they would to any ordinary man or woman. But is the Church stays wrapped up in itself, it will age. And if I had to choose between a wounded Church that goes out onto the streets and a sick withdrawn Church, I would definitely choose the first one.

Francis is a prophetic Pope with a profoundly moving love for the poor. This is the "love of preference" or "preferential option" which Catholic Social Doctrine expounds,made visible in the flesh, with a bighearted smile. It is manifested in everything this Pope does. He speaks through words and deeds. That kind of integrated capacity to speak through symbolic acts is characteristic of prophetic people.

That same integrated capacity to speak prophetically is characteristic of one of his closest advisers and collaborators in the New Franciscan Papacy, Cardinal Seán Patrick O'Malley O.F.M. Cap.  This man is a Franciscan Friar with a big heart for the Lord. When you meet him you are immediately drawn not to him, but to the Lord whom he serves with such simplicity and love. You also want to smile.  

His relationship with Jesus Christ comes through in word and action. He fully understands the Gospel mandate to reach out to what Pope Francis calls the peripheries, with the love of God made visible.  I thank the Lord that, all those years ago now, when I lived in those peripheries, Jesus sent someone to me.

Both Pope Francis and Cardinal Seán are what I call Evangelical Catholics. I used the phrase long before it became "acceptable". Back when I wrote the first book to actually use phrase, Evangelical Catholic was a controversial term. A great evangelical protestant champion for the Lord named Chuck Colson wrote the forward to the book. Chuck and I became fodder for anti-catholic Protestants. Sadly, some of the virulent criticisms still circulate.

To my dismay, when the book was published, it was dismissed, disregarded, or made light of by some in the then emerging Catholic intellectual class. Chapter I was entitled Evangelical Catholic: A Contradiction in Terms?

I began with a simple claim: I am a Christian. I am a Catholic Christian. I am an evangelical Catholic Christian. To many who read all three claims, they are either contradictory or can only stand together in certain limited configurations. Nevertheless, it is my contention and my experience that not only can I be all three, but each is necessary to define my relationship with Jesus Christ and with His Church as well as my role in the Church's ongoing mission to bring all men and women to salvation in Jesus Christ.

All these years later, I still make the same claim. In fact, the depth of its meaning has only expanded through my lived experience and been deepened by my theological studies. Fortunately, I am also joined by millions who make the same claim that they are Evangelical Catholics.

This Cardinal from Boston and Pope from Buenos Aires are men who personally know the Risen Lord Jesus, understand the priestly and Franciscan vocation, and live it out in genuine humility. They are men of prophetic action. And, they are joined by divine design.

I was not  surprised when Pope Francis chose the Cardinal to serve in a significant role in this pontificate. It confirmed my conviction that Francis is a special gift for the Church at this time of reform and that we are living in a new missionary age. He is selecting leaders, after a clear time of discernment, with a specific pastoral plan in mind.

It is in this light that the prophetic leadership and prophetic action of Cardinal Seán Patrick O'Malley O.F.M. Cap. must be understood. On April 1, 2014, when he led an eight person mission to the US-Mexico border in Nogales, Arizona and offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, he was expressing the spirit of this Franciscan papacy. His homily is beautiful and can be read in its entirety here

Giving the Body and Blood of Jesus to a brother in the Lord through a border fence speaks prophetically of the saving mission of the Church. The Border is a new periphery. The Church is the Body of Christ, called into the whole world to continue His redemptive mission. Those who are joined in Jesus Christ are joined in a solidarity which speaks beyond politics.

Sadly, even some in Catholic media circles, did not get the message. One Catholic Aggregation site wrongly insinuated the act was somehow an inappropriate political use of holy communion. I was truly distressed to read such an incorrect "spin". The act was prophetic and pastoral. It was another demonstration of the prophetic church of the New Franciscans.  Get ready, there is much more to come.

Another of my favorite Bishops in the United States is Archbishop José H. Gomez. He addresses Immigration with prophetic insight and compelling clarity. His extraordinary book entitled Immigration and the Next America: Renewing the Soul of Our Nation should be ready by any sincere Christian who wants to approach this issue with a renewed mind and heart.

The Archbishop of Los Angeles calls us to approach one of the hot button issues of the hour with a Catholic mind and a Catholic heart - and to take our place in building a new and true Culture of Life and Civilization of love, by rejecting what Pope Francis has labeled the throwaway culture.  The lens through which we must view all men and women is their human dignity. We are all created in the Image of God.

We are not first liberal, conservative or any other permutation of these political labels. We are not first Democrats or Republicans, or any other political party. We are first Catholic Christians and, as such, we need to approach this issue - and every 'social issue' - with the mind and heart of the Lord as revealed through His Church. 

The book, like the prophetic action of the Cardinal from Boston and his brothers, is not about politics but about a prophetic response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For those who want to consider more of where the Prophetic Church of the New Franciscans is headed, I recommend reading the Aparecida Document.

---


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Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for JANUARY 2018
Religious Minorities in Asia.
That Christians, and other religious minorities in Asian countries, may be able to practise their faith in full freedom.


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