In this part of my series on Pope Francis’ Game Plan, then, it seems helpful to look at key elements of the Ignatian charism that are evident in the Holy Father’s Apostolic Exhortation, the “Joy of the Gospel.”
There is a close connection between service of the poor, freedom and evangelization. Catholic apostolates integrate service to the poor with joyful witness to Christ; they serve because they love Jesus. They freely receive God’s mercy; they freely give mercy to others in turn. They imitate Jesus in His solidarity with the poor.
Last time we looked at what Pope Francis writes about Jesus in his apostolic exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel.” Now let us consider what the Holy Father has to say about the Mother of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary.
It should come as no surprise that Pope Francis has much to say about Jesus, since Peter and all his successors have been called by God to make Christ known and loved.
Pope Francis also hears their cry and has made service of the poor a top priority in his life and ministry. Repeatedly, since his election as pope, he has called for a Church of the poor, a Church for the poor. Let us see why pastoral concern for the poor is so important.
On the first day after he was elected pope, our new Holy Father traveled across the city of Rome to pray at the most important Roman Shrine of Our Lady, found in the Basilica of St. Mary Major. On the first day of the New Year 2014, Pope Francis again made an unannounced visit to this Marian Shrine. In the nine months of his papacy, he has made similar pilgrimages to pray to the Mother of God and ask her loving protection for the Church and the world.
Since his election on March 13 of this year, he has caught the attention of the world. Even non-believers and non-practicing Catholics are paying attention. Pope Francis surprises and inspires, even as he challenges us to love the poor and in them to meet Jesus anew.
“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” These words of Charles Dickens could easily be applied to the present situation that the Church faces in the American continent when she proclaims the Good News of Jesus Christ about marriage, family and the culture of life.