by Father Mark Goldasich
According to Catholic News Service reporter Cindy Wooden, this Italian word — meaning, “Go forth!” — is one most frequently used by Pope Francis. It’s his call for Catholics to go out into the world and share their faith by living in joy and charity.
I’d put a finer spin on it, though. For me, “go forth” can sound like marching orders issued by a commander to his troops. While they head off blithely to do his bidding, the commander stays safely in the background. That’s certainly not the case with this pope. Instead, I see him using the Italian word, “Andiamo,” which means, “Let’s go!” or “Hurry up!” Francis is there with the troops, so to speak, eagerly leading the charge.
What a year it’s been since Pope Francis’s election last year. Every day, it seems, he says something that challenges me to become a more authentic Christian. I some- times feel like the husband in the following story:
After his annual physical, a guy said to his doctor, “No big, complicated medical terms. Just give me your diagnosis in plain English.” “OK,” said the doctor.
“You’re overweight, have high cholesterol and high blood pressure from bad eating habits, you sit around too much, and you have only yourself to blame.”
“Right,” said the man. “Now, can you give me some big, complicated medical terms so I can explain all this to my wife?”
Pope Francis, while not in any way discounting the importance of the doctrines of our faith, doesn’t let us hide behind any lofty or complex words or concepts.
Want to become a saint? Then, he says, “purposely avoid gossip.”
Lusting after the latest technological gadget? “The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime, all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.”
Regularly toss food? “Throwing away food is like stealing from the table of those who are poor and hungry.”
Couldn’t care less about the crisis in the Ukraine or the latest local murder? “The culture of comfort, which makes us think only of ourselves, makes us insensitive to the cries of other people, makes us live in soap bubbles, which, however lovely, are unsubstantial.”
Please, Pope Francis, could you please be less clear in your teaching? Can’t we just form another focus group or committee and sit around complaining about the state of the world? I’m begging you not to ask us to roll up our sleeves and actually get to work at creating “a poor church for the poor.”
Before he was elected pope, Francis said: “When the Church does not come out of herself to evangelize, she becomes self-referential and then gets sick. . . In Revelation, Jesus says that he is at the door and knocks. Obviously, the text refers to his knocking from the outside in order to enter, but I think about the times in which Jesus knocks from within so that we will let him come out. The self-referential Church keeps Jesus Christ within herself and does not let him out.”
Well, Francis has certainly thrown open that door to let Christ out . . . and he wants us to do the same. He asks us to engage the world, not be afraid of it or beat it over the head. In a recent message to the Vatican Congregation for Bishops, he urged church leaders (and, by extension, all Christians) to “appeal to the world to charm it with the beauty of love [and] to seduce it with the freedom bestowed by the Gospel.”
On his first anniversary, say a quick prayer for the pope. Then hit the streets. Francis is calling, “Avanti! Andiamo!”
And he’s already way ahead of us at helping the world be charmed by Christ.