A Spirituality of Accompaniment - Evangelii Gaudium Series #9

In Evangelii Gaudium, the Pope dreams of a Church with its arms wide open, like the father of the Prodigal son, where there is a place for others, with all their problems (EG 47). Accompanying families who are not yet perfectly meeting the moral expectations of Christian life will not require abandoning truth or “detracting from the evangelical ideal” (EG 44). The Church, in claiming moral norms for marriage and relationships, is often perceived as opposed to personal freedom, but Pope Francis reminds us that, quite the contrary, we raise these moral norms out of belief in human dignity (EG 65). We are motivated by the positive message of the Gospel -- the love of God who loves us first -- along with the sacredness and beauty of every life (EG 168).

If we keep in mind the whole Gospel message, teaching all the virtues together, we can still proclaim truth of Catholic teaching without excluding those who are not fulfilling it (EG 39).

Pope Francis urges us to have a fitting sense of proportion in moral teaching, where all of the virtues are at the service of love. Pope Francis says that, rather than cause confusion, this balanced teaching is essential if it is to be faithful to the Gospel (EG 40).  He explains that when we focus on one truth at the expense of others, “the edifice of the Church’s moral teaching risks becoming a house of cards, and this is our greatest risk. It would mean that it is not the Gospel which is being preached, but certain doctrinal or moral points based on specific ideological options” (EG 39). For example, if we teach the indissolubility of marriage without also teaching that domestic violence has no place in a marriage, we fail to proclaim the Church’s teaching of human dignity in its fullness. The U.S. Bishops sought to clarify this misconception in their pastoral letter against domestic violence, When I Call for Help.[1]

This accompaniment, walking beside families and celebrating their progress, must reflect “a closeness and compassion which, at the same time, heals, liberates and encourages growth in the Christian life” (EG 169). Catechetical leaders, family ministers, and pastoral workers need to find ways to work together at “showing an immense love for humanity inspired by the God who became man” (EG 76).


[1] USCCB, When I Call for Help: A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence Against Women, 2002, http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/domestic-violence/when-i-call-for-help.cfm