In a meeting with nearly 7,000 members of the Italian lay movement Catholic Action, Pope Francis spoke of the need for parishes to be open and outgoing.
“It’s a matter of opening the doors and allowing Jesus to be able to go outside. Many times we have Jesus closed inside the parish with us, and we don’t go outside and we don’t let him go out!” said the Pope on May 3. “Open the doors because He goes, at least He does! It’s a matter of an ‘outgoing’ Church: a Church always going out.”
Pope Francis encouraged the many Catholic Action members gathered in Rome’s Paul VI Audience Hall to continue their work of evangelization in the parishes, “especially those marked by tiredness and closure--and there are many.”
Local church communities should instead be marked by a welcoming spirit, he noted.
“When I greet the parish secretaries, I ask them: ‘but are you the secretaries that open the door or those who close the door?’ These parishes need your apostolic enthusiasm, your full availability, and your creative service,” he continued.
Pope Francis then reflected on three verbs that indicated the style of evangelization necessary to Catholic Action: to remain, to go, and to rejoice.
All faithful Catholics are called to be “heralds and witnesses of Christ” and must remain close to Jesus.
It is in the “encounter with the One who is our life and our joy, that our testimony acquires new meaning and new strength every day,” said the Pope.
But it is not enough to remain static in one’s faith, stressed the Pope. “Never stop: go forward!” he exclaimed. “Go along the streets of your cities and of your countries, and announce that God is Father and that Jesus Christ has made himself known to you, and through this, your lives have changed.”
“Finally, rejoice. Rejoice and exult in the Lord always! Be people who sing life, sing faith!”
Pope Francis noted that the practicing of ‘singing the faith’ dates back to St. Augustine who lived 1,600 years ago. “Speak the faith, live the faith with joy, and this is called ‘singing the faith.’”
The pontiff also warned against the temptation to “quietude” which “has nothing to do with remaining in Jesus” but rather is a “temptation to closure” or “a life too similar to a museum statue.”
Rather, he encouraged those present to have a living and joyful faith which readily responds to the needs of others.
“Let us ask the Lord, for all us, eyes that can see beyond appearances, ears that can hear cries, whispers, and even silence; hands that know how to support, embrace and heal. Let us ask above all for a wide and merciful heart that desires the good and the salvation of all.”
Finally, he concluded by asking the intercession of the Virgin Mary, “who always follows Jesus, accompanying him until the very end.”