In the news today, we read about Pope Francis – what he said, what he didn’t say, and sometimes the misinterpretation and twisting of his words. I learned that it is important to go directly to the source for truth on issues. Pope Francis has written many documents that provide direction and comfort to all believers. One of these documents is an Encyclical Letter titled Fratelli Tutti. This letter is a 95-page description of fraternity and social friendship as it relates to the Gospels.
Saint Francis of Assisi
Although Pope Francis speaks in this letter from a global perspective, I see how his words can be used in my daily life experiences. Our goal as Christians is to evangelize, to share Jesus and the Gospels with others. This is not always an easy task. Sometimes, even in our own country we find a difference in language, culture, and religion. Pope Francis provides the example of Saint Francis of Assisi. In this example, Saint Francis embraces the differences of others without losing his own Christian identity. Saint Francis understands the love of God, abides in that love, and is able to share God’s love with others despite the differences.
We tend to believe that life was easier in years past. But Saint Francis lived during the time of the Crusades and traveled to Egypt where he visited the Sultan. Travel was difficult for Saint Francis due to his poverty and limited resources. Although he had access to the ruler of the land, Saint Francis chose to live in harmony with the people. He became one of the poor and displayed an openness to every man and woman. Although society at the time sought power and control over others, Saint Francis understood the power of love in sharing Christ.
Can we be like Saint Francis? Rather than take a position of power, can we settle in with the poor and serve them as Jesus did? Dying to self and the all-powerful ego is a difficult task, yet what a great example we have in Saint Francis.
In the introduction of this Encyclical Letter, Pope Francis refers to the Covid-19 pandemic as a catalyst in exposing our “false securities.” Fear paralyzed the entire world. Not only did every country seek isolation, but every household withdrew within itself. At times, even those within a family isolated themselves from each other as a way of protection. Some continue today in fear and isolation. However, Pope Francis states clearly that “no one can face life in isolation.” Despite technology, we cannot share the Gospel in isolation. Community is important not only for our well-being, but also for sharing truth.
Pope Francis encourages us to dream “as a single human family, as fellow travelers sharing the same flesh, as children of the same earth which is our common home, each of us bringing the richness of his or her beliefs and convictions, each of us with his or her own voice, brothers and sisters all.”
As I consider the “human family,” I also consider the difference between the “human family” and the “Body of Christ.” All people are part of the human family. It is the goal of evangelization to have those within the human family accept their role in the Body of Christ. This begins with sharing the Gospel and receiving the Sacrament of Baptism.
We are automatically part of the human family from the moment of conception. We do not choose this enrollment. It is who we are. We are members of the human family. However, to be a member of the Body of Christ one must accept Jesus and all that He has for us individually and collectively. This is a choice. You cannot be forced to accept Jesus.
A quote from Pope Benedict in this document states, “as society becomes ever more globalized, it makes us neighbors, but does not make us brothers.” Many of us experience the disfunction of family dynamics. The only functional family was the Holy Family. The rest of us struggle daily with getting along. It is only through experiencing and sharing the love of God as noted by Saint Francis earlier in this document that we can accept each other as members of the human family and share with one another the importance of the Body of Christ.
A quote from a special meeting held in Santiago, Chile is noted in this Encyclical Letter and focuses on the importance of history. We are challenged to constantly access our communities and observe what individuals are experiencing. I believe that it is important to share our history with others – to know who we are as a country and what we believe in as a nation. Even in our personal lives, history is not always good. But many times, good comes out of evil and we must recognize this and acknowledge all that has occurred. There are many accomplishments that must be acknowledged despite the hardships that have been endured. These must be shared to provide encouragement for others.
More to Come
Fratelli Tutti is an in-depth look at friendship, what it means to the human family, and how it impacts our role as Christians in sharing the Good News. This is the first article in a series that will review the Fratelli Tutti document in its entirety. Stay tuned for future articles as I explore the teachings of Pope Francis in this important Encyclical Letter.
Click here to read the 95-page document.