At this time of crisis we cannot be concerned solely with ourselves, withdrawing into loneliness, discouragement and a sense of powerlessness in the face of problems. Please do not withdraw into yourselves! This is a danger: we shut ourselves up in the parish, with our friends, within the movement, with the like-minded... but do you know what happens? When the Church becomes closed, she becomes an ailing Church, she falls ill! That is a danger.
Nevertheless we lock ourselves up in our parish, among our friends, in our movement, with people who think as we do... but do you know what happens? When the Church is closed, she falls sick, she falls sick. Think of a room that has been closed for a year. When you go into it there is a smell of damp, many things are wrong with it. A Church closed in on herself is the same, a sick Church.
The Church must step outside herself. To go where? To the outskirts of existence, whatever they may be, but she must step out. Jesus tells us: “Go into all the world! Go! Preach! Bear witness to the Gospel!” (cf. Mk 16:15). But what happens if we step outside ourselves? The same as can happen to anyone who comes out of the house and onto the street: an accident. But I tell you, I far prefer a Church that has had a few accidents to a Church that has fallen sick from being closed.
Go out, go out! Think of what the Book of Revelation says as well. It says something beautiful: that Jesus stands at the door and knocks, knocks to be let into our heart (cf. Rev 3:20). This is the meaning of the Book of Revelation. But ask yourselves this question: how often is Jesus inside and knocking at the door to be let out, to come out? And we do not let him out because of our own need for security, because so often we are locked into ephemeral structures that serve solely to make us slaves and not free children of God.
Pope Francis, Pentecost Vigil with Ecclesial Movements, May 18, 2013
Reflection – Well, again we have a most beautiful call here, what is becoming rapidly the primary theme of Pope Francis’ preaching and papacy thus far. Go out! Get out! Move out! Etc. out!
You get the general drift: out, out, out! And of course this predates his papacy: think of Archbishop Bergoglio riding the bus to work from his little apartment each day and calling his priests to be a priests of the streets, not of the rectories and chanceries only.
I remember a story from the early days of Friendship House, when a priest consulted Catherine about a street in his parish that had fallen entirely to the communists. No one on the street went to church any longer—what should he do about it? Her advice to him was to simply go for a walk each day (which he needed to do for his health anyhow) and choose that street for his route, dressed in his clerics and praying his rosary.
He was dubious, but took her advice. There were catcalls and glares and the occasional stone thrown at him, but he persevered. Slowly, a few people began to ask him for prayers or for a blessing… and over time at least some returned to the faith.
Wouldn’t it be lovely—I’m thinking of my brother priests here—if instead of going to the gym for exercise or some such thing, at least sometimes we just walked about in our clerics praying the rosary. We hardly have to rack our brains for the streets in our towns and cities where people have stopped going to church: they’re all like that these days!
But this whole going out thing – it really is so individual, so personal. What does it mean for you in your life, for me in my life here in Madonna House? If I go out too much, I won’t be here for the many young people who come to experience our communal life. But I do need to go out to them, which has its own ‘potential for accidents’, to use Pope Francis’ lively image.
It’s a fundamental orientation he is calling us to, which each of us has to apply to the real situation of our lives. To be geared towards encounter, towards the other, towards the ones outside our little circle, our little group, our little world and its specious securities—this is the Gospel attitude we are to have, the way to avoid this sick enclosed room we are prone to live in, this way to joy and spiritual health, according to this wonderful shepherd God has given us at this time.