Tag Archives: Evangelii Gaudium


“We are more than just consumers

In an inspired remark at the Mass for All Souls Day, our parish priest Fr Paul Redmond at Christ the King, Bramley, invited us to reflect on the fact that when we die and meet God ‘face to face, the full purpose and meaning of our own mysterious lives will be revealed to us’.

When we die and meet God face-to-face, the full purpose and meaning of our lives will be revealed to us

Meanwhile, we struggle on, trying to relate to others and manage our human desires for basic material goods, for other human beings and for God.

The difficulty seems to be that we are now living in times of such ferocious reductionism that our abilities to manage our desires are constantly being diminished. No need to worry about God in our secular world, only our abuse of others is a serious problem (especially in war and sexual abuse), though we can scarcely agree on what are the basic human needs of shelter, food and clothing for each and every person.

And yet, as St Augustine spelled out, our insatiable desires have the power to burn us up if not managed properly.

Our insatiable desires have the power to burn us up if not managed properly

An editorial in the recent Concilium theology magazine asked: ‘How can we humans order our desires rightly when we are bombarded with advertising that constantly tells us that we need more of everything all the time?’

Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded

We are all increasingly reduced to being regarded as consumers today. All values are reduced to monetary measures as the ‘economy now rules all’. Parents are even being urged by government to ask first and foremost ‘can they afford to have another child’? Students, patients and passengers are all called ‘consumers’. Personal contribitions, even of charitable volunteers, are now measured in quantitative cash values. As Pope Francis spells out in Evangelii Gaudium : ‘human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a throwaway culture which is now spreading’.

Everything human is being given a price tag

Not only are humans being regarded as literally ‘disposable’, increased consumerism is being driven by economic globalism, which is leading to a widening divide between those getting richer and those becoming poorer. Trade and commerce are driven by a continuing commodification of human life where nearly everything that human beings can be or do is increasingly a marketable product. Everything human is being given a price tag. This is far from the mysterious meaning and purpose of the human vocation, that personal ‘calling by God’ of each and every person whose human dignity is sacred from the outset.

Resisting the tyranny of market domination

Resisting this ‘tyranny’ of market domination, as Pope Francis labels it, is a huge challenge. Notably, the new supermarkets of Aldi and Lidl are overtaking the ‘big four’. In Leeds, Morrisons in Kirkstall offers 28,000 choices of goods on the shelves; the new Aldi store in Bramley only 8,000. St Augustine warned that entrapment in too many ‘choices’ is actually a form of slavery which diminishes our capacity to make really important choices.

I find myself hard to grasp (St Augustine)

When he wrote ‘I find myself hard to grasp’ he was challenging that  reduction of our lives to the economy of ever-expanding choices and inviting us to open up to God’s mysterious purposes.

– This article by John Battle was published in the Catholic Universe newspaper, issue 7th November, 2014. (Bold and headings added afterwards.) For subscriptions to the Catholic Universe newspaper please contact (external link)


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Pastoral Letter to be read
at the beginning of Lent 2014

My Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Last Wednesday we began the season of Lent; an opportunity the Church gives us every year for conversion and renewal – conversion of mind, heart and action so that we can better fulfil the two great commandments: ‘You must love the Lord your God with your whole heart, mind and strength… You must love your neighbour as yourself.’ (Mk 12:30-31) It is a time for us to rediscover the joy of the Gospel and to be ‘set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness.’ (Evangelii Gaudium 1) In this year’s Lenten message to the Church throughout the world, Pope Francis prays that ‘…this Lenten season may find the whole Church ready to bear witness, to all those who live in material, moral and spiritual destitution, the Gospel message of the merciful love of God our Father, who is ready to embrace everyone in Christ. We can do this to the extent that we imitate Christ who became poor and enriched us by his poverty. Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.’

Lent is a season of prayer, fasting and practical concern for those in need. It offers all of us an opportunity to prepare for Easter by a serious discernment about our lives, with particular attention to the word of God which enlightens the daily journey of all who believe. So our particular focus in Lent must be first of all on God, not ourselves. Secondly it must be on our neighbour who is in need, because in that neighbour we are called to look with compassion on the face of the suffering Christ and try to alleviate his suffering.

So, we might fruitfully spend our Lent by reading the gospels and facing the fundamental challenges which Jesus puts before us. Then we might ask ourselves some challenging questions. Does my life reflect an evident commitment to the exhortation given to us on Ash Wednesday to ‘turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel’? Does my love and compassion truly embrace the poorest and the most needy, or am I selective in giving of myself, and the riches God has given to me, only to those whom I know and like? Do I really pursue the path of reconciliation, or do I allow prejudice and bigotry to promote the rejection and rubbishing of those whom I dislike? Do I give of my time and talents to help build up my local community, to welcome the stranger and those in need?

Our response to these questions must be rooted in our love for the person of Jesus Christ, and in his command to each of us that we must love one another as he has first loved us. The season of Lent is given to us so that we can open our hearts once again to God and to each other with renewed generosity and compassion. But we can’t do that solely through our own efforts. We can only respond fruitfully with the help of the Holy Spirit. As Pope Francis said in his homily to the newly appointed Cardinals two weeks ago in Rome: ‘… we are called to listen to the Holy Spirit who enlivens and guides the Church. By his creative and renewing power, the Spirit always sustains the hope of God’s People as we make our pilgrim way through history.’ He went on to say that ‘… whilst we tend to be so selfish and proud… the Holy Spirit is able to purify, transform and shape us day by day. To make the effort to be converted, to experience a heartfelt conversion: this is something that all of us – especially you Cardinals and myself – must do.’

Listening to those words made me pause and reflect on the goodness of God and how fortunate most of us are. We have so much to thank God for. Most of us have homes and jobs and families, good friends and supportive relationships. Many of us have more than sufficient to meet our material and spiritual needs. Yet I am also very conscious that there are people both here in our own country and abroad who are not so fortunate. I am aware that there are many people who are vulnerable, defenceless and poor. For these, the beauty of life and the joy of living are obscured by suffering, by fear, and by great need, both material and spiritual. The danger in Lent is that we can focus in the wrong way on ourselves and the particular ways we choose to live out this penitential Season. The purpose of Lent is to open our hearts to the life-giving Word of God who, in quiet prayer and reflection, will reveal to us the truth about ourselves, our motives, and our priorities in life. All that we do in Lent, our prayer, our fasting and our almsgiving are means to this end – not ends in themselves. The end and purpose of Lent is to allow God’s grace to change us so that we truly ‘repent and believe the Good News’; so that we become ever more aware that ‘the Kingdom of God is close at hand’ and confidently live out and proclaim that Gospel to the people of our times.

In May this year we shall be gathering in the three areas of the Diocese to reflect on Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, ‘Evangelii Gaudium’. These will be gatherings of the clergy, religious and laity to begin to discern how we respond to Pope Francis’ call for the conversion and renewal of the whole Church, and how better to proclaim the Gospel with confidence to those who have yet to hear it. I encourage you to come to these gatherings, and to make this Lent a real preparation for these meetings so that we can all respond generously to the challenge which Pope Francis has given us.

Wishing you every blessing for Lent
and an assurance of my prayers for you all,

+ Peter

Archbishop of Southwark

Given at Southwark, 25th February 2014”


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“On Sunday, Pope Francis gave out copies of a hefty text to a procession of people that included a bishop, a priest, a seminarian, an artist, a journalist, a blind man and members of a family. What did all these people, from countries as diverse as Japan, Tanzania and Australia, have in common? They were all Catholics, certainly, by virtue of their baptism. But by virtue of their baptism they were also all called to be evangelisers. That, in a nutshell, is the message of ‘Evangelii Gaudium’, the major new document that Francis handed out that day in St Peter’s Square.


The apostolic exhortation, whose English title is ‘The Joy of the Gospel’, is the first teaching document in which we truly hear Pope Francis’s voice. Yes, he released an encyclical, ‘Lumen Fidei’, in July, but that was mainly the work of Benedict XVI. This new text is, as Catholic journalist Francis X Rocca puts it, ‘his real debut as papal author’. The document follows the synod of bishops on the new evangelisation in October 2012. But, in typically Franciscan style, it is not a conventional post-synodal exhortation. It is rather, as the Pope said it would be in June, an ‘exhortation on evangelisation in general’ that seeks to ‘take everything from the synod but put it in a wider framework’.


Pope Francis’s contention is, as we have said, that each of us is called, through our baptism, to become an evangeliser. This is a message the bishops have been trying to convey since at least the Second Vatican Council, with varying degrees of success. Many of us are able to accept the idea at an intellectual level, but worry that we don’t have what it takes to become evangelisers in everyday life. We are well aware of our weaknesses and know that there are others more capable of carrying out the task. Pope Francis’s encouraging message in ‘Evangelii Gaudium’ is that there is, in fact, no one better qualified to carry out our own personal mission than we are. God compensates for our weaknesses by giving us the grace to fulfil our calling. He has not only called us but also gives us the means to respond to his calling.


In the first few months of his electrifying pontificate Francis has shown us what it means to be an evangeliser. It is to throw yourself into the greatest adventure that life can offer, taking the message of God’s unconditional love to the peripheries, to the people whom no one appears to care about. It is there, as Francis says, that we ourselves discover Christ more deeply than ever before.”
– This article was published in “The Catholic Herald” newspaper, issue November 29 2013. For subscriptions please visit (external link).


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