Everything Pope Francis says is always so heartfelt, so quotable, so real. Reading through all of the speeches, homilies and messages that he gives is a real treat. If you don’t already, I recommend reading up on his activities at the Vatican website. Or check out news on Vatican Radio, News.Va or get the free Pope App.
Whatever way you choose to do it, it is worth reading Pope Francis’s direct words instead of getting what he says second-hand from the media. There are so many treasures, most of which are not filtered down to us through other news sources.
One such treasure is the words that Pope Francis has given us on parish life. He has real, applicable advice and it is based on his inspiring vision of a Church that goes out of itself, a Church that is missionary, a Church that is merciful and a Church that evangelizes, even in its everyday activities.
I thought I would share some of the gems I have found in my perusal of the Vatican web site.
Here are five tips for parishes from Pope Francis:
1. DON’T Be Like A Custom’s Office: Pope Francis is pretty clear in this, Jesus “instituted seven sacraments” it is not the place of the parish office to institute an eighth sacrament – “the sacrament of the pastoral customs office.” In other words, the parish office should not close doors for people.
And yet most of us can think of times when we have felt more like we are at the DMV rather than our parish office because of the way we were treated or the business-like approach that was used. Attitudes like this attempt to “control faith rather than facilitating it.” Instead, Pope Francis prays that “all who approach the Church find doors open to encounter Jesus’ love”.
2. DON’T Be Tarantulas: Pope Francis says that when people go to their parish, they should feel like they are entering their mother’s home. He says, “Being parish secretary means opening the front door of the mother’s home, not closing it! And one can close the door in many ways. In Buenos Aires there was a famous parish secretary: they called her the “tarantula”… I’ll say no more! To know how to open the door in the moment: welcome and tenderness.”
3. DO Put Those Who Are “Distant” First: I have often heard grumbling about families who only come to their parish for baptisms, weddings and funerals. These people are often treated like a last priority, but Pope Francis urges us to put those distant from the Church first. Why? Because we want these people to become regulars.
Pope Francis says, “It is about assuming missionary dynamism in order to reach everyone, putting first those who feel distant and the most vulnerable and forgotten people. It means opening the doors and letting Jesus go forth. Many times we keep Jesus closed inside the parishes with us, and we do not go out and we do not let Him leave! Open the doors so He can go out, at least Him! It is about a Church which “goes forth”: a Church which always goes forth.”
4. DO Get the Laity Involved: Pope Francis is pretty clear on this, the laity need to be involved in their parishes. Parishes do not belong to priests or to the parish office, they belong to everyone. This is why parishes need laity on councils, advising and helping in the running of everyday matters. In fact, Pope Francis very sternly has said that “a parish that does not have a pastoral Council and a Finance Council, is not a good parish: it lacks life.”
5. DON’T Gossip Or Cause Division: If only our parishes were exempt from ordinary, sinful human behavior. Alas, they are not. But we can examine our part in making a parish a place of unity and communion or creating division.
Pope Francis urges us, “Let each one ask him- or herself today ‘do I increase harmony in my family, in my parish, in my community or am I a gossip. Am I a cause of division or embarrassment? . . . Gossip does harm! Gossip wounds. Before Christians open their mouths to gossip, they should bite their tongue! To bite one’s tongue: this does us good because the tongue swells and can no longer speak, cannot gossip. Am I humble enough to patiently stitch up, through sacrifice, the open wounds in communion?’”
This is just the tip of the iceberg, try digging into Pope Francis’ words on any topic and you will get more treasures.
Please feel free to share your favorite piece of Pope Francis advice on any topic in the comments!