Pope Francis told American Catholics to “rejoice in the Lord always” amid an enormous mass Wednesday to canonize a Spanish missionary saint.
While his address to U.S. bishops earlier Wednesday touched more directly on matters of policy, he kept his public remarks at the Spanish-language canonization mass in Washington focused on the question, as he put it, “What can we do to keep our heart from growing numb?” (RELATED: Francis Tells US Catholic Leaders: ‘The Pope Is By Your Side’)
Francis’ answer came from that mass’s Gospel reading: “Go forth! Proclaim!” Numerous times, he connected evangelization — spreading the Gospel through the example of Christian life — to the phrase “the joy of the Gospel,” title of his first independently authored publication as pope.
The message was clear: for Francis, the key to the Christian life is a heart full of joy, despite the difficulties that life may bring.
“Jesus did not provide a short list of who is, or is not, worthy of receiving his message,” Francis said. Instead, “he embraced life as he found it” — no matter how much pain or suffering he encountered along the way. Likewise, he warned members of the Church against “becoming self-enclosed,” and “clinging to their own security.” (RELATED: Reporters Asked Pope Francis About Being Communist. Here’s What He Said.)
And he connected the message to the life of the new American saint, Junípero Serra, a Franciscan monk who dedicated his life to evangelizing what is now California. For Serra, the key to living Jesus’ message was in his personal motto: siempre adelante, “keep moving forward.”
In canonizing Serra, Francis became the first pope to recognize a new Catholic saint on U.S. soil.
The homily was consistent with the idea of fearless encounter with the other, which has become a key theme of Francis’ papacy. His address earlier in the day to the bishops similarly featured an insistence that only “the enduring allure of goodness and love” could help Christians confront the many ills of modern society, including abortion, poverty and war.
Francis will address Congress in a highly anticipated speech Thursday morning, the first-ever such address given by a pope. After a lunch with the poor hosted by Catholic Charities’ center in Washington, he will depart for New York. After spending Friday in New York, the pontiff will spend two days at Philadelphia’s World Meeting of Families, an international conference celebrating traditional Catholic teaching on marriage, childbirth and the family.
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