1st Sunday in Advent: The Journey of Gospel Joy – Reflections from Fr Phil Part 8

A series of reflections for the parish on Pope Francis’ The Joy of the Gospel

pope-francis-tPart 8-  Parish: The (Pope’s) Thought

Okay, we’re going to slow down the pace of the journey a bit to spend some time on the paragraph where Pope Francis speaks about Catholic parishes in particular.

I may come back to parts of this in various articles as we begin Advent, but for this weekend let me just let you read the whole paragraph:

The parish is not an outdated institution; precisely because it possesses great flexibility, it can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the community. While certainly not the only institution which evangelizes, if the parish proves capable of self-renewal and constant adaptivity, it continues to be “the Church living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters.”* This presumes that it really is in contact with the homes and the lives of its people, and does not become a useless structure out of touch with people or a self-absorbed group made up of a chosen few. The parish is the presence of the Church in a given territory, an environment for hearing God’s word, for growth in the Christian life, for dialogue, proclamation, charitable outreach, worship and celebration. In all its activities the parish encourages and trains its members to be evangelizers. It is a community of communities, a sanctuary where the thirsty come to drink in the midst of their journey, and a centre of constant missionary outreach. We must admit, though, that the call to review and renew our parishes has not yet sufficed to bring them nearer to people, to make them environments of living communion and participation, and to make them completely mission-oriented. (paragraph 62)
*John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici (30 September 1988), 22.

Doesn’t Pope Francis have a knack for saying things that are totally inspiring, while at the same issuing us a huge challenge to “get it together?” Let’s receive both, as we explore the implications of the words above for St. Raphael in future articles in this series…


Speaking of the adaptivity of parishes that the pope mentions… you’ll notice some adaptations to the church sanctuary as we begin the new liturgical year! I hope you had a chance to read last weekend’s Fons et Culmen (“Source and Summit”) article from our Pastoral Associate for Liturgy and Music, Jeff Rice. If not, check it out at www.saintraphael.org. Jeff explains what we hope are some benefits of having the presider’s chair nearer the altar, and of trying a new way of doing processions. Pope Francis has been encouraging us not to fear trying some changes in the way we do things to see if we can better express the eternal truths of our faith and worship. Let’s give it a go!


Happy new (liturgical) year,
Fr. Phil Hurley, S.J.
Pastor