Concluding Our Joyful Journey


We have been sharing a fruitful pilgrimage with Pope Francis throughout 2023. Our voyage has been profoundly enriching, enabling us to appreciate the mind and heart of Papa Francisco. Six pivotal themes have surfaced during our rewarding year-long journey.




Clearly Pope Francis has sought to bring the Council’s vision of renewal to the heart of the Church. During the celebration of the Feast of Saint John XXIII, convoker of Vatican II, on October 11, 2022, Francis said in his homily: “Let us return to the Council’s pure sources of love.  Let us rediscover the Council’s passion and renew our own passion for the Council.”  The two popes of Vatican II saw it as a “contemporary Pentecost.”  John XXIII said: “O Holy Spirit, renew your wonders in this our day as by a new Pentecost.”  Pope Paul VI asserted: “The first need of the Church is always to live Pentecost.”

Becoming a Missionary People. Pope Francis repeatedly calls the entire Church to a new chapter of evangelization, inviting every Christian to a life of missionary discipleship.  As those who have encountered Jesus, we are to share the joy of the Gospel and “go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the ‘peripheries’ in need of the light of the Gospel” (Evangelii Gaudium 20).

Our mission as disciples of Christ Jesus “is at once a passion for Jesus and a passion for his people” (EG, n. 268).  The joy of the Gospel is for all people; thus, we seek “to meet every challenge as a leaven of Gospel witness” (EG, n. 75).

Caring for Our Common Home. Pope Francis is passionately concerned with environmental and ecological issues that profoundly affect the earth and all living beings.  He has written two pivotal documents on this topic: Laudato Sí (2015) and Laudate Deum (2023).  The reality of climate change is undoubtedly a key pillar of his papacy.  Francis asserts: “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth” (LS n. 21).  “Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years” (LS n. 53).  “A great cultural, spiritual, and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal” (LS n. 202).

Living Merciful Lives.  Pope Francis, often called the “pope of mercy,” proclaimed an entire year of mercy in his 2015 Misericordiae Vultus, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the close of Vatican II (1965-2015).  Francis says: “We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace…. Mercy [is] the bridge that connects God and man” (MV n. 2).  Our God is “rich in mercy” (Ephesians n. 2:4).  “Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life.  All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers” (MV, n. 10). “The Church is commissioned to announce the mercy of God, the beating heart of the Gospel….  Wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy” (MV, n. 12).  In a word, faith-filled existence means “living-in-mercy.”

Seeking Authentic Holiness. A constant theme permeating the thought of Pope Francis is the call to holiness in daily life. This clearly emerges in his 2018 apostolic exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad).  We are to become saints, not simply settling for “a bland and mediocre existence” (GE, n. 1).  “We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves” (GE, n. 14).  Francis asserts that the Beatitudes provide us a pathway for holiness that is outlined by Jesus himself in Matthew’s Gospel.  We are always accompanied by our Mother Mary; “she teaches us the way of holiness and she walks ever at our side” (GE, n. 176).

Living Community as Church. Pope Francis encourages Catholics to be active members of the Church, despite its failures and imperfections, because the Church is the place where one can find Jesus.  In this 2023 Divine Mercy Sunday homily, Pope Francis noted that Jesus chose to appear to Saint Thomas when he was with the community of the other disciples, not when he was alone.  Truly, the Church has her limitations, but “our Mother Church is the Body of Christ….  And it is there [that] the greatest signs of his love can be found.”

A Fruitful Journey. Our year-long journey with Pope Francis has been an enriching pilgrimage.  We have received several helpful signposts, guiding our pathway.  A new invitation now lies before us to continue walking with Pope Francis, following the synodal path covering 2023 and 2024.  Come, joyfully join this beautiful excursion!

James H. Kroeger, MM, has served missions in Asia (Philippines and Bangladesh) for over five decades.  He recently completed Walking with Pope Francis: The Official Documents in Everyday Language, a synthesis-popularization of ten of Pope Francis’ pivotal documents from 2013-2022; it is available from Orbis Books in New York and the Pauline Sisters in Manila and Nairobi.

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