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Takeaway Wednesday: Saying “Yes” to the Culture of Encounter


Our Lenten series focuses on the joyful freedom of spiritual poverty. The Good News is that detachment of ownership leads us to greater reliance on God which makes us more available to love and serve the poor. 

Series contributions: 

In today’s post, Communications Associate Michael Carlson writes about the relationship between Catholic social teaching and Franciscan call to mission.

Yesterday afternoon, Program Associate (there’s a new position opening!) Chanda Ikachana and I attended “Catholic Social Teaching 101” organized by Catholic Volunteer Network and facilitated by Tom Mulloy, USCCB Policy Advisor – Economy, Labor, Housing and Welfare. Tom did a lot to address the mis/perceptions surrounding the phrase “Catholic Social Teaching”.

Pope Leo XIII issued the encyclical Rerum Novarum in 1891, a call to address workers’ rights and other social justice concerns. 

One way he did this was by emphasizing the fundamental unity of Catholics, stating that shared faith in Jesus transcends competing political ideologies. That resonates very strongly with Franciscan Mission Service because we offer faith formation through peace, justice, and hope for all people ready to commit to the Gospel through Franciscan values.

Tom extensively detailed how Catholic social teaching is a rich tradition inseparable from the mission and history of Catholic Church itself. However, I couldn’t help but think how an authentic call to service is simply impossible without spiritual poverty. I also couldn’t help but think how Franciscan spirituality is so beautifully simple. St. Francis’ encounter with the leper illustrates it perfectly: responding to the presence of God through love.

For example, Franciscan missioners do indeed practice social justice through charitable works; but, in Franciscan language, this translates as practicing spiritual poverty through ministry of presence. I think that there is a nuance between the combination of terms which simply amounts to how the Church has responded to its encounter with Christ and how St. Francis responded to Christ in his own encounter.

OFM General Curia : Mosaic Saint Francis of Assis and the Leper

Pope Francis’ message for us is also simple:

“If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ 
But do good: we will meet one another there.” 

3 Reflection Questions about Spiritual Poverty and the Culture of Encounter:

1. How are you freely available to encounter the needs of others?

2. How are you inspired by Catholic social teaching to embrace spiritual poverty?

3. When have you encountered Christ in the poor and how have you responded?

    Michael Carlson serves Franciscan Mission Service as a Domestic Lay Volunteer Communications Associate.

    Michael Carlson hails from Illinois. A graduate of Loyola University Chicago, he has been a Lasallian Volunteer, high school English teacher, and a Jesuit novice. He served as a Communications Associate at FMS from 2013 to 2014 and is currently a master’s candidate in religion and literature at Yale Divinity School.