EG 172-173: Accompanying Others

Vasnetsov_Maria_MagdaleneWhen I reflect on the word “accompaniment” it is first as a musician. Accompaniment of a singer or a worshiping assembly is a help, a conversation, and a pilgrimage. Sometimes someone in the relationship thinks they are in charge. But it’s far more subtle than that. At least for good musicians.

Walking with someone as a companion (with-bread) is also a bit more than taking someone by the hand and lugging them where they should go.

In this context, the Holy Father is writing about ministry:

172. One who accompanies others has to realize that each person’s situation before God and their life in grace are mysteries which no one can fully know from without. The Gospel tells us to correct others and to help them to grow on the basis of a recognition of the objective evil of their actions (cf. Mt 18:15), but without making judgments about their responsibility and culpability (cf. Mt 7:1; Lk 6:37).

This would be reflective of the “change of tone.” If the Temple Police are somewhat disconcerted by the current message, they might consider that perhaps frustration, fear, discouragement, and other such qualities have colored their interactions with younger siblings for too long …

Someone good at such accompaniment does not give in to frustrations or fears. He or she invites others to let themselves be healed, to take up their mat, embrace the cross, leave all behind and go forth ever anew to proclaim the Gospel. Our personal experience of being accompanied and assisted, and of openness to those who accompany us, will teach us to be patient and compassionate with others, and to find the right way to gain their trust, their openness and their readiness to grow.

This last piece is helpful. And very Ignatian. We reflect on our own journey of faith, and how people have assisted us, been patient with us, and gently nudged us when we needed guidance. It is in reviewing one’s life that we anchor our present activities with the quality of gratitude.

Let’s turn this principle of accompaniment to the cause of evangelization. What does it mean?

173. Genuine spiritual accompaniment always begins and flourishes in the context of service to the mission of evangelization. Paul’s relationship with Timothy and Titus provides an example of this accompaniment and formation which takes place in the midst of apostolic activity. Entrusting them with the mission of remaining in each city to “put in order what remains to be done” (Tit 1:5; cf. 1 Tim 1:3-5), Paul also gives them rules for their personal lives and their pastoral activity. This is clearly distinct from every kind of intrusive accompaniment or isolated self-realization. Missionary disciples accompany missionary disciples.

The point is not to cultivate an atmosphere of professional and client–the temptation of the age. And don’t we see it everywhere? Church workers have a sense of servicing clients: let the professionals educate children, perform music, plan funerals, pray with others. No wonder vocations seem to be lacking. The modern Church is geared to spoon-feeding, not lifting up those missionary disciples.

Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium is online here.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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