In today’s post from Evangelii Gaudium, we read Pope Francis bringing a spotlight to a contemporary paradox. (I might call it hypocrisy: for me, but not for thee.)
Pope Francis speaks with all ministers, ordained and lay, in these two paragraphs on, “Personal accompaniment in processes of growth.” Let’s read:
169. In a culture paradoxically suffering from anonymity and at the same time obsessed with the details of other people’s lives, shamelessly given over to morbid curiosity, the Church must look more closely and sympathetically at others whenever necessary. In our world, ordained ministers and other pastoral workers can make present the fragrance of Christ’s closeness and his personal gaze. The Church will have to initiate everyone – priests, religious and laity – into this “art of accompaniment” which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other (cf. Ex 3:5). The pace of this accompaniment must be steady and reassuring, reflecting our closeness and our compassionate gaze which also heals, liberates and encourages growth in the Christian life.
A good model for ministry, especially when we encounter people who strike us as difficult.
170. Although it sounds obvious, spiritual accompaniment must lead others ever closer to God, in whom we attain true freedom. Some people think they are free if they can avoid God; they fail to see that they remain existentially orphaned, helpless, homeless. They cease being pilgrims and become drifters, flitting around themselves and never getting anywhere. To accompany them would be counterproductive if it became a sort of therapy supporting their self-absorption and ceased to be a pilgrimage with Christ to the Father.
A good reminder that therapy is not our mode of operation. The purpose of the minister is not to focus on the self as a helper, but as a conduit for Jesus Christ. Our “personal accompaniment” is not so much about the minister as a person, but on presenting Jesus as a person. Ministry is the facilitation of Jesus as a person.
Quite often the notion that “everybody is a minister” is denigrated. Somewhat wrong, I think. A priest who does not facilitate Christ walking with those he serves is not really a minister. But indeed, a janitor or a teen or a musician or anyone who can reveal something of Christ through a steady, reassuring, compassionate, and transparent* accompaniment–these are all ministers where the clergy and professionals sometimes fail.
*Transparency is my term.