Today’s post comes from our friend Fr. Michael Schleupner. Fr. Mike will be with us again next summer for a directed retreat and it’s not too early to sign up! Click here to learn more. In the meantime, let’s learn more about how we can strengthen our personal encounters with Christ.

Pope Francis – 1    

Dear Friends,Pope Francis inspiration

On October 4, our Catholic calendar celebrated the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi. This has led me to some reflections on the first of our 266 Popes to choose the name Francis. Since his election to the papacy in March 2013, Pope Francis has been an inspiration for me.

Maybe the first and most basic message of Francis is his focus on Christ. He calls us often to a “personal encounter with Jesus Christ.” If this is not present, then faith or religious practice can become just a set of rules or an institutional structure or a list of beliefs. As Francis says, that can be lifeless and can become more of an “ideology” than faith.

How can we have this “personal encounter?” Remembering that God in Jesus Christ has taken the first step in reaching out to us, what can we, on our part, do to have this encounter?

I can think of two things.

First, we need to become gospel-centered in our prayer and spiritual life. We listen to God speaking to us, to me personally. We read and listen with the mindset: what is God saying to me here?

And second, we respond and speak to God. We speak to God from our hearts, in addition to our minds. We silently voice our peace or anxiety, our love or fear, our gratitude or pain.

This allows a personal encounter to happen. And, if we make this the center of our faith, we will be alive in God.

We are “…liberated from our narrowness and self-absorption.”

“We become fully human when we become more than human, when we let God bring us beyond ourselves in order to attain the fullest truth of our being.”

My reading of Pope Francis tells me that it all starts here – in this “personal encounter with Jesus Christ.”

This is the first way that the Holy Father inspires me – more to come next week!

~Father Michael Schleupner

(Quotations from: Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel, 2013; homily at Santa Marta, February 21, 2014)