October 18, 2020

Thoughts on the Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti, of the Holy Father Francis

Dear Parishioners,

If you’ve watched the news from Rome, read Catholic news services or the Parish bulletin it’s probably apparent by now that something important happened in the life of the Church a couple of weeks ago.  The latest encyclical by Francis, Fratelli Tutti, is an incredibly important document in the life of the Church.  It would hold this place for its teachings on the death penalty and the role of war alone.  However, we can see that Francis reaches far beyond the boundaries of the Church with a message meant for discourse with the entire world.  This message lays out for all to see the essence of the Christian posture before all humankind: “God is love and those who abide in love abide in God.” (1 Jn 4:16)

Francis wrote this encyclical with the desire to turn the Church’s face outward in order to engage with the world.  As such, there is nothing extrinsically liturgical in this document, nothing that obviously points to the sacramental life of the Church.  Yet the core teaching of this encyclical is, without question, Eucharistic.  At its heart Fratelli Tutti focuses on one thing, the essential dignity of every single human person and the absolute necessity that the fullest expression of this dignity be expressed in the midst of community.  From this flows all that he says about the need for a reevaluation of economic and political systems, the need to recognize the dignity of the migrant, the poor, the elderly, those who are marginalized.   He focuses these thoughts through his use of the Parable of the Good Samaritan and the call that we be neighbor to all:

“Human beings are so made that they cannot live, develop and find fulfillment except in the sincere gift of self to others.” [62] Nor can they fully know themselves apart from an encounter with other persons . . .  Life exists where there is bonding, communion, fraternity: and life is stronger than death when it is built on true relationships and bonds of fidelity. [64]

To be fully human is to be in relationship with God and with one another.  We are made to love, to give ourselves away to one another and this is exactly what we do when we celebrate the Eucharist.  In our gathering, singing, listening, praying, eating and drinking together we are embodying a way of being human that is exactly what Francis is describing in Fratelli Tutti! Each time we gather together with Christ in our midst we become ever more fully the People of God. We do precisely what Francis describes: integrate everyone into society, especially those “hidden exiles” (the disabled and disenfranchised), acknowledge and promote the “worth of every human person,” become instruments of forgiveness in a world of fear and resentment.  What we do when we celebrate together is meant to form us into the Body of Christ, empower us to give ourselves away for others and draw us out into the world in order to carry out the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This is a Gospel that, as this encyclical clearly states, calls for the dignity and fraternity of all human persons.

In this the month of October, a month dedicated to the Mother of God we remember that as the Church “(i)n the power of the risen Lord, she wants to give birth to a new world, where all of us are brothers and sisters, where there is room for all those whom our societies discard, where justice and peace are resplendent.”[278] This is what it means to be a Eucharistic people.

Rodica Stoicoiu, Ph.D
Director of Liturgy and Adult Faith Formation